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What is a Mexican Standoff

Foram Mehta
'Mexican Standoff' is a situation of stalemate or impasse wherein no further movement can be made. It is used as a slang and is a state in which none of the parties in opposition can possibly win.
The origin of the term 'Mexican Standoff' is not known, but there is an uncertain claim that it originates from Australia. This term had been first used in 1779 in a play titled 'The Critic'. And, surprisingly or unsurprisingly Mexicans don't relate to the term "Mexican Standoff".

In Reel and Popular Culture

In the reel-fashion, a Mexican standoff is represented in the form of an intense drama panorama, wherein two or more opponents are ready with their guns drawn and pointed towards each other.
Neither of the parties shoot, even after the gun is directed and their hand is on the trigger because, they fear being shot as a counter attack by a third person who has pointed a gun at him. In this situation, being the first one to shoot, or the second, or no shooting at all, could all be equally disastrous. All the parties are at an equal threat.
This scene or situation can be eventually resolved or ended by either surrender of one of the parties, or negotiation, or with a blast-out. Getting alive out of a Mexican standoff would be of luck or even strategies sometimes. It's a no-win situation and also fits in Nash Equilibrium as an example.
The most exciting and intense depiction of a Mexican standoffs normally involves more than three parties or an army-against army, scene construction. Certainly, a Mexican Standoff with a few individuals is more exciting as there is so much drama and speculation going on, whereas in case of a war, a few bombarding and firings and the war is over.
A Mexican standoff between a few individuals is often followed by 'gunpoint banter' which is a term given to the people who are in a Mexican standoff and are trying to discuss or negotiate.

In Finance

Mexican standoff is also used in the financial terms to represent a situation of two or more parties wherein, none of them are moving forward to prevent themselves from a loss. Let me explain taking an example of the current real estate situation in the UK. The sales figures of the housing sector have fallen down but the prices are still high.
The prices of the houses have gone down by almost 18% from 2007. The sellers are not ready to sell their houses at the current low rate because that is a major loss for them and with the slowing economy the buyers are not able to afford the price that the sellers are asking for.
As per a survey the gap between the current actual price of the house and the demanded or asking price of the house is around 30%. In this situation, none of the parties (the seller and the buyer) are benefiting and are going nowhere.

In the Cold War

There can be no better real example of a Mexican standoff than the Cold War of political conflict, primarily between the Soviet Union and USA. The term has been used conspicuously during the cold war period from 1946-1990. For this, a doctrine 'Mutually Assured Destruction' (MAD) was formed.
The doctrine of MAD states that if high-yield weapons of high destruction are deployed by two countries against each other, then this would lead to a massacre where both the nations would destroy each other.
Thereby leaving no scope for victory or armistice between them. This can be applied to the condition between Soviet Union and USA, until they ended the cold war with a mutual agreement that Soviet Union would withdraw its nuclear missiles from Cuba and USA will withdraw its nuclear missiles from Turkey.
This was because both knew that if either of them initiated a nuclear war none of them would survive, as both had large stockpiles of nuclear weapons, to achieve it.


Below I am listing a few references of movies and video games that are acknowledged 'Mexican Standoff'' depicting pieces.
• Good Bad and Ugly
• Inglorious Bastards
• The Killer
• Shanghai Noon
• Reservoir Dogs
• Kill Bill
• The Matrix Revolutions
• The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
• Transformers
• Dr. No
TV Series
• X-Files
• Heroes
• Spaced
• Criminal Minds
• Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
• The Office
Video Games
• Killer 7
• Fear Effect
• Mass Effect
• Final Fantasy X-2
• Max Payne 2
• Resident Evil Code Veronica

Check out the new Xbox 360 ad- 'Standoff', it is so cool!
I don't know what I'd do if I ever ended up in a Mexican Standoff. I'd probably try to blow a few heads off, when others are waiting and twitching!
In a famous movie on World War II, by Quentin Tarantino, 'Inglorious Bastards' this was a notable Mexican standoff-dialog "You got guns on us. You decide to shoot, we're dead. Up top, they got grenades. They drop them down here, you're dead. That's a Mexican Standoff, and that was not the deal. No trust, no deal." - Lt. Aldo Raine.