Abusing The Corpse
When killing somebody isn't enough. You want to beat up the corpse, too.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-10-15 08:02:17 sponsor: JDogindy (last reply: 2014-08-08 20:08:21)

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Most of the time, when somebody dies, their body is ignored. Once in a while, you may seem them being buried or inspected at a local morgue, but usually they are quickly forgotten. Of course, then there are those occurances where the person who dealt the fatal blow just doesn't want to stop the beatdown.

Now, granted, this is one of those tropes where you'd naturally expect it to happen if a bad guy does it, but when a good guy does it, you're shocked. However, that's not so cut-and-dry. Morality itself plays a huge factor in the actions of the offending individual. Only the purest of individuals, or bad guys with pretty high standards tend to avoid these actions, since they have already declared such macabre smackdowns either unnecessary or simply cruel.

For example, let's start with the obvious examples in which a villainous character violates a heroic or innocent corpse. They already killed the person who was gonna ruin their plans, so why do they continue this abuse?

On the basic level, it just illustrates how dang evil they are. On the more "hit you over the head" scope, it's utilized as an extreme variation on Kick the Dog, which is not only a demonstration as to how low they can go, but also a depiction intended by a creator to point out that this person is evil because they refuse to stop the violence.

It's when a good person, or a person whose moral compass generally has them going to good deeds is when the trope gets more noticable. Since, you know, unless they are the anti-hero who solves all his problems with bullets and bloodshed, you expect the hero to simply defeat the enemy, not see if they can make them deader than dead. For starters, it may be used as an example as how evil the victim was or the severity of their crimes to which that they still feel required to continue an assault. And, of course, the individual himself has been proved to be fallable... in spite of their rightous orientation, they, too, can fall victim to the emotions that they have.

It must be forewarned that the more acceptable variation on heroic stumblings to the parts of the audience that happen to enjoy complex characters who use the past while plotting their future is that, once they do this on top of killing their enemy, they feel they need to find a way to "cleanse" themselves of this unneccesary action, which starts a storyline about them seeking forgiveness. But, the typical viewer seems to be happier with the good guy just humiliating the bad guy as much as possible simply because they feel the bad guy deserved it, in spite of the fact that going this direction can lead to Cry for the Devil since the bad guy already lost the ultimate defeat.

In fact... corpses don't even need to be the thing that gets beaten up. The disembodied spirit of the victim can be targeted for further abuse, to name one example. Or, the works and artifacts of the person could be mangled and destroyed even if they could be utilized for the betterment of the masses just because they don't want anything to do with the now-deceased individual.

Of course, there has to be reasons for this to happen. After all, violating stiffs isn't merely just being excessively cruel, but in some situations, an absolute necessity. If the individual has a capability of coming back to life anyway, something has to be done in some manner to ensure that this cannot happen. The evil characters do this as sort of a failsafe to make sure the supreme do-gooder can't hinder their machinations, while the good characters need to accomplish this to make sure the scourge cannot harm the land ever again... or until an ambitious Big Bad Wannabe hears of the stories and thinks that he can use this power to his advantage.

Also, no Real Life examples, please. We tried that during the development of this trope, and learned the hard way what happens.

Since morality plays a factor, this trope is divided into three sections: Certified Evil Characters Abusing Corpses (who do this mostly out of spite), Certified Good Characters Abusing Corpses (some who do it out of spite, while others do it as a precaution), & Other or Morality-Uncertain Characters Abusing Corpses (who do it out of human nature). If you're not sure as to how a character is presented in the show, just look around the website and read the tropes that these characters coorespond to as well as where they respond to the Character Alignment (just don't actually post where they align to).

Compare this to Dead Guy on Display (that's when the corpse is exposed publicly, instead of mistreated), Kick Them While They Are Down (it's not even a corpse, the victim is still alive, although this trope can be the variant if the victim is already dead), There Is No Kill Like Overkill, What the Hell, Hero?, Creepy Souvenir and If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him, and this being the opposite of Sympathy for the Devil. Could be a sign of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope or Sanity Slippage.

If a game's physics engine enables a player to do this, it doesn't count (it may fall instead into Beating A Dead Player, if it's done on another player).

Because this is a Death Trope, there will be no marked spoilers. Be forewarned.
(These Are To Be Organized)

When a Bad Person Abuses the Corpse:

When a Good Person Abuses the Corpse:

When Other Characters Abuse a Corpse:

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Bleach anime episode 272. After Ichigo enters his ultra-powered Hollow form and apparently kills Ulquiorra, he prepares to stab Ulquiorra's body with his zanpakuto. His friend Uryu Ishida grabs Ichigo's arm and pleads with him not to mutilate Ulquiorra's body. He warns Ichigo that if he does it he won't be human anymore.

Comic Books
  • Transmetropolitan: After vice-president Alan Schact was revealed as a practicing pedophile by Spider Jerusalem and committed suicide large mounds of human bodily waste were found piled on his grave. A leaked report claimed Spider's DNA was found in the turds.

Film
  • In The Searchers, Ethan Edwards demonstrates how much of an anti-hero he is by shooting out eyes of a dead Comanche warrior. He explains to his allies that, according to the Comanche religion, one can't enter the afterlife without eyes, so he's just doomed the dead man to wander the Earth forever.
  • In the Spanish film Torrente 3, after killing an Elite Mook with their guns, Torrente and his sidekick not only empty the whole magazine of their guns on the mook, but they also throw the guns on the mook, then they spit on the mook.
  • Sergeant Donowitz has the pleasure of killing Adolf Hitler in the movie theater in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. The theater is burning, the exits are blocked, and bombs are set to detonate. But that's not enough for "the Bear Jew," who repeatedly changes magazines to continue pumping bullets into Hitler's body.
  • In Pacific Rim, after downing the Kaiju Leatherback, Raleigh "checks for a pulse" by unloading several rounds into the corpse to the point where its chest cracks open and starts melting to pieces.

Literature
  • The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton ends with the title character's killer stomping on his face.
    She had drawn a little gleaming revolver, and emptied barrel after barrel into Milverton's body, the muzzle within two feet of his shirt front. He shrank away and then fell forward upon the table, coughing furiously and clawing among the papers. Then he staggered to his feet, received another shot, and rolled upon the floor. 'You've done me,' he cried, and lay still. The woman looked at him intently, and ground her heel into his upturned face.
  • In The Stolen Throne, Prince Maric puts the puppet king Meghren's head on a spike in front of Fort Drakon in retaliation for Meghren doing the same to Maric's mother Moira the Rebel Queen a few years before that.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Bones the killer is caught because he spit on the corpse of the Victim of the Week after killing him, so they have the killer's DNA.
  • On Babylon 5, Vir answers Morden's question "what do you want?" as below. A couple years later, he gets his wish, as Londo puts Morden's head on a pike for display on the Palace grounds on Centauri Prime, after having him executed.
    "I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price."
  • In the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's second season, Buffy is feeling out of sorts (having been killed by the Master in the season 1 finale - she got better and killed the Master then), including haveing visions of the Master killing her again. When it's discovered that the Annointed One is going to use the Master's bones to resurrect him, Buffy uses a sledgehammer to grind them into powder.

Poetry
  • In Homer's epic poem The Iliad, the Greek hero Achilles slays the Trojan warrior Hector. After doing so, he ties Hector's body to the back of his chariot and races around the Trojan beach, proclaiming Greek superiority to Troy for twelve days and twelve nights. Achilles does this because Hector does it to Achilles's much-loved cousin and best friend Patrocles (well, Hector doesn't really desecrate Patroclus's corpse, he just intends to, and not in the exact same way that Achilles desecrated Hector's). The Trojans do get their revenge, and even the Gods themselves eventually get offended by Achilles's actions — it is the involvement of the Gods that prevents Hector's corpse from being further mutilated, and the end of the Iliad involves Hector getting a proper burial by the Trojans.

Theatre
  • In the end of Macbeth, Macduff severs the eponymous Villain Protagonist's head after he has slain him and has it paraded through the castle.

Video Games
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ends with Officer Frank Tenpenny's body being reportedly stripped naked and mutilated by several of Los Santos's homeless.
  • Appears a few times in the Assassin's Creed series:
    • In Assassin's Creed II, Ezio shakes the corpse of Vieri de Pazzi vigorously and screams rather rudely at his face, and is then rebuked by his uncle for not showing appropriate respect. When he later assassinates Fracesco de Pazzi, he leaves his corpse hanging from the Palazzo della Signoria.
    • In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, it's revealed that after murdering Al Mualim for betraying the assassin order, Altair decided to publicly burn his corpse in order to prove he was dead. This greatly troubled Abbas, one of his fellow assassins, who believed Al Mualim's corpse had to remain whole in order for his soul to reach the afterlife.
  • In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts, Joshua Graham creates gruesome totems out of the remains of his enemies, the White Legs tribe, to send a warning to any surviving White Legs who threaten the Dead Horses (another tribe who have elected Joshua as their protector).
  • In Heavy Rain, Lauren will spit on the Origami Killer's grave if she survives the game but the killer doesn't.
  • Ace Attorney has an example of this in "Trials and Tribulations" involving Dahlia Hawthorne's spirit, as Phoenix Wright and Mia Fey (who is using Pearl's body) taunt and mock her about her failed crimes in order for her get out of Maya Fey's body. Dahlia must then spend the rest of her time in the afterlife to forever think about these failures, especially since Mia took great glee in pouring salt on Dahlia's wounds.

Web Comics
  • In Schlock Mercenary when Tagon is questioned about his willingness to take a job working security for his old enemy General Xinchub's funeral (actually a cover so they can steal the corpse) he says: "Aside from the money? I want to be sure he's actually down there when I dance on his grave."
  • Taken Up to Eleven by Vaarsuvius in The Order of the Stick. After defeating a black dragon that was threatening the elf's family, Vaarsuvius decides that the dragon hasn't suffered enough for her crimes. The elf resurrects the dragon's head with necromancy, targets it with an epic-level spell that kills any creature that the dragon was related to by blood (cutting the world's black dragon population by about a quarter), and then disintegrates it.

Western Animation
  • In in the Animated Adaptation of Planet Hulk, the Red King is humiliated upon death in several different ways. First, the Hulk utterly whips the floor with him in their battle, only to hold off at the last minute so that the reformed Caiera may get the last blow. Caiera kills him by infecting him with his Spike parasite, causing him to mutate into a zombie. Recognizing him as infected, his own robotic guards turn against him and incinerate his corpse.

Real Life
  • After Benito Mussolini's execution his body was shot, kicked, and spat upon, hung upside down on a meathook from the roof of a gas station and stoned.
  • After Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate, was killed by Robert Maynard and his crew, his head was cut off from the body and placed on the bow of Maynard's ship. Of course, this was also done as a means for Maynard to collect the bounty that was put on Blackbeard's head.
  • Pseudo-Demetrius, a XVII century Russian adventurer who pretended to be the lost last heir of the Rurikid dynasty and usurped the Tsars' throne as such. After he was exposed, they executed him, cremated him, stuffed his ashes into a cannon and shot him in the direction of Poland, from where he came.
  • The body of King Richard III of England was subjected to multiple mutilations after his death in the Battle of Bosworth, as confirmed by the examination of his remains that were discovered in 2012.

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