Created By: Aminatep on April 20, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on June 24, 2014

Dead Baby Drama

Children death is dramatic.

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Page Type:
Trope
Infant Immortality is a pretty strong convention, and when it you see it averted, it is always strongly affecting the overall mood. One of the oldest martial laws is to never hurt children, since children are innocent. Thus, when a villain is willing to kill a child, he crossed the line and will never come back. When a disease or a catastrophe takes lives of children, you just know that shit got real.

If it's totally not dramatic, then it's a Dead Baby Comedy. See also Would Hurt a Child.

Since this is a Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers ahead.

Examples

  • Raiders of Gor: a band of slavers has destroyed a small village which Tarl had been a slave in. He's glad that they were all killed or taken prisoner, until he sees the body of a small boy who had been nice to him once. Cue Berserk Button.
    • Again in Blood Brothers of Gor except it was Tarl's friend, not Tarl himself, who has the reaction. Cuwignaka (who is part of a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Plains Indians) refuses to take the warpath against an enemy until he sees the body of a boy he was fond of.
  • Sweet Home: Even after all the blood and zombies, you know it's not for kids after hearing a baby being burned alive.
    • Also applies to the movie, too, but thanks to Narm it isn't nearly as strong as in the game.
  • Pet Sematary. Even though they resurrect a cat with it and the big secret's out, it's only the part where the guy's son is hit by a truck and he tries to bring him back that's considered the turning point of the movie.
  • The film Antichrist. The main character is a woman in deep depression after the death of her baby.
  • NYPD Blue: in one episode the Victim of the Week was a baby which had died from Shaken Baby Syndrome. The babysitter (played by Lucy Liu) did it: the baby's parents were busy people who didn't want to be wakened at night by a crying baby, so the babysitter was tasked with keeping the baby up all day so it would sleep all night. (That particular plot was Left Hanging; it was never shown whether the babysitter, the parents, or both would be charged.)
  • In Gone with the Wind, little Bonnie dies accidentally and the brief peace Scarlett and Rhett had managed goes the same way. Especially Rhett is completely depressed.
  • Heavy Rain has a serial killer who targets children.
  • The episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where ADA Noveck returns has the criminal try to murder a child. Twice (once to silence him after killing his parents, once again to prevent him from testifying).
  • One Letter: M
  • Trainspotting
  • A stock plot on soap operas - notable recent examples include Days of Our Lives with Hope and Bo's son Zack, and General Hospital with Liz and Jason's baby, Jake.
  • In Dragon Scroll, the bodycount is pretty high, and there's some rape and child molesting to boot, but it took a child being killed in front of his eyes for Akitada to have a Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway composed the following short story, a Dead Baby Drama that clocks in at six words:
    For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
  • The biopic Isadora, with Vanessa Redgrave playing the tragic mother of modern dance, Isadora Duncan, has an understated yet harrowing scene where you see the protagonist's young son and daughter and their nanny drown in a car that has run into the River Seine. She starts to go a little mad after this.
  • Don't Look Now, a late 60s thriller with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, opens with an architect and wife's daughter drowning in a lake. This prompts the narrative of the rest of the film.
  • Leverage: The insurance company refusing to pay for his son's treatment (killing the boy) was what sent Nate into a downward spiral; getting fired from the insurance firm, crawling into a bottle, and ending his marriage. Becoming a "bad guy" is redemption.
  • Cry For Justice attempts this with the death of Lian Harper.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has lots of examples: There's the Nina Tucker incident in which her crazed father merged her with the family dog, Envy started the Ishvallan War by transforming himself into a soldier and shooting a child, Envy and Father have been shown to be literally Powered by a Forsaken Child, the Doll Soldiers can be interpreted as children's souls put in freakish bodies... Also, genocides!
  • In Karakuri Circus. Children (particularly Masaru) are shown to be terribly injured on occasion...and then the French village gets attacked by the evil circus.
  • In Reiko the Zombie Shop there's the child murdering psychopath Saki Yurikawa. Introduced in the first volume, Saki's a teenage serial killer who has murdered over twenty little girls. She initially takes an interest in them being her "little sister", and when they refuse she snaps and utterly butchers them. Even after her death and zombification by titular heroine Reiko children still die in this series.
  • At least one child dies in Final Destination.
Community Feedback Replies: 59
  • April 21, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • Raiders of Gor: a band of slavers has destroyed a small village which Tarl had been a slave in. He's glad that they were all killed or taken prisoner, until he sees the body of a small boy who had been nice to him once. Cue Berserk Button.
      • Again in Blood Brothers of Gor except it was Tarl's friend, not Tarl himself, who has the reaction. Cuwignaka (who is part of a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Plains Indians) refuses to take the warpath against an enemy until he sees the body of a boy he was fond of.
  • April 21, 2011
    TorchicBlaziken
    Sweet Home: Even after all the blood and zombies, you know it's not for kids after hearing a baby being burned alive.

    Also applies to the movie, too, but thanks to Narm it isn't nearly as strong as in the game.
  • April 25, 2011
    LordAaronus
    Pet Sematary. Even though they resurrect a dog with it and the big secret's out, it's only the part where the guy's son is hit by a truck and he tries to bring him back that's considered the turning point of the movie.
  • April 25, 2011
    DannyVElAcme
    The film Antichrist. The main character is a woman in deep depression after the death of her baby.
  • April 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    NYPD Blue: in one episode the Victim Of The Week was a baby which had died from Shaken Baby Syndrome. The babysitter (played by Lucy Liu) did it: the baby's parents were busy people who didn't want to be wakened at night by a crying baby, so the babysitter was tasked with keeping the baby up all day so it would sleep all night. (That particular plot was Left Hanging; it was never shown whether the babysitter, the parents, or both would be charged.)
  • April 27, 2011
    ElaineRose
  • April 27, 2011
    peccantis
    ^YES.

    Maybe pothole "crossed the line" to Moral Event Horizon? Also, "not to be confused with Convenient Miscarriage or other miscarriage tropes".

    Lit:
    • In Gone With The Wind, little Bonnie dies accidentally and the brief peace Scarlett and Rhett had managed goes the same way. Especially Rhett is completely depressed.
  • April 27, 2011
    KTera
    Heavy Rain has a serial killer who targets children.
  • April 27, 2011
    Bisected8
    I thought it was a cat in Pet Cemetry that they bring back.

    • The episode of Law And Order Special Victims Unit where ADA Noveck returns has the criminal try to murder a child. Twice (once to silence him after killing his parents, once again to prevent him from testifying).
  • April 27, 2011
    JCCyC
  • April 27, 2011
    JCCyC
    Laconic: "Children dying is sad."
  • April 28, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • April 28, 2011
    Aminatep
    Elaine Rose, yeah it's a subtrope of Adult Fear at some times, although "pupa-forming children beaing eaten by insect larvas" isn't realistic so to say
  • April 28, 2011
    bbofun
    Pet Sematary's main entry should be for the book, not the movie. Not only did it come first, but it's WAYYYYYYYY creepier.
  • May 6, 2011
    Cassis
    A stock plot on soap operas--notable recent examples include Days of Our Lives with Hope and Bo's son Zack, and General Hospital with Liz and Jason's baby, Jake.
  • May 20, 2011
    zerky
    zerky hasn't seen the film, but during the timeline of the book, it's the cat that's resurrected, not a dog. Although Jud does tell Louis about how he brought his dog back to life as a kid.
  • May 20, 2011
    Ardiente
    A Song Of Ice And Fire features many of these...
  • May 20, 2011
    Specialist290
    • Killing the young Jedi-in-training is part of Anakin Skywalker's fall from grace in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
  • May 21, 2011
    GinaInTheKingsRoad
    Pretty common in literature of the 19th century and before, as infant/child mortality was higher. May be due to Victorian Novel Disease or Too Good For This Sinful Earth. Little Eva of Uncle Tom's Cabin comes to mind.

    David Lindsay-Abaire's play (and the 2010 movie) Rabbit Hole are about the repercussions of their son's accidental death on Becca and Howie's relationship.
  • May 21, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    I'm normally a proponent of Snowclones Are Not Bad... But this is a very Bad Snowclone.

    Dead Baby Comedy is about the offensive nature of the joke. If this is indeed trying to play on that, it needs to be about the offensive nature of the drama, or it's not related to DBC.
  • May 21, 2011
    MorganWick
    ...Dear lord, I didn't like the idea of merging DBC into Black Comedy, but I'd prefer that to the fate the OP implies. Or the fate ginsengaddict implies, for that matter; DBC was always a genre until someone couldn't distinguish between offensive comedy and dark comedy.

    Also, a number of examples are X Just X.
  • May 21, 2011
    peccantis
    ^^ I don't see why this should be thought as merely a Snowclone of Dead Baby Comedy. If Dead Baby Comedy had never existed, this could still be named Dead Baby Drama -- it's a highly logical name that sums up the content of the trope about as concisely as possible.
  • May 21, 2011
    Aminatep
    "Dead baby joke" is essentially an idiom meaning "tasteless joke", because jokes of "Ten dead babies in the blender" sort are funny because they are intentianally tasteless and offensive.

    Dead baby drama is a drama about dead babies. Duh.

    Morgan Wick, "A number" means two?

    Ykttw is not a place for examples
  • May 21, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    The call it the Law Of Infant Sympathy or something. Dead Baby Drama is too closely related a title, and will get confused. Bad Snowclone.

    Fast Eddie, back me up here...
  • May 21, 2011
    Riddlewizard
    The movie Hook has Rufio (Implied to be a child or in his mid-teen's at the oldest- because you can't grow up in Neverland) die after being run through by Captain Hook himself. This is done when Hook's sworn enemy, Peter Pan- is close enough to see it happen but not close enough to stop it, and the duel begins shortly after.
  • June 28, 2011
    TorchicBlaziken
    I like this one because I keep seeing people put Infant Immortality in articles because it was averted.
  • June 28, 2011
    Hadashi
    We shouldn't have baby or infant - Dead Child Drama is wider ranging. How dramatic does it have to be? Both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures have children being killed. Indeed, in the latter example, they get away with both counts (though we only ever see the skins - yes, I mean that, an alien skins two children and wears the skins as disguises). On a more dramatic note there is another child who is killed in the SJA (a girl who falls off a pier) and plenty more implied.
  • July 19, 2011
    Aminatep
    Technically a teenager is a child too so that doesn't count.
  • July 19, 2011
    benjamminsam
    Literature: Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway composed the following short story, a Dead Baby Drama that clocks in at six words:
    • For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
  • July 21, 2011
    katiek
    • The biopic Isadora, with Vanessa Redgrave playing the tragic mother of modern dance, Isadora Duncan, has an understated yet harrowing scene where you see the protagonist's young son and daughter and their nanny drown in a car that has run into the River Seine. She starts to go a little mad after this.
    • Don't Look Now, a late 60s thriller with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, opens with an architect and wife's daughter drowning in a lake. This prompts the narrative of the rest of the film.
  • July 22, 2011
    Allronix
    • Leverage: The insurance company refusing to pay for his son's treatment (killing the boy) was what sent Nate into a downward spiral; getting fired from the insurance firm, crawling into a bottle, and ending his marriage. Becoming a "bad guy" is redemption.
  • July 22, 2011
    TBTabby
    Cry For Justice attempts this with the death of Lian Harper.
  • July 27, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    • In the Eleven Kingdoms, Anyone Can Die, so there's lots of these, including:
      • In the Camber trilogy, the lone Haldane survivor of the Festillic invasion shows his Healer his memory of the massacre of his parents and siblings, including a six-month old girl. His great-grandson is poisoned at his baptism, prompting the child's father Cinhil Haldane to slay the culrpit.
      • In the King's Service has King Donal secretly sire a boy on the Deryni wife of one of his courtiers; Donal plans to imprint the boy with the necessary instructions to trigger his heir's arcane powers after he's gone. Unfortuantely, Deryni are hated, and two men sodomize the boy and throw him down a well to drown at the suggestion of a priest.
      • Childe Morgan opens with Queen Richeldis visiting the grave of her second son, who rescued his sister from drowning only to catch pneumonia and die aged nine. Planned timetables are speeded up near the end of the book when the youngest Haldane prince (age 4) dies after a riding accident. There are also mentions of the several infant Haldane graves resulting from Donal's first marriage (all stillborn or dead in infancy) and the grave of Vera McLain's stillborn daughter.
  • September 17, 2011
    fawn
    Bump
  • September 18, 2011
    troacctid
    Examples need to be sorted.
  • March 4, 2012
    CrystalBlue
    bump
  • March 4, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • In Warrior Cats, kits occasionally die - from disease,or more rarely, from some sort of predator. Notably, in Crookedstar's Promise, there's several queens in a row that lose their kits early on, and so when Crookedstar's mate tells him she's pregnant, he worries about her. She and two of their kits end up dying from greencough.
  • December 18, 2012
    johnnye
    bump
  • April 24, 2013
    Noah1
  • April 24, 2013
    DracMonster
    How We Got Here for a Childless Dystopia may involve this.
  • April 24, 2013
    Prfnoff
    The title (and the laconic, which merely paraphrases it) needs changing so as not to suggest a domestic situation.
  • April 24, 2013
    jamespolk
    Film

    • In silent classic The Crowd, Johnny Sims's little daughter is run over in the street and killed. This precipitates his spiral into despair.
  • April 25, 2013
    Arivne
    Added a "Death Trope = unmarked spoilers" warning, and unspoilered two 1960's examples that are covered by our Handling Spoilers Statute of Limitations.
  • April 26, 2013
    StarSword
    Dead Baby Comedy has long been renamed to the more descriptive Black Comedy.
  • April 26, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Live Action TV
    • The Grand Finale of Series/Mash, Hawkeye is in the psych ward, and we later learn it's because he was partly responsible for a Korean mother smothering her baby to death to silence it, so they wouldn't be discovered by an enemy convoy.
  • April 27, 2013
    StarSword
    Film:
  • April 27, 2013
    Astaroth
    • The depression that blights Susan over the course of The Cat Lady stems from the grief she feels over the death of her baby daughter Zoe; she left a pot of orchids in her bedroom, not realising that Zoe had a rare allergy to pollen.
  • April 27, 2013
    GilvaLepista
    Torchic Blaziken: [I like this one because I keep seeing people put Infant Immortality in articles because it was averted.] Agreed. Let's get this title sorted out so we can launch it, shall we?

    I agree with any and all arguments against Dead Baby Drama: it's a bad snowclone, it sounds like a miscarriage trope, and it applies to children, not just infants. Law of Infant Sympathy also sounds like it's only for infants. I could get behind Dead Child Drama, although that name makes me think of hammy soap-opera acting; this trope can be (and occasionally is) genuinely heartbreaking.

    I suggest Children Dying is Sad. It's much clearer than any of the above examples, concise enough, and there's no point trying to be witty when naming a tragedy trope.
  • April 27, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    The M and Trainspotting examples need context. Also, the laconic is horrible. Something like "children death played for drama" would be better.
  • April 27, 2013
    StarSword
  • June 23, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • June 23, 2014
    DAN004
  • June 24, 2014
    gallium
    Looks like some of the examples that have been suggested haven't been added. Also looks like some of the namespaces need to be changed, like with M.
  • June 24, 2014
    DracMonster
    Childless Dystopia is the logical endpoint of this.
  • June 24, 2014
    surgoshan
    • Some people have argued that families with many children don't love them as much individually, arguing that, for example, this shaped American colonial life (where very large families were the norm). To argue against this, other historians bring up Rachel Weeping, by Charles Wilson Peale, a portrait of the artist's wife weeping over the body of their daughter (one of ten children they had together), which he never displayed publicly, but kept behind a curtain in his studio with a warning that it could shock and upset a similarly afflicted parent.
  • June 24, 2014
    gallium
    Question: we essentially document this trope, as it is now, as aversions of Infant Immortality. So does that cover this trope? Do we not document Infant Immortality anywhere, since it's basically an Omnipresent Trope where only aversions are documented?
  • June 24, 2014
    DracMonster
    ^An aversion that happens often enough becomes an inverse trope, so yes, many of those could be "converted." Not all will necessarily qualify, there may be some aversions of Infant Immortality which also incorporate A Million Is A Statistic - this requires that it be played for tragedy.
  • June 24, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ we'd rather say in Infant Immortality that "Aversions go to this ykttw" and leave that page empty, cuz this ykttw shows implications of children dying, while that page doesn't. (In fact, it isn't actually that omnipresent as the averted examples are now so numerous.)
  • June 24, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    • Torchwood Children Of Earth has world governments willing to give up a tenth of the world's children to aliens. While the mass deaths of that many children are ultimately averted, there's still at least three deaths of children in the series. Frobisher's daughters are killed along their parents in their father's desperation ridden murder-suicide and Jack's grandson is killed by Jack himself on screen by sonics as the only way to stop the aliens from taking millions of kids was transmit sonics back to to them through a single child-and poor Steven was the only child in range. That one left the already grieving Jack so broken he leaves Earth and his relationship with his daughter broken beyond repair.
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