Break The Icon YKTTW Discussion

Break The Icon
Destroying an icon symbolising the previous entry in a series, to indicate a new start
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(permanent link) added: 2013-12-06 15:39:37 sponsor: pinkdalek edited by: marcoasalazarm (last reply: 2014-07-31 02:17:48)

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This trope is when The Artifact, a Series Mascot, an Iconic Item or Iconic Outfit, a Signature Scene, Catch Phrase, or any one of the Signature Tropes, is gratuitously destroyed or snubbed with the purpose of symbolising that everything is different now. Usually, Darker and Edgier-flavoured different-now.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a ReBoot, a Re Tool, or perhaps this is the Wham Episode; perhaps this is just a sequel in much the same tone, but with a theme of a fresh start. Maybe this is a way to indicate that even though the last work had a happy ending, everything has gone to hell between stories; or maybe the story wants to tell you, perhaps overly optimistically, that, even if you liked it before, this is where everything gets so totally awesome that you won't care about any of that old stuff. There are many reasons why writers may want to do this - but all of them end with the very symbol of the story itself being destroyed before your very eyes.

While this is generally done quickly and obviously, there are ways of doing it more subtly. In some cases, such as when the destroyed symbol is incredibly conspicuous in absence alone, even its mere nonappearance may qualify as this trope, though this is very rare. While some narratives won't settle for anything less mean-spirited than bundling up the hero's famous car, Weapon of Choice, famous house and fan-favourite girlfriend and slamming a superheated meteor into the whole lot, others take a gentler approach, such as having the hero mock his old dress sense from when he was wearing his Iconic Outfit all the time, or having him intentionally fail to deliver his Catch Phrase in a moment that begs for it. In some cases, this can even be Played for Laughs, but, since the usual reason to Bomb The Relic is to establish that yes, you are willing to go there, even the laughs are usually a little mean in spirit.

Related to Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome, but where that is done to indicate to the audience that Anyone Can Die or for practical reasons of not having a returning character, this is a far more symbolic trope. No-one necessarily has to die - although they definitely can. The focus is on portraying a symbolic death of the 'old'.

Also see Nothing Is The Same Any More, which this trope can be used to signify. Can also be interpreted as a peculiar form of The Worf Effect, as instead of being about beating up a character we know to be strong to demonstrate the strength of the new threat, this is about "beating up" an idea we know to be strong in order to demonstrate the strength of the new narrative. Important Haircut is a subtrope.

If this involves removing a Plucky Comic Relief element almost mercifully before everything gets Darker and Edgier, this is Shoo Out the Clowns. See also Put on a Bus to Hell, which also deals with mean-spirited departures of established characters and things. A Knight of Cerebus may be the character responsible for doing this.


  • In 1980, the USA fast food chain Jack-in-the-Box decided to rebrand itself by blowing up their famous jack-in-the-box mascot in an iconic commercial. This was meant to make over the chain as being more upscale than its competition. This trope was invoked again in 1994 where the mascot & company executive, Jack Box, returned to power and blew up the boardroom executives that had replaced him years earlier.

  • In the second season of Darker Than Black, Hei gets caught in a trap early on and depowered. In the process, his iconic mask and knives get destroyed. Subverted at the end of the season when he snaps out of his funk, finds a cache of hidden weapons, and gets a new set.
  • Gunsmith Cats Burst: The second arc of the manga involves a criminal cartel stealing Rally Vincent's beloved 1960's Shelby Cobra Mustang while she's hunting a bounty in Texas and using it as a "hostage". At the end of the arc it is destroyed beyond repair (and considering how bad Rally's luck is, it says a lot) by a bomb that said cartel had rigged to the car, forcing Rally to get a replacement-which ends up being a highly modified Mustang II.


  • In The Dresden Files, Changes sees Harry's trademark car beaten into a wafer. His apartment is also firebombed and completely destroyed. This signifies a turn into darker and grimmer territory.
  • In Frank Herbert's "Dune" Series. Paul is built up from boy to hero Emperor in the first book, only to be brought down just as far in it's sequel "Dune Messiah". Being blinded, cast out into the desert and eventually killed in "Children of Dune".

Live-Action Television
  • Doctor Who:
    • Christopher Eccleston's costume as the Ninth Doctor, the first Doctor after the series got a major retool, is kind of a reaction to the most visually iconic Doctor in Doctor Who, the Fourth Doctor. Both have somewhat similar facial features and toothy, unpredictable mannerisms, but where Four had a head of dense curly hair, a long coat and a big, gaudy scarf, Nine has a dark crew-cut, a leather jacket and dresses in plain, dark-colored knitwear. Obviously, this is to define Nine himself, as well as the new series, as being Darker and Edgier than his predecessor.
    • The whoisdoctorwho supplemental website run by Mickey, contained an eyewitness account which addressed it more literally - a woman submitted an anecdote claiming that she spotted the man at a local dump throwing away brightly coloured clothes (the kinds worn by previous Doctors), including 'an extremely long scarf'. When she asked him what he was doing, he told her 'having a bit of a clear-out'. (It should be noted that during David Tennant's makeover scene, by which time the show was trying less hard to be aggressively relevant, the scarf is seen hanging in his wardrobe without getting a deliberate snub, and from there it seems to have made its way to being an artefact in the Eleventh Doctor's study - and apparently then around the neck of one of his far, far, far future friends/companions in "The Day of the Doctor".)
    • This also happened in the made-for-TV-movie, which was intended to be the start of a ReBoot but didn't quite happen, in which Paul McGann's Doctor is stealing himself clothes, and is stuck with the outfits of people who want to go to a costume party. In one locker, he finds a long, striped scarf, thinks about it for a moment, and then locks it back up again, eventually settling on Wild West-type Victoriana.
    • Peter Davidson was the first to obviously snub the scarf - he unravelled his previous incarnation's red scarf and used the thread as a marker, Theseus-style. Obviously, this was because he was following up the most beloved incarnation of the Doctor and needed a way to assure people the previous character was Dead for Real.
    • Done a few times to things other than the scarf as well. The 11th Doctor's tenure begins, quite literally, with the former TARDIS set blowing up to be replaced a newer, more polished one for 11, and the destruction of David Tennant's 10th Doctor costume. 11 consciously gets rid of the now "raggedy" clothing and replaces it with his iconic "cool" bow tie.
    • The very lived in "coral" TARDIS interior theme used by Nine and Ten gets another snub when 11 says it was his "grunge phase" and he'll "grow out of it" in "Day of the Doctor" before the desktop theme changes back to the shiny new interior 11 was using at the time.
    • In the episode "The Time of the Doctor", when Matt Smith's Doctor regenerates into Peter Capaldi's Doctor, he drops his iconic "cool" bowtie.
  • Fantasy Island: In the original series, Mr. Roarke always wears a white three-piece suit. In the first episode of the 1990s retool, the new Mr. Roarke looks in his closet, chooses the one black suit amongst a sea of white ones, and tells a servant to burn the rest of them.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The season 2 finale "The Jem'Hadar" saw the Galaxy-class starship USS Odyssey get thoroughly curbstomped by a trio of Jem'Hadar attack ships, and finally destroyed by a ramming attack after it was already in full retreat. The GCS is practically the embodiment of the previous series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and having one get destroyed in such a manner also demonstrated that DS9 was going to be Darker and Edgier than its predecessor. Word of God confirmed this as intentional.
  • Burn Notice: The season 4 finale "Last Stand" used this for foreshadowing when Michael blows up the Charger for an impromptu roadblock. By the start of the next season, the organization that burned him has been taken down completely and the CIA has lifted the burn notice.
  • The pilot episode of the most recent Knight Rider series had some spies discovering the disassembled frame of the Knight Industries Two Thousand (a 1980's T-Top Trans-Am) on a secret lab garage before the Knight Industries Three Thousand (a brand-new Shelby Cobra Ford Mustang) activates and drives away from them.

  • A Ha's music video for "Take On Me" featured a rotoscoped love story between a comic book fan Trapped in TV Land and the main character of the comic, who wills himself into the real world to be with her at the end of the video. Their next single, "The Sun Always Shines on TV", had a video that started with the couple breaking up and the man disappearing back into the comic world, followed by a big The End.

Video Games
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The opening of Final Fantasy X-2 shows Yuna looking mournful in her traditionalist Summoner dress from the previous game, but she quickly transforms into frilly stage wear and starts performing a huge electronic pop song that would have been absolutely unthinkable in Final Fantasy X.
    • The original Final Fantasy starts with the player rescuing a Princess. This is got over with by the first hour of the game, giving the player freedom to venture beyond the small opening island and explore the huge (for that time) rest of the game world. This was aimed at divorcing the game from its inspirational predecessor Dragon Quest, in which saving the princess is the end goal of the game - in Final Fantasy, your heroes have bigger things to deal with.
  • The start of Zork: Grand Inquisitor shows the White House from the original Zork being demolished with a wrecking ball.
  • In Dm C Devil May Cry, the Continuity Reboot of the Devil May Cry series, a mop falls on Dante's head, making him resemble his counterpart from the original games. He casts it aside and berates the look.

Western Animation
  • Speed Racer: The Next Generation: the first episode has Speed Jr finding the Mach 5...only to total it beyond repair in the next scene. Some of its parts are used in the new Mach 6 that he uses for the rest of the series.
  • Megabyte crushing Glitch at the end of Reboot Season 2, beginning the show's Darker and Edgier phase.
  • In Avatar The Legend Of Korra, a giant statue of Aang, the protagonist of the last series stands in Republic City, the city he helped found in between the series. At the end of the second season, the Big Bad destroyed the statue, symbolizing the fact that he broke the Avatar cycle and severed Korra's connection to her past lives.

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