Created By: MrTomFebruary 26, 2012 Last Edited By: MrTomMay 9, 2012

The Mirror Dies First

Major characters have reflections which are much easier targets than they are

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Trope
A character suffers what would have been a deadly assault, had it not been perpetrated against their reflection.

The trope can take various forms, for example:

  • During an ongoing chase scene, the reflection is shown from the point of view of the pursuer, and the audience is unaware that they are seeing a reflection before it breaks
  • A character is looking in a mirror, which then suddenly breaks. This could happen out of nowhere (and start off an action sequence), or occur in midsequence (eg a character in a car chase has their wing mirror shot off - in which case the audience sees the pursuer in the mirror just before it breaks)
  • The pursuer is in a situation where the audience know that a mistaken attack on a mirror is likely, possibly because of a trap set by their quarry. This is particularly likely to occur if a chase makes its way into a Hall Of Mirrors (in which case The Hero is usually in pursuit rather than fleeing).

The Mirror Dies First serves to illustrate the severity of a threat without actually killing off a major character. Needless to say, it is unlikely to come to the aid of the Red Shirt, except inasmuch as it provides a non-lethal substitue to them (perhaps in situations where a genuine Red Shirt would not appear, or when all such available resources have already been exhausted).


Examples:

Live Action TV

Film

  • The Man Called Flintstone (The Film Of The Series of The Flintstones). When Fred flees into a Hall Of Mirrors, the Green Goose tries to run him over with a car but hits Fred's reflection in a mirror instead.

  • In Jurassic Park, Lex's reflection gets totalled by a hungry velociraptor.

  • Clash Of The Titans (1981). When Perseus is fighting Medusa in her underground lair, he sets up a shield with a reflecting back on one of her petrified victims. When she sees his reflection in the shield she fires her bow at it, knocking it down.

  • The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. While Quatermain is pursuing the fleeing Big Bad, he sees him sneaking around and fires at him. His shot hits and shatters the mirror that was reflecting the Big Bad's image.

  • The German, a short film taking place during World War II has a Royal Air Force pilot glancing in his rearview mirror to see where his German opponent is. No sooner does he see the plane than does the mirror get shot off of his plane.

  • A similar scene in Red Tails has a the same thing happening to an American pilot over Sicily.

Comic Books

Literature


Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • February 26, 2012
    Sackett
    Laconic needs to be changed. This isn't about bad luck, this is about the villain mistakenly attacking the reflection of the hero. Thus "killing" the reflection instead of the hero.

    Tends to be played two ways:

    1: The audience does not know that the target is a reflection until the blow lands. Thus creating tension that the blow is going to actually land.

    2: The audience does know that the target is a reflection. This builds some suspense about what the real target planning a counter attack.

    I think this is expandable beyond villains targeting heroes. Since a clever villain can often pull this trick as well. Making it appear that the hero is going to successfully defeat the villain only for it to be a reflection instead.

    There should probably also be some verbiage about the symbolism of as represented by a mirror. Also about how this is a common tactic in a funhouse, where the multitude of mirrors is more about making the enemy seem like a multitude.
  • February 26, 2012
    Catbert
    I really don't think that Red Shirt is the best way to name define this trope.
  • February 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    See also Hall Of Mirrors.
  • February 27, 2012
    Arivne
    Attacked The Reflection?

    Film

    Watch it here.
  • February 27, 2012
    Sackett
  • February 27, 2012
    Antigone3
    In The Shadow (1994 movie version), a hypnotized Margo Lane shoots Cranston's reflection.
  • March 4, 2012
    Sackett
    I think this is ready for launch. Does anyone disagree?
  • March 6, 2012
    Omeganian
    There was an episode of He Man And The Masters Of The Universe where He-Man was surrounded by several reflections of Skeletor and had to find the real one. He used some sneezing powder which made all the mirrors shatter.
  • March 6, 2012
    AFP
    • The German, a short film taking place during World War II has a Royal Air Force pilot glancing in his rearview mirror to see where his German opponent is. No sooner does he see the plane than does the mirror get shot off of his plane.

    • A similar scene in Red Tails has a the same thing happening to an American pilot over Sicily.
  • March 6, 2012
    AFP
    • One episode of JAG has Harm, in a dark room, face to face with recurring villain Clark Palmer, who has a gun on him. This is of course one of Clark's nefarious plots, in this case standing in front of an angled mirror to disguise the fact that Harm's girlfriend is in the actual line of fire.
  • March 7, 2012
    MisterTom
    Thanks all for the comments although the he manexample is more Hall Of Mirrors as the action described is a deliberate attack on the mirror which this isn't really about. See also the end if the discworld book Witches Abroad.
  • March 22, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Clash Of The Titans (1981). When Perseus is fighting Medusa in her underground lair, he sets up a shield with a reflecting back on one of her petrified victims. When she sees his reflection in the shield she fires her bow at it, knocking it down.
  • April 30, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons module A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade. In one area there's a trick: a mirror set at a 45 degree angle at the end of the corridor. It makes the corridor seem to be much longer than it is because it reflects a side corridor. When the PCs see monsters in the mirror (who are actually in the side corridor), they'll attack the mirror and (probably) destroy it.
  • April 30, 2012
    SharleeD
    Invoked by the hero of the movie F/X, who used a reflective surface from his special-effects supplies to draw an intruder's gunfire.
  • May 4, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
  • May 5, 2012
    wotnoplot
    I'm a bit confused by the description. Your reflection is weaker than you? A reflection in a mirror can simply be destroyed by cracking a mirror-mortals tend to be a lot stronger, let alone so called immortals. I think the 'reflection is stronger than the actual' needs to be removed as a given. The way to destroy them is to destroy the reflection sounds better.
  • May 9, 2012
    MrTom
    Um. The point is that mirror images of heroes tend to get successfully attacked in ways which would have worked on the hero, whereas heroes tend not to be. This emphatically does not mean that "the way to destroy them is to destroy the reflection". (Compare and contrast, for example, the mirror scene in Conan The Destroyer , where this is the case). If you can come up with a clearer way to express this succinctly, then please do!

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