Created By: Bisected8 on July 4, 2013 Last Edited By: Bisected8 on July 12, 2013
Troped

Death Of Personality

A missing supertrope for people being effectivally dead because of the loss of what made them them

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Page Type:
Trope
Needs a Better Name Vote for name suggestions Here! Feel free to add your own.

Indexes: Death Tropes, Speculative Fiction Tropes, Tropes of the Soul
This trope covers situations when a person is treated as effectively dead and gone even though their body is still physically alive. This is generally because the "person" has been erased in some way. This can cover mild examples (like memory loss) or more serious examples (like Loss of Identity or damage to the soul). It can occur accidentally or through happenstance (e.g. illness or injury), maliciously (e.g. being assimilated by The Virus) or punitively (A number of Speculative Fiction settings use mind-wiping and personality overwriting as a form of capital punishment). This trope and its subtropes are often treated as a Fate Worse Than Death or a means of making someone Deader Than Dead.

Subtropes (examples of which should go on their relevant page) include; [[index]] [[/index]]

Contrast Un-Person, who is merely treated as if they no longer (or never did) exist. Compare Mind Control and Brainwashed, which usually just force a person to act differently without damaging their personality.

As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • This is the ultimate fate of Dream in The Sandman. Dream is one of the Endless, who are practically living ideas, so they can't die in the true sense of the word. After having Mercy Killed his son, Orpheus, Dream gets killed by the Furies, whose job is to punish those who murder their own kin. However, he's reborn in a new form, who then continues to do his precessors work. So the idea called Dream keeps on living, but the character everyone knew as him is dead.
  • In ElfQuest, this is effectively the fate of One-Eye's body when he is killed in the prelude to The Palace War. After Leetah tries to heal him and only manages to heal his empty, soulless body, it is kept in Preserver webbing for many years until his lifemate, Clearbrook, accepts that he's not coming back and so cuts the webbing and allows his body to die.

Film
  • In Man of Steel, this occurs when all Kryptonians other than Zod and Superman are defeated. In the film, Kryptonians are genetically-engineered for one purpose, and when that purpose ends, so does any meaning in their lives. In this case, Zod immediately loses all sanity he had left and declares that his only purpose now is to make Superman and the humans he loves suffer as much as he possibly can before killing every last one and reducing the planet to dust.
  • The sequel to The NeverEnding Story has The Emptiness slowly do this to Bastien by erasing his memories.
  • Happens in WALL•E after Eve repairs him from near-fatal damage. He appears to lose all his memory and personality, until she "kisses" him with an electric spark.
  • In Brave, Merida and Elinor must Race Against the Clock to break the spell that gave Elinor a bear's body or she will lose her humanity and become like any other non-sentient bear.

Literature
  • The local police chief in the Alex Benedict series was originally a serial killer who had had his memory overwritten. It's a Red Herring, by the way: the apparent Chekhov's Gun never goes off.
  • M.C.A. Hogarth's Jokka are susceptible to the "minddeath" when they experience physical trauma or heatstroke. Females are most vulnerable but even hardy neuters may fall victim.
  • Inversion: In the Discworld series, the Auditors are the supernatural bureaucrats of the Cosmos. They begin as grey soul-less entities; for them, to develop a recognisable personality and individual self-awareness is death. They forgot this when a group of them decided it would be a good idea to adopt human bodies, so as to tidy creation up from the inside...
  • In the Chronicles of Chaos by John C. Wright, this is referenced by Vanity, upon learning that all of them are Uranians (or Titans) and prisoners of war of the Olympians, who had their memories erased, forced into human bodies, and raised as such she cries that they commited murder by making them forget their true selves.

Live Action Television
  • Babylon 5:
    • In the episode "The Quality of Mercy" a serial killer is sentenced to Death of Personality, because he's considered too dangerous to ship back to Earth and military law only allows spacing in cases of mutiny and treason.
    • The punishment is deconstructed in the episode "Passing Through Gethsemane" when one of an order of monks living on the station is horrified to find out he's actually a convicted serial killer who was mind wiped and reprogrammed with a personality inclined to do service. When his detention center had a fire he got lost, and eventually found his way to the monks.
  • An episode of Law & Order: SVU ends with Munch's clinically depressed uncle comes off his medication to "kill" himself as penance for murdering a suspect while in a mania caused as a side effect of his medication.
  • Vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are humans who have died and had their soul replaced by a demon. This means that the person themselves is dead, even though the demon in question has all their memories and often believes they are the original.
  • This happens several times on The Twilight Zone:
    • In Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room, a cowardly criminal is confronted by his better self, on the other side of a mirror. Eventually the other personality takes over. This is a rare example of this trope being a Happy Ending.
    • In The Lateness of the Hour, a woman discovers that she is actually a robot. Unable to cope, she goes mad and her "parents" reprogram her as a maid, effectively destroying her personality.
  • The Cybermen from Doctor Who. People who are transformed into Cybermen are stripped of all personality and individuality, becoming soulless killers. Once a human is transformed, they're considered dead and all that can be done is to destroy the Cyberman.

Tabletop Games
  • Shadowrun. When an insect spirit possesses a human being it overwrites and destroys the human's personality with its own. If the spirit achieves a "Good Merge" it can keep the original personality's memories and use them to impersonate the victim.

Video Games
  • Breath of Fire II: Mina is transformed into a "Great Bird" as a heroic sacrifice. To quote one NPC [paraphrased]:
    "If you become a bird, your mind becomes a bird's. Isn't that the same as dying?"
Community Feedback Replies: 60
  • July 4, 2013
    Astaroth
    The Dementor's Kiss in Harry Potter, which robs the victim of their soul. The body can live on without the soul, but it becomes an empty shell devoid of personality or memories.

    Edit:Nevermind, that's the Empty Shell subtrope
  • July 4, 2013
    DAN004
    Cybernetics Eat Your Soul sometimes also goes by this trope.
  • July 4, 2013
    StarSword
    A number of Speculative Fiction settings use mind-wiping and personality overwriting as a form of capital punishment. I can think of three offhand:

    Anime and Manga:

    Literature:
    • The local police chief in the Alex Benedict series was originally a serial killer who had had his memory overwritten. It's a Red Herring, by the way: the apparent Chekhovs Gun never goes off.

    TV:
    • In the Babylon Five episode "The Quality of Mercy" a serial killer is sentenced to mindwipe, because he's considered too dangerous to ship back to Earth and military law only allows spacing in cases of mutiny and treason.
  • July 4, 2013
    Tallens
    Babylon 5:
    • The mind wipe is deconstructed in the episode "Passing Through Gethsemane" when one of an order of monks living on the station is horrified to find out he's actually a convicted serial killer who was mind wiped and reprogrammed with a personality inclined to do service. When his detention center had a fire he got lost, and eventually found his way to the monks.
  • July 4, 2013
    Bisected8
    I've added a note about mind wipes being used for punishment to the description (that can probably be split off as another subtrope later on).
  • July 4, 2013
    StarSword
    Fixed Example Indentation and namespacing.
  • July 4, 2013
    Bisected8
    Thanks
  • July 4, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Literature
    • M.C.A. Hogarth's Jokka are susceptible to the "minddeath" when they experience physical trauma or heatstroke. Females are most vulnerable but even hardy neuters may fall victim.
  • July 4, 2013
    Bisected8
    Does anyone have any name suggestions?
  • July 4, 2013
    Tallens
    ^What's wrong with the one up there already?
  • July 4, 2013
    StarSword
    I was thinking Death Of Self, but the current is a bit clearer.
  • July 4, 2013
    Bisected8
    @Tallens: I just put it there as a placeholder on the assumption someone would be able to come up with a better idea.
  • July 4, 2013
    DAN004
  • July 4, 2013
    Tallens
    I think the current title's fine.
  • July 5, 2013
    AgProv
    In the Discworld, the Auditors are the supernatural bureaucrats of the Cosmos. They begin as grey soul-less entities; for them, to develop a recognisable personality and individual self-awareness is death. They forgot this when a group of them decided it would be a good idea to adopt human bodies, so as to tidy creation up from the inside...
  • July 5, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Comic Books
    • This is the ultimate fate of Dream in The Sandman. Dream is one of the Endless, who are practically living ideas, so they can't die in the true sense of the word. After having Mercy Killed his son, Orpheus, Dream gets killed by the Furies, whose job is to punish those who murder their own kin. However, he's reborn in a new form, who then continues to do his precessors work. So the idea called Dream keeps on living, but the character everyone knew as him is dead.
  • July 5, 2013
    ryanasaurus0077
    Film
    • Harvey Dent actually didn't survive the destruction of the building on Avenue X at Cicero. He died from a lethal combination of third-degree burns to the face and severe shock that night, and Two-Face was born the next morning.
  • July 5, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Most of the examples belong on the sub tropes.
  • July 5, 2013
    Bisected8
    Which ones and which subtropes?

    @ ryanasaurus0077: I don't think that was an example; Dent's personality was still there, he just went completely insane.
  • July 5, 2013
    RoseBride
    In the Chronicles Of Chaos by John C Wright, this is referenced by Vanity, upon learning that all of them are Uranians (or Titans) and prisoners of war of the Olympians, who had their memories erased, forced into human bodies, and raised as such she cries that they commited murder by making them forget their true selves.
  • July 5, 2013
    ryanasaurus0077
    ^^ But Dent wasn't himself after that traumatizing event. Sure, there were still traces of his personality remaining, and he has Dent's memories, but the charismatic prosecutor who had cleaned up Gotham's streets in a massive sting was already dead.
  • July 5, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Which is an example of That Man Is Dead.
  • July 5, 2013
    Tallens
    Harvey had shown hints of this dark side throughout the film, most notably when he was interrogating one of the Joker's henchman. After losing Rachel, he just stopped trying to fight it.
  • July 5, 2013
    Randomwaffle23
    I swear this has something to do with Never Found The Body, but it's not quite the same. I think the difference is that in this, they've got the person right in front of them (albeit without their mind), and in Never Found The Body, the person is fully alive and well someplace else.
  • July 5, 2013
    Bisected8
    Never Found The Body is when someone dies in a way that doesn't leave an intact corpse. I suppose that might make it an inversion of this trope (since it's about a person dying in a way that doesn't physically destroy them) but that seems like a stretch....
  • July 5, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    ^^^ Actually, he never showed anything like a dark side. His entire identity was based on the idea that he was a planner, and that nothing was chance. He did psychological torture on an unstable mental patient. Within the mythos of that story, he did nothing wrong until Joker convinced him that his life was ruined.

    The accident that destroyed half of his face also marked his coin. His coin used to have only one result, no matter how many times it was flipped: HEADS. Now? Sometimes you're lucky, sometimes your luck is bad.
  • July 5, 2013
    Lovova
    I remember Doctor Who taking this trope very seriously in the case of Donna Noble. Her fate was to forget her interactions with the Doctor, but every character who knew about it treated this amnesia as the actual death of the version of Donna that had developed from her meeting the Doctor onward. This scenario would fall under this trope perfectly.
  • July 5, 2013
    Lovova
    Maybe as a title "Not You Anymore"?. To show that the personality change has made a new person out of a previous character?
  • July 6, 2013
    Melkior
    Comic Books:
    • In ElfQuest, this is effectively the fate of One-Eye's body when he is killed in the prelude to The Palace War. After Leetah tries to heal him and only manages to heal his empty, soulless body, it is kept in Preserver webbing for many years until his lifemate, Clearbrook, accepts that he's not coming back and so cuts the webbing and allows his body to die.

    Feel free to remove the spoilers if you decide to mark this as a death trope with unmarked spoilers.
  • July 6, 2013
    KingZeal
    • In Man Of Steel, this occurs when all Kryptonians other than Zod and Superman are defeated. In the film, Kryptonians are genetically-engineered for one purpose, and when that purpose ends, so does any meaning in their lives. In this case, Zod immediately loses all sanity he had left and declares that his only purpose now is to make Superman and the humans he loves suffer as much as he possibly can before killing every last one and reducing the planet to dust.
  • July 6, 2013
    DAN004
    Pertaining to the Anatomy Of The Soul: so which part of the soul would be "dead" in the case of this trope?
  • July 6, 2013
    Bisected8
    Pretty much any case involving the mind and probably most cases involving anything other than the body, DAN 004.

    I'll add the Batman example for now. It can always be removed later.

    I've also remembered; this still needs indexes. Any suggestions?
  • July 6, 2013
    Tallens
    I still disagree with Harvey being up there. The main thrust of his character arc was that it was him doing all those things, not some newly created individual.
  • July 6, 2013
    Bisected8
    That's a good point...

    Does anyone else want to weigh in? It might be easier to see if it fits on any subtropes....
  • July 7, 2013
    tachyonTrail
    The way I see it, the effect of this trope is that the character's body becomes the clothing for a wolf (in the context of A Wolf In Sheeps Clothing, which would make Grand Theft Me a subtrope of this), while their original personality gets deleted/trapped somewhere else (possibly in one of a myriad of Afterlife Tropes or a Soul Jar), possibly forever. Alternately, they get brain damaged/cursed and become a Blank Slate, or are victims of Amnesia.

    Therefore, other ways to achieve this trope: Boom Headshot, Tap On The Head.

    Compare Crouching Moron Hidden Badass.

    So I agree that Harvey doesn't fit the bill - he just got painted into the Villain Corner.

    And I personally like Not You Anymore. It's particularly heartwrenching when it happens to a character you like, and that phrase is exactly what I begin to think about the victim when I see it happen.
  • July 7, 2013
    JoeG
    • This happens several times on The Twilight Zone:
      • In Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room, a cowardly criminal is confronted by his better self, on the other side of a mirror. Eventually the other personality takes over. This is a rare example of this trope being a Happy Ending.
      • In The Lateness of the Hour, a woman discovers that she is actually a robot. Unable to cope, she goes mad and her "parents" reprogram her as a maid, effectively destroying her personality.

  • July 7, 2013
    Bisected8
    @tachyonTrail: I'm not sure I understand how Crouching Moron Hidden Badass is related?

    I don't see how Boom Headshot or Tap On The Head are related at all, either (the former just kills the person outright the and the latter is explicitly about the lack of harm blows to the head cause).
  • July 7, 2013
    tachyonTrail
    Conversely to this trope, Crouching Moron Hidden Badass can refer to a character whose former personality is so far off the radar that everyone who ever knew him assumes he's dead (and for all intents and purposes, the person he has become is no longer him - his memories are inaccessible or horribly distorted), BUT some trigger or other brings that personality back (possibly through mystic methods); Death Of The Personality is at minimum a partial aversion of Crouching Moron Hidden Badass, in which the Crouching Moron never becomes the Hidden Badass again.

    Meanwhile, a character who gets some major form of Amnesia instead of dying due to Boom Headshot is one way to play Death Of The Personality straight; while Death Of The Personality could also be considered a variant of Tap On The Head that allows the body to survive essentially unharmed, although the mind is gone.
  • July 7, 2013
    Bisected8
    Oh, in that case I don't think BH or TotH are related at all, since they could potentially lead to a scenario which falls under this supertrope but it isn't an inherent part of them.

    I don't think CMHB is related either; the "moron" part doesn't have to be a lost personality. I don't think it's close enough to be comparable.
  • July 7, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Shadowrun. When an insect spirit possesses a human being it overwrites and destroys the human's personality with its own. If the spirit achieves a "Good Merge" it can keep the original personality's memories and use them to impersonate the victim.

    I don't think this example is covered by any of the tropes listed above - at least none of them is on the Shadowrun page as covering insect spirits.
  • July 7, 2013
    tachyonTrail
    File that under Grand Theft Me. It's a subtrope of this one.
  • July 8, 2013
    Bisected8
    So, does anyone else have any thoughts on the title?
  • July 8, 2013
    DAN004
  • July 8, 2013
    Bisected8
    Might work, but I'm not sure about it myself (the subject doesn't have to lose sapience; they could be replaced by some other sapient personality).
  • July 8, 2013
    CosmeF
    Would characters with Split Personality count as examples, if only one of the personalities are killed?
  • July 8, 2013
    Bisected8
    I'd guess so (I don't think we have a specific subtrope for it).
  • July 9, 2013
    Arivne
    ^ x 6: I actually considered Grand Theft Me, but that trope involves two bodies swapping personalities, with each body holding the other body's personality.

    In my Shadowrun example the insect spirit becomes part of the victim's body and its personality completely replaces the victim's.
  • July 9, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Re: the Babylon 5 examples: the formal name of the punishment (as stated in sentencing) was "death of personality".
  • July 9, 2013
    Bisected8
    Technically it's only the trope namer if the reference was deliberate.

    Shall I start a crowner for the name, BTW? There doesn't seem to be much of a consensus.
  • July 9, 2013
    StarSword
    That would actually be a good trope namer: It doesn't require you to know the work it comes from to understand the trope.
  • July 9, 2013
    Bisected8
  • July 9, 2013
    eowynjedi
    Couple of Pixar examples (if I'm reading the trope right):

    • Happens in Wall E after Eve repairs him from near-fatal damage. He appears to lose all his memory and personality, until she "kisses" him with an electric spark.
    • In Brave, Merida and Elinor must Race Against The Clock to break the spell that gave Elinor a bear's body or she will lose her humanity and become like any other non-sentient bear.
  • July 9, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    The Cybermen from Doctor Who. People transformed into Cybermen are stripped of all personality and individuality, becoming soulless killers. Once a human is transformed, they're considered dead and all that's left is to destroy the Cyber.

  • July 10, 2013
    Bisected8
    I've added the Death Trope disclaimer, but I'll leave spoilers unmarked until launch (so tropers can continue to help with the YKTTW without fear of spoilers).
  • July 10, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Not sure which subtrope this is, but danged if'n it don't fit good.

    Film
    • Percy Dolarhyde used to be a Spoiled Brat Jerk Ass ... until the aliens got hold of him in Universal Pictures' Cowboys And Aliens. Once he'd been rescued, Percy was dazed and confused, but no longer arrogant and irresponsible. His father could finally be proud of him.
  • July 10, 2013
    StarSword
    ^That seems like something along the lines of Break The Haughty actually. This trope is about mental erasure as Character Death.
  • July 10, 2013
    Bisected8
    Yeah, that seems more like a personality change than anything.
  • July 10, 2013
    Bisected8
    Death Of Personality seems to be a pretty clear winner (twice the overall score as the choice below it, no downvotes).

    Does anyone have anything else to add?

    Provisional launch date: Friday afternoon (12th of July).
  • July 11, 2013
    StarSword
    I wonder why this YKTTW's name crowner went so well when two of the others I've seen didn't.
  • July 11, 2013
    Bisected8
    Sometimes crowners get people voting in them, sometimes they don't. I've never really seen any pattern to it.

    Anyways, launching sometime after 13:00 PM (GMT+0) on Friday as Death Of Personality.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=39x6s0kosqhszeyr64f5dstn&trope=DeathOfPersonality