Created By: SharleeD on September 17, 2012 Last Edited By: SharleeD on September 29, 2012
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Moby Schtick

A work re-enacts the conflict between Ahab and Moby Dick, either humorously or for drama

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Moby-Dick is considered one of the timeless classics of literature, yet many people today are more likely to have seen homages to its central Determinator Vs. Animal Nemesis conflict than to have actually read the novel. A number of works, particularly animated ones, have paid tribute to this book and its cinematic incarnations, setting a tremendous, pale-colored whale or whale-analog against an obsessive opponent who'll stop at nothing to bring it down.

As not many works utilize a maritime setting, this trope is often Recycled In Space. Or deserts. Or the sky. Subverting the original ending so that both antagonists survive, with the pursuer coming to respect the pursued, is likewise common.

Sometimes a Whole Plot Reference, other times a Shout-Out or Homage. Actual adaptations of Moby-Dick, character names and all, are more remake than Moby Schtick, even if they happen to be Recycled In Space.

Examples:

Comics

  • The original The Transformers comic did a Whole Plot Reference to Moby-Dick at one point. The Transformer in question lived on a world far from most of his race and was a Pretender (a Transformer covered in a pseudo-organic shell that allowed him to pose as an organic but was rather difficult to repair) and so couldn't get his leg properly restored. He finally incapacitated the beast responsible but decided against finishing it off.

  • In a couple of story arcs from The Incredible Hulk, the Hulk encounters a space-faring ship with an Ahab-like character, Captain Cybor, hunting a beast called Klaatu with electro-harpoons. At some point in the past, an encounter with Klaatu burned away the entirety of Cybor's right side, which was replaced with cyborg parts. In his first seen encounter, Cybor is dragged into a sun by Klaatu, burning away his human half. When we see him again he has had himself welded to the prow of the ship, acting as a living figurehead (if you can call that living). During both appearances they shanghai the Hulk to pull the "oars" on the ship.

  • Legion Of Superheroes: Early on, Lightning Lad had his arm destroyed by an ill-timed attack on a Space Whale, and became obsessed with revenge upon it. He got better.

Film

  • In Ice Age 3, Rudy the giant albino baryonyx plays the Moby Dick role to Buck the Weasel's Captain Ahab. In flashback, Rudy's humped back is seen looming up from a fogbank to menace Buck, who wields a stick in lieu of a harpoon.

  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan wears the influence on its sleeve, to the point of having Khan directly quote Captain Ahab: "from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!" The Enterprise itself is pale in color compared to the vengeance-obsessed Khan's vessel, and the scene of starships stalking one another through a nebula is reminiscent of the novel's scenes of Moby Dick lurking beneath the Pequod to ambush its longboats and wreck it.
    • Star Trek: First Contact was also partly inspired by Moby-Dick, with Picard as the obsessive Ahab-esque captain and the Borg as the white whale. It's even lampshaded in the film.
      Lily: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt your little quest. Captain Ahab has to go hunt his whale!
    • Ironically, Lily then admits she'd never read the book herself, which suggests she learned about it from either a movie adaptation or this trope.
    • Speaking of movie adaptations, years later ...

  • The influence of Moby-Dick on Jaws goes without saying, particularly in the character of Quint.

Literature

  • Granny Aching's story of the Jolly Sailor and the whale from The Wee Free Men is a non-comedic example. When Tiffany visits the realm of the elves, this trope is enforced on the Queen when she assumes the whale's form, as she's compelled to abandon her pursuit of Tiffany and chase the Jolly Sailor's ship.

  • China Miéville's Railsea deliberately incorporates elements of Moby-Dick, but ON LAND....WITH TRAINS!

Live-Action Television

  • The first season of Farscape does this, with Moya as the Space Whale in question and Crais as Captain Ahab.

  • The Star Trek: The Original Series ep. "The Doomsday Machine" also had this element with Commodore Decker's obsessive pursuit of the titular (indestructible) weapon.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • On Codename: Kids Next Door, Operation D.U.C.K.Y. featured a giant rubber-duck robot that menaces a shipload of kids unwilling to take baths. The robot, of course, was called Moby Duck. In Operation: A.F.L.O.A.T., the same trope is used, this time with a giant white asparagus that confronts Sector V and is killed, whaling-style, by Stickybeard.

  • The Futurama episode "Möbius Dick" gave this trope a Space Whale twist. It lampshades this trope, as the Space Whale Leela becomes obsessed with hunting feeds on obsession, so it naturally antagonizes ship captains. Leela eventually overwhelms the whale's will with a bigger obsession than revenge: finishing her delivery!

  • The ThunderCats (2011) used this trope for the episode "Ramlak Rising". Ahab-Homage Captain Koinelius Tunar, a Fishman who sails the sand sea, has sworn vengeance on the creature who destroyed his home and took his eye and leg. His nemesis the Ramlak is a giant Planimal, a Man-Eating Plant that's hybridized with the ambulatory capabilities of a Giant Squid. Like Captain Ahab, Tunar has degenerated into prizing Revenge Before Reason and shares Ahab's fate almost exactly, while quoting his dialogue.

  • One episode of Dragon Tales had the main characters help a sky pirate hunt down a giant flying whale for eating his ship. At the end of the episode, they successfully capture the whale, and it turns out that the ship said whale ate was a toy ship.

  • Then there is the Woody Woodpecker short Dopey Dick the Pink Whale, in which Woody is press-ganged into helping a cowardly captain hunt down the whale that repeatedly tore his trousers.

  • Phineas and Ferb had an entire episode called "The Belly of the Beast" referencing Moby-Dick.

  • A story arc in Rocky and Bullwinkle starts off like this with Maybe Dick, before we learn that the whale is actually a submersible which Boris Badinov uses to steal treasure.
    For many years all the men who go down to the sea in ships - sailors, fishermen, garbage scow captains - have heard and repeated the story of the Legendary Wailing Whale, Maybe Dick. Maybe Dick was supposed to be big enough to swallow a whole ship - maybe. He could swim faster than any vessel in the sea - maybe. And he had been seen by sailors whose reputations for sobriety were beyond reproach - maybe.

  • There was a character in Disney's Aladdin: the Series that was obsessed with hunting down some sort of desert whale/shark.
    • Though his quest was actually quite practical, as the belly of the sand shark was covered in precious jewels.
    • But when he does catch it, he has no idea what he will do now, so he decides to cut the shark free and hunt it again.

  • In the Storm Hawks episode "Leviathan", Stork turns into a Captain Ahab expy and becomes obsessed with hunting down the eponymous Leviathan after it swallows the Condor and Radarr.

  • There's a Tom & Jerry short called "Dicky Moe" where Tom is on a ship trying to catch Jerry while the captain is trying to catch his white whale.

  • An episode of Beetle Juice had them doing a Played for Laughs reenactment of Moby-Dick, with B.J. himself in the role of Ahab, eventually nearly being taken over by the character.

  • This was done in two episodes of Spongebob Squarepants;
    • The episode "Clams" had Mr. Krabs take Spongebob and Squidward on a fishing trip, in celebration of earning his millionth dollar. Unfortunately, the dollar gets eaten by a huge clam during the trip while he was showing it off, leading to this trope.
    • In the episode "Sleepy Time", Spongebob's dream self enters Mr. Krabs's dream, where he finds Mr. Krabs trying to catch a huge dollar bill for his wallet.

Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • September 17, 2012
    Jhimmibhob
    • Star Trek II The Wrath Of Khan wears the influence on its sleeve, to the point of having Khan directly quote Captain Ahab: "from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!"
  • September 17, 2012
    SharleeD
    ^ Not sure if that rates as a full-on Moby Schtick or just an Homage to the character of Ahab, given that neither Kirk nor Khan was actually a giant albino Space Whale. Unless, I suppose, you consider the Enterprise itself to be a white-whale analog... ...okay, looked at a few from the film scenes again, and it works.
  • September 17, 2012
    Stratadrake
    • A film called "Age of the Dragons" is a fantasy adaptation of Moby Dick, right down to the character names. The key difference? They're now hunting dragons.
  • September 17, 2012
    Arutema
    • The first season of Farscape does this, with Moya as the Space Whale in question and Crais as Captain Ahab.
  • September 17, 2012
    JonnyB
    Star Trek First Contact was also partly inspired by Moby Dick, with Picard as the obsessive Ahab-esque captain and the Borg as the white whale. It's even lampshaded in the film.
    Lily: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt your little quest. Captain Ahab has to go hunt his whale!
  • September 18, 2012
    Omeganian
    The third episode of Thunder Cats 2011 features that. Then there is the Woody Woodpecker short Dopey Dick the Pink Whale.
  • September 18, 2012
    SharleeD
    Nice ones, everybody! :D

    BTW, the novel is called Moby-Dick, with hyphen. Please try to include that, so we can tell which references are to the book (as opposed to the whale itself, Moby Dick).
  • September 18, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I believe Subtrope of Small Reference Pools. Phineas And Ferb had an entire episode called The Belly of the Beast referencing moby dick.
  • September 18, 2012
    randomsurfer
    A story arc in Rocky And Bullwinkle starts off like this with Maybe Dick, before we learn that the whale is actually a submersible which Boris Badinov uses to steal treasure.
    For many years all the men who go down to the sea in ships - sailors, fishermen, garbage scow captains - have heard and repeated the story of the Legendary Wailing Whale, Maybe Dick. Maybe Dick was supposed to be big enough to swallow a whole ship - maybe. He could swim faster than any vessel in the sea - maybe. And he had been seen by sailors whose reputations for sobriety were beyond reproach - maybe.
  • September 18, 2012
    captainpat
    Saying a work "does this" withing explaining how is a Zero Context Example. Elaborate or remove some of these examples.
  • September 18, 2012
    SharleeD
    ^ Good point. Got more details on the ThunderCats example, Omeganian?
  • September 18, 2012
    SharleeD
    ^^^^ Not sure if it's technically a Small Reference Pools example, as that's more what it would be if someone mentioned the book itself rather than re-creating a scene from it. But if we had an index of Stock Homages, this one would go there.
  • September 18, 2012
    Omeganian
    More details? The entire episode is one big reference with quotes.
  • September 18, 2012
    SharleeD
  • September 18, 2012
    SKJAM
    Just a couple of days ago, saw a "Space Moby Dick" movie advertised on Redbox--all the same except that Space Captain Ahab has a hot daughter that Space Ishmael falls in love with.
  • September 18, 2012
    SKJAM
    • Legion Of Superheroes: Early on, Lightning Lad had his arm destroyed by an ill-timed attack on a Space Whale, and became obsessed with revenge upon it. He got better.
  • September 18, 2012
    foxley
    In the Storm Hawks episode "Leviathan", Stork turns into a Captain Ahab expy and becomes obsessed with hunting down the eponymous Leviathan after it swallows the Condor and Radarr.
  • September 18, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    The Star Trek The Original Series ep. The Doomsday Machine also had this element with Commodore Decker's obsessive pursuit of the titular (indestructible) weapon.

    [Not sure how to head Recap entries so that they don't show up as red...]
  • September 18, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
  • September 18, 2012
    jbrecken
    There's a Tom & Jerry short called "Dicky Moe" where Tom is on a ship trying to catch Jerry while the captain is trying to catch his white whale.
  • September 18, 2012
    SharleeD
    ^^^^^^ Skjam, was it an actual Moby-Dick adaptation that happens to be set off-planet? Because that would be Recycled In Space, but possibly not this trope (which is for homages to the original). Granted, the boundaries between adaptation and homage can be vague.

    ^^ Not sure if basing a character on Captain Ahab, alone, is quite enough to be this, as the Hulk isn't all that much like Moby Dick. I think it ought to require elements of both the antagonists.
  • September 18, 2012
    TropeEater
  • September 19, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In a couple of story arcs from The Incredible Hulk the hulk encounters a space-faring ship with an Ahab-like character, Captain Cybor, hunting a beast called Klaatu with electro-harpoons. At some point in the past, an encounter with Klaatu burned away the entireity of Cybor's right side, which was replaced with cyborg parts. In his first seen encounter, Cybor is dragged into a sun by Klaatu, burning away his human half. When we see him again he has had himself welded to the prow of the ship, acting as a living figurehead (if you can call that living). During both appearances they shanghai the Hulk to pull the "oars" on the ship.
  • September 19, 2012
    SKJAM
    Yeah, I'm going to say Recycled In Space.
  • September 19, 2012
    abk0100
    why are you going to say that?
  • September 19, 2012
    JonnyB
    I think he means his Space Moby Dick movie example.
  • September 19, 2012
    SharleeD
    OK, will leave the space-adaptation off then. I may remove the dragon-hunting version too, soon as I can confirm it's another Recycled.

    ...and confirmed, all the trailers claim that one's an adaptation. So, bye bye Age of the Dragons (thanks anyway, Stratadrake).
  • September 19, 2012
    OmarKarindu
    Literature
    • China Mieville's Railsea deliberately redoes Moby-Dick, but ON LAND....WITH TRAINS!
  • September 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Tuckerscreator's line "Funnily enough, years later..." can be appended to the Star Trek First Contact example; Patrick Stewart played Ahab in the 1998 version, while First Contact was in 1996.
  • September 21, 2012
    SharleeD
    Any others out there?
  • September 24, 2012
    JonnyB
    ^^^ That's Recycled in the Old West.
  • September 24, 2012
    Tallens
    Western Animation:
    • An episode of Beetle Juice had them doing a reenactment of Moby Dick, with B.J. himself in the role of Ahab, eventually nearly being taken over by the character. Being the type of show it is, it is definitely played for comedy.
  • September 24, 2012
    Stratadrake
    BTW, in regards to the Star Trek First Contact (if I recall correctly) not only does Lily make the Moby Dick reference, not only does it snap Picard out of his obsession and back to his senses, but Lily later admits that she hasn't actually read the book herself and only knows about it through popular culture.
  • September 29, 2012
    SharleeD
    ^^^ True, but it's got story elements that aren't derived from the novel, or come from other sources. So it's a Moby Schtick incorporated into a new work, not just the old work adapted to a new setting.
  • September 29, 2012
    CaveCat
    • This was done in two episodes of Spongebob Squarepants;
      • The episode "Clams" had Mr. Krabs take Spongebob and Squidward on a fishing trip, in celebration of earning his millionth dollar. Unfortunately, the dollar gets eaten by a huge clam during the trip while he was showing it off, leading to this trope.
      • In the episode "Sleepy Time", Spongebob's dream self enters Mr. Krabs's dream, where he finds Mr. Krabs trying to catch a huge dollar bill for his wallet.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4cr28kgeg38733ac2w1ytwr6&trope=MobySchtick