Created By: dogwolfman on June 1, 2012 Last Edited By: qwertyuio on August 18, 2012

nobody dies of dehydration below 25C

Trapped people in fiction are more afraid of hunger than dehydration, unless it's hot.

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In real life, if you get trapped in your basement your biggest motivation for escape would be that your going to die of dehydration in less then a week. If that same thing happens to a fictional character, expect every one involved to talk about how the person involved was "left down there to starve to death".

The only time you'll ever hear about people in fiction fearing dehydration is if they're trapped somewhere hot, like a desert.

This is presumably the situation because people associate dehydration with being hot and writers assume viewers are too dumb to realise a person will eventually dehydrate to death at any temperature if denied water indefinitely.


Examples

LiveActionTV
  • In an episode of Star Gate SG-1 find a bunch of dead bodies in a sealed room on an alien planet, later in the episode when they ask a doctor what they died of she suggests hunger because they where locked in a room with no supplies
  • In an episode of the English detective show New Tricks, they investigate the case of a girl who died after being locked in a cargo container, they say in the episode she took 40 days to die implying hunger not dehydration
  • In an episode of Lewis where somebody kidnaps a priest and theologist visiting oxford, and for some complex bible related irony reason I dont remember exactly decides to kill him by depriving him of supplies which results in him dying of hunger over the course of a month rather then dehydration over 4 days according to the shows ME character

Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • June 1, 2012
    aurora369
    It's "desert", not "Deseret". Deseret was a Mormon republic in modern day Utah.
  • July 23, 2012
    captainsandwich
    In Eberron "For every day spent on Thelanis, a week passes on the Material Plane. Time lost on Thelanis catches up with the traveler; nonnatives who spend time on Thelanis and then return to their home plane may be ravenous if they have not eaten in weeks as measured by Material Plane time, and they may actually grow old or die if they have been a long time on Thelanis." So the lethalness of starving is ambiguous, the lethalness of aging is outright stated, and the lethalness of dehydration is not even mentioned.
  • July 23, 2012
    chicagomel
    The hard part with that title is that not everyone uses Celsius and isn't sure what it means...25 degrees is below freezing to us in the USA).Is there a better way to phrase it so no one's confused?
  • July 23, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Maybe "Starvation Before Dehydration" or "Worries About Food Before Water" or "Artistic License-Starvation".

    This trope seems to be mainly about what people *worry* about or *comment* about in those situations, rather than a work really getting it wrong what people will actually die of, which I've seen far less. It may be Truth In Television in that people may be much more inclined to say "we're gonna starve to death" rather than the more awkward "we're gonna die of dehydration", not least because of the lexical gap in English of an appropriate thirst-based equivalent to "starve".
  • July 23, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ I think you're on to something with the linguistic explanation. While you could say "they'll die of thirst," it sounds more emphatic to say "they'll starve to death." Starving is an unpleasant process before death, and having the sentence end with the word "death" puts a very bad result to an unpleasant process. The word "thirsting" does exist, but it tends to be used metaphorically ("thirsting for knowledge"), and the word "thirst" doesn't get used as a verb in the same way the word "starve" does,
  • July 23, 2012
    dragonslip
    @69BookWorM69

    I saw an episode of stargate once where SG-1 find a bunch of dead bodies in a sealed room on an alien planet, later in the episode when they ask a doctor what they died of she suggests hunger because they where locked in a room with no supplies

    I once saw an episode of the english detective show New tricks where they investigate the case of a girl who died after being locked in a cargo container, they say in the episode she took 40 days to die implying hunger not dehydration

    I once saw an episode Lewis where somebody kidnaps a priest and theologist visiting oxford, and for some complex bible related irony reason I dont remember exactly decides to kill him by depriving him of supplies which results in him dying of hunger over the course of a month rather then dehydration over 4 days according to the shows ME character

  • July 23, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    It is common for a writer to be aware that a human can survive weeks without food but only a few days without water. It is also common for a writer to get that wrong. This is a Did Not Do The Research kind of thing at best. Also the name is bad.
  • July 23, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Mostly Harmless Arthur Dent reads a Bartledanian book where the protagonist dies of thirst all of a sudden in the penultimate chapter. Searching back through the book finds an early offhand mention of the protagonist's plumbing being faulty.
  • July 23, 2012
    treewa
    Obviously people are forced to drink their own piss in dire situations (sorry, obligatory)
  • July 23, 2012
    Rognik
    I think a better way to put this trope is that, unless the characters are in a desert-like environment, the issue of having water is usually overlooked in favour of finding food. Admittedly, some foods do contain some water (mostly fruits and vegetables), but having a drink of water every day is more important than eating every day.
  • July 24, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ There's that, too. Perspiration tends to remind people of the need for fluids. Perhaps it is this overlooking of the thirst problem that explains the linguistic point NimmerStill raised above.
  • July 24, 2012
    SharleeD
    Forgot About Thirst, perhaps?
  • July 24, 2012
    captainsandwich
    its not just deserts that are hot, jungles can be super hot too. and sweating is just an involuntary waste of water because it is to humid to cool you down.
  • August 11, 2012
    captainsandwich
    "viwers are to dumb to realise a person will eventually dehydrate to death at any temp if denied water INDEFINITELY" sounds alot like Viewers Are Morons
  • August 12, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ I suppose that might be one reason this tends to happen, along with the linguistic explanation. It may also be that the the place wherein the characters are trapped may have some water, even in small quantities (cave, damp basement); hot jungles often have water sources (piranha and crocs optional). Then too, there's the desperate remedy noted by treewa above. All told, I think there are multiple factors to account for this.
  • August 12, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • Played with in the second episode of Stargate Atlantis, McKay has an Ancient force field attached to him and when he realizes he can't eat or drink with it on he thinks he's going to starve. Dr. Beckett is more concerned about him dehydrating.
  • August 12, 2012
    Twilord
    Ummm... too my understanding 'starved them out' is a bit of a millitary term. Be careful about that.
  • August 13, 2012
    peccantis
  • August 13, 2012
    Unknown Troper
    The last example, what show is it from?
  • August 14, 2012
    captainsandwich
    hot jungles, oh boy, how i love getting infested with water born parasites.
  • August 14, 2012
    LeeM
    A 1991 episode of British crime drama (though set in the Netherlands) Van Der Valk included a murder victim who had been tied up in his secluded home and died of starvation. The possibility of dying of thirst wasn't even mentioned. The murderer was acting out one of the punishments from Struwwelpeter, which was indeed to starve somebody to death.
  • August 18, 2012
    KarjamP
    In the Sims series, Sims have a hunger bar, but not a thirst bar. [[note]]Well, except for Vampires [[/note]]

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