Created By: agentjohnbishop on August 19, 2012 Last Edited By: agentjohnbishop on August 25, 2012
Troped

Scavenged Punk

Culture and technology built out of scavenged junk.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

Scavenged Punk is a stylized setting that focuses on technology and culture based on an unusual source: scavenged junk. Weapons, tools, clothing, and sometimes entire cities will be built out of repurposed materials. A key factor here is that said materials, often pieces of trash, are being used for something other than their original purpose (as opposed to simply being repaired and reused). This trope shows up almost exclusively in two cases.

Firstly, it's used for After the End set stories in Scavenger Worlds where supplies are short and hence items from the past civilization must be used for basic necessities. Scavenged Punk specifically crops up when Improvised Armor and Improvised Weapons are emphasized.

Secondly, it shows up in stories where beings smaller than human (rodents, bugs, Lilliputians, etc.) have urban civilizations and use materials scavenged or stolen from humans. Many stories with anthropomorphic animals will have this to an extent as part of a Mouse World but only when it's strongly emphasized does it really become Scavenged Punk.

In either case (but especially the second), this trope is often made to be extremely visually interesting as random objects are put to surprising practical (or not) new uses. Because of this visual focus, Scavenged Punk has been common in animation especially recent CGI films.

When technology is constructed in a much more limited capacity it is simply MacGyvering. Note that while Scavenged Punk is not necessarily a fiction trope, most real life examples fall under MacGyvering or Scavenger World. Also contrast with Bamboo Technology where technology is built from rudimentary natural materials but not junk.


Examples

Anime

Film

  • In the 1996 film of The Borrowers the titular characters take this to an extreme, with tools made from strings, paper clips, and needles. There's even a vehicle made out of an abandoned roller-scate.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids There are shades of this as the kids begin to piece together some makeshifts equipment.
  • Over the Hedge provides a mild example as RJ the raccoon uses solely scavenged equipment (such a pocket fishing rig as a grappling hook) and begins to teach the other animals to do the same.
  • In both The Rescuers films, the rodent-sized civilization make considerable use of human castoffs.
  • 9 takes this to its extreme with a hyper stylized After the End world where even the characters are built out of zippers, gloves, and spare bits of trash. Once again the characters are small enough to utilize almost anything. Director Shane Acker has referred to them as stitch punk. This film actually fulfills both typical scenarios as it set After the End AND contains miniature creatures.
  • Rango has an old west town where the inhabitants (anthropomorphic animals) all have technology built from human trash.
  • A Bug's Life drifts into Scavenged Punk during the city sequence. The city is built entirely out of discarded boxes and trash with a tipped over soup can doubling as a dive bar (the countertop inside the bar is a swiss army knife). The background of the entire sequence is scattered with numerous details like this.
  • Flushed Away contains a sewer world, populated by animals, that is entirely this trope. For example, a pair of egg beaters is repurposed as jet skis.
  • Chicken Run, from the same creators as Flushed Away has this for its animal characters. It's especially noticeable in Fletch and Digger who work as, well, scavengers. One of them sports a coat made out of a food sack with a full sized human zipper whose pull tab is as big as his head. Supplies they scavenge include a human spoon which becomes a shovel and a badminton birdie which is used as a hat. The movie, like Flushed Away is full of similarly great background details.
  • An American Tail has this as part of its Mouse World.
  • The Secret of NIMH similarly has this trope in place as a background element.

Literature

  • The Borrowers is probably the UR Example. Its plot revolves around a race of tiny people who live in the walls of the homes of normally sized people and "borrow" whatever they need to survive. Movies based on these books have provided some very cool visual looks at Scavenged Punk.
  • The Nomes Trilogy by Terry Pratchett contains this in a similar way as The Borrowers. A small race of Nomes utilizes a whole lot of scavenged material from people.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles very much have this in the form of Thimbletack the brownie who lives in the walls and steals human items for his home. In the illustrations he is even shown to where a cobbled together outfit that includes a hat made out of sowing equipment.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Wife, the Doctor encounters a "bubble universe" that is filled with trash from the wider universe that has been fashioned into something of a home on top of a living asteroid. It's interesting to note that much of the scavenged junk is not supposed to be from earth and hence looks very strange.
  • True to form, The Community episode Modern Warfare (a parody of most apocalyptic tropes) contains a nod to the After the End variety of this. Many of the characters outfits are pieced together from random available equipment. In some cases it makes solid sense (Troy, a football player, where some modified football pads), other times it is simply amusing (members of the chess club wear plastic bowls with chess pieces attaches as helmets).
  • On Sesame Street the Twiddlebugs' house is made from a half pint milk carton with golf pencils for roof shingles, a backyard swing is made out of paperclips, etc.

Video Games
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, the Hidden Village of the Machina is built largely on parts scavenged from Mechonis proper.
  • In the Fallout series, weapons, equipment, clothing, armor, and at least one entire city are made of Pre-War junk.

Western Animation

  • In Futurama the sewer mutants build their entire impressive civilization out of human trash flushed down toilets.
  • Adventure Time functions partially off of this, with Finn and Jake scavenging a lot of things. Also the Hyoo-man society scavenges from the ruins of old humanity.


Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • August 19, 2012
    Tallens
    This was only one episode, but on Firefly, they once built an ambulance completely out of stuff they found in a junkyard.

    I don't know if that works for you.
  • August 19, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Well, it's close, but I was thinking more of stuff where the trash is reappropriated for a new purpose. I think there would be too many examples if you could use examples of things being refurbished or recycled. That said, I think Firefly might still qualify, I just need a specific example (that crew tended to have some strange equipment)
  • August 20, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    I'm working on fleshing out the examples which will take a while, but could someone find a better page image?
  • August 20, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    I would drop "punk" from the name, as the term seems to be confused with a tech style, when it meant a mood and a feel of the story.
  • August 20, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Well, possibly...but at the same time it needs something to hint it's not just a Scavenger World. Also, it is largely based around technology in the same was as Punk Punk settings. I'm open to a new name though if there are any good suggestions.
  • August 20, 2012
    HonestGent
    Most examples seem to be about small or shrunken characters re-appropriating human's trash. Is this the idea or not? Maybe briefly mention that this is particularly common in post-apocalyptic works?
  • August 20, 2012
    jbrecken
    The Junkions in the original Transformers movie lived on a planet that was one big junkyard and were made of random bits of machinery.
  • August 20, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    I have rewritten the definition and while it could use some work still, I think it's now much clearer on how the trope works.
  • August 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Action Pack Made For TV Movie Knight Rider 2010 the hero has a go-to guy for fixing up his Cool Car. Said "guy" has been making money for years scavenging parts off a downed jet plane to use in new and interesting ways.
  • August 20, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    The problem with some of the suggested examples is that they are too smallscale as Scavenger Punk is meant to refer to at least an entire costume (much like Steam Punk). I hope the new write-up states it better.
  • August 21, 2012
    theGardener
    Here are some other possible examples from animated movies:

    ~Flushed Away (2006 movie)--The surface world isn't, but the sewer world definitely is (egg beaters are used as jet skis!).

    ~Over the Hedge (2006 movie)--Especially seen in RJ's personal gear: almost every item he carries is scavenged and not put to its intended use.

    A different place where this trope might be applicable is prison movies. Prisoners are often shown building impressive things from only what they can scavenge. For example, do all the things made from scavenged bits in 'The Great Escape' (1963) qualify as an instance of the trope?
  • August 21, 2012
    Tallens
    The rodent-sized civilization in both of The Rescuers films make considerable use of human castoffs.
  • August 21, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Firstly, thanks for the excellent suggestions, The Rescuers and the other two animated films are exactly what I am looking for and I will add them shortly (it's also nice to know people can actually tell what I'm talking about so my article cannot be entirely ineffective).

    As for the prison films, I think it would definitely fit in theory. It's just that the trope is intended to focus on scavenging taken to a stylized extreme, hence the "punk" in the title. For the most part, I don't think it counts as the trope unless is it visually emphasized (if that makes sense).
  • August 21, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • In Futurama the sewer Mutants explicitly make everything in their civilization out of things the surface dwellers literally flush down the drain.
    • On Sesame Street the Twiddlebugs' house is made from a half pint milk carton with golf pencils for roof shingles, a backyard swing is made out of paperclips, etc.
    • Depending on the cartoon, Jerry Mouse of Tom And Jerry furnishes his home in the wall with castoffs, such as making a bed out of a discarded matchstick carton.
  • August 22, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Ok, I have updated the page with all the suggestions I am sure fit (thank you so much!) I am mulling over a few of the others.
  • August 22, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Also, I changed the name to Scavenged Punk as this takes out the ambiguity of it sounding as if it describes a specific person. Also, it's less like Scavenger World now. Good move?
  • August 22, 2012
    Lavalyte
  • August 22, 2012
    Tallens
  • August 22, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Added the Studio Ghibli example. What a beautiful looking movie...

    Also, I considered Junk Punk (because rhyming is cool), but I like Scavenged Punk better just because it's slightly more accurate (you can after all, scavenge stuff that's not junk).
  • August 22, 2012
    Tallens
    Just thought if a couple more, these ones from Don Bluth.

    The Secret Of Nimh and An American Tail both have this as they are both rodent societies.
  • August 22, 2012
    theGardener
    Given how often tiny people and mice seem to be coming up, this page might be cross linked to (and contrasted with) Mouse World.

    Adding to that, another literary example might be Terry Pratchet's 'Nome Trilogy'.
  • August 22, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Alright, I have inserted a shoutout to Mouse World. I think there are a couple of pages like that one and Homemade Inventions that should link back here once this is launched.
  • August 22, 2012
    Tallens
    The Don Bluth ones are movies. You have them under Live Action TV.
  • August 22, 2012
    fulltimeD
  • August 22, 2012
    Ogodei
    Adventure Time functions partially off of this, with Finn and Jake scavenging a lot of things or the Hyoo-man society which scavenges from the ruins of old humanity.

    In Xenoblade Chronicles, the Hidden Village of the Machina is built largely on parts scavenged from Mechonis proper.
  • August 22, 2012
    Tallens
    I think I'll throw this one is too, just to see if it fits.

    Often invoked in Survivorman, as Les Stroud often showcases how different items can be used in unusual ways in a survival situation. A bike inner tube as a water canteen, fritos as kindling, and any trash he finds for whatever his biggest need is at the moment.
  • August 22, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Ok, updated with the new examples and fixed the Don Bluth placement.

    As for Survivorman, I like it, but I am still figuring out if examples like that count. They are definitely scavenged, but like the prison break films, there's a bit less culture involved. I may add them on eventually, but I want to make sure it fits. Thanks!
  • August 23, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Yeah, actually I think Survivorman fits more under the trope of MacGyvering which is the same basic thing but applied to a single instance instead of a world, culture, group, or style.
  • August 23, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    So, I think it's looking pretty good to launch. Is it standard to wait for a few more hats?
  • August 23, 2012
    Tallens
    At least five.
  • August 23, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Got it. I'm still working on this whole "patience" thing.
  • August 23, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^Actually five is the maximum number of hats.
  • August 24, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Ok, and I found an image that I think works much better (a caption explaining where each part is scavenged from might help).
  • August 24, 2012
    KaiserVictor
    Edited to add the Fallout example.
  • August 24, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    I'm not familiar with that, but it sounds right. Is it a videogame?
  • August 24, 2012
    Xtifr
    Literature:
    • In Jack Mc Devitt's Eternity Road, the civilization arising amidst the ruins of what they call the "road builders" (us) relies quite a bit on what they can scavenge; the novel is about an expedition of scavengers.
  • August 24, 2012
    Tallens
    ^^ If I recall, Eternity Road had more refurbishing and reverse-engineering than Scavenged Punk. They didn't really need it, they had blacksmiths and carpenters and other craftsman that made most of their stuff from raw materials, some of which did come from the ruins.
  • August 24, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Right, I think I'll hold off on the Eternity Road example since it does appear to be more a Scavenger World than Scavenged Punk, but thanks for the suggestion.

    Also, thanks to Kaiser Victor for adding the Fallout example.
  • August 24, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    Also, using the YKTTW Guidelines, I've done a final draft of the description. More hats would be appreciated but I think it's looking pretty solid. See the sandbox Scavenged Punk for caption text and final formatting.
  • August 25, 2012
    agentjohnbishop
    So, any other suggestions or changes that I should make?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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