Created By: wanderlustwarrior on November 26, 2010 Last Edited By: wanderlustwarrior on December 2, 2010
Troped

The Sword of Damocles

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I suggested this a year ago, but let it die, despite having good examples. Anyone remember any?

A weapon used as a deterrent, to sway people into acting in a certain manner. This comes from the second moral of the original story of The Sword Of Damocles, where "The value of the sword is not that it fall, but rather, that it hangs."

More often than not, the weapon is intended to have some type of height advantage, to more explicitly invoke this image. This can include launchable weapons that once off the ground serve that purpose.

The Kill Sat may easily be an example of this. The Weapon for Intimidation is a somewhat related, smaller scale version.

Examples:

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • There is an airship base in Code Geass, named The Damocles, that serves this explicit purpose.
  • The power of Kira in Death Note, to instantly kill evil or unethical people, has limiting the world to good, obedient people as its intended consequence.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • In Like Flint. Colonel Carter schemes to load a space station with nuclear bombs instead of a weather laboratory (under the code name Project Damocles) and launch it into orbit around Earth.
  • One of the songs in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is titled "The Sword Of Damocles". In said song, Rocky sings about how he's just been born and how he can already fear that something is about to go terribly wrong.
    Rocky: (Singing) The Sword Of Damocles is hanging over my head. And, I've got the feeling someone's gonna be cuttin' the thread.
  • Star Wars. The Death Star's laser is intended to be this. However, since it's large, noticeable and slow, it's not the most effective technique. The Stormtrooper occupying army is generally more effective.
  • In Austin Powers: Goldmember, this is the intended effect of Preparation H.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets. The Circum-Terra space station has hundreds of nuclear missiles, enough to destroy any military force that threatened Federation control of Earth.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment Earth". The U.S. is about to launch an orbital nuclear warhead platform. Gary Seven's mission is to make it malfunction to scare other nations into not using them.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Other]]
  • The Older Than Dirt trope namer, of course
  • Santa Claus. Or at least, his coal. He knows when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

[[folder:Tabletop RPG]]
  • Dungeons & Dragons. The Forgotten Realms spell Blade of Doom causes a sword-like blade of force to come into existence over the target creature. When the target performs a specific act the blade drops onto the target, damaging it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, the Eclipse Cannon was intended to serve as this. This is why it was only fired as an example. No point in Dr. Eggman ruling an empty planet, is there?

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • A bit of Viewers Are Geniuses in Justice League: Project Cadmus employs "Damocles Class Missiles", which were used to fire directly into the space based Watchtower of the League to preemptively start a war between superhumans. The use of them is explicitly because Cadmus could not trust the league to continue to protect the people of the world.
    • In a different episode, Vandal Savage attempted to use a space based rail gun to aid his world domination.
[[/folder]]

No Launching, please.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • November 26, 2010
    DannyVElAcme
    Surprised this is not a trope yet, but the title could be more descriptive. might I suggest Deterrent Weapon? After all, nukes are more used for political leverage than actual weaponry these days.

    Also, to contribute, lasers in Dune can be seen as these. When a laser collides with a shield, it causes an explosion on both sides that can reach the level of a mini-nuke, and as such, lasers are rarely used except as a way to tell someone that, hey, I could take you with me if I wanted. The Harkonnens also use remote laser guns to blow up shields without risk to themselves.
  • November 26, 2010
    wanderlustwarrior
    what kind of media, please?
  • November 26, 2010
    Generality
    Note that the original Sword of Damocles was a metaphor, not an actual sword. Thus the term is used most often in metaphorical terms rather than to refer to a real weapon.
  • November 26, 2010
    wanderlustwarrior
    Well yeah, but from examples I can recall, it's generally a weapon. How else are you going to force someone effectively?

    Also, it was a story featuring an actual sword.
  • November 26, 2010
    juancarlos11
    do bluffs and the like count? or are they a different trope?
  • November 26, 2010
    wanderlustwarrior
    ionno. I'd say so as long as it's actually functional.

    Hmm. On that note, fear itself used as a tool counts.
  • November 26, 2010
    PaleHorse87
    I recall a quote concerning nuclear weapons used this way, but I can't recall the exact phrasing, or the speaker. The general idea of the quote though was 'the use of nuclear weapons is appalling, threatening the use of nuclear weapons is advisable'. If somebody could help find the source it might make a decent quote for the page.
  • November 26, 2010
    berr
    As I recall, it was a quote against nuclear armageddon, period... And JFK said it.

    Of course this makes him The Jor El.

    Regarding the trope -- does this count as a motif? or a public domain artifact? Or both?

    Example (need source)

    No trope for Pandora's Box? Might want to ykttw that as well, since it's a Sister Trope.
  • November 26, 2010
    baronobeefdip
    • One of the songs in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is titled "The Sword Of Damocles". In said song, Rocky sings about how he's just been born and how he can already fear that something is about to go terribly wrong.
      Rocky: (Singing) The Sword Of Damocles is hanging over my head. And, I've got the feeling someone's gonna be cuttin' the thread.
  • November 27, 2010
    Arivne
    Film
    • In Like Flint. Colonel Carter schemes to load a space station with nuclear bombs instead of a weather laboratory (under the code name Project Damocles) and launch it into orbit around Earth.

    Literature
    • Robert Heinlein's Between Planets. The Circum-Terra space station has hundreds of nuclear missiles, enough to destroy any military force that threatened Federation control of Earth.

    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek The Original Series episode "Assignment Earth". The U.S. is about to launch an orbital nuclear warhead platform. Gary Seven's mission is to make it malfunction to scare other nations into not using them.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons. The Forgotten Realms spell Blade of Doom causes a sword-like blade of force to come into existence over the target creature. When the target performs a specific act the blade drops onto the target, damaging it.
  • November 27, 2010
    SinusPi
    I can't believe no-one mentioned it yet :D

    Film
    • Star Wars. Death Star's laser. Need I say more?
  • November 29, 2010
    wanderlustwarrior
    yes, you probably should. Not everyone has seen it. Anyway, I did.
  • November 29, 2010
    wanderlustwarrior
    Gonna launch soon, probably today. Does anyone have suggestions for indexes or more info in the desctiption?
  • November 29, 2010
    halfmillennium
    Is this worth being separate from Weapon For Intimidation?
  • November 29, 2010
    wanderlustwarrior
    yep. This isn't for an individual to intimidate, this is for the controlling of a population.
  • December 2, 2010
    Arivne
    ^ If that's the case, then my Dungeons And Dragons example should be deleted as it only affects one victim.
  • December 2, 2010
    randomsurfer
    The Q-Bomb in The Mouse That Roared.
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