Created By: Melkior on August 17, 2013 Last Edited By: Melkior on September 9, 2013

Pulled His Own Plug

Someone knowingly or unknowingly hurts, offends, kills or destroys someone or something essential to their survival

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Do We Have This One??
Seen It a Million Times
Rolling Updates
Needs a Better Name
I'll convert the category headings to folders when I launch this trope.

This trope is seen all the time. Bob is totally dependent for his survival on either a particular person or on a particular thing. For some reason, Bob decides to kill the person, annoy or offend the person or destroy the thing upon which he depends.

This trope usually only applies if the dependency is either something inherent to the dependent person and the supporter, or the person willingly took on the dependency and it cannot be simply removed.

A generic example of the first kind of dependency would be a person and their environment, which provides them with air, water and food, all necessary for survival.

A generic example of the second kind of dependency is a space traveller, who has voluntarily become dependent on their space ship and associated equipment for the necessary life support which an environment would usually supply.

The outcome varies, depending on the situation. Sometimes the person is willing to forgive the offense. Sometimes the person is too powerful to be affected by anything Bob does, in which case it can overlap with Bullying The Dragon. Very occasionally, an essential item will be destroyed only to be replaced by another item which does the same thing.

Often leads to Hoist by His Own Petard. If Bob realises the magnitude of his mistake, it generally leads to an Oh Crap! moment. If Bob already knew what he was doing and there was no good reason for the self-sacrifice, it becomes an example of Too Dumb to Live. If the destroyed item provided life support to more than just Bob, it's usually a case of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.

If used in a video game, it generally leads to a Game Over although a few games allow the player to keep playing, either as a Mind Screw or just because the game programmers never anticipated that particular player action.

The trope does not refer to simple suicide by unplugging.

Examples

Film
  • The destroy and replace variant is explicitly the reason for the alien attack in Independence Day. The aliens are even compared to locusts (see the Real Life example below).
  • An inversion happens in Total Recall. The Big Bad fears that activating the mysterious alien device will result in the destruction of Mars, but when the hero activates it, the device heats up and releases the frozen atmosphere of Mars, making Mars habitable without the life support domes previously required.

Live-Action TV
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: the Jem'Hadar are genetically addicted to a drug called Ketrocel White; it's the only thing they feed on and if they don't get it they'll die. In one episode a Jem'Hadar commander thinks that his squad can be freed of their addiction and destroys the store of Ketrocel White in order to keep any of them from getting it.

Real Life
  • Many climate and environmental scientists believe that Humanity is destroying the Earth's environment, which we depend on to survive. If they turn out to be correct, we could go extinct. Unless we invent Faster-Than-Light Travel first and find another Earth-like planet to inhabit (essential item destroyed and replaced by another).
  • Grasshoppers when in locust mode will strip the land bare of vegetation, meaning they have to move on to find more food (destroy and replace version).
Community Feedback Replies: 48
  • August 18, 2013
    DAN004
  • August 18, 2013
    Melkior
    No. That, as stated in the trope, is "kindness is wasted on the evil". This is "rejecting something essential to your survival".
  • August 18, 2013
    somerandomdude
    Used twice in Batman Beyond Return Of The Joker. First, Terry dodges one of the Joker's booby traps by tricking it into destroying its own power source. He later uses the same trick to disable the Joker's Kill Sat.
  • August 18, 2013
    DAN004
    Does this count?
    • In One Piece's Dressrosa arc, after the battle in Corrida Colosseum, one of the fighters Ricky is badly injured. For an unknown reason he rejects to be tended for his injuries, which confuses everyone.
  • August 19, 2013
    Melkior
    ^^ I'm not sure that counts as an example since I was specifically thinking of people (they should know better) rather than machines which, unless sentient (like Red Tornado for example), couldn't be expected to know what they're doing. Question: Is it worth allowing non-sentient examples or should I change the trope description to make it clearer?

    ^ I don't think that's this trope. I'm not sure what trope would cover it, if any. The reason is, healing is something temporary, usually required only in special circumstances. This trope is about something which is either constantly (like air) or very regularly (like food and water) required to keep someone alive, but the person rejects or even destroys the source of the required item.

    I need to find a book of short Sci-Fi stories which has an example I remember, so I can get the story and author name to add it as an example. It's a story where a new administrator is appointed to an asteroid mining operation and immediately starts making a pest of himself by suggesting "improvements" which the engineers have already rejected for very good and practical reasons. The story is told from the point of view of one of the engineers. After a few weeks (or some similar time) the engineer notices the air has started to become stale and the CO2 level is rising so he goes to check on the "air plant" and finds the room empty. He rushes to tell the administrator who tells the engineer that he found the room overgrown with a weed of some kind, so he had it ejected out the air lock. Think about that term, "air plant"...
  • August 19, 2013
    TonyG
    Needs A Better Title. "Biting the hand that feeds you" is more about being malicious to a benefactor, as with Biting The Hand Humor. This is closer to the fable of "The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg"; killing the goose means there are no more gold eggs. So I suggest calling it Killing The Golden Goose.
  • August 19, 2013
    Bisected8
    • In The Simpsons the recurring character "Johnny Tightlips" is this. His gag is that he refuses to talk; up to and including telling his fellow gangsters where he was shot so they can get him a doctor; he even denies he was shot.
  • August 19, 2013
    lale
    • John Galt and co. spend over 1,000 pages telling the looters they should stop doing this to them (the workers and industrialists) or they'll be sorry in Atlas Shrugged.
  • August 19, 2013
    Melkior
    The Golden Goose isn't normally essential to life, though, so Killing The Golden Goose isn't life-threatening.

    How about Unwitting Self Destruct as a name?
  • August 19, 2013
    DAN004
  • August 19, 2013
    Piearty
    Sounds like some combination of Bullying the Dragon and Too Dumb to Live, but with dependence.
  • August 20, 2013
    Melkior
    I've changed it to Destroying Life Support pending any better suggestions.
  • August 20, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Destroying Life Support isn't going to work for the trope name -- it puts me in mind of a sci-fi situation where a villain deliberately cuts off or sabotages a spaceship or space station's life support with murderous intent for the crew or inhabitants, much like what HAL did in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Come to think of it, that might not make for a bad trope itself.
  • August 20, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ This. When I saw the title the first thing that came to my mind was: "I wonder if Cypher pulling the plugs of Switch and Apoc in The Matrix fits this?"
  • August 20, 2013
    GKaiser
    Self-inflicted Survival Stop?
  • August 20, 2013
    dalek955
    This "destroy and replace" version is already a trope (Planet Looters).
    • In one Honor Harrington side arc, the worlds of the Talbott Cluster ask to join the Star Kingdom of Manticore, mostly in order to avoid being plundered by the Solarian Office of Frontier Security, and Manticore agrees. However, some of the Talbott leaders then start arguing endlessly about the terms of annexation and holding out for special privileges, apparently unable to comprehend that Manticore retains the option of just saying "screw it" and abandoning them to the OFS after all.
  • August 20, 2013
    kjnoren
    The laconic should state "their own survival" to make the sentence less ambiguous (otherwise it could be read as destroying the life support that someone else depends on). For that matter, Destroying My Own Life Support might work as a trope name (though it's somewhat clunky).

    As for a trope image, I think any of the images of someone sawing of the branch they're sitting on would be quite appropriate.

    That said, I think all of the examples shown so far are poor examples of what the original definition describes - it implies to me someone actively destroying a thing they know they are directly dependant on for their survival (eg a diabetic destroying all their insulin supply).
  • August 20, 2013
    dalek955
  • August 20, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Needs a new name. This sounds like Attack Its Weakpoint when the weakpoint is a life support system.
  • August 21, 2013
    Melkior
    I'm really stuck on a good, short name for this trope. I can understand completely what it's about, but I can't think of what to call it. Destroying His Own Life Support comes as close as I can think, but I don't like it because of the length. Shorter is generally better but I may need to settle for that.
  • August 21, 2013
    dalek955
  • August 21, 2013
    DAN004
  • August 21, 2013
    dalek955
    I don't like the Life Support names, those sound like it has to be actual life-support machinery.

    Update with examples please.
  • August 21, 2013
    dalek955
    • In Pacific Rim, the big bosses cut off funding to the Jaeger program in favor of a coastal wall, even though Jaegers have succeeded many times in stopping Kaiju and the wall is untested....and stick with their decision even after seeing graphic proof that the wall is worthless and only Jaegers can stop Kaiju.
  • August 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Star Trek Deep Space Nine: the Jem'Hadar are genetically addicted to a drug called Ketrocel White; it's the only thing they feed on and if they don't get it they'll die. In one episode a Jem'Hadar commander thinks that his squad can be freed of their addiction and destroys the store of Ketrocel White in order to keep any of them from getting it.
  • August 22, 2013
    Melkior
    ^^ Pacific Rim doesn't seem to be an example, at least as worded. Did you mean to say "...then the wall fails..."? Because that makes far more sense.
  • August 22, 2013
    kjnoren
    Is this trope meant to apply at an individual level, or a group level? Most examples so far in the draft seems to concern stripping resources, which I think partly falls under Horde Of Alien Locusts.
  • August 22, 2013
    arbiter099
    Does this count,since Vader was dying anyway and taking off the suit presumably just sped up the process?

    • Return Of The Jedi: After betraying the emperor [is this a spoiler at this point or a sled?], Darth Vader begs Luke to help him take off his mask and let him see his son with his own eyes.
      Luke:"But you'll die!"
      Vader:"Nothing can stop that now."

    and how does Pulled His Own Plug sound for a name?
  • August 22, 2013
    dalek955
    ^^^No, I phrased it correctly. The idiots in charge keep supporting the wall over the Jaegers even after the wall fails. Editing it a little, though.

    So what's wrong with the Honor Harrington example?
  • August 23, 2013
    DracMonster
    Compare Load Bearing Boss, where the villain is "life support" for his lair.

    I like Pulled His Own Plug.

    This probably often overlaps with Didnt See That Coming.
  • August 24, 2013
    Melkior
    Weekend bump for examples, and I changed it to Pulled His Own Plug for now. It seems to be the least ambiguous of the suggestions so far.
  • August 24, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Only if people understand the metaphor behind it. No one objects so far, though.

    BTW I kinda remembered about an episode of a cartoon, where someone's chasing something with an electric weapon, only to stop to find it powerless because the power plug's jacked off. In another, a menacing robot stops going after a certain distance for the same reason. They're more of a Played For Laughs version, but just in case: Do they count?

    Related to Cut The Juice I think?
  • August 24, 2013
    dalek955
  • August 24, 2013
    Astaroth
    Not sure how much of this example should be spoilered

    • The final Parasite Susan and Mitzi face in The Cat Lady, Eye of Adam, is revealed to be an Evil Cripple who is completely paralyzed and dependent on a computer (which he controls with eye-movement) for communication. He tries to kill Susan and Mitzi with poison gas when they find his apartment, but the gas ends killing his senile father, who also acts as his carer. Without his father, the only way he can escape from his current situation is by goading Mitzi or Susan into killing him during the ending, as part of a Thanatos Gambit.
  • August 24, 2013
    arbiter099
  • August 24, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    I think there's an example on the movie Lock Out. The Ax Crazy Dragon brother to the Big Bad goes around doing wanton destruction, which includes killing all of the hostages which aren't The Presidents Daughter (which includes the guy who kept the orbital prison from plummeting down to Earth), and then his brother when he finally gets fed up with him and tries to chew him out for his impatience.
  • August 24, 2013
    fierystage
    In Homestuck, Eridan, in a fit of jealousy, knocks Sollux, the boyfriend of his unrequited love interest Feferi, unconscious with his magic wand. This leads Feferi to turn on him in anger with her trident, but his anger is not quelled and he kills her by using his wand to blast out her heart. Team Mom Kanaya is horrified at Eridan's rage and also confronts him, but Eridan dooms his entire species to extinction by destroying the Matriorb, an egg intended to hatch a new mother grub for a future planet of trolls. Then he does the same thing to Kanaya that he did to Feferi. Soon afterward Kanaya Came Back Strong as a Rainbow Drinker, but the Matriorb cannot be recovered.
  • August 24, 2013
    KZN02
    From that title, not to be confused with Achilles Power Cord.
  • August 25, 2013
    Melkior
    Changed to Fatal Mistake since the previous title was drawing non-examples.

    dalek955, that's an example of Heroic Sacrifice but not this trope. The dependency was forced on the protagonist. It isn't something inherent or necessary to him. It was imposed by the Explosive Leash and if that was removed, the dependency would also be removed.
  • August 25, 2013
    Melkior
    There's another example I can't add until I can find the story title and author name. Two people are in an environment totally controlled by a computer system. One person insists that the computer can solve any problem because it simply adds more processing power to the solution until it comes up with the answer. The other insists that the computer can't solve all problems and proves it by asking it a paradoxical question. The computer rapidly stops working on anything but the paradox, at which point both people realise that they don't have any way to reboot the computer, and the computer is no longer supplying life support because it's too busy trying to solve the paradox. Oh Crap.
  • August 26, 2013
    Melkior
    Added the "Better Name" tag because I'm having trouble settling on something unambiguous.
  • August 26, 2013
    kjnoren
    Fatal Mistake is a very bad trope name here.

    Please, do not simply change the trope name if you find the last one doesn't work. Write a comment instead, and propose one or more so we can discuss things first.

    I think Pulled His Own Plug is the best proposal so far. Destroyed His Own Life Support also works, I think, but isn't as cheeky.
  • August 26, 2013
    Omeganian
    • An Older Than Dirt example. In The Epic Of Gilgamesh, the gods created the people in order to feed them with sacrifices. After the humans become to numerous and noisy, the gods decide to destroy them. After a few failed attempts, they finally seem to succeed (with The Great Flood). Once the water sibsides, they come out and think "damn, who's gonna feed us now"? Luckily, a few humans did survive on the Ark and deliver a few sacrifices, after which the gods decide that population control through predators and diseases would be a more reasonable measure.
  • August 26, 2013
    DAN004
    Fatal Mistake can be fatally mistaken (pun very much intended) with Fatal Flaw or Moment Of Weakness. :P

    I'd up Pulled His Own Plug again.
  • August 27, 2013
    Melkior
    Since there are two votes for Pulled His Own Plug, I've changed it back to that.
  • August 27, 2013
    Melkior
    How about Undermining Your Existence as a trope name?
  • September 9, 2013
    Melkior
    Post-weekend bump for examples and naming suggestions.
  • September 9, 2013
    DAN004
    This YKTTW would be a super YKTTW to YKTT Ws "Burning The Ships" and "Jump Without The Rope".
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=y7uam947oc7vu47l5yhzq8bz