Created By: CarrieVS on October 28, 2012 Last Edited By: StarSword on November 18, 2012
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Monster Munch

A character whose only role in the story is to be eaten.

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A character is Monster Munch if they're only there to be killed -- and often eaten, hence the trope name -- by whatever it is that's lurking in the shadows. Their death usually comes within a scene or two of their introduction, and it's literally the first thing of importance that they contribute to.

Often, springing out at them is actually how the monster is discovered by the protagonists or revealed to the audience. Or else it's how we find out that the Killer Rabbit is not your average fluffy bunny, or just to demonstrate exactly what horrible way it kills you.

Whatever the circumstances, the only point of their death, and therefore of their existence, is to show off the monster.

This trope differs from Sacrificial Lamb in that the death isn't to provoke an emotional response (although it may do) from characters or the audience, but for more practical purposes.

Simply dying to tell us about the monster doesn't fulfill this trope: a character is only Monster Munch if they have no other role than as a snack.

This character is often a Red Shirt (or sometimes a Mook, because monsters don't always remember who's side they're on). The distinction is that in this trope the character is killed by a monster or animal for 'animal' reasons, typically for food. They needn't be literally eaten to fulfill this trope, though: the creature in question might, for instance, drink their blood, or lay eggs in them (although this is unlikely to qualify unless it's a very short gestation).

Examples

Film
  • When the T-rex gets loose in Los Angeles in Jurassic Park II: The Lost World, there's a brief shot of a random civilian being eaten. He was never seen before, and presumably not since.
  • Guy in Galaxy Quest: in the original TV show, he's a One-Scene Wonder Red Shirt who "dies to show the audience how dangerous the situation is" and "Got eaten by a lava monster before the first commercial." However, he's shown as a tearful coward throughout the movie. Ultimately subverted, as when the show is Un-Cancelled, he becomes the Security Chief of the ship.
  • As alluded to in our page description, Sirs Bors, Gawain, and Ector in Monty Python and the Holy Grail exist entirely to be killed by the Killer Rabbit.

Literature
  • The prologue of A Game of Thrones features three characters, two of whom immediately die at the hands of the Others, proving that they do exist after all. Somewhat subverted in that they both come back as wights, so this isn't, strictly speaking, their only role.
  • Ensign Davis in the prologue of Redshirts exists purely to be eaten by a Borgovian Land Worm. Another unnamed ensign got eaten by an ice shark off-screen. Since the book's premise is turning the titular trope inside-out, the presence of Monster Munch shouldn't be surprising.

Live-Action TV
  • A young Carmine Giovinazzo in the very first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who pretty much is only there to be killed by the vampire and is credited only as "Boy".
  • Supernatural's Cold Opening usually involves a random civilian being killed in spectacular fashion (and often eaten) by the Monster of the Week.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. While Red Shirts died in great numbers on this show, they were sometimes killed by the Monster of the Week, often in the first scene.
    • "Obsession". A couple of red shirt security personnel are drained of blood and killed by the vampire cloud in the opening scene.
    • "The Devil in the Dark". Two miners and an Enterprise Security man are destroyed by the Horta's acid secretions, one in the first scene.
    • ''Wolf in the Fold". Several women are slaughtered by the "Jack the Ripper" entity during the episode. One of them died before the opening credits.
  • Various small mammals in Dinosaurs existed only to be the dinosaurs' food, even though they were sentient and sometimes had dialogue.
  • LOST. The Pilot gets killed by The Monster right after he is seen. The only other thing he does that's important is always wear a ring, and that only briefly comes up in Season 4.

Tabletop Games
  • In Traveller Double Adventure 5: The Chamax Plague, one of the NPCs who accompanies the PCs on their mission is Cal Yotisk. The referee is encouraged to use him as the first victim of the alien Chamax to show the PCs what they're up against.
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons supplement GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, adventure "Toys of the Madman". The PCs and a few NPCs are kidnapped and placed in a dungeon. Some of the NPCs are there to be killed and eaten by monsters to show the PCs what they're up against.

Indices: Cast Filler Tropes, Characters as Device, Dead Herring, This Index Is Expendable, Death Tropes

Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • October 28, 2012
    StarSword
    Assuming there's a lot of examples, perhaps it's a subtrope of Redshirt.
  • October 28, 2012
    CarrieVS
    Yep. That would cover it. Missed that one when I was looking earlier. So does anyone think it has value as a subtrope, or is it just already been done and needs to be discarded?
  • October 28, 2012
    socks
    In A Song Of Ice And Fire, the books tend to have a prologue/epilogue which features the introduction of a new point-of-view character, who perishes after one appearance.
  • October 29, 2012
    dvorak
    Guy's role in Galaxy Quest. In the Emponymous TV show, he's a One Scene Wonder Red Shirt who "dies to show the audience how dangerous the situation is" and he "Got eaten by a lava monster before the first commercial." However, he's shown as a tearful cowadrd throughout the movie. Ultiumately subverted, as when the show is Un Cancelled, he becomes the Security Cheif of the ship.
  • October 29, 2012
    Koveras
    Isn't this covered by Sacrificial Lamb? "Character is killed early to show that Anyone Can Die."
  • October 29, 2012
    Irrisia
    ^ That's more a "this work is willing to kill anyone", where this trope seems to be "this monster is really dangerous, here have a guy you may have never seen before die to it to prove it." Sacrifical lambs also apparently need to have some sort of connection to the main character(s), whereas if this is a subtrope of Red Shirt, then it can basically be just some guy passing by.

    See; A young Carmine Giovinazzo in the very first episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, who pretty much is only there to die to the vampire and is credited only as "Boy".
  • October 30, 2012
    CarrieVS
    Irrisia's description is pretty much what I was thinking of. A sacrificial lamb could also be monster munch, but in general this trope isn't sacrificial lamb. I'll try and make the description clearer.
  • October 30, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Traveller Double Adventure 5 The Chamax Plague/Horde. In The Chamax Plague, one of the NPCs who accompanies the PCs on their mission is Cal Yotisk. The referee is encouraged to use him as the first victim of the alien Chamax to show the PCs what they're up against.
  • October 30, 2012
    StarSword
    Literature
    • Ensign Davis in the prologue of Redshirts exists purely to be eaten by a Borgovian Land Worm. Another unnamed ensign got eaten by an ice shark off-screen. Since the book's premise is turning the titular trope inside-out, the presence of Monster Munch shouldn't be surprising.

    Film
  • October 30, 2012
    StarSword
    Link fix in draft. Plain {{Redshirts}} redirects to the trope. Linking to the book requires Literature/{{Redshirts}}.
  • October 31, 2012
    CarrieVS
    Thanks all of you for suggestions and help.

    I can't think of much more to do to this; anyone have anything more to add?
  • October 31, 2012
    StarSword
    I question whether the Game of Thrones example counts. It seems more like straight Red Shirt since they weren't eaten.
  • October 31, 2012
    StarSword
    TV:
  • November 1, 2012
    CarrieVS
    @Star Sword: my intention wasn't for the character to have to be literally consumed. Just that rather than being killed by a bad guy, they're killed by a monster for whatever it is that such a creature does with its victims - typically, the monster is a carnivore and eats them. But it might also drink their blood, or lay its eggs in them (although, this is probably unlikely to qualify since the person tends to stick around for a while, incubating and taking part in the plot), or in the case of the Others, turn them into wights. I guess you could argue that it doesn't count, because the wights stick around. Maybe I'll take it out.

    Or does this not seem like enough of a difference from Red Shirt?
  • November 2, 2012
    StarSword
    Oh, I see what you're getting at. In that case the wight example might count after all.
  • November 3, 2012
    dvorak
    Web Original
  • November 3, 2012
    DracMonster
    This might work as a Super Trope for Disposable Woman, Red Shirt and several others.

    Disposable Character perhaps. Or Death By Plot Insignificance
  • November 3, 2012
    StarSword
    Or This Index Is Expendable. *wink wink*

    This trope is a specific type of Red Shirt whose only role in the story is to be killed by the Monster Of The Week in the normal fashion that said monster kills people.
  • November 5, 2012
    CarrieVS
    Definitely would go in that index. Also Death Tropes and maybe Characters As Device.

    And I'm putting this Up For Grabs, since I'm not really sure what else it needs doing to it besides more examples - and in that respect, we've got well over the Three Rules Of Three minimum.

    @DracMonster: If that's what you're getting from this, I've done a terrible job with the description. Maybe someone can make it clearer? What StarSword said is basically what I had in mind.
  • November 6, 2012
    Met
    Various small rodent-like mammals in the TV show Dinosaurs existed only to be the dinosaurs' food, even though they were sentient and sometimes had dialogue.
  • November 6, 2012
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek The Original Series. While Red Shirts died in great numbers on this show, they were sometimes killed/consumed by the Monster Of The Week, often in the first scene.
      • "Obsession". A couple of Red Shirt security personnel are drained of blood and killed by the vampire cloud in the opening scene.
      • "The Devil in the Dark". Two miners are destroyed by the Horta's acid secretions, one in the first scene. An Enterprise Security man is also a victim of the creature.
      • ''Wolf in the Fold". Several women are slaughtered by the "Jack the Ripper" killer during the episode. One of them died before the opening credits.
  • November 6, 2012
    CarrieVS
    I haven't put the Kingdoms of Evil example in, because I wanted to check that in The Kingdoms Of Evil, a necromancer is a monster rather than a bad guy. Usually necromancer is just a particular kind of dark wizard, which would probably make this straight Red Shirt.

    And guys, it's Up For Grabs: feel free to put your own examples in unless you're not sure whether they count or what to say. Most of them are things I've never heard of, so I can only copy what you said anyway.
  • November 8, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Basic Dungeons And Dragons supplement GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, adventure "Toys of the Madman". The PCs and a few NPCs are kidnapped and placed in a dungeon. Some of the NPCs are there to be killed and eaten by monsters to show the PCs what they're up against.
  • November 8, 2012
    StarSword
    Fixed namespaces and italicization, added Arivne's D&D example and one from Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
  • November 10, 2012
    Met
    ^^^^^Just so you know, Dinosaurs was live action, though the characters were people wearing costumes.
  • November 10, 2012
    CarrieVS
    ^Thanks! I'll put that right.
  • November 17, 2012
    StarSword
    Added additional indices. I think this is just about launch-ready.
  • November 17, 2012
    Ironeye
    This isn't actually a subtrope of Red Shirt--those guys are the "filler" on the side of good who are in theory competent (though in a meta sense, we know they're not when compared to the heroes--same as Mooks), which makes them getting offed show just how powerful the monster is. This trope has no requirements about allegiance (the munch could be a Red Shirt good guy, a Mook bad guy, or some random schmuck who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time) or competence (theoretically competent Red Shirt/Mook, totally not competent random schmuck, or full-on Decoy Protagonist).

    Thus, while it is indeed very good to note that this character is quite often a Red Shirt, or a Mook if he's on team evil, the supertrope/subtrope relationship doesn't strictly apply. (And, of course, the sub/super relationship doesn't work in the reverse direction, since most Red Shirts don't turn into monster chow.)
  • November 17, 2012
    StarSword
    Interesting analysis. Thank you.
  • November 18, 2012
    CarrieVS
    @Ironeye Thanks for the insight. That makes more sense now. @Starsword I think you've put in as much work on this as me, and put right all the technical bits that I didn't know how to do/didn't know I needed to do. So thank you for all the help.
  • November 18, 2012
    pixelScientist
    Is there a trope for this that perhaps just entails being killed by the monster instead of eaten? There are a lot of examples where that would be more suitable, and it would contain all of these examples, and more. If not, there will probably be a merge in this trope's future.

    Wait, nevermind, I misread the first paragraph.
  • November 18, 2012
    pixelScientist
    Live Action TV
    • LOST. The Pilot gets killed by The Monster right after he is seen. The only other thing he does that's important is always wear a ring, and that only briefly comes up in Season 4.
  • November 18, 2012
    StarSword
    I'm gonna go ahead and launch this.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ysq0mz7batg4auh5ybhgefiv&trope=MonsterMunch