Disposable Woman

"Needless violence against a woman character who is only significant as an object of a male character's desire? Hot damn, I'm a real comic writer now!"

A female character, typically the wife, sweetheart or occasionally the mother or daughter of the protagonist, who is present in the story just so that she can be either kidnapped by the bad guys, thus becoming a Distressed Damsel, or find herself Stuffed into the Fridge, giving the protagonist a pretext for Revenge. In a series, she can be frighteningly easily forgotten or replaced once her value as a plot device has expired, if she has been previously developed at all. If instead of being conveniently forgotten one or more characters continues to mourn her or think about her, if she appears in ongoing flashbacks or dream sequences, she is not a Disposable Woman, she is a Lost Lenore (see below).

This trope is closely related to The Lost Lenore. The key difference is that a Lost Lenore continues to have a recognised impact on the characters and story after her demise rather than conveniently vanishing from the minds of characters, audience and creators after having served her function as catalyst.

Compare I Let Gwen Stacy Die, Doomed Hometown, Men Are the Expendable Gender, and Forgotten Fallen Friend.

Contrast Disposable Sex Worker and Disposable Vagrant, where what makes them disposable is the expectation that no-one will miss them.

When it happens to male characters, it's often Retirony (the hero cop losing his partner, etc.). Literal Gender Flips do exist (ie a man who is killed off to start a woman's search for Revenge) but are seldom seen. Tragic death of other family members may need another trope. Even if they somehow survive one movie, there's still Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome. If this happens often enough with love interests, it can become a Cartwright Curse.

Not to be confused with Disposable Love Interest, a character who is there for a Token Romance and gets written out with little explanation so a fresh one can happen in the sequel. Related to Temporary Love Interest, where a character has a serious relationship with a short-lived character who is then inevitably written out to preserve the status quo.


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     Anime & Manga  
  • Death Note: Once Sayu is done serving as a motivation for Light and Soichirou, she gets all of one panel of credit for the rest of the series. She doesn't die, though she does suffer from a crippling case of PTSD.
    • Kiyomi Takada is an even more blatant example. Light gets her to do some of his dirty work, and she does succeed in killing Mello, but Light kills her anyway in order to cover his tracks.
  • Gundam SEED did this rather (in)famously with the "Astray Girls".
  • Mazinger Z: Rumi. She was a maid Dr. Kabuto hired to take care of his orphaned grandsons while he was building Mazinger Z. She was cold-bloodly murdered by Baron Ashura less than five minutes after her first appearance in the first episode. Kouji and Shiro cried when they found the corpse, but she was not mentioned again. A number of adaptations (like Super Robot Wars or Shin Mazinger) remove the character, flat out.
  • Black Cat's Saya, who, being Train's first real friend, gives Train the reason to want to kill Creed.
    • It is implied that she was also the reason he left Chronos in the first place.
  • Azami from Lone Wolf and Cub, the hero's wife and Daigoro's mother. The flashback chapter where we see her death is her sole appearance in the entire manga.
  • Subverted in Code Geass with Lelouch's mother Marianne. It looks like her death will be nothing more than a pretext for Lelouch to get revenge on his father, but really she's using another character as her Soul Jar and has been cooperating with his father from the start!
  • Both played straight and subverted in Rurouni Kenshin, with regards to Kenshin and Enishi. In Kenshin's case, while Tomoe's kidnapping does indeed give Kenshin cause to explode into a killing spree-turned-suicide mission to rescue her, the time he spent with her does have far-reaching consequences: it is the happiness that he found in the little things in the life he shared with her that partly influenced him to vow never to kill again after the war. Played straight with Enishi—his sole purpose in life is to punish Kenshin for making his sister miserable, and then killing her.
  • Freezing: Genetically modified women trained at military academies can be killed for points in combat ranking competitions called carnivals. In the prequel spinoff Freezing: First Chronicle, Chiffon Fairchild massacres over forty genetically modified women at her first carnival, and goes on to be ranked #1.
  • Early in the Gunsmith Cats manga, one of Rally's bounties takes a girl hostage. The next time we see her, she has just been raped and is then unceremoniously murdered. After taking the bounty down, nothing more is said.
  • Sys, Guts's adopted mother from Berserk, was the only other person who truly loved Guts, aside from Casca. However, her only real purpose in the story was to show how much Guts's adopted father, Gambino, despised Guts for supposedly being the cause of her death, and so she is only presented for a few panels until she died of the plague when Guts is three, and is only mentioned thereafter by Gambino right before Guts killed him in self defense.
  • Urotsukidōji: Legend Of The Overfiend: In the school hallway, a group of schoolgirls are brutally killed offscreen.
  • Yuki, Akane's friend in Psycho-Pass, whose sole purpose is to be first captured and later killed by Makishima at the halfway point in the series just to reinforce that he can commit horrific atrocities but not have it affect his psycho-pass level.

     Comic Books  
  • Although she wasn't created to be this, many people have argued that Gwen Stacy of Spider-Man basically became this trope that she had regressed so much as a character there was nothing to do with her but kill her.
  • Ant-Man: Henry Pym's first wife, a Hungarian émigrée who was kidnapped and murdered by Soviet agents.
  • Also from the 1960s a male example: Bennett Brant, Betty's lawyer brother, was introduced and killed in Amazing Spider-Man #11 so that Betty could blame Spider-Man for his death and thus throw a spanner in the works of her romance with Spidey's alter ego Peter Parker. Bennett practically never was mentioned or made an appearance again after that subplot ended, and if it was it was to work out the Continuity Snarl that developed when Marvel decided that Betty must be around Peter's age. If Bennett behaved as if he was Betty's younger brother, how could he be an attorney when Peter was still in high school?
  • One of the most infamous examples is the death of Alexandra DeWitt, the then-girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner; she was killed by Major Force and stuffed into her refrigerator for Kyle to find. Backlash was so intense that it led to the formation of the Women in Refrigerators group to protest specifically against the preponderance of the Disposable Woman trope in superhero comics. Green Lantern writer Ron Marz wrote a letter to the Women In Refrigerators website, attempting to justify the event he wrote that gave WIR its name. He actually tried to use the fact that Kyle Rayner's girlfriend was meant to be the Disposable Woman from the beginning as an excuse!
  • Goldie in Sin City: The Hard Goodbye exists to be murdered and start Marv's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • One variation of this trope may be wolfman (or foxman with somewhat wolflike appearance) Mokoshan from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. He was introduced in the last regular story arc, where one of the major characters, Ninjara left the cast to join him and his tribe. Eventually the latter received her own, short-lived spin-off (unfinished due to the real life issues of the artist at time), where Mokoshan had been murdered and Ninjara was seeking for revenge against the killers while trying to take care of her and Mokoshan's daughter. It can be debated, whether Mokoshan was deliberately introduced only to be killed off.
  • Captain Britain and MI13: A woman trying to join Dracula's cult to be turned to a vampire instead gets her neck snapped so she won't be able to.
  • Peter Rasputin (i.e. X-Men's Colossus) broke up with Kitty Pryde because of Zsaji, a Disposable Woman he met in the Secret Wars planet and fell hopelessly in love with despite not even speaking her language. Karma then came and kicked his ass in the form of the Juggernaut. Afterwards, Wolverine lectured him on not letting Kitty Pryde down gently.
  • In Avengers 1959, four former Nazi agents, Axis Annie, Fraulein Fatale, Madame Mauser and Penny Panzer are taken hostage, no longer engaged in combat, and slaughtered off-panel by Sabretooth on the order of Nick Fury, to reassure the audience that Sabretooth is a murderous psychopath.
  • X-Men:
    • Birdy, partner of Sabretooth, killed by Graydon Creed.
    • Sunpyre of X-corps ends up stabbed to death by Mystique.
  • X-Force: Tanya, love interest of Karl Lykos, ambiguously killed by Toad's life energy draining machine.
  • Spider-Man: Grim Hunt: Cassandra Webb, Mattie Franklin and Sasha Kravinoff, just 'cuz.
  • Wolverine:
    • Itsu, killed so Logan can have sad memories of her and to introduce her son Daken.
    • Silverfox of the Blackfoot Confederacy, killed by Sabretooth for Logan to continually seek revenge. She was resurrected and brainwashed as an agent of Team X and HYDRA, then killed again. Sabretooth and Romulus recreated the scene of her death just to torment Logan.
    • Mariko Yashida, poisoned and killed so Logan can remain guilty and depressed over her death.
  • Taiyan, in the Doctor Who Magazine back-up series Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer.
  • In a storyline of She-Hulk volume two, a normal couple gets caught up in matters involving a hostile space alien far from civilisation. The wife gets killed so that after being rescued the husband can get falsely accused of murdering her (because "space aliens killed my wife, and She-Hulk saved me" didn't convince people).
  • Narrowly averted in the original G.I. Joe comic. The Baroness was originally intended to be a comics-only secondary character who would go on to sacrifice her life to save Destro, which would in turn give Destro an excuse to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Joes (who were innocent). Her popularity proved to be too strong, and she ended up surviving the fatal explosion and going on to become a mainstay of the franchise in every incarnation (as well as a trope namer!). Played dismally straight many years later though with Lady Jaye, whose death would give Flint his excuse to go on his own Roaring Rampage against the Red Shadows.
  • The unamed Vietnamese woman in Watchmen only exists to show us how much of a Jerkass the Comedian is and how much Dr. Manhattan is detached from other people.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Boys Do Tankary, Nyra is thought to be this. She was Vincent's sister, and, due to a series of events, they ended up on opposite sides during a war. He refused to kill her when she was captured, so the two of them were imprisoned until one would kill the other. He was forced to give in, but promised her that he would find someone and protect her until the end of their days. He even ends up with Saori, who looks almost exactly like Nyra. This is arguably subverted when it turns out Nyra is alive.
  • In the Lost Forever Fire Emblem Awakening comic Future of Despair, Panne's only in-story role is getting herself killed in circumstances that could have easily been averted, so her Crusading Widower Henry can go mangsting around while heavily neglecting their son Yarne until he himself dies

  • The hero's wife in the martial arts thriller Firepower is present just so that the hero can be enraged when the baddies kill her. As if killing his partner was not enough.
  • Jocelyn Brando's character in The Big Heat is one of these, offed just to make sure her cop husband is extra-motivated to take down the mob.
  • The family, friends and love-interests of Charles Bronson's character in the Death Wish series of movies serve this purpose, and this purpose alone. It starts relatively realistic, showing him to become physically ill after killing his first man. By the later movies, however, he seems to positively delight in finding creative ways to rid the world of scumbags.
  • The Jet Li vehicle The One spends quite a bit of time building up the relationship between Li's heroic character and his wife, just to let everyone watching know with absolute certainty what her fate will be. This fate is the hero's entire motivation to face off against Li's villainous incarnation. Once the original guy catches his evil counterpart and sends him to jail, the authorities reward the original by dumping him into a reality where the first person he meets is an alt-version of his wife.
  • Murron in Braveheart, whose gratuitous scene of execution by the king's men (her crime was fighting back against her rape, I might add) was there solely for William Wallace to start his rebellion. Also qualifies as a Lost Lenore, since he brings her up frequently through the rest of the film.
  • Judy Davis' character in Barton Fink shows up to sleep with the main character and is then murdered in his bed. Barton is able to dispose of the body without anyone noticing, and Davis is never mentioned again in the movie.
  • The Boy Next Door (2015): Vicky Lansing is threatened, kidnapped, and killed offscreen to provide a shock moment when her corpse is found on the stairs.
  • Gender flipped in The Brave One.
  • Highlander:
  • Marla McGivers is given this role in Star Trek II. This served the double purpose of giving Khan a motive for vengeance against Kirk and eliminating her character. In the original episode she was introduced in she was not there solely to die, but died offscreen and before the action begins in the movies, and to many viewers who may not have seen that episode of TOS Khan's Dead Wife would only be a name and an implication. The meta reason this happened was that Madlyn Rhue was unable to reprise the role due due to her suffering from multiple sclerosis. This usually wouldn't stop Star Trek from using a character but Nicholas Meyer thought it would be in bad taste to recast a terminally ill actress.
  • Goose from Top Gun was this for Maverick, though his character had a bigger role than the other examples here.
  • Parodied in the Top Gun spoof Hot Shots with the character whose call sign is "Dead Meat".
  • Richard Kimble's wife in The Fugitive.
  • Marian fills this role in Dantes Peak. Harry's fiancee is a psychotically involved geologist. She's so gonzo for volcanoes Harry has to practically drag her kicking and screaming to leave the site of the eruption because the readings are so incredible. As they're driving frantically from the area, volcanic rock is falling from the sky. One punches through the roof and hits Marian in her head. Harry has to look on in horror as she convulses. He reaches for her and she dies in his arms.
  • The adoptive mother in Four Brothers, whose murder brings them back to their hometown.
  • Another Gender Flip in Kill Bill- The Bride's fiance Tommy exists only for the titular villain to murder.
  • An ongoing trend in James Bond films. Beautiful women would appear for two scenes at least, three at most, before dying, usually after being ploughed by Bond and doing something vague. Often the actresses playing these women would receive star billing in the credits (i.e. "And Lana Wood as Plenty O'Toole"). Examples include Jill and Tilly Masterson in Goldfinger (Stuffed into the Fridge?), Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds Are Forever, Rosie Carver in Live and Let Die and Corinne Dufour in Moonraker.
    • Lampshaded in the second Austin Powers movie, where Austin's former love-interest explodes within the first five minutes, inspiring less than a minute of grief before Austin takes off to enjoy single life again. Also with Robin Swallows, who is intended to be used this way (stabbed, shot with a machine gun, then a bazooka, then thrown out of a building and landing on the pavement) but she appears to be invulnerable.
    • Della Churchill, loving wife of Felix Leiter, is killed less than twenty minutes into Licence to Kill and Leiter himself fed to a shark. Bond decides It's Personal.
      • And then Leiter survives and doesn't seem too fazed by the death of wife.
    • The "New" Bond films have continued this trend. Witness Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace.
    • When Roald Dahl was hired to write the screenplay for You Only Live Twice, he was told that every Bond movie needs three Bond girls: one is pro-Bond and dies; another is anti-Bond but is won over by his charms; and the third, pro-Bond woman is the one he gets to bed at the end of the film. Not every Bond movie has used these exact rules, but Dahl followed the template with Aki, Helga and Kissy (unnamed in the movie) respectively.
  • This is the entire plot of Taken. The whole reason Kimmy exists is so that she can be kidnapped by a human trafficking ring and, by doing so, give her father a sympathetic excuse to prove what a Bad Ass he is. It is also seen with Kimmy's friend Amanda. Her only roles are to encourage Kimmy to go in the first place and to be found dead by Byran to show how the bad guys are monsters and thus how much more important it is for Bryan to find her ASAP.
  • Played straight in The Bourne Supremacy with Jason's girlfriend Marie.
  • GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra: While talking to General Hawk, Cover Girl is stabbed through the back by Zartan, the knife penetrating her ribcage, and less importantly damaging the electronic tablet she held and had asked the General to sign.
  • Maximus' wife and kid in Gladiator: "Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
  • Irene Adler tragically becomes this in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, being killed off in the first few minutes with poison that produces tuberculosis-like symptoms. This one stings because she spends most of the first film (and five minutes of the second) being smarter than everyone else in the room, only to walk into such a obvious trap.
  • In the first Craig Bond film, Casino Royale (2006), Vesper's purpose in-story is to betray Bond and then be murdered, entrenching his character streak as both a womanizer and a cold-blooded killer; however, she does also have characterization.
  • In the 2009 Star Trek film, Spock's mother (along with his entire planet; but losing his mother seems to hit him harder) is killed off to cause him emotional trauma and contribute to his character development.
    • Nero's wife's death (along with the rest of Romulus, like with Spock) kicks off his entire motivation for Revenge.
  • In The Dark Knight, Rachel Dawes' primary plot function is for the Joker to use her death to push Harvey Dent over the edge and deliver a major emotional punch to Bruce Wayne, though she gets some characterization. In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle averts this trope, as she does have major character development and is still around at the end of the movie.
    • Christopher Nolan tends to get criticized for this trope, as his most notable movies (Inception, Memento, and The Prestige) revolve around the main male character obsessing over his inadvertent role in the death of his wife.
  • In, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Wolverine gets a love interest for the purposes of this trope - bonus points for her dying twice, once for fake and once for real!
  • In X-Men: First Class, Erik's mother is murdered in front of him for the sole purpose of motivating him, and his search for revenge is a major element in his Start of Darkness.
  • Olga Kurylenko's character in Oblivion2013 is one of these. She exists in the film solely for the purpose of getting Tom Cruise's character to remember his past and become a hero. She's so disposable that Morgan Freeman (oh right, his character has a name—but face it, he's Morgan Freeman) is willing to leave her to be killed by robots, just to test whether or not Tom Cruise will decide to save her.
  • Superman: The Movie: Eve Teshmacher was to be disposable in a deleted scene where Lex Luthor drops her into a pit to be eaten by an offscreen monster, to be saved by Superman at the last minute in another deleted scene.
  • Gender flipped in Tank Girl, when her boyfriend dies in bullet-riddled convulsions during Water & Power's attack. Subverted; as shocked as she appeared at the time, he just as suddenly becomes a Forgotten Fallen Friend.
  • Sandra Brody in Godzilla2014. She promises young son Ford that they'll work out a way to surprise dad Joe after work. She helps him hang the HAPPY BIRTHDAY sign for Joe before coming out to kiss Joe and wish him happy birthday (he'd forgotten in his concern over the tremors). She then dutifully follows Joe's request that her team go check the reactor. She wisely commands her team out when the tremors begin again, stops to pick up a fallen comrade, and then pulls off her mask when it no longer matters because she won't get out — just to tearfully say goodbye to the grieving and guilt-wracked husband who sent her down there in the firs place, setting him up for 15 years of obsessive guilt-fueled angst.
  • In The Last Boy Scout Halle Berry's character Cory is cut down by machine-gun fire in the first third of the film. While her boyfriend, played by Damon Wayans, teams up with Bruce Willis's character to solve her murder, he never seems all that broken up about her death and the snarky, bantering tone of the rest of the film seems incongruous at best in that light.
  • Wanted: Puja, an ammunition expert, is shot in the head when a sniper's red dot Laser Sight pinpoints her Bindi as a target. Fox may be an aversion; she assassinates herself.

  • Older Than Print: In the Vitae Sanctorum Britanniae, or "Lives of the Saints of Britain", which predates the 9th century, warfare breaks out when a lovely maiden is kidnapped by King Maelgwn's soldiers. St. Cadog approaches the king and convinces him to repent and recall his army, but never asks for the maiden back, despite her father being an offical in Cadog's church. She is never mentioned again. Cadog's own mother was abducted and raped in similar circumstances, conceiving him, and was also never released.
  • Back in the '20s, the author 'Sapper' admitted that he'd let Bulldog Drummond marry his girlfriend because he thought she'd make a good kidnapping victim for future adventures.
  • This is not surprising, given historical views on women): In the Chinese epic Outlaws of the Marsh, aka The Water Margin, the Outlaws want a Worthy Opponent to stay with them. They kill a whole lot of innocent civilians and make it look like he did it. His wife is executed for being married to the presumed criminal. The husband is outraged and prepares to kill the outlaws, who explain that they only did it so he would be outlawed and have to join them. At this he is touched and agrees. They basically say, "Sorry about your missus, but we know lots of women, we'll give you a new one." He accepts.
    • They get theirs; the TV version notwithstanding, the heroes win major battles, are invited to the capital; meet the Emperor's court, have all the demands met, are murdered in their beds, villain wins.
  • Audra, Bill Denbrough's wife, in It has no real importance to the plot except for being kidnapped.
  • Laura Murphy in Babylon Rising.
  • Rachel, Magnus's first wife is crucified in his back story, and very little was said about her relationship with him. It pretty much just gives him a motivation to angst.
  • Subverted by American Gods with Laura. It looks like a case of this, but she comes back to (half)-life and continues to impact the story in important ways.
  • Also subverted in Men at Arms with Angua, it looks like she had become the disposable girlfriend after she is shot by The Big Bad, but what with her being a werewolf, she comes back to life at moonrise and is now one of the most important characters in the City Watch Discworld arc.
  • Sadly, this is the fate of Catti-brie of all characters in her final appearance in the Drizzt novels. Because what Drizzt needs is more angst.
  • In Dead To Me, Tamara shows up on page 1, stumbling drunkenly into Simon's apartment, and is gone three pages later. She shows up a few times more: as ranty answering machine messages and Simon's guilt thereof, and then dead so Simon has something to angst and guilt over.

     Live Action TV  
  • Bonanza: Seemingly every episode that introduced a female love interest for the Cartwrights. The girl would invariably harbor a sinister secret or have someone stalking her, with the villain of the week succeeding in his mission to kill the girl.
  • Earth: Final Conflict - The wife of the Season 1 hero William Boone. Dies in a car bomb first 10 minutes or so. Spurs the hero to go work for the alien Taelons.
  • The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries: while the series as a whole tended to avoid this, three episodes stand out & play it straight:
    • Last Kiss of Summer: We're introduced to Jamie, the love of Joe's life who he's willing to marry & throw over his entire life for — a woman who hasn't been mentioned throughout the entire series to this point — and 10 minutes into the episode, right after the wedding rehearsal where Joe & Jamie pledge vows, Jamie's killed by a random drunk driver, followed by Joe weeping over her bloody body and vowing a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Jamie's never mentioned again in the series.
    • Dangerous Waters: Ria Thomas exists only to be kidnapped and rescued twice by the Hardy Boys.
    • Arson & Old Lace: Nancy Drew became this. We never see her actually working on the case. She exists only as the helpless victim to be rescued by her love interest, Frank Hardy. And after this episode, she disappeared from the series for good, save for a one-line mention in Campus Terror.
  • Hercules The Legendary Journeys: Hercules' wife and family is arguably used this way, although it's used to explain both his sympathy for the common folk and why he stays a Chaste Hero for so long despite women throwing themselves on him... that and not wanting to repeat his father's track record for bastards...
    • The original myth, of course, has Hercules killing his family in a (Hera-induced) rage, which cues off his herculean tasks to make up for it...
  • Sam's girlfriend who dies in the first episode of Supernatural and serves as his motivation from that point on.
    • Not to mention Mary, who motivates John and Dean. Especially John.
      • Subverted with Mary, actually. She starts out as this, but what with flashbacks and time travel she later becomes an actual character. Minor, but a character. She also turns out to have had the more badass background of the Winchester parents.
      • Jess also recurs. A bit. She's mentioned. And Lucifer impersonates her years after her death and it gets Sam right in the heart.
    • Supernatural has problems with the female fanbase, so its female characters are even more marginal than TV standards dictate. Ellen and Jo were the only recurring women who weren't a) villains and b) prone to switching bodies, and they get blown up just for pathos halfway through season five.
      • Dean's occasional girlfriend Lisa survives! Has her memory wiped and is removed from the story forever, but she does live. Barely. Also Becky the Deranged Fangirl. It's not a good series for women, but the writing's generally better than to just throw them away.
      • Best candidate for this to my mind is Sam's one-episode girl Madison, who turns out to be a werewolf and he has to shoot her. Of course, she does come up again in conversation two seasons later.
      • Sam has a problem with female mortality, summarized by Dean as, "Christ, Sammy, have you forgotten the average lifespan of your hookups?"
      • They also tend not to be human. It's kind of unfair how often Sam gets targeted by supernatural femmes when Dean is such a man-whore half a dozen things could have bitten his head off before he realized they weren't just hot chicks.
  • In the film Stargate, Daniel Jackson ends up with a gorgeous human from another planet for a wife. She's also intelligent and feisty, and affects the plot by rallying her people to drive off the alien overlords. However, in the first episode of the series Stargate SG-1, she gets captured as a host for the Big Bad aliens, setting Daniel's motivation as finding a way to rescue her. But over the course of the series he attracts flocks of alien babes, and in the midst of not refusing their attentions he never seems to remember his wedding vows. To make it worse, when the writers finally remember that he has a wife waiting for him, they spend one whole episode detailing how he finds her and she dies. Now that his motivation is gone, does Daniel quit the team? For about five minutes.
    • She was not an alien. She was a human descended from a group of proto-Egyptians kidnapped thousands of years ago to serve as slaves for Ra. Also, who in their right mind would want to give up an amazing career studying living offshoots of ancient cultures on other planets to go back to a job where EVERY SINGLE PERSON in academia thinks the character is a two-bit hack?
  • Played for laugh and for drama in one case of Justice Bao. Zhan Liu Suo, a fake witness of the Execution of Dragons Case, gave ridiculous testimony of the murder to Bao which earned her several whipping from the guards. However, the official of the town feared that Bao will be able to trace that he was the one who hired her, ordered her to be silenced. Bao was Genre Savvy enough to not let the next witness hired by the Wen Family, the Mistress of a Brothel, shared the same fate.
  • Airwolf featured one of these in the Pilot Movie.
  • The pilot for Alias features a male version.
  • Also the pilot for Fringe.
  • And so does the pilot for Damages, but because of the peculiar structure of the show we get to actually know him before he's definitely dead and gone.
  • Male example: Jesse served this purpose for Willow and Xander in the first episode/s of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was promptly forgotten.
    • The potentials in season seven: a collection of young females with limited character development, a number of whom are killed off in brutal ways so that Buffy has something else to angst over. They eventually Take a Level in Badass.
  • This befalls many characters in the 24 universe (especially towards women who have been married to/dated Jack Bauer):
    • Teri Bauer, although her death is alluded to throughout the series, instead of just having impact in that specific season.
    • Kim Bauer (for the first three seasons where she's a main character). She's held hostage/against her will no less than five times. This even extends to the video game, wherein her first day as a CTU analyst involves her being caught by terrorists who've stormed into the building.
    • Claudia, Jack's ex-girlfriend who lives in Mexico working for the Salazar brothers. As soon as she, her father and Chase Edmunds make plans to escape the Salazar ranch, her life expectancy is measured in minutes, not episodes. She ends up dying off-screen during their escape.
    • Audrey Raines: kidnapped in the first episode she appears in. Rescued several times from perilous situations by Jack until she gets captured and tortured by the Chinese for a year in the sixth season. She's now in an unresponsive coma. And then she recovers by Live Another Day only to be shot dead in the finale.
    • Renee Walker, whose murder powered Jack on a "revenge" cycle which ended the series in season 8. [Season 8 Renee turned trope, having to be rescued by Jack with her death ultimately a plot device for his cycle of revenge. Season 7, she was one of the few developed female characters in the 24-verse, advertised as a "female Jack" and very strong on her own, with some of the same motivations as the hero].
  • Patrick Jane's murdered wife and daughter in The Mentalist.
  • NCIS did this, but it wasn't played entirely straight. Gibbs is known to be divorced three times; what it takes the cast a while to learn is that he was married four times. His first wife Shannon and their daughter Kelly were killed after Shannon witnessed a murder.
  • No Ordinary Family took all of two episodes to give viewers the death of Detective Cho, just after said character should've entered an interesting plotline. Instead, she dies pleading, having learned well from the source genre.
  • In Kamen Rider, a recurring feature of the Kamen Rider franchise is that women who become Riders are doomed to die, usually for cheap drama. Examples (and aversions):
    • Stronger: Yuriko/Tackle, the original Disposable Rider Woman. Not considered a Kamen Rider, which remains something of a sticking point among the fandom.
    • Agito: The first Agito was Shouichi's sister, who died pre-series.
    • Ryuki: Miho/Femme only appears in the movie Episode Final, where she dies quietly after a battle and is subsequently forgotten.
    • Faiz: Several women borrow a Rider Gear (only to be immediately knocked out of morph) but the only woman to have one long-term, the original Delta, operated mostly offscreen, only to die just before what would have been her first onscreen battle. Harsh.
    • Blade: Natsumi/Larc only appears in the movie Missing Ace and is killed, but in fairness so are her teammates.
    • Hibiki: Shuki is a Manipulative Bitch and antagonist, so naturally she dies. (Mind you, this was part of the heavy Re Tool to make the series - based on a Shotaro Ishinomori Toku story that wasn't intended to be a KR series - in line with what The Powers That Be thought a KR series should be like. Neither this nor any of the other changes went over well.) Akira doesn't become a full Oni, but transforms once (we don't see her Rider form well) and survives the series.
    • Kiva: Yuri, who uses Ixa a time or three in 1986, dies off-camera but it doesn't seem to have anything to do with being a Rider. Her daughter Megumi, who uses Ixa on two brief occasions in 2008, survives the series and moves on to get married in the ending. Neither is the long-term owner of the Ixa armor; like Faiz, borrowing it from its true male owners is often a bad idea, but this time, there's exceptions: The Movie (Megumi still just gets beaten up, but Yuri gets to use it well), and the time the male users defeated Rook but allowed the girls to have the final blow.
    • Decade: Natsumi becomes a Rider in the Grand Finale movie and survives the whole seriesnote . The series also gives better treatment to some past Riders, allowing Larc (renamed Haruka) to live and upgrading Akira to a full-fledged Rider, Kamen Rider Amaki. Tackle's back, and is still dead (it's complicated) but she's a much more effective fighter than the original Faux Action Girl.
    • Fourze actively subverts it. When a movie-only female Rider named after Tackle arrives, wondering whether she'd survive or not was quite the source of drama; introducing and then killing a female Rider in the movie had happened often, but with Decade, a female Rider who survives was no longer a contradiction in terms. Will the mysterious Kamen Rider Nadeshiko make it? No, it's the same old story. She's restored to the primordial ooze she was made from, to be used by the bad guy as a power source and a reason to make the main Rider cry by the plot. Then again, when the main villain is defeated, she survives as pure energy and returns to space.
    • Wizard is the first season that indisputably subverts this trope with Kamen Rider Mage. Not only that, she's given much more development compared to the other two Mages, and established herself as the show's Tertiary Rider.
  • In the BBC's retelling of Robin Hood, it is Maid Marian - yes Maid Marian herself who is turned into this after she is stabbed to death by Guy of Gisborne. True to the trope, after a brief Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Robin more or less moves on and acquires two new love interests in the course of the third season. They try for an Author's Saving Throw at the end of the season in which Robin ultimately dies and gets a Together in Death scene with Marian.
  • Merlin had a bad track record with its woman-shaped plot devices:
    • Queen Ygraine, whose death begins Uther's reign of terror against all those who practice magic.
    • Freya, whose death provides Merlin with plenty of manpain (and for someone who can fetch Excalibur from the bottom of Lake Avalon).
    • Isolde, whose death motivates Arthur to get back with Guinevere.
    • Kara, whose death spurs Mordred into turning against Arthur and Camelot.
    • Valdis, an elderly witch who is rescued by Arthur, gives him the episode's Plot Coupon in gratitude, and then promptly dies anyway.
    • Alice, a non-fatal example, who is Gaius's old girlfriend. She needs Gaius to dispose of the manticore whose thrall she's under and break her out of prison, before she promptly disappears, never to be seen or heard from again.
      • In fact, Ygraine's death prior to the start of the show (which begins the ban on magic) and Kara's death in the penultimate episode of the entire series, (which results in Mordred's Face-Heel Turn) means that the show essentially begins and ends with a woman's Plot-Triggering Death.
  • In Being Human, Nicholas Cutler's wife was brutally murdered by Hal to serve as his Start of Darkness (they'd wanted Cutler to kill her himself to prove his devotion to their cause, but he couldn't do it). Cutler later does the same to Alex, Hal's Love Interest, only for it to be subverted when she comes back as a ghost and continues to play an active role in the story. The end of the season even heavily hints that she'll be stickin around as one of the new housemates.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic: The John Kricfalusi animated music video of "Close But No Cigar" has Cigarettes the Cat lethally chomping on women. Another inflates and explodes.
  • "Yesterday's Papers" from The Rolling Stones' Between The Buttons, where women are described as useful as yesterday's newspaper.
  • In the rock opera David Comes to Life by the punk band Fucked Up, the character of Veronica is killed early in the album, as impetus for David to spend the rest of the story angsting about her death and trying to determine whether he or someone else was responsible for it.


  • Male version: The Leviathan Chronicles introduces Jimmy in episode 2 as Macallan's lab partner and casual romantic interest. By episode 3 he's been Stuffed into the Fridge and she's framed for his murder, forcing her off the grid and motivating her distrust for other players.

     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  
  • Max Payne's wife and daughter (The Lost Lenore at a push, as he's still guiltily obsessed with her even by the second game, three years later).
    • In the third game, Distressed Damsel Fabiana suffers from this, being rescued in the first chapter only to be recaptured in the second and eventually fridged halfway through the game.
  • Eve in Dead to Rights. You have to protect her for several scenes including disarming a bomb in the stadium. After she's served her purpose, she receives a Bridge Drop via being stabbed from behind by one of the villains.
  • Madeline Taylor in Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix, an only slightly important accomplice who you never really get to know before she gets a bridge dropped on her head. And she's not an Action Girl either.
  • Marian from Double Dragon is rescued from her captors in the end of the first game, only to be killed off at the beginning of the second. She's Killed Off for Real in the arcade version (which ends with a Really Dead Montage), but the NES version has a Revised Ending where she gets better.
  • Mia Fey begins as this in Ace Attorney. Her murder (and her sister being framed for it) are the plot of the second case of the first game. Then Maya's channeling abilities kick in and she becomes far less disposable.
    • The victim in the very first case of the series, Larry's girlfriend, is a far straighter portrayal.
    • Now, all the rampant Parental Abandonment (our orphans to date are Maya, Ema, Edgeworth, Kay, and Trucy) is another story.
    • And Celeste Inpax to Adrian Andrews, which resulted in Adrian attempting suicide before setting out to get revenge on Matt Engarde.
  • Women in the Castlevania series frequently fall into this trope (if she's not evil, of course, that's something else), but the most blatant is probably Hector's dead fiancee Rosaly from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, who doesn't even appear onscreen and is purely motivation for his revenge.
    • Especially Wallbanger is his hooking up with Julia, the sister of his wife's murderer. You'd think that sort of thing would dredge up unpleasant memories every now and then.
    • Every bit as bad as Rosaly is Elisabetha, whose death gets all of one mention in the intro to Castlevania: Lament of Innocence and motivated Mathias to become a vampire as his revenge against God for her death.
    • In Eric Lecarde's bio for Castlevania: Bloodlines is his lover being turned into a vampire, serving as his motivation to kick ass. However, like Elisabetha and Rosaly, we don't actually see her and we only know about her because she was mentioned in the manual.
    • Soma's She Is Not My Girlfriend in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, whose corpse you find crucified inside a locked room in the castle near the end. It turns out the villains were trying to invoke this trope to let Soma's Superpowered Evil Side take over, but it's subverted if you resist it as it turns out the villains couldn't get ahold of the real McCoy and were using a body double.
    • Leon Belmont's girlfriend, Sara, does get more screentime than most, but she just ends up getting turned into a vampire and sacrificing herself to create the Vampire Killer whip.
    • Richter Belmont's girlfriend, Annette, is an interesting example. It actually is possible to save her, rendering her a mere Distressed Damsel, but she's still quite disposable. The two remakes of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (counting the SNES version Vampire's Kiss as a remake) have her become a boss if you don't save her, but it gets absolutely no mention aside from a brief pre-boss cutscene in the most recent one.
    • Gabriel Belmont's wife in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is dead before the story even begins, and it's revealed that the Big Bad, Satan intentionally invoked this trope to use Gabriel as an Unwitting Pawn. Marie herself even gets in on the act in the form of a ghost, helping Gabriel from the afterlife under the pretext that his quest will resurrect her. She knows it won't, but she knows Gabriel would never undertake this quest (even if it damned the world) if it didn't bring her back.
  • Trask in Knights of the Old Republic serves as nothing more than a voice for the tutorial at the start of the game. He heroically sacrifices himself and aside from one mentioning of his name when facing his killer, is promptly never thought of again.
  • EOE: Eve Of Extinction has the hero's girlfriend killed and her soul bonded to a morphing weapon. Debate rages as to whether or not this is a vast improvement, though most lean towards yes.
  • Lampshaded at the end of The House of the Dead: OVERKILL, when the characters start Contemplating Our Navels. G notes how the only significant female character ends up as a Brain in a Jar while her body becomes a host for Warden Clement's mother before horribly mutating and becoming the Final Boss.
  • Though she was only a Temporary Love Interest in Phantasmagoria 2, Therese's death brought on (albeit briefly) Inelegant Blubbering for Curtis.
  • CJ's mom in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
  • Kratos' wife and daughter in God of War. Their deaths do turn out to be crucial to the plot, however, as Kratos was the one who killed them.
    • Note that they don't even get named in the game.
  • In Star Ocean The Last Hope, the unnamed woman from the Black Tribe is introduced as a possible love interest for Faize, appearing in one scene showing heavy subtext between him and her, and later killed senselessly off-screen (which nearly drove him insane). This became the partial basis for his later Face-Heel Turn. It should be noted that he wears the cloak she gave him for the remainder of the game.
  • This happens to many of the female characters in Red Dead Redemption. For instance, Bonnie MacFarlane's quest chain ends with her getting kidnapped, abused and hanged (before she's rescued by lead character John Marston). Luisa dies in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment after you've finished her quest chain (and rescued her from kidnappers/saved her life many times before), several Mexican peasant girls are implied to have been captured/raped/killed during the course of the story, and one poor bank patron in Blackwater is caught solely for the purpose of getting a bullet between the eyes, courtesy of the game's Big Bad. Of course, this is partly because the game is a Deconstruction of Wild West myths (the hero doesn't always save the damsel-in-distress).
  • Setzer's dead girlfriend Darryl only exists in the story to give him some literal last minute Character Development. This is a similar deal with Locke's girlfriend, the mothers of at least five characters, and Cyan's wife and kid.
  • 'World of Warcraft' plays this straight at times - the most recent example is Thassarian's mother, who was introduced and killed in the same comic and did little more than beg for her life and provide angst for her son.
  • Odessa in Suikoden, who starts the liberation movement and then dies because she's a woman and too ruled by her maternal instincts to lead an army; mainly this is to give Flik something to angst about, and she's mostly forgotten after the first quarter of the game. (Though Flik's sword is named after her, in traditional Warrior's Village fashion).
  • The ultimate motivation of the title character in Asura's Wrath is essentially this trope, mixed with rescuing a Damsel in Distress in the form of a daughter.
  • The maids in Clive Barker's Undying pretty much exist to get killed by Howlers. The male servants seem a bit better at living. The butler survives as well as you do.
  • Inverted in The Reconstruction, where Vasra's death sends her boyfriend into a spiral of suicidal depression rather than a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. On a character level, it continues to be subverted as he completely forgets about her thanks to Easy Amnesia, ensuring she can never be a Cynicism Catalyst — but played straight on a meta level, as her death is totally forgotten by the story afterward and seems to exist purely for the sake of giving her boyfriend a tragic backstory, even if he can't remember it.
  • Gender Flipped twice in Super Dangan Ronpa 2, where the primary effect of Gundam's and Nekomaru's deaths is to motivate their female Love Interests and give their story an element of romantic tragedy. Gundam's death also galvanizes the students as a whole to band together, similarly to Sakura's death in the first game.
  • Deus Ex:
    • Tiffany Savage (Gary Savage's daughter). She is introduced via Bob Page stating that she was captured by Majestic 12 during an operation to retrieve components for a Universal Constructor, and the next mission has JC attempting to rescue her at a gas station. It's very easy for her to die during this, and it has no real bearing for the rest of the story beyond a couple alternate lines by Savage (and a potential reward) two missions later. He doesn't even seem too broken up over her death.
    • This seems to run in Gary's family. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, his girlfriend (also named Tiffany) has vital intel that she needs to get to the U.N. to implicate Belltower, but is trapped in a sealed location while Adam is forced to make a Sadistic Choice between saving her or the female prisoners in Rifleman Base (that is, if the player doesn't Take a Third Option). She dies if Adam saves the hostages, and if she escapes, she's Doomed by Canon anyway (assuming that she's the same woman that Gary eventually marries) because she is assassinated by an MJ12 spy shortly before the events of the original game.
  • Saki Konishi from Persona 4. Initially seen as the girl of Yosuke's dreams, Saki loathes him in actuality, as well as Junes, the place where she works, since business there is ruining her own family's business. After witnessing a corpse and being interviewed on it, she herself ends up missing and is found murdered the very next day. From this point on and despite the player learning little to nothing about her, her death serves as fuel for Yosuke to go out and exact revenge on her murderer.

    Visual Novels 
  • Odon's wife Karen from Fleuret Blanc, who seems to exist purely to give him a tragic backstory and provide some explanation for his philosophy. She is also a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

  • Alt-Zoe from Sluggy Freelance exists so that Torg can explore how a relationship would go between him and the real Zoe. Of course, being an Alternate Universe version of a regular character, it's somewhat expected she'll be less important than someone from the "real" world.
  • Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick's spouse Inkyrius and two kindergarten-age children are introduced one comic before a dragon crucifies Inkyrius to a tree, breaks the childrens' legs, sets fire to their house, and would have killed and soul bound the children had Vaarsuvius not acquired Ultimate Arcane Power from the IFCC. However, it is unknown whether this is the Disposable Woman trope, as their genders are ambiguous.
    • Aversion. Inkyrius survives, recovers, and divorces Vaarsuvius over the incident. There's also the matter of Inkyrius not directly appearing in the comic, but having been mentioned many, many strips earlier, and Vaarsuvius' family being his reasons for sympathizing with Roy over the matter of his sister.
    • Julia more clearly fits into this trope, since she only appears just in time to be kidnapped and to date has yet to be heard of again at all. She was rescued, of course, but she's a non-entity in the plot so far. Though, with Rich Burlew, you never know.
  • Golden Jane from Everyday Heroes was introduced, and disposed of, solely to motivate her partner's Heel-Face Turn.

     Western Animation 
  • Parodied in The Boondocks with the character of Jack Flowers, a Captain Ersatz of Jack Bauer from 24. A flashback montage reveals that each of his ex-lovers were violently killed by his enemies, leading to an overly-dramatic Skyward Scream every time.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has the ill-fated Tang Shen, whose purpose in the narrative is to die. The rivalry over her between Hamato Yoshi and another suitor associated with the Foot Clan (usually the Shredder himself), along with her eventual death, is what inevitably starts the conflict between the turtles and the Foot Clan that drives the plot of nearly every series in the franchise.

Alternative Title(s): Disposable Women