Infant Immortality

Skinner: If either of us falls in, we're doomed!
Bart: Kids don't die!

It seems to be the cardinal rule in shows that thrive on violence: you are not allowed to kill babies or young children. Or dogs, unless it is a heart-breaking moment that symbolizes the end of innocence. (viz. "Boomer... will live!")

No matter how bad the Big Bad is, he will always stop short of killing a baby. Even natural disasters will avoid killing infants and dogs. Something about a baby or puppy makes you stop, think twice, and show a last flicker of compassion.

Those who don't have that last drop of humanity in them will generally be stopped some other way.

Outside of Crime and Punishment Series (where all the death occurs off-screen) and shows where the cynicism is meant to be a selling point, this trope is almost always in place for babies. Dogs are less lucky: a villain can kill a dog only if it's meant to prove that he's a really horrible person. Doesn't matter if he's gunned down 20 people in cold blood, only a monster would kill your dog (but dogs seem to do better against natural disasters, since those can't actually be evil).

Of course, this only protects against killing babies in person; destroying a city in a fiery conflagration and killing the no doubt tens or hundreds of thousands of babies therein is A-OK, because A Million Is a Statistic and the audience won't see them. Whether or not this extends to pregnant women is a toss-up; fetuses have more relative protection than dogs, but less than already-born infants. Except in series where Status Quo Is God, because then the Convenient Miscarriage will rear its ugly head.

The upper age limit for Infant Immortality varies. Only infants are truly immune from death, but small children enjoy substantially more protection than teenagers or adults. However, when teenagers are included below the upper age limit, it is frequently a case of Only Fatal to Adults, and is frequently an After the End setting.

The trope extends to just about anyone conventionally considered inherently "innocent," and can therefore sometimes reach out to cover the mentally handicapped. Note that, if the baby undergoes a Plot-Relevant Age-Up, they're not protected by this trope anymore - even if it's done in a way which leaves them still "really" an infant.

In animation, can lead to the Badly Battered Babysitter plot. In video games, Hide Your Children. In fantasy, it frequently results in Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!.

In After the End, post-apocalyptic shows expect there to never be any bodies of children onscreen despite many adult corpses. The sight of a dead child affects people deeply and is used very carefully by any director worth their chops.

Note that this does not apply in the aptly-named Black Comedy. Inverted grotesquely by Undead Child and, in a more literal way, by Would Hurt a Child. Also, seems not to apply to the Enfant Terrible, who dies horribly in all manner of works.

Cats are fairly indestructible too. Compare Only Fatal to Adults, when something by definition does not hurt children, in-universe.

Expect spoilers.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Ancient comics book example: In Marvel Comics #8 (from 1940), Namor, in an all-out attack on the city of New York, detonates a bomb in the Hudson Tunnel, flooding it and killing everyone inside, kills a random pilot by ripping the propeller off his plane, breaks a lot of animals out of the zoo, including many poisonous reptiles, and then saves a baby from a stampeding elephant before flying off to destroy the George Washington Bridge.
  • Used in Civil War: Young Avengers/Runaways, when the evil mad scientist who has no problem secretly experimenting on prisoners and aliens takes a moment to order his Brainwashed and Crazy slave to open a locked door and rescue a baby for the mother.
  • Double Subverted in Neil Gaiman's run on The Eternals. Zuras kills Sprite for erasing all the Eternals' memories & almost destroying the world as part of his quest to Become a Real Boy. Though it worked & he is physically an eleven-year-old human child, when Sprite weakly tries to wheedle out of his execution by bringing this up, Zuras dryly reminds him that that still doesn't change the fact that he's a million years old & hasn't been a child for a very long time.
  • Seemingly averted in The Punisher MAX. Amoral, tough thug Barracuda is holding a gun to the head of Frank's infant daughter. But Frank calls his bluff: not even Barracuda would shoot a baby, right? Oops, HE JUST DID. So much for Barracuda's last shred of human decency....or so we're meant to think. In the next issue it turns out that what he shot was just a doll, and the real baby is safe after all. Still, Frank didn't know that, and he was not well-pleased.
  • In the Marvel Universe Crisis Crossover World War Hulk, it is revealed that the Hulk is in fact an idiot savant, capable of calculating his rampages so that he does the maximum amount of damage but never leaves any casualties.
    • A long-term story in his regular series had him hunted by government forces (even more then before) because he was seen on film squashing a kid. The veracity of the film is in doubt.
  • Kevin Smith's run on Daredevil was advertised with the image of DD carrying a baby as he engaged in his usual rooftop-jumping. The baby, whom he believed was either the second coming of Christ or the Anti Christ, did come along on some patrols for a while, and the adventure ended with him unharmed.
    • Batman: Gotham Adventures #26 featured an almost identical cover, Batman rooftop-jumping with a baby in his arms. In a mild subversion of the trope, instead of the baby surviving Batman's patrol against all odds, Batman actually avoids a fight by threatening violence far in excess of his usual if the thugs he's captured make him do anything that might hurt the baby. They surrender, and one even tells him he's holding the baby's head wrong.
  • Power Girl's baby developed defensive powers in the womb.
  • While Rogue had a Touch of Death in X-Men "Messiah Complex", Mystique placed the baby's face on her adopted daughter as this was supposed to awaken her from her coma. Gambit notes that Rogue wouldn't have wanted the baby to die at her expense, but the baby survives anyway.
  • Played seriously in the 'Crossgen' comic book series 'Negation'. The baby in question is seen surviving a nuclear explosion among many, many other horrors tossed at it by the bad guys.
  • Nomad from Marvel Comics thought it was okay to bring a baby with him on his 'walking the earth' quest. He did have access to many reliable babysitters (think underground good-guy mafia) but he still got himself involved with many a super-fight. Nearly once an issue someone would be shocked he has a baby with him in a dust-up.
  • Tenebris and Korbo the Red Shadow from Les Légendaires mercyless killed a couple of brillant inventors who provived rebellion with weapons, but they couldn't resolve themselves to eliminate their baby, and ended up giving her to adoption. This actually is of some use to the plot, as the baby grows up and comes back for revenge.
    • Ironically, the trope is technically constantly averted, since the story takes place in a world where everyone has turned back to childhood, and yet the author has no problem killing some characters. Three actual kids are also shown dead in one book after their town was devastated by Darkhell's army.
  • Adam Warlock (or rather his Super-Powered Evil Side, the Magus) weaponizes this by possessing the bodies of children so that the Avengers wouldn't dare to attack him.
  • Defied in The Wicked And The Defied. The entire point of the recurrence is that the gods are incarnated into teenagers, who will die within two years. Everybody will be dead before they're twenty. Minerva, the youngest, will be dead before she's fourteen.
  • in Innocence Lost, X-23 is sent by Xander Rice to murder his boss/father figure, the man's wife (and Rice's lover), and his boss's toddler son (actually Rice's son from the affair) because his lover was going to confess, and Rice wanted total control of the X-23 project. X kills the parents, but spares the boy. When X then reveals to her creator/mother the truth of what happened, it convinces Sarah to rescue X from the Facility.
    • Her "cousin" was kidnapped by a serial killer who preys on children, and is implied to have already killed a number of other girls before he took Megan. Fortunately, X's creator brought her in, and X killed the man before he could hurt her.
    • During her solo series it's retconned that Laura failed or refused to kill children on other missions, as well.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Max Allan Collins, the second Dick Tracy writer (a longtime fan, he inherited the job from Chester Gould) recounts that after reading the story where Gould allowed Junior's innocent little girlfriend Model to get shot and die, he realized Anyone Can Die in Tracy. So when Tracy's infant daughter is kidnapped not long after, and then abandoned in the woods, on the verge of dying of exposure, with wild animals closing in, the tension for the reader was much realer than it otherwise would have been. The baby does get rescued in time but only after a white-knuckle fake-out where it looks like wolves have gotten her!


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Tabletop Game/Munchkin Apocalypse, there is the "Child"-class, which cannot die as all other classes can. But Death Is Cheap anyway.

    Web Comics 
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage has orphaned a little boy multiple times, although this has been subverted (sort of) when he spared the boy a couple times out of a sick perverse joy in seeing the mental scars he causes pile up.
    • Comes back to bite him when it turns out that the kid grows up to become a powerful sage, travels back in time to the start of the universe to make it in his image and prevent Black Mage from scarring him, waits for billions of years because of his future mistake of accidentally sending someone to the start of the universe before himself, and grows up to be Sarda, who finds endless and creative ways of torturing Black Mage.
  • Lampshaded in this strip from Acid Reflux.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, a baby is launched in the air by automated zombie quarantine wall. The good doctor, naturally, catches him, much to his own surprise.
  • Mentioned in Gold Coin Comics, when Lance survived a childhood fire where everyone else appears to have died.
  • Rob and Elliot: Rob attempts to take this to it's logical extreme by making a bulletproof vest out of live babies.

    Web Original 
  • In episode 4.3 of the Ask That Guy with the Glasses segment of That Guy with the Glasses, he is asked what the plot of a movie with no cliches would be. He responds: "I would say, 2 1/2 hours of blowing up a baby. Think about it: have you ever seen a baby blow up in a movie before?"
  • The child supervillain August Prince from Worm has this explicitly as his superpower; his presence renders people incapable of deliberately attacking or harming him.
  • Sawyer in Void Domain averts this. The necromancer has killed at least one child on-screen. Des raises interesting implications related to the topic. Her body-parts had to come from somewhere.

    Western Animation 
  • How many cat attacks has Fievel survived in the movies? He even climbs back up a cat's throat in the first movie and the sequel. His baby sister Yasha, when she does actually appear, is never put in any real danger.
  • On Histeria!!, Big Fat Baby survives a ton of abuse in The History of Poland sketch.
  • On Squidbillies, this trope is invoked and has a lampshade hung on it, as the Sherrif disguises himself as a baby so that a pair of monsters won't kill him. It doesn't work.
    Granny: "They hate babies! Quick, nobody dress like a baby!"
  • Any cartoon with a Badly Battered Babysitter.
  • Played for laughs in The Triplets of Belleville. During the car chase one of the Mafia's cars narrowly avoids hitting a screaming woman with a baby carriage by steering to the side and crashing. A second car does, however, impact with the baby carriage - and crumples like an accordion, while the baby carriage and its laughing occupant remains completely unscathed.
  • Since Tommy and friends on Rugrats can safely pass through areas such as garages, attics, restaurants, post offices, miniature golf courses, bowling alleys, shopping malls, museums, fairs, Las Vegas, or the forest on their own, they don't really need the "supervision" that they get.
  • Maggie Simpson has shown to survive and evade situations that any character of an older age within the series would otherwise not be as lucky in. An excellent instance is in episode "The Call of the Simpsons", though there are few other similar instances.
  • In Defenders of the Earth, though children and teenagers (including Rick, LJ, Jedda and Kshin, who are also subject to Plot Armor) are placed in life-threatening situations, all onscreen deaths, unless they involve the destruction of robots, are of adult characters. Kshin's death scene in "100 Proof Highway" doesn't count as it happens in a vision which Mandrake conjures up to teach Kshin a lesson about underaged drinking.

    Real Life 
  • A notable example of real-life infant immortality was in the news. A baby stroller got nicked by a train. The stroller was pushed at least 20 feet away. The mother and others went running up to the baby expecting the worst only to see the baby only slightly injured.
    • It happened twice on the same train line in Melbourne Australia within a year.
  • Also in Canada, a couple of months ago, an elderly woman was driving recklessly and almost killed a mother with a child in a stroller, kid was pushed away just in the right moment.
  • When Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 crashed in 2010, out of the 104 people on board the only survivor was a 9-year-old Dutch boy. A newsperson pointed out that in most plane crashes with survivors, the survivor's been a young child. Mainly because the luggage might be flying around, decapitating people, and the kids are too small to be decapitated by the flying luggage.
  • There was one news story a couple years back in India, also involving a train, but in a different way. A heavily pregnant woman went to the bathroom on the train was moving (it's not stated how fast). She somehow ended up pushing so hard, she gave birth right into the toilet. This was one of those trains that empties right onto the tracks. the mother passed out from the pain. When her brother-in-law finally checked up on her two hours later, she was found unconscious and bloody in the bathroom. They stopped the train and finally recovered the infant who had been dumped and left behind on the tracks for over two hours. The baby wasn't healthy, but with hospital care she survived. Read about it here.
  • For literal Infant Immortality, see Brooke Greenberg. Until her 2013 death, anyway.
  • Countries with capital punishment generally won't execute a pregnant woman so as to not make the innocent baby pay for her crime. In the 17th to 19th century in England, male jailers in women's prisons had a nice secondary income providing the pregnancies.
    • Seemingly nearly every female receiving a death sentence in this period would 'plead her belly'- i.e., claim to be pregnant, just in case. Even if it was unlikely, it would delay the case for a few weeks until she got her period.
    • Or she could be examined by a team of up to twelve (!) midwives, to see whether she was actually pregnant. This, sadly for the child, was not always accurate.
  • The only survivors of the car accident that killed Jayne Mansfield were her children sleeping in the backseat: Miklos Jr (8), Zoltan (6), and Mariska (3). note 
  • During the 2002 National League baseball season, San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker often had his three-year old son Darren serve as batboy. In the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 5 of the World Series between the Giants and the Anaheim Angels, Kenny Lofton hit a triple with two men on. Young Darren obligingly ran out to the batter's box to collect Lofton's bat...just as J.T. Snow (who was on base at the time) was charging home. Snow had the presence of mind to scoop up the tyke and carry him away from the field, which was good because David Bell was behind him and could have seriously injured the little guy. During the off-season, Major League Baseball quickly passed a rule requiring all batboys to be at least 14. You can see the near-collision and rescue here.

Come on reaper, don't fear the baby...

Alternative Title(s): Animal Immunity, Child Immortality