That's it. You've had it with the organization you work for. They've made you work too hard, they've grown corrupt, or they've done something morally questionablein pursuit of their goals. You're quitting, but you don't just want to turn in your Two Weeks Notice and walk off the job. You want to let your employers know just how disgusted you are with them. What better way to do that than by walking up to them, tearing off your chevrons, ranking insignias, and other badges of office and throwing said items into their faces? (If you've recently been awarded a Medal for Valor or for some other reason, feel free to rip that off and cast it dramatically to the floor as well. Your employers should get the message.)
Alternatively, you could be the leader of a military organization who finds themselves dealing with a lazy or corrupt member. Perhaps that person has become too enthusiastic in their pursuit of the law or has grown to love the violent parts of their job just a little too much. You want to get rid of them, but telling them to get lost isn't enough. You want to send them a message on how disgusted you are, so you summon them to your office, and after a verbal dressing down, you tell them to turn in their badge. Or you just rip the badge right off of them. (Obviously, if they're Ax-Crazy, you'll want to have a lot of bodyguards standing around while you do this.) Alternatively, your employee's dismissal ritual could be a lot more stylized and formal than this, with him or her forced to stand stoically in front of their peers while you strip them of their rank. That done, they turn slowly and head towards the exit while the soundtrack swells defiantly.
An Insignia Rip Off Ritual is often played up for as much drama as can be milked from it, but just as often, it's played for comedy. In such cases, half of the dismissed employee's shirt might get accidentally ripped up along with the badge. Or the type of things that are ripped off aren't formal "signs of office" like pins or badges, but silly things like hairpieces or lapel flowers. A clown might lose his big rubber nose, for instance, or an accountant his pocket protector.
However you decide to perform a Insignia Rip Off Ritual on your employee, don't expect it to be the last you'll see of them. If they don't join the Other Side, they'll almost always return after a 10-Minute Retirement, either to redeem themselves, or to bring you to justice, take over your organization and perform a Insignia Rip Off Ritual on you. (That's if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, they'll just wreak bloody vengeance upon you.)
A Insignia Rip Off Ritual might be the starting point for a Humiliation Conga. Expect a Defector from Decadence to perform this if he's particularly fed up with his former group. When done to a military officer by his superiors, expect his sword to be broken.
A formalized version of this, known as Cashiering, is used by many of the world's militaries when someone is dismissed in extreme disgrace. Just to mention, beforehand the insignias and buttons are removed and re-sewn on with light thread, which explains how they can be removed without tearing the entire jacket. If the ritual also contains the destruction of some issue equipment, such as an officer's sword, that equipment will also be deliberately weakened before the ritual so that it can easily destroyed during it.
One of the most common ways this is Played for Laughs is if someone has this done to them when they're fired from a Burger Fool.
See also Turn in Your Badge. Also see Smash The Symbol.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
In a flashback of Naruto, Itachi throws a kunai at an Uchiha clan crest on a wall before denouncing the clan at one point after he kills Shisui and before his massacre. The Akatsuki members with visible headbands and Sasuke who may or may not count, have slashes through the the emblem of the village to which they formerly swore allegiance.
Tower of God: After Baam's fall, Leroro, at this point disgusted with the procedures of the tower's adinistrative staff, storms into Yu Han-Sung's office and turns in his Ranker Badge. After that, an upset Quant protests to Han-Sung that he let him leave, to which the latter replies by taking his badge as well and sending him off, stating that they only came as a pair.
In One Piece, after learning that Arlong had Nezumi steal all the money she worked for eight years to earn, Nami begins stabbing the Arlong Pirates tattoo on her arm in anger. In the fourth movie, Gasparde has the Marine emblem crossed out on his ship.
In Fullmetal Alchemist after a bunch of central soldiers are shown how utterly corrupt the High Command of Central is, they refuse to follow orders, and rip off their ranks and Amestris insignia and throw them at the General.
After Ryuhou's Heel-Face Turn in Scryed, Mimori brings him a new HOLY uniform, which he refuses to wear. She insists that the uniform doesn't stand for HOLY itself, but rather Ryuhou's convictions and beliefs, so he puts it on and rips off the HOLY symbol.
Parodied in a 1970s MAD cartoon by Don Martin. An army officer rips off his subordinate's insignia and epaulets, unsheathes the subordinate's sword, hoists his knee in the air to snap it in half...and accidentally amputates his own lower leg.
In another Legion story, Ultra Boy's emblem was burned off◊ when the Legion believed he was a fugitive who had joined under false pretenses. (Oddly, that didn't leave a hole in his costume.)
Of course none of those insignias were bestowed by the Legion, so it's odd that they took it upon themselves to remove them. (Especially since there was a Legion-specific symbol available, the flight ring, which could have been used for a Turn in Your Badge scene.)
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Luke's childhood friend Janek "Tank" Sunber became an Imperial officer and served in a long, grueling campaign against basically endless waves of primitive tribal aliens. His tactics and work ethic seriously impressed the general in charge, who gave him a field promotion to commander before dying. However, a captain who was jealous about being passed up refused to verify the promotion, and Tank was humiliatingly stripped of his rank as soon as they were offworld. Unusually, Tank stayed Imperial even with a few doubts, even becoming a Fake Defector at Vader's order. Redemption Equals Death. Wow, all of Luke's old friends who pop up in the EU die.
No, he survived. And in fact, his escape pod left Rebel One and was rescued by the Empire.
In a Superboy (90s clone version) story, Supergirl (90s Matrix version) tries to persuade him to come with her and sort out why he's currently a wanted fugitive. When he refuses, she uses her telekinesis to pull the S-shields off his chest and the back of his jacket.
In the middle of Infinite Crisis Superman rips the S from the costume worn by Superboy-Prime to indicate he is not worthy to wear it.
During All Hail Megatron, Ironhide confronts Mirage, suspecting him of being the one that betrayed the Autobots It was Sunstreaker. He then repeatedly punches Mirage in the Autobot insignia until it is all but destroyed.
When Ironhide later finds out that Mirage was not the traitor, he attempts to apologize only for Mirage to refuse his apology and leave his Autobot insignia damaged as a symoblic gesture.
Batgirl does this to herself following supposedly killing her brother, James, Jr. He's alive in another comic. When she goes to comfort Batman following the death of Damian Wayne, Bruce calls her out on her hypocrisy of running around in costume yet not wearing the emblem of the Bat.
Les Tuniques Bleues: Chesterfield and Blutch are being kicked out. After Chesterfield has gone through the entire insignia-ripping, sword-snapping ritual, the officer turns to Blutch... who has already ripped off his own and is presenting the officer with his broken sword. Later it turns out it was a ploy to send them into Confederate lines undetected, much to Blutch's chagrin.
In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf alternate timeline story "Papa Smurf & Mama Smurfette", Empath as the leader of La Résistance in the Smurf Village removes Papa Smurf's red hat and replaces it with a white hat while he replaces his own black star-spangled hat with Papa Smurf's red hat, symbolically showing that Papa Smurf no longer deserves to be recognized as the village leader and that Empath will now take over the position.
In the novel itself, Empath rips his own Smurf clothes to shreds (particularly his Star-Spangled Spandex suit that he just got for his birthday!) in front of every Smurf to show what he thought of the Smurfs for how they were treating him.
In Gladiator, Maximus cuts up his arm where his Roman tattoo is in angry sorrow that the country he defended betrayed him.
A particularly wonderful parodic example occurs in the film Mary Poppins when Mr. Banks is being dismissed from his job. The entire thing is played off as a solemn, hallowed ritual—but one that involves Mr. Bank's bowler hat and umbrella getting destroyed in an overblown, stylized manner. (Meanwhile, his fellow employees are looking on in horror, gasping "No — Not that!" as his umbrella is turned inside-out.) The scene also includes Mickey Mousing.
Star Trek: Insurrection: When Picard has failed to persuade Command that they are doing the wrong thing, and has chosen to defend the Prime Directive in violation of orders, he removes his pips himself, though not in front of anybody.
There's no dramatic ripping, but notice that when the gang decides to ship-jack the Enterprise in Star Trek III, everyone shows up in regular clothes, after showing off their stylish unis the previous film.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action plays with this trope. Early on, Brendan Fraser's character gets fired and undergoes the ritual, having his security guard insignia torn off of his shirt. And then, he's ordered to turn in the shirt as well.
At the start of Spider-Man 2 Peter Parker has a day job as a delivery boy at Joe's Pizza, and (apparently once again) can't make good on the 29 Minute Guarantee because of a "disturbance". Peter is fired and, after him pleading to keep his job, the manager rips the company logo sticker from Peter's helmet.
Happens in Dirty Harry. At the end of the movie, after finally stopping the Scorpio killer and finding that the only way it was possible was in direct opposition of the system he worked for, Harry throws his badge into a body of water in disgust.
In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, the CIA agent who takes over the Autobot task force from Major Lennox goes out of his way to rip off the major's rank insignia, saying, "You won't be needing this anymore". Unlike most examples, the ripping off doesn't have much impact. For one thing, Lennox is wearing Army-issue ACUs and his rank insignia was being held on with Velcro. For another, Lennox was not in any way being demoted, only relieved of operational command of the task force, so ripping off his rank is nothing but meaningless spite on Agent Douche's part. The only thing Lennox lost was the the thirty-odd seconds it would take him to pick it up and put it back on.
Pukar has the military degradation version, since the character has been framed for treason. By the end of the scene, the main character is wearing only tatters.
A poignant moment at the end of High Noon, where Will Kane takes off his sheriff's badge and drops it in on the ground in front of the town that's abandoned him.
Inverted in the very first scene of Patton where the eponymous general is promoted, and immediately takes his new insignia out of his pocket and glues them onto his uniform. (A subordinate protested that the promotion was not official until approved by the Senate, but legal niceties never troubled George Patton in the slightest.)
In The A-Team this happens to the team after their conviction.
Iron Eagle II has a scene where after deciding to work together after all to take down the bad guys, the American and Soviet pilots all rip the velcro flag patches off their flightsuits.
Referenced in Twelve O Clock High. After the same man gets busted from sergeant to private and then promoted back to sergeant later the same day - on two separate occasions - the general responsible for the demotions and promotions tells him to get zippers installed on the extra stripes.
A Jerry Lewis movie ("Sadsack"?) had two career soldiers (a corporal and a private) mentoring the eponymous character (played by Lewis). After being marched back to the barracks by a platoon of WAC soldiers the three are called in front of the unit's First Sergeant. The First Sergeant just stares, so the corporal tears one stripe off his uniform and the private tears the only stripe off his uniform. Lewis reaches for his sleeve, finds nothing, and says, "I guess I'll have to owe you one."
In RoboCop 3, the Detroit cops in a police station are ordered by an OCP company director to expel by force some civilian from their houses (so that OCP can level the block for redevelopment). One of the older veterans refuses, yanks off his badge and throws it on the floor. The whole unit then walks past the director, each throwing their badge down. The director then used the prisoners/criminals to perform the task, along with its own para-military unit.
Johnson: Now, sergeant... 15 years on the force is quite an investment. Your job, your pension. Maybe instead of worrying about these squatter people, you might think about your own family.
Sgt. Reed I am. I'm thinking I have to go home and face them.
A form of Rip-off the Insignia is 'Rip Up the Check' where a person who took tainted money (or was offered it) rips up the check to show his refusal to accept it. This was done in the Lassie movie where the grandfather threw the pieces of a check back to Lassie's 'real' owner when he realized that his grandson was hurt after Lassie was taken away.
Done to the title character himself in Judge Dredd, though the crime in question would warrant it, the situation on the other hand...
At the end of The Dark Knight Rises, John Blake takes his Gotham P.D. badge and flings it into the river.
This happens to Thor when Odin banishes him. This symbolises Thor no longer being worthy to inherit the throne.
In the controversial 1967 Hungarian film The Red and the White about the Russian Civil War, a White Army officer, confronted by his subordinates terrorizing civilians (a problem for the White Movement), tears the epaulets off the ringleader before having him executed.
In The Dark Crystal, the other Skeksis rip off the banished Chamberlain's clothes and send him into exile naked, stripped of all the finery of one of Thra's ruling race.
An Officer And A Spy dramatizes the "degradation", the formal ceremony in which Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, unjustly convicted of treason, is stripped of his rank insignia and has his sword snapped in two.
Happens in the second Provost's Dog to two officers who fled the Bread Riot and are conspicuously fresh and unbruised—literally every other Dog has a black eye at the very least.
In the Honor Harrington universe, this is the kind of ceremony used when someone is cashiered from the space navy. The characters who experience this tend to deserve it; it takes a lot for a member of the peerage to be kicked out of the Royal Manticoran Navy. The fourth book has one of these ceremonies as its central premise and Title Drop, complete with breaking the officer's sword. It also happens at least once in flashback, in the backstory of a villain who is an ex-military officer.
"Danny Deever," Rudyard Kipling's poem about a British Army hanging: "They've taken of his buttons off an' cut his stripes away, / An' they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'."
Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold combines the flavors. Asked to resign, Miles Vorkosigan is upset but reasonably stable until he's told to give back his insignia...at which point the dam breaks. He first gets hysterical, then collapses in one of the seizures which he had been trying to hide from his chain of command, then becomes angry, and he tears them off. Several of his friends happen to see him leave; seeing the torn places where the insignia were, they think Miles's superior tore them off.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, a child-killer in the protagonist's unit is subjected to this by MI authorities. They march him out of the camp, remove everything from his uniform that marks him as an M.I. (including the buttons, which have unit insignia on them), and hang him by the neck until dead. The act is described with a euphemistic nod: 'He'll dance to Danny Deever'. And they play the song "Danny Deever" as they march the condemned man to the gallows.
Parodied in the Discworld novel Jingo, where it's noted that "Sergeant Colon took his grimy badge out of his pocket and was a little disappointed that it didn't make a defiant tinkle when he threw it on the table but instead bounced and smashed the water jug."
For his part Sgt. Detritus says he has his badge carved into his arm (presumably to highlight his commitment to the force and not as a rule for trolls) and anyone is welcome to try and take it off him if they like.
Played perfectly straight in the Star Wars Expanded Universe with the second novel of the second Han Solo Trilogy. The first book ended up with him a full-fledged Imperial officer and proud. The second book starts with him drunken, unshaven, and trying to get this goddamn Wookiee to leave him alone. He was dishonorably discharged (for refusing to let said Wookiee slave be killed), and in the ceremony, a fellow officer and someone he considered a friend tore his insignia from his uniform.
With Imperial officers, rank tends to come in both those square multicolored badges and in "rank cylinders" set into special pockets in their uniforms. At one point in the X-Wing Series a high-ranked character looks at an agitated lower-ranked character and says something to the effect of "If you don't calm down, your rank cylinders will just fall out", mortifying the lower-ranked Imperial and causing him to cover them.
Also implied to happen for the Corellian Bloodstripes (like the modern day Medal of Honor), although Han didn't lose his during his discharge because they were awarded by the Corellian military and not the Empire's military.
In the novel By the Sword of the Heralds of Valdemar series, Kerowyn reads the mind of her mercenary company's employer and learns that he intends to avoid paying them by sending them to certain death. She stands up and gives a speech to that effect, rips off her mercenary badge, and storms out to go live the hard life of an unaffiliated merc. Unbeknownst to her, because she leaves in such a tearing hurry, it inspires the entire rest of the company to similarly "quit," graduating from resignation to an odd form of Disaster Democracy. Eventually, they track her down and make her the Captain of the reformed company.
Shortly before the Mutiny broke out in India, Flashman witnesses several sepoys subjected to this for refusing to bite the paper cartridges for the new Enfield rifles. The sepoys were a mixture of Muslims and Hindus and the cartridges were rumoured to be greased with beef tallow and pork fat; Flashman discovers that they were in fact waxed.
In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, Gaunt does this to General Sturm. It features, and is inverted in Necropolis, when Gaunt removes the blowhard, glory-hungry Commissar Kowle's rank insignia, but when Kowle sacrifices a grenade bandoleer and his arms to destroy a Chaos beast, Gaunt also restores them.
When magicians are exiled in The Black Magician Trilogy, the highest ranking members of the guild make a small rip in their robes and say "I cast you out, [name]. Do not enter my lands again". Then every other magician in the guild performs the ritual. Then they are escorted out of the city, stopping at every intersection to have their crimes and punishment announced. From there they're taken to the border, where their crimes are announced again and the guard are told to remember their faces. When they rip your insignia off, they don't mess around.
Right at the end of the very first issue of Perry Rhodan, the titular character and then-Major of the US Space Force takes advantage of a quiet moment to himself while standing in the Gobi Desert just after returning from the moon with an alien passenger and some pieces of extraterrestrial high tech that every nation would dearly love to get their hands on — 1971 Earth is very much a Cold War setting in that 'verse, though with three major power blocs rather than just two to remove his insignia and symbolically break his ties with his former organization.
The mercenary companies of The Deed of Paksenarrion have the practice of "turning out tinisi turin" (meaning "shorn sheep") that does not involve literal insignia but fills the dishonorable discharge role in a humiliating and painful way. The offender is paraded in front of the company and stripped of his/her uniform. He is then shaved of all body hair (yes, even there), branded with an identifying mark, probably whipped as suits the offense and then sent off naked, expelled from the realm.
This trope occurs several times throughout the D'Artagnan Romances, with characters breaking their swords over their knee when they surrender, yield or refuse to obey the King, effectively quitting their job.
Gandalf breaking Saruman's staff in The Lord of the Rings serves both to demonstrate his new power and as an example of this trope, since the staff symbolises his position as one of the Istari. note Hence Saruman's earlier accusation about Gandalf desiring 'the rods of the five wizards' Also, Denethor's last act before lying down on his burning pyre is to break his own scepter of office over his knee.
"Count Thespides," said Yasmela, "you have my glove under your baldric. Please give it to me, and then go." "Go?" he cried, starting. "Go where?" "To Koth or to Hades!" she answered. "If you will not serve me as I wish, you shall not serve me at all." "You wrong me, princess," he answered, bowing low, deeply hurt. "I would not forsake you. For your sake I will even put my sword at the disposal of this savage."
The "rip up the check" variation is Older Than Feudalism: according to The Bible, Judas Iscariot threw the 30 pieces of silver he was paid to betray Jesus back at the people who paid him it before hanging himself in shame.
A comedic example occurs in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where TV's Frank gets fired by Dr. Forrester. Not only does Dr. Forrester rip off Frank's "Deep 13" badge, but his iconic forehead curl as well.
Happens at least Once a Season in most Star Trek series. Since combadges double as tracking devices in the Star Trek universe, this is sometimes as pragmatic as it is idealistic.
Although there is no insignia ripping, this is the idea behind Worf's "discommendation" ceremony.
Worf was, at one point, told not to wear Klingon emblems such as the family crest on his baldric during the trial.
This ceremony was the result of Quark's Crowning Moment Of Awesome when he maneuvered a corrupt Klingon into getting himself discommendated on the spot.
By contrast, in one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Chief O'Brien was temporarily and against his will put on medical suspension; as he took the turbolift away from Ops, he tore off his combadge and threw it at the ground. Less dramatic, but even more powerful in its way.
Deep Space Nine, being Darker and Edgier, had a number of incidents where characters Do What They Have To Do, but don't want to disgrace the ideals of Starfleet (and/or don't want to be tracked), so they pull off their combadges to indicate that they are no longer acting as Starfleet officers.
In "Paradise Lost" Sisko walks into the office of the Admiral who planned a military coup (and was also Sisko's former captain), yanks the combadge off at phaserpoint, and says that he has come to ask the Admiral for his "resignation". When the coup is stopped, the Admiral finishes the job by laying his rank bars on the table.
Again, combadges are both communicators and tracking devices, and Sisko was essentially holding Layton hostage, this was as much pragmatic as it was symbolic.
Voyager did this a few times. The Kazons "confiscated" the crew's combadges when they stole their ship. Also, Janeway removed one of Paris's pips when he violated orders and she busted him down to Ensign.
An old episode of British cop show Dixon Of Dock Green saw Dixon collaring a corrupt colleague, demanding that the corrupt copper remove his uniform (jacket only - this is a family show) so that Dixon could arrest him.
In Due South, Inspector Thatcher, cuts Fraser's RCMP lanyard as a symbol of him being suspended after he tries to cover for his sister, Maggie and doesn't arrest her as Thatcher orders.
In the final episode of the TV series Jericho, some soldiers vote to rebel against the new "Allied States of America" and rip off their flag patches. It was snarkily noted in some quarters that the patches came off so easily they appeared to have been velcroed on.
If they were wearing the newest uniform, the Army Combat Uniform (ACU), the flag patch is velcroed, along with the rest of the insignia.
Earlier, in "Semper Fidelis", Johnston ripped the insignia off of one of the fake marines as they were leaving.
The French-Canadian TV Show called "Dans Une Galaxie Près de Chez Vous" (In a Galaxy Near Yours) is a TV show somewhat like Red Dwarf, only even LESS serious and with even less budget (and proud of it). They subverts this trope when the captain demotes his traitorous second-in-command, named Brad by ripping off his rank badge on each shoulder of his jacket... leaving gaping holes through which he can see that there are similar badges on Brad's undershirt. The captain then orders him to remove his jacket so he can rip those off too... Only to see through the left-over holes that Brad has a third set of insignias glued to his skin. The captain orders him to remove his shirt and rips those off too.
Majorly spoofed in an episode of Married... with Children where Al became a security guard at his old high school, only to have everything that wasn't nailed down was stolen on his shift. The next scene after this shows the tiny gray haired principal doing this ritual to Al's uniform, complete with the theme from Branded mentioned earlier playing in the background. Judging by her reaction to the smell when she rips off part of his shirt insignia, she probably wished she'd gone a more orthodox route in firing him.
Lampshaded in the "Abyssinia, Henry" episode of M*A*S*H. As Henry Blake is set to go home the following day, in grand solemn "ceremony" while Henry is celebrating at Rosie's Bar with Hawkeye, Trapper John, and Radar, Trapper rips the flaps off Henry's shirt pockets while pronouncing him "Mister Doctor Henry Blake", and they present Henry with a new (civilian) suit.
It should be noted that none of his actual military insignia was removed in this scene; Hawkeye and Trapper just ripped the shirt itself.
The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon tries to do this when he steps down from his self-appointed position of captain of the Physics Department paintball team, but because he's weak and he sewed it on too perfectly, it stayed.
A sketch on The Dave Allen Show featured a male officer removing a female officer's hat, then ripping off her epaulettes, then her brass buttons, then her blouse...
Inverted on Stargate SG-1. When the team got back together at the beginning of season nine, Mitchell put all of their patches back on.
Ned does this in episode five of Game of Thrones when he resigns his position as hand of the King, removing his insignia pin. Robert gives it back to him in episode six when Ned is not in a position to refuse.
Starsky & Hutch: in the first part of "Targets Without A Badge", our burned-out heroes decide to quit the police force after the death of a witness they were protecting; this leads to a dramatic freeze-frame shot of them throwing their badges into the ocean.
The Western episode of The Prisoner had a Special Edition Title in which Number Six is a sheriff throwing down his badge, instead of a secret agent throwing down a letter of resignation.
Happens to Corporal Agarn when he is stripped of his rank in the F Troop episode "The Day They Shot Agarn".
In the Ultraman episode "Don't Shoot, Arashi!", Captain Mura tears the Science Patrol's shooting-star pin (which doubles as a communicator) off Arashi's tunic after the latter disobeys orders by opening fire indiscriminately when a monster attacks a science museum where there are a lot of children present. Arashi redeems himself, with help from Hayata/Ultraman, and Mura reinstates him at the end of the episode.
JAG: Strangely enough for a military-themed show, they never played this trope straight. Inverted at the end of "High Ground", when the hardened old master sniper is told by the colonel to pin his chevrons back on.
In "The Brotherhood", the gang leader yanks Harm's Aviator "wings" off his uniform to remind him who has the leverage in their negotiation for the Marine officer the gang is holding.
In the full-length version of Tom Lewis's "Buntz!", the accompanying dialogue relates how Buntz the dachshund was ceremonially stripped of his naval half-pip in front of the whole crew. Harsh punishment for falling in love with a French Afghan hound, but he had engaged in conduct unbecoming in a British ship's mascot, in public and in front of the press.
In a production of Othello, Cassio is forced to go through with this after having his rank taken away. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Iago (who engineered this fall) is the one who actually removes the insignia, and is promoted in Cassio's stead.
An unusual variation is mentioned in the backstory of Homeworld (quite literally All There in the Manual), with the kiithnote sort of like True Companions crossed with a kibbutz and, in all cases other than the Sobani, a clan - it's complicated Soban having initiates perform this ritual upon themselves to symbolise the fact that they are forsaking all prior allegiances in favour of The Spartan Way of their new clan.
Roger Wilco suffers a humorously over-the-top dismissal from the Star Confederation in this manner at the beginning of Space Quest 6. The decommissioning officer starts with his insignia, then his uniform sleeves, and by the end of the humiliating speech, he's ripped off Roger's pants and undergarments as well.
And for punchline his muscles are revealed to be a suit with a zipper, also torn off revealing his less than impressive real upper body.
Done VERY well in Suikoden II, when the noble leader of the Blue Knights defies his lord, tearing off his knight's insignia and dropping it at his feet. The lord orders the easygoing leader of the Red Knights to arrest him. He tears off his insignia as well. Cue every knight in the room doing the same, the 'plink' sound of the metallic badges striking the stone floor resounding in the throne-room...
Occurs in the intro to Hard Corps: Uprising where the protagonist Bahamut throws his badge on the ground upon witnessing the brutality and cruelty of the Commonwealth and he shoots upon his former comrades.
Mass Effect 3: you don't actually get to see them rip the insignia off, but when you meet ex-Cerberus agents Miranda and Jacob again, they're wearing outfits that are identical to their clothes in 2 minus the Cerberus symbols. Averted for a lot of Cerberus defectors in the mission where you meet Jacob again, however, who've been too busy running for their lives to buy a wardrobe that doesn't have a Cerberus hexagon on both shoulders.
Farnsworth: This is an outrage. I demand that you hand over your captain's jacket.
Leela: This is my normal jacket. I've had it for 10 years.
Farnsworth: I said hand it over!
Parodied multiple times in The Simpsons. When Homer was kicked out of the Stonecutters for violating their sacred parchment, he had to turn in his robes and Stonecutter underwear, then he was ordered to walk home naked, chained to the "Stone of Shame".note Subverted when they see Homer has the Stonecutter symbol on his rear, marking him as the Chosen One. They then chain him to the much larger and heavier Stone of Triumph. Later on when he was kicked out of the Gun Club, he was told to turn in his tattoo, which Moe offered to remove with a cheese grater (to Moe's disappointment, Homer never got the tattoo).
When Apu was fired from the Kwik-E-Mart his various advertising badges were taken and he was ordered to turn in his pricing gun and his back-up pricing gun (which he kept in a holster on his ankle).
In the Looney Tunes short Forward March Hare, every time Private Bugs Bunny fouls up, his commanding officer is demoted. Although the act is never seen, it is implied by his insignia disappearing bit by bit, exposing the differently toned fabric underneath.
Parodied in the short Fresh Hare where Bugs impersonates Elmer Fudd's commanding officer (Elmer was a Mountie in this story) and decides to "drum you out of the service!" He starts by ripping off Elmer's buttons, then his epaulets, then goes into a frenzy of cloth-tearing until he finds he's holding a pair of boxer shorts, which he sheepishly hands back to Elmer.
Bugs also gets to do this to Hermann Goering in the short Herr meets Hare while in a paper-thin disguise of Adolf Hitler, Goering gives out some choice insults.
In Transformers Animated, Sentinel Prime tears Wasp's Autobot insignia off after arresting him for espionage.
Transformers does this a lot. Jetfire/Skyfire does this when he decides he wants to be an Autobot instead of a Decepticon, and Waspinator, fed up at being blown up all the time and essentially being the eternal Chew Toy, tears off his insignia near the end of a long rant. In keeping with his Butt Monkey status, he is blown up just before he finished his speech.
In Exo Squad, Thrax is demoted and has his insignia ripped off for not finishing off an Exofleet pilot during the retreat from Mercury.
Played for laughs in Family Guy when Tom Tucker is fired and told to turn in his moustache.
Parodied in an episode of South Park, where when Mr. Garrison is given leave from his job as a 3rd grade teacher, he goes to turn in his gun.
Mr. Garrison: I guess I'm not a teacher anymore. I suppose you'll be wanting my badge and gun (puts revolver on table).
Chairman: Mr. Garrison, most teachers do not CARRY a gun!
Mr. Garrison: Oh so I can keep it then?
Eric Cartman was in that 3rd grade class. You'd want to be armed too.
Also parodied in the episode where Stan is banished from South Park: Part of the banishment ceremony consists of his neighbors ripping off parts of his parka and spitting on him.
This happens early in Up!; when Charles Muntz is suspected of having fabricated the skeleton of the mysterious monster from Paradise Falls, he loses his membership in an explorer's society and is seen having the badges ripped off his jacket.
Done in the Disney war short "Home Defense"; after Donald Duck sees through the boys' ruse of an attack, he rips off their chevrons and destroys their (wooden) swords. Then, when he (again falsely) believes he's under attack (and makes sure that it wasn't the boys this time), he sews the chevrons back on and gives them new swords. Near the end, as Donald orders the boys' to fire the cannon, not knowing it's pointing straight at him, one of the boys, knowing the inevitable, rips off his chevron himself before firing.
In one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, when Squidward is fed up with the way the Krusty Krab is treating him, he takes his hat off and stomps on it. He tries to get Spongebob to do it too, but Spongebob can't bring himself to and just steps on it limply.
Kevin the sea cucumber has his "crown" ripped off after being relieved of his position in the Jellyfishing Club. Turns out it was part of his head.
In ThunderCats (2011)Turncoat General Grune rips off the cabochon that marks him as a member of Thundera's military, when he reveals his treachery.
Skyfire does this in the Transformers Generation 1 episode "Fire in the Sky" when he rips off his Decepticon insignia before proclaiming himself an Autobot.
In an Imagine Spot on Doug, Mr. Dink removes all of Doug's Bluff Scout badges and yanks his hat down to his neck.
Taz-Mania: Happens to an elderly Francis X. Bushlad when it is discovered that he never completed his manhood ritual.
The singer Tony Bennett was demoted and reassigned after some remarks he made against the Army's racial segregation policy. His CO ripped off his insignia, spat on it, and told him he was "a private again."
This is actually a traditional element of military punishment. A famous engraving shows "The Degradation of Dreyfus": The hapless Captain Alfred Dreyfus (of the "Dreyfus Affair" that fiercely divided France in the 1890s and 1900s), framed and convicted for espionage, having his insignia stripped from his uniform and his sword broken before being sent off to Devil's Island.
The British orders of Knighthood provide for a public degradation ceremony for disgraced Knights. The last victim was Francis Mitchell in 1621, sentenced for 'Grievous Exactions' (abusing a government position). In his case his spurs were broken and thrown away, his belt cut, his sword snapped over his head and a declaration made that he was "no longer Knight but Knave" before he was led away to be imprisoned in The Tower of London.
For nobles this could be taken further with an "Attainder": an attainted person is not only stripped of their insignia of rank but also of any inherited titles and everything they own, and their children are forcibly disinherited (their lands etc. default to the Crown).
In World War I, this was inverted to some extent as Entente machine gunners were advised to rip off their machine gunner patches just prior to been captured by the enemy. This was because Central Powers troops hated them almost as much as artillerymen for killing so many of their friends.
Truth in Television to some extent, as witnessed by quotes from several US veterans of WWII; one submariner in particular recalled a captain who had been relieved as mentally unfit for a frontline command having his dolphins (submariner's insignia) torn off at the very same ceremony as he was awarded a Silver Star for his first patrol, by the same officer who had pinned the medal on.
A mass ritual was once done to the American Paratroopers in WW2, as explained in Band of Brothers. The 506th Regiment was given leave, but almost none of them returned before curfew. The next morning, the commander had the entire unit form up, and then drummed out one soldier from every company, complete with a lieutenant tearing off their jumpwings, stripes, Airborne badges, anything that would mark them as a paratrooper, before being sent off to the regular army with their uniform shredded.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, able to do little more but watch in horror from his office, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet Husband E. Kimmel removed his (acting/temporary/brevet) Admiral (four-star) insignia and replaced them with his (permanent) Rear Admiral (two-star) insignia, correctly anticipating this loss of status and command. (Officers cannot be reduced in permanent rank, but any temporary rank can be revoked.)
Modern US Army uniforms have rank insignia attached by Velcro. It's customary for commanders to tear off rank if a soldier is demoted, but this is usually done in private. (Although, to clarify, insignia are not attached by Velcro because of potential demotion. Sometimes it's better if unfriendly eyes can't tell who's in command.)
Sewn-on ranks normally have most of the threads cut prior to the soldier reporting to the commander for a demotion. This allows the commander to quickly and dramatically tear off the rank insignia to reinforce the psychological impact of the action. Or for the commander to take a razor to the threads in front of their supervisor and anyone else present. Given the cost and time of properly setting up dress uniforms, this has a fairly significant impact
Although it's pretty common for soldiers to tear off or trade ranks, nametapes, flags, and organizational patches just for the hell of it. Or to screw with one another.
Similarly, the first bombloads dropped onto Imperial Japan by American forces in WW2 were accompanied by dozens of medals that had been awarded to American servicemen in the previous war by the Japanese.
Marshal Zhukov often did it to generals. Since, theoretically, general ranks were only given and taken by the collective decisions of the government, and no one man could do it (in practice, it was about the same principle, but the real government was different), it's not surprising that in the end, Zhukov was kicked out himself.
An aversion in the same military: General Rokossovsky had been purged from the Red Army because he was a Pole. He lost all his teeth during NKVD interrogations in the Lubyanka and was sent to Siberia. When the Germans invaded they brought him back, giving him a set of steel dentures. Three years later he was commanding Operation Bagration and he directly objected to Josef Stalin's interference in his planning. Stalin advised him to think his objection over "three times"—after Rokossovsky's third objection, Stalin approached the marshal and put a hand on his shoulder. Rather than ripping off the epaulet or having him purged again, though, Stalin simply said: "Your confidence speaks for your sound judgement," and deferred to his (immeasurably-better) judgement. Rokossovsky's campaign went on to be one of the most decisive victories of the entire war.
Not long after Russell Williams was convicted of murder, the Canadian Forces burned his uniform and his commission scroll, destroyed his medals and crushed his official vehicle.
This seems to be a current practice for protesting veterans:
At the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, several veterans threw their medals in the streets.
Iraqi war veteran John Michael Turner publicly admitted to partaking in and witnessing war crimes while in Iraq at a press release before throwing his medals and stars to the ground.
When during the siege of Dresden in 1760 some outposts of the Prussian infantry regiment Anhalt-Bernburg (No. 3) were surprised and captured, Frederick The Great became convinced that the regiment had not done its duty properly and ordered the entire unit to remove some of the ornaments of its uniform, especially the lace decorating the buttonholes of the coat and the rim of the tricorne hat. However, a few weeks later the regiment performed such prodigious feats of valour in the battle of Liegnitz (among other things successfully charging an Austrian cavalry unit) that the king was mollified and restored everything.
An aversion of sorts in January 1945. After the failure of Operation Konrad to relieve The Siege of Budapest, Hitler ordered that the troops of the 1st SS Panzer Division (originally raised from Hitler's personal bodyguards) remove their unit insignia from their uniforms because they'd disgraced the name of the SS. Their commander ensured that this order was not actually carried out, not least because they might well have mutinied.