When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
...but I unpacked most of them when I got there.
Some items, such as photographs, jewellery, stuffed toys and family heirlooms, are imbued with more worth than money can buy.
They have sentimental value, and are a powerful link with a person or a memory. They can't be replaced on an insurance policy if they get stolen, because even if the replacement is identical, it doesn't have the same value as the original - it lacks the same connotations.
As such, these items are protected zealously, both in real life and in fiction. Sometimes they act as comfort blankets, when the protagonist is far from home and missing his mother. Sometimes, they're all they have to remind them
of a Doomed Hometown
. Either way, the audience is usually informed of these items' deep significance.
But occasionally, there comes a time when you decide that whatever that trinket represents is no longer important, or, more drastically, you come to realize that the person or memory it binds you to are not people or memories you want to be associated with any more. Maybe the boyfriend who gave the heroine her heart-shaped pendant has been two-timing her for the past year, or an ice skater finally realizes that they're too badly injured to make it as a champion, making their favourite skating boots a painful reminder of their lost dream. Either way, it's time to get rid of the MacGuffin
Usually, the item is an innocent scapegoat - the pendant itself didn't betray its owner, and the ice skates weren't driving the car that hit the protagonist. It's just that the hero(ine) can't actually get their hands on the person that's caused the problem, especially
if the change or misfortune is down to nothing more than luck or time. Characters who can get their revenge, and have no qualms about doing so, don't tend to bother with destroying jewelry - they just go and punch the offender's face in. It's the gentler, less violent characters, or those who really have no actual person they can blame, who decide It's All Junk
and get rid of a fairly innocuous item. Their destruction is purely symbolic, to show that the character is finishing a chapter of their lives and starting a new one.
It is quite rare for these objects to be sold, even if they are actually quite valuable. They're either destroyed (often with fire
) or discarded (if the hero is getting rid of them because they want nothing more to do with what they symbolise) or passed on to someone else (if the hero is acknowledging that their time in a particular role has passed and wants to hand the item down to someone who can make better use of it). By not even claiming the money they would make from a sale, the character further acknowledges that they reject their trinket and everything it stands for.
Sometimes it's not even a trinket - it can be something as big as a house
or even a home town.
Rarely, it might be a pet, though this has to be dealt with sensitively.
Broadly speaking, the destruction of an item in a fit of It's All Junk
can be quite sad; chances are, the audience will feel much the same about what the thing represents as the character does. If it's something established to have a personality (a pet or Empathic Weapon
) it can be downright heartbreaking.
Certain significant items, however, may refuse to be discarded...
Contrast with Memento MacGuffin
. No relation to What a Piece of Junk
, or Trash of the Titans
. See also Smash The Symbol
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Anime and Manga
- In Haibane Renmei, Kuu, the smallest of the Haibane, gives a large winter coat to Rakka, the newest Haibane. Rakka appreciates the gift, but only fully realizes its significance when the others explain to her that Kuu had kept the coat, which was too big for her, in the hope that she would eventually grow into it. By passing it over to Rakka, Kuu accepts that she will never grow to be as big as the other members of her group. This is a major turning point in the series - shortly afterwards, Kuu ascends in her "Day of Flight," which the Haibane can only achieve after dealing with their personal issues. In Kuu's case, this seems to have been disappointment in her status as a small, "unimportant" member of their society - which Rakka helps her overcome, by accepting Kuu's guidance and acknowledging the little Haibane as her senior/sempai. By giving the coat to Rakka, Kuu showed that she was content with who she was, and prepared to move on rather than chase the impossible.
- Juri, in Revolutionary Girl Utena, has a locket with a picture of her unrequited crush, Shiori. She throws it into the lake in an attempt to distance herself from the manipulative Shiori (water seems to be a popular method of disposal for such items...) only to have it return to her later in what seems to be a case of the Clingy MacGuffin it's not really - the locket doesn't make its own way back to Juri, someone plants it where Shiori will find it, and she then uses it to taunt Juri. When Utena finally destroys the locket in a duel, Juri finally begins to move on with her life rather than mourn her unrequited love.
- Manga angstfest MARS sees the painting that brought the Official Couple together in the first place incinerated, when the two lovers begin to doubt whether they can stay together.
- In Cowboy Bebop Jet keeps a broken pocket watch as a memento of his former lover Alyssa, who had walked out on him one day and left only the watch and a goodbye note without an explanation. Eventually Jet returns to Ganymede and meets up with Alyssa, now running a failing bar and having hooked up with a former criminal. She explains that she left Jet because she was tired of being taken care of and controlled, and prefers to try living on her own merits even if it means failing. Having obtained the closure of an explanation and realizing he's been unhealthily hung up on his own past (symbolized by the 'frozen time'), Jet tosses the broken watch into a canal and moves on.
- Although it wasn't entirely Sara's choice to have her musical necklace stolen in Soukou no Strain, nor was it Ralph's to have his crayon drawing blown to bits later on, it still strongly symbolizes that their connection has been severed and one of them will have to kill the other, Big Brother Worship or not.
- In Planetes, Yuri loses his wife in a spaceship accident in the opening seconds of the series. Her antique compass was in her hand, and it contained a message Yuri never got to read. He passes up lucrative opportunities in space industry to be an orbital garbage collector, secretly hoping against phenomenal odds to find that watch. By a small miracle, he manages to collect it; the message was "Please Save Yuri". However, as he finally comes to terms with his loss, he gives the watch to his co-workers brother, an amateur rocket builder, and tells him to put it back in space.
- Throughout the first season of Code Geass, Suzaku hangs onto his father's pocketwatch despite the fact that it was broken a long time ago; later on, after Lelouch shoots Euphemia dead, he leaves the watch with her corpse. Rather than marking the point where he leaves the past and looks towards the future, however, this serves to further reinforce his being tied to the past, but now by his rage over Euphy's death rather than his own guilt over killing his father.
- America tries to do this with all the gifts England gave him, but can't pull it off.
- The house of the Elric Brothers in Fullmetal Alchemist serves as this. After Ed got his state alchemist license, they burned the house where they had lived with their mother and the same place where they tried to revive her through human transmutation before going on their quest to find the Philosopher's Stone. According to Pinako Rockbell, the Elric brothers think if they do not have a home to return to, then the could continue moving forward and not have to turn back.
- At the beginning of the '90s revamp of Green Arrow, Black Canary burned her (ugly) Eighties costume, calling it "trash". Which would have been a bit more plausible if the story introducing the costume hadn't had as a plot point that it was extremely fire-resistant.
- An especially poignant example from Preacher, where the "junk" is the Saint of Killers' corpse, the skeleton of his mortal body before he became Heaven's hit man. Jesse Custer digs it up to get the Saint's attention; the Saint says "This ain't but bones" and smashes it.
- On the other hand, Jesse did get the Saint's undivided-and-pissed-off attention with that stunt, so he may Protest Too Much.
- An interesting example in Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan had always treasured a picture he has of himself when he was normal and his ex-wife. He just went ahead and dropped it on the ground showing him disregarding his last ties to humanity.
- In the Garfield picture book Garfield's Judgement Day, Garfield convinces the pets of his hometown to break their taboo against talking so they can warn their owners of an approaching natural disaster. One of these animals, an old dog, is unable to convince his elderly owner to leave their house. The man explains that he has no life outside of the house anymore since all of his memories are in it and at his age memories are all he has. The dog refuses to abandon his owner and waits for the oncoming storm. After the storm passes, the old man's house is wrecked and the dog is apparently dead, though the man himself is unhurt. The old man grieves over his friend, declaring that his memories and the house don't mean anything to him anymore since his dog is more important. Fortunately the old dog was just playing dead.
- In ''Sight When Ichigo disproved years of study by his non-violent confrontation and agreement with his Inner Hollow Hakuran; Urahara throws out his Visored research, furious that he hadn't found a solution to help the Visored at all.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Harry Potter: Harry goes through this moment with the Elder Wand, after it backfires on Voldemort and gives him the victory.
- In the movie, he literally snaps the wand. In the book, he simply puts it back with Dumbledore.
- Tamora Pierce's novels frequently deal with growing up, and the things we leave behind as a result:
- Alanna's sword, Lightning, was given to her by the gods in a dramatic scene. Imbued with magic, it was almost a character in itself. However, it is broken in the novel The Woman Who Rides Like A Man and, to repair it, she merges it with an "evil" crystal sword. Lightning is never quite the same afterwards, and Alanna finally abandons Lightning for good when she uses it to kill her nemesis and leaves it embedded in his corpse, to make sure he doesn't resurrect himself. Again. The loss of Lightning coincides with Alanna's acceptance of adulthood and its responsibilities, and the end of her life as a free roaming teenager/young adult.
- Protector of the Small uses the pet version of It's All Junk, but in a more gentle manner than usual. When Keladry leaves the palace to begin her apprenticeship as a squire, she leaves behind most of the sparrow flock she took care of as a page. Only a few of the most prominent birds follow Kel on her journey as a squire.
- In Circle of Magic, this is done to the point of overdose in The Will of the Empress. The now-grown up quartet of mages, Tris, Daja, Sandry and Briar, must leave Winding Circle Temple, their home, as no-one is allowed to stay there past the age of sixteen without becoming a Dedicate (priest/priestess). The house they grew up in, "Discipline Cottage," is now home to a new generation of troublesome mages. Even more poignantly, Tris leaves their pet dog, Little Bear, at the temple to keep the youngest of the new Discipline residents company. The Circle must begin their adulthood with little left but their magic and each other.
- In the Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum, the pastor Mightily Oats' most valued possession is his copy of the Book of Om. However, when Granny Weatherwax is freezing to death, he uses the book to start a fire. This is a major step on his journey to becoming a Badass Preacher
- Initially played straight in Wintersmith, when Granny Weatherwax makes Tiffany get rid of her precious silver horse pendant to stop the Wintersmith from following her. Of course, it finds its way back to her. Later averted; once the danger is over, Granny offers to teach Tiffany all her magical secrets if she'll throw it away. She refuses, which is probably the right answer.
- The novella The Pearl ends with the titular object being tossed back into the ocean after the struggle over it cost the life of the main character's son.
- In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, aspiring writer Francie keeps all her beautiful "A" Compositions. When her father dies, she starts writing more realistic stories about her father and how despite his faults, namely alcoholism, he was a good man. Her English teacher calls these stories "sordid" and tells her to burn them. Instead, she realizes the "good" compositions were cliched and insincere, and burns them.
- The Three Musketeers has the sapphire ring Milady gives to d'Artagnan. It was a gift from her ex-husband Athos who inherited it from his mother. The ex protests quite a lot when d'Artagnan tries to restore the ring to him and ultimately sells it.
- In Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, the traumatized soldier's foreign wife takes off her wedding ring after coming to England to be with him, only to have him descend into madness and neglect her. She tells him that it was because it doesn't fit in her finger anymore (she's lost weight because of their poverty), but he sees it as the end of their marriage. Somewhat subverted in that she didn't destroy the ring (not that one), but we're told puts it away in her purse instead.
- The Boyhood of Grace Jones shows the titular tomboy winning a gold ring for "Best Female Student" at the end of the year. She is proud and pleased, until the Best Male Student is announced, and it's a kid that never stands out in any way. Grace realizes that the two of them were merely chosen as the "students who caused the least problems to teachers," and is so disappointed that she not only gets rid of the ring, but forbids her proud parents from even mentioning it.
- Come to think of it, Grace's entire life is a series of It's All Junk moments.
Live Action TV
- At the end of Primeval Series 2, Nick Cutter tears up his photograph of lost love Claudia Brown, which was the last proof she existed at all.
- On The George Lopez Show, George inherits a watch from his deadbeat father, and his father's will also asks George not to go to the funeral, in order to keep his father's secret about having abandoned his wife and son. Because George is offended by the latter request, he destroys the watch in a fit of rage. Then he talks to his mother about it, and it is clear that he hadn't even considered the idea that it might have been better to sell the watch, and he clearly regrets overlooking this possibility.
- Taken to extremes on Track Me If You Can, a Discovery Channel program on how to avoid surveillance. The show's host demonstrates how to abandon your old life and go into hiding, by discarding everything that might tie you to your former identity: home, job, relationships, electronics, habits, preferences. Tossing out old mementos is just the beginning on this show.
- White Goods is a virtually unknown ITV drama (with a surprisingly awesome cast including Lenny Henry, Ian McShane, Rachel Weisz, Chris Barrie) about a severe falling-out between two families after they win a bunch of stuff in a game show and can't agree on how to divide up the loot. Lenny Henry's character eventually decides to burn the lot.
- An interesting contrast occurs in the Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) episode "Final Cut": Adama finds some old Caprican magazines left in a Raptor from a civilian run. Racetrack tells that she was gonna throw them away but Adama tells her to put them somewhere safe instead.
- An interesting case in True Blood. Back during the first season, after Gran is killed, Sookie seems to get violently attached to a pie that Gran had made, including rather violently screaming at a woman who took it out of the fridge to make room. A little later, when the denial and anger wear off, and acceptance starts to creep in, Sookie sits down and forces herself to eat the whole thing as a way of letting go.
- Married... with Children: One story arc featured Al temporarily leaving Peg. Marcy then encouraged Peg to destroy everything in the house that linked her to Al. It stopped when Peg unknowingly or not destroyed a gift from Marcy.
- Hoarders: The goal of the show's intervention is essentially this trope on a much larger scale, and the more successful hoarders are eventually able to recognize that most of their possessions are this. Essentially, the mental illness that leads to hoarding is the inability to distinguish truly valuable or useful items from junk.
- Several regenerations in Doctor Who result in trademarks of the Doctors getting trashed or snubbed, usually clothing items:
- When the Second Doctor gets up from the floor after first regenerating, the First Doctor's Ring of Power slips off his smaller new fingers and clatters to the floor. Ben points this out and takes it as evidence that the man cannot be the Doctor.
- The Fourth Doctor regenerates with a tamed, tidy, well-combed, dandyish hairstyle that is almost identical to the one worn by the Third Doctor. The very first thing he does, before he even opens his eyes, is ruffle it up with his hand into his trademark messy curls.
- At the start of the Fourth Doctor's regeneration story ("Logopolis"), the TARDIS begins to break down. Particularly, he is forced at one point to jettison Romana's bedroom (a recently departed companion who had stayed with him for at least decades of in-universe time).
- When the Fifth Doctor is wondering through the TARDIS in a delirious state after regenerating, he unravels the Fourth Doctor's signature super-long scarf as he goes, eventually working it down to nothing.
- The Fifth Doctor's 'death' storyline leads to him - and his pristine white and cream outfit - getting progressively more tattered and dirty, eventually being filthy rags by the time of his demise.
- The Seventh Doctor begins his Costume Test Montage with an emphasised shot of him very firmly tossing the Sixth Doctor's coat into a trunk. (This also served to indicate that the new regime was going to do away with the Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy of the Sixth Doctor era.) He then tries and discards a sequence of costumes similar to those belonging to other Doctors - a pastiche of the Fourth Doctor's outfit (he aggressively slings the hat at the floor), the frilly-shirt-and-smoking-jacket Third Doctor look, the Fifth Doctor's coat and cricket whites, and then finally the Second Doctor's fur coat - which he throws off to reveal his own outfit.
- The Eleventh Doctor's regeneration from the Tenth, which also signified a new showrunner taking over, leads to him destroying the Russell T Davies-era TARDIS (which changes into a new version) and shredding the Tenth Doctor's clothes to ragged ribbons.
- Just before the Eleventh Doctor regenerates into the Twelfth, he takes off his bowtie and there is a significant shot of it falling to the floor before the Twelfth Doctor suddenly bursts into existence.
- Paul in his third letter to the Phillipians:
"Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ."
- In the Tabletop RPG Exalted, it's become canon that a sorcerer has to make a sacrifice to enter the art, and increasingly greater sacrifices to go deeper into the art. Then again, these sacrifices don't have to be negative; the first sorceress is said to have learned the art by sacrificing her indecisiveness.
- In Avenue Q, Princeton gives Kate his lucky penny. When Kate believes Princeton had stood her up, she throws it off the top of the Empire State Building. Ironically, Kate inadvertently gets her revenge from this, since Lucy (who caused the whole mess) was passing by, and the penny nails Lucy in the head, knocking her into a coma.
- Towards the end of the Australian play Summer of the 17th Doll, one of the protagonists tears apart the titular doll in a fit of anger.
- In The Cherry Orchard, Ranevskaya's estate and the orchard itself serve as a link to her happier childhood. In contrast, for Lopahin and the other former peasants and serfs, it serves as a reminder of their miserable past. Ranevskaya isn't really able to let go of the past until Lopahin buys the estate in a mandatory auction and gets ready to chop down the orchard in order to put summer cottages there, forcing Ranevskaya to find happiness elsewhere.
- In Pool of Radiance: Return to Myth Drannor, Myth Drannor's resident baelnorn (an elven lich whose existence is tied to a place of power like Myth Drannor) made a deal with the Big Bad by offering her the secrets of Myth Drannor because the Big Bad promised to restore Myth Drannor to its former glory. Near the end of the game, the baelnorn has a Heel Realization and helps to foil the Big Bad. As he puts it, "The past I knew is gone. But the future can still be saved." This is especially poignant since baelnorns only exist to preserve and protect the past.
- Flik trashing his mother's necklace in Para-Ten.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Aang's glider-staff is one of his few remaining links to his dead-and-gone people, and was a personal gift from his father figure; it's not just tremendously useful, it's deeply sentimental. But at the start of Season 3, Aang and friends have to go undercover in the Fire Nation to prepare for their best chance at routing the now-unopposed power, and his glider-staff gets busted up badly. Accepting his inability to repair it, and that it would have too easily given away his identity, he stabs it into some rocks near a lava flow, where it bursts into flames. Even after he gets a new glider-staff later, it will never be that glider-staff (even if it does have a snack compartment).
- Zuko also burns some family pictures while he, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee discuss the ways in which their respective childhoods sucked.
- In an early episode of The Simpsons Marge reveals that when she was a teen, she used to paint portraits of Ringo Starr, only to be ridiculed by her art teacher. She left the paintings in the attic (except for one she mailed to Ringo) and never lifted a paintbrush again for years, until Lisa located the paintings and encouraged her to continue paintings, and after Ringo mailed her back to thank her for the painting.
- In "The Boys of Bummer", as part of his Humiliation Conga, Bart tears off his posters of The J. Geils Band from his wall after Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney sing an insulting version of their song "Love Stinks".
- Played surprisingly straight on Futurama, when Fry decides not to resurrect his dog's fossilized corpse. Though a form of subversion does appear, it's a rather unhappy one the reason Fry decides not to do so is because he believes his dog lived a full life after he (Fry) was frozen, however the audience finds out that his dog never did anything but keep waiting for Fry. This was eventually retconned in the first Futurama DVD movie. Many fans speculate the retcon was done exclusively because of how horrifically sad the original ending was.
- In the season five premiere of The Venture Bros., Dean burns his learning bed, along with many of his childhood relics, in an attempt to become his own man.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In Flight to the Finish, during her Heroic BSOD over her inability to fly, Scootaloo tears down her Rainbow Dash posters and throws her scooter in the trash can.
- In Trade Ya!, Twilight plans to trade away her old spell books, but changes her mind upon realizing their true value. One of the books happens to be a copy of Daring Do and the Sapphire Stone, which she gives to Rainbow Dash in consolation for her failed trade for a first edition copy. Double subverted when the books are destroyed along with the library at the climax of the season finale.
- In Twilight's Kingdom Part 2, Tirek claims that both his medallion and his own brother, who had originally given the medallion to him, are worthless. After betraying Discord and draining him of his magic, he uses this to explain that giving the medallion to Discord as a symbol of gratitude was an empty gesture. However, when Discord gives the medallion to Twilight after his Heel Realization, it becomes the final key to the Chest of Harmony.
- Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke Wellington was an accomplished violinist in his youth. The last thing he did before leaving his home to start his military career was to burn his violin.
- Many people have this experience—or desperately try to avoid having it, and end up with too much junk—while doing "spring cleaning".
- Traumatised by the First World War, the war poet Siegfried Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the River Mersey.
- Though in that case the symbolism of the Military Cross was irrelevant. He simply wanted to destroy something for the catharsis, and that was what was most readily to hand.
- "Narnia" author, C S Lewis as a child wrote regular stories about an imaginary world called "Boxen" with his brother, and based on the imagined personas of their stuffed toys. Eventually, they decided to ceremoniously bury all the toys and leave childhood behind. Though one could say the world lived on, in a sense, since many of the concepts were used in the Narnia works.