Yugi: Yeah, because obviously he couldn't have just destroyed them or anything.
Shadi: The power of the cards was too great for them to be simply destroyed.
Yugi: Riiiight, so the power of the Egyptian Gods prevented a guy from tearing up a few pieces of paper that he painted himself. Sure. Okay.
Shadi: As I was saying—
So, the Big Bad
plans on grabbing the MacGuffin
to take over the world, and Blah Blah Blah
, whatever. Sheesh. You can't help but wonder just what the deal is here. If it weren't for the MacGuffin, status quo would reign
and most of the conflict in the plot would vanish. Everyone would be happy. In light of the inconvenience the MacGuffin is causing the universe, you really have to wonder why nobody decides to go ahead and Just Eat The MacGuffin.
Well, there are reasons
. A common one is to make the MacGuffin completely indestructible, and thus a major inconvenience for anyone to try to effectively get rid of. It could regenerate. There could be so many of them that simply getting rid of them all in this way isn't an option. The MacGuffin might serve some essential purpose that would screw everything up if it was obliterated
. And even then destroying the MacGuffin is floated as a possible last resort should it get in enemy hands. Or it could turn out to be a person
and the only way to get rid of it is to kill her...And That Would Be Wrong
At worst this trope can manifest itself at the last minute with no attempts at justification. It's a bit of a cheat, after all, to resolve the plot with MacGuffin destruction
when the MacGuffin could have been destroyed at just about any previous point in the story.
Another excuse is to Just Think of the Potential
. Also compare We Win Because You Didn't
and No MacGuffin, No Winner
For when the problem is a character rather than a MacGuffin, see Just Eat Gilligan
If there are sound reasons given within the work for why the "single simple action" can't be taken, or won't work, it's not this trope. Don't add it as an example.
If the characters do try the single simple solution and it doesn't work, it's also not this trope. Again, don't add it as an example.
This trope is not just eating the MacGuffin
in the literal sense; this trope is asking the question, "why not just destroy the damn MacGuffin
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Anime and Manga
- Goku literally attempts to do this to one of the Dragon Balls in an effort to stop Syn Shenron from becoming Omega Shenron (again) in Dragon Ball GT. The results are: a Crowning Moment of Funny watching him nearly choke to death in the attempt to swallow it, a W-T-F moment when the ball APPEARS IN HIS FOREHEAD for no discernible reason, and eventually failure when Syn Shenron manages to re-absorb it anyway.
- In the original Dragon Ball manga and anime, Piccolo Daimao actually swallows two of the titular MacGuffins to prevent the heroes for stealing them, though he's able to spit them back up with ease.
- And in Dragon Ball Z during the Frieza saga, when the Ginyu Force manages to steal most of the Dragon Balls from the heroes, Vegeta tells Krillin to destroy the last remaining one they have to prevent them from delivering them all to Frieza. Krillin attempts to smash it to pieces, but Guldo freezes time long enough to get the final ball from him.
- In Vision of Escaflowne, the characters spend several episodes in a futile effort to keep the Big Bad from getting access to a sealed vault full of energy needed to implement his plans. Since the entire purpose of the nation guarding the vault is to ensure that nobody ever opens it, one has to wonder why they didn't just destroy the key centuries ago.
- In Kyou Kara Maou, there are four keys needed to unlock the Sealed Evil in a Can, which can bring about the end of the worlds as we know them. Four easily destroyed keys. Of course, there are several good reasons not to...
- One Piece has a villainous and justified version. The World Government would probably prefer to destroy the Poneglyphs that have the only known record of the Blank Century inscribed on them, with the possible exception of the one describing the location of Pluton. Said Poneglyphs are frustratingly impervious to harm, so the Government resorts to killing anyone who can read them. Tom the shipwright also kept Pluton's blueprints despite the risk of someone steaing them just in case he needed to build another ship to counter the threat of the original Pluton. He eventually does destroy the blueprints after they are almost stolen.
- The Infinity Gauntlet — an artifact that grants literally unlimited power when assembled — cannot be used to will itself out of existence. The best the Marvel heroes can do is remove and scatter its six component gems, with mixed results. So of course when they actually need them in New Avengers to prevent multiversal destruction, they break after one use.
- One of the complaints of the second Hellboy movie was that they destroyed the crown pieces at the end, when they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by doing it as soon as they found them.
- In the live-action Transformers film, Optimus Prime says that if there's no other way to keep the Allspark out of Megatron's hands, he'll shove it into his own spark to destroy it. This option is a last resort because it would also kill Optimus. In the end, Sam shoves it into Megatron's instead. But as the sequel shows, turns out that doesn't quite work.
- The ending to Titanic involves this. Not for any reason, mind you. She just destroys it for the symbolism. And she doesn't really "destroy" it so much as "put it in a place where absolutely no one will find it and didn't tell anyone."
- Double Subverted in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy threatens to destroy the Ark, but Belloq calls his bluff.
- In the first Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie, the Illuminati want to assemble the MacGuffin to take over the world. Lara just happens to find a part and, despite knowing what he wants with it, assists the Big Bad in finding the other. All because she wanted to use it herself, just to get closure on the fate of her father. That's right, she risked the entire world on a personal issue that was resolved in half a minute, and then destroyed the MacGuffin anyway.
- The individuals responsible for separating the Triangle over 5000 years ago clearly believed that no-one should have the power of the Triangle, yet decided to hide the pieces at the ends of the Earth instead of destroying them.
- Under Siege 2 Dark Territory: Steven Seagal spends half the movie keeping the specially encoded CD the villain needs to carry out his evil plot out of the evil villain's hands. He should have just broken the darn thing.
- In The Incredible Hulk (2008 film), Bruce Banner eats the flash drive containing the information he needs to cure his condition. However, in this case it's not to protect it from the military so much as from the Hulk, as Bruce realized he was about two minutes away from Hulking out. Later, when he's back to normal, we hear him... "retrieving it" in a motel bathroom.
- In The Twins Effect one of the girls does just this to kill the Big Bad.
- Adam Sandler's character tries to do this to the MacGuffin in Click by either throwing it away or destroying it, but each time he does it keeps magically reappearing on his person. He finally gives up after learning the next time it appears on him it'll be "where the sun don't shine." At the very end when he's given the chance to redo things over, he again receives the remote and immediately disposes of it. It doesn't come back this time.
- In The Avengers, when Black Widow tells Bruce Banner about the Tesseract and how it emitts gamma radiation, he asks if Fury wants him to swallow it.
- In For Your Eyes Only, James Bond is sent to recover a British nuclear missile launching device before the Russians can get it. Of course, the British don't really need it, they just need other people to not have it. It's sunk to the bottom of the ocean, so Bond dives down, carefully defuses the bomb that it's attached to... why? Just trigger the bomb in some fashion. Okay, maybe he can't do that remotely for some reason. So, he defuses the bomb and starts to make his escape, and the bad guys attack! Bond fights to protect the device instead of just destroying it. Bad guys steal it. Bond tracks them to their layer and steals it back. Only at the last minute, when Bond is in a pincher between two advancing groups of bad guys does he throw it off a cliff and watch it shatter. He then dares to call this "detente" and suggest the game is a tie because neither side got it. Even worse, the Russians accept this argument! But his side didn't need it! The British got exactly what they wanted!
Live Action TV
- The classic Doctor Who serial The Daleks' Master Plan is basically a long chase story after the First Doctor steals a key component of a Dalek superweapon. He mentions that he has plans to destroy it, but isn't able to do so before he's eventually forced to turn it over. Then Death by Irony sets in at the end of the story, after the Doctor sabotages the weapon itself and the Daleks are forced to try to destroy it themselves.
- Played with (lampshaded, averted, subverted, or any combination of the above) in the first season finale of Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, when Krod attempts to swallow the MacGuffin, which is a vial of pagan tears (just go with it), rather than hand it over to the Big Bad. He then proceeds to choke on it and eventually cough it up. His cohorts mock him and offer alternative solutions: he could have crushed the vial, or opened it and swallowed just the tears. The Big Bad then laments that he was rather looking forward to dissecting Krod to get the vial.
- Played with in the season 6 finale of Stargate SG-1 when the team is pinned down by Anubis's forces in the temple on Abydos. O'Neill attaches a block of C4 with a remote detonator to the MacGuffin, then trades it for safe passage to the gate.
- In Skies of Arcadia, the characters all live in a world of Floating Continents where falling off of an airship is as good as death. Even assuming the Moon Crystals are indestructible, tossing them overboard would make them impossible for anyone to acquire. Although it is eventually revealed that they were originally hidden in dungeons in case the Silvites wanted to use them again, not because of their destructive potential, no such excuse exists for the protagonists, who are only interested in preventing anyone from using them.
- Even after the protagonists learn The Empire actually has technology that allows them to reach the the planet surface beneath the clouds, leaving them to search the entire world's worth of muddy sea floor equivalent would still mean the Big Bad would die of old age long before finding them.
- At one point during the game, Enrique even mentions that he considered destroying the crystals (exactly how is never explained, other than dropping them into Deep Sky), but decided to give them back to our heroes for sake of the plot. If only he had know what would happen later, he probably should have.
- Fina was under explicit orders to retrieve them, not destroy them.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Justified in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, where one of the partners suggests that they might not want to gather the Crystal Stars (which sealed away the Shadow Queen), in case they got them together only to have the villains steal them to use them to open the door and take over the world, but Frankly says that as the seal on the Thousand-Year Door is weakening over time, they need to use the Crystal Stars in order to seal the Shadow Queen up for good, which would also preclude destroying the stars.
- Inverted in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team; when the Pi'illos used the Dark Stone to seal Antasma in the Dream World, Antasma crushed it as he was imprisoned, turning the Pi'illos to stone. Subverted later on when Dreambert tells Peach and Starlow to do the same to the Dream Stone to keep Bowser from wishing on it; they successfully shatter the Dream Stone, but Bowser simply inhales the fragments and goes One-Winged Angel as a result.
- Mega Man ZX Advent actually demonstrates the Genre Savvy use of this trope. In the Quarry, Grey/Ashe have an encounter with Aile/Vent, and the two get in a fight over what to do with the Model W in its depths. The former finds the Model W fused to a Spidrill and are forced to destroy both. It turns out that destroying the Quarry's Model W was the whole reason Aile/Vent were there in the first place! Unfortunately, just its destruction wasn't enough to keep Ouroboros from forming, but you have to give the gang credit for trying.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, nearing the end of the first case, Phoenix attempts this with a crucial piece of evidence... That piece of evidence being a glass vial that was once full of poison.
- A villainous and justified version occurs in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Zant broke the Twilight Mirror into four pieces, and scattered them across Hyrule to prevent someone from using it against him. It is explicitly stated he did not merely destroy it instead, because as a usurper king he couldn't. All he could do is fracture it, whether or not he could have fractured it into more than four pieces is another question. At the end of the game, Midna destroys the mirror to prevent someone from using it for evil ever again.
- The Justice League episode "A Knight of Shadows" has the heroes trying to keep the Philosopher's Stone away from Morgan Le Fay. When they acquire it, they lock it in the Watchtower—and it ends up being stolen. The story concludes with the stone being crushed to dust—which raises the question of why they bothered to lock it in the watchtower in the first place.
- Similarly in "Paradise Lost", where the League are forced to retrieve three artifacts that combine into the key that can free the Sealed Evil in a Can. In this case, the League can't destroy the key before the end of the episode, because there are lives at stake, but why didn't the people who locked him up in the first place destroy the key instead of just breaking it into three easily-recombinable pieces?
- Also in the Static Shock JL crossover, with the League keeping the last piece of Brainiac in the Watchtower. Batman even lampshades the fact that they'd be better off with it destroyed, but why it's kept intact goes unexplained. Naturally, it gets loose mere minutes later.
- In Xiaolin Showdown after Master Fung's "We Win Because You Didn't" demonstration, Omi opts to "destroy" the Golden Tiger Claws, a teleporting Shen Gong Wu. He opens a portal to the Earth's core and throws the Claws themselves through it. Subverted in a later episode when the heroes need the Claws to defeat an otherwise-unstoppable monster - Omi uses the Serpent's Tail to retrieve them.
- Jackie tries this in Jackie Chan Adventures by destroying the talismans rather than allow the Big Bad to take them. Uncle then yells at him, because by destroying the talismans he's released their power into the world and now they Gotta Catch 'Em All all over again, this time with their powers imbued into living animals.
- In Robot Boy, Dr. Kamikazi would not be able to take over the world if you destroy the show's title character. The reason the other characters don't do it is simple: he's their friend.
- It was standard procedure in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) for He-Man to stop Skeletor or another villain from obtaining a rare artifact of great power by destroying it. Even when the artifact actually belonged to someone else and the act was done without permission. In one poignant example, one such artifact belonged to an ancient warrior whose sole remaining purpose in life was to protect it from harm, and his situation was quickly resolved by shanghaiing him onto the protagonist team.
- In the Avalon arc of Gargoyles, the Archmage literally eats one of his MacGuffins, the Grimorum Arcanorum, so as to make the knowledge contained within an inherent part of him. This ultimately led to him getting lethal indigestion when Goliath steals the Eye of Odin, the MacGuffin that enabled the Archmage to safely contain the book within his body.
- In the Garfield special Garfield's Feline Fantasies, Garfield's main dream involves the Banana of Bombay as the MacGuffin. After recovering the banana, he eats it and explains to Odie "it's just a fantasy".
- Happens to a magnet in Reboot.
- In The Venture Bros., all of the fighting over the Orb was rendered meaningless because one guy in the past asked himself "why not just break the damn thing?" and did it.