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What a Drag

It's not uncommon in fiction for one character to offend or otherwise anger another character (or group). The act of provoking a foul and violent response from someone is a trope as old as fiction itself. But what happens when it's not enough to beat the tar out of someone? Heck, what happens when it's not even enough to just shoot someone dead? Why, you do something that will inflict the pain of having one's skin torn off by fast-moving asphalt while being flung around chaotically, occasionally being thrown, at high speed, into stationary and possibly immovable objects!

When a character is mangled or killed by being tied or attached to something fast moving, like a car, this trope comes into play. The victim is dragged along the ground like a bag of screaming meat. This is a form of Cruel and Unusual Death and Cold-Blooded Torture, to say the least.

Of course, there are versions of this trope that aren't portrayed as quite so extreme. It is possible for a character to be dragged at lower speeds by methods of transportation less powerful than the average automobile. Not that getting a face full of dirt is much fun, either. Often Played for Laughs with Amusing Injuries in cartoons, with nonfatal examples of characters being dragged on a leash or rope across pavement, into trees and lampposts, and through openings much smaller than the victim.

Has nothing to do with dressing in drag.

See Dragged by the Collar for a Lighter and Softer version. Compare Wipe The Floor With You and Body Sled.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Claire Stanfield, pissed off and in need of information, subjects a Smug Snake mook to this in Baccano!. Being dragged across railroad tracks from a moving train is not a pleasant way to die.
  • In the anime of Trigun, some villagers take Vash for a drag after they find out who he is. Fortunately, Meryl intervenes before they get around to shooting him.
  • This is how Seras kills Zorin Blitz in Hellsing. No vehicle was involved here — just a vampire who has just been awakened to her true abilities and is supremely pissed grinding Zorin's face into the nearest wall at Super Speed.
  • Discussed in Silver Spoon: when Hachiken is learning to ride a horse, he's told that if he starts to slip off he should try to climb back up unless some part of him starts dragging along the ground. At that point hanging on becomes even more dangerous than letting yourself fall off.
  • Attempted in Hana Yori Dango. Thanks to Sakurako's machinations, Tsukushi finds herself taken for a drag in a speeding car while Kazuya is Forced to Watch. Tsukasa arrives and bails her out, but barely.

Audio Play
  • On We're Alive, Riley and Burt tie Tardust to the back of their vehicle and force him to run along behind until he falls. They then threaten to just keep dragging him if he doesn't tell them where Scratch is hiding.

Comic Books
  • Marv does this to an informant in Sin City.
    Marv: I don't know about you, but I'm having a ball.
  • The Punisher does this once to a homophobic priest who had killed a young gay man, sparking a near-war between the sheriff (the victim's lover) and the military supplies dealer (the victim's mother).
  • The fate of Ruby before becoming part of the supernatural court called the Juris in House Of Secrets.
  • In one Jughead's Diner story, a wedding is jeopardized by series Big Bad Sal Monella's mechinations, but things work out. At the end when the happy couple drive off, we see that Sal's been tied to the fender with the usual cans and things. ("Are they taking Sal along for the honeymoon?" "Nah, he should fall off after a couple of miles.")
  • This is how Sonic interrogated a robot's severed head in an early issue of Archies Sonic The Hedgehog.
  • In The New 52 reboot of Harley Quinn, she does this to an apathetic dog owner by dragging him behind her motorcycle after catching him dragging his poor dachshund behind him.

Film
  • Tiger in Fievel Goes West gets dragged along the rear of a stagecoach from somewhere not far from New York state to the Badlands. He makes little squeaky-toy noises right up until his unceremonious disembarkment.
  • The Wild Bunch has Mapache and his people torturing Angel this way in a truly despicable Kick the Dog moment.
  • Resident Evil: The monster that attacks the heroes in the train falls through a trap door in the floor and is dragged to death by its tongue along an electrified track while bursting into flames.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is dragged under the truck. Of course, being Indy, he is barely scratched. For filming the scene, they dug a trench in the road and the driver had to be careful to keep it in the center of the truck and the stunt man had to be lucky. If you look closely, you can see the trench.
  • In the John Wayne movie The Cowboys, the young boys send off the villain who has trapped his foot in a stirrup, his body dragging on the ground, by firing in the air to frighten the horse and letting it run off. Would have been kinder to just shoot him dead.
  • The Final Destination (the 3D one) has this combined with Kill It with Fire and a heavy dose of irony, when a racist wannabe is dragged by a car and burned alive in the process.
  • Michael Rooker's character dies this way in Tombstone
  • Messala's death in Ben Hur comes as a result of being dragged behind his chariot in the sand of the chariot race-course. Ouch.
  • Back to the Future III had Marty McFly taking a dirt-ride.
  • In Hot Shots!, Wash-Out gets dragged along by his parachute cord by an ambulance taking Pete "Dead Meat" Thompson to the hospital. Once the ambulance stops, he makes a Non Sequitur Thud but is shown to be alive and well, working as a radar operator.
  • King George, from the blaxploitation flick Coffy, meets his untimely demise in this manner.
  • The Pharoahs, a gang of greasers in American Graffiti, threatens to do this to one of the protagonists for sitting on their car.
  • An accidental version of this happens to an old lady's vicious pet dog in National Lampoon's Vacation.
    • The same gag was used in the succesful Italian comedy film Tre uomini e una gamba.
  • Kevin Kline's character in Wild Wild West is dragged across the ground by a gigantic magnet he happened to be holding.
  • In The Return of Hanuman, this is Played for Laughs, as Maruti's father gets pulled by two buffalos, hitting poles and even causing instant destruction of part of the village.
  • Played for laughs in Blazing Saddles when a townsman is lassoed and dragged in the mud.
    Well, that's the end of this suit!
  • The Colonel does this to Ron in The Warrior's Way: wrapping a whip around his neck and then dragging him behind a horse.
  • The titular character from Rob Roy is dragged behind Cunningham's horse after he's captured and being returned to the Marquis. By the time he makes it back, he's battered, bruised, and probably only needed another day or two like that before he would have died.
  • In Cowboys and Aliens, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (wrongly) punishes a hand for killing his cattle by letting him be dragged behind a horse.
  • Parodied in Rustlers Rhapsody. The Cattle Baron's daughter is dragged behind a galloping horse for miles. This results in not one bruise, broken bone, or scratch, just a single smudge on her face for the hero to clean off.
  • Accidentally happens in the original Stargate film. A giant pack animal called a mastadge drags Daniel a good distance... back home. This is how the team eventually meets the people of Abydos, and the whole ball gets rolling.
  • Happens in the live-action version of the Scooby-Doo movie. Scooby and Shaggy are escaping from creatures in human bodies by riding on a pair of Quadbikes. After picking up Shaggy's girlfriend Mary-Jane and driving on, one of the creatures grabs onto the back of Shaggy's Quadbike and is dragged along a short distance before been thrown off when they go around a bend. (It's interesting to note that during this short sequence, Shaggy even yells "Like, what a drag!")
  • During the arena battle in Attack of the Clones, Artoo rips Threepio's head off the battle droid body and drags it behind him to his real body to reattach it. With Threepio delivering a series of really bad puns along the way.
  • In The Unknown, Malabar and Nanon have an act, where the strongman's arms are seemingly pulled in opposite directions by two horses (who are actually on hidden treadmills). Alonzo attempts to sabotage this act so Malabar is really ripped apart by the horses.

Literature
  • In The Iliad, Achilles drags Hector's body with his chariot after killing him.
  • In The Last Book in the Universe, Ryter is executed this way. It appears to be a common method of execution in the latches.
  • In Rod Serling's anthology The Season to be Wary there is a very, very dark example of this. There is no sympathy for the victim, though.
  • An assassin who tries to kill the Khaleesi in A Song of Ice and Fire is punished by having his neck and arms tied behind her horse as she breaks camp.
    "He won't be harmed... as long as he can keep up."

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of The League of Gentlemen had a Running Gag where a cyclist rode past the central characters. At first, he was pulling along a reluctant dog on a leash; the next time, the dog was being yanked along struggling to keep up; next, it was being dragged along the street, and the final time we see them there's just a hunk of meat bouncing along behind the bike. It's that kind of show.
  • In an episode of Supernatural, the Winchester boys had to re-kill the ghost of a man killed in this manner by... killing it in this manner. Specifically, they had to find a way to scare a ghost to death. They just figured that re-experiencing its own death might scare it enough.
  • Happened accidentally in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. A girl was pushed out of a car, but she got tangled in the seat belt, dragging her along until she died.
    • CSI also subverts it in at least one case, where the corpse of a bride's mother turns up dragged behind the couple's car, but it turns out she died earlier.
  • In the German series Zweite Heimat, one of the characters waits too long to board a tram car and gets caught in the closing door and dragged to his death.
  • This happened in Heroes to Jeremy, a boy who could heal or kill people with a touch.
  • In Taggart, a cop series set in Glasgow, a "fight" between two criminals entailed a woman chasing a man across waste-ground, trying to run him over with the Transit van she was driving. When she got out, she found her bound and gagged son attached to the van's underside. He'd been alive and well until she tried to use the van as a weapon...
  • MythBusters took a stab at this one to see if it was possible that the friction from being dragged behind a horse would make denim ignite. Tory did not enjoy the experience much (the field through which he was dragged was littered with horse dung), even covered in protective gear though his pants remained fire free. They determined the pants would fray before they would ignite.
  • The Piranha Brothers sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    Vince Snetterton-Lewis (Graham Chapman): Well, one day I was sitting at home, threatening the kids, when I look out through the hole in the wall and I see this tank drive up. And one of Dinsdale's boys gets out, and he comes in all nice and friendly like and says Dinsdale wants to have a talk with me. So he chains me to the back of the tank and takes me for a scrape round to Dinsdale's place.
  • One Victim of the Week in the Midsomer Murders episode "Blood on the Saddle" is killed by being lassoed and then dragged along behind a horse.
  • The Unsub of the Week did this to another Serial Killer on one episode of Criminal Minds. The unsub chained him to the back of a truck and dragged him along the street.
  • In Top Of The Lake a family of thugs accidentally kill a guy who they were trying to frighten by dragging him across a lake in a rubber ring behind a speedboat. He got caught with his face in the water and drowned.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Season 3 'the Bitter Suite', Xena rides a galloping horse and drags Gabrielle through rocks, fire and sea. Gabrielle is covered in cuts and bruises, but she can still fight competently.
  • The Closer: In "Elysian Fields", a suspected rapist and murderer is dragged behind a car by someone torturing to get him to reveal the location of the bodies of his victims.
  • Monk: The first on-screen murder in "Mr. Monk and the 12th Man". A driver stops at a tollbooth and asks the guy manning the booth if his name is Frank Pulaski. When Pulaski says yes, the driver demands the change to his $10 bill. When Pulaski reaches out his hand to give the driver the change, the driver suddenly handcuffs his left wrist to a long piece of rope, then floors on the gas pedal. Pulaski's partner attempts to cut the rope, but it's too late, and the partner can only watch as Pulaski is dragged to his death. It's said by Captain Stottlemeyer in the crime scene investigation that Pulaski got dragged about 0.7 miles, and the remains aren't exactly pretty.
Newspaper Comics
  • Parodied in one panel of The Far Side, where three cowboys attempt to drag a varmint through the desert — but they've tied him to themselves instead of the horse.
  • Dick Tracy: Wormy tries to kill Tracy by chaining him to the back of a car and dragging him along the road. Tracy is able to unhook the chain, but not before he is pretty badly banged up by the ordeal.

Professional Wrestling
  • In 2002, after Hulk Hogan destroyed his motorcycle by running it over with a semi-truck, the Undertaker (in his American Badass biker character) attacked Hogan, tied his feet to a rope, tied the other end to Hogan's own motorcycle and dragged him through the halls of the building.

Real Life
  • The 1998 dragging murder of James Byrd Jr., an African-American, in East Texas by three men, two of whom were white supremacists.
  • The Huns liked to lasso enemy infantry around the neck from horseback and drag them until their necks snapped.
  • Keelhauling. Ouch.
  • Speaking of old punishments, hanging, drawing and quartering, the old English form of execution for commoner men convicted of high treason (commoner women were burned at the stake; nobles of both sexes were beheaded) typically began with being dragged down the cobblestone streets of the city, tied to a board. It goes From Bad to Worse from there. Much worse.
  • Inverted by the "Nantucket sleighride", a tactic of old-time whalers, in which a harpooned whale would drag a longboat until it succumbed to blood loss and exhaustion. Occasionally subverted if the tether broke, or played straight if the whale turned back and flipped or demolished the longboat.
  • Subverted for the survivors of the Trashman, a sailboat that sank off the Carolina coast, when they tossed a chunk of wood on a line out of their zodiac as a sea anchor. As the wood was stained by an injured survivor's blood, a big shark grabbed it and dragged the small boat several meters, but let go once it realized it wasn't food.
  • Equestrians as a group are very concerned about this accidentally happening if a rider's foot is caught in the stirrup if they fall off. Because of this, one saddle may have more than three different safety devices to prevent this and anti-dragging inventions are the equine world's version a better mousetrap.

Tabletop Games
  • In Star Fleet Battles, it's possible for a ship to grab a shuttle/fighter with a tractor beam and do a "death drag" — pulling the smaller ship at high speeds until it's destroyed.

Video Games
  • The finisher for the leader of the Shamans from Madworld is Jack performing this using a leash and his motorcycle.
  • One possible use of the lasso in Red Dead Redemption is using it to drag enemies nuns behind your horse.
  • Happens to Carlos in Saints Row 2, resulting in the player character giving him a Mercy Kill.
  • A selling point of Just Cause 2 is the ability to use Rico's Grappling Hook Gauntlet to attach anything to anything else. This includes mooks to cars, helicopters, fighter planes, and jumbo jets.
  • Ryuji Yamazaki from The King of Fighters does that as one of his supers.
  • The Heroes of Newerth hero Rampage can do this with his rhino. Or his unicorn.
  • The Smoker from Left 4 Dead drags victims by its tongue and/or intestines, and in multiplayer the dragging will indeed damage the victim, though the real damage doesn't start until the Smoker has pulled the victim close enough to start clawing away.
  • Red Steel 2 starts off with the Hero getting tied to a motorcycle and becoming subject to this trope. Despite of being dragged over and into rocks, sand, cacti, broken glass, oil drums, and fire, not to mention hitting pavement hard and nearly getting run over by a semi however, he escapes and walks off without a scratch.

Western Animation
  • The Venture Bros.:
    "Clues? Clues to WHAT, man? There's no mystery here."
    "Clues to why I don't drag you behind my van until you're nothing but a pelvis wearing a belt."
  • When Bender and Amy from Futurama fell in love, it was forbidden because it was robosexuality. Amy's parents came from Mars to take her home. She refused, so her father dragged her back with a lasso.
  • This happened to Claude Cat in the Looney Tunes short "Terrier Stricken" (Jones, 1952), when Frisky Puppy unraveled a sweater and Claude tried to get rid of him by tying one end of the yarn to the back of a parked truck. Claude follows the unspooled sweater to the end of the string, which has been wound around banisters, through plumbing fixtures, and all sorts of weird places. Claude is still holding the string when the truck outside takes off, dragging him along behind.
  • In South Park, this was one of many, many death of Kenny.
    Stan: Well, who didn't see that coming.
  • In the very first episode of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, "Thomas and Gordon", Gordon pays Thomas out for being an obnoxious brat by dragging him along behind the Express.


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