What Do You Mean, It's Phlebotinum?
It's not easy being an alien on Earth
As if the usual shenanigans weren't enough, now
your ship is critically low on phlebotinum
, and all these benighted savages use is oil, gas and electricity...
But hey, what's this? Your sensor-bot beeps loudly!
The natives do
have phlebotinum - they just don't know it.
Excitedly you tell your native friends about your discovery,
but they just look strangely at you. "What Do You Mean, It's Phlebotinum?"
, they ask. "That's PIZZA!"
Truly, these Earthlings are a silly lot.
Compare Mundane Solution
, Worthless Yellow Rocks
, Solid Gold Poop
, Powered by a Forsaken Child
To truly fit in this trope, the material should be of immediate use
- serve as fuel, weapons, medicine, field repair parts, etc.
If it's valuable as raw material or for monetary value, it's very close to an inverted Worthless Yellow Rocks
, and should first be considered for addition there.
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- Some incarnations of Venom of Spider-Man fame feed off of a chemical found in the human brain. Eventually Eddie and he discover that this same chemical just prominent enough in chocolate bars to sustain him.
- One issue of MAD (back when it was still an anthology) had an alien whose planet was destroyed by unstoppable goo. Turns out it's strawberry Jell-O. He freaks out on realizing it.
- Similar to the Back to the Future example, "makers" (nanomachine hubs that can assemble almost anything) in Transmetropolitan can run either on "base blocks" of transmutable matter... or on garbage. People are shown collecting street garbage before the garbagemen can come clean the streets, so that they can run their makers cheaply.
- Makers can work on anything. It's just that garbage is free. The advantage of "base blocks" is that they're hyperdense, which means a lot of matter to be used, so a maker can run on one for a long time.
Film - Animation
- In Monsters Inc., the monster civilization gets all its energy from... the screams of children. And the laughs, which are far more powerful.
Film - Live Action
- There's a short story about a friendly alien coming to earth and befriending some human children. He is seeking a legendary device that somehow knows how to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. He leaves happily with a thermos.
Live Action TV
- The 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once helped a stranded alien to fix his spaceship and get home. At the end of the episode, he was only missing the ship's fuel source, "grutnyp". It turned out to be pizza.
- The premise of Sheep in the Big City consists of the military pursuing the eponymous sheep in order to power their “sheep-powered raygun“.
- Subverted in one episode of Futurama. Fry finds himself with a large heap of money and uses much of it to buy the last can of anchovies in existence, bidding against the megamogul Mom. Mom, seing the amount he pays for it, reasons that the anchovies must have some special property, like their oil being able to lubricate every robot in the world forever, but as it turns out, Fry just likes anchovies a lot.
- In one episode of Mighty Max, it turns out that aliens want Earth's toxic and radioactive waste; it's apparently an extremely valuable commodity on their home planet. Win-win for Earth, Max and the aliens.
- Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends had an episode where travelers from the future needed three substances to repair their ship. Spiderman's friends identified two of them as rare compounds found in lava and deep ice water, respectively... the third turned out to be ivory.