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What Measure Is a Mook?

[W]henever a massacre of Armenians is reported from Asia Minor, every one assumes that it has been carried out "under orders" from somewhere or another; no one seems to think that there are people who might like to kill their neighbours now and then.
Creator/Saki

When the hero confronts the Big Bad, no matter his crimes, he will spare him, despite all logic being against it; however, when he kills a Mook who happens to be in his way, it's no big deal.

Why? Because Red Shirts and Mooks are not generally seen as people. After all, they lack a name and other distinguishing characteristics (sometimes they don't even get a face), so they also have no identity or soul.

This is generally done intentionally. A primary antagonist, even if their face is somehow concealed, will likely have a very distinctive appearance and a considerable amount of dialogue. However, mooks are often clones or wear masks (perhaps even both), and consequently have very little chance of surviving an encounter with the hero.

However, there are exceptions that can save a mook. If the mooks switch sides (a rare event), they usually get the benefit of Redemption Earns Life; additionally, if they were Good All Along and only doing evil because they had no choice, they have a shot. Also, some works of (generally kid-friendly) fiction explain the heroes used a Non-Lethal K.O. on their foes.

Subtrope of Protagonist-Centered Morality. Compare What Measure Is a Non-Super?, What Measure Is a Non-Unique?, and What Measure Is a Non-Human?. A Million Is a Statistic can be this when applied to mooks in large numbers. Contrast Immortal Life Is Cheap. Pay Evil unto Evil normally goes hand-in-hand with all this mookocide, often with sneers about the way mooks will go around Just Following Orders. Sometimes justified(?) by the assumption that mooks are Always Chaotic Evil, though, as many examples show, entirely innocent Gullible Lemmings are often gunned down, as well. Breakout Mook Character may be a subversion. Mook Horror Show is a popular Sub-Trope.

Before adding an example, consider this: is the Final Boss treated any better than the mooks? If not, it's probably not an example. Additionally subversions of the Red Shirt kind go in A Million Is a Statistic.

Examples

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     Comic Books  
  • Ruthlessly subverted and taken apart in Hench, by Adam Beechen and Manny Bello. In this graphic novel, a professional henchman (he's worked with a lot of supervillains, and tells us which are good bosses and which ones to stay away from at all costs) reflects on his life, and how it got so crazy. He isn't in the life For the Evulz so much as having no other way to make a living and support his kid.
  • Volume One, Issue Twelve of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, titled "Best Man Fall", is a Posthumous Character study of a guard who appeared in only one panel of a previous issue. It shows various snapshots from his life, up until the point where he gets shot. While he's far from the a saint, it still works to make you feel sad for him dying.
    • This ends up being one of the running themes for the series, where mooks are often depicted as something more than grunting savages with guns before getting gunned down by the heroes. Yeah, it starts to wear on them, too.
  • One of the many Star Wars comic series, called Empire, focuses on the Empire's side of the conflict against the Rebels. One of the main characters is an up and comer in the Empire who gets mocked because he cares about the lives of each and every Stormtrooper.
  • Actively defied at the end of Empowered volume 2, in which the heroine earns a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming by showing she does care about a mook's family.
  • In FrankMiller's The Dark Knight Returns, Batman won't kill the Joker even though his grinning adversary has recently murdered a studio full of people, on live TV. Earlier on, however, he has no hesitation about using a gang member as a Human Shield, and then turning that gangster's machine-gun on his buddies. Sure, the gangsters were bad but WTF, Millar?
    • That was a split decision to save his own life. The Joker was already beaten. Just to be safe, Batman applied enough pressure to paralyze him from the neck down.
  • One of the last few G.I. Joe comic books ("America's Elite") had a flashback to the early days of G.I. Joe and the evil Cobra. One of the undercover operatives was saying (paraphrased) "Yes, General Flagg, some of them are jerks but a lot of them are just confused people, they aren't really bad."
  • The subject is explored in the Astro City arc Dark Age when Royal and Charles go undercover as mooks in Pyramid.
  • This trope is brought up sometimes in Sin City, despite the protagonists' violent nature. Marv refused to kill the initial set of cops sent against him and he employed similar methods when deaking with the henchmen at the Lord's estate, Wallace only killed a few assassins since he was one of the few SC characters who didn't like killing, Hartigan killed the guards at the Farm but mentioned that he hated doing it, and Dwight once questioned whether or not he should kill a cop on the grounds that he might be one of the few honest ones.
  • In the most recent Wolverine comics, one issue explores the background of a female Hand ninja, known best for being Marvel's go-to mooks for stories set in Japan. The ninja dies early on during one of Logan's frequent rampages. The Hand brings her back to life only to serve as the human equivalent of a broodmare. She refuses and instead joins the Right Red Hand, a group of people who blame Logan for ruining their lives.
  • One issue of Tales of the TMNT goes into the backstory of a new recruit to the Foot Clan ninjas—his family, his personality, and why he wanted to join the Foot. He comes back from his first fight with the turtles in a body bag.
  • Fables loves to subvert this. We see bits and pieces of the Emperor's forces, background, interests, beliefs... Boy Blue while he is sneaking through the Empire gives the goblins he questions the chance to surrender when he confronts them since he just wants information. (Not his fault they kept attacking him.)
  • Transformers IDW comics had both types of Aversions. There was a group called the Machination, where Humans would have themselves augmented into Transforming robot heads, and control giant robot bodies. When the Autobots fight them, they only stun them or cause them to crash, despite the fact that they've tried to kill the Autobots several times, almost killed Ironhide, and painfully took apart Sunstreaker. By Maximum Dinobots, The Monsterbots and Dinobots, being the most violent of the Autobots, gleefully kill, dismember and even eat the Humans, and are only stopped from killing their leader because Ultra Magnus wants to arrest and try him(and more importantly, the Decepticon he merged with) for crimes on many other planets.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: The Decepticon Scavengers (six Mauve Shirts) discuss this trope, during one battle, where Optimus and Megatron shut themselves off and plugged into a neural network. They could see the battle from the eyes of all their troops, and used it to better coordinate their attacks, The Scavengers say troops were reduced to numbers and statistics, and at the end of the day, the only thing separating the sides were that the Autobots had the decency to collect their dead while the Decepticons left their troops corpses to decay.
  • Spider-Man:
    • There was something like this in the story "Light the Night", a rather dramatic multipart story exploring the Hidden Depths of Spidey's old enemy Electro. A subplot of the story dealt with a common criminal who Spidey had caught on numerous occasions, but could never remember from one time to the next. The guy hated Spider-Man, not so much because he kept getting punched out and webbed to the wall; he even said he wouldn't mind so much if, for once, Spidey remembered who he was! Eventually, the guy tries to pull a grandiose stunt and rob a high-class party, pretending to be a super-villain (doing a rather lame job of it), and when Spidey shows up, again, he seems enraged by his "arch-enemy's" presence, but Spidey has no-idea who he is. It becomes a moot point a minute later, as Electro tries to pull an even bigger stunt that threatens to wipe out the entire city block. Still, after the real villain is apprehended, the story ends somewhat happy for the guy; he runs into a beautiful socialite from the party who doesn't recognize him as the criminal, and they hit it off quickly. (But Spidey still has no idea who the guy was at the end, not even recognizing him when he passes by in his civilian identity as Peter Parker. Maybe he just had a forgettable face...)
  • Here's a notable example where this happened as a result of a Red Shirt dying. The first time Spider-Man villain Venom escaped from the Vault, he had to kill a guard to do so. (Even then, the guy's name was mentioned, as was the fact that he may have gotten the position by a rich relative who thought it was a high-paying easy job.) Much later, the guard's rich father and several of his friends sought revenge, forming a vigilante group called the Jury, equipped with high-powered armor based on the technology used to build the Guardsmen suits at the Vault. Unfortunately, they quickly turned into the Knight Templar type, and even put Spider-Man on trial in a Kangaroo Court, blaming him for creating Venom in the first place. It was actually a ploy to guilt him into agreeing to help them get revenge against Venom; but when he realized they planned to murder Venom, Spidey came to his senses and beat them all senseless.

    Fan Works 
  • Heavily deconstructed in The Measure of a Guard, a short story set in the world of Fall from Heaven, where the protagonist himself is a mook.
  • Kyon averts this trope in Kyon Big Damn Hero. Before fighting 24 Mooks with Yuki's help he asks her not kill any of them and/after the fight, worried about the battle aftermath on them, he asked her how much they were injured.
  • The Villain Protagonist of the Mass Effect fanfic The Council Era, Tyrin Lieph, completely disregards his own Mooks as expendable. While this is reasonable when it only refers to his Mecha Mooks, later within the storyline, (i.e. The second part, The Krogan Rebellions, tenuously scheduled to start in summer of 2011) he has completely disregarded the value of the lives of his dezban militia, the Krogan Resistance Movement, and his own devoted Soldiers of Salvation.
  • Subverted, in The Stalking Zuko Series Aang is called out on sparing Ozai when he and the Ocean Spiritnote  slaughter countless of Fire Nation soldiers in the Siege of the North.
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, this is played with with regards to the First District minions whom the Usurper-possessed Obsidian Lord and his entourage killed. It's pointed out in the author's note, and in one such minion's final moments that they leave loved ones behind. However, it's also pointed out that The First District was a secret organization, so they were also most likely willing participants, and performed immoral or illegal deeds in the course of their duties. The note concludes that the slaughtered minions are "not necessarily bad people, but they made bad decisions; whether their deaths are a fair consequence is another matter, but they came as a result of their own actions."
  • As a sidestory in Sonic Evil Reborn Zero, a unit in a failed robot series becomes conscious of its fate as an expendable Mook and goes to extreme lengths to prove its worth.
  • Tails the fox ruminates on this trope in the fanfic Tails Of The Old Republic, a crossover/ Fusion Fic between Sonic the Hedgehog and the videogame Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. After meeting and having a pleasant conversation with Sarna, a junior officer of the Sith, Tails recognizes that if he were to face her in battle, he may have to injure or even kill her.He even notes how, in her Sith armor, Sarna would be just another faceless mook and be completely dehumanized.
  • Subverted in "The Rise Of Darth Vulcan". The Diamond Dogs mourn the loss of their brethren with a large wake. Darth Vulcan feels guilty for not recognizing how many dogs died under his command, and joins them in their mourning.

     Web Original 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition reveals that one of the powerups from Oil Ocean Zone was sapient. His name was Failure Cresh, and he had a thorough backstory involving being born with a ten-ring monitor for a head, and a Hilariously Abusive Childhood resulting from this. When the player destroys the monitor, the video pauses for a moment of silence—but it's obvious that the player himself is completely oblivious to the fact that he just killed a person.
  • The characters in Darwin's Soldiers kill a lot of terrorists, rogue guards and other assorted Mooks and no one seems to have a problem with it.
  • New York Magician: Part of the reason Michel hurls Malsumis off a building is because he's pissed off about Mal's cavalier attitude towards his minions' deaths, and the mortality of humans in general, culminating in "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • College Humor's video Stormtroopers' 9/11 shows the fact that the Death Star's destruction was probably similar to a terrorist incident like 9/11 for the Stormtroopers.
    • Touched upon in the Star Wars canon; the Stormtroopers were indeed mourning, but it was less "terrorist attack" and more "disastrous military operation". However, the Stormtroopers were able to channel that mourning into devastating fervor during the Yavin base ground battle and avenge their fallen brethren.
  • Played for Black Comedy in the Cracked.com video "The Awful Implications of First-Person Shooter Games". Typical video game protagonist shoots a guard and escapes. As the guard lies dying, he complains about how much being a video game mook sucks.
  • Lampshaded in Hellsing Ultimate Abridged:
    Alucard: Hey guys, how's your health plan? *SWAT team opens fire* Apparently it's great!
    *carnage and gore ensue as the cops finally retreat into the elevator*
    Integra: Walter, be honest with me: what are we looking at in terms of collateral?
    Walter: Well...*Alucard walks out of elevator filled with corpses* the Alucard amount.

     Real Life  
  • This.
  • There is a Real Life protocol or general custom in war to not target the enemy Head of State (even though he's in ultimate command of the enemy war effort, and even if he might bear full responsibility as political originator for the enemy aggression if his country is the aggressor).
    • This Real Life common Karma Houdini tendency for the masterminds, profiteers, or political agitators for war, is commented on in a few protest songs, such as Bob Dylan's "Masters of War", and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs". From the latter:
    Politicians hide themselves away
    They always started the wars
    Why should they go out to fight?
    They leave that all to the poor
    • When enemy heads of state (usually kings) were actually on the battlefield in earlier times, they were fair game however.
      • Fair game, but often had an enhanced chance of survival, because it was frequently much more to your benefit to capture kings and princes and sell them back for ransom than to kill them, and then deal with their successor and the international grudge you'd just attracted.
    • Notably, this is not actually a law of war. According to the Geneva Conventions, the enemy's high command is fair game for targeting, up to and including targeting the commander-in-chief for assassination or bombing his house. This is part of the reason why modern army officers tend to not wear flashy uniforms on the battlefield anymore; it's much easier to find and kill the leader if he's dressed fancier than all the others.
    • It's an unwritten convention because heads-of-state hesitate to set the precedent of executing others. Capturing them and subjecting them to the process of a global trial first lends legitimacy to the execution, plus spreads the responsibility for it around to other countries.
    • Additionally, they are the person who can order the enemy to surrender to you, which might be useful to keep an option.

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Uniformity ExceptionMooksAnime & Manga
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With Great Power Comes Great InsanityVillainsWho's Laughing Now?

alternative title(s): Ode To Minions
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