Sacrificial Lamb vs. Sacrificial Lion:

Total posts: [14]
Well, I thought I knew what the difference between Sacrificial Lamb and Sacrificial Lion were, but actually going to the page I realize that the pages don't agree with each other. About a dozen examples are shared between them, the descriptions for the two are nearly identical and the supposed dividing line between them basically says the lion is The Same, but More screentime.

That explanation is fairly arbitrary and obviously makes it debatable as to how much time is required to become one or the other.

My original impression of the tropes come down to this:
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Minor character (though they might be presented as a major character to throw off the audience) who is meant to become likeable just to be killed off, shocking the audience. Compare Red Shirt and C-List Fodder.
  • Sacrificial Lion: A major character or significant supporting character who is killed as part of the plot and whose death clearly has an impact beyond that event (ie, they are mentioned again after they died), affecting the other characters. Compare Mauve Shirt and Dead Star Walking.

There can be some overlap, as someone might have the qualities of a lamb (minor character made to look important) with the impact of a lion (other characters are noticeably affected by their death), but I think this is a lot better than the way it is now.
2 Madrugada9th Dec 2010 04:00:17 PM , Relationship Status: In season
Two examples from Harry Potter:

  • Cedric Diggory is a Sacrificial Lion: He's a major character for most of Goblet of Fire, his death helps to drive the plot and accounts for some of Harry's actions.

  • The professor of Muggle studies who Voldemort kills at the beginning of Deathly Hallows is a Sacrificial Lamb: she's a minor charaatcer, we know next to nothing about her except that she's presented as a likeable character and the only purpose her death serves plotwise is to establish the grimmer tone of the book — people are going to die in this one, and not for good or heroic reasons.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
Our web of "dying for the purposes of the plot" tropes is fairly tight, isn't it?
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4 Madrugada9th Dec 2010 05:12:27 PM , Relationship Status: In season
How do you mean? To me it's pretty clear whether something drives or helps drive the plot or not, and I make a distinction between "drives the plot" and "affects the plot". But then, I've been told I overanalyse things a lot.

edited 9th Dec '10 5:12:38 PM by Madrugada

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
5 Deboss9th Dec 2010 07:21:24 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Sacrificial Lion is a major plot point, Sacrificial Lamb sets the mood.
I see that my original assumption was correct and that's the way the tropes are supposed to be. Any problems if I overhaul it and make them more distinct? I could use some help as the trope requires some familiarity with the works in question to understand their proper location.
What on earth is everyone talking about? I've combed Sacrificial Lion for mentions of "plot" and found nothing.

It's not like the Sacrificial Lion doesn't make an outright statement about the differences.
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8 Deboss11th Dec 2010 07:06:30 AM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Ah, upon reading the trope, it's more about when it happens. In all honesty, I don't see much of a point in keeping "when they die" as a criteria, it's just making sure that's a constant stream of Red Shirts running around, with an added touch of Character Development for the sake of Player Punch.
On a sidenote, I added Mufasa as a page image for Sacrificial Lion. Would it qualify as a spoiler or is it a-ok?

edited 11th Dec '10 7:39:43 AM by neoYTPism

10 helterskelter11th Dec 2010 10:02:51 AM , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Ha, I assumed the difference was towards what was being sacrificed by the name, but that's just me.

Anyhow, Mufasa isn't spoilery at this point.
... it'd be especially good if we could find a literal Sacrificial Lamb to correspond to it. I suppose I could juxtapose an image of Lisa Simpson petting a lamb with an image of her being fed lamb chops, to imply that they're from the same lamb, but that'd be exclusively a Visual Pun since it's not REALLY an example...

edited 11th Dec '10 1:32:20 PM by neoYTPism

Actually Mufasa is too big a part of the plot to qualify as a Sacrificial Lion. Because if he didn't die there wouldn't be a plot, Scar would never have taken over the Pride Lands and Simba wouldn't have run away. Both of these tropes are about mostly meaningless deaths, they didn't have to die for the plot to progress but exist to set up credentials.

A Sacrificial Lamb is basically a half-step up from a Red Shirt, a piece of Cannon Fodder that has a face and name. They might have just enough screentime to endear themselves to the audience, but that's just to make it sad when they die. Look at Jimmy from Independence Day, where they squeeze as much personality from him as they could in the short time only to shoot him down in the ensuing dogfight. His death is only a bit more elaborate than the rest of the Red Shirt Army, and thus they represent the hundreds of others who die.

The Sacrificial Lion is about confirming the threat of the situation, rather than just the enemy. If the plot requires the team to go through the valley of death, well, if no one dies then the name is an Informed Attribute. The crew of Serenity have to travel to a planet located in Reaver space, then have to make it past an Alliance blockade to broadcast their new information. They do, but not without some trouble. When they finally got to their goal, no one on Serenity was worse for wear, then Wash is killed by a stray harpoon. With the death of one character suddenly the tone of the story shifts. This is the exact same reason Cedric had to die in Harry Potter. They're encountering a rejuvenated Voldemort, someone has to die.

edited 12th Dec '10 11:55:22 AM by KJMackley

13 CaissasDeathAngel12th Dec 2010 12:04:33 PM from Dumfries, SW Scotland , Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
House Lewis: Sanity is Relative
^ But there's no reason why the death of a Sacrificial Lion can't be integral to the plot either, especially if they're a decoy protagonist. They could be set up as the main character, going along a plotline, which is then forcibly changed by their unexpected, relatively early death.
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^ The theme behind the two tropes is "Someone has to die, so we'll choose this guy." They can be integral to the plot (ie their death changes the path of the storyline) but their death isn't the core of the story. Mufasa's death was the result of a conspiracy that took up the first third of the movie, and if he fit the trope you could apply it to just about any political assassination that starts off a story.

As a comparison, Obi-Wan's death in A New Hope radically influenced the remainder of the film, as the initial story was just getting Obi-Wan to the Rebellion. He is a major character and his death was very sudden, surprising and significantly affected Luke (and not just his voice from beyond the grave).
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Total posts: 14