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A Million is a Statistic

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"Strange, I think to myself, how we have seen so much death in the wars and we know that two million of us have fallen in vain—how come we are so stirred up by this one man and have almost forgotten those two million? But that's just how it is, because one man is always the dead—and two million is always just a statistic."
Erich Maria Remarque, The Black Obelisk; variants are often incorrectly attributed to Josef Stalin

The amount of sympathy that death, cruelty, or suffering is expected to evoke from the audience is often inversely proportional to the magnitude of its effects. Far more important is the degree to which the audience knows the character(s) affected.

In other words, when some sort of tragedy befalls a character such as The Hero (or even the villain), the audience is expected to sympathize with them or perhaps even cry for them. However, the Redshirt Army can be sacrificed with reckless abandon, and no one will so much as bat an eyelash. The death of a single plot-important character is a tragic and often pivotal point; the deaths of thousands of faceless Mooks, even if by torture, are simply background noise, so to speak. As long as the victims are sufficiently faceless, even a Final Solution can be considered not worth making any fuss about.

Part of this is that the major deaths occur on stage or on camera, in detail and taking long enough to be dramatic.

Psychologically, proximity is more important than magnitude. Often ties into Offstage Villainy, since the larger atrocities can't be displayed onscreen in full magnitude. Writers who want to avert this effect must deploy such tricks as the Empathy Doll Shot, The Dead Have Names, or personalizing some victims, to suggest the faces of the faceless victims. Since Men Are the Expendable Gender, this sort of A Death in the Limelight is more often female or children (especially orphans) or, if male, injured. Strong reactions by main characters can also help.

The concept of this is related to the theoretical Dunbar's Number, which says at some point, it is simply impossible for a person to truly care about so many people (around 150). This is further explored and explained in's article "What is the monkeysphere?"

Space Opera in any medium are particularly prone to this. Very difficult to avoid when you have a population that far exceeds our current one.

It can be subverted by listing the names instead of numbers.

Compare Sorting Algorithm of Evil, which operates along the same principle; and Moral Myopia, where a character thinks his harmful actions are justified as long as he's not hurting the "right sort" of people. May be related to the Law of Conservation of Detail as well.

Compare and contrast Protagonist-Centered Morality, which has morality centered not on character exposure but relation to the protagonist, and Nominal Importance, where lack of exposure also makes a character expendable, but without the connotations of massive scale. The three can overlap to varying degrees and likely stem from a common source, along with such tropes as Red Shirt and What Measure Is a Mook?, since all involve the reader (or writer) caring more about the central characters than those more on the story's periphery.

See also Local Angle, for when this mingles with Creator Provincialism in the headlines; But for Me, It Was Tuesday, when the villain ignores the countless deaths he causes; and Industrialized Evil, where the mind-numbing scale of an atrocity is part of the horror (or not). Related to Law of One.

Truth in Television, alas; the real-life term is "identifiable victim effect". Apathy for collective suffering seems to be directly correlated with one's ability to keep emotions in check, and is perhaps a mental defense against compassion fatigue. This phenomenon has even been reproduced in a lab, where increasing the number of a criminal's victims causes people to recommend a lower sentence. It shows up in charity work, too, where donations are reduced when you have more than one starving child on the cover of your brochure.

While the origin of this quotation and its innumerable variants have been ascribed to Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Kevin Federline, and many others, one of the earliest versions comes from the 1938 book Thoughts of a Biologist, by experimental biologist Jean Rostand:

"Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a God."

An earlier-still version (albeit not with the number of a million) comes from the German journalist and satirist Kurt Tucholsky in 1925, who attributed it to a French diplomat:

"The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!”

Even this is only the first time that the sentiment is expressed so memorably: the sentiment that large numbers of deaths lead to desensitization is earlier still.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Due to a food crisis, the government sent 250,000 people to reclaim Wall Maria with only less than 200 returning. One of the casualties is Armin's grandfather who handed him his hat before leaving. Another happens in Episode 25 where the large number of civilian deaths are all represented by a bloodied little girl crying and stumbling in the streets over several corpses.
    • Subverted by Eren when he screams at Reiner and Bertlolt for being mass murderers, absolutely livid and disgusted at all the deaths they caused. A much later Time Skip, on the other hand, turns his stance on its ear when he starts killing civilians, assassinating military officers, and putting together a plan to commit mass genocide on everyone outside of Paradis Island after he starts channeling his titan-killing rage into a war against the rest of humanity.
  • Blood+: Several fans lost sympathy for Diva after her rape and murder of Riku, uncaring of the nameless and faceless hundreds of innocent people she's killed and eaten over the past 100+ years.
  • Played straight, averted, discussed, deconstructed, and used as a major source of drama in Bokurano, particularly the manga. Tens of thousands of people die as collateral damage from Humongous Mecha battles and tens of billions as enemy casualties, and every character has their own take on it. Some pilots ignore civilian casualties and only pay attention to their own plight, some stall the battle and risk losing to give civilians time to evacuate, some get Heroic BSODs... it goes on. In the last battle in the manga, a main character has to murder the population of a planet in order to win. He insists on killing each person individually, to make it as painless as possible, but that doesn't make it any easier for him.
  • Code Geass does this occasionally. The most prominent example would be when Rolo tries to remember how many people he's killed. He isn't able to remember exactly how many and then uses the analogy of someone trying to remember how many times they've brushed their teeth in their lives; you've done it so many times that you're past caring. This moment is made even more scary when you realise that, to Rolo, killing someone has as much emotional impact as cleaning your teeth.
    • Lelouch both plays it straight and subverts it at times.
      • During the battle of Narita, Lelouch and Kallen destroy a small town and kill everybody in it. They only think about how many enemy soldiers they just killed. Only when they find out the father of a classmate was also killed, they feel remorse about it. C.C. calls him out on this, asking if he thought this was somehow a unique instance, and pointing out that all of the soldiers they killed also had loved ones who are now grieving for their loss.
      • At the end of R1, Lelouch loses control of his power and causes Euphemia to go on a massacre, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent Japanese who believed in her; Lelouch, as Zero, is begged by these dying people to save them, but is also struck by the need to stop the destruction. It shows Lelouch's panic over doing a horrible, monstrous thing, versus allowing an even more horrible, monstrous thing - the question of being selfish or sacrificing your own sense of self for the greater good, averting the trope completely.
      • Three quarters through R2, however, it plays it straight. Millions of people die, but all Lelouch (and most fans) can think about is Nunnally. Everyone else averts it, though, with the respect of many of his upper-level subordinates losing trust in him by thinking that he doesn't care - when in fact Lelouch's worst nightmares have come to life to haunt him.
    • Schneizel's view on this: "Even if 100 or 200 million people's lives are sacrificed, an eternal peace is-" Cornelia promptly draws her sword.
  • DARLING in the FRANXX: Zero Two's outlook on life reflects this, and it's why she doesn't bother with a name. They're all meant to fight and die, so why bother when all that will be left is a statistic?
  • Light Yagami from Death Note. Certainly L's death evokes a stronger reaction from the audience than the thousands of others killed before (and the even greater number killed after). This is somewhat justified, however, in that the majority of the people he killed were not just faceless masses but also criminals killed for the sake of Light's ambition to make the world a better place, while the named characters he takes out are done for the sake of saving his own ass.
  • In Dirty Pair, entire planets get accidentally blown up on a regular basis — and more often than not it's played for Black Comedy.
  • Eden of the East has an instance of a character having this viewpoint and the hypocrisy being noted by a fellow antagonist. Mononobe and Yuki both previously conspired to build a better Japan by killing scores of people and plan to try it again, but are quite different in personality, with Yuki personally being rather meek. When Yuki is horrified at Monobe running down "Panties" with his car and making him complicit, Mononobe "reminds" Yuki that he's essentially a psycho with no qualms about mass murder.
  • Averted in Fullmetal Alchemist, when it is shown that Van Hohenheim actually took the time to come to an understanding with EACH and EVERY ONE of the 500,000+ souls now trapped in his body as a result of Father's destruction of Xerxes.
  • King Of Braves GaoGaiGar averts this by having the Gutsy Geoid (later Galaxy) Guard develop new tools to protect the human populace. One of those tools, Dividing Driver, was designed because they realized that a Protect Shade against projectiles in a crowded area was a bad idea.
  • Exploited in Heavy Object. While a single murder in a safe country is headline news, the death of a military unit in a battleground country is barely worth a one-paragraph article. The Polar Bear unit was able to fake its own massacre and then began posing as the Unicorn unit because they knew nobody would investigate too deeply.
  • Inuyasha: Miroku and Sango are so used to the mass destruction of their era that, while they're sympathetic to the loss of entire villages, they're also pragmatic about not being able to do much about it. Inuyasha is also a half-demon who is generally not too sympathetic to most humans. Kagome, however, subverts this trope. As a modern girl thrust back in time, she generally reacts more strongly than the others and once was absolutely horrified at Inuyasha stopping for a meal break in the middle of a corpse-strewn battlefield. That said, even Kagome is more likely to react to the plight of someone she's personally attached to than the loss of strangers. It's how Kouga became a friend of the group - despite being responsible for the destruction (and eating) of at least three villages that the group knows about, they ended up forgiving him and becoming friends with him. However, they were never allowed to find out that Kouga had destroyed Rin's village and killed Rin.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes suffers horrendously from this, coupled with having millions of people killed in virtually every battle. However, it's never taken lightly. Most officers strive to minimize loss of life, and at least on the Alliance's side, it's one of the sources of the country's problems that so much of its youth dies on the battlefields, with almost no veterans to speak of.
  • Macross:
    • Averted — explicitly run away from — in both Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Macross: Do You Remember Love?. In the former, characters at times explicitly comment and agonize over the fact that there are civilian casualties — in one later episode, the heroes stop their pursuit of the villain because he's just set a city on fire. In Do You Remember Love?, Hikaru finally convinces Minmay to sing the Title Song to halt the Zentradi assault in its tracks by forcefully reminding her about the millions who'd died during the war, including mentioning some names of Hikaru's friends and squadmates that (at least in the movie continuity) she'd likely never met. Suitably chastened, she realizes it is her human duty to sing and stop the war. He never brings up the possibility of him and her being killed, instead focusing on everyone else and the lives they sacrificed.
    • In Macross Plus, Isamu and Guld's final showdown takes them to the streets of Macross City. They punch, shoot, and launch missiles at each other with little concern for the buildings and roads they're demolishing in the planet's most populated city —made even worse when you remember that Macross City is under Sharon Apple's thrall, so the civilians can't even notice the destruction around them or try to flee.
    • Another aversion in Macross Frontier: every Vajra attack has heavy tolls on the population, and the narrative devotes some time to this. It goes particularly far in the aftermath of the Vajra invasion of Island One, where one of the main protagonists and the civilian president are killed, and the next episode focuses on a fleet-wide memorial service for everyone who died in the massacre rather than focus on those two characters.
  • Often overlooked (since it happens before the show) in Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeon kills the majority of people living in space in the beginning stages of the war. This was once calculated as being the second-highest body count of any faction in the franchise's history (only the mass Colony Drop that preceded After War Gundam X, killing over 99% of the population, outdid it). Strangely, this hasn't hurt Zeon's popularity any.
    • Weirdly, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam's Titans have a much worse reputation than Zeon even though they only gassed one colony (Zeon did this to several, at least, and then dropped them on the Earth) and were in general only slightly more Jerkass-ish than Zeon was. To be fair, when Zeon was doing it, there wasn't yet a treaty forbidding this very behavior. The Titans did it in response to peaceful protests in a part of the colony. Also, the Federation was also doing something in response to Zeon as well, since both sides lost half their population during the first week. And some level of Cool People Rebel Against Authority is also likely involved since Zeon were rebelling against the Federation which the Titans worked for.
    • Harshly averted in the miniseries Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. Not only are you able to witness the carnage close up from a bystander's point of view, you also meet most of the mooks fighting in the story's conflict. While a lot of the main characters are part of a special-forces team, in the end, they're still just a bunch of mooks - all of whom die, either in a shootout against overwhelming odds or curbstomped by the Gundam, no matter how much the viewer expects any of them to pull out an Infinity +1 Sword and destroy the Gundam. To top it off, the anime made a very specific point of making their deaths utterly pointless, even if the last remaining member of the team succeeds in his immediate goal - the destruction of the Gundam - at the cost of his own life.
    • In general though, the Universal Century averts this by often pointing out that every soldier is human in and of themselves, have emotions, dreams, and an identity of their own, and that every soldier that dies is another life lost pointlessly in war (in fact, in Zeta Gundam, when protagonist Kamille Bidan gets angry at resident Psycho for Hire Yazan Gable, he is quite obviously angry that Yazan treats war like a game and that people on all sides are dying not just on his side).
  • Inverted in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, when during the final battle Wufei confronts Treize and demands to know how many people have given their lives for Treize's plans. Treize astonishes him by giving an exact number ("As of yesterday, 99,822 people"), listing several names from memory, and calling Lady Une to ask how many have died so far in the current battle and to request that those names be forwarded to him so he can memorize them. Whatever else may be said about him, Treize does not take sacrifice lightly, not even that of Mooks.
  • Toward the end of Muhyo and Roji, 500 Executors die when Vector attacks the northern Magical Law headquarters, and a few panels of memorial services are shown. They get significantly less of a follow-up than many other deaths, like Enchu's mother, Panza (whose death weighs heavily on Roji), and Kid. Even Fujiwara, a minor character who was one of Imai's subordinates before he got killed in the Arcanum, comes back as a haunt and is mentioned as an example of someone who was incompetent but determined.
  • In My-Otome, the death of Erstin seems to weigh more heavily on Nina's conscience and Arika's mind than that of the many other people who were most likely killed (although no casualty total is given) by Nina using the Harmonium to destroy entire cities.
  • During the Fourth Shinobi World War in Naruto, when tens of thousands of nameless ninjas died during the skirmishes, they are given nary a reference. Neji's death, on the other hand, is treated as this is a huge thing for everyone, not just his own comrades but also other members of the Alliance who never knew about Neji in one bit, despite the fact that there are also other Shinobi members that had died during the same attack (And potentially other members that could possibly be looked up more than Neji for other people).
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi averts this. Nagi spends a good chunk of his time after the war saving refugees, and Arika went to great lengths to save as many civilians as she possibly could. Negi holds to the same philosophy; the main reason that he doesn't join Kurt Godel is that he doesn't believe in this trope, and if joining forces means that they can't save everyone, then to hell with an alliance.
  • Invoked in One Piece by Nico Robin, who states that anyone willing to issue and carry out a Buster Call (a coordinated, take-no-prisoners Marine attack powerful enough to reduce an island to ashes) is so detached that they can't truly comprehend the sheer amount of death and destruction it causes, Especially Spandam, who flaunts the authority he was given to issue one every chance he gets. Robin then tells the crew that the Buster Call is essentially just removing an island from the world map, and people aren't visible on such a map.
  • Inverted and lampshaded by Kyubey in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Kyubey has no empathy, and cares a lot more about a million deaths than about one. In a more meta sense, Kyubey serves as a fine demonstration of this trope, as despite having a pretty sympathetic motivation (delaying the end of the universe), he sits firmly among the most hated anime villains ever, simply because the heartless manipulation of vulnerable victims he engages in feels very "personal".
    Kyubey: Your population is six billion nine hundred million right now, and ten more of you are born every four seconds, so why do you make such a big fuss over the loss of just one of you?
  • In the first Read or Die OVA, one of the I-Jinn, having stolen the second part of the manuscript needed to unleash their master plan, shoots his way through an enormous squadron of attack helicopters, probably killing several hundred people in the process. Yomiko, true to the obsessive bibliophilia that is an inherent part of her Paper Master abilities, has this reaction:
    Yomiko: My book... My poor little book...
  • Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin's vow not to kill stems from the overwhelming number of people he killed during the Bakumatsu. Although Kenshin was an assassin and thus knew the name and face of his main targets, he killed all who were accompanying said target at the time, many of whom remain nameless. Part of the series of events that led him to make that vow involved him learning that the woman he had married during the war (and then accidentally killed when she got between him and an opponent in a fight) had been engaged to one of those mooks.
  • In Sword Art Online, over 10,000 people were trapped in a virtual reality MMO for over two years and by the time they were freed, almost 4000 of them had died. Aside from things involving the main characters, and the establishment of a survivor school meant to counsel and help those who made it out, the series ignores the massive controversy and consequences that would occur from such an event, though the resident government agent all but outright states it's because of the Japanese government taking a direct hand in handling the press that's keeping the survivors from being hounded day in and out. In fact, not only did virtual reality games become more popular after the SAO incident but they feature a far heavier emphasis on killing (albeit because the technology that caused the players to be trapped and killed in the first place was replaced with tech that couldn't do that). Even so, this becomes incredibly egregious for some when the main character compares the person responsible for said deadly MMO to a villain he was fighting, responsible for merely trapping and brainwashing, not killing, a tenth of that amount, with the end result is the former being somehow the lesser of the two evils, with the justification that the first guy wasn't being such a complete and unrepentant asshole about the whole thing like the current one.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • Nobody ever comments zilch about seeing entire Redshirt Armies being blown apart. But when Kamina dies, the whole cast spends three full chapters mourning his death.
    • Even more so in the movie. You can just feel the anguish that everyone on Dai-Gurren Dan feels when Kittan made the sacrifice, as well as the resulting roaring rampage of revenge.
  • World Trigger: Discussed during the press conference held by Border after the Large Scale Invasion arc.
    • The press questions Border's competence after learning that Aftokrator ended up killing 6 operators and abducting 32 C-rank agents. PR Director Netsuki argues that their capabilities have improved dramatically compared to four years ago, where over 1,200 people died and 400 went missing in an invasion that was an eighth of the size of the most recent one. A reporter immediately snaps at him for treating their current losses as a statistic and demands to know what he has to say to the victims' families.
    • Border tries to pin all the blame for the invasion on Osamu, whose attempt to save six of his classmates from Marmods at the beginning of the story led to Aftokrator discovering that the 32 C-rank agents were easy abduction targets due to their lack of Bail-Out Triggers. When the press demands to know what he has to say to himself, Osamu pisses all of them off by declaring that wanting to prevent future casualties isn't an excuse to abandon those in front of him, he doesn't regret any of his actions, and he'd do it all over again if given the chance.
  • Yugi, Judai and Yusei in Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time are upset by Pegasus and Grandpa's deaths, as well as everyone else who died in Paradox's attack on Domino City. Paradox however sees the massacre as only another step towards completing his goal. Considering how he didn't care about destroying Venice just to get Judai, it's no surprise.

  • Jeff Foxworthy did a bit once where he related that he'd been watching the news, and the top story was 80 people dying in a bus crash. Foxworthy said "the only thing I could think was 'How on earth did they get 80 people on a bus?' ...once it becomes a physics problem, it takes the emotional sting out of it."
  • Suzy Eddie Izzard has a section in her comedy show Dressed to Kill in which she discusses this in relation to Pol Pot.
    Pol Pot killed 1.7 million people. We can't even deal with that! You know, we think if somebody kills someone, that's murder, you go to prison. You kill 10 people, you go to Texas, they hit you with a brick, that's what they do. 20 people, you go to a hospital, they look through a small window at you forever. And over that, we can't deal with it, you know? Someone's killed 100,000 people. We're almost going, "Well done! You killed 100,000 people? You must get up very early in the morning. I can't even get down to the gym! Your diary must look odd: 'Get up in the morning, death, death, death, death, death, death, death -– lunch — death, death, death — afternoon tea — death, death, death — quick shower...'"

    Comic Books 
  • Discussed and averted in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men where Danger brings back online one of Cassandra Nova's sentinels which massacred sixteen million mutants in Genosha. Danger modified the Sentinel to help her attack the X-Men, and also made it sapient. While battling the Sentinel, Kitty Pryde notices that Danger had also blocked off a part of its memory, and convinces it to break down those barriers. Turns out, that was the memory of the Sentinel's actions in Genosha. Being an intelligent, feeling being now, it is immediately gripped by intense guilt and withdraws its attack. Kitty explains that the murders of sixteen million people is too large for the human mind to fully comprehend, but the computer mind of the Sentinel is capable of appraising each one individually. Later the Sentinel commits a Heroic Sacrifice in an attempt to stop the attack from Breakworld, with the implication that it had become The Atoner.
  • Captain America had a story in which the villain was planning to unleash a weaponised virus to kill millions in revenge for his murdered wife. When the horrified Cap points out the hypocrisy, the villain callously responds with this trope's title.
  • In DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, individual characters are acknowledged according to popularity (with The Flash and Supergirl getting covers and lengthy eulogies). The entire universes destroyed by the Anti-Monitor (in infinite numbers if the title is taken literally, and several universes, some established and some new, are destroyed on-panel) pack far less emotional punch. (The destruction of Earth-3 is notable for the innumerable innocents counting for less than the handful of villains who go down trying to save it.)
  • Miracleman: An earlier example from Alan Moore also sees this trope subverted, though in a decidedly different manner. Specifically, during the climax of Book 3, and really the whole of Moore's run, 13-year-old Johnny Bates releases his Evil Alter Ego Kid Miracleman during a brutal assault by the other children in his group home. He wastes no time in massacring huge amounts of Londoners in an attempt to get Miracleman's attention- the problem is, he's not around. By the time he gets there, Kid Miracleman has turned the city into his personal nightmarish playground. This is shown completely on-panel, and almost every corpse among the countless thousands displays evidence of a different but equally creative brutality. Some of the standouts include a chessboard with severed breasts as the pieces, a child impaled on the top of a church tower so the wind blowing through his throat makes him wail, and what is described as a 'field of baby skulls'. It is highly effective at communicating scale without sacrificing the horror.
  • Karolina Dean from Runaways actually quotes this when Xavin mentions entire worlds got destroyed while she's mourning the death of her friend Gert. Xavin actually comments that it's a stupid way of viewing things. Pointing out, very logically, that if person dying is tragic, a million people dying must be a million times as tragic. But then, he is the Token Evil Teammate, and/or the team's Straw Vulcan.
  • The Transformers (IDW):
    • During The Transformers: Dark Cybertron, When Megatron becomes enraged at the death Bumblebee, Shockwave mocks him for being so concerned over the death of one bot when he himself is responsible for the deaths of Cybertronians.
    • Also invoked by Starscream, after Metalhawk sacrifices his life to destroy the 70 billion Ammonites attacking Cybertron in one fell swoop. Starscream's only trying to paint him in a negative light.
    • Discussed by Getaway and Skids in The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye after Megatron joins the crew of the Lost Light. Getaway points out that they can easily hate a Decepticon for killing an Autobot, but it's harder to comprehend the deaths of millions of Autobots.
  • Watchmen:
    • This is why the Event of the last two chapters is so shocking: Care is taken to show the devastation of New York killing every named character who lives in the city. Rorschach at one point says it doesn't matter if Dr. Manhattan kills him as millions have already died. He kills him.
    • Averted also with no less than Ozymandias, who declares that he avoided the "mass million murdering plot" to become a complete devil arithmetics in his mind by regarding separately each one of the million individuals sacrificed, so, in a sense he has been mourning the victims of his own crime a decade in advance.

    Fan Works 
  • Played creepily straight in Conquest, where most of the reaction we see from the Borg during their war with the Empire is the statistics of their casualties. By the time the casualties come to 12 trillion drones, tens of thousands of ships, and over seven hundred worlds, the Collective starts to realize something must be off...
  • Averted in Dæmorphing: The Presence of Justice. The hundreds of stillborn Yeerks are treated as a tragedy.
  • Invoked in-universe by Alex in the Elfen Lied fic Family Sticks Together. He explicitly tells Kaede (aka Lucy/Nyu) that, while he's not entirely comfortable with what she plans to do to survive, he is nonetheless fine with it as long as she is able to survive and explicitly tells her that her life means more to her than a thousand others.
  • Lampshaded in Living History when the Scoobies hear about the casualties a villain in the future has caused. They simply can't picture deaths equal to several times Earth's population.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, this is played straight as a superlaser. Sarah kills anywhere from millions to hundreds of millions (Writers Cannot Do Math combined with inexact canon regarding the population of the galaxy in question) to stop the Flood. When she team up with the heroes they angst a bit but decide the stakes are too high and accept her help, despite going nuts on smaller displays of wanton destruction (Shepard, Torgue/Maliwan).
  • The TSAB – Acturus War: Early on, the author attempted to defy this by giving individual names to minor starships and soldiers, but reader reception was mostly negative and claims ranged from it being redundant and distracting to an outright turnoff.
  • The Time Lords in the Doctor Who fanfiction The Last Great Time War. They don't care about planets or even galaxies being destroyed in the War unless they are of significant strategic importance.
  • Averted in Frigid Future when androids 12 and 11 (reprogrammed by Bulma) save 17 and 18 from Gero and Cell. 12 is angry at 11 for wanting to give them a second chance, who cites how 3 redeemed herself and that 17 and 18 clearly care about each other. As 12 argues, 3 was purely robotic which meant she had an implanted personality she had to overcome; 17 and 18 were originally human and had their own free will but murdered millions anyway just for the hell of it. It doesn't matter if they care about each other, they chose to be monsters.
  • Averted with Sarah Kerrigan in Flight to Freedom who not only knows how many people were killed by the Swarm under her command but also, due to the Zerg Hive Mind, knows their names. A couple times during her recovery she starts reciting the names of her victims.
  • In Shadowchasers: Conspiracy, a disturbing discussion of this comes up as Francis tries to reason with Sheeva, or so he wants her to believe. He challenges her claims of being an honorable fighter by mentioning the long lifespan of the Shokkan and asking how many deaths such a warrior who has lived so long must is personally responsible for if such battles to the death are commonplace among them. He suggests Sheeva must have killed thousands (even one victim every two months would do so) also mentioning how many families she must have torn apart, even suggesting that some of her opponents may have been children of previous ones, seeking revenge. (He's playing on Sheeva's confusion resulting from being yanked into a setting where the rules of her own reality don't apply.)
  • Gravity Falls fanfiction Three Can Keep a Secret plays with this as an extension of giving Weirdmageddon a death toll of both humans and supernatural creatures. The closest this comes to killing or traumatizing anyone the audience knows personally is with the extinction of the Liliputtians as a result of Bill using them for his own version of mini-golf. However, all these deaths are not taken lightly by the story and this trope is discussed by the characters themselves: Dipper admits it was just easy to throw a party and celebrate when everyone he knew personally survived the disaster, and the weight of it didn't really set in for him until he spent time digging through the wreckage of the town, while Mabel is instantly crushed by guilt when confronted with the fact that people died and has to actively push the dead out of her mind to stay functional.
  • Koishi Komeiji's Heart-Throbbing Adventure averts this by having Moonlight Descent Ceremony orchestrated by the main villains specifically showing the number of Gensokyo denizen who had turned into Kaiju after the destruction of the Great Hakurei Barrier in a device and for every Kaiju creature being exterminated, the countdown will take place until the number became 0. This beyond horrible deed obviously is not taken lightly by anyone, even one of the culprits had a moment of thought whether this matter could've been solved with less violence.
  • Averted in Son of the Sannin during the Fourth Ninja War. The casualties suffered by the Shinobi Allied Forces are treated very seriously by the commanding officers, though it really hits home when Madara Uchiha shows up on the battlefield, and wreaks havoc on the Second Division decimating almost half their forces by himself. To drive the point further, Maito Gai using the Eighth Gate at the cost of his life is treated as a Heroic Sacrifice, given all the lives he managed to save by destroying Madara's Shinra Tensei meteors and then injuring him enough to leave him temporarily out of commission, giving the allied forces a very needed reprieve.
  • There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton: When he's called out about his actions at one point in To Rule Alone, To Build Together, Hawk Moth outright says that he doesn't care if everyone else in the world burns if he gets what he wants.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Incredibles: Averted. The scene when Mr. Incredible learns that Syndrome has killed dozens of supers. None of them are established characters, but the scene is treated as appropriately horrific. It's also implied that even if the audience never knew any of those people, Mr. Incredible knew many of them personally and/or professionally.
    • In fact, the audience does know them. Many were at the wedding at the beginning, proving them to be friends of the main characters. Owners of the DVD can even get to know everyone by looking at their profiles in the Extras where they talk about their life, hopes, and secret identity. Those are not just names with a face, they are people with a personality and Pixar tried hard on evoking as much empathy for them as possible.
    • Averted differently in the "No capes!" sequence. It's played for laughs as a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome bit to the viewer, but in-universe they're discussing the horrific deaths of lost friends (who also appear at the wedding and on the DVD extras) and Edna is visibly upset.
  • In Mulan the villain does indeed slaughter nameless masses by the hundreds (off-stage, no less), and no named characters died. Only three characters who die even have lines (one of the two messengers, General Li, and Shan-Yu), but the movie nevertheless manages to convince that the slaughter was a terrible thing. (An Empathy Doll Shot is used to great effect.)
  • Pocahontas plays with this. While the death that sets off the third act conflict was of a named character - Kocoum - and the main reason behind Pocahontas trying to stop John Smith's execution is because she loves him, it's also mentioned that this will be the catalyst to bring about even more bloodshed and Pocahontas is equally motivated to stop that as well.
  • Defied in The Prince of Egypt. Pharaoh Seti and Great Royal Wife Tuya adopt a Hebrew baby, which they name Moses, and love him as their own son. However, they think nothing of enslaving and slaughtering countless other Hebrew babies since they don't know any of them. When Moses learns the truth, they try to convince him it doesn't matter since "they were only slaves." However, even though Moses doesn't personally know the countless Hebrew slaves in Egypt, he's so haunted by empathy for their suffering that it's part of what pushes him to obey God's will to free them.
  • Played horrifyingly straight in Titanic: The Legend Goes On. With the exception of Molly, (more commonly known as the "singer with the big boobs"), every single named character survives, including the Funny Animals, complete with a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. In a film that takes place aboard the Titanic. Molly, (who for some reason shares a name with the most famous Titanic survivor, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"), only gets a single tear of mourning from one of her pets.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2012 has been criticized for this. Billions die, but who cares? It's Disaster Porn, and the only people who count are in a little plane. This is the reason for the huge cast that drags down the film. Giving the audience as many characters with actual names as possible to care about gives the audience more of a connection to billions dying.
  • During the aerial battle sequence in Blue Thunder, the hero, flying the titular Black Helicopter, is forced to dodge a pair of heat-seeking missiles fired (over a major city) by Air Force F-16s. One hits a Japanese barbecue shop and the other hits a skyscraper square on. Even if you consider that all this was occurring toward the end of a work day, the casualty count must have been considerable; but of all the characters in the film, only the pilot who fired the missile and the beleaguered police chief give so much as a nod to the disaster. In Real Life, such an event would have everyone involved pilloried, especially when it turned out that Murphy wasn't a dangerous lunatic. There's also the F-16 that Murphy shoots down, but we don't actually see it crash so it's possible it landed in the ocean or somewhere similarly innocuous.
  • Cabin In The Woods ends with one of the protagonists refusing to kill one person in order to save the world - despite the fact that the prospective target will then die anyway.
  • Discussed and inverted in Compulsion, where Judd brings this up to justify the fact that he and Artie killed a little boy For the Evulz.
    "There were nine million people killed in the war! What does one little Chicago boy matter?"
  • The Joker's Breaking Speech to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight mentions this.
    Joker: If tomorrow I said that a gang-banger would get shot, or a truck-load of soldiers will be blown up - nobody panics, because it's all "part of The Plan". But when I say that one little old mayor will die... well then everyone loses their minds!
  • Parodied in Dr. Strangelove (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). Turgidson assures the president that "it's not like we're not going to get our hair mussed" but if they act quickly with a decisive nuclear strike then there might be "ten...twenty million casualties. Tops!!" The president responds that he doesn't want to go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler. Turgidson respectfully chides him for "caring more about his image in the history books than his people."
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation: With London being blasted into the bottom of the ocean, millions of people had to have died. While people are terrified when they see the attack, it is soon forgotten once the Joes save the other cities. Then everyone is all smiles.
  • Invoked in Gods and Generals; after a young girl dies, General Jackson, who has largely been The Stoic, begins to break down and cry. One of his soldiers comments that he's seen many men fall in battle yet didn't seem to care about them at all, but cries because of a little girl dying. Another soldier then mentions that the General is probably crying for all of them at this time.
  • Happy Death Day: When the killer (one of them anyway) gets free and murders a cop, a hospital orderly, and the movie's Relationship Upgrade, it's specifically because of the latter's death that the protagonist decides to reset the loop to before they all died and save them before the loop ends for good. The deaths of the first two people who probably had families and loved ones and aspirations of their own to live for, don't factor into the decision at all.
  • Harry Potter:
  • Man of Steel is an interesting examination of this. Metropolis is ground zero for a Hostile Terraforming machine that pancakes an area of downtown the size of a sports stadium (and doing considerable damage well beyond ground zero) before it is stopped, and later the site of a superpowered battle between Superman and General Zod that is moderately smaller. For both events, named characters and unnamed civilians together are shown fleeing in terror. When the threat is over, the story moves on to wrap things up and while maybe not celebratory, is rather upbeat and optimistic. The sheer destruction involved spawned many memes on the subject, with many accusing Superman of simply not caring about collateral damage.note  The sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, exploited this, with the titanic destruction unleashed by the warring Kryptonians motivating several characters, including both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor is an interesting aversion. The audience is shown no reason to see the Jotunns as anything but Always Chaotic Evil, yet the climax still successfully conveys using only Thor's own reaction to it that Loki's attempted genocide is a horrendous crime.
    • In The Avengers, Loki killing loads of people, having his brainwashed mooks kill loads of people, and loudly announcing his plans to Take Over the World aren't what makes the audience (and the heroes) hate him. It's his murder of Agent Coulson that does it.
    • At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos succeeds in his plan to wipe out half of all life in the universe. The bodycount from this is stated to number in the trillions, but the climactic moment focuses on just a dozen deaths among the main characters. Justified, as how would you show half the universe dying? The Stinger also shows a lot of random people being disintegrated, along with the shock and terror that it brings.
  • Miracle at Midnight: Referenced by Georg when he explains his role in thwarting the holocaust in Denmark.
    Georg: It's easy to persecute the nameless, and the faceless, but these people are not faceless to me.
  • Sort of lampshaded in Charlie Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux: "One murder makes a villain, millions a hero. Numbers sanctify, my good fellow."
  • MonsterVerse:
    • Godzilla (2014): It's subdued, but the franchise's tendency toward this trope arguably started here in its first ever film. Put simply, the Brodys losing their own loved ones (Sandra) are played for a lot more pathos than the deaths of nameless background extras. Tellingly, Joe talks passionately about the death of his wife, but he never once brings up the deaths of the several other people who died alongside her in the Janjira disaster (at least not in the film — in the novelization, he does acknowledge the deaths of his wife's co-workers for a moment in front of Monarch).
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters: The escalating deaths of God-knows-how-many people around the world when the Titans are actively razing the planet on King Ghidorah's orders is mainly used as a background tool to create atmosphere for the second half of the film during Ghidorah's Near-Villain Victory more than anything else, whilst the deaths of individuals among the film's main cast are treated with significantly more tragedy. Dr. Serizawa's Heroic Sacrifice is arguably one of the biggest TearJerkers in the movie if not the biggest. This trope also occurs with the three Russells, whom it's fairly evident in the finished film the filmmakers wanted us to sympathize with and care about the fates of (whether or not they succeeded on that count is up to the audience). We're expected to feel for Mark over the tragic death of his son and how it's affected him; even though it's indicated that thousands In-Universe have gone through the exact same thing as Mark and yet Mark never makes any effort to reach out to any of these other people who know how he's feeling, and he furthermore usually carries himself as if he's the only one in the world whose suffering matters. Much worse with Emma, we're actually expected to sympathize with her and still consider her redeemable when she's concerned about her own daughter's life, even though she has consciously and deliberately condemned billions of other parents to lose their children as part of her Evil Plan, making her caring about her daughter seem selfish and hypocritical.
  • Outbreak: Defying this trope is the crux of the speech given by the White House Chief Of Staff(played by an uncredited J. T. Walsh), who asks everybody in the room discussing Operation Clean Sweep (dropping a bomb on the town of Cedar Creek to make sure the virus doesn't spread further than the town and kill off the rest of the country) to make damn sure that it is necessary to wipe out Cedar Creek, damn sure that the American people understand there was no other choice, and damn sure that nobody gets the funny idea of going to the press and lying about which decision they took after the fact.
  • Schindler's List: Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess (often diagnosed as a sociopath after the war), whose whole industry is mass murder, is extremely casual about the matter when Schindler arrives to bribe him for the female Schindler Jews who were shipped to the death camp instead of Schindler's factory in Moravia by mistake. Hoess refers to the prisoners they're killing as "units", first offers Schindler 300 other arrivals instead of the ones he wants, and is only bothered by the extra paperwork that it will bring.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope, Princess Leia sees her entire planet, including her parents and most of the people she knows, destroyed. Luke loses his old friend and teacher. She comforts him. Obi-Wan has screen time, while nobody on Alderaan does, so his death is treated as a bigger emotional moment. May be justified to some extent, since the Princess is an aristocrat raised from birth to work in Imperial politics, and presumably better able to control her emotions than the naive farmboy.
    • Averted in The Force Awakens; when Starkiller Base destroys the capital of the New Republic, we actually get to see the terrified faces of its many citizens as they see the bright, red light bearing down on them.
  • In the Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie Unthinkable, a homegrown terrorist and aspiring mass murderer has scattered several nuclear devices across the United States and rigged these to explode, which would kill millions of people. A Torture Technician attempts to force the information out of him by any means necessary, with the film questioning the validity of such. While this "dilemma" will seem downright farcical to most people, a better case is presented when the interrogators are considering torturing the man's two innocent children. Later on, the female FBI Agent who's taken the strongest stance against the interrogator's actions trusts the terrorist at his word and causes the deaths of 53 people. Despite this, she plays the trope horrifyingly straight when she openly voices her preference to let thousands of children all be killed to preserve the lives of his.
  • This was a problem in Star Trek: Generations. Dr. Soran's plan to get into the Nexus involved blowing up a star, which would also destroy an inhabited pre-industrial planet. We had never heard of this planet before, knew nothing of its people, and never even saw its surface, so it may as well have been an uninhabited rock for all the audience cared.
  • In Vantage Point, a bomb wipes out the crowded lobby of a five-star hotel. Moments later, a second bomb goes off under a podium in the middle of a large crowd. Dozens, if not hundreds, are killed. The movie hardly blinks. But one little girl whose first name the viewers know is about to be run over, and you'd think the world was about to end.
  • In WarGames, the NORAD computer WOPR/Joshua is programmed to calculate damages from different nuclear attack scenarios, which include civilian deaths. Its programmer, Dr. Stephen Falken, tells David that he eventually got disgusted by the military's dispassionate attitude towards nuclear conflict.
    Falken: Back at the war room, they believe you can win a nuclear war. That there can be "acceptable losses."

  • At the end of Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Only In Death, Mkoll is Mercy Killing the victims of the Blood Pact's tortures. When he comes to one, Eszrad stops him: it's Gaunt himself. Him, they take out of there to recover. Though, to be fair, due to the time of capture and the fact they wanted Gaunt to suffer longer, and from the description, you find out most of the prisoners had lost their slew of eyes, legs, arms, etc, leaving them just barely alive husks. Gaunt had only lost his eyes, something they could easily replace.
    • Though Gaunt himself averts this rather pointedly; he takes time to memorize the names, faces, and details of every man he's fought with or who's died under his command, and can recite them from memory. He gets quite visibly upset when it turns out there's someone he has forgotten.
    • Also, Hark finds Soric in the midst of many tortured psykers, and kills him and no others. (Admittedly, he's the one who asked for it.)
    • In the background, the whole GRIMDARK milieu for Warhammer 40,000 sees millions dying for anything more complex than making coffee (unless you're Chaos or Dark Eldar, where the coffee is probably made with the blood of children).
    • The incident that finally caused the Emperor to finally realize that Horus was beyond redemption was when he saw Horus flay a guardsman/Space Marine/Adeptus Custodes during their climactic battle. Instead of the countless billions he was already responsible for, including his own Primarch children.
      • Presumably, the later Retcon to make that Guardsman be a Space Marine and then later again be an Adeptus Custodes was to emphasize how much of the ridiculous power of Chaos Horus was given - meaning the reason for the Emperor's realization wasn't exactly because of how he killed someone in front of him without lifting a finger, it was because he killed someone of superhuman strength without lifting a finger.
      • The reason for the Emperor's realization is still stated to be him realizing that Horus was irredeemably evil. Before that point, he had been hoping he could reason with Horus and make peace, but seeing him personally kill another human being, who had no way off injuring him, without a thought made the Emperor understand that Horus couldn't be reasoned with. This is also the reason why most fans like the "Guardsman"-version better.
    • The Horus Heresy books reveal that Ollanius Pius was actually a Perpetual who was otherwise a normal human, and who had lived long enough that the Emperor released him from his duty and was one of the few people the Emperor seemed to treat as a friend outside of Malcador. So while the series hasn't gotten to the final battle just yet, it's heavily implied that the Emperor felt guilty that Ollanius sacrificed himself for [The Emperor] despite having no obligation to do so.
  • Deconstructed and averted purposefully by The Red Badge of Courage. It is said to be the first war story that did not focus at all on large-scale movements.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Uriel explicitly thinks that the Inquisitor considers the population he is willing to sacrifice as numbers, while Uriel thinks of them as people.
  • Discussed in Neil Gaiman's American Gods.
    Without individuals we see only numbers: A thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, "casualties may rise to a million". With individual stories, the statistics become people — but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless. Look, see the child's swollen, swollen belly, and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, his skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears? To see him from the inside? And if it does, are we not doing a disservice to his sister, who lies in the searing dust beside him, a distorted, distended caricature of a human child? And there, if we feel for them, are they now more important to us than a thousand other children touched by the same famine, a thousand other young lives who will soon be food for the flies' own myriad squirming children?
    We draw our lines around these moments of pain, and remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain.
    Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.
    A life that is, like any other, unlike any other.
  • The Dune books are set amid genocidal galactic wars that are said to have killed trillions, the vast majority of which die off-page with little more than a footnote. The characters, up to and including the Emperor of the known universe, are far more concerned with their own personal issues to seemingly give it much thought.
    • Subverted in the last official novel, in which the Bene Gesserit realize that their Genetic Memory makes them inescapably aware of and responsible for each and every atrocity committed by the human race, however far removed it may be in time or space.
      • In fact it's played with repeatedly in that story, the Lampadas ego-memories are treated as extremely precious and the loss of life egregious, but Odrade is willing to agree to 'write off' whole planets with a curt 'yes' and not think twice about the loss of life.
    • Although it's true that the internal Atreides issues get more screen time, this is the Emperor's entire conflict in the second book. There's a scene where he compares himself to Hitler — "He killed more than six million. Pretty good for those days... Statistics: at a conservative estimate, I've killed sixty-one billion, sterilized ninety planets, completely demoralized five hundred others. I've wiped out the followers of forty religions..." He spends the rest of the book trying to get killed.
    • Leto II also bears the weight of his 'enforced peace' in God-Emperor of Dune, though his Fremen nature allows him to accept easier than his father as a necessary lesser evil.
  • Tad Williams understands the power of this trope. In his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, Pryrates' first act of evil is to murder a small dog.
  • When Kyp Durron in the Jedi Academy Trilogy of Star Wars Legends causes the destruction of a world, Carida, generally thought to have twenty-five million people on it, it causes a "disturbance in the Force" which makes the heroes more determined to stop him. But all it takes is the revelation that he was influenced by a long-dead Sith spirit and his near-sacrifice sending the superweapon into a black hole before he's welcomed back into the Jedi Academy. One of those twenty-five million was his brother and he felt bad about killing his brother, wasn't that enough? Later books subverted this. Fix Fic I, Jedi made the "disturbance in the Force" deeply disturbing and personal and brought up the issue of all the other people who'd lived there once, or trained there, or had relatives who were there, asking why the Hell Kyp hadn't been held accountable at all? The books after that make Kyp into The Atoner to varying degrees, reminded of what he'd done almost constantly.
    • Fate of the Jedi: Outcast revisits the Carida issue when Daala threatens that if Luke Skywalker does not accept exile, she will extradite now-Master Kyp Durron to the Imperial Remnant for war crimes. Daala, the former mistress of the man who blew up Alderaan and who in the Jedi Academy Trilogy launched an Orbital Bombardment of civilian targets on Mon Calamari and massacred a colony on Dantooine, doesn't have much of a leg to stand on. Also, in the Legacy of the Force series, someone actually called Luke on how many ordinary people died when he blew up the Death Star.
      • It came up in an earlier book - part of the Black Fleet Crisis - where Luke was trying to befriend an extreme pacifist who claimed to have known his mother. A pacifist along the lines of "Violence is never, ever justified, in any circumstances!" Turns out he does know exactly how many people died, and most of the galaxy doesn't condemn him for it, since they were Imperials on the Death Star right after Alderaan, and although a book of the same name shows us that a lot of them weren't exactly evil, they weren't exactly innocent either - they were troops and support staff on a giant battle station that had just destroyed a pacifistic planet, after all. A lot of Imperials were uncomfortable about Alderaan - the official story started off saying that the Rebels had hijacked a mining tool, but absolutely no one believed that, so they put the blame on Grand Moff Tarkin going mad with power.
      • Even prior to this, in I, Jedi Luke mentioned that he'd killed millions by blowing up the Death Star, and thus compared himself with Kyp. However, this is shot down by the person he's talking with, who notes that was very different, as the Death Star was a military installation and he had no other choice to save even more.
    • The roofer in Clerks parodies this whole theory.
      Dante: My friend is trying to convince me that any contractors working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when the space station was destroyed by the rebels.
      Roofer: Well, I'm a contractor myself. I'm a roofer... (digs into pocket and produces business card) Dunn and Reddy Home Improvements. And speaking as a roofer, I can say that a roofer's personal politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs.
      Randal: Like when?
      Roofer: Three months ago I was offered a job up in the hills. A beautiful house with tons of property. It was a simple reshingling job, but I was told that if it was finished within a day, my price would be doubled. Then I realized whose house it was.
      Dante: Whose house was it?
      Roofer: Dominick Bambino's.
      Randal: "Babyface" Bambino? The gangster?
      Roofer: The same. The money was right, but the risk was too big. I knew who he was, and based on that, I passed the job on to a friend of mine.
      Dante: Based on personal politics.
      Roofer: Right. And that week, the Foresci family put a hit on Babyface's house. My friend was shot and killed. He wasn't even finished shingling.
      Randal: No way!
      Roofer: I'm alive because I knew there were risks involved taking on that particular client. My friend wasn't so lucky. You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault. A roofer listens to this... (taps his heart) not his wallet.
    • The death tally after the Yuuzhan Vong war was over 365 trillion. This is not unrealistic, by the way: With all the inhabited worlds of the Star Wars universe (enough to have 20 million sentient species), we know that for a war where the entire galaxy was fighting would probably lead to those kinds of casualties if it was on both sides.
    • The Clone Wars is another example, played straight. The clone army is fighting and dying every day for three years to protect the galaxy, when they have no choice but to fight (unless they're given greater autonomy in the case of being a specialist, such as an ARC Trooper or commando). Many of the people of the galaxy think nothing of them dying because they just see the clones as organic droids. Created to fight, then to be tossed away later. Karen Traviss's Republic Commando Series series delves deeply into inter-clone relations, showing us each different personalities, preferences, methods of speaking, and other such things. During a scene in one of the books, an ARC Trooper takes his helmet off in a crowded bus that he had gotten onto. A lot of the people aboard are very surprised that not only are the clones human, but they're also young, having only been grown around ten years ago.
  • Averted, even after being exaggerated, in the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy. Hundreds of space stations are destroyed and at least a dozen planets depopulated, with a final death toll in the hundreds of billions. Pathos is established partly through the reactions of the Starfleet brass, Federation President, and various officers and politicians from other races; and partly by showcasing the final moments of various incidental characters (often relatives of main characters).
  • Intentionally invoked for the Culture-Idiran War in Consider Phlebas. The epilogue quotes from a historical text that details the overall casualties, including over eight hundred billion lives, the destruction of over fifteen thousand planet-equivalent habitats, and six stars. The very next sentence notes that from a galactic perspective it was a minor bushfire war with low casualties and a small scope (".02 percent of the galaxy by volume and .01 percent of the stellar population.").
  • The Dutch satirical writer Battus once derived a formula to determine the perceived psychological impact of an event in which people died: the logarithm of (# dead / (distance * years past)). Impact goes down with distance, as well as with time elapsed since the event. It goes up with the number of casualties, and all of this logarithmically, as 1000 versus 100 casualties give about the same increase in sense of impact as 100 versus 10. The formula, he notes, is correct also for the edge case that time = 0 and distance = 0, which is indisputably a most serious event for the individual concerned. The newspaper examples below are roughly similar, but as Battus is a mathematician in Real Life, this one has a scientific basis.
  • Used by name in Doom. At the end of the first book, the two main characters watch from space as the earth is carpet-nuked. They aren't nearly as disturbed by this as they feel they should be until they start thinking about specific people they know who are probably dead.
  • In the Belisarius Series, soldiers die in frequently large quantities. Belisarius tries not to kill his men, but he knows that there will be casualties. And then ally and friend Eon dies, and he goes to pieces. Partly justified in that Eon's death causes a succession crisis because his son is an infant.
  • Götz and Meyer inverts this. The narrator claims that the titular Nazis could only have killed as many people as they did if they thought of each victim as a number rather than a person. A statistic equals a million (or five thousand, in their case.)
  • In John C. Wright's Fugitives of Chaos, Victor weighs the death of everyone on shipboard (who had taken them up when they were lost at sea) vs. the death of everyone in the universe if they let themselves get killed. Colin just wants to help the ship. (Fortunately, Amelia decides to Take a Third Option.)
    • In Titans of Chaos, Amelia thinks Used to Be a Sweet Kid of a maenad, but forces herself to remember all the babies who will die if the maenads wins, and kills her.
  • An in-universe example: In S. M. Stirling's Emberverse, most of Earth's population died following the Change, which rendered guns and most forms of power generation inoperable. Twenty-plus years later, most of those born since the Change take living in such a death-ridden world for granted; some of the young protagonists even ridicule most pre-Change humans for being so incompetent at survival skills. While exploring Toronto's CN Tower, however, they discover the skeletons of a woman (apparently a Change-time suicide) and her cat, and are deeply moved by the evidence of these particular deaths.
  • In the Mallorean, Zakath starts out trying to commit genocide. His Mallorean soldiers kill every Murgo they can find, adults and children alike. While he may not have killed a million, it wasn't for lack of effort. Granted, he's quite crazy and everyone hates Murgos, but the protagonists forgive him quite easily. It's jarring when you consider the fact that these are the same people who entombed Zedar in solid rock for all eternity because he killed Durnik in self-defense. The prequels attempt to justify this, mostly by having him Kick the Dog, but we don't see that in the Belgariad. It probably helps at least a little that the Murgos are their peoples' traditional enemies, and further have a rather despicable national culture based on slavery and Human Sacrifice, but the broader point remains.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter, Miranda completely inverts it. She cares passionately about the deaths of thousands while behaving with such Lack of Empathy toward those near to her that her siblings think their father put a spell on her to cause it.
  • This is one of the main themes invoked and questions asked in Hollow Places. Austin, the protagonist, has a particular disdain for people who value their loved ones orders of magnitude above strangers, but he finds it difficult not to fall into the same line of thinking.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • While not involving death, this is the point of The Total Perspective Vortex from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Its purpose is to show a person how insignificant they are in relation to the whole universe. The result is madness in all but one case. The creator was saddened by the madness of his wife but was satisfied that he proved that if life was to exist in a universe this big, the last thing it could afford to have was a sense of proportion.
    • Arthur Dent goes through something similar when he and Ford escape Earth being destroyed - he can only process his planet being destroyed by thinking of smaller things that he's lost and gradually working his way up.
    "There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction..."
    "Every Bogart movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald's, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonalds hamburger. He passed out. When he came round a second later he found he was sobbing for his mother."
    • Also parodied in this exchange:
      Ford Prefect: I read of one planet in the seventh dimension got used as a ball in a game of intergalactic bar billiards. Got potted straight into a black hole, killed ten billion people.
      Arthur Dent: Madness. Total madness.
      Ford Prefect: Yeah. Only scored thirty points too.
  • Taken to an extreme in Nuklear Age, where Nuklear Man rediscovers his identity as Lord Arel, the incredibly powerful destroyer of entire planets, but still protects Earth from his destructive former ally, which is put down to a new feeling of empathy with the individual people of the world.
  • Septimus Heap: Many people have died by the end of Darke, but all what Jenna, Septimus, and Marcia are concerned about is Beetle.
  • In Poul Anderson's "The Pirate", Trevelyn's argument that because births replace emigration, slowly releasing this planet to settlement would not produce any net change in happiness is greeted with charges of inhumanity.
  • Lampshaded in Redshirts, where a planet had to die horrible deaths just so that one character could get a flesh-eating bacteria and be saved dramatically at the last moment.
  • In Darkness at Noon, Ivanov uses this as an excuse for the Reign of Terror:
    "Every year several million people are killed quite pointlessly by epidemics and other natural catastrophes. And we should shrink from sacrificing a few hundred thousand for the most promising experiment in history? Not to mention the legions of those who die of undernourishment and tuberculosis in coal and quicksilver mines, rice-fields and cotton plantations. No one takes any notice of them; nobody asks why or what for; but if here we shoot a few thousand objectively harmful people, the humanitarians all over the world foam at the mouth."
  • In the final battle in Greek Ninja, several people (and not) lost their lives but only Iphigenie's death is mentioned.
  • Played straight and subverted in The Dresden Files. In Changes when Harry discovers that the daughter he didn't know he had has been kidnapped by Red Court vampires, he's willing to do whatever it takes to recover her. His sentiment is: "Let the world burn, me and the kid will roast some marshmallows." He winds up wiping out the Red Court entirely and getting several of his allies injured. In the subsequent book Ghost Story he finally comes face to face with the human toll of his actions, learning of the chaos unleashed by the Red Court's destruction and particularly the cost borne by his apprentice, Molly. As the archangel Uriel points out to him: "It's one thing to say 'Let the world burn.' It's something else entirely to say 'Let Molly burn.'"
    • And in Skin Game, he meets someone who claims to have been impacted, as well. She is not happy.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novels manage to avert this despite the fact they almost never kill off long-term characters (named characters, yes). To name one example, Death or Glory features an extended passage of Cain and Jurgen walking through the ruins of a town after an Ork WAAGH! came through, imagining civilians being gunned down for sport from past experience with the greenskins. The effect is quietly horrific.
  • The page quote, and ultimately the title, comes from The Black Obelisk, from Ludwig's musings after a WWI veteran is murdered for refusing to (illegally) fly the Imperial flag at a ceremony commemorating the dead of that war.
  • In A Symphony of Eternity, we have the Volunian war in which millions of soldiers have died and before that, there was the war for what is now The Occupied Territories where hundreds of millions died in the war, the real kicker? Both are considered TERTIARY fronts and MINOR AND BRIEF conflicts.
  • The Overstory discusses this trope in relation to people's apathy towards what is happening to the environment - the scale is just so immense, and people are far more focused on the lives and endeavors of a few human beings that they happen to know. One character, Neelay Mehta, tends to invert this trope, preferring science fiction books as a child precisely because the stakes are so much higher.
  • Lampshaded in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe after the Battle of Beruna. Lucy Pevensie has a cordial that will heal any injury with a couple of drops. When she finds her brother Edmund wounded on the battlefield, she gives him some at once and sits by his side. Aslan then has to remind her that there are countless other unnamed people wounded that she could be helping while she's wasting time with the brother who's already safe.
  • The 1932 essay Französischer Witz (French Humour) by Kurt Tucholsky has a diplomat say:
    "The war? I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!"
  • Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell. CIA spymaster Eliot justifies setting up his surrogate children to be killed by claiming that his actions have saved thousands of lives. Saul, who happens to be one of those children, is not impressed. "You don't betray the ones you love! I don't know any of those people. I'm not sure I'd even like them."
  • Under Heaven: Shen Tai was told stories by his father, about a particular battle in a particular war the father participated in. "Hearing the number from the battle — forty thousand dead — Tai, when young, had been unable to even picture what it must have been like." Then he visits the battle site personally (as part of a required mourning period after that same father dies) to bury as many as he can. "That was no longer the case."
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: Averted. There is a counter in every safe room showing the number of surviving crawlers. It starts in the millions and goes down rapidly. Carl cannot stop watching it, and his primary motivation is revenge over the murder of his entire species for a reality tv show. The exact number is mentioned repeatedly, with Carl reeling over the sheer amount of dead since last he checked.
  • Xeelee Sequence: The Xeelee Sequence puts millions as an understatement. In Exultant, Pirius contemplated how 30 trillion child soldiers died in vain over a pointless war for 20,000 years. So many children perished in the name of the monstrous (And we mean capital M: monstrous) regime of the Interim Coalition of Governance that their names were etched in a mausoleum at only a micron length. This is exemplified by the quote below:
    "And how could he feel so anguished about the loss of two privates, when, if you added up all the losses around the Front, ten billion died every year? It made no sense, and yet it hurt even so. It is estimated that in all some thirty trillion humans have given their lives to the war: a number orders of magnitude higher than the number of stars in this wretched Galaxy we're fighting over. What a waste of human lives!"
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager novel "Echoes" (a Spiritual Successor to the episode "Deadlock" and the TNG episode "Parallels"), a planet activates a revolutionary new transport system that happens to shift the residents over one universe. When the energy pulse accidentally summons Voyager, she's immune to the shifts. Residents report small changes in the world around them as they're moved. This wouldn't be such a problem, except somewhere down the line, the planet was hit by a meteor. That universe's Voyager shows up after about 90 cycles, then had to try and save a few billion people. And a few hours after that, a few billion more. And so on. We see them scrambling to save a tiny fraction of the population, and how their failure to do so troubles them. It also makes it easier to understand why the Voyagers are all willing to sacrifice themselves to Ret-Gone the problem out of existence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the sixth season of 24, a nuke detonates in Valencia, killing over 12,000 people. The horror of this event is diluted when the CTU crew and regular citizens later prowl around LA like nothing happened.
  • 9-1-1: Deconstructed when a plane crash results in mass casualties. Afterwards, Bobby tries to process the event by having an imaginary conversation with his dead daughter.
    Imaginary Daughter: Are you going to cry?
    Bobby: I don't think I have enough tears for all of them.
  • In the Angel episode "A Hole in the World", when Fred is infected with Illyria's essence and becoming her host, Angel and Spike travel to the Deeper Well, the resting place of the Old Ones, to save her, where the gravekeeper, Drogyn, tells them that if they drew Illyria back to her resting place, its essence would become a mystical airborne virus and kill thousands of people between England and L.A. Angel and Spike aren't willing to sacrifice all those people for one, though Angel briefly appears to consider it.
  • Babylon 5:
    • There's a scene that subverts this trope in the episode "Comes the Inquisitor", when G'Kar and Vir are on an elevator together. When Vir apologizes (for his species' attempted genocide of G'Kar's), G'Kar cuts his palm.
      G'kar: [timed to the blood drops spilling from his palm] Dead... Dead... Dead... Dead... Dead. How do you apologize to them?
      Vir: ...I can't.
      G'kar: Then I cannot forgive.
    • Averted a season or two before in "GROPOS": The titular "GROPOS" are infantry, several of whom had made friends with the main cast (in particular, one of the infantrywomen seemed to have developed the seeds of a relationship with Garibaldi) while using Babylon 5 as a staging area for a ground assault. The assault goes quite well (we see a news report about it), but the final shots make it clear that the GROPOS who had made friends with the established characters had died, and that many more of the unnamed GROPOS had died, and that was the real story. Even the Jerkass is shown lying dead among his fellow soldiers, as a reminder of how impersonal war is.
      • Also, during the final scene, a PADD is being passed hand-to-hand among the crowd watching the news report. This PADD holds a list of the casualties, and several of the unnamed background characters turn away with crestfallen expressions, implying that they too had friends/acquaintances among the fallen. Stories Never Told...
    • Although the crew is pretty sure that President Clark is a xenophobic bastard that gradually converts Earth into a fascist state, and they receive evidence that he indeed masterminded the assassination of his predecessor, it is only him having several civilian transports destroyed with some 10,000 people killed that truly infuriates Sheridan and Ivanova and drives them to declare an all-open war on Clark. On the other hand, it was their attempts to remove him from power without bloodshed that sparked his doing so.
    • Also averted with the fate of the Markab. When it becomes clear that there's unlikely to be a cure of the disease that plagues them, they gather together, lock themselves in and pray. Delenn and Lennier join the ones on Babylon 5 to give them comfort, even though they're not sure that they're immune to that species' disease. When the doors are reopened, the looks on Delenn's and Lennier's faces make it clear that they just witnessed an extinction.
    • Discussed in one episode. The Vorlons are sending a fleet to two different planets. One is the Centauri homeworld, and the other is a colony. When asked why Sheridan is amassing his own fleet at only one place, another character responds that they only have enough ships for one battle. Centauri Prime has 3 billion people living on it, the other world has 6 billion. As Marcus points out, it all comes down to cold, uncaring numbers—and ironically, Centauri Prime is the only one of the two that has named characters on it.
  • The series 1 episode of Bull "What's Your Number?" has as its defendant a real estate tycoon who turns out to be The Sociopath to such an extent that he can't view humans as anything other than statistics — specifically, monetary statistics. It turns out he deliberately ordered a skybridge to be put up with subpar safety measures because he judged that no matter how many people might die if it should collapse, based on the average monetary value of the professions of the people most likely to use it, those lives would be worth less money than he'd save by cutting costs. Bull's team manages to get him proven guilty by unearthing a recording of him making this calculation, and he is sentenced to jail for putting fattening his wallet over what turned out to be fifteen lives.
  • The Cylon attack which claimed billions of lives in Battlestar Galactica is almost forgotten in comparison to the suffering of the main characters aboard the escaping ships. Seeing the baby in the Riverwalk Market and Cami die in the Miniseries is more upsetting than knowing that almost all children of the Colonies are now dead. Even the other survivors rarely get screen time, primarily because they don't live on the titular ship, but a single woman suffering from cancer takes up a great deal. Late in the fourth season during a certain mutiny it is shown that the ordinary people very much keep it at the forefront of their minds, the main characters are unusual in having a broader view of things thanks to their experiences. Put simply, the lives of everyone is a mixture of nightmare, deprivation, and mindless drudgery, but at least they are alive. Better to focus on the problems happening to them now than dwell on the genocide. But it is never forgotten. To be fair, that single woman with cancer is the President.
    • This is brought up in the trial of Giaus Baltar, where the prosecutor explains in her closing statements that such staggering loss is so difficult to comprehend, so instead, the focus turns to the scant thousands that remain.
  • Semi-averted in Being Human (UK). Mitchell is a stereotypical hot vampire who's killed a lot of people and is emo about it, and sees other characters as villains just because they want to punish him for the thousands of people he's killed. But the spirit of one of his victims tells Mitchell that he should stop acting like a victim, and if he really wanted to do something good, he would kill himself.
  • Many Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans lost all respect for Spike after his Attempted Rape of Buffy. They were perfectly okay with him killing thousands in horrible ways as a soulless vampire because it happened mostly offscreen. And not just killing - "Do you know what I've done to girls Dawn's age?"
  • Charmed (1998) tended to subvert this - the sisters will be saddened by any loss of innocent life, including the sudden and surprise death of a random passerby who got no lines or name and was killed just as a Kick the Dog moment by the villain.
  • Criminal Minds tends to zigzag around this trope. When it comes to case selection, the lower the number of murders, the less urgency the team has to take on the case. However, when it comes to the victims themselves, the victims the team weren't able to rescue (or hadn't attempted to rescue), the most team does is mouth a few words of regret (if they show any remorse at all for them), with the team only caring about the victim if they have to go out and find a way to rescue them before it's too late. The two-parter "To Hell.. and Back", which revolves around a mentally disabled pig farmer abducting and murdering welfare recipients at his brother's orders before [Fed to Pigs feeding the remains to the farm's hogs], leaving only their shoes in a bin as trophies, lampshades this trope when the team discovers just how many victims the UnSub had managed to kidnap:
    Detective Benning: [shocked at the discovery] 89 pairs of shoes...
    Morgan: So, how many of them did there have to be before you started caring? 100? 200?
    Benning: [remains speechless]
  • It would be more difficult to find a Doctor Who season that didn't include the deaths of thousands, millions, or, in at least one instance, billions that were only given a passing mention, if that.
    • In "Genesis of the Daleks", the Kaled city is destroyed, killing at least thousands of people. The Doctor is deeply saddened... because he thinks that Harry and Sarah were in the city (naturally they escaped in time). However, it's averted to a degree as the destruction of the city still has emotional impact, mostly from the eerily jubilant reaction of the Thals.
    • "Logopolis" involves the destruction of one-quarter of the entire universe; by even the most conservative estimates that's a single-episode death toll expressible only in scientific notation. And not only does nobody seem to care (including one character whose home intergalactic supercluster was destroyednote ), the villain responsible gets the full Draco in Leather Pants treatment despite being possibly the worst mass-murderer in all fiction (but in all fairness, it was an accident)!
    • Defied by the Doctor in regards to the destruction of Gallifrey in the New Series. That event weighs on his conscience harder than anything else. He was asked just before he pushed The Button how many children were on Gallifrey at that moment, and were about to die by his hand. He didn't know at the time, but he later counted (2.47 billion). Of course, in "The Day of the Doctor", he ends up saving Gallifrey with his other incarnations in a Tricked Out Time gambit, but due to the timelines being out of sync doesn't remember this so the point stands.
    • "World War Three": The Slitheen cruelly invoke this. When Harriet Jones (MP, Flydale North) points out that their plan to reduce the Earth to radioactive rubble by sparking a nuclear war will cost over six billion human lives, Margaret Blaine sneers, "A bargain."
    • Discussed in "Nightmare in Silver" when a character is disturbed that he finds it so easy to feel sorry for a person who had no choice but to wipe out a galaxy to stop an intergalactic threat, but so hard to feel anything for the billions of trillions who were collateral damage.
    • In the first appearance of the Cybermen in "The Tenth Planet", Polly asks a Cyberman why it doesn't care that some humans are going to die without help.
      Cyberman: I do not understand you. There are people dying all over your world, yet you do not care about them.
    • In the New Series it's implied this is why the Doctor has companions, so he'll at least care for someone and maintain his moral compass, given that he deals with the deaths of billions through disaster or simply the passage of time.
  • The destruction of the Gamak Base in Farscape should give the viewer pause. Yes, the Peacekeepers are an evil army who torture prisoners, but there are unknown numbers of techs like Gilina on the base who aren't combatants or necessarily bad people. Yet the main cast never seems to have any qualms about the base's destruction. In contrast, when the Command Carrier (which has children and non-combatants living on it) is attacked two seasons later, the characters do make the point that there will be time to evacuate the inhabitants.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • While debating whether to assassinate Daenerys, Grand Maester Pycelle questions how many thousand innocents will die in the war that must come if Daenerys invades Westeros.
    • Subverted in the Season 1 finale, when Daenerys gets a harsh dose of reality. She expects Mirri Maz Dur to be grateful to her for saving her from being killed by the Dothraki - only to be reminded that her village was invaded, temple burned to the ground, friends and family all butchered, and she herself raped three times - so she really doesn't have much to be grateful for.
    • Tywin notes that the Red Wedding prevented thousands of deaths by ending the Northern rebellion without the friendly losses required to kill the same army in battle. However, he only refers to the "dozen at dinner" killed in the main hall of the Twins, ignoring the thousands of common soldiers slaughtered outside the castle.
    • Speaking of the Red Wedding, the book spent time establishing all these side characters who would unexpectedly get slaughtered to make the event that much of a Gut Punch. The TV series did not have the time to develop these characters, so the emphasis is on the deaths of the main characters. Which is actually three people - giving Talisa a Death by Adaptation presumably to make up for it.
    • Stannis, Melisandre, and Davos debate whether sacrificing a single innocent to end the war with magic is preferable to the thousands (including civilians) who would die in conventional warfare. Stannis's burnings of unnamed characters are not given nearly as much weight as his eventual sacrifice of one: his daughter Shireen. The latter had been a recurring presence on the show.
    • The final episode treats Jon having to assassinate Daenerys as a far more tragic event than the previous episode featuring Daenerys burning all of King's Landing to the ground and killing tens of thousands in the process because the former was a main protagonist of the series and the aforementioned deaths were all featured extras who just appeared in one episode.
    • The series initially went to great lengths to subvert the trope - showing how the small folk were affected by the scheming and machinations of the nobles; for example, Catelyn simply seizing Tyrion under suspect of attempting to murder Bran leads to Tywin having his armies slaughter innocent peasants in the Riverlands as revenge. Likewise Ned Stark's execution and Joffrey's reign of terror lead to massive riots and unrest amongst the civilians of King's Landing. But by the final seasons, this is ignored; Cersei blowing up the Sept of Baelor and wiping out House Tyrell and the Faith Militant in the process gets barely a passing mention, and any times characters question the lack of food for the upcoming winter it's never followed up on (with no mention or signs of people starving).
    • Sansa shows zero remorse for betraying the secret of Jon's parentage to Tyrion in the last few episodes, which leads to Daenerys's allies betraying her, resulting in her burning all of King's Landing to the ground. Sansa never once seems to care that thousands of innocent civilians (and surrendering soldiers) died because of her attempts at political scheming. She merely says it was the "only way".
  • Leverage:
    • The show observes that this applies to good deeds as much as bad. If you buy the town a new school it just reminds people how rich you are but if you help raise one person out of poverty you're a hero.
    • On a more regular basis, the cast tends to roll with this when they go after the heads of corporations and the like: you cheer for them because they helped whoever it was who originally came to team for help, but don't really think of the hundreds of others who might be hurt when the corrupt corporation gets shut down.
  • A memorable, early episode of M*A*S*H actually delves into this thought process and how it can keep a man sane in war. Hawkeye had just witnessed a good buddy of his from home die on the operating table and goes outside to get out some well-deserved angst. When Henry Blake goes out to give comfort, he finds that Hawkeye isn't just mourning the fact that he lost a friend, but that he's witnessed innumerable casualties die in the same manner, and didn't cry for them.
  • Stargate SG-1. In order to save Teal'c's life, the main characters destroy a piece of technology that is stopping a Goa'uld invasion! (said invasion was not imminent or known about, however - the defense was in place and so Goa'uld did not send troops there. Unfortunately one must have decided to send a scout at some point after the tech was destroyed). When the Goa'uld do invade in the second season, they destroy half of the planet's population. This is made worse by noting that the defense technology they disabled could probably have been circumvented by the humans.
    • They're very willing to admit their own faults, including when they personally screw up and cause some major disasters. People mess up, but as they are good it is usually unintentional and they try to make it up. The antagonists may point out valid faults, but as they themselves always do worse and don't even try to be good, Stargate Command still holds the high ground. Plus, they free the galaxy from thousands of years of domination and stagnation in just ten years. Broke a few eggs along the way though- whole worlds dropped off the map in part thanks to them with barely a mention, as befits this trope.
      • As mentioned above, they do get called on it every now and then. Jacob after he takes a Tok'ra symbiote points out that while SG-1 has done more in a few years than other factions who have been at work for centuries, their actions have created power vacuums among the System Lords that have resulted in massive amounts of killing. One episode in particular starts off playing the trope straight, then subverts it. the SG-1 travels to a planet where Teal'c had been to previously when he was First Prime for Apophis. He is brought to trial for his crimes. He states at first that he's killed so many people that he doesn't even remember this one world. Later in the episode, he states that he regrets every single act he committed as First Prime, and that he carries the weight of every person he killed in Apophis' name.
    • Teal'c offers some advice to a former adversary at the end of the Ori arc about learning to live with yourself as The Atoner when this trope wears off and the guilt sets in: you focus on doing the good you can now and never let yourself forget even if others try to offer you forgiveness.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • Lampshaded in the episode "The Immunity Syndrome". When McCoy expresses disbelief that Spock is capable of "feeling" the deaths of four hundred Vulcans, Spock replies, "I have noticed that about your people, Doctor. You find it easier to understand the death of one than the death of a million."
      • In "The Devil in the Dark", Spock attempts to defy Kirk and have the Horta brought in safely For Science!, in spite of the fact that it's been killing lots of miners. But when Kirk is facing the Horta, even though it's not doing anything, Spock starts baying for its blood and has to be ordered not to attack it.
      • The theme of the episode "A Taste of Armageddon" is that adopting this attitude towards wars actually helps in facilitating it.
        Kirk: Death... disease, destruction, horror... that's what war is all about, Anan. That's what makes it a thing to be avoided. You've made it neat and painless. So neat and painless that you've had no reason to stop it.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The episode "The Survivors" plays with this trope. A god-like being settles down with a human wife and becomes a pacifist - but then a hostile race attacks their planet, and the being's wife is killed defending the planet. This angers the being into destroying the hostile race - the entire race of fifty billion. This is where Picard finds him, alone on the blighted planet with a simulacrum of his wife.
      Kevin Uxbridge: I saw her broken body... I went insane. My hatred exploded. And in an instant of grief... I destroyed the Husnock! ...No, no, no, no, you don't understand the scope of my crime. I didn't kill just one Husnock, or a hundred, or a thousand. I killed them all. All Husnock, everywhere.
      Picard: We are not qualified to be your judges. We have no law to fit your crime. You're free to return to the planet, and to make Rishon live again.note  ...We leave behind a being of extraordinary power... and conscience. I am not certain if he should be praised or condemned. Only that he should be left alone.
    • In the final arc of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Cardassians finally turn on their Dominion allies - the female changeling responds by ordering the deaths of more than 800 million Cardassian civilians. Garak and Captain Sisko show some sympathy over this, but on the whole it's pretty well skipped over.
      • Averted in the case of Federation casualties during the war. Sisko makes it a point to read the name of every single Federation officer who is killed by the Dominion, and they even motivate his decision to betray Federation values in order to bring the Romulans into the war. In his own words from "The Siege of AR-558":
        Sisko: They're not just names, it's important we remember that. We have to remember...
    • Also averted in "Business As Usual", which finds Quark working with Gaila, a freelance arms dealer. When Gaila sells weapons to The Regent, a tyrant who plans to use his weapons to kill 28 million of his own people to quell a rebellion, Quark yanks himself away from the Moral Event Horizon and risks his life to screw the deal, getting the Regent assassinated in the process, and forcing Gaila and his associate Hagath to flee.
      "One life for 28 million. Best deal I ever made."
    • Averted on Star Trek: Enterprise with the Xindi attack. The death toll of seven million becomes almost a mantra, deliberately repeated until it is burned into the minds of both the audience and everyone the Enterprise encounters.
      • Tucker's younger sister was killed in the attack and he spends time trying to avert this trope by insisting that she was no more important than any of the other casualties. Numerous characters try telling him that it is okay to acknowledge that she was more important to him, and that it is also okay to be more upset over her death. Finally after a costly battle, he breaks down and admits how much he misses her.
  • Invoked in an episode of Wonder Woman (1975), "The Man Who Made Volcanoes". As Wonder Woman, along with Soviet and Chinese agents, confront a scientist who is threatening widespread devastation on Earth, the Chinese agent notes that even if he killed 90% of the population of the People's Republic of China, there would still be "over 100 million" of them.

  • Played for Laughs (yes, really) in Tom Lehrer's "We Will All Go Together When We Go", which notes that soon no one will have to be sad about funerals and contemplating their own mortality anymore — when nuclear war will kill everyone at the same time!
    We will all bake together, when we bake
    There'll be nobody present at the wake
    With complete participation
    In this grand incineration
    Nearly three billion hunks of well-done steak!
  • Played straighter in "People Say" by Portugal The Man:
    What a lovely day, yeah, we won the war
    May have lost a million men, but we've got a million more
    All the people, they say...
  • Sara Groves has a song called "Abstraction" which is essentially about this trope. Millions of starving people in a place like Africa... hard to sympathize. Meet a few of them, and they're no longer just a statistic.
  • The Hunters and Collectors song 'What's a Few Men?' is about the British indifference to Australian casualties in World War I.
  • Referenced word for word in "The Fight Song" by Marilyn Manson, from Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death).
  • Questioned in the second verse of "Father" by Sabaton, bringing up the fact that Fritz Haber's invention of the process to manufacture ammonia for chemical fertilizer has fed billions, but he also indirectly killed tens of thousands in his role in the German WWI chemical weapons program.
    And on the battlefield they’re dying
    And on the fields the crops are grown
    So who can tell us what is right or wrong
    Maths or morality alone?

  • The reason the news reports massive catastrophes abroad is to mention that none of "our people" were hurt.
    • Finnish satirist news blog Lehti ran an article titled "A Finn Equals 4 Alligators", also giving the "official" numbers of tragedy in news. Ten thousand Africans equal 1,000 Asians or other non-whites, equal 100 non-nearby whites, equals 10 nearby whites, which equals four alligators, equals one Finnish person "if you know them". They also ran an article assuring that there were "No Finnish Casualties Among the Dead Pope".
  • A similar rule applied to some British newspapers: "One Brit equals 10 Frogs (Frenchmen) equals 100 wogs (Mediterranean Europeans)".
    • A different version of that is, "One dead in Putney equals 10 dead in Paris equals 100 dead in Turkey equals 1,000 dead in India equals 10,000 dead in China" (though that last one also owes much to the "life is cheap in China" cliché, as China is home to billions).
  • Inverted with an Argentinian news channel which ran a headline after a traffic accident reading "Two People And A Bolivian Died".

  • Discussed occasionally in Relative Disasters when the death toll is particularly high, such as in the apocalyptic K-Pg mass extinction event, or in the 1556 Jiajing earthquake, which killed an estimated 830,000 people.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Averted during CHIKARA's Season 14 (2014). The focus of that Season was the feud between CHIKARA and The Flood, the amalgamation of Heel groups out to destroy CHIKARA, who were led by Deucalion. Deucalion debuted at the end of the return show You Only Live Twice, May 25, 2014, by destroying Kobald, which led to the hashtag #Vengeance4Kobald. He destroyed several characters, both tecnicos and some of his own followers. After he destroyed deviANT of GEKIDO, some fans on the message boards floated the hashtag #VengeanceForDeviant, even though he had tried to burn down the Wrestle Factory in the Ashes videos.note  That these characters were destroyed was acknowledged by the promotion and the fans. At the Season Finale, Tomorrow Never Dies, on December 6th, CHIKARA Grand Champion Icarus defeated Deucalion in a cage match and then destroyed him with The Estonian Thunderfrog's Hammer of War, ending The Flood.
  • Torrie Wilson inverted this trope when talking about setting up a personal coaching business, and how she was afraid of failing initially but then realised...

  • Defied in the Book of Jonah, where God calls Jonah out on showing no concern as to whether 120,000 people in Nineveh repent or not. To be specific, Jonah tried running away to Tarshish when he was told to go to Nineveh. Then, after spending three days in the belly of a whale, he warns Nineveh of its imminent destruction, only for the Ninevites to, surprise-surprise, repent! Jonah is furious and throws a temper tantrum about it, but God reminds him that He created all 120,000 of these people, including little children, and as many cattle.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 uses this trope very heavily. The Imperium of mankind in particular contains such an absurd number of individuals that even counting exactly how many planets there are is pretty tough. There are millions of planets in the Imperium, some of which contain trillions of people, meaning that a Billion isn't just a statistic for the Imperium, it's a rounding error. The Imperial Guard consists of at least trillions of individual members, and several of the forces that the Imperium fights are operating on similar scales. On the other end of the spectrum are numerous stories focusing on particular individuals or small groups that can be surprisingly sympathetic and touching. This is a trap.
    • Invoked Trope by the Cadian Law of Decipherability for cemeteries on their planet. Due to necessary heavy militarization on the planet, death tolls are high while land is limited - thus, after a time at which graves' tombstones are found to be illegible, the graves are exhumed and the bones are tossed into a mass-grave pit to grant space for future burials, as the lack of a name on the graves proves no one will be remembering the individuals any longer.
    • Imperial Guard Commander Chenkov of the Valhallan 18th is mentioned as sacrificing 10 million Guardsmen without using artillery or armored support in a single conflict in order to end a year-long siege. He did get a nice merit for it though.
      • Chenkov also built a wall out of the bodies of his men. Not the ones that died in conflict. When he wanted a wall he just ordered them to be executed!
    • A famous joke illustrating just how worthless human lives are in the setting is that entire planet populations are often lost because of rounding errors on tax forms. One story mentions a planet being accidentally drafted this way, and then posthumously sentenced to death for letting the now-abandoned world be conquered without a fight.
    • The Space Marines are exceptionally powerful and skilled elite soldiers and are thus operating on extremely low numbers, by the standards of the setting at least (Based on given information there are at least hundreds of thousands if not millions of Space Marines). As a result, they operate on the opposite end of the spectrum, where every loss sucks due to their relative rarity. This also translates well in game as Space marines are, model for model, far more valuable than something like a guardsman and will generally operate in much smaller groups. However, this means that losing even a single squad of Marines is can be very costly, while the Guard can often afford to sacrifice a squad or two just to keep a group of elite enemies busy. This can actually be a surprisingly effective tactic, as, although the elite unit in question will eventually get through the guardsmen, they might take several turns to do so, allowing the guardsmen to gain the advantage elsewhere in the battle while the enemy elites are tied up and unable to help.
    • The Eldar take this view on the loss of other species. They view the survival of themselves and their brethren as the utmost priority and the deaths of innumerable numbers of the "lesser species" inconsequential. They'll happily engineer war or destruction of entire planets or solar systems of other species to ensure the safety of Eldars.
    • Saying Orks may die at the hands of their Warboss implies the possibility they won't. If they didn't, their WAAGH wouldn't stay together. Plus, the Orks come back soon after anyway... It's been said that if the Orks managed to actually all work together, nothing in the galaxy could stop them. Saying that "A Million is a Statistic" applies to the Orks may be misleading, as it implies they actually care about other Orks dying, or that they have any understanding of statistics.
    • There's no real way to say how many Tyranids there are, mostly because you can't really count Tyranids as individual beings. That being said their modus operandi is to show up to a planet, kill any resistance then consume every living thing on the planet for biomass. Tyranids dying in the process isn't really an issue, since they just harvest the biomass of their own dead in the end as well.
    • The trope is played horribly straight by Konrad Curzenote : he transformed his dark, gloomy and rainy homeworld from a terrified crime-ridden anarchic hellhole into a terrified crime-free dystopian police state by brutally murdering lawbreakers. Not in job lots though, not until they made him their king, but one by one criminals would disappear, only to be found later brutally killed, and rarely in one piece.
    • Tau Ethereals play this trope straight. You can lose several squads of your fire warriors, but god forbid if the Ethereal dies (recent rule changes seem to have inverted this, as the Ethereal dying grants a bonus instead of a handicap now).
  • Regular Warhammer has its own examples. Skaven live by this rule, happily firing their artillery into their own troops, as long as it's hitting the enemy too (they're the only faction allowed to do so, in fact). Greenskins such as Orcs and Goblins also aren't overly worried about individuals dying. The Vampires counts also field massive armies of expendable undead. That said in all three cases the armies do still have some more valuable elite units, and losing those can be quite problematic. Other races like Dwarves and Warriors of Chaos are on the opposite end of the spectrum, appearing almost exclusively in much smaller numbers. Losing a few dozen Skaven or Orcs and Goblins to kill a handful of Warriors of Chaos, Dwarves or similar races is often a notable victory.
    • This also applies to named characters in game as well. A hero or named character is often roughly as valuable as a block of normal infantry. Which often means that, points value wise, losing 20 or 30 spearmen is about the same as losing a single character. Losing frontline troops is almost always just acceptable losses, while losing your general or other characters is a very quick way to lose.
  • BattleTech invokes and subverts this. Several sourcebooks list horrible events in the game's back story, some involving entire planets being razed. It's implied with the orbital bombardment from warships. While the InnerSphere has Warships as Lost Technology when the Clans arrived, the Clans have several. The Smoke Jaguar Clan bombed a planet after Prince Hohiro Kurita escaped. The Clan council banned orbital bombardment as dishonorable as the backlash unites the InnerSphere. One Jade Falcon warship captures a world by threatening to hit it from orbit, hoping no one will call their bluff.
  • In Flying Buffalo's Nuclear War card game, players track their progress by their countries' populations. A typical play will often kill anywhere from 1 million to 100 million people.
  • Risk. Granted, you're just rolling dice and moving pieces of plastic around. You never stop to consider how many Green soldiers you would be sending to their deaths just to seize Kamchatka from the Blue Army. The game really only ends when all but one of the armies has been annihilated.
  • In Rifts, the Great Cataclysm which brought Rifts Earth to its current state, and the random Rifts demons, and other catastrophes that came after nearly made humanity extinct. This is brought up many times in various sourcebooks, but the numbers are so huge they're hard for someone reading the books to imagine.
  • In any Dungeons & Dragons campaign that features the Outer Planes (such as Planescape), it is common knowledge that even a small battle in the Blood War is at least a hundred times bigger than any fought among mortals, and casualties can often amount to millions on both sides. This becomes even remarkable when you consider that neither side has made any progress toward winning the conflict since it started eons ago. While it's hard to feel sorry for fiends, the thought of incredible loss of life that the war causes can often make one pause.
    • One official Planescape adventure takes the players to a place called the Field of Nettles which is a frequent battlefield in the Blood War. The place doesn't have landscape, it has gargantuan piles of bodies that never rot for some unknown reason. The piles are so grand they make large hills or small mountains, and there are so many that the Field has become a maze, nigh-impossible to navigate without flying support. Whole armies can be outfitted just by scavenging the piles. Even the adventure can only barely reflect on the sheer death toll of mortal and immortal lives that goes into making the place, and is more concerned with the logistics of crossing it while worrying about fiendish patrols.
      • If the players are successful in completing the objective of this mission - finding the battle plans of the infernal armies of Hell - and then read them, they discover that the Field of Nettles was not considered to have any strategic importance, and was actually used as a distraction to lure the demons from another battlefield that they really considered important. In other words, the devils were willing to sacrifice millions of soldiers for nothing more than a diversionary tactic. The revelation should hit the players very hard at that point.
  • In the Eberron setting for D&D, Cyre (aka the Mournland) gets varying levels of this trope depending on where one lived before the end of the Last War, as do the casualties of the War itself. Most of Cyre's neighbors are perfectly willing to ignore the nation's death (except when they're being paranoid about the cause of the Day of Mourning and its possible repetition) and the loss of life of every soldier and civilian in the nation, mostly because everyone's so exhausted by war. Many Cyrans strive to make sure Cyre isn't forgotten and that others remember everyone who died was a person with loved ones, while visiting the Mournland is quite the pointed reminder: nothing rots in the Mournland, so every corpse is there in perfect condition.
  • Bleak World has the Aliens, they want to protect the citizens of Earth from the Venusians, but they do so by declaring a massive war that leaves millions dead. As long as we're free though.
  • Mutant: Year Zero averts this trope significantly, billions of people died at the end of the world and only a small number of them survived in small pockets. And the game emphasizes this loss by having the populations of the PC's races act as an in the game timer, a timer that tics down every session with a six-sided dice roll. So there's only so much of a stable population in the Core Rule Book and Source Books; around two hundred in The Ark, one-thousand-three-hundred-and-ninety in Genlab and ten-thousand in Elysium-1. The robots of Mechatron-7 are incalculable. Once it reaches zero, it's game over.

    Video Games 
  • Armored Core: Armored Core For Answer
    • In a subversion, if you destroy Cradle 03, the other characters WILL care about your mass slaughter. And then you get an extremely difficult level as Video Game Cruelty Punishment.
    • No one seems to care about the countless lives you take when you destroy Arms Forts, like Spirit of Motherwill, or the countless Line Ark citizens who die because you blew up the Megalis power plant, that provides energy for their Phlebotium-Clearing Air Purifiers.
  • The Final Boss of Bravely Default has an attack that consumes an Alternate Universe as fuel, aptly named "Armageddon". The first time he uses it, he specifically calls you out on this trope, saying he doubts that you truly comprehend the magnitude of what he just did. The characters' terror at the implications are far more effective at stopping them from fighting than the attack's actual battle effect, and they end up surrendering after the fifth world eaten, just to stop him from doing this anymore.
  • Civilization. Or any large-scale Turn-Based Strategy/4X war games for that matter.
    • They only count if they have individual characters more valuable than cities. In Civilization, the death of a single Great Person is more important than having the "city size" statistic decrease by one. Cities are counted in the millions of inhabitants.
    • To an extent, regular soldiers as well. Since a military unit is represented by a single sprite, a player is unlikely to be too choked up by the loss of hit points, representing members of the unit, as long as the guy is still standing. IV and V address this by making each unit composed of several figures, but it's still not very daunting to see half of them get slaughtered, knowing that they can fortify in one place and eventually regenerate.
    • V actually has a chance of reciting the Trope Namer quote out loud when you advance to the Modern Era.
    • Exaggerated in Galactic Civilizations. Planetary invasions involve tens of millions of troops, on each side, per battle, and every single attempt at invading a planet is noted to cause the death of billions of people. Your population is so large that it is counted in billions as a base unit, and the game notes that that's only the taxpaying population, and there are many, many more that the census skips over.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert paraphrases the quote at the top, and has it delivered by none other than Josef Stalin himself:
    "When you kill one, it is a tragedy. When you kill ten million, it is a statistic."
  • Crusader Kings and its sequel are games where most armies are composed of faceless levies but led by named characters, including your player character and his heirs. Often the game will allow, encourage, or outright require you to sacrifice thousands of those levies to satisfy the whims of one of these characters — for instance, besieging a castle so that you'll have a holding to give to your Spare to the Throne so he'll stop complaining about not having any land unlike his elder brother.
  • DEFCON is a simulation of nuclear war on a simple wireframe map that resembles The Big Board at military command. All you see for dropping a bomb on a city is the city's icon engulfed in light and the text "MEXICO CITY HIT, 12.2M DEAD".
  • Parodied in Discworld Noir: Lewton tells an NPC that the people of Ankh-Morpork don't react if you tell them a thousand people died in a pogrom in Omnia, but tell them an Ankh-Morpork citizen stubbed his toe on the Brass Bridge and you get a reaction. The other guy then replies: "A citizen stubbed his toe on the Brass Bridge?"
  • In Double Homework, we are supposed to feel more sorry for the protagonist, who has crippling depression after accidentally killing 12 people, than for the 12 people who lost their lives. Downplayed in that two of those 12 people were his parents.
  • Played with Dragon Age: Origins. Just before The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, the game takes time to show an average man bidding farewell to his wife and child, possibly for the last time, before setting off for war. The image will stay with you.
  • In one sidequest in Dragon Age: Inquisition, the player must choose to save either a small Ragtag Bunch of Misfits they've bonded with in an earlier scene or a dreadnought full of sailors they've never met. Tellingly, most players go for the former.
    • Even more tellingly is that the most often cited reason for choosing the latter is not 'There was something dangerously close to a thousand sailors who there was no evidence of escaping the doomed vessel' but rather 'I needed the Qunari to fight the demons'. Even the people who choose to save the faceless many instead of the likable few didn't do so as a subversion of this trope at all. Although another commonly cited reason is the information provided by the continued Qunari alliance will save far more people in the long run than the Chargers ever could, so the trope isn't always completely played straight here.
    • Another side quest prioritizing the needs of the few over the needs of the many is the Inquisitor discovering that the Mayor of Crestwood isolated and flooded a few dozen Blight-infected refugees to keep them from infecting the rest of his village during the Fifth Blight. Considering the Blight is extremely deadly, contagious, and incurable, the fact is he saved far more lives by flooding the infected refugees than not. Except the game depicts his actions as purely monstrous on account of the few dozen lives he ended over the hundreds he saved with that action.
    • Discussed with Iron Bull, who actually takes you to meet random people under your command twice, so you can put names and faces to the adoring masses who worship you but whom you might not feel any personal connection to.
    • Aside from these two quests, the game often bends over backwards trying to avert the trope. The game often emphasizes how many millions of people will die from the Breach and then Corypheus, yet the player is often shown random civilians struggling to get by in a world gone mad to generate pathos. Most side quests in the Hinterlands (the largest explorable area in the game) involve finding food, blankets, and medical care for random people you've never met, and if you do then for the rest of the game you'll randomly hear random background NPC's blessing the Inquisitor for making their lives better. You can spend a lot of time getting to know random people working for you in Haven and then, when Haven is attacked, you end up saving those same people in the wreckage. Companions Sera and Iron Bull often take a lot of time telling you how you should care about the nameless faceless people who work for you, and most characters will take at least one moment every thirty seconds to emphasize the tragic waste of human life the countless deaths at the Conclave, Haven, Orlesian Civil War, and Corypheus cause rather than just focusing on the fact that tons of people died. YMMV on how successful this was to most players.
  • Dwarf Fortress, where the death of one dwarf is a tragedy, but the death of two hundred Dwarfs is a very successful use of magma.
    • It can be averted, however, in the fact that every single dwarf (and plenty of other creatures) is unique, with different personalities and tastes (and, in the new version, physical appearance). Therefore, it's not uncommon to grow very attached to your little dwarves and mourn their loss.
    • Which means it's playing it straight because as easy as it is to feel attached to your original seven dwarves, as the numbers pile up, they become more and more meaningless.
    • Also played straight with your dwarves, as they grow from fraternal pioneers to solitary Iron Woobies. After losing enough close personal relationships, witnessing massacres no longer phases them.
  • Dynasty Warriors:
    • You can say the same for any game based on a large-scale war, and in fact, there are a few instances where the plight of the common folk is integral to the story (in particular, the Yellow Turban Rebellion and Liu Bei leading the peasants out of Chang Ban). The main reason DW makes such a huge deal out of certain deaths is that's how it was in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which, as anyone who's read it will tell you, is very heavy on drama.
  • Fable III subverts this handily. In the second half of the game, you have to manage Albion's funding to prevent the absolute annihilation of the kingdom's 6.5 million people by the invading Crawler and his "Children". Every day, you get to see a "Projected Civilian Casualties" statistic, which is exactly 6.5M-Funding. It's nearly impossible not to want to save as many as possible, and damn the PR!
  • In Far Cry 2, one of the central characters, the Jackal, who you were hired to kill to put an end to his arms dealing which is only fanning the flames of the various civil wars that are going on in Africa, makes a very good point about this during one of his interview tapes which can be found in the game. During one of the tapes, he mentions that despite how powerful the U.S. military is (and he would know, being a former Navy SEAL before he became an arms dealer), they let petty morality get in the way of doing whatever it takes to win, and that their media focuses too much on how many of our servicemen and women die in combat when they need to realize that soldiers dying is part of the cost of war. He notes that the American public can't accept heavy casualties and care more about the deaths of individuals rather than honor the cause they died for, stating that "the death of a 23-year-old from Iowa gets more air time than the death of 50,000 people he gave his life to protect. So even if they did give a shit, their own media prevents them from taking any action." The death of even one of our troops is a tragedy, while the death of those he was fighting for even if goes into the thousands or millions is a statistic, and the Jackal is disgusted at the hypocrisy of this. It is for this reason that he believes that his arms dealing is actually helping the world - if the U.S. Military won't do anything to stem the tide of all these terrible wars going on in the world then he will.
  • Players tended to forgive Sakura in Fate/stay night because of her victims - the two asshole members of her family, Saber and Berserker and about a thousand people from the town they live in. Seriously, does anyone even remember that she ate a thousand people? To be fair, in story it's actually an aversion as Sakura is struggling with guilt about the town yet is no doubt pleased about Zouken and probably even Shinji. It's demonstrated that she mentally collapses if Shirou is not around to help, and Shirou himself is trying to pick up the tattered scraps of his idealism for letting it happen. But to the players? Only upset about Saber, if at all.
    • The fact that she had absolutely no idea that she was killing any of the people in the town, and was not at all in control of her actions at that point (she saw it all as a nightmare), probably has a lot to do with it as well. As soon as she realises what she has been doing, she refuses to go to sleep, and then goes to confront her grandfather the next day in order to end it all. Granted, it goes wrong, but at least she tried... The only people she actually consciously kills are the aforementioned asshole victims, who most definitely deserved it. However, arguably Shirou can be blamed for this, because he doesn't take the opportunity to kill her even after he finds out that she has done this (although, doing so in the game is actually a bad choice, because her servant (rather predictably) kills him if he does, and this is likely to send Sakura insane with no possibility of being redeemed or stopped)
    • Contrast with Caster, who hospitalizes, disfigures, and castrates large quantities of people during Unlimited Blade Works. What most people will likely hold up as her primary act of evil is taking Taiga hostage and kidnapping Saber, and most of it is forgiven by the time she dies beautifully in the arms of her beloved.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Both averted and played straight in Final Fantasy VII. After all, when your game is about heroic eco-terrorists, there's no escaping this trope:
      • Cloud's paycheck putting a dent in Marlene's educational funding is given more attention than the fact that Cloud and AVALANCHE just returned from bombing a power plant, probably killing hundreds of people.
      • Barret breaks down when Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie are killed by Shinra, and he thinks Marlene has been killed by the collapsing Sector 7 pillar. Cait Sith calls Barret out on this later in the game, when he asks him how many people AVALANCHE killed when they blew up that reactor. Barret actually tries to refute him with this trope, but Cait Sith shoots him down, and Barret doesn't seem fully convinced of his own argument.
      • The destruction of Sector 7 is a rare (for this game) villainous example of this trope. After all, apart from Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie, nobody the audience knows was killed — and so Reno, the man directly responsible for the destruction, is never brought to justice for his actions. In Advent Children, he's a comic relief character who nobody takes very seriously.
      • Impressively, however, the game manages to simultaneously avert and play this trope straight in regard to the destruction of the planet. While FFVII is ultimately yet another "save the world from destruction" plot (and would thus be highly susceptible to this trope), the threat maintains its emotional intensity because the planet itself is a living organism, with its own blood and spiritual essence (the lifestream), and possibly even sentience (many of the game's Superboss are guardians the planet created to protect itself because it senses it's in danger).
    • Final Fantasy VII Remake averts this trope by devoting a lot of time to the devastation and fear before and after the plate drop, even though many more people below survive this time.
      • The lead-up has a new section for Aerith recovering Marlene, showing terrified civilians desperately trying to escape as their home falls apart, children getting lost from their parents, and so on.
      • The aftermath of the Sector 7 plate being dropped is given far more weight: many background characters will despair at the loss of their home, feel Survivor Guilt, or fearfully wonder if all the plates can be dropped, whether you interact with them or not (in the original, you can not talk to any NP Cs and miss all of this). In one particularly harrowing instance, a woman will suffer an outright panic attack and has to be guided out of it by another civilian.
      • You can also just...look up, and see the hole where the plate used to be.
      • The game also gives more attention to the aftermath of the False Flag Operation reactor bombing: ruined city streets, a burning skyline, panicked people, also the bombing explicitly killed dozens. The protagonists think that Jessie miscalculated when she made or placed the bomb, and they never find out the truth.
    • Averted in Final Fantasy IX. On the three occasions that cities are attacked and/or destroyed altogether, there is a huge amount of mourning: when Cleyra is wiped off the map, the main characters (Freya in particular) are shocked by the loss of life- though they are forced into action very quickly; Zidane and Garnet are visibly horrified by the attack on Lindblum, especially since they actually have to walk through the ruins soon after; finally, Garnet actually has a Heroic BSoD when confronted with the destruction of Alexandria and the casualties that resulted.
      • Doubled by the fact that the Eidolons used were forcibly extracted from Garnet.
    • Final Fantasy X:
      • Averted with a potent emotional punch. When Auron, Jecht, and Tidus fade away, their deaths are given all due respect, honor, and grief by the party. But the destruction of Kilika and the mass slaughter of Al-Bhed and Crusaders at Operation Mi'ihen are treated as the single most tragic event in the game, and the characters respond to these with far, far more sorrow than even the aforementioned instances.
      • Yuna's Guardians were far more unhappy with the idea that Yuna, and thereby any summoner who completes the pilgrimage, has to die to accomplish the final summoning than the idea that Sin will continue with a mass slaughter if this doesn't happen. Yuna herself only agrees once she learns that The Final Summoning can never permanently stop Sin, contrary to belief that there was some chance that it could.
    • Again in Final Fantasy XII where the destruction of an airship fleet is simply a slap-on-the-wrist warning against Nethicite, and the complete annihilation of the crews on board (with the protagonists as the sole survivors) hardly even warrants mention.
    • Brought up briefly during one of the quests for the Dark Knight class in Final Fantasy XIV, where you get to meet a spectre of Sidurgu's master, Ompagne. After you defeat him in combat he tells you of the reason he left the Temple Knights before he adopted Sid and Fray: every time he went into battle, the younger knights under his command ultimately ended up dying, leaving him to be given the unearned praise for his men's accomplishments and then having to train and command a new batch of even greener knights who would ultimately suffer the same fate. He'd finally had enough when one day he realized he could no longer remember the face of the first knight to die in his service.
  • On one end of the scale, we have the Fire Emblem games. Each unit represents an individual character who has their own personality, skills, and motivations; as such, some people are hesitant to put even relatively unimportant characters into harm's way. Lampshaded by Pelleas in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn: "Individual lives taken before your eyes weigh more heavily than the many lives taken during the chaos of war. If that life is someone dear, the burden is even worse."
  • In the space RTS Haegemonia: Legions of Iron the conventional means of subduing enemy planets is orbital bombardment. Preferably with viral torpedoes - they are more effective. All you get to see at that is the down-counting number of the population.
  • Demonstrated very clearly in Half-Life 2 and its follow-up episodes. The Combine has enslaved the Earth, killing people in such numbers it's described as genocide and subjecting countless others to transformation into Stalkers. All of that gets a very negative reaction from people... but nowhere near the reaction provoked when Eli Vance is killed. That said, he was the Rebel Leader and likely a major source of inspiration and morale for the Resistance. At a more personal level for the player, he was just moments away from disclosing the truth about the G-Man.
  • Halo:
    • In-game, the player can toy with this trope in various ways regarding their Red Shirt NPC allies. Some players will work hard to make sure all their allies survive, while others (particularly on higher difficulties) will not bat an eye as their allies are cut down. How one reacts to the death of an NPC ally may depend on how useful they are; the loss of a rocket jockey or a Warthog gunner will usually cause more upset than the death of someone who only had an Assault Rifle.
    • While the series has several parts where the objective is to rescue NPC soldiers, you can then often let all your newly-freed allies die without having anyone comment on it. An exception is Halo: Combat Evolved's second mission, where if you let a Marine squad die, Mission Control will actually point it out.
    • Averted in Combat Evolved's ending: Chief asks if anyone else made it out alive, to which Cortana sorrowfully replies no.
    • Played with in Halo 3: ODST, where you play as the titular Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, who were merely allied faceless NPCs in previous games. Additionally, the audio logs are designed to emphasize the point that the currently empty city you're wandering through was inhabited by actual human beings who had their lives completely disrupted by the Covenant invasion.
    • Horribly deconstructed in Halo: Reach, where you play as a semi-expendable Spartan-III. As powerful as you are, your shirt is still mauve, and you and your team are expendable. By the end, almost your entire squad is killed - Jorge and Carter in Heroic Sacrifices, Kat and Emil taken by surprise, and you holding off an army for as long as you can - and only Halsey laments it.
    • The opening cutscene of Halo 4 includes shots of the Covenant invasion of some unnamed planet, displaying Banshees bombarding masses of fleeing civilians and Elites running through the crowds impaling people on Energy Swords. The horror of it is used by Doctor Halsey to emphasize that, despite the terrible measures taken to create the Spartan program, sacrificing a few for the sake of millions more was worth it in the end.
    • Several of Halo 5: Guardians's audio logs seem to have been intended to make you actually care about otherwise nameless NPCs, whether it be the workers of Meridian Station, your Swords of Sanghelios allies, or even your Covenant remnant foes.
  • There's a prisoner on Manaan in Knights of the Old Republic who channels Remarque in one of his responses to the player.
    Prisoner: Kill a million people with a mighty star cruiser and you are a war hero. Kill a hundred with a thermal detonator and you are a terrorist.
    • Also on Manaan, Sunry tries to invoke this when you accuse him of murder, pointing out that you've killed a bunch of Sith yourself. Jolee calls him on it, saying that killing enemy combatants in battle during war and killing a person in their sleep are just a teensy bit different.
  • Possibly averted in Mass Effect 2, when a reporter who confronted you in the first game shows up again to demand another interview of you. One of the many ways it can go is the reporter demanding on-air to know why Shepard sacrificed thousands of people for the sake of the Citadel Council — and Shepard replying to her anonymous, faceless "thousands" by stating from memory the names of all 8 ships that were lost, and expressing his/her respect for the lost soldiers and the great deed they did. 2,400 lives vs 10,000 lives during that fateful battle.
    • Mordin deliberately averts this - when enacting the genophage (a mass sterilisation of a violent race, to which only one in a thousand give birth), he chose to keep visiting the world himself to study the results, to keep the reality of what he had done in his mind. He also averts this before heading out on the suicide mission - in order to have a clear picture of what he's fighting for, he calls his favourite nephew. In his loyalty mission, he even states that all life is precious.
      Mordin: Yearly recon missions. Water, tissue samples. Ensure no mistakes. Superiors offered to carry it on. Refused. Needed to see it in person. Need to look. see. Accept it as necessary. (inhale) See small picture. Remind myself why I run a clinic on Omega.
    • As well as the scale of conflict, the First Contact war had about 623 casualties on the human side over the span of 3 months compared to what will normally happen with deaths in the thousands
    • Further averted concerning the Citadel Battle in Mass Effect 2 when you encounter an asari on Illium who first seems like a two-dimensional Jerkass, but if you manage to get through her, she will reveal that the cause of her bitterness was the loss of her daughters on Citadel. And if you manage to put the pieces together, you will realize that those daughters were two very minor characters you spoke to once or twice in the course of the first game.
    • Mass Effect 3 repeatedly reminds you of the scale of the death and destruction that's happening everywhere that the Reapers invade. At one point you see a young boy die while trying to escape.
    • A better example might be Liara's reaction to the destruction of Thessia. She is by no means uncaring towards Shepard or Garrus when they respectively lost Earth and Palaven, but it isn't until her own world gets destroyed that she has a Heroic BSoD.
    • This trope is extensively discussed throughout the game; Garrus and Shepard have a long talk about "the ruthless calculus of war", of sacrificing a million over here so that a billion over there might survive, and there are various times when a sacrifice of some kind has to be made, and it's up to the player whether to take the personal or pragmatic option.
    • Over the course of the game you'll see news reports and e-mails about how minor characters met over the course of the series fall in battle one by one. You even come across the body of a Krogan poet you met in the second game, and can deliver a last message he left for his wife.
    • When you meet Grunt, however, the trope might be purely represented. Depending on your previous choices, you meet a rachni queen that is friendly to you. You must fight a lot of enemies in order to rescue her, while Grunt and his company of elite troopers are fighting in another location. However, both your team and Grunt's company are overrun by enemy. You have to either go rescue Grunt, which leaves the rachni queen to enemy hands, or call Grunt to fall back and assist you. Grunt will leave his position just to help you, but without his lead his companions are doomed to death. Then Grunt might die as well while covering your retreat, or can survive, in both cases bearing a lot of emotion in the cutscenes and for the plot. His company results utterly decimated, but no tear is dropped for those soldiers, who play the role of masked nameless strong mooks. Only the life of Grunts play an emotional role. His death is a tragedy; their death is almost unnoticed.
  • In Mega Man Zero 4, The Dragon Craft fired the Kill Sat Ragnarok at Neo Arcadia, trying to kill Dr. Weil. The attack, according to the manual, claimed 20,000,000 deaths of innocents. Yet the intended target ironically survives.
  • Resident Evil 6: Averted: during Leon and Chris' fight over Carla, they get into this argument; when Chris points out that Carla killed all of the men in his squad, all of whom had names and whom Chris deeply cared about, Leon reminds him of the big picture by informing him that Simmons, the other source behind the C-Virus outbreak, killed the entire population of Tall Oaks (approximately 70,000 people), along with President Adam Benford himself. This revelation helps to snap Chris out of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • The ending of Sonic Adventure, where Tails happily declares that "All's well that ends well, right?" This is despite the fact that the city is utterly destroyed, at least half the population is dead, and Eggman gets away... again!
  • Spider-Man: Edge of Time: This is the primary source of conflict between Spider-Man 2099 and the Amazing Spider-Man; Spidey 2099 is only concerned with the grand scheme of things and fixing the damage done to the timestream, while Amazing Spidey is obsessed with the human cost of his actions and saving as many people as he can whether Spidey 2099 likes it or not.
  • Averted in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm when Raynor reminds Kerrigan of not just Fenix but also the "millions [she's] butchered" as the Queen of Blades.
    • Discussed in the Reclamation short for StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void. Kaldalis is a typical Proud Warrior Race Guy who concerns himself with the honor of the protoss race and the reclamation of their homeland. Artanis, on the other hand, is overcome with doubt, worried about the thousands of protoss that will be sent to their deaths in the invasion.
      Kaldalis: Our honor, lost.
      Artanis: Countless lives, lost!
  • Subverted in Star Ocean: The Second Story. When the characters learn mid-way through the game that the population of Expel (roughly one billion or so people) is gone, they are horrified. (And many have a reason to - Bowman, Precis, Leon, and Rena all have family there.) But then comes the ending wherein that billion people will be returned... at the cost of roughly a billion Nedians instead. This is played as a Bittersweet Ending, and the characters by this point are very adverse to this.
  • Star Ruler. Massive ships can have a crew in the tens of thousands or more but are thrown into unwinnable combat by the player and A.I.. Planetary invasions consist of butchering the entire population via orbital bombardment.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic has an inversion in the Imperial Agent storyline. A Sith Empire dissident group blows up a warship to kill Darth Jadus, causing 3,000 collateral casualties. The PC's handler, Watcher Two, comments that she once "tortured a colleague without feeling a thing, but three thousand dead strangers is too much to handle". Justified in that Watcher Two is established to be a eugenically bred, highly rational human calculator, so she probably really does feel the numerically greater loss of thousands of noncombatants more severely than the (probable) death of a single coworker.
  • In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation, whenever a named character is brainwashed into fighting for the Balmarians, everyone goes to whatever lengths to save them, or at least makes a big deal out of it. When you're faced with multiple unnamed human pilots wearing masks who are all brainwashed, someone asks if it's OK to fight them, someone just handwaves that they can't be helped (for some reason), and it's never brought up again.
  • On Scenario 53 of the "Trust Zero" Route in Second Super Robot Wars Z: Saisei-hen, Wufei asks Treize in their final battle just how many people have died because of him. Like in the original series Treize shocks Wufei by giving him the exact number: as of yesterday, 999,822 people. For the record, only 99,822 people died because of Treize in the AC universe alone. Thanks to many different dimensions and alternate Earths combined together, Treize's body count has jumped up to +900,000, and he remembers them.
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera has The Endless War, as put best by a woman you meet in the Valley of Dead Heroes.
    Thalana: But it's not personal. It's not someone who wants your destruction in particular. You're just... inconvenient to them. Your death is another number, a way to measure their success. It's... hell. A business-like hell. And you did it. Castoffs. You could stop if you wanted. But you don't. Or maybe you don't care. I mean, when you've made statistics of your enemies, faceless foes whose existence you can erase without a qualm... you're not just hurting them. You're hurting yourself, the way you see the world. Soon everything is conflict and pain. All that matters is your success. And you've killed yourself, and you don't even know it. (she wipes a tear away) It ruins everything - everyone it touches.
  • Somewhere in the middle is the Total War series; while most conflicts are between large masses of troops, the game also tracks the statistics of individual units; players are less likely to sacrifice an experienced, well-equipped and well-armored unit as mere cannon fodder as a result. Also, it does implement individual characters in the form of faction leaders and heirs, the preservation of which is often an important consideration.
    • In the original Shogun: Total War you could have the game print out detailed logs of each battle you physically fought in which the game will list every soldier on your side (within reason, as it stops printing after several lines of text) with their individual name, skill, morale levels etc.. Although this option is not available in later games, the game does keep track of every individual soldier separately. Something to think about when you send that peasant mob to soak up the archers' arrows.
    • One of the games, Rome: Total War even invokes this trope by name, in the trait description for 'Conqueror':
    "If you kill a man you're a murderer. Kill many of them and you're a hero!"
  • Valkyria Chronicles has Isara's death being a major blow to all the main characters, who mope about it until the end of the game. On the other hand, your regular soldiers don't get that treatment, apart from a single last sentence as they fade away. And that's not even taking allied and enemy soldiers into account.
    • This is only the beginning. The entire Gallian army gets vaporized at one point, and no one has anything to say about the thousands of lives that were just snuffed out; the main characters' primary reaction is, "Holy shit, what a huge explosion— can Alicia do that!?" It breaks the, "Your soldiers are people, not numbers; don't treat them as such," message the whole game had in two, especially considering that Selvaria specifically blew herself up in order to burn the Gallian army alive where they stood. The scene is framed to show that General Damon (and the soldiers under his command) deserved it.
  • In Wing Commander III, with one bomb Blair (the Player Character) destroys a planet, killing billions of Kilrathi, but except in the novelization of the sequel it's not even mentioned (and only hinted at with a brief shot of the Emperor's chambers collapsing), unlike the deaths of Jeanette "Angel" Devereaux, Mitchell "Vaquero" Lopez, Laurel "Cobra" Buckley, or the fate of Locanda IV, homeworld of Robin "Flint" Peters.
  • In World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion, the updating of quests and geography in vast sections of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms (the games' oldest and original continents) brought the deaths and vanishings of a great deal of old, familiar NPCs. One who would have slogged through the corpses of countless nameless mooks throughout the previous two expansions without batting an eyelash would be surprised at how dark Cataclysm can get. Even more so since some players like to use the statistics page to compare how many enemies they've killed.
  • As said in Xenosaga:
    Margulis: (regarding the fate of the planet Ariadne) What's one and a half billion people to us?

  • Schlock Mercenary: Petey calls out Kevyn on being willing to kill tens of thousands in combat, but squeamish of mind-ripping a single individual to obtain the same results. He brings it up again in this strip, with an appropriate quote:
    "If I spend the power to rescue our friends, an entire world full of innocent people will die. You might regard that as merely a horrible tragedy in some distant place, but I can hear every heartbeat."
  • This example overlaps between Webcomics and Real Life. In The Crossoverlord for most of the people Smiling Man's Moral Event Horizon was the revelation that he killed most or all alternate counterparts of main characters to get what he wanted, despite that much earlier he changed the position of all stars in the firmament, destroying all planets that were running around them and slaughtering every life form that could live on those planets. Because he wanted to make the sky smile at him!
  • The final battle in Kid Radd. We're not even shown the deaths of all of Crystal's cookie-cutter minions by Radd's ragtag band; most of the slaughter is implied. But Bogey dies. And not just dies, he forces Radd to shoot him so Radd can take the life power-up he carries. After complaining earlier in the series about how he can't contribute meaningfully to this war. Ultimately, he not only saves Radd's life, he ends up being the only casualty on that side.
  • Homestuck:
    • In general, the kids and trolls tend to react to the deaths of their immediate friends and loved ones with a full depth of emotion, but remain distinctly unshaken by the fact that the Reckonings destroyed their homeworlds and killed off every member of their species outside of themselves.
    • Jack Noir kills thousands of pawns and nobody bats an eye. And then he burns Prospit to the ground and a few eyebrows are raised. And then he kills Dream Jade, who's actually characterized, and jaws drop all around.
    • Afterwards, Jack gets prototyped with Becquerel and eventually is sent to the Troll's Incipisphere, where he destroyed both Derse, Prospit, and the rest of the planets. He also causes the Reckoning in the kids' session, which wiped out Earth's population aside from the four kids. No one really cares. After the prototyping, however, he kills several characters, including Bro, John, a Doomed Dave, Rose's Mom and John's Dad, John again, Rose, Dave, and too many to list here in [S] Cascade.
    • Many fans hated Vriska for crippling and later killing Tavros, killing Aradia, and blinding Terezi at least as much as they do Jack Noir for killing absurd numbers of pawns. Vriska also killed thousands of other trolls to feed to her custodian (although in that case, this trope was averted and discussed when she mentioned that to John).
      • The term "murder" comes up often in connection with Tavros, though that's an oversimplification of the event. However, it never appears in descriptions of the many fellow larpers sacrificed to her lusus or the many spirits of the dead she dominated and threw into the fire to smoke out the villain. In fact, fellow trolls who still resented her for causing the deaths of their friends didn't fully realize the atrocity of the latter until John pointed it out.
      • Which is, in and of itself, an instance of this: Lord English, the aforementioned villain who Vriska used hundreds of fellow ghosts as bait for, destroys entire universes.
    • It's worth pointing out that Eridan was Vriska's accomplice in her thousands of backstory murders, yet was seen as generally harmless or even endearing for his exaggerated emotional theatrics. Then he snapped, announced his allegiance to Jack Noir, and went on a shooting spree when the others objected.
    • Gamzee hardly killed anyone, just Equius and Nepeta. But he was still treated by some as much of a monster as Jack Noir.
    • Most games of Sburb kill off a planet's population, but the comic doesn't focus on that so much as the players' quest to create a new universe.
    • Meenah, the bratty pre-scratch troll who would become the post-scratch Empress/Betty Crocker is paralyzed with joy that an alternate-universe version of her becomes the master/murderer of trillions instead of the noblesse oblige ruler she would have been forced to be. The only thing that sours her on the prospect is that her alternate also exploits and tortures the alternate of one of her friends.
  • Both played straight and averted in Erfworld. "Lord Hamster" wins a siege by setting off the volcanic caldera under the city, wiping out almost everyone from both sides. He's pissed that he had to resort to that to survive. He's equally pissed that he had to sacrifice his loyal servant shortly beforehand.
  • Bob and George: Proto Man points out that sacrificing Mike might save thousands. His reasoning on why Mike has to make the sacrifice is that Proto Man is a protector of humanity, and as such "my life is much more valuable than yours".
  • Quoted in this S.S.D.D. strip. For context, the one saying that nuked Texas, and is horrified at the thought that she might get away with it.
  • Averted in Freefall: Florence worries that her entire product line will be canceled if she acts — which is to say that her species will go extinct — but concludes that 450 million robots take precedence over 14 Bowman's Wolves.
  • In We Are The Wyrecats, Lamar is strongly against this notion during flashbacks, but as he grows more pragmatic and jaded, he begins to protest it less and less.
  • The Order of the Stick: Implied to shape many of the Gods' various attitudes, down to their view of the races themselves. And, ultimately, to entire worlds. The Snarl hasn't slaughtered and erased just one world, or a hundred, or even a billion. The number of realms the Gods have made, only to see them eventually destroyed, is incalculably high to any mortal. As a result, they're fine unmaking the current realm, essentially executing everyone living in it, because it's just yet another gravestone in the Astral Realm after all they've gone through.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace notes that students learning about The Holocaust generally don't get worked up about it because of this.

    Web Original 
  • Spelled out as bluntly as a sledgehammer in this post.
  • This entry on Superdickery.
    Granted, destroying the entire world would be the single greatest act of dickery he's performed yet, but somehow the slaughter of six billion anonymous people seems to lack that personal touch we get when he kills Lois or ruins Jimmy's life.
  • A minor Lampshade Hanging on video games' tendency to do this to enemy mooks, part of one Zero Punctuation episode had a sign saying "you must end 062 promicing young lives to continue."
  • Discussed in Llamas with Hats. It might be a higher body count, but simply saying you mutilated millions of babies and dropping their severed hands on the lawn just doesn't have the shock value of a sudden surprise nuke.
  • The Nostalgia Critic: In "You're A Rotten, Dirty Bastard", after seeing a world where he was never born, he concludes that he's made the world a worse place because all of the TGWTG reviewers are more successful without him. He completely ignores the fact that if not for him, Angry Joe would have perpetrated a genocide and wiped out the entire population of Canada.
  • World War II: The episodes emphasize constantly the massive toll in human lives the war extracts. Host Spartacus Olsson takes time in the "War Against Humanity" to remind the viewer that every single person dead was a full, complex human being who cannot be written off as a statistic and their loss was mourned by someone.
  • GrayStillPlays' kill counts for things like destroying Earths in Universe Sandbox 2 and various roller coaster and/or theme park simulators are staggering. The whole point is the Black Comedy. Gray even notes when he would be killed.
  • Mahu: In "Second Chance" wars between intergalactic empires sees millions upon millions of soldiers fight and die in all manner of worlds. Even then, the Galactic Commonwealth tries to avoid loss of life as much as possible.
  • Discussed in this video, particularly with End of The World Scenarios with stakes too high, by Overly Sarcastic Productions.

    Web Videos 
  • Vision of Escaflowne Abridged lampshades this from the canon series.
    Folken: I became disillusioned when Dornkirk's recklessness killed two of my colleagues.
    Dryden: You masterminded Freid and Fanelia's invasions, and killed thousands of your countrymen, and we're supposed to believe that the deaths of two soldiers made you want to defect?
    • Then Spoofed when Folken reveals that the two soldiers in question were "Incestuous Bisexual Ninja Cat Girls with big breasts." Then everyone instantly understands.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Parodied in "Bart the Mother". Bart accidentally kills a bird and decides to hatch her eggs out of guilt. The eggs hatch and they turn out to be a species of lizard that eat bird eggs, replace them with their own, and eat the mother once they hatch. Skinner wants to kill the lizards since they're responsible for the extinction of several bird species but Bart lets them go, after which they completely eradicate Springfield's pigeon population, causing Bart to receive a commendation. After the ceremony...
    Lisa: I don't get it, Bart. You got all upset when you killed one bird, but now you've killed tens of thousands, and it doesn't bother you at all.
    Bart: Hey, you're right... I call the front seat!
    Lisa: You had it on the way over!
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: This is ultimately what causes Porcina to abandon her plans to turn all of Ponyland to glass in "The Glass Princess, Part 4". It's one thing for her to turn people to glass by the dozen when they're just images in a mirror and many miles away from her but, as she finds out, when her targets are undeniably living, breathing, scared creatures right in front of her eyes, she simply can't bring herself to decide that they must die.
  • Robot Chicken references Star Wars' use of this trope. When Luke mentions that he can't believe Obi-Wan is gone, Leia reminds him that she lost everyone on her entire planet.
  • In Winx Club, Bloom pays a lot of angst and attention to the disappearances of her parents in the fall of Domino but does not really remark on the fact that the entire planet full of people was destroyed and is now an icy wasteland. In The Secret of the Lost Kingdom, she is really only looking for her parents and just happens to rescue the entire planet and its population along the way.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Futurama. After the Planet Express crew dumps a bunch of Valentine's Day candy hearts into a quasar, it produces a "mystical love radiation." While beautiful to look at, it is explicitly stated to have destroyed many planets, "including two gangster planets and a cowboy world." This is not dwelt upon, however, because Earth was far enough away to be able to see the rays and not be destroyed by them.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Identifiable Victim Effect


Chris and Leon's Standoff

Chris, Leon, and their allies get into a standoff where the two argue over their losses up to this point and exchange information over the bioterror attacks. A flash grenade ends the standoff before the men can reach an agreement.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / GunpointBanter

Media sources: