There's something about deer.
Perhaps it's because they are the most common large animal one is likely to run into if one goes out in the wild in many placesnote . Perhaps the buck's antlers reminds us of a king's crown. Perhaps it's just because they were (and still are in many places) a staple of humanity's diet in the Northern Hemisphere and therefore became a key figure in folklore (Carnivore Confusion is nothing new). In any case, in older fiction, deer are often employed as a symbol of nature in general and forests in specific. All well and good.
In much of today's fiction, however, something got seriously lost in the translation. Somehow, deer became symbols of innocence and all that is pretty and sweet in nature. Therefore, if you want to show the death of something innocent to make some sort of point or other, you kill a deer. The examples of this trope speak for themselves (see below) and it has gotten to the point where it can barely be taken seriously; this trope is a rich vein of Narm.
The Trope Namer (unrelated to the term used by some critics of vegetarianism to describe how they see the vegetarians' philosophy) is a term used offhand to criticize this trope in Douglas Coupland's novel Generation X. What's especially bizarre is the fact that Bambi is often accused of spreading the idea that "deer are innocent". If you feel this way, please go and watch the movie again. In actuality, the film does not shy away from the "Deer can be Bastards and, Really, Sometimes You Can't Blame Them" / "Nature Is Not Nice" world of Felix Salten's original novel (which, needless to say, is a bit closer to reality). Bambi himself goes from cute little fawn to Badass Prince who kicks (antlers, rather) butt for love. The midquel is no slacker on this either; all you need is one word: Ronno.
For an older tradition where deer are mysterious and magical creatures, see The Marvelous Deer. One notable exception to this trope is moose, which are more likely to be portrayed as bumbling buffoons or dumb brutes. Also contrast Wendigo, whose recent portrayals are a creepy subversion of this trope.
Deer are a menace when cars are in use. They're "edge animals," suited to environments where forests transition into grassland, like suburbia; they also can't gauge the speed of anything going over 40 miles an hour, but they think they can. And, they have no particular fear of cars. Between these three factors, deer kill more people than any other large land animal: all those traffic accidents add up. (Drive carefully, especially in the evening and at night.)
If deer happen to give you problems in your backyard, there are easy ways to thwart them; in particular, plant sage and onions, which they don't like the taste of. (Onions will also teach squirrels not to go digging for your tulip bulbs.) Alternatively, install a shishi-odoshi. The more you know!
- The supervillain who fought Superman to the death, Doomsday, pets a doe and then snaps her neck when he first appears. For his next trick, he lets a little sparrow land in his hand - and crushes her.
- Depending on the Writer, the Hulk is quite fond of deer. He even calls them Bambi! One memorable issue had him stumble upon some hunters killing deer, and he reacted pretty much exactly how you'd expect him to.
Hulk: Men killed Bambi's mother!
- William Blake in Jim Jarmusch's film Dead Man grieves over the remains of a dead baby deer, which was shot by one of his pursuers. The scene echoes a previous scene where an innocent woman was killed by someone trying to kill him.
- My Dog Skip - Willie (Frankie Muniz) touches a dying innocent deer in shock before being forced to look away when the hunters finish off with the killing blow.
- Used in the movie Commando, in which Schwarzenneger's character spends quality time with his daughter... and at some point, they are seen petting a deer in the woods.
- A scene in The Iron Giant has Hogarth and the Giant come across a deer. The deer gets spooked by a random noise and walks off, only to be shot by hunters. Cue the red eyes. It's done to show the Giant's first inkling of others' mortality.
- In the 1936 production of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet (played by Norma Shearer) has a pet fawn just to emphasize her innocence.
- Beauty and the Beast: Gaston sings in his Villain Song, "I use antlers in all of my decorating!" Judging by the state of his trophy room, that's a lot of dead deer. Some of the animators on that movie even said they were trying to imply that Gaston was the one who killed Bambi's mother. She appears in the opening shot in the movie as well. (Although it would be unlikely as Bambi takes place in North America while Beauty and the Beast is a French fairy tale.)
- Harry Potter: James Potter's Animagus form was a stag, which symbolically makes his wife Lily the doe, and they both died at Voldemort's hands trying to save Harry (Lily, specifically, chose to die despite having the clear choice to save herself, and her sacrifice put The Power of Love on Harry as a magical protection against Voldemort). Later, Harry's Patronus (a Care-Bear Stare spell to counter the Emotion Bomb effect of Dementors) manifests as a stag, representing James, and Snape's turns out to be a doe, representing Lily. Although the books also play the stag as a symbol of arrogance (there's a reason it's James' Animagus form), and it is stated it's an animal so big and strong that can physically restrain a transformed werewolf.
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's novel The Yearling: Jody's killing of his pet deer signifies the end of innocence.
- The Stand- Most likely, this is what was intended with Randall Flagg killing the doe with his magic—plus the fact that most animals die when they get too close to him.
- In The Lost Years of Merlin, a large stag is Dagda's default animal form (Rhita Gawr's is a boar). Later books also feature the deer people, who can change between human and deer form. (And of course humans kill them a lot.)
- In Spin City, Mike refuses to kill a fawn to score political points with a political contributor who's big on hunting. Mike's attempt at "missing" ends up killing the mother, though. Just to drive the point home, the hunter shows a sort of sadistic glee at the fact that the fawn will no longer have a mother, while they're eating meat made from her. They take the wounded fawn into a hospital. Carter fills out a form for it.
Carter: Relationship to patient. Oh, that's easy - assassin!
Mike: Yeah? Well, I may have killed him - but you ate his mother!
- Shows up in Sports Night when Jeremy is traumatized on a deer hunt with executives. Isaac rightly tells him he should have voiced his objections sooner.
- Similarly, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bargaining Part 1" when Willow pets a fawn in a green garden... before slitting its throat to use its blood as a spell ingredient in order to resurrect Buffy. One of the first clues to the wrongness of said resurrection and the dark path Willow's on. It's specifically noted to be "blood of the innocent" or some such.
- Linderman saves a deer in one of the Heroes online comics. Maybe a direct reference to Starman. Likewise, in a later comic, Arthur Petrelli takes his two sons out hunting. You win no prizes for guessing Peter's reaction to his daddy's order to shoot at a buck.
- Beast Master - The beast master finds an injured doe and takes care of it in his shack until it's healthy enough to move again. The group of men who trash the shack and kill the deer is meant to show how much bastards they are.
- In The Walking Dead, Carl stops and walks to a buck because it is literally the most beautiful thing he has seen since the Zombie Apocalypse began. A hunter shoots the deer and the bullet hits him by accident.
- In The Sopranos, a minor character has a quiet moment with a deer. Then it runs away and Tony brutally garrotes him.
- Merlin (2008). In "The Hunter's Heart" episode, Gwen turns into a deer and is about to get killed by one of the episode twice, though it isn't the villains who do it. The whole innocence part is probably still there though.
- The second expansion of World of Warcraft features Bambina, Mother of Bambina, Flora, and Thudder. Occasionally an NPC will shoot the mother and cheer, at which point Bambina takes several levels in badass and slaughters the NPC mercilessly. Players can watch this unfold repeatedly.
- In Franz Schubert's wangsty song cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Girl of the Mill), the protagonist keeps a little doe, and he accuses the manly, bristly hunter, whom he imagines to be his romantic rival, for frightening it.
- In Rilo Kiley's "Accidntel Deth" (sic) from the album Execution of All Things contains the verse "the story your father told you long ago/He was hunting with his own father/for deer, he pointed and spotted her/and then tripped over some roots or some dead trees/The gun went off, It was a mistake/And my father was only eight/And as he watched the dying deer he was changed/Cause he felt sorry for what he'd done/And he put down his gun."
- A cover variant for the "Sharing the World With Animals" issue of Zoobooks depicts a little boy holding a flower up to a fawn. The message of the issue is that humans have to take better care of the environment, as we've already lost so many species; with this in mind, the fawn in the cover is a textbook example of this trope, the baby deer representing innocence that rests in the human's hands.
- Kingdom Hearts in which Bambi himself is a summon. When you first summon him, he appears amidst a cloud of flowers and butterflies, then proceeds to prance around the battle field dropping gratuitous amounts of MP bubbles. So, in the end, it ends up subverted as cute little Bambi gives you enough fuel to spam the hell out of your magic fire, ice, and lighting attacks.
- The Legend of the Mystical Ninja inflicts monetary penalties on players for attacking deer. This doesn't prevent deer from attacking players.
- In Age of Empires II, deer are the most common wild animal prey, and unlike boars and wolves, they don't attack villagers while being hunted. Averted and downplayed in the "Vindlandsaga" scenario due to a bug; a deer will sometimes attack an outpost, albeit weakly, if a Blacksmith has not been constructed to summon Ornlu; this was fixed in the Definitive Edition.
- Unlike boars, deer are unable to attack the player (but where boars will relentlessly charge you, deer will run away from you, are quite easily spooked, and tend to spawn in dense forests where you won't see them until shortly after they spot you).
- Utterly subverted with the first Forsaken boss Eikthyr, a huge stag who shoots lightning from his antlers when not trying to stomp you to death.
- In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, during a camping trip gone wrong, Mac makes a trap to catch a deer, so they could eat it to survive. After seeing the deer, however, he chickens out.
- Superman: The Animated Series - A group of low level thugs testing out high powered weapons from Apokolips get tired blowing up the trees and try to aim at a running deer. Then Superman appears, blocks off the shot and proceeds to kick their collective asses.
- In The Dragon Prince, it's played for creepy moral ambiguity when Claudia apparently kills a fawn to power the magic that heals Soren's paralysis.
- In Brazil, this trope goes on another level, with the deer's delicate nature making the animal a symbol of homosexuality. Even naming a city after the animal, "Veado", became unfortunate leading to a Bilingual Bonus renaming ("Guaçuí", deer in an indigenous language). Bambi itself became a pejorative name for São Paulo Futebol Clube◊ (even making an unfortunate appearance on British news...◊).
- Sanrio's own Deery Lou and Hummingmint firmly adheres to this trope.
- "Babycham" (a British company that makes beer and alcoholic drinks) has a cute fawn/chamois as their mascot, who takes cues from Disney's Bambi. The character was featured in a series of commercials between the 1960s and 1980s. Later 80s era ads featured the fawn wearing shades and a bow tie instead of wearing the large blue bow around it's neck to make the character more appealing to the adult demographic.
- While not exactly a parody, there is that scene in Marmalade Boy where Miki gets mobbed by tame deer…
- In one episode of Lucky Star, Tsukasa tries hand-feeding a deer, only to have another deer show up. She feeds that deer too. And then a couple more deer walk up to her...and surround her. Uh oh. Then, a huge buck (with a large scar over one eye, no less) walks up and roars, scaring her. The deer chase Tsukasa down, tackling her to get at the food, and she is left covered in deer saliva and droppings. Yeesh. This can actually happen quite frequently in Nara, making it a case of Truth in Television.
- Nichijou: A cute, innocent-looking wanders onto the school grounds. It's a sweet, peaceful moment... until the Principal goes to shoo the deer away and it headbutts the shit out of him. Cue epic battle between the Principal and deer, ending with the Principal suplexing it.
- Detective Dee has deer used as a divine oracle for talking about the future. It's all a trick and Dee gets his ASS KICKED by a bunch of them.
- Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay - Makes fun of the bambification trope in a very dark way. On the run from an insane, racist Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, the duo finds themselves in the woods in Alabama. They encounter an adorable deer and start petting it... right before it suddenly gets shot in the head, spraying guts and blood on the horrified men, by a sophisticated redneck hunter. He then slits its throat and stuffs the body messily into a sack. All of it for comedy, of course!
- It's also averted when they note that the deer isn't "like those asshole deer in New Jersey."
- Despite seemingly playing it completely straight, The Ring Two features a herd of demonically-possessed deer. It's somewhat implied that, since horses were driven mad by Samara's uncontrollable Psychic Powers (and indeed, a horse broke out of its trailer and drowned itself at the mere presence of a Cursed Video victim who had already cured herself,) deer respond to the malevolent influence not by trying to kill themselves, but by killing the offender. The car was almost totaled by their attack.
- Watership Down. "You've read the book. You've seen the film. Now eat the cast." (Under a game butcher's display of rabbits in the window)
- There's a famous segment from the 90's caught-on-camera show When Animals Attack of a hunter being brutally attacked by a white-tailed deer after spraying elk urine on himself during rutting season. At one point he even tried to climb a tree to get away, only for the deer to jump up and knock him right out of it. He survived, but the video spent several years as fodder for stand-up comedians.
- Averted hard in Lost Tapes episode "Wendigo: American Cannibal": the titular monster has a deer's skull for a head/mask and leaves no survivors in what is arguably the scariest episode in the series.
- In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where Ford Prefect's ability to control his pheromones causes everything to become peaceful, and a deer even walks right up to him. And he breaks its neck.
- Played with in the The Bright Falls Mysteries as the protagonist, humorously named Jane Doe, is a weredeer and they're widely considered to be among the weakest of all shapeshifters by the public. Except, they all have Psychic Powers, are very fast, and are still far stronger than humans. Jane further states it's mainly 'female' deer who get this since few people give stags crap.
- The music video for "No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age has the band hunted, jacklighted, and stuffed by deer hunters. As in actual deer who are out hunting.
- Somewhat alluded to in the video for Fall Out Boy's "Sugar We're Going Down" (if Faun counts as an extension of Deer).
- Satirical magazine Private Eye attracted outrage for a cartoon at a time when the British public's sympathies were aroused by a dying giraffe in a zoo. The drama as to whether the creature would live went on for several weeks. The Eye ran a cartoon showing a butcher's shop outside the zoo gates with a sign in the window saying "Just in! Giraffe steaks!" you satirise the British public's love for animals at your peril.
- In Bobwhite, Lewis starts to tell about the hunting trip that was his worst Christmas ever, and Ivy accurately predicts that Lewis shot an animal and felt terrible about it afterwards. (When Lewis shoots a deer, his dad even says it's "just like Bambi's mom!") As it turns out, Lewis has a near-supernatural ability to shoot animals without even trying.
- There's Deer's Revenge, also a parody of the Deer Hunter (Series) that also swaps the roles of predator and prey.
- Life with Louie has Andy's war story, in which a branch of soldiers has been attacked and battered by a herd of deer.
Andy: Sometimes a deer comes to you, and run away. Sometimes deer comes, and doesn't run away. Sometimes deer comes, stares into your eyes and kick you right in the knuckle. So don't tell me about Bambi and don't left his cute eyes fool you. Deers are bastards!?
- The Simpsons
- There are reindeer who start off cute, then (understandably) turn vicious when Homer and company try to hunt them.
- In another episode, deer growl and show their sharp teeth to Lisa, but when a park ranger arrives they act cute.
- Drawn Together turns Captain Hero loose on nature with semi-automatic weapons. Inevitably, Bambi shows up on the doorstep with his dead mother's body in his... er... arms and tearfully begs Captain Hero to stop. This display moves the housemates to drop their guard, whereupon Bambi lets loose a herd of vengeful deer on them. When the deer attack is routed, Bambi cries out "Come back! I killed my own MOTHER for this!"
- Tex Avery subverted the "fawns are innocent and helpless" trope in some of his early Merrie Melodies, such as having them swig moonshine or talk in a gruff voice when begging for food. And all this years before Disney's Bambi came out! In one of Avery's MGM cartoons, "Field and Scream", the protagonist goes hunting for deer. At the end there's a long line of hunters with their trophies strap to their hoods... except for Our Hero, who is strapped to the hood of a deer's car.
- There is a fawn amongst the "Woodland Christmas Critters" on South Park. The critters are trying to give birth to the anti-Christ.
- Oh so, so averted in the Adventure Time episode "No One Can Hear You", where a deer with human hands (known as a Freak Deer) masquerading as an ordinary deer was not only responsible for kidnapping the entire population of the Candy Kingdom and imprisoning them in the sewer for two weeks with its spit so it can lick them, but broke Finn's legs and kicked Jake in the head, making him temporarily go crazy.
- Also averted in Regular Show, where a freaky deer-man hybrid attempted to kill Mordecai and Rigby and their girlfriends when they trespassed in his forest.
- The Animaniacs episode "Bumbie's Mom" has Slappy Squirrel taking her nephew Skippy to see a parody of Bambi that plays up this trope; so much so that even Slappy turns to the camera and remarks "Life is good." Of course, this is to heighten the trauma of what comes later...