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What is one of the worst Kick Them While They're Down things a villain can do to show how far past the Moral Event Horizon they've crossed? Easy: After giving The Hero a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and leaving them a bloody pulp in the dirt, they see the hero desperately reaching out for something in front of them. It could be a Tragic Keepsake, an Orphan's Plot Trinket, or a Memento MacGuffin. Whatever it is, it means a lot to the hero, so what does the villain do? Right when it's in reach of their fingers, he smashes it to bits under his foot. For extra cruelty, he might stomp on it multiple times or just grind it under his boot before scraping the fragments off the bottom.

Apart from being cruel, a villain sometimes does this to demoralize the hero, as it has sort of a symbolic theme behind it: the destruction of their precious Plot Coupon representing that the hero has failed and hit rock bottom; the one thing that kept him going is gone, so there's no hope left, thus making it a literal Hope Crusher. Other times, however, the villain just made a big mistake and causes the hero to go into an Unstoppable Rage.

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If the villain does it incidentally while doing a Power Walk, it's Trampled Underfoot. See also Wrecked Weapon, Weapon Stomp, Agitated Item Stomping, Symbolically Broken Object. Related to Smash the Symbol and It's All Junk. Subtrope of Kick the Dog.

WARNING: Since this trope is often invoked before or during the climax, expect spoilers below!


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, where Joseph incinerates the headband he gained from Caesar's Heroic Sacrifice as part of his ploy to defeat Wamuu. Because Wamuu was the one who killed Caesar, Joseph decided that destroying Caesar's keepsake this way would only honor his memory, as it would allow him to avenge his own death.
  • One Piece: Luffy's straw hat is spat on and then stabbed by Buggy the Clown in their first fight. Buggy does this not just to spite Luffy, but also Shanks, Buggy's former shipmate and the one who gave Luffy the hat in the first place.
  • Pokémon Adventures: While trying to convince Ruby to join Team Magma, Courtney mocks him for his love of Pokemon Contests, saying what Team Magma does will be much more beautiful, and seemingly sets one of his Contest Ribbons on fire, devastating him. However, Ruby later inspects his Ribbons and finds they are all intact. He deduces that she used sleight of hand to burn one of her own Ribbons, wanting to distance herself from her past of participating in Pokemon Contests.
  • ViVid Strike!: Rinne Berlinetta had her tiepin destroyed when three bullies beat her unconscious. Oh, and all of this was going on while her grandfather (the one that made the tiepin) was dying. Needless to say, she made them suffer the following day.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, two different bad guys destroyed precious cards from Yugi to prevent him from using it and also just for the sake of being awful persons. The first is Kaiba who ripped Yugi's grandfather's Blue-Eyes White Dragon in half so he would be the only one to have copies of this powerful rare card. Second is Insector Haga/Weevil Underwood who threw overboard the even more rare and powerful Exodia the Forbidden One cards before the beginning of a tournament.
    • In the manga version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, in addition to the two above examples, Kaiba confronts a bully named Koji Nagumo. Kaiba swipes his rarest card, Hyozanryu, and rips it in half, mocking him by saying he has a bunch of them so they aren't that rare and that Koji would have lost it in their ante duel anyway. Kaiba gives him a briefcase full of cards to compensate him, but curb-stomps him anyway with Obelisk the Tormentor.
  • In Yuri Kuma Arashi, the Invisible Storm does this to Kureha by burning down the flowerbed (which was very precious to her as it had sentimental links to both her dead mother and her late girlfriend Sumika) on her birthday. And then they would have burned Sumika's last letter to her in there as well, forcing her to watch no less; had Ginko not jumped into the flames to save it at the last second.

    Comic Books 
  • When the Masters of Evil invaded Avengers' Mansion, Mister Hyde destroyed the few mementos Captain America had from his life in the 1940s in front of him. These included his original non-indestructible shield and the only photograph Cap had of his mother.
  • The Button: Eobard Thawne breaks into the Batcave and beats up Batman. Thawne looks around and finds the letter that the Flashpoint version of Bruce's father Thomas had written him before his death. Thawne rips it up.
  • In Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, Parallax discovers and retrieves the original Green Lantern ring used by Alan Scott after Kyle Rayner accidentally loses it (Alan Scott had opted to retire after the Justice Society of America was decimated), then destroys it by smashing it under his foot as he goes to set off another entropy wall.
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    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • At the climax of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Rourke, after obtaining the Atlantean crystal and having no more need of him, punches Milo in the face. Milo's framed picture of him as a boy with his grandfather falls out and Rourke stomps on it, smashing the frame. Fortunately, the photo is intact, and what's more, it's this act that causes Audrey, followed by everybody else except Helga, to do a Heel–Face Turn and abandon Rourke.
  • Barbie as Rapunzel: Near the film's climax, Gothel destroys Rapunzel's magic paintbrush to keep her from using it to escape (paintings created by the brush can turn into portals to real-world locations), though it was also a gift from her long-lost parents on her first birthday, whom Gothel falsely claimed had abandoned her.
  • Cinderella's stepsisters cruelly rip apart her first ball gown, which had belonged to her late mother (her animal friends had also just spent the whole day altering it for her, to add salt in the wound). It prompts a Heroic BSoD, until her Fairy Godmother turns up to help. In the live-action remake, in addition to the dress-ripping, Lady Tremaine also smashes Cinderella's glass slipper, which was her only memento of the ball (and the happiest she'd been in years), though it also served the more practical purpose of destroying the proof that Cinderella is the girl the prince is looking for.
  • Although not the Big Bad, Miguel's grandmother in Coco abhors music so much, that, when she finds out that Miguel wants to be a musician and even has a tatty old guitar that he has clearly spent years practicing on in secret, she smashes it into the ground and crushes it before his very eyes. To add insult to injury, she instantly carries on as if nothing had happened; smiling and happily asking a heartbroken and enraged Miguel if he wants a hug of forgiveness.
  • In The Great Mouse Detective, Ratigan takes the wind-up ballerina Mr. Flaversham gave his daughter Olivia and crushes it in his hand, both to show Flaversham what will happen to her if he doesn't comply and to give a glimpse of his inner beast.
  • In The Land Before Time, Littlefoot's Mother gives him a tree star to eat. Following her death after the fight with Sharptooth, it becomes a Tragic Keepsake to Littlefoot, with him carrying it on his back on his journey to the Great Valley without eating it, even admonishing Petrie for accidentally tearing it. Unfortunately, it ends up getting crushed under Sharptooth's foot while he's chasing after the young dinosaurs, though Littlefoot is too focused on escaping Sharptooth to dwell or think about it.
  • In Rugrats in Paris, Coco openly shows her true colors by not only forbidding her stepson-to-be Chuckie from her wedding but forcibly taking away the teddy bear his late mother made for him, ordering Kira to throw it away. Luckily, Kira hangs onto the teddy instead and returns it to Chuckie after the wedding is stopped. She ends up marrying Chuckie's dad instead, much to everyone's happiness.
  • In Toy Story 3, Lotso uses his mallet to crush Big Baby's "My heart belongs to Daisy" locket, a Memento MacGuffin of happier times. Big Baby then turns against Lotso and throws him into the dumpster.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Saif does this to Zack's watch in The Mental State in an attempt to break him and provoke him into lashing out. It was apparently a gift from the woman he loved more than anyone else and the only memento he had of her. Luckily it doesn't work, as it was actually a meaningless trinket that Zack had bought himself in order to trick any enemies he made into thinking it was a genuine weakness of his.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens in "The Freshman" from Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sunday deliberately steps on and breaks the umbrella trophy Buffy was given at prom in the previous season by her classmates to thank her for all the times she saved them. Buffy, who had warned her not to touch it, promptly kicks her ass.
  • In The Flash (2014), after giving Eddie Thawne a Breaking Speech of how he’s a forgotten nobody in the future and that he won’t even be able to marry Iris, the Reverse-Flash drives it home by offhandedly chucking the engagement ring he borrowed from his grandmother to the side of the room. Although Iris is able to find the ring mostly intact, Eddie ends up committing suicide to Ret-Gone the Reverse-Flash.
  • In the first episode of the live-action Hell Girl series, the final straw for Yuu Miyazaki, the Victim of the Week comes when the Alpha Bitch, Endou Rina, who has been tormenting her with her Girl Posse all episode, stomps on the prized watch that was her mother's gift to her while said Girl Posse forces her to watch. Yuu sends Endou to Hell immediately after this incredibly cruel Kick the Dog moment.
  • Kamen Rider Wizard: Phantoms usually force their victims over the Despair Event Horizon by damaging their Tragic Keepsakes and thus the memories connected to them, e.g. Minotaur Phantom stomps on Rinko's locket. It is basically the M.O. for the smarter ones. The dumber and more impatient just go straight to death threats.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • Vanitas from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is revealed to have obtained Ven's wooden keyblade. He snaps it in half right in front of Aqua while dissing her.
  • In Overwatch, Reaper is shown stepping on Winston's glasses, which drives him into a rage. His glasses where a gift from Dr. Harold Winston, Winston's caretaker at the lunar base and his parental figure, who died during a riot. And since Winston is a genetically-enhanced gorilla, Reaper pays for breaking his glasses. Hard.
  • Done twice during the Massacre route of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. The first time, Dagda crushes Aquila's Gauntlet in front of Aquila's reincarnation Nanashi, to symbolize how they're leaving the past behind. The second time, Nanashi himself throws away Flynn's fishing hook given to him by his best friend, because the brainwashed Flynn doesn't recognize it anymore.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Melody, Steve and Bethany steal Melody's guitar that she got from her mother, and threaten to destroy it unless the protagonist returns home to Bethany. Make the wrong choice, and Steve smashes the guitar to bits, precipitating a bad ending.

    Web Comics 
  • In Goblins, Ruby learns that Kin is in love with Minmax and trusts him because he once gifted her a handmade necklace. Believing that friendship between a human and a yuan-ti should not be possible and wanting Kin to stop being friends with Minmax, Ruby pickpockets the necklace and drops it into a hole in reality, erasing it from existence and with it Kin's memory of being given it.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: This is how Ysengrin managed to re-empower Annie back in Chapter 54: Meetings and Re-Meetings. She was using the Blinker Stone Mort gave to her, said stone being the only piece of memory she ever had of the Deader Than Dead Mort, and after the events of Chapter 51: The Tree, it was the only thing keeping her etheric self separated from her. Ys took said stone and crushed it, fusing Annie's self and her etheric self back together in the process.
  • In the autobiographical Joe vs. Elan School, one of the crueler things that the Elan School staff does to Joe is show him that he received letters from his Cool Big Sis, read them quietly in front of him, then rip them up in his face while taunting him by saying he doesn't "deserve" them.

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