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Disposable Intern

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"Do you even know the mortality rate of your internship program?!"
Intern Maureen, Welcome to Night Vale

The Intern is the lowest of the low in the company's command. In fiction land they're often not utilized for much besides getting the boss coffee or staying late to finish a project and are often abused because of their lowly status. Sometimes that abuse is Exaggerated to the point of bullying and mistreatment. And thus they become A Disposable Intern.

When the company needs to test the latest in unstable Rope Bridge technology and there's a choice between sending out a main character with Plot Armor or the nameless intern we just met, more often than not the intern is going to bite it. There's No OSHA Compliance after all, and if an anonymous intern dies who cares, at least the danger is now known and a main character didn't have to die to show it. Interns are replaceable; main characters, who are more specialist and higher in the ranks, aren't. Don't worry, this horrible negligence will more often than not be Played for Laughs as a different Disposable Intern will sometimes be seen and killed regularly, often to the point of a Running Gag.

Compare Cannon Fodder, New Meat, Deadline News, Bad Boss, and C-List Fodder. A Subtrope of Red Shirt and The Intern.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert:
    • In one classic strip, the Pointy-Haired Boss is seen carrying a corpse to a skip. He turns to camera (Fourth Wall?) and says "I love hiring these temporary workers! No benefits, no union, no contract, and you can just toss 'em in the dumpster when you're done!"
    • When Asok the intern was introduced, his co-workers immediately picked him up and said "I hope this one's sturdier than the last intern."

    Fan Works 
  • The Legend of Total Drama Island plays this trope for drama, whereas the original played it for laughs. When Bridgette condemns Chris in a confessional spot, Chris' callous attitude toward the interns is at the center of Bridgette's indictment. The fanfic also lampshades the trope by making a red pullover shirt part of the intern uniform, for which reason the contestants eventually start calling the interns "redshirts".
  • Among the first casualties of Fake News Rumble are the Colbert Report interns, who are eaten by miscellaneous purple monsters.
    "Got it. Wrangle more interns."
  • Not That Kinda Fired opens with Endeavour Agency running out of interns again: the Hero interns often try and flirt and even sexually harass Burnin', Endeavour's number two, resulting in them being invariably thrown out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has a group of college interns whom the titular character (and to some extent the rest of the crew) treats like crap: Steve refers to each as "intern!" rather than by name, forces them to loot an underwater research station owned by his rival and when they quit after the ship was briefly taken over by pirates, he sends them all home with "Incomplete" in their evaluations (his reason being that he didn't want to fail them, but he didn't want them to pass either). One of them, however, decided to stick around. Zissou immediately promised him an "A".
  • At the beginning of RoboCop (1987), an intern is ordered to point a gun at the ED-209; the ED-209 recognizes the threat, but fails to recognize his surrender of the gun and kills him. The executives, of course, are more concerned about the glitch putting them behind schedule. The novelization claimed that the guy was deliberately set up to die for annoying someone in upper management (No Such Thing as H.R. at OmniCorp), which is really not much better.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A recurring gag on X-Play was subjecting interns (often played by staff/crew members) to all sorts of crazy crap for humor.

  • Many, many times in The Magnus Archives: Gertrude Robinson has admitted, though subtly, that she cycles through workers like clockwork. The most character that we've gotten for one of these unfortunate interns is Michael, who she used to foil the Spiral's ritual and force it into a tangible, comprehensive form. Of course, judging by the way "Michael" put it, this containment procedure was unpleasant. Oh, and Michael's existence was ripped to shreds not only with his undying trust in Gertrude shattered but alone.
  • In Welcome to Night Vale it's a Running Gag that the interns are sent out to investigate things that are unnatural even by Night Vale's standards and won't live past an episode. The only exceptions are Intern Dana (or her double) who spends her time reporting back from Night Vale's worst Eldritch Abomination-infested locations or flicking in and out of existence with no escape in sight until being elected mayor, Intern Maureen who spent a good deal of time blinking in and out of existence like Dana and main character Cecil himself when he was a teen. Who even then, was implied to have died and been brought back somehow. The only other intern who hasn't died within an episode is Intern Kareem, who appears to have survived about eleven episodes. It's worth noting the official Welcome To Night Vale intern shirts are red.
    "To the friends and family of Intern Victor, we extend our condolences. Oh, that reminds me. Our intern program has a new open spot available."

    Video Games 
  • You Don't Know Jack treats interns quite badly. Sometimes even getting them killed.
  • In Ghostbusters The Videogame the protagonist is the newest in a series of interns whose primary purpose is to test out potentially dangerous experimental upgrades to the equipment. This is also why the other Ghostbusters don't refer to you by name since to them, it's not worth getting attached to someone in your position. Instead, the Player Character is just addressed by the others as "Rookie", "Cadet", "Kid", "New Guy", etc.
    Ray Stantz: What's your name again, kid?
    Peter Venkman: No names, Ray. I don't want to get too attached to this one. You know, just in case. You remember what happened to the last guy.
  • Jackie Fiasco, the protagonist of Going Under, is an unpaid intern for a corporate start-up who was hired to simply run the company social media accounts but is given the thankless duty of delving into dungeons and fighting monsters.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Shadowrun, many (if not most) megacorps will sacrifice interns and other low-level employees whenever it would be even a little expensive to get them out of trouble. See Rock in Black Lagoon for an example. It's not uncommon for an intern to be set up to fall, as part of a gambit...

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In Hell Inc, office demons Doug and Bridget have no idea what to do with new intern Sara, a recently-deceased human soul with demonic potential, or how to help her adjust to life in Hell. Most of the interns get eaten or torn apart already by their boss by this point, so this is new territory for everyone.
  • In Cthulhu Slippers, Lord Wuzzy, head of the Marketing department at Cthulhu Corp, tends to maul to death the interns assigned to give him tummy rubs.

    Web Original 
  • Occasionally crops up in Acquisitions Incorporated, such as when Omin the CEO tries to magically convert their current intern into gold on accounts that they can always hire more.
  • The Hidden Almanac, being inspired by Night Vale above, has a similar but slightly less extreme attitude to intern longevity. This show's interns have been expected to tend the show's test garden, which sounds harmless unless you've heard the host's description of some of the plants' attributes. The garden also seems to be something of a Weirdness Magnet, having been several times the site of an Eldritch Abomination-related event, which have contributed to the interns' attrition rates; in one such case, the interns were abducted enmasse by cultists serving an Elder God living somewhere beneath the test garden, and the hosts actually ventured down to rescue them, albeit on the basis that this was marginally safer than tending the garden themselves. A slight majority of the interns returned alive, and although one was possessed by a sentient beehive in the process, this was considered a bonus, as being able to communicate with bees is a major plus on the resume of a young agriculture student.
  • Surprisingly, the SCP Foundation actually averts this one; interns only get occasional passing mentions and are never deliberately sent into dangerous situations. It's not that the Foundation doesn't have a high tolerance for casualties, of course, but training is expensive and high staff turnover is bad for morale. Besides, when they need Cannon Fodder they've got the D-Class personnel. And even then, while early canon terminated D-Class at the end of the month to avoid any word of what they do leaking out, this has slowly been removed due to the logistic nightmare this would be.
  • Fistshark Marketing has Craig the Intern, whom the main characters think being a Butt-Monkey is too good for him. Even dying, from the things they make him do, would apparently be too good.
  • The Onion has had a few stories about this, including a story about intern fights.

    Western Animation 
  • Total Drama:
    • Played for laughs in a Season 1 running gag wherein the interns routinely suffer serious injuries or horrible deaths in the course of preparing and testing the challenges. When an intern dies whilst testing a challenge for safety, the host says, "That seems safe enough."
    • Numerous interns are all but directly shown being killed in a few episodes of season 3, "World Tour". When everyone is in Egypt, Chris unleashes a horde of flesh-stripping scarabs on the contestants to give them incentive to start the challenge. One intern is acting as Chris' footrest, fearfully shaking as the beetles crawl by. In the next shot, all that remain is his skeleton, still serving as a footrest.
    • Averted when the interns introduced in Season 4 become recurring minor characters. These interns are explicitly mistreated and occasionally suffer amusing injuries, but do not come to lasting harm.
    • Even though Don of Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race is much less evil than Chris (he sticks by the rules, dislikes contestants who cheat, etc.) he's still not above doing this. One of his interns even dies in the first episode.
  • On Archer ISIS interns in Krieger's lab are typically used as test subjects and die horribly as a result.
  • Playfully Subverted on Phineas and Ferb. Carl is subjected to a lot of Major Monogram's abuse, often resulting in Amusing Injuries, and has had a piano dropped on him in quest for a simple "thank you" from his boss. He sticks around though despite all of this, hence he can't really be called "disposable".


Video Example(s):


Chris throws out an intern

Chris ignores the vote to eliminate Duncan and chucks an intern out of the plane instead.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ScrewTheRulesIMakeThem

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