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 and are often abused because of their lowly status. Sometimes that abuse is Up to Eleven. 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 or the intern we just met, more often than not the intern is going to bite it. There's No OSHA Compliance after all, and if a nameless 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.
- 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."
- 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."
- 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 novelisation 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.
- Played straight and parodied on X-Play. During numerous skits/reviews, the hosts and staff would abuse, torment, and subject the "interns" to various punishments and horrors for the sake of comedy. Some of these "interns" weren't actually interns at all, though, and were actually other staff and producers of the show portraying a character.
- The Late Show with David Letterman: In one episode a man who had invented a new super-powered pogo stick is demonstrating it outside the theater. Dave has the man pogo stick over a row of interns, since even if he does accidentally hurt one it won't matter. note
- In Mystery Science Theater 3000, this was the introduction of Mike Nelson. Dr. Forrester and Frank hire Mike as a temp worker, and plot to kill him as soon as he finishes the job. However, their experiment subject Joel winds up escaping from the Satellite of Love just then, so they decide to use Mike as their new test subject instead.
- 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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 en masse 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.
- 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.
- 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".