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Disposable Woman

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At least she's not ending up in a fridge.

"Needless violence against a woman character who is only significant as an object of a male character's desire? Hot damn, I'm a real comic writer now!"

This character has a familial or romantic relationship with a protagonist, which allows creators to derive heart-wrenching sorrow from her death. Thanks to "woman" being a unique character trait, character development is not strictly necessary to get the audience mourning as well... so she typically gets little or none. Losing her is often an Inciting Incident (in both stand-alone and serial works), giving the protagonist a pretext for Revenge against her murderers. In a series, she is easily forgotten by the characters, forgotten by the writers or even summarily replaced. When this happens frequently in a series, the protagonist is suffering from the Cartwright Curse.

Men can and have been treated this way in various stories, though such cases are rare. More often, Men Are the Expendable Gender, allowing for dozens of comrades-in-arms to die before equating to the same level of personal investment as a single female love interest, not to mention their mother/sister. Expendable characters of any gender are freely used to let a villain show off how evil they are without damaging any of the more important characters. The "disposable" character remains defined by her relationship to the protagonist, rather than by her gender.

For that matter, not all dead female characters are "disposable". Writers can have the characters continue to mourn her long past a revenge arc, or develop the character in Flashbacks and Dream Sequences. Such characters are The Lost Lenore. Lenore continues to have a recognised impact on the characters and story after her demise rather than conveniently vanishing from the minds of characters, audience, and creators after having served her function as catalyst. A "disposable" character, on the other hand, had almost zero characterization before she stopped appearing in the work.

Contrast Disposable Love Interest, where "disposable" means that the character disappeared with no explanation or left off-screen with minimal explanation so creators can introduce a new Love Interest. Contrast Disposable Sex Worker and Disposable Vagrant, where characters are considered disposable because they are "unclean" and "forgotten" by society as a whole.

Compare Temporary Love Interest, where a character has a serious relationship with a character who is quickly written out of the story to preserve the status quo, and Her Heart Will Go On, where a Love Interest is killed off to showcase the protagonist specifically dealing with the Emotional Torque of losing a loved one. See Collateral Angst.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • AKIRA: Kaori dies from Tetsuo's enlarged form in the anime, and is shot to death by The Captain in the manga.
  • Assassination Classroom gives us Aguri Yukimara, a doctor who was assigned to watch over Korosensei when he was captured for research and developed a sort of friendship with him. When he decides to break out of his prison, Aguri ends up being killed in the process. Feeling guilty, Korosensei decides to fulfill her last wish by becoming Class-E's new homeroom teacher.
  • Sys, Guts's adopted mother from Berserk, was the only other person who truly loved Guts, aside from Casca. However, her only real purpose in the story was to show how much Guts's adopted father, Gambino, despised Guts for supposedly being the cause of her death, and so she is only presented for a few panels until she died of the plague when Guts is three, and is only mentioned thereafter by Gambino right before Guts killed him in self defense.
  • Black Cat's Saya, who, being Train's first real friend, gives Train the reason to want to kill Creed. It is implied that she was also the reason he left Chronos in the first place.
  • Code Geass:
    • Subverted with Lelouch's mother Marianne. It looks like her death will be nothing more than a pretext for Lelouch to get revenge on his father, but really she's using another character as her Soul Jar and has been cooperating with his father from the start!
    • Played straight with Shirley's death and Lelouch massacring the entire Geass Order as revenge, but subverted in the Compilation Movie when she survives this time, but Lelouch's other reason to kill them was how potentially dangerous they were.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Annie and Julia die, motivating Spike to kill Vicious and his henchmen.
  • Happens at least three times in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School.
    • In the first episode, Chisa Yukizome is the first victim of the killing game in the Hope:side which is meant to fuel Munakata's grudge against Naegi and the Remnants he tried to protect. Subverted in that Yukizome continues to get characterization in the Despair:side of the story as one of the main characters and it shows how she became she way she's now at the start of Hope:side.
    • Next would be Kyoko Kirigiri who "sacrifices" her life in order to protect her love interest Naegi's. It's her death that motivates the boy to face off against Munakata to resolve their conflict. It's somewhat subverted as the final episode shows that Kirigiri was resurrected off-screen thanks to a special medicine.
  • Demon Beast Invasion begins with a demon having sex with a woman until she explodes.
  • Devilman: Invoked by Satan, who reveals Akira's secret identity on TV knowing demon hunters would target his Love Interest Miki. Seeing her head on a pike predictably drives Akira to slaughter the entire group of demon hunters, which drives him to madness.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Chi-Chi gets turned into an egg by Buu and then gets stepped on by him, which kills her. Her death serves to motivate her son Goten to take the training in the Room of Spirit of Time (aka Hyperbolic Time Chamber) seriously...for only one scene. By the time he and Trunks fight Buu in their fused form as Gotenks, the kids' motivation to take revenge for their dead relatives is completely forgotten for the sake of a very silly and comedic fight, with Gotenks actively holding back to make the fight more exciting. Later on, when Gotenks learns that Buu has eaten the other members of the Dragon Team, including Trunks's mother Bulma, Gotenks gets angry for one moment, but they continue to do the silly and comedic fight again (although this time Gotenks doesn't hold back, since he's already in his strongest form).
  • Dragon Ball GT: Gender Flipped example with Krillin. Being Demoted to Extra, he mostly shows up in just cameos. His first "major" appearance is him getting unceremoniously killed off by Android #17 in front of his wife #18 (which is also the third time he dies in this continuity). While it seems that #18 is killed right after, she later shows up in the final fight to assist Goku and take revenge for her husband. The next arc is about trying to purify the Dragon Balls to revive Krillin and other victims, but this is more treated like an after-thought for most of the arc and he's later revived in the final episode. Notably, #18 doesn't even appear in said arc and we don't see her and Krillin reunite, since the final episode focuses on Goku's departure from the series.
  • Dragon Ball Super:
    • In Episode 47, Future Trunks watches as his mother, Bulma, is killed by Goku Black, who initially takes the appearance of a ghastly apparition or Eldritch Abomination, rather than someone in Goku's body. Before revealing to the viewer that the Big Bad is someone who looks near identical to Goku, Trunks' girlfriend, Mai, appears to be killed by Black. This is later subverted when she is shown to have survived the blast. Nonetheless, Black serves as Trunks's Arch-Enemy throughout this arc.
    • Later played straight again when Zamasu describes to Goku how Black murdered the future timeline versions of Goten and Chi-Chi. This causes Goku to snap like he did during his fight against Freeza on Namek.
  • Golgo 13: Queen Bee: Duke Togo gives a woman the best sex of her life, and kills her.
  • Gundam:
  • Early in the Gunsmith Cats manga, one of Rally's bounties takes a girl hostage. The next time we see her, she has just been raped and is then unceremoniously murdered. After taking the bounty down, nothing more is said.
  • Freezing: Genetically modified women trained at military academies can be killed for points in combat ranking competitions called carnivals. In the prequel spinoff Freezing: First Chronicle, Chiffon Fairchild massacres over forty genetically modified women at her first carnival, and goes on to be ranked #1.
  • In Chapter 0 of Jujutsu Kaisen, Rika was the childhood friend of the generic protagonist Yuta Okkotsu. She is killed in an accident and ends up becoming a cursed spirit who constantly protects and haunts him. Her death and tragedy are what fuel Yuta's motivation into becoming a strong sorcerer.
  • In Kill la Kill, the reason Tsumugu Kinagase is such a grumpy jerkhole is because his sister was a life fiber researcher who lost her life when one of the experiments went haywire. He blames the life fibers for her death and for tricking her into believing that humans and life fibers could ever coexist.
  • Azami from Lone Wolf and Cub, the hero's wife and Daigoro's mother. The flashback chapter where we see her death is her sole appearance in the entire manga.
  • Mazinger Z: Rumi. She was a maid Dr. Kabuto hired to take care of his orphaned grandsons while he was building Mazinger Z. She was cold-bloodly murdered by Baron Ashura less than five minutes after her first appearance in the first episode. Kouji and Shiro cried when they found the corpse, but she was not mentioned again. A number of adaptations (like Super Robot Wars or Shin Mazinger) remove the character, flat out.
  • Yuki, Akane's friend in Psycho-Pass, whose sole purpose is to be first captured and later killed by Makishima at the halfway point in the series just to reinforce that he can commit horrific atrocities but not have it affect his psycho-pass level.
  • Urotsukidōji: Legend Of The Overfiend: In the school hallway, a group of schoolgirls are brutally Killed Offscreen.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kisara's character boils down to 'quiet, mysterious girl who's powerful, but is killed to motivate Priest Seto'. In the manga, she's randomly attacked in the middle of a conversation and dies, enraging Seto and allowing him to be possessed until the end of the arc. The anime has her sacrifice herself to protect Seto and then free him from the darkness before the end of the arc. In the original plan for the arc, her death would have served to motivate an un-brainwashed Seto to rebel against the Pharaoh, fighting a three-way war to avenge her death.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers:
    • Ant-Man: Henry Pym's first wife, a Hungarian émigrée who was kidnapped and murdered by Soviet agents.
    • In Avengers 1959, four former Nazi agents, Axis Annie, Fraulein Fatale, Madame Mauser and Penny Panzer are taken hostage, no longer engaged in combat, and slaughtered off-panel by Sabretooth on the order of Nick Fury, to reassure the audience that Sabretooth is a murderous psychopath.
    • Victoria Bentley, an associate of Doctor Strange, dies in Avengers #366 when Deadpool is fighting Bloodwraith.
  • In Batman: The Widening Gyre, Silver St. Cloud, established as a love interest of Bruce Wayne, has her throat slit by Onomatopoeia.
  • In Captain Britain and MI13, a woman trying to join Dracula's cult to be turned to a vampire instead gets her neck snapped so she won't be able to.
  • In Crimson, Alex Elder's girlfriend Julie is murdered in the third issue by the vampires that turned him in order to provoke into seeking revenge against him.
  • In Frank Miller's run on Daredevil, after establishing a friendship with Matt Murdock, Elektra dies at the hands of Bullseye.
  • Taiyan, in the Doctor Who Magazine back-up series Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer.
  • In Excalibur, Courtney Ross is killed in Excalibur #5. Captain Britain swears revenge in Excalibur #56.
  • One of the most infamous examples is the death of Alexandra DeWitt, the then-girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner; she was killed by Major Force and stuffed into her refrigerator for Kyle to find. The backlash was so intense that it led to the formation of the Women in Refrigerators group to protest specifically against the preponderance of the Disposable Woman trope in superhero comics. Green Lantern writer Ron Marz wrote a letter to the Women In Refrigerators website, attempting to justify the event he wrote that gave WIR its name. He actually tried to use the fact that Kyle Rayner's girlfriend was meant to be the Disposable Woman from the beginning as an excuse!
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Lois Lane is killed off, upsetting Superman into creating a Bad Future. Huntress and Renee Montoya are killed, upsetting Batwoman.
  • In Our Worlds at War, "Strange Visitor" Sharon Vance is introduced to make a Heroic Sacrifice and stop Imperiex.
  • Pandora, who appears in Flashpoint, is killed by Dr. Manhattan in DC Rebirth.
  • Runaways:
    • The Pride's empire was built upon the yearly sacrifice of young women. And then there's Marianela Mancha, who is horrifically burned to death by Ultron in order to force Victor Mancha to join the Runaways.
    • In Runaways (2015) Pixie is killed off in the second issue in order to spur Team Puce into rebelling against their Academy of Evil.
  • In Semantic Lace, a happy-go-lucky girl is shot in the head.
  • In a storyline of She-Hulk volume two, a normal couple gets caught up in matters involving a hostile space alien far from civilisation. The wife gets killed so that after being rescued the husband can get falsely accused of murdering her (because "space aliens killed my wife, and She-Hulk saved me" didn't convince people).
  • Goldie in Sin City: The Hard Goodbye exists to be murdered and start Marv's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Spider-Man:
    • A male example from the 1960s: Bennett Brant, Betty's lawyer brother, was introduced and killed in The Amazing Spider-Man (Lee & Ditko) #11 so that Betty could blame Spider-Man for his death and thus throw a spanner in the works of her romance with Spidey's alter ego Peter Parker. Bennett practically never was mentioned or made an appearance again after that subplot ended, and if it was it was to work out the Continuity Snarl that developed when Marvel decided that Betty must be around Peter's age. If Bennett behaved as if he was Betty's younger brother, how could he be an attorney when Peter was still in high school?
    • NYPD police captain Jean DeWolff is killed by Stan Carter.
    • Charlemagne, an intel agent and friend of Wolverine, is introduced in Spider-Man Versus Wolverine #1. Spider-Man accidentally kills her, leaving him deeply upset.
    • Mary Jane Watson appeared to die in an exploding airplane in The Amazing Spider Man J Michael Straczynski vol 2 #13. She got better pretty quick.
    • Kamala Khan dies in The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #26 and is used in a way to motivate Peter AND a Heel–Face Turn Norman Osborn.
  • "Spoiler" Stephanie Brown was tortured by the Black Mask and died from a lack of treatment in Batman: War Games, but her death was retconned into her being smuggled out of the country for her own safety.
  • Wolverine:
    • Itsu is killed so Logan can have sad memories of her and to introduce her son Daken.
    • Mariko Yashida was poisoned and killed so Logan could remain guilty and depressed over her death.
  • X-Men:
    • Magneto's wife Magda died in the wilderness, Magda's mother Anya died in a concentration camp during World War II, and Magna's daughter Anya died in a mob fire.
    • Birdy, partner of Sabretooth, was killed by Graydon Creed.
    • Moira MacTaggert dies from an attack by Mystique, and returns in Chaos War.
    • Aliya "Jenskot" Dayspring dies in Cable #1, motivating Cable to look after their son, Tyler.
    • Shard makes a Heroic Sacrifice in Bishop the Last X-Man #14, in order to defeat Fitzroy.
    • Siena Blaze was killed at the Weapon X facility in Weapon X (2002) Vol 2 #5. She becomes a zombie in Necrosha, then dies again.
    • Peter Rasputin broke up with Kitty Pryde because of Zsaji, a Disposable Woman he met during Secret Wars and fell hopelessly in love with despite not even speaking her language. After spending hours together, she ends up sacrificing her life to save the heroes from Doctor Doom's attack after he absorbed the Beyonder's power. Karma then came and kicked his ass in the form of the Juggernaut. Afterwards, Wolverine lectured him on not letting Kitty down gently.
    • In End Of Greys, Elaine Grey, mother of Jean Grey, Phyliss Dennefer, sister of Elaine Grey, Julia Grey and Sara Grey-Bailey, sisters of Jean Grey, Derry Campbell, Mary-Margaret Grey, and Kindra Grey, cousins on Jean's side, and Bekka Wallis, a teacher, are all killed by the Shi'ar Death Commandos.
    • Dazzler has died in X-Men: Eve of Destruction, New Excalibur, and A-Force.
    • Holly "Holo" Bright is introduced in First X-Men #1, and dies in First X-Men #5.
  • In Ultimatum, in issue #2, Wasp is killed by the Blob.
  • In Paul Cornell's Wisdom mini-series, Maureen Raven is killed to prevent a Bad Future.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Acts of Vengeance (2017): Valera's wife and daughter basically just exist to be murdered, thus causing his vengeance quest. At least they're given some characterization at the beginning (making their deaths hit harder too).
  • Alex Cross: The only two significant female characters, Maria and Monica, are both murdered, which serves as impetus for the men in their lives to seek revenge on the murderer.
  • In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, the disposable women in James Bond movies are parodied. Vanessa explodes within the first five minutes, inspiring less than a minute of grief before Austin takes off to enjoy the single life again.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, Gamora is sacrificed in exchange for the Soul Stone. In Avengers: Endgame Gamora is replaced with a past version of herself, and Black Widow sacrifices herself for the Soul Stone. Margaret "Peggy" Carter's death is mentioned in Captain America: Civil War, though Steve Rogers spends time with an alternate past timeline version of her.
  • Audrey in Barton Fink shows up to sleep with the main character and is then murdered in his bed. Barton is able to dispose of the body without anyone noticing, and Davis is never mentioned again in the movie.
  • Zig-zagged in The Creator (2023). Joshua's pregnant wife Maya is killed in the initial raid, which makes him uncaring about the war even when he's needed years later. It's only after learning the possibility that she might be alive that he agrees to go on the mission. It was a trap; Maya is the titular creator, the supreme AI known as Nirmata, and the military wanted Joshua involved to lead them to her and finish her off. She's also not exactly alive, but near-death, and Joshua has to shut her down himself so Nirmata can reincarnate, as the AIs are unable to harm her. A simulant with her likeness receives her preserved memories at the end, and stays with Joshua during his Heroic Sacrifice, dying for real this time. Despite her major role in the story, however, she barely gets any screentime, and the most important thing she directly did in the plot is being the mother of Alpha.
  • Marian fills this role in Dante's Peak. Harry's fiancee is a psychotically involved geologist. She's so gonzo for volcanoes Harry has to practically drag her kicking and screaming to leave the site of the eruption because the readings are so incredible. As they're driving frantically from the area, volcanic rock is falling from the sky. One punches through the roof and hits Marian in her head. Harry has to look on in horror as she convulses. He reaches for her and she dies in his arms.
  • In The Dark Knight, Rachel Dawes, the love interest of Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, is kidnapped by the Joker's goons and is killed in a warehouse explosion. Her death not only impacts Bruce but also kickstarts Harvey to take revenge on those who wronged him as Two-Face. It's also worth mentioning that Rachel was the only prominent female character in the movie (and a Canon Foreigner on top of that).
  • In Deadpool 2, Vanessa is killed during a flash-back within five minutes of the film opening, then gets lampshaded during the opening credits. She gets better.
  • The family, friends, and love interests of Charles Bronson's character in the Death Wish series of movies serve this purpose, and this purpose alone. It starts relatively realistic, showing him to become physically ill after killing his first man. By the later movies, however, he seems to positively delight in finding creative ways to rid the world of scumbags. This review of the 2018 remake starring Bruce Willis mentions the trope, stating that as in the original film, "women are only in this movie to be harmed so a man can go on an emotional journey."
  • In Deep Rising, Finnegan's XO Leila is the first of the protagonists to be killed by the creatures. Despite her brief screen time setting her up as one of the most sympathetic cast members, her fate gets barely any mention by her crewmates, least of all the mercs. Finnegan's reaction boils down to one gloomy "I don't think she made it" to her boyfriend Joey, who in turn sheds a tear for her during his following repair job but goes back to his usual snarky self immediately afterwards, effectively forgetting about her from that moment forth.
  • In The Deserter, Capt. Kaleb's wife only appears long enough to die at the hands of the Apache and trigger Kaleb's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • A young woman dies in the first scene of The Foreigner (2017), which spurs her Retired Badass father to come out of retirement and track down those responsible.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: While talking to General Hawk, Cover Girl is stabbed through the back by Zartan, the knife penetrating her ribcage, and less importantly damaging the electronic tablet she held and had asked the General to sign.
  • Highlander:
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, Katniss' sister Prim dies, saddening Katniss greatly.
  • An ongoing trend in James Bond films. Beautiful women would appear for three scenes at most, before dying, usually after being ploughed by Bond and doing something vague. Often the actresses playing these women would receive star billing in the credits (e.g. "And Lana Wood as Plenty O'Toole"). Examples include Jill and Tilly Masterson in Goldfinger, Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds Are Forever, Rosie Carver in Live and Let Die and Corinne Dufour in Moonraker.
    • Della Churchill, loving wife of Felix Leiter, is killed less than twenty minutes into Licence to Kill and Leiter himself fed to a shark. Bond decides It's Personal. Leiter survives and doesn't seem too fazed by the death of his wife.
    • When Roald Dahl was hired to write the screenplay for You Only Live Twice, he was told that every Bond movie needs three Bond girls: one is pro-Bond and dies; another is anti-Bond but is won over by his charms; and the third, pro-Bond woman is the one he gets to bed at the end of the film. Not every Bond movie has used these exact rules, but Dahl followed the template with Aki, Helga and Kissy (unnamed in the movie) respectively.
    • The Daniel Craig Bond films have continued this trend. Witness Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) in Quantum of Solace and Séverine (Bérénice Marlohe) in Skyfall. There are aversions though, such as Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci) in Spectre.
  • The first victim in Jaws. She exists to get torn apart by the shark and provide conflict between Brody and the Mayor over whether or not to close the beach after her body is discovered.
  • Another Gender Flip in Kill Bill- The Bride's fiance Tommy exists only for the titular villain to murder.
  • In The Last Boy Scout Halle Berry's character Cory is cut down by machine-gun fire in the first third of the film. While her boyfriend, played by Damon Wayans, teams up with Bruce Willis's character to solve her murder, he never seems all that broken up about her death and the snarky, bantering tone of the rest of the film seems incongruous at best in that light.
  • In Last Train from Gun Hill, Morgan's wife gets only a few minutes of screen time as she tries to escape Rick and his friend, and is then raped and murdered by them.
  • In Film/Lisztomania, this happenned to Countess Maria and her children, aside from Cosima, when they were comedically blown up during the May revolution while Liszt sings helplessly in his tower.
  • Nocturnal Animals: In Edward's book, Laura and India are just there to basically be raped, then murdered so Tony (i.e. his expy) can go on a quest for justice on their killers. That said, it's done well.
  • Psycho: Marion Crane is killed so the movie can focus on her killer, Norman Bates.
  • In Rambo: Last Blood, Gabriela dies from her injuries, inspiring John's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Irene Adler tragically becomes this in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, being killed off in the first few minutes with poison that produces tuberculosis-like symptoms. This one stings because she spends most of the first film (and five minutes of the second) being smarter than everyone else in the room, only to walk into such an obvious trap.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Attack of the Clones, the handmaiden Cordé is introduced and dies with six others after the explosion of a Naboo cruiser set by the bounty hunter Zam Wesell. Shmi Skywalker dies from being tortured by Tusken Raiders, motivating Anakin's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • In Rogue One, in the opening moments of the film, Galen's wife Lyra Erso is killed by one of Director Krennic's death troopers. Her death is only implicitly motivational to him, as he was already a Rebel sympathizer.
    • In Solo, Val dies in an explosion shortly after being introduced, only briefly upsetting Beckett.
  • In Stuber: Karen Gillan's Officer Morris is killed in the first five minutes of the film to spur on Vic Manning (Dave Bautista)'s vendetta.
  • Taken:
    • The first film's whole plot revolves around this; the reason Kim exists is so that she can be kidnapped, giving her father Bryan an excuse to show what a badass he is. Meanwhile, the purpose of Kim's best friend Amanda is to be killed in order to show that the bad guys are monsters and thus how important it is for Bryan to find Kim ASAP.
    • Bryan's ex-wife Lenore, with whom he is still in love, lives until Taken 3, wherein her murder is what sends Bryan on a third and last quest for vengeance.
    • The prequel TV series has Bryan's younger sister Cali, who's killed in the very first episode.
  • Gender flipped in Tank Girl, when her boyfriend dies in bullet-riddled convulsions during Water & Power's attack. As shocked as she appeared at the time, he just as suddenly becomes a Forgotten Fallen Friend.
  • The Time Machine (2002) has an interesting variation in Emma. Alex spent four years building his time machine to change history and save her from dying. When this fails, he contemplates how he could try a thousand times without success - if he were to save her life, it would lead to a Chicken-and-Egg Paradox. She really does have no further Character Development than being destined to die.
  • In Troll 2, after Joshua saves his family, he walks up the stairs to find his mom has been turned to jelly by the Goblins.
  • In Universal Soldier: The Return, Luc Deveraux had a partner named Maggie who spends most of the time protecting Luc's daughter Hilary from the maniacal S.E.T.H. and his army of Uni Sols. Unfortunately, Maggie gets killed by S.E.T.H's right-hand man Romeo and revived as a Uni Sol to serve S.E.T.H., much to Luc's grief. Even when Luc managed to free Maggie by destroying S.E.T.H. and a majority of Uni Sols, Maggie finds the idea of living as a Uni Sol to be unbearable and asked Luc to blow up the building with herself and the remaining Uni Sols inside. Understanding what Maggie went through, Luc reluctantly obliges, and Maggie accepts her fate perishing in the explosion, taking Romeo and the remaining Uni Sols with her.
  • The whole premise of Upgrade revolves around Grey Trace, a disabled mechanic who lost his wife to a mugging, embracing a cybernetic A.I. called STEM to grant him the power to track down his wife's killers and bring them to bloody justice.
  • In Van Helsing, after Van Helsing's epic battle, Anna Valerious dies due to Van Helsing being exceedingly clumsy at that moment, and Van Helsing feels a deep regret.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • In Logan, Gabriela Lopez finds Logan and promptly dies when he leaves for a couple of hours to get ready for the drive. She successfully got Laura to him and left behind her smartphone with an inexplicably well-edited video for exposition, but she isn't mentioned again by Logan, Laura, or the kids she had already led to safety - she just dies once her job of kickstarting the plot is complete.

  • Back in the '20s, the author 'Sapper' admitted that he'd let Bulldog Drummond marry his girlfriend because he thought she'd make a good kidnapping victim for future adventures.
  • Audra, Bill Denbrough's wife, in It has no real importance to the plot except for being kidnapped.
  • This trope is Older Than Print. In the Vitae Sanctorum Britanniae, or "Lives of the Saints of Britain", which predates the 9th century, warfare breaks out when a lovely maiden is kidnapped by King Maelgwn's soldiers. St. Cadog approaches the king and convinces him to repent and recall his army, but never asks for the maiden back, despite her father being an official in Cadog's church. She is never mentioned again.
  • In the Chinese epic Outlaws of the Marsh, aka The Water Margin, the Outlaws want a Worthy Opponent to stay with them. They kill a whole lot of innocent civilians and make it look like he did it. His wife is executed for being married to the presumed criminal. The husband is outraged and prepares to kill the outlaws, who explain that they only did it so he would be outlawed and have to join them. He is touched by this and agrees. They basically say, "Sorry about your missus, but we know lots of women, we'll give you a new one." He accepts.
  • Arguably, Harry's one-time student Kim Delaney in Fool Moon. She's killed by a super-powered werewolf midway through the novel, having never been mentioned in the previous book. However, she is mentioned a few times in later books, and her death serves to teach Harry the consequences of Poor Communication Kills.
  • In the first book of the Thousand Cultures series, Betsy Lovelock is raped and murdered in order to spur a rebellion.
  • Nonfiction meta example: "Nur über ihre Leiche"note , a study by Elisabeth Bronfen, on dead women as a subject in art. (Obviously, far broader than this trope, but has enough examples listed.)
  • Zig-zagged in Wax and Wayne.
    • Initially played straight in the first book, we are introduced our protagonist Waxillium Ladrian and his wife Lessie. Within the very prologue, Lessie is killed when the serial killer they've been chasing takes her hostage and inexplicably blocks the bullet when Wax attempts to Shoot the Hostage Taker. This disaster motivates Wax to hang up his badge and return to the city to manage his family's estate, being the sole heir, kickstarting the events of the series.
    • Jump forward to Shadows of Self, Wax finds himself at odds with Paalm, a rogue Kandra revolting against Harmony. In typical noir fashion, she plays mind games with Wax, including taking personal shots at his trauma by occasionally taking on the appearance of Lessie. At the end of the book, when he finally catches Paalm, she commits suicide, preferring to die than to lose control to Harmony again. As she dies, though, she reveals she was Lessie all along. Harmony fabricated their meeting and relationship in order to develop Wax into the lawman he became. Complications arose when Paalm actually fell in love with him. When Harmony needed Wax to return to Elendel, Paalm refused to aid him, seeing how happy Wax was with his adventures in the west. Being able to take control of her, Harmony did it anyway, faking Paalm's death. She grew to resent Harmony because of it, setting out to free Wax from his influence with the help of the Set. As such, this trope comes out to be invoked, defied, and especially deconstructed. The entire course of events ends up as a meta commentary about disposable women. From the perspective of Paalm, the narrative becomes the story of a woman rising up against the author of the grand narrative, rejecting her role within it after she was forcefully fridged without consideration or rejection of her own perspective and experience for the sole purpose of developing a loved one's character so that he may get the needed motivation or skills to do what the author needs him to do.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This befalls several characters in the 24 universe, especially women who have been married to/dated Jack Bauer:
    • Claudia, Jack's ex-girlfriend who lives in Mexico working for the Salazar brothers. As soon as she, her father and Chase Edmunds make plans to escape the Salazar ranch, her life expectancy is measured in minutes, not episodes. She ends up dying off-screen during their escape.
    • Audrey Raines: kidnapped in the first episode she appears in. Rescued several times from perilous situations by Jack until she gets captured and tortured by the Chinese for a year in the sixth season. She's now in an unresponsive coma. And then she recovers by Live Another Day only to be shot dead in the finale.
  • Bonanza:
    • Seemingly every episode that introduced a female love interest for the Cartwrights worked like this. The girl would invariably harbor a sinister secret or have someone stalking her, with the villain of the week succeeding in his mission to kill the girl.
    • Season 14's two-part episode "Forever": Little Joe makes it to the altar with Alice Harper for all of half an hour's screentime before she and their unborn child are murdered to start Joe's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the man who ordered their deaths. That episode is pretty much the last we ever hear of either Alice or the baby.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Male example: Jesse served this purpose for Willow and Xander in the first episode/s of and was promptly forgotten.
    • LGBT example: Tara's death prompts Willow to become the Big Bad of season 6.
    • The potentials in season seven: a collection of young females with limited character development, a good number of whom are killed off in brutal ways so that Buffy has something else to angst over. They eventually Took a Level in Badass.
  • In Game of Thrones, one of Ramsay Snow's many partners, Tansy, is hunted through the forest and killed by Ramsay's hounds in "The Lion and the Rose" to show the extent of Ramsay's sadism and that of his lover, Myranda. As such, Tansy lacks characterization: that was her first and only appearance. Two of Ramsay's other lovers had been depicted as sharing in his cruelty and psychosis until Ramsay grew bored of them, suggesting that Tansy may have been in a similar position.
  • A male example in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel's brother is swiftly killed off at the start of the series in order to force Galadriel into a revenge story against Sauron.
  • While The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries tended to avoid this, three episodes stand out and play it straight:
    • "Last Kiss of Summer": We're introduced to Jamie, the love of Joe's life who he's willing to marry & throw over his entire life for — a woman who hasn't been mentioned throughout the entire series to this point — and 10 minutes into the episode, right after the wedding rehearsal where Joe & Jamie pledge vows, Jamie's killed by a random drunk driver, followed by Joe weeping over her bloody body and vowing a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Jamie is never mentioned again in the series.
    • "Dangerous Waters": Ria Thomas exists only to be kidnapped and rescued twice by the Hardy Boys.
    • "Arson & Old Lace": Nancy Drew became this. We never see her actually working on the case. She exists only as the helpless victim to be rescued by her love interest, Frank Hardy. And after this episode, she disappeared from the series for good, save for a one-line mention in "Campus Terror".
  • NCIS: Ellie Bishop's Season 14 boyfriend Qasim fits this to a T, getting only three episodes spaced several weeks apart—one to establish that they're dating, one to kill him off, and one where she seeks revenge on his behalf, interspersed with flashbacks to tell their story. True to form, he hasn't been mentioned since, and she seems completely over it already, despite the final flashback telling the viewer she would have accepted his proposal had he not died.
  • No Ordinary Family took all of two episodes to give viewers the death of Detective Cho, just after said character should've entered an interesting plotline.
  • In the BBC's retelling of Robin Hood, it is Maid Marian - yes Maid Marian herself who is turned into this after she is stabbed to death by Guy of Gisborne. True to the trope, after a brief Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Robin more or less moves on and acquires two new love interests in the course of the third season. They try for an Author's Saving Throw at the end of the season in which Robin ultimately dies and gets a Together in Death scene with Marian.
  • In Stargate, Daniel Jackson ends up with a gorgeous human from another planet for a wife. She's also intelligent and feisty, and affects the plot by rallying her people to drive off the alien overlords. However, in the first episode of the series Stargate SG-1, she gets captured as a host for the Big Bad aliens, setting Daniel's motivation as finding a way to rescue her. But over the course of the series he attracts flocks of alien babes, and in the midst of not refusing their attentions he never seems to remember his wedding vows. To make it worse, when the writers finally remember that he has a wife waiting for him, they spend one whole episode detailing how he finds her and she dies. Now that his motivation is gone, does Daniel quit the team? For about five minutes.
    • To be fair, who in their right mind would want to give up an amazing career studying living offshoots of ancient cultures on other planets, just to go back to a job where EVERY SINGLE PERSON in academia thinks the character is a two-bit hack?
  • In the Lifetime Movie of the Week Stalked By My Neighbor, the heroine's husband is killed in a car accident within the first five minutes, freeing her to be pursued by the neighbor in question, as well as a new love interest.
  • In Star Trek: Discovery, Captain Philippa Georgiou is killed early on by T'Kuvma.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): Perrin is given a wife, Laila (very briefly mentioned in the books as his likely future bride). He accidentally kills her the same episode she's introduced to show that his latent wolfbrother ability's coming up and getting him carried away while fighting, after which he can be devastated for it happening.

    Print Media 

    Tabletop Games  

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The victim in the very first case of the very first game, Larry's girlfriend, is an example of this trope: Larry moves on from her very quickly. Next time we see him, about five months later, he's already dating another woman.
    • Clay Terran in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is a male example. Supposedly Apollo's best friend, he's never mentioned in the previous game at all. In the game itself, he's killed by the game's Big Bad before we even see him on screen, driving a conflict between Apollo and the rest of the Wright Anything Agency. Tellingly, he isn't mentioned even once in the next game, despite Apollo having an even bigger role there. Clay pretty much exists only to temporarily give Apollo some angst.
  • Women in the Castlevania series frequently fall into this trope:
    • The most blatant example is probably Hector's fiancee Rosaly from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, who doesn't even appear onscreen. Her death is purely motivation for his revenge. This would qualify for The Lost Lenore, but his hooking up with Julia - the sister of his wife's murderer - qualifies her for this trope. You'd think that sort of thing would dredge up unpleasant memories every now and then.
    • Every bit as bad as Rosaly is Elisabetha, whose death gets all of one mention in the intro to Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
    • In Eric Lecarde's bio for Castlevania: Bloodlines states that his lover was turned into a vampire, serving as his motivation to kick ass. However, like Elisabetha and Rosaly, we don't actually see her and we only know about her because she was mentioned in the manual.
  • The maids in Clive Barker's Undying pretty much exist to get killed by Howlers. The male servants seem a bit better at living. The butler survives as well as you do.
  • Deus Ex:
    • Tiffany Savage (Gary Savage's daughter). She is introduced via Bob Page stating that she was captured by Majestic 12 during an operation to retrieve components for a Universal Constructor, and the next mission has JC attempting to rescue her at a gas station. It's very easy for her to die during this, and it has no real bearing for the rest of the story beyond a couple of alternate lines by Savage (and a potential reward) two missions later. He doesn't even seem too broken up over her death.
  • Duke Nukem 3D: Duke can find women undergoing a bizarre alien torture process, like the scene in Aliens, and choose to kill them or leave them there.
  • Duke Nukem Forever: Two girls who had previously given Duke oral stimulation are impregnated by aliens, and can be shot and killed or left to die by pregnancy.
  • In Fallout 4, Nate's wife Nora is killed by Conrad Kellogg scarcely minutes into the game, unless the player selects Nora as the Player Character, in which case Nate is killed instead. In either case, their death has a very minimal impact on the overall plot.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy IV: Tellah's daughter, Anna, pretty much only exists to give Tellah and Edward motivation. Otherwise the game doesn't dwell on her death.
      • For Tellah, her running away with Edward kickstarts his joining the party in the first place, and her death at the hands of Golbez's forces serves to trigger his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and eventual Heroic Sacrifice. And it leads to one of the most famous of all Woolseyisms.
      Tellah: You spoony Bard!
      • She is more of a Lost Lenore for Edward, as most of his time with the party is spent moping about her death. However she still primarily serves as a motivating factor in Edward growing a spine.
    • Final Fantasy VI: Setzer's dead girlfriend Darryl only exists in the story to give him some literal last-minute Character Development. This is a similar deal with Locke's girlfriend, the mothers of at least five characters, and Cyan's wife and kid.
  • Gears of War 2: Maria Santiago is killed by her husband Dominic Santiago, who finds her in a prison camp and does not want her to be tortured further.
  • CJ's mom in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Her death results in CJ returning to Los Santos for the first time since his brother Brian's death, kicking off the story.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us: Lois Lane is killed, upsetting Superman into creating a Bad Future.
  • League of Legends: Originally played straight with Lucian's lore, which saw the character seek revenge against his Arch-Enemy Thresh for confining the soul of his barely developed wife, Senna, inside his lantern. Subverted years later, when Senna was turned into a champion of her own and revealed to have been fighting for her life during her years in the lantern, and later become one of the main characters behind a major storyline.
  • Max Payne: In the third game, Damsel in Distress Fabiana suffers from this, being rescued in the first chapter only to be recaptured in the second and eventually killed halfway through the game. To add insult to injury, it's barely even considered a karmic strike against her murderer, who Max secretly hopes became a Karma Houdini in the end.
  • The fate of Smith's wife, Helen, in the opening sequence of 2Dark. And her death is the main reason why Smith is searching the disappeared children in Gloomywood.
  • This happens to many of the female characters in Red Dead Redemption. For instance, Bonnie MacFarlane's quest chain ends with her getting kidnapped, abused and hanged (before she's rescued by lead character John Marston). Luisa dies in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment after you've finished her quest chain (and rescued her from kidnappers/saved her life many times before), several Mexican peasant girls are implied to have been captured/raped/killed during the course of the story, and one poor bank patron in Blackwater is caught solely for the purpose of getting a bullet between the eyes, courtesy of the game's Big Bad. Of course, this is partly because the game is a Deconstruction of Wild West myths (the hero doesn't always save the damsel-in-distress).
  • Madeline Taylor in Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix is an only slightly important accomplice who you never really get to know before she gets a bridge dropped on her head.
  • World of Warcraft plays this straight at times - one example is Thassarian's mother, who was introduced and killed in the same comic and did little more than beg for her life and provide angst for her son. Though given how often dead characters manage to reappear somehow in this franchise, it's always possible this isn't the last we've seen of her. And it should also be noted that Blizzard Entertainment have an unusual ability to characterize characters who aren't present: such as Alleria Windrunner and Turalyon for the expansions before Legion. As the current expansion is headed into the Shadowlands, the realms of death, it's very likely we may learn more about Thassarian's mother even if we don't directly see her. In any case one of the notable things about this game is that this trope is more often averted than played straight. Notable aversions are Keristrasza, Tarecgosa, and Theradras. Although all three are female characters killed almost immediately after being introduced, they all receive more than enough characterization to be remembered by most players years after their deaths. Keristrasza's death falls under the category of Noble Sacrifice, a death trope that is usually reserved for male characters. Although Tarecgosa's death serves as a motivation for her brother Kalecgos to seize political power, that also wasn't the only reason for it: she was killed rebelling against the former leader of the Blue Dragons, a worthy cause in itself. Theradras meanwhile is the boss of a dungeon, driven to madness by grief for her lost husband. But we later meet her mother Therazane, and get significantly more information about her and what happened. Theradras' husband though, would definitely qualify for this trope as a rare male example. To be fair, when you have literally thousands of characters across four games and many many ancillary materials: this trope is somewhat inevitable.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1: Fiora dies only one chapter after her introduction at the hands of Metal Face during his raid on Colony 9, and her death is both the cause of Shulk's initial quest (to get revenge on the Mechon) and a source of angst for him. Then subverted when she's revealed to have survived her apparent death Reforged into a Minion, and goes on to take a prominent role in the story, even becoming the final party member.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Video 
  • Linkara discusses this in the Atop the Fourth Wall review of Batman: The Killing Joke. He explains that all Barbara Gordon's crippling does, in the broader picture of things, serves to motivate the men in the picture, that the moment and the prologue before it was only meant to give the men reason to go against the villains. He even suggests that the crippling shouldn't even have happened in the animated version as this was just a one-off movie.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: A common accusation against Sky's death is that she as a character was not properly developed and only existed to give a male Viktor something to angst about.
  • Inside Job (2021) plays this straight, to Reagan's annoyance. Reagan tries to fake her death and get Stalker with a Crush Rafe Masters off her back, but since Rafe is a Tuxedo and Martini, he instead goes on a quest to avenge her by finding her killer, making the problem worse.
  • Regular Show features Mona, Skips' high school sweetheart who was killed during a battle against his hated rival Klorgbane. Additionally, he went by the name 'Walks" but changed it to "Skips" so he'd always remember Mona as the two would skip everywhere together.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Disposable Women


Terrible Writing Advice

JP decides to kill the love interest to motivate the anti-hero for his revenge plot, forgetting to give her any kind of development to make the death really hurt.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisposableWoman

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