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Empathy Doll Shot

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"Something about that doll there on the desolate plain struck a note of terrible sadness in Sister's heart. Where was the child to whom this doll belonged? Blown away with the wind? Or buried and lying dead under the earth?"

Whenever a movie wants to add pathos to a war or crime scene, expect a shot of an abandoned toy, usually a doll or stuffed animal. Teddy bears and bunnies seem to be the most popular, and the more worn and tattered the better.

In evacuation scenes, the toy is supposed to represent the loss of innocence a child has suffered. In scenes depicting the aftermath of war or other disasters, the doll is supposed to scream "KIDS DIED HERE!" without having to actually show a kid's corpse. That said, a really gutsy director may combine the doll with a Dead-Hand Shot and show the child's hand still clutching the doll without showing the rest of their dead (and presumably mangled) body.

When used well, can undermine the A Million Is a Statistic effect.

With an adult character, it may be some other Iconic Item if it's not a hat.

See also: Improbable Infant Survival, Hide Your Children, Sentimental Homemade Toy, Tragic Abandoned Toy, Snow Globe of Innocence, and Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book. Baby Carriage can be used to similar effect with the additional horror of a dead infant. May be located at an Abandoned Playground. Frequently overlaps with Censored Child Death. A related (but gorier) trope is the Dead-Hand Shot.


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  • This British fire-prevention public information film uses this trope. This PIF is even more serious.
  • Used to a very memorable, but rather confusing effect in a Volvo commercial. While it would probably have made a very effective PSA for buckling your seat belt, what's mostly forgotten these days is that it's a subtle boast from Volvo about the company's having invented the three-point seat belts which are now standard in very nearly all vehicles.
  • Another car commercial uses the trope for suspense rather than pathos. A child puts his stuffed animal in a pedal car — the type children usually ride themselves — and pushes it down the sidewalk. A driver is backing out of a driveway and stops from hitting the toy because of his rear-view dashboard camera.

  • In the Soviet Animated Adaptation of There Will Come Soft Rains, the family, having been reduced to ashes by nuclear radiation, is poured out of their beds by the house going through its morning routine. This is especially creepy in the children's room, where the little girl's doll is buried by the growing pile of her ashes.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, a little girl drops her doll as her father carries her away during the evacuation of Trost.
  • In the manga version of Barefoot Gen, there's a scene where a group of Japanese women, one holding her young daughter, choose to jump off a cliff onto the rocks rather than let the American soldiers take them away. After the little girl's mother grabs her and jumps, all we can see is the girl's doll on a blood-splattered rock.
  • Berserk: Kentaro Miura shows us not only kid's knight-doll but also the doll's killed little master. Doll is buried along with him.
  • In Code Geass, we see one plushie lying near a dead body during the massacre of the Japanese.
  • Used thrice in the 2001 Cyborg 009 TV series. Once at the beginning of the Greek Gods arc (Francoise sees a doll in between the ruins of a city destroyed by the Gods), another right before the 'big revelation' in the Psychic Assassins arc ( Lina finds a doll in the rubble and pets it as she explains her Backstory to 009, before saying that the enemy she and her friends fought was Black Ghost), and another time during the Little Visitors arc, when the invaders blow up Shanghai; then they rewind time and do it again.
  • The Dragon Ball movie The History Of Trunks features a plush bunny of empathy, found by Trunks in a city that's just been destroyed by Cyborg No.17 and 18.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the cause of the Ishval genocide was the "accidental" shooting of an Ishvalan child by an Amestrian officer (though it was really done on purpose by a shapeshifting Envy), after a lot of tension between the Amestrian government and the Ishvalan people. When this is said in a voiceover, we're shown a small, limp, and bloodied arm (the rest of the body is offscreen) with the token teddy bear next to it.
    • Also, in Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa. The doll usually appears in piles of debris from a collapsed building, so that we know that a child has been killed without actually showing a crushed, mangled child, for obvious reasons.
  • An early episode of Hellsing shows the decimated home of a family slaughtered by vampires, who mostly used their blood to paint creepy symbols on the walls. The dead child isn't shown but is referred to later. A beaten-up teddy bear is shown, presumably to take her place.
  • In Kiddy Grade, during one of the flashbacks of their past, it shows a doll after the city has been ruined. (The doll looks a LOT like Ponyo.)
  • In episode 22 of Macross Frontier, Ozma and Cathy run across a Ranka plush doll buried in the debris left by the massive Vajra attack within Island 1. Done up in Chinese garb, the doll is also a Continuity Nod to the Minmei dolls from the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, while Jail gloats about the destruction of the Long Arch HQ, we're treated to a long shot of Vivio's rabbit plushie burning in the wreckage.
  • A teddy bear and a small shoe are shown in Kurtis's Flash Back in Makai Senki Disgaea anime. To nail it deeper, it's the first thing he sees when he wakes up.
  • Maken-ki!: In episode 7 (season 2), a living teddy bear named "Rudolf" tells Himegami about his previous owner: a young girl whose village was the unfortunate target of an Allied bombing run, during World War II. The final shot of the sequence shows her bruised hand rising weakly amidst the charred ruins of what used to be her home, while Rudolf could only watch her suffer through her final moments. Which is jarring, considering the rest of the episode focuses on comedy and fanservice.
  • The first opening of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has Relena Peacecraft brushing away the snow that settled on top of a teddy bear that was abandoned in a war-torn city.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz explains the origin of the bear, showing that it belonged to a little girl Heero befriended and later accidentally killed, becoming his My Greatest Failure. The manga prequel Episode Zero re-creates the scene from the opening, but this time with Heero in the background at a makeshift grave for the girl and preparing to kill himself.
    • In episode 36, "Sanc Kingdom's Collapse", a teddy bear is shown being burned during the attacks.
  • Naruto
    • In the 214th Naruto episode Bringing Back Reality, you can briefly see a dropped, worn out doll when Menma gets horrified by the destruction of a small village.
    • In the second Naruto Shippuden movie, you can see a worn out abandoned doll during the scene where Amaru runs inside his destroyed village.
  • In the animated movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki, Yupa comes across a doll in the ruins of an old city. Upon picking it up, it crumbles to dust in his hands. The human skeletons are in a similar state, due to the poisonous atmosphere of the creeping jungle.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: While not related to a child's death, the doll from Asuka's backstory is probably the saddest and creepiest subversion of this trope ever.
  • A variation in Ninja Scroll. While investigating the village where everyone has been poisoned, Kagero sees a dead child and places a toy that's lying nearby in his hand.
  • In Noir, we see Altena as a child wandering a torn-up battlefield with her doll. When a soldier rapes her, all we see is the dropped doll on the ground.
  • One of these shots shows up at the end of the Arabasta arc on One Piece, confusingly enough, at the site of a battle where there shouldn't have been a bunch of children running around for months.
  • In Rozen Maiden Traumend, when Shinku and Hinaichigo are ambushed at home, Jun and company return to find the living room overturned, the sliding glass door shattered, and Shinku's Detective Kunkun plushie on the ground. Suigintou's N-Field is also filled with broken and abandoned dolls, although that's a manifestation of her own insecurities about being a (literal) broken doll herself, rather than the dolls belonging to anyone.
  • Subverted in Shin Hakkenden in one of the planets. Chuuji comes across a rebel commune and finds the doll. Coming to conclusion, he spurs into action. It isn't several episodes later that he discovers that people actually evacuated the commune and the general disorganization was either deliberate or since they were rushed by time. Either way, everyone lives.
  • The first episode of the second season of Strike Witches opens with a close-up of a dirty, beat-up doll as scraps of paper are blown past by the wind.
    • The movie also opens with a shot of a dirty, ragged doll lying in a street before a spider Neuroi's leg punctures it.
  • Sorta used in Street Fighter IV: The Ties that Bind. There's no warzone on sight, but there is a lonely doll seen sitting on a fireplace in the Masters family's Big Fancy House... and it appears when Ken learns that his pregnant wife Eliza has been kidnapped by Crimson Viper. For worse, Viper does mention said doll's presence to get even more under Ken's skin. And even more: the doll was bugged, and that's how Viper found out where Ken and Eliza lived.
  • In Season Three of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, one episode begins with a young boy showing off the Duel Disk he carved himself out of a block of wood in order to protect his grandfather from the Supreme King's army. Guess what hits the ground at the end of the episode during a Village Massacre Discretion Shot?


    Comic Books 
  • Blackest Night: A shot of an abandoned doll is used in the final issue of Blackest Night: The Flash to imply that Owen — Captain Boomerang Jr. — had fed innocent children as well as bad guys to his zombified father Digger in an effort to get him back.
  • Cyberspace 3000: In the first issue, Apocalypse Cult enforcer Mailiw is sent to deal with a family who's mocked Clan Cyorse. When the consequences are shown, a decapitated and scorched teddy bear is seen on the floor alongside the burnt bodies.
  • The Flintstones: During the Paleolithic Wars, Fred and Barney were part of an army that wiped out a race called the Tree People, whom they've been led to believe to be invaders. It's only after the massacre that they find out that the Tree People were peaceful natives trying to defend themselves, particularly when Fred finds an abandoned doll.
    Fred: We weren't protecting our families. Everything they told us. About the Tree People attacking us. It was all a lie.
    Barney: How do you know?
    Fred: Because who brings their children to an invasion?!
  • Green Lantern:
    • In his origins for Red Lanterns creator and leader Atrocitus is shown picking up his daughter's doll after she dies. This image also appears as he also finds the doll of a girl who's being hunted.
    • The cover to the fourth issue of Far Sector shows Jo Mullein noticing an abandoned stuffed toy on a ground covered with Chalk Outlines.
  • Kingdom Come: One of these is done in the propaganda film Lex Luthor used to brainwash Captain Marvel.
  • Rom: Spaceknight: The eighth issue combined this with Dead-Hand Shot at the end of the flashback where Rom recounted his failure to prevent the Dire Wraiths from destroying planet Angelica. The last panel of the flashback sequence shows a lifeless hand near a doll among the ruins that Rom and the other Space Knights observe.
  • Secret Six: Done in a flashback when Jeanette describes the abduction of young girls by Countess Bathory.
  • Sin City: In Sin City: To Hell and Back, a drugged soldier hallucinates that an actual child's corpse is a large doll, in a bit of a reversal of the trope.
    "Just this once, I'm actually thankful for the drugs."
  • The Mighty Thor: In Thor 2007 #3, This is used when Thor visits New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Tintin: Used in Tintin in Tibet: Tintin finds a teddy bear near a plane wreck in the mountains.
  • X-Men: Done in one issue to show that a decimated alien planet, despite being described as the harsh cradle of a Proud Warrior Race Guy race, still had kids who played with toys.

    Fan Works 
  • The Best Revenge: When Snape, McGonagall, and Dumbledore visit the destroyed remains of the Potters' house to see what personal possessions can be salvaged for Harry, one of the things they find in his old nursery is a decayed plush wolf.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In "Making an Entrance", there's an Abandoned Playground, well, sandbox:
    In a sandbox littered with hastily-abandoned children’s toys, she spotted a half-finished wooden figurine and a carving knife. Its grip was just the right size for the tiny hands of a toddler.

    Films — Animation 
  • Early in the film 9, our protagonist is wandering the devastated city all alone, and he stumbles across a rusted, ruined car with its door open. A teddy bear is sitting on the ground right outside of the open door— foreshadowing of what he's about to find when he looks inside of the car.
  • Used during the Hulk Vs. Wolverine animated movie with a teddy bear after the Hulk's rampage. It's later revealed that Hulk wasn't responsible for that. In fact, he actually saved the doll's owner from a trigger happy Deadpool.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po finds a little panda doll in the remains of the Panda Village, although it is implied that it was his. At the end of the movie, the doll is seen again in a crate of vegetables Po brings home.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, when Lucian brings Lindsey into the destroyed city, there is a porcelain doll's face still visible on the street.
  • Mulan: When the Imperial troops reach a village in the Tung Shao Pass burnt down by the Huns, Mulan sees and picks up a child's doll from among the ruins.
    • As it happens, that same doll was seen earlier in the movie, when it was stolen by Shan Yu's falcon; after examining it for clues, the Hun leader remarks, as part of his justification for attacking the village, that "the little girl will be missing her doll. We should return it to her."
  • In Turning Red, after Ming takes Mei home from the party after busting it, Mei leaves behind her beloved Tamagotchi.
  • War of the Worlds: Goliath. A stunned girl clutching a teddy bear is standing in the ruins of New York City. She flees at the sight of the approaching Walking Tanks even though they are manned by humans, leaving her teddy bear behind. Which is just as well, as there are Martian tripods advancing from the opposite direction.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • ABCs of Death 2: In "N is for Nexus", after the bike crashes into the trick-or-treater, there is a shot of his spilled Halloween candy lying in a pool of his blood.
  • A Classic Horror Story: When the group find the area where abandoned vehicles of previous victims are kept, they find a baby doll on the ground.
  • Aliens features Newt's sad little doll's head sinking into the water as a pathos-estic metaphor for her loss.
  • The Assignment (1997) in which, after a car gets blown up, we see a doll flying through the air, although it turns out the family who were getting into the car used the explosion as a cover to go into witness protection.
  • Berkshire County: After hearing Phoebe scream, Kylie goes to where she's supposed to be, only to find her teddy bear on the floor.
  • The opening Title Sequence of Black Widow (2021) show Natasha, Yelena, and other young girls selected to be part of the Black Widow programme being dragged out of a shipping container by General Dreykov's Faceless Goons. Several are clutching stuffed toys that get dropped and are shown lying in the stagnant water on the warehouse floor. Ironically a shot then shows them being lined up and photographed, each of them clutching a cuddly toy, given either to calm them down or to supply a 'happy family photo' for the fake identities they'd need later.
  • Cadaver (2020): While looking for their daughter, Leonora and Jacob find a bunny doll on the floor in front of some double doors. They pick it up and discover blood on it, which Jacob tastes... and discovers is fake blood, as it tastes sweet.
  • In Con Air, the doll of the little girl that Garland talks to.
  • In an early scene of The Covered Wagon, the hero repairs a doll for a sad little girl. Much later, following an Indian attack, he finds that same doll lying on the ground, implying the little girl was killed.
  • When the eponymous Dante's Peak starts getting pissy and the town's all getting shaky, one of the many shots during the panic is of a rather oversized stuffed rabbit falling out of a windowsill in someone's house, while the panicked family flees out the front door.
  • The Day Called 'X' had this when a school in Portland, Oregon is evacuated ahead of a Soviet air raid. One girl leaves her Mickey Mouse doll behind and there's a shot of it abandoned on the floor.
  • Deadpool 2 has the teddy bear that belonged to Cable's daughter, which he hangs on to as a Tragic Keepsake while trying to prevent the death of his family. It also serves as a Ripple Effect Indicator; when it goes from worn-out and ashen to clean, it means that Cable succeeded in his quest.
  • In Déjà Vu (2006), the camera follows a little girl and her doll for a while, until she drops it overboard, the doll hits the water, and the ferry explodes.
  • Heartbreakingly utilized in Die Hard 2, in the crash site of a plane of innocents.
  • In Downfall, a Nazi blows himself and his family up with two grenades. We see the explosion from outside and a doll hit the street below.
  • Severely subverted in The Emperor and the Assassin in which Zhao arrives at the ransacked town too late and finds small drums and other children's toys littered across the ground. Upon further inspection, she proceeds to find the kids as well, buried alive.
  • Final Destination 5 has Olivia fall victim to deadly laser eye surgery. She clutches a Teddy Bear that falls to the floor and is itself charred by the laser.
  • Full Metal Jacket, where it turns out the stuffed rabbit doll, found in a deserted, bombed-out Vietnamese city, has been used as the bait in a booby trap.
  • The Gate subverts the Creepy Doll trope to instead play this one straight. At the beginning of the movie, the Kid Hero has a nightmare about being lured into his treehouse by a creepy doll's mechanical voice, which is then struck by lightning. Much later, after the hellgate's been opened and the world's on the edge of destruction, he comes upon the same doll in the midst of his now-wrecked house. Given the events so far, it'd be no surprise at all if it tried to attack him. Instead, he just holds it as he stares out the window at the storm-swept sky, and then lets it drop to his feet as he cries out for his fallen friend and sister.
  • In a surprising and utterly gut-wrenching example for the 50's B-Movie genre, we have The Giant Behemoth. A little girl (doll and all) boards a ship with many other innocent people. The boat is then ravaged and burned up by the Paleosaurus. The only sign that a certain trope did NOT play out is a shot of the doll floating on the water...noticably burnt. Considering that we already saw the creature burn up a child with radiation, the realization hits.
  • Godzilla Minus One. After Godzilla attacks Tokyo with his atomic breath, the rubble is being checked for radiation and survivors. A pair of inspectors are seen running a rapidly-clicking Geiger counter over an abandoned tricycle and the two solemnly shake their heads.
  • Gorgo has a shot when the mother monster comes into London, where a little girl, running away with her mom, drops a little doll, which gets trampled on by runners behind her.
  • Hereafter: In her Near-Death Experience in the Indian tsunami of 2004, after being struck by floating debris and knocked underwater, Marie sees a stuffed toy floating above her before she passes out.
  • Heroic Trio II had the evil government trucks run over the piece of chicken the little girl had just bought at her family's request. It was a bit of a Narm, but I guess, in China, missing a meal is kind of a big deal.
  • In the opening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a girl watches her doll burning as Dale is being attacked by the dragon Smaug.
  • Played for laughs in Hudson Hawk: At the museum housing Leonardo da Vinci's Codex, Eddie sees a girl beating a stuffed elephant toy against a railing, which he later grabs from her and throws at the display case to test the security system. The toy ends up crushed under a security gate, and, as she's being dragged out, the girl calls and reaches out for it.
  • Downplayed in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. As the trucks roll into the ruins of Jurassic World there's a shot of a dinosaur plushie abandoned on the ground during the disaster three years ago.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade: All Riders vs. Dai-Shocker, in the scene where Tsukasa is moping after being deposed as leader of Dai-Shocker, when the camera pans toward him, a stuffed toy can be seen on the floor, presumably the owner of it having been killed in the fighting.
  • In The Losers, we get a shot of a burning teddy bear in the wreckage of a helicopter which was shot down by the military and happened to be carrying 25 children to safety.
  • An early example: Elsie Beckmann's ball and balloon in the opening scene of M.
  • While we don't actually see the death of the title character's family in Mad Max, we see one of his wife's shoes lying in the road, while his infant son's toy ball rolls away along the road.
  • No Time to Die: As Safin leads Mathilde, Bond and Madeline's daughter through his base, she drops her doll in fear. Later, as he's hunting down Safin, Bond finds the doll and grabs it, intending to give it back to her after he's stopped him. He doesn't get to.
  • The comedy One Crazy Summer has a character called Ack-Ack (he's a sort of military brat) discover a mangled doll on a beach being used to test munitions. "Do you realize that for every lost doll there's a little girl with a broken heart?" His Casanova Wannabe buddy George can only say, "Are you sure you want to be a Marine Acky? I just can't see you having a killer instinct."
  • A doll is shown in the rubble of a London neighborhood struck by a Nazi rocket in Operation Crossbow.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful - Oscar goes to "China Town," and finds a doll that's been torn to pieces. This is followed by finding another doll that has only had its feet and legs torn off, and this doll is alive. The whole town is populated by China dolls.
  • The Painted Veil plays with this one; Kitty finds a doll in one of the beds in the house where she and Walter are staying. Walter informs her that the previous occupants of the house, including the little girl, died of cholera, and that the little girl probably died in that bed. Kitty drops it. (Possibly made less effective because it's a Creepy Doll.)
  • A plot point in the original Planet of the Apes (1968) film, when a human-child doll that can, like, talk, man! freaks out some of the ruling class apes.
  • This shot from the beginning of Poltergeist II: The Other Side, showing the doll as well as an overturned baby carriage in an abandoned neighborhood.
  • The Pursuit of Happyness: In one of Chris and Christopher's pursuits to get to the shelter on time, Christopher loses his Captain America action figure and cannot go back to retrieve it.
  • In Quick, the toy silver cube Jeong's daughter was playing with is seen lying next to the wrecked car in the aftermath of the car crash. Later on, it becomes a Tragic Keepsake.
  • The Quick and the Dead. Several shots in the flashbacks to when the protagonist's family was murdered when she was a little girl. She was carrying the doll, of course, but it goes flying from her hands when she is yanked to safety and is trampled on by the horses of the outlaws.
  • A depressing example occurs in the action movie, Royal Warriors. One of the protagonists, Peter Yamamoto, decides to pay his estranged wife and daughter a surprise visit and brought along a massive stuffed rabbit for his little girl. But when the villains after Peter tries to kill him with a Car Bomb, they only managed to blow up his family, with the only recovered evidence being half a badly burnt stuffed rabbit.
  • Subverted in Screamers. The soldiers come across a child clutching a teddy bear, living alone in the war-ruined wasteland. As they approach a bunker, an enemy sniper ignores the soldiers and ruthlessly guns down the child, including a Slow Motion shot of the teddy bear dropping from his hand. Then it's revealed that the child is one of the screamer Killer Robots, and the hand holding the teddy bear grabs a rifle and starts bending it before he's shot. Even the teddy bear is a Screamer, though that's not revealed till the end of the movie.
  • In The Searchers, Ethan finds kidnapped Debbie's doll in the backyard after the raid.
  • In Seven Days in May, after the President's aide is killed in a plane crash on the way back with the crucial evidence of the plot, a Spanish policeman sifting through the wreckage discovers a singed child's doll.
  • During the evacuation scene in Star Trek: Generations, a ratty stuffed bunny is shown abandoned on the deck of the Enterprise. The film then gives us a long shot of the little girl who dropped it, reaching back for it in vain as she is whisked away.
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace features one in the scene when Nuclear Man starts the volcanic eruption.
  • In the film version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a young Benjamin Barker is shown giving his infant daughter Johanna a porcelain doll before being arrested on a false charge. When he returns years later under the alias Sweeney Todd, he is taken to what was once his family's home, where he discovers that his wife was raped and poisoned herself after he was transported. His daughter — now 16 — is the ward of the man who raped his wife. To show the symbolic "death" of his family, he finds the doll, now filthy and decaying, in Johanna's crib.
  • Taken 2: In their interrogation on Jean-Claude (who's never seen in the Taken series afterwards), one of the Albanians shows him his son's teddy bear to clarify that they're willing to kill not only him but also his family (although it's ambiguous whether they already did the latter or are threatening that they'll do it) if he doesn't give them any information about Bryan's whereabouts.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day shows "Judgement Day" (a nuclear attack on Los Angeles and many other major cities around the world) at the start of the film. At a playground with burning rocking horses. Subverted though: We get to see the bomb go off complete with the burning children in what's been praised by scientists to be the most horrifyingly realistic representation of a nuclear attack ever committed to film.
  • Early in the 1930s film Things to Come, we see a small child riding a tricycle, just moments before a huge war breaks out. Afterward, as the camera examines the extensive damage, the broken tricycle is shown lying on its side in the rubble.
  • This Is the End. Two people walk past a charred swing set, and one of them says, "Ooh, lost innocence."
  • Inevitably, given the subject matter (nuclear war), Threads contains a number of such images. These include:
    • During the firestorm sequence, something which looks like a baby's pram is seen burning.
    • In one scene, a man is seen toying with his dead son's handheld video game.
    • Towards the end, a scene set at a post-war "school" shows a group of children watching a worn-out videocassette of the BBC Schools programme Words and Pictures.
    • A publicity photo shows the actress playing the main character's daughter (born after the war) posing with a charred teddy bear.
  • Early in Titanic (1997), a doll's face can be seen in the sunken wreckage. We later meet the little girl (in flashback) holding the doll.
    • Truth in Television: During his first exploration of the Titanic's wreck, Bob Ballard and his crew came across a china doll's head in the debris field. The initial shock (for an instant they thought they were looking at the face of a corpse) faded pretty quickly, but the crew remained deeply disturbed by it. In his book on exploring the Titanic, Ballard wonders if the owner of the doll escaped, or whether she clutched it to her chest as the water rose up her legs...

  • An Lampshade Hanging of the trope occurs in an Artemis Fowl book, where Holly points out that the crew making a movie about the goblin rebellion of the second book had to add a burned doll to make a shooting scene more tragic.
  • An interesting variation is seen in Garth Nix's short story "Charlie Rabbit". Two children trapped in the rubble of their home after a bombing manage to alert rescuers to their presence by using a toy rabbit. (It was a singing toy. They used their flashlight batteries to power it and the noise attracted a rescue team.)
  • In Cracker Jackson, when Jackson was little, his babysitter Alma used to show him her collection of Barbies, which she always kept in pristine condition on the shelf. In the present day, when Jackson is riding over to Alma's house in a panic because her abusive boyfriend has done something terrible to her, he sees that her living room looks like it's been hit by a tornado, with the Barbies thrown everywhere and their outfits scattered on the floor. Seeing them makes him feel like he's looking at a battlefield, seeing the bodies of real people.
  • Dark Shores: When riding through the desolate countryside, Killian takes a shortcut through an abandoned farm and sees a doll propped against a post—and immediately starts thinking about its owner, whether the girl is safe somewhere in the south with her family or maybe starving and scared in beleaguered Mudaire.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Guns of Tanith, when Kolea and Varl's companies make it to the habs, they find, occasionally, evidence that people had lived there, including a child's toy lasgun.
    • In Traitor General, in a deserted village, Curth finds a doll in an empty cot. She starts to cry though she despises it; Criid comes to comfort her, sees, and starts to cry herself. Which lets Curth collect herself trying to comfort Criid.
    • Played interestingly in one of the books when Larkin enters a hab building strewn with signs of Chaos. Among other desecrations, he finds a bunch of dolls, mutilated and crucified on the wall. He spends some time contemplating this until he notices that not all the little figures on the wall are dolls. This is as close to Black-and-White Morality as 40K will ever get.
  • Not exactly a toy, but the same idea. In Germinal by French author Émile Zola, after the big disaster in the coal mine, he zooms from telling the epic proportions of the tragedy and tells of an old mine horse, free from his harness after all these years, roaming the narrow tunnels, maybe in search of the green pastures he can dimly recall from his youth. Aww... ouch... Disaster is personal again.
  • In Margin Play, by Eric Plume, it's not death, but the destruction of a community. Amber is driving through the neighborhoods that have been mass-foreclosed on for a new development and notes the absence of outdoor plants, lawn furniture, and yard decorations. Then she sees a doll lying by the curb.
  • Played with in Oathbringer. Hoid Awakens a doll in a warzone to draw a little girl away from the corpse of her mother.
  • In The Outcasts, Col comes upon a discarded doll in the first abandoned village that they find. It impacts him more than the ruined buildings or the pen full of rotting sheep.
  • Subverted similarly to Avatar in Squire, the third book in Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small quartet. Kel finds a child's doll in the ruins of a village attacked by bandits, but the little girl turns up a scene or so later to get it back. (Her baby brother, however, is dead.)
    • Subverted differently in the fourth book in that series; Kel finds strands of Meech's doll's hair throughout the forest as she's trying to rescue the refugee kids from getting their souls trapped in giant killing machines in a "Hansel and Gretel" sort of way.
  • In the epilogue to 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, when Ben Mears — having returned to the eponymous town to try and burn it down, to destroy the vampires that have completely overrun it — visits the long-abandoned town park:
    And perched in one corner of the sandbox, a floppy arm trailing on the grass, was some child's forgotten Raggedy Andy doll. Its shoe-button eyes seemed to reflect a black, vapid horror as if it had seen all the secrets of darkness during its long stay in the sandbox. Perhaps it had.
  • In Swan Song, by Robert R. McCammon, Swan abandons her Cookie Monster doll before she rushes into a Kansas fallout shelter. Then, after the nuclear strike happens, a New York bag lady has an out-of-body experience where she visits the remains of the fallout shelter and finds the Cookie Monster doll.
  • Used several times in The Wheel of Time.
  • On one cover of the Satanic Panic book Michelle Remembers, a little girl (possibly Michelle?) kneels on a pentagram with a doll in her arms. No doll is mentioned in the text.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100: After Clarke and Bellamy irradiate Mount Weather, killing everyone inside, we're not shown any of the dead children's bodies, just an abandoned soccer ball we'd seen them playing with earlier in the episode.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • The 2003 miniseries contains an evacuation scene where the Colonial Fleet must abandon a number of ships that don't have FTL (faster-than-light) jump drives. As the rest of the FTL-equipped ships jump away, the viewpoint switches to the interior of a botanical ship, where a young girl sits playing with her teddy bear. Immediately afterward, Cylon Raiders jump into view and launch nuclear missiles at the ships, destroying them.
    • The extended version of the episode "Razor" contains a flashback to Helena Cain's childhood during the First Cylon War, in which she and her younger sister Lucy are attempting to escape a building under attack by Cylons. Her sister becomes unable to run when she trips over some rubble and is injured, so Cain leaves her behind and hides in a container. When the Cylons leave and Cain returns to where she left her sister, she finds only Lucy's doll.
  • Black Mirror. Subverted in the Cruel Twist Ending of "Metalhead". The protagonists all die because they left their hideout to retrieve something from a warehouse for a dying child. It looks like the box they were after contains medicine, only for the final shot to show it was stuffed full of teddy bears.
  • The Book of Boba Fett. After the Tusken tribe that adopted Boba is massacred, he's shown piling their bodies and weapons for burning. As Boba lights the funeral pyre, he also lays down the Gaffi-shaped stick of the Tusken child he befriended.
  • The Boys (2019). In "The Female of the Species", Queen Maeve sees a doll washed up on the shore among the wreckage of an airliner hijacked by terrorists. What only the audience knows is that the airliner crashed due to a bungled hostage rescue by Queen Maeve and Homelander, and the doll belonged to a girl that Homelander refused to carry to safety because she'd be a witness to how they let everyone else die.
  • Used in the second season of Breaking Bad, where the first shot of the first episode is of a burned pink bear floating in Walt's pool. Over the course of the season we see more of the surrounding scene of carnage (a floating eyeball, bloody glasses, bodybags in the driveway, etc.) until we learn in the season finale that Walt's actions throughout the series have indirectly caused two planes to collide in mid-air above his house.
  • Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where finding dirty, burnt, or blindfolded dolls are usually a sign that Drusilla is around.
  • An early episode of CASUAL+Y, in which a girl dies after suffering a severe asthma attack, ends with a shot of a picture drawn by the child.
  • Cold Squad: In The Teaser to "Taggert Family", a young girl is snatched from her bed by an abductor who wraps her up in her quilt and carries her off. The camera then closes in on the stuffed rabbit left lying on her pillow.
  • In the "What Sank Titanic?" episode of Curiosity, a young mother who is separated from her daughter gives up searching for her only when she finds her doll. Ultimately subverted when she reaches the boat deck and spots her daughter already in a lifeboat.
  • Used in the fourth season of Desperate Housewives, for the hurricane episode.
  • Doctor Who:
    • One of the saddest examples is the Silent Credits from the serial "Earthshock". Adric has just died - and the viewer is treated to his broken Maths Excellency badge in place of the usual credits.
    • In "The Day of the Doctor", a burning soft toy is seen on the ground during the Daleks' attack on Gallifrey.
  • In Drop the Dead Donkey, set in a newsroom, Damien, one of the less moral reporters — in fact, a total sociopath — has a teddy bear he takes to war-torn areas as a prop. "I've won four awards with Dimbles!"note  He also has a bloodstained shoe. And a Raggedy Ann doll.
  • Firefly. In "Bushwhacked" one of the trunks on the abandoned ship contains a child's doll. Subverted a few moments later when they show the mangled corpses anyway.
  • In Ghost Adventures, the group who broke into Letchworth Village to explore found a lot of children's toys.
  • In the "Secret Garden" episode of Hallmark Hall of Fame Mary accidentally drops her doll, and soldiers throw it into a bonfire believing it to be infected with plague germs. A shot of her doll burning dissolves into a shot of Mary being evacuated from the town on horseback.
  • Hoarders, season 1, episode 2, called "Patty & Bill." A Kansas woman's hoarding has taken over her entire house. When we learn that her children were taken away as a result of her unsanitary living conditions, we're treated to this shot of the tire swing hanging from a leafless tree on a cloudy day.
  • In the German series Jokehnen, set around World War II, a German father who was in Russia brings his young son a gift, a teddy bear. But the boy remarks that the bear is patched... not speaking out loud that it obviously belonged to some other kid. (At least we can assume that the father just found the teddy bear somewhere.)
  • In the History Channel's hypothetical documentary Life After People ("What would the Earth be like if all of humanity suddenly vanished?"):
    • Footage showing the abandoned city around Chernobyl includes several shots of a forgotten doll lying in the ruins.
    • Another episode, featuring the abandoned "Battleship Island", showed the ruins of a playground. For maximum effect, they even threw in a ghostly-like echo of children laughing.
  • Mayday: Some shots of the aftermath of the crash reveal that toys were brought on the plane, a painful reminder that children were onboard.
    • A teddy bear was found wedged in a piece of wreckage from Germanwings Flight 9525.
    • The real-life footage of the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 shows a Mickey Mouse plush floating off the coast of Long Island.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "A Sacred Trust", a flashback to a mercenary attack on an African village shows a girl dropping a doll that is then trampled by one of the soldiers.
  • Mission: Impossible: In "The Wall", a family attempting to escape East Berlin is caught in no man's land. The little girl drops her rag doll. The East German officer casually steps on it and grinds it into the mud.
  • In The Pacific, the Marines are seen toying with a Japanese soldier while he's hip-deep in water that's filled with the corpses of other Japanese. One of the main characters becomes disgusted and Mercy Kills him. He later finds the man's pouch, which has photos of his family and a small doll.
  • The fifth episode of Preacher (2016) shows a shot of a doll on the ground being pecked at by a crow when the Saint of Killers finds that his wife and daughter have died in his absence.
  • A joke made by Lister in the Red Dwarf episode "Psirens" references this, where he claims that since the only things that survive air crashes are children's dolls, the entirety of Starbug is made of that material.
  • The Stand (1994) does this twice. At the end of the "Don't Fear the Reaper" montage, a doll probably belonging to Campion's daughter is shown on the road outside the bioweapon facility being pecked at by Creepy Crows. During the "Don't Dream It's Over" montage, there's a shot of a teddy bear in the surf on a beach.
  • Supernatural.
    • In "Sympathy for the Devil", a man whose family was murdered in a home invasion is shown packing away his daughter's teddy bears.
    • In "The End", Dean goes up to a crying child crouched next to a teddy bear, only to find she's been infected with the Croatoan virus when she does a Face-Revealing Turn.
  • In the series finale of Touched by an Angel, Monica travels to a town and is confused at the absence of children, despite the presence of a child's bicycle and toy truck. It turns out all the children were killed in an explosion at the school and the grieving townspeople have left the toys where they were abandoned.
  • Early on in episode 10 of V (2009), a burnt, broken doll is found in the wreckage of a V shuttle shot down by the protagonists. Later revealed to be a possible subversion, though, since some already-dead skeletons had been planted on the ship by the Vs.
  • In the first episode of The Walking Dead (2010), Rick Grimes wakes from a coma and looks around to see a disaster zone. He sees a teddy bear and then a child, possibly the bear's owner, picking it up. Grimes goes to see if the girl needs help, only to discover that she's a zombie/"walker" and is forced to put her out of her suffering before he is infected with the same disease.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): The farmer's child shows off her doll, Birgitte, to Mat in episode 4. The climax of the episode features a lingering shot of the doll on the ground as Rand and Mat flee the vicinity after the entire family has been murdered.
  • Discussed in The Wire, when a group of newspaper reporters note how a particular photographer always has an abandoned doll in the foreground of his disaster pictures. They suspect that he plants the dolls himself. This is a bit of foreshadowing for the main theme of the season.

  • The final verse of Nena's anti-nuclear song "99 Red Balloons" has the song's narrator standing in the ruins of a nuked city when they find one of the balloons which triggered the war in the first place. Thinking of their friend (who has evidently been killed in the holocaust) they let the balloon go.
  • The animatic for Jonathan Young's "Final Frontier" has humanity preparing to flee a dying Earth in a spacecraft. Among the refugees are a mother, father, and daughter first seen early on, and the latter has a plush rabbit toy. When the family races to board the spacecraft in time, the daughter loses her grip on her toy and it lands out of reach, eliciting a Sparkling Stream of Tears from her. We see it again briefly during more shots of the increasing devestation while the spacecraft is headed for the atmosphere, though the family made it on board in time.
  • May be unrelated, but the fragility and discardedness of the main character Pink in Pink Floyd's The Wall is represented in the album artwork ((and The Movie based on the album) by a beat-up doll laying in a corner.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for Alyosha's "Sweet People" (a.k.a. Ukraine's entry for the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest) shows the singer wandering through a ruined, deserted town, complete with a couple of dolls lying in the rubble.
  • A twisted bicycle is seen in the rubble in a war-ravaged town in the video for Michael Jackson's "Earth Song". To add to the poignancy of this scene, the little girl who owned the bicycle is seen in a flashback, running up a hill.
  • Happens in the Kasabian video for "Cutt Off".

    Tabletop Games 
  • An adventure in Deadlands: The Wasted West (a post-apocalyptic Western) invokes the Empathy Doll Shot for a completely different task: The ghost that the party is hunting is an absolute bastard. Read the following spoiler at your own risk. The ghost is of a child molester, who felt no shame unlike the other ghosts the party had already dealt with. The adventure has a note from the editors that reads "We can't show what he actually did, so you'll have to put up with showing dolls."

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War. One still-frame cutscene shows a child slightly dragging a bunny rabbit on the ground behind her while soldiers and tanks march by. The narration talks about the successful invasion of that city, but the child is still alive and has a good grasp on her doll.
  • Let Cereza get taken away by a Joy or Beloved in Bayonetta, and instead of the usual game over screen in which Bayonetta gets Dragged Off to Hell if you don't continue, you'll instead be greeted by her doll.
  • In Barrow Hill, one of the piles of ashes (that used to be people) found near the gas station is right next to a coloring book and crayons. Note that the closed-circuit video of the attack that created these ash-piles doesn't actually show the child it belonged to.
  • Used in Beyond Good & Evil when Jade returns to the ruins of her lighthouse and discovers that her children have been kidnapped. While there is the debris of lots of toys lying around, the doll is the one the camera specifically focuses on.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert's first Soviet mission ends with a cutscene showing villagers fleeing a Soviet air raid that ends with a shot of a teddy bear being dropped as the villagers flee in terror. Combined with the fact that the briefing involves Josef Stalin and a pair of advisors discussing the aftermath of a chemical gas test, arguing over the fact that the number of total dead doesn't match the number of people in that village and then sending the player to correct the error, so to speak, it gives the player a good warning: if you're hoping to play as the good guys, play the other campaign.
  • In Dead Rising, one of the first stores you encounter is a toy store (in surprisingly good condition). Migitated by the fact that while the storyline is certainly a dark and serious affair, the over-the-top gameplay allows you to use nearly anything as an Improvised Weapon to hilarious effects.
    • The trope is played more straight when Adam is first encountered, recounting how he set the kiddy coaster in the area running wild to help scare away the zombies after his audience was eaten when the undead were let into the mall. Frank glances into the car passing by and sees two blood-splattered dolls propped up on the seat.
  • Dead Space 2 features a tricycle in one area. The average player uses the game's logic, grabs it with Kinesis, and then tests if it can land a kill on Necromorph. There are also some ship models throughout the game.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has one in the Alienage mission, where you find a doll in one of the apartments where the elves were kept. The rest of the room only drives the KIDS DIED HERE point even deeper.
  • This happens commonly in Fallout 3; as you wander around the Capital Wasteland, you come across toys, dolls, teddy bears, and rusted and bent playgrounds on a regular basis. Made even worse when you go into a house to explore and find what is clearly a child's bedroom due to there being toys on the floor, and laying in the bunk beds are a couple of blackened skeletons.
    • Invocation of this trope is defeated on realization that the children in the game are unkillable without game mods and that their toys make handy ammunition for the Rock-It Launcher.
  • In Final Fantasy X, two children are shown playing with a ball just before their peaceful port town is attacked and destroyed. After watching the town reduced to splinters, we see the ball float past in the water. And seeing as it's sunset at the time, the water appears blood-red.
  • Guild Wars: Prophecies has an extra-emotional version. Near the ruined starting town, you can find several child toys. The labels on these items clearly show them to belong to Gwen, a cheerful little girl that followed you around in the tutorial, before the kingdom got razed (Gwen is shown in the cutscene when the kingdom gets nuked).
    • After much speculation from players about her fate, the trailers for the Eye of the North expansion (not coincidentally, it is abbreviated as GW:EN) finally showed she was Not Quite Dead after all.
  • Early on in Half-Life 2, Dr. Freeman comes across the rusted and busted remains of a playground, complete with the sad remains of a plastic doll that makes sad little talking doll sounds when you throw it at a wall. And when you enter the playground, you hear brief echoes of children's laughter.
  • In Halo: Reach's "Exodus", the level opens with you approaching a city under siege by the Covenant. You take control just as you enter a plaza covered in dead civilian bodies. In the middle, you can find a small teddy bear backpack, obviously belonging to a child. You don't find any child bodies, but here's some Fridge Horror for you: the majority of the enemy forces in the city are Brutes.
  • One particularly tragic portion in The Last of Us has Joel exploring the sewers where several non-infected humans were hiding. At one point, he finds one of their safe rooms, which is filled with children's crayon drawings and toys...along with a note from their caretaker (who's shot himself) which says if the Clickers do get in, he'll "make it quick." To drive the point, the words "THEY DIDN'T SUFFER" are scrawled on the floor...
  • Mass Effect 3 uses the toy model of an Alliance Trident fighter to illustrate the consequences of death when the Reapers invade. In the "Take Back Earth" trailer, a young girl is seen playing with the toy in a sunflower field, then witnesses a Reaper ship touching down behind her - a few seconds later, Shepard and Ashley come upon the (now burned-out) field and find the charred toy. The game itself opens with a different child playing with the same toy just before the initial attack.
  • In Mega Man Zero the La Résistance base is stormed by Neo Arcadian Forces. While the bodies of a few resistance soldiers are found if Zero enters the hallway where Alouette is usually found, only the stuffed animal she always clutches will be lying on the ground. Once the threat is taken care of, she reclaims her lost companion.
  • The standard trope occurs with teddy bears found throughout the Call of Duty series, particularly in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare:
    • A variant: after the end of Sgt. Paul Jackson's campaign, in which your aircraft is downed by a nuclear bomb, and just before your death after crawling out of the wreckage of your helicopter, it is possible to make your way to a ruined playground a few feet ahead of the downed craft, where the player can hear the faint echoes of children playing.
    • Similarly, while moving through the remnants of Pripyat, Ukraine, you can hear echoes of children playing in the background. A teddy bear can be found lying around an apartment in Pripyat.
    • There's also one in the house where you find the informant.
  • Taken to a borderline sadistic extreme in Onimusha 2's opening cutscene, where Nobunaga decimates the population of an idyllic village shown to be inhabited by, among others, a baby playing with a rattle. After the slaughter, the rattle is shown laying in the dust with Nobunaga's pet snake not only coiled around it but gleefully shaking it back and forth in a macabre mockery of the "playing" motions the child had been making. The snake consummates the horror by squeezing the rattle even tighter, eventually breaking it in half.
  • Possibly invoked in Plants vs. Zombies - there's a pink tricycle in the corner of the backyard level.
  • In Popful Mail, Mail and Tatto investigate the smouldering ruins of Bountyville, stunned that anyone could or would do something this awful. As Tatto notes that the people who could give them answers are gone, he picks up a discarded doll.
  • Resident Evil has a couple, believe it or not. In amongst the wreckage of Raccoon City you can find children's toys, which hints that they became victims of the outbreak, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has an area in the alley decorated with sidewalk chalk, a sandbox filled with toys, and spatters of blood.
  • Silent Hill 3's theme park mascot, Robbie the Rabbit, appears several times as a statue (or costume) or a stuffed doll, often bloodied, possibly representing Alessa/Heather's innocent childhood corrupted by the influences of Dahlia and Valtiel.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line one of the pieces of intel you find early on is of a child's doll with diamond earrings for eyes and silk for a dress - indicating that it was made after the calamitous sandstorms occurred. This is when the player character realizes that the people they are fighting could be the survivors they were sent in to save. Unfortunately, this realization does nothing to curb hostilities or violence.
  • In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, a burned-out alleyway in the recently-invaded Seoul contains a squeaky teddy bear. It can be thrown to distract enemies.
  • In Agent Stone's storyline in Twisted Metal Black, Calypso gave him the bloodied teddy bear in the asylum. It belonged to a girl whom he killed, along with her mother and his target in a rage and his anger cost the girl her life.
  • Valkyria Chronicles uses a rather predictable one to herald the beginning of a certain character's acceptance of the game's downtrodden minority. (The doll in question belonged to a child of said race.)
  • World of Warcraft:
    • In a slight variation of this, a quest requires you to retrieve three pieces of a child's doll from a haunted village, recombine them, and deliver them to the ghost of a child in a house on the edge of town. It's part of a larger quest chain, which later suggests that the girl was slaughtered, along with the rest of her family, by her father, Captain Redpath, or agents of his, who had been turned against the people of the village by a Scourge death knight. At the conclusion of the quest, you alter history by defeating Redpath the Corrupted, cleansing his spirit and allowing him to reunite with his daughter.
    • After you do the Fall of Theramore scenario, a new graveyard is visible near the ruins. One of the markers close to the road has a doll leaning against it.
  • Xenogears has an entire child's room that was blasted to pieces in a war 500 years ago. Not only is there a doll (that you find a secret item near) but a rocking horse. The characters muse on what happened as it squeaks back and forth. That's not all. If you examine the cabinet, you'll get a message that says "Found a child's memory from long ago. But no one could take that way."
  • One of the trailers for World of Tanks shows the head of a porcelain doll laying on the streets of a ruined town, then getting crushed under the treads of a T95 heavy tank.

    Web Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in Helluva Boss when Moxxie arranges to have a Cannibal Clan with two young children arrested, hoping the children will ultimately benefit; Trigger-Happy police kill the whole family with anti-tank weaponry instead and a scorched teddy bear lands at Moxxie's feet.
  • In RWBY, after the fight between Ozma and Salem when he tries to sneak out their daughters, the charred doll of one of the daughters is seen on the floor of the castle.

  • In The Demon Archives, Tenzin's HUD zooms on a doll lying in the street as his military squad searches a seemingly empty town for its missing inhabitants, who turn out to have all been recently slaughtered by the Big Bad.
  • In Draconia Chronicles, Raz's entire tribe has been killed by a devastating landslide, triggered by volcanic fallout. When she tries to inform the princess about it, her advisor dismisses the event as "unimportant". Raz tearfully regards the doll she salvaged. Then hauls off and smacks her one.
  • In Endstone, Kyri finds her daughter's doll in the ruins of her house. More than fifteen years ago, it burned down but the doll is fine.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Subverted in "Jet." When a town gets flooded, we're treated to a somber shot of a doll floating in the aftermath. Shortly after, the doll is picked up by its owner. Turns out the town was evacuated in the nick of time, and no one drowned.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has Thor find a lone doll as he and the other Avengers explore a post-apocalyptic future.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: During Karmi's mutation in front of Hiro, the camera pans over to her stuffed chicken pox virus right near the end of the transformation.
  • A stuffed rabbit doll is stomped on by Toad Soldiers in the intro to Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars!, spelling out quite clearly before the show starts who the villains are.
  • Used in Dragons: Riders of Berk's episode "Alvin & the Outcasts": Bucket returns to the village to bring back a little girl's lost lamb toy during the island's evacuation. Causing the villains to follow him.
  • In "Graduation", the Grand Finale of Kim Possible, Kim's house is destroyed by an alien attack robot. Just to drive the point home, the machine puts its spike-shaped foot through Kim's beloved stuffed animal, Pandaroo, in a combination of symbolism and a Continuity Nod. Of course, given the hyper-compressed (okay, rushed) nature of the episode, the loss of the house and Cuddle Buddy are not mentioned for the rest of the story.
  • In the Motorcity episode "Vendetta," Mike Chilton finds one of these after he remembers how he was unable to save a building from being torn down by Kane, even though he was able to save its residents.
  • Played straight in ReBoot the first time it is used, then subverted or parodied on every subsequent appearance. The doll becomes a running gag—in one episode Enzo takes advantage of its indestructibly when he jams it into an airfoil on the User's fighter jet, causing it to spin out of control and explode in a fiery crash (the doll comes through with nary a scratch, of course.)
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated mocks this trope, much like The Wire above, in the episode "The Night the Clown Cried: Part 2". When the local reporters of Crystal Cove go to cover a recent rampage by Crybaby Clown, the town's slimy publicist J.R. Kipple plants a teddy bear amid the ruins of a destroyed building so it'll make a more dramatic photo-op and sell more newspapers. Considering the sheer number of Shout Outs and Parental Bonuses in this show, it may very well be an intentional Shout-Out to The Wire.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars, "Innocents of Ryloth": Waxer and Boil of the 212th Clone Battalion come across an orphaned Twi'lek girl, and she leads them to her ruined house. Waxer sees her tooka doll and hands it to her, and she starts crying uncontrollably.
  • As mentioned above, Tintin finds a teddy bear in the wreckage of a plane in Tintin in Tibet. In the TV series though, the scene is complete with sad music and a reaction shot where Haddock sheds a single tear of empathy. Through his snow goggles.
  • In Wolverine and the X-Men (2009), the opening shows two mutant children being targeted by the MRD, with one little girl dropping a teddy bear as the MRD soldiers point guns at them and on their visuals the word "MUTANT" shows up before Wolverine steps in front to protect them. This display is used to show, that mutant or not, these are still innocent kids.

    Real Life 
  • Early in World War I, in which Germany violated Belgian neutrality to get a jump on the French, one war correspondent saw a rag doll lying in the middle of the road, its head crushed flat by the wheels of a gun carriage.
    • "The Guns Of August" by Barbara Tuchman, p. 258, near the end of chapter 13.
  • There are hundreds of dolls like this in Pripyat, but some or many may have been brought in by people to invoke this trope. The evacuation was not so rushed that children would have had to abandon all of their toys, but it's equally fallacious to presume that no dolls would have been left behind.
  • The Auschwitz museum dedicates entire buildings of the former death camp to displaying articles of daily life confiscated from the prisoners, making their stories much more personal and visible. At least one case contains a rag doll. A particularly touching example is a room full of countless shoes that nonetheless demand the viewer imagine scores of feet; children's shoes are clearly arranged toward the front.
    • This was later exploited in a really... cruel way. In The '90s, a woman named Laura Grabowski claimed to be a former child inmate of Auschwitz and asked the historian Jennifer "Jen" Rosenberg to purchase a pair of pink sandals and place them at the death camp to commemorate her (Laura's) friend Anna, who died there. Problem is, "Laura Grabowski" was the con woman Laurel Willson aka Lauren Stadtford, who invented "Anna" as a way to make her fake story about being a Holocaust survivor more believable and poignant.
    • Children's shoes have also been used to represent the Indigenous children killed or traumatized by the residential school system in Canada.
  • The exhibits at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima include a small boy's burnt tricycle, which was initially buried with its owner in the family's backyard. Both were dug up in 1985, the child's body being transferred to the family grave, while the tricycle was donated to the museum.
  • After every natural disaster, there is an inevitable shot of something belonging to a child - a tricycle, a doll, a Doraemon toy. Perhaps the most poignant images were from the school which lost 80% of its students - a photo of school bags and another of children's bags still in their cubbyholes.
    • Some man-made disasters, accidentally or intentionally, can sometimes show this... especially if children were among the injured and/or deceased. The American program, Seconds From Disaster, shown real-life footage of examples of this, like a stuffed animal being found following the 1992 crash of the El Al Flight 1862 in Amsterdam that killed 43 people, including children at an apartment complex.
  • It's common for makeshift memorial sites, especially if a child was killed, to have stuffed animals as part of the tribute.
    • This was the case following the Sandy Hook Shootings, where 26 people were shot and killed at the school: 6 adult women and 20 children.
    • The Sunday after the Oklahoma City bombing (in which 19 children were among the 168 killed), a political cartoon depicted a solitary teddy bear sitting in a corner and crying, presumably orphaned by the disaster.
    • A lot of cultures bring the deceased child's favorite toy(s) to the graveyard to comfort it in death which usually leaves unrelated visitors of the graveyard with this when seeing a grave with a toy car or doll on it.
  • One of the most famous pictures from the Titanic wreck is that of a doll in the wreck.
  • This image of a stuffed horse, taken after a missile strike on the Kramatorsk rail station during the Russian invasion of Ukraine that killed 57, including 5 children on 8 April 2022.
  • This trope is often inverted in real life, where a stuffed animal is taken to the scene of a disaster to comfort a child rather than mourn them: Many emergency vehicles are often equipped with teddy bears, blankets, and other cuddly things to help calm and comfort young survivors.
  • This 1991 crime scene photo of a bloodstained Molly doll from the American Girls Collection, which a little girl was holding as she was shot.


Video Example(s):


The Burned Out Village

When Mulan and her comrades arrive at a village the Imperial army had been stationed at, they find it razed to the ground by Shan Yu and the Huns, and nobody there - from children to Shang's father, the General - was spared.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / WarIsHell

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