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Free the Frogs

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"You see? Frogs are cooler on the outside than they are on the inside! So please, don't dissect them!"
Lana Loud, The Loud House, "Frog Wild"

In almost any High School show, there will probably be an episode where everyone must dissect frogs in science class.

A character (usually the main character) will question whether it is morally acceptable to kill the frogs for science. The teacher will usually inform the objecting character that not doing the dissection will result in a failing grade. There are two standard directions the show can go at this point:

  1. If the show follows the Science Is Bad trope, the character will conclude that it is wrong to kill the frogs, and they will find or create an opportunity to free them, accepting the failing grade or, in the more extreme examples, actually converting the teacher and the rest of the class to their stand.
  2. If the show is using Honor Before Reason, the main character will refuse to kill their own frog and accept the failing grade, but will not attempt to free any frog but their own, concluding that it is wrong to impose one's own values on others.

Of course, in real high schools, most if not all animals for dissection now come pre-killed.note  The idea that the teacher would kill the frogs at the school comes from the days when the school would purchase the animals alive, and use them for two purposes: alive to observe their behavior; then, after they'd been killed, for dissection. Most of the fear nowadays comes from the fact that the preserved corpses smell, well, like preserved corpses. It must also be noted that in Real Life schools today, teachers are required to provide an alternative for students who won't or can't dissect frogs for any reason, be it religious, moral, or simple squick.

Frogs, themselves, are also becoming a rare choice of dissection specimen, as many amphibian species are in decline worldwide. Pre-killed rats or fetal pigs are increasingly common as replacements, as are invertebrates such as earthworms.


For these reasons, this is on the way to becoming a Discredited Trope. Variants about saving the class pet are still possible, in which the animal was never in danger of dissection and the objecting student feels it's wrong to keep it in captivity at all.

Those who perpetrate this trope might go on to join an Animal Wrongs Group and if they don't, they're probably still an Animal Lover.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Mamotte Shugogetten, Shaorin (on her first day out of her ring in 400 years) prevents a professor from dissecting a (still living) frog by asking him to take her life instead, and later releases that frog into the bushes.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • In Zits, Hector's Straw Vegetarian girlfriend Autumn convinced Hector and Jeremy to take fifty thousand live crickets bound for the science lab and free them in the hallway with a variation of the title being their warcry. Reality Ensues when the Hazmat unit shows up.
  • Happened in the comic strip FoxTrot. When Paige Fox hears that she will be dissecting a frog in biology, she is grossed out by the idea and tries to get out of it. When she finally does dissect the frog, she thinks it's cool and describes it in detail to her family at dinner.
    • On another occasion, she SEEMS to be complaining about the frog she's having to dissect-until her friend tells her to shut up about the math test tomorrow and help her with the stinking frog.
    • And in yet another example, Paige is squicked out by the idea of having to dissect an earthworm. When urging her to think of the various educational benefits she'll gain from the experience fails, her teacher finally gets her to go along with it by pointing out how jealous her little brother will be when he finds out.
  • In one Drabble strip, Norman tries to impress longtime love Wendy by telling her how he set his frog free and let it jump out the window. She then reminds him that his biology class is on the eleventh floor.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Addams Family (2019) features a variant; on her first day at school, Wednesday Addams reanimates the already-dead frogs in science class using mad science, then sics them on the Alpha Bitch who was teasing her and Parker earlier.
  • In The Incredibles Dash mentions he dissected a frog in passing. Which is strange considering he's in elementary, but he might've been lying since he was trying to avoid telling his dad that he used his Super Speed in class.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Freeing the frogs is more fun if you're (psychically linked to someone who's getting you really) drunk, as we learn from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
  • The Made-for-TV Movie Kermit's Swamp Years. The moral objection becomes a whole lot more clear-cut if the frogs themselves are capable of expressing an opinion.
  • Used in a 1995 Disney Channel adaption of Freaky Friday. The mother (in her daughter's body) makes a sixties-style revolution speech against frog dissection.
  • Beetlejuice. At the end of the film, Lydia gets a C in Biology because she refused to dissect frogs.
  • In Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger, Esther has to dissect her pet duck in science class, after leaving it in a cage with other ducks over the weekend. She originally got the duck from the same cage in the school attic.
    • In South Australia, it actually is legal to purchase and raise animals specifically for the purpose of dissection, provided you sign documents saying that the animals will not be under any pain or stress, and you are a certified research institution. Like a school.
  • In the Hallmark movie Smooch, Kiernan Shipka's character Zoe sneaks her frog out of class to free it. The frog then gets away and Shipka then meets a man who she mistakes to be the frog now transformed into a prince.

  • In one story in Cicada magazine, a girl who's working at a lab to pay off the fines she incurred shoplifting releases all the flies kept as specimens and gets fired as a result.
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changeling begins with Martha Abbott and a friend doing this.
  • In one of the later "Vet Volunteers" books, cat-lover Sunita (taking a sabbatical from the vet clinic after she doesn't observe her pet cat Mittens closely enough and the poor cat eats yarn, putting her health at risk and devastating Sunita) discovers that the lab animals she's been helping care for will be killed in experiments. Horrified, she tries to set up some mice free. When she's caught, her supervisor chews her out, pointing out that the lab never does anything unnecessary to the animals, they're always granted painless deaths and the animals have no survival instincts so she's just condemned them to slow and painful deaths. Chastised, she helps retrieve the animals, who are tame enough that it's not a problem.
  • In the Wings of Fire book Darkstalker, Clearsight's friend Listening wants to free the two scavengers used in their science class. So at night, the two NightWing dragons sneak into school to get them out and free them near the shore. But it ends up gone half wrong and half right when one human gets eaten by an IceWing dragon while the other flees.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Was a plot point in 8 Simple Rules; and the episode had several actual impacts in the show's direction, though minor.
  • On Saved by the Bell (back when it was still Good Morning Miss Bliss), a girl frees the frogs before they can be killed by the science teacher with the Einstein hairdo, weird goggles, and ghastly voice. She eventually returned the frogs as part of a Broken Aesop about not pushing her beliefs on others, but the more obvious moral of the episode was (of course) that Science Is Bad.
  • A 1990 Neighbours storyline saw Melissa Jarrett objecting to her boyfriend breeding mice for dissection and enlisting the help of activist Kerry Bishop, who had a few Animal Wrongs Group tendencies, to free the mice (and a few frogs). The teacher simply acquired some more mice and the lesson went ahead, with Melissa and two other students opting out.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide had an episode that parodied every possible form of this plot in twelve minutes. The frog that is freed turns out to be more of a class pet as in real life and all of the ones that will be dissected were already dead. In the climax, the kids release the frog to "roam free," we hear it crossing a busy street — and with a sickening thud, the kids are splattered with green goo. Then the lunch lady walks by and says, "who left my spinach cans out in the road?"
    • Let's throw some more parts in, Ned only joins the Save The Frogs side because the girl he likes is leading it, and in the end the Teacher does give the class an computer simulation option.
    • Don't forget that the frog-kidnappers ended up getting attatched to the frog and didn't want to set him free, instead making a little frog RESORT.
  • In an Edison Twins episode, during the college season, the twins deal with an idealistic young man who cannot tolerate having rabbits being killed for their studies and releases them on the campus. The Twins protest that this is clearly impractical since the domesticated rabbits can't survive in the wild and they manage to round them up. The next day, the professor who was using these rabbits is told of the incident in class and the young man stands to calmly state his objection to using the rabbits. However, the professor unexpectedly reveals that he anticipated this and used it as an opening to begin his next lecture topic, "Ethics for Scientists."
  • The short lived Sabrina the Teenage Witch clone, Teen Angel had a very bizarre take on this. The characters give their frog human intelligence and the ability to talk and he becomes a member of their clique.
  • In the actual Sabrina the Teenage Witch, there is somewhat of a variation. Sabrina and class have to dissect frogs, and it seems to follow real life in that the frogs seemed to come pre-killed. Sabrina and her partner express some disgust over it, though they do it with no big drama. Sabrina then accidentally uses her magic to reanimate the frog, and it jumps off the lab table.
  • Shows up in a flashback of Pushing Daisies. Things get much more interesting when the frogs come pre-killed, only for the kid to resurrect them...
    • In particular, once Ned has had his fun, he goes around 'killing'' the frogs (or rather, undoing their resurrection) so that they won't cause other animals to die.
  • A 3rd Rock from the Sun episode played with this using flies of all creatures. At Alissa's suggestion, Tommy freed the flies and the teacher immediately gave him an "F". Then Alissa revealed that she was just kidding, saying "I didn't think you'd actually do it!"
  • Subverted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Witch" in which Willow has no problem dissecting a frog. (This may be because, as we learn later, she has a frog phobia.)
    • "Don't warn the tadpoles!"
  • In The Secret World of Alex Mack, one episode features a subplot in which Alex learns that her biology class will be dissecting a frog (apparently only one is being cut up) and she fears that it will be the class pet. At the end of the episode, her sister finds that she rescued the frog and was releasing it into the woods. Not only does the sister approve, but confesses that she performed a similar feat when she was in Alex's grade (she rescued a large number of flatworms).
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • Francis released 200 frogs from biology class into the middle of a highway, causing a massive traffic jam. He claimed he was "freeing the alleged frogs".
    • Dewey frees the class hamster Bernard, not to make any statement about keeping Bernard in captivity, but to protect it from a classmate who planned to torture the rodent when it was his turn to take it home. This starts a lengthy, multi-season Running Gag, with the hamster's ball rolling by in several scenes (eventually making it to Canada!).
  • Hazel does this (on a personal level) in the Dead Gorgeous episode "Sisters In The Mind" when she believes that the frogs that she has raised as a biology project are scheduled to be dissected.
  • Done in the TV adaptation of Zbeng!, where a guy attempts it to improve the score with his angry Soap Box Sadie girlfriend.
  • Becky Conner from Roseanne takes a C in Biology rather than commit animal genocide (dissect a frog).
  • Student Bodies has this issue with worms instead of frogs.
  • In one episode of Dinosaurs, Granola Guy Robbie is expected to dissect a human for biology class. He smuggles her out of class, and later releases her into the wild.
  • In a comparable scenario not taking place in science class, Radar on M*A*S*H once rescued a lamb which had been slated to become dinner for a visiting group of Greek soldiers. His moral outrage at their plans played out exactly like this trope.
  • Roy does this in an episode of ROY. However, he attempts to keep the frogs in his room instead of releasing them into the wild and Hilarity Ensues.
  • In American Horror Story: Coven, swamp witch Misty Day winds up in an Ironic Hell where she must dissect a frog for all eternity.
  • On an episode of NCIS, Abby arranges a mass bunny escape from a hospital that would've used them for animal testing.

  • Survival of the Fittest v4 has a flashback in its pre-game, that involves Remy Kim and Sarah Tan dissecting a frog. However, subverted in that neither of the characters show any moral problems with it, and any problems they do have with it tends to be more of a Nausea Fuel related issue. In a different v4 pre-game thread we see Fiona Sparki and Maria Santiago dissecting a baby pig. They do show disgust, but Fiona more so, who is almost in tears at the idea of dissecting a pig so small.

    Video Games 
  • One of the special encounters in Fallout Tactics is a Take That! with an NPC attempting a "Deathclaw Liberation". This ends rather quickly... and rather messily.

    Web Animation 
  • A Kill Frog cartoon entitled Skip, Hop, Flop has a little boy running off with the body of a pre-killed frog, refusing to dissect it as his Mad Scientist teacher had instructed him to.

    Web Comics 
  • Done, but heavily mocked, in the web comic Timelysium. The main character is a time traveler who has to do whatever history says happened and is trying to keep the timeline from going out of whack, so he has no choice. This does NOT, however, stop him from ranting about it to the Granola Girl whose idea it was in the first place:
    You're an idiot, you know that? Right now as we speak people are starving to death in every country on the planet, horrifying crimes are being committed, lives are being ruined and you're having an emotional breakdown over a frog. I hope the zombies eat you once WW 3 rolls around, I really do!
  • In Darths & Droids, Sally does this between gaming sessions, and gets suspended. Corey thinks this is badass. In a much later strip, she plans to free the monkeys at university. Pete warns her that this time she could go to jail.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in American Dad!, when Steve impressed a girl by playing around with the dissected frog.
  • There was an episode of Braceface that dealt with this trope. It might have been Sharon protesting seeing as she's an animal lover and a vegetarian so at least it's consistent. This one also hand waved the fact that the frogs are supposed to be delivered pre-killed by showing the teacher complaining to the delivery guy about the mix-up that resulted in live ones being delivered.
  • An episode of The Brak Show featured Brak trying to get out of killing and dissecting a clam he's grown fond of. After playing sick the night before doesn't work, he almost succeeds by having a lumberjack-turned-bird grant his wish, only for Zorak to eat the bird at the last second. Ultimately the clam busts out of school himself and borrows Brak's Mom's car to get away.
  • The pilot to Carmen Got Expelled! involves Carmen freeing the school mascot, and pet of the principal, Hamlet the warthog. As it turns out, Hamlet has no survival skills and is terrified the moment he wakes up alone. He's even petrified of a squirrel.
  • In the episode "Splitting Images" of Danny Phantom Sam, the series' animal activist goth, sets up a "Save the Frogs" campaign which includes T-shirts, pins, and an assembly. And robo-frogs (that obnoxiously encouraged you to remove their realistic organs.
  • In the second episode of Daria, Upchuck reveals that the only reason he was invited to Brittany's party was because he dissected her frog.
  • Detentionaire: "Welcome to Factory Island": The tenth grade students get sent on an excursion to Green Apple Splat soda factory after A. Nigma High gets overrun by freed dissection frogs. Lee discovers that the frogs were freed by a trio of students called the Tree Huggers and they admit that they had also released the frogs on the day of the Prank while everyone was busy with the assembly. When the Tree Huggers see that frogs are used in the production of Green Apple Splat, they mess with the factory controls and cause a meltdown while freeing them.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • In one episode, the students were dissecting frogs (on the last day of school, for some reason). Though none of the students actively protested as much as staring at the frogs, Timmy uses his invisibility wish to beat up Francis, who'd been more than happy to cut open the frog. It almost becomes horrific when you realize the frog was still alive.
    • Another episode had Wanda concerned when one of her fairy friends mentions that her godkid switched places with a frog, citing dissection. Cue Spit Take and Oh, Crap! and the fairy friend poofing away to save her godkid. The two later reappear as Wanda tries to find Timmy (who had switched places with Doidle, Vicky's pet dog; It Makes Sense in Context), who is lecturing the frog the girl had switched with.
  • Done by Creepie in the Growing Up Creepie episode "Operation Monarch Liberation". Just replace Frogs with Butterflies.
  • The former half of Mina and The Count was assigned to dissect an already-dead frog. She brought it back to life.
  • An episode of Pepper Ann had the titular Ann refusing to dissect a frog in her science class after taking it home over the weekend. She eventually does the work based entirely on an internet-based dissection simulation called VirtuaFrog. Unusually, her teacher does give her the chance to opt out and watch a film on plants instead.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode where Lisa first becomes a vegetarian, she refuses to dissect an earthworm.
    • Another episode had the (dried) frogs be reanimated (or at least woken up) by a steam leak. They proceed to attack the students, with the croak of one being subtitled "Get 'Em!".
  • Parodied in South Park, in which the children are accidentally given (endangered) manatees to dissect in the episode "Fat Camp".
  • A slightly different take occurs in the short, "Class Cut-Up" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Psychic Fun-Omenon Day", where Hamton's class is required to dissect a frog. Unlike the above examples, the science class uses dead frogs. The twist is that Hamton's frog is still alive, which he has trouble proving to anyone else, because it happens to be Michigan J. Frog, complete with singing. At the end of the short, it is revealed that his next class is dissecting earthworms. Unfortunately, the poor guy's worm is also alive and singing opera.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
    • A variant occurs in the episode "Girls' Day Out". The plot is kicked off by Star getting sent to detention when she liberates the class hamster Marisol, after seeing she's just as bored with Miss Skullnick's lecture as Star is.
    • Another variant occurs in the episode "Sophomore Slump", where Marco and Jackie steal a lobster from the lobster tank at a fancy restaurant and set it free in the ocean.
  • In The Loud House episode aptly named "Frog Wild", the plot is kicked off when Lincoln's class is getting ready to dissect frogs. Lincoln is at first eager to do so, but he's swayed against it by his little sister Lana, who's justified in her position because she has a pet frog named Hops, and she uses a video of her own experiences with frogs to do so. Apparently, this trope has happened before In-Universe, because Principal Higgins immediately guesses this happened when word gets to him about the frogs going "missing". In a rare Reality Ensues moment for this plot, the frogs in question don't know how to live in the wild due to being raised in captivity, and it eventually ends with the school creating a frog habitat in the classroom after Lana uses her video to sway the principal and teacher against dissecting them (and Lincoln still got detention for his role in breaking the frogs out in the first place).
  • In the What About Mimi? episode "Leapfrog", Mimi and Russell free what they assume are frogs with red spots that were brought to be dissected, only to later learn that they were Northern Spotted Swamp Toads, which are an endangered species. They then spend the episode tracking them down, and discover that they've been procreating in the sewer.

    Real Life 
  • In many, if not all Scottish schools, dissection is no longer practiced, except on flowers. This can lead to a certain amount of disappointment in 11 year-olds moving up to high school who watched a lot of American television, and were actually looking forward to dissecting a frog, if only to enact this trope.
  • Many North American schools are either replacing or considering replacing actual dissections with virtual dissections for the lower grades, when biology is a required course. Actual dissection experience is considered of value mostly to those students who sign up for the elective in the higher grades.


Video Example(s):


Nancy Green

Nancy Green, the mother of Cricket and Tilly and ex-wife of Bill, attempts to free some cows from a dairy factory, but ends up getting arrested for it.

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