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Helpless Kicking

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Well, this sucks.
"His legs are dangling in a comical fashion — Oh! — it's the saddest thing I've ever seen!"
Arnie Pye, The Simpsons, "Children Of A Lesser Clod"

The frantic, often unrestrained kicking that occurs when a character, often a Victim of the Week or Monster Munch, is being killed or dragged away to their death. This is not for combat or targeted at anyone in particular, as the victim is usually just kicking at empty air, and the kicking typically doesn't help them in any meaningful way. It's especially common if the person/victim is being Eaten Alive.

This is usually a visual shorthand to portray the victim as helpless and communicate their panic/fear, particularly in instances where their head or indeed entire upper body isn't otherwise visible. Badass characters are usually not going to be shown going out like this, unless the story is trying to show how the thing or being killing them is so dangerous it reduces the toughest tough guy or Action Girl to just another helpless, flailing victim, or because said badass was caught off-guard.

Can be used as a type of Gory Discretion Shot, if we don't see what horrific things are happening to their upper body, but their kicking shows that, whatever it is, it's not pleasant for them.

If the victim is an attractive female with nice legs, it often gets combined with Fanservice and/or Interplay of Sex and Violence (even if unintentionally) as this trope by its very nature has some amount of Leg Focus.

While more often a horror trope, it can just as easily be played for comedy because the sight of a pair of legs flailing about can look rather goofy, especially in the right context and if the victim is ultimately alright once out of their predicament. And if the person's posterior is in the frame it adds a dash of Joke of the Butt too.

People carried off by a Kidnapping Bird of Prey or dangling in the grip of a Casually Powerful Giant are prone to doing this, implicitly as an attempt to shake themselves free or subconsciously find footing.

A common sight during a Vertical Kidnapping, and often a catalyst for Losing a Shoe in the Struggle, followed by a Dead Hat Shot. For the other end, see Last Grasp at Life.

If you were looking for kicking the helpless, that's Kick Them While They Are Down, not this trope.


    open/close all folders 

  • The poster for the film Choke shows the silhouette of a woman's legs and high heels sticking out of a man's mouth and kicking like she's being Eaten Alive. Televised ads even showed the poor woman's weak little kicks in motion.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens often on Attack on Titan, owing to the fact that people getting eaten by mindless giants is part of the premise. Two notable examples are: a member of the Scout Regiment who, when his squad gets attacked by a group of titans, the last we see of him are his legs sticking out of a titan's mouth and squirming about right before it slurps him. The other is during the fall of Wall Maria when a panicked civilian woman gets plucked up and eaten by a titan. As she's carried out of frame one of her slippers falls off and lands in the foreground.
  • This happens often in Blood-C whenever there's an Elder Bairn that can eat humans. Two prominent examples are the spider Elder Bairns who ambushes Saya's school and grabs one student who is screaming and helplessly kicking her legs until the Elder Bairns bites her and swallows her whole. Another is the Cerberus Elder Bairn in the final episodewhere it grabs Nono by the ankle and Nono futilely kicks the Elder Bairns' hand until the Elder Bairns rips her in half and grabs Kanako, who flails her legs while screaming, and tries to swallow her whole until Saya kills it.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Babidi desperately kicks his legs when he's grabbed by the throat by Majin Buu, who turns on him after Babidi threatens to seal him again.
    • In the Cell Saga both androids 17 and 18 kick as they are being absorbed by Cell. 17's kicks, while no less desperate, are a bit more restrained of the two. 18, meanwhile, flails her legs far more wild and aggressively as she is being swallowed alive.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Natsu is overpowered in his fight against Fukuro who proceeds to swallow him so he can absorb his magic, during which Natsu briefly twitches and kicks his feet as he is eaten head first.
    • While being held by the dragon Zirconis, all Lucy can do is flail her legs in empty air out of fear of his intent to eat her alive after dragging (err, flying as it were) her into the sky. Even after narrowly avoiding being eaten alive by him thanks to her friends intervention, Lucy knows that Zirconis still intends to eat her, but all she can do is flail her legs in the air out of terror while still trapped in his grip.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Played for Laughs in The Jungle Book (1967), when Mowgli tries fighting Baloo, who effortlessly lifts him off the ground with both paws, pinning his arms to his side so all Mowgli can do is try repeatedly to kick at him, even though his legs clearly can't reach that far.
  • Toy Story 2: Played for laughs. Woody is pinned down by Bullseye and tickled by Jessie. When Andy's other toys arrive and witness the scene through a vent cover, they can't see much other than Woody screaming while flailing his limbs in the air, and conclude in horror that he is being tortured.
  • Played for Laughs in Turning Red. When Mei grabs her friends to stop them from loudly screaming, they flail their arms and legs until Mei calms them down.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jurassic Park:
    • The Lost World: Jurassic Park:
      • Burke is hiding from the Tyrannosaurus in a cave behind a waterfall when a snake falls on his neck. In a panic, he leaves the hiding spot and is caught by the dinosaur. Though his death happens off-screen, he is shown being lifted off the ground, his legs flailing violently before the waterfall is tinged red with his blood.
      • During the T. rex's rampage through San Diego, it lifts a man by the torso. The victim screams and flails his legs helplessly before the dinosaur finally closes its jaws, killing him.
    • Jurassic World: After the Indominus rex convinces the Raptor Squad to turn on the humans, the soldiers are killed one by one, with their deaths being presented from the victims' points of view, courtesy of the cameras installed on their suits. One of them is shown kicking helplessly while being dragged to his demise.
      • During her fabulous death scene, Zara flails her legs about as she's snatched up by a pteranodon then dropped in the Mossasaur lake. She continues flailing as a different pteranodon tries multiple times to carry her out of the lake. Which is probably what got the attention of the mossasaur that ultimately devours her.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: In the Director's Cut, Seymour is wrapped in vines and slowly pulled into Audrey II's maw, only able to feebly kick his feet as the plant slurps him down. Mr. Mushnick also does this in both versions when Audrey II eats him.
  • Mean Girls: After falling head-first into a trash can during a walk, Cady screams and kicks her legs as though it's eating her.
  • Men In Black 2: After Serleena, the film's villainess, shapeshifts into a lingerie model she gets grabbed by a mugger. After he drags her behind a bush we hear him react with shock right before his legs fly up from behind and kick feebly before disappearing as she swallows him alive.

  • The Divine Comedy: This is a typical reaction of the damned who have their upper bodies stuck in a narrow cavity. Simoniacs are trapped headfirst in pits and their feet are constantly set on fire by mystical fire. Judas Iscariot, the ultimate traitor, can only flail his legs while Satan himself chomps his upper body and tears the skin off his spine.

    Live-Action TV 

    Music Videos 
  • Lit: "Miserable". Happens multiple times at the end of the video. When Giant Woman Pam/Val is hunting down and eating the band members alive, she picks up drummer Allen Shellenberger and dangles him by his collar. Allen kicks his legs as she's dangling him and when she pops him into her mouth and devours him. After she grabs lead singer Ajay Popoff and dangles him much like she did Allen, Ajay also kicks his legs in a similar manner. However, his legs start kicking a lot more frantically when she tosses him in the air and catches him in her mouth.
  • Mi Olvide Ti: When the lead singer gets picked up by his gigantic (ex)girlfriend he engages in some helpless kicking combined with some arm flailing. He stops to tuck his legs up under himself right as she devours him.

    Video Games 
  • In the 2021 Christmas event of Bloody Battle, there was a boss in the "Gift of Silent Nights" part of the event called the Unwrapper. If a player was caught by the Unwrapper, they'd be chewed up in its teeth. The animation that played while they were caught was the player flailing their legs around helplessly as they were being "unwrapped".
  • In Katamari Damacy, many humans and animals that are rolled up in a katamari keep flailing around their arms and legs helplessly.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Tetra kicks her feet around when Ganondorf grabs her by the throat and holds her aloft. Komali flies in to break the hold at the last minute.
  • Mass Effect 2: When the Collectors board the Normandy SR-2, Joker, making his way to EDI's computer core, passes the elevator where one of the Collectors drags a screaming Kelly Chambers inside, her legs flailing in the air.
  • Mass Effect 3: At the start of the "Citadel" DLC, a band of mercs who have crashed the fancy restaurant Shepard and Joker had been eating at grabs Staff Analyst Maya Brooks, who had come to warn them that someone was after Shepard, and drags her with her legs kicking after her to the front. Of course, this turns out to be an Invoked Trope as Maya (or whatever her name actually is) is the one who hired the mercs to begin with.
  • Metroid Dread: After beating Raven Beak in the final boss fight he stops messing around and grabs Samus by the throat, leaving her to struggle in helplessness until she hits her Rage Breaking Point
  • Resident Evil 2 (Remake): Whenever Mr. X grabs the player character (either Leon, Claire, and Ada) on the head, they desperately kick their legs until Mr. X crushes their head. The player can prevent this from happening by pulling a knife to stab Mr. X in the arm or throwing a flashbang to knock him out.
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis: Jill Valentine desperately kicks her legs if she gets swallowed by a Hunter Gamma.

  • In Something*Positive, when PeeJee's female HR manager gets yanked into a hole in the ceiling by a trapdoor alligator, the last we ever see of her are her legs weakly kicking as she's Eaten Alive.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Loophole", Larry and Mr. Small have a Wimp Fight and Mr. Small goes down nearly immediately. While trying to hold off Larry, Mr. Small flails his legs at him.
  • Bravest Warriors: In one episode, the Bravest Warriors are tasked with saving the inhabitants of the flooding Planet Disproportia. Chris and Zachary Ryan are tasked with finding Ms. Irma, a hermit. They find her in a deep cave at the bottom of her well, stuck upside-down in a hole, kicking her legs about.
  • Played for Laughs in the Duck Dodgers episode "Hooray for Hollywood Planet." While a director is trying to shoot a scene with a giant alien lizard, it chomps down on him mid-rant. His stubby legs are shown comically flailing as they dangle out of the creature's mouth while he continues to rant. Unlike a lot of examples of this trope, it is non-fatal and he is fine in the next scene.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: When Billy brings a talking frog to school, it attempts to devour their teacher, Ms. Butterbean, who winds up in this position while trying to save herself.
  • Justice League Unlimited: Batman and Wonder Woman confront Circe in an alleyway to arrest her. However, Circe uses her magic to knock them down and turns a concrete wall into a hand to capture Wonder Woman from behind. Wonder Woman helplessly kicks her legs as Circe gloats and turns her into a pig, much to Batman's shock.
  • Pig City: In Reggie's story in the Halloween Episode, when the rock band Sausage's new manager brings out his intent to have more zombies play onstage in place of the actual band, one of them gets dragged behind the curtain by some zombies, who eat his brain. As he's being eaten, he kicks his legs up and down while shouting "Someone's eating my brain!". He finally stops when he's completely dead, except for one final twitch of one of his legs.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Children of a Lesser Clod", Homer attempts to evade the police by crawling through a large pipe, but gets stuck almost immediately and his exposed legs kick pathetically.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In the episode "The Chaperone", as chaos unfolds during Pearl's prom as students perform the hazardous "Sponge" dance, one hapless fish is lodged through a hole in the wall and humorously flails his legs.



Trevor has a bad time.

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