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Humiliation Conga

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"Do you know what my days used to look like? I just tested! Nobody murdered me... Or put me in a potato... Or fed me to birds... I had a pretty good life. And then you showed up. You dangerous. Mute. Lunatic."
GLaDOS, Portal 2

It's the end of the episode/Story Arc/series, and a villain or Jerkass didn't get what they wanted. Now it's just a matter of dealing with them.

Sometimes you want them to escape. Or have them undergo a Jerkass or Heel Realization and, if they're evil, for them to become a hero. No, not this time, usually because it would make for an unsatisfying ending or would just take up too much time. But there's a problem... you can't kill them off. Maybe the censors won't allow it. Maybe they're just not harmful or evil enough or what they did isn't deserving of death. Maybe they're literally unkillable. Maybe you just aren't feeling up to bloodshed. Maybe you feel death is too good for them. Or, of course, they need to survive for their next Evil Plan.

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Then how about the Humiliation Conga?

Everything the antagonist has built up, piece by piece, comes crashing down in front of them: the lovebirds they kept apart so they could have a hero(ine) for themselves pass by them arm-in-arm while discussing how they're Happily Married, the hotel they spent millions building catches fire and burns down, their former Yes-Man steps on their foot, the bum they spat on now has a Rolex (probably the exact model they coveted) and asks them to light his cigar, and the dog they kicked is now laughing at them (or worse). People Come to Gawk at How the Mighty Have Fallen, and when one starts laughing, everyone joins in. And here come the cops; turns out the mic was on when they declared their foul intentions.

Ultimately, they realize they're in very dire straits. They're still alive, natch, but that's not all for the good.

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This trope is very popular on kids' shows or a show with a general audience, as it's a way to ensure the antagonist is good and defeated without getting unduly violent. Compare with Cherry Tapping in Video Games. Heroes may knowingly tailor one as part of a Cruel Mercy punishment or maybe a Cool and Unusual Punishment (or both) for the character.

It's worth noting this isn't always done because the antagonist can't die or doesn't deserve to; oftentimes, they could be killed, but it just wouldn't be a fitting end for them. As some proponents of Cruel Mercy would say, sometimes death would just be the easy way out and is too good for the villain in question. The audience may be left feeling such an antagonist didn't get nearly what they deserved. Thus, a well-crafted Humiliation Conga offers a satisfying alternative. The antagonist is defeated, but they didn't get the easy death. And naturally, this makes sense; the more we hate the character, the more we want to see them suffer. (Granted, sometimes the antagonist is killed at the tail end of their Humiliation Conga, apparently on the reasoning their degradation won't be complete until they're a rotting corpse; likely suffering the treatment of Last Disrespects too.)

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Occasionally, this trope may be quite literal, as the protagonists may find it hard to prevent themselves from literally dancing with glee at the antagonist's downfall. If sex or overly affectionate people are involved, it becomes Sexual Karma.

Because of the nature of this trope, a full Spoiler Warning is probably called for.

Often the main component of a Break the Haughty subplot. If the antagonist is evil, this may cause (or even be the result of) a Villainous Breakdown. But beware — done too gratuitously or drawn out too long, it might actually make people feel sorry for the trounced antagonist, or worse, effectively make the protagonists of the story the new baddies.

Compare Humble Pie (when it's a single, very humiliating event rather than a series of humiliating events), Trauma Conga Line (a far more serious trope where audiences are meant to feel sympathetic for the victim rather than cheering their downfall), and The Chew Toy. May overlap with Shamed by a Mob or The Freelance Shame Squad, depending on who shows up to witness the humiliation. Not to be confused with The Masochism Tango.


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Other examples:

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: At the beginning of Season 8 episode 36, Big M. goes through a short one where he gets his foot caught in a bear trap, hops in pain over the edge of a cliff, and then, once he's on the ground below the very short "cliff", he loses his coin and chases it into the wishing well.
    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the last case of the second game, Justice For All, it is revealed your client, Matt Engarde, is indirectly guilty of the murder; he hired a hitman to do it for him. After proving his guilt, the player (Phoenix) gets to decide the guilty man's fate. Have him declared "Guilty" where he will go to jail, or let him be "Not Guilty" where he will immediately be targeted by the hitman that he tried to use as a scapegoat. It's such a lose-lose situation for him that if you choose "Not Guilty," he'll beg and scream and confess to everything just to get the extra buffer of prison security between him and the hitman.
    • In Trials and Tribulations: Dahlia believes that being dead makes her beyond punishment by the living. But when Phoenix reveals that the target of her revenge, missing and presumed dead, is in fact the medium whose body she is currently inhabiting, he and Mia explain in detail how each of her crimes failed in some way, and that she has doomed herself to the "ultimate punishment": spending all eternity as a "miserable, pathetic, weak creature who can never win at anything". In hell.
    • Happens to the killer of Case 2 of Dual Destinies. Florent L'Belle, after his Villainous Breakdown leads to him losing his hair dye and make-up, is revealed he looks like a haggard middle-aged man. He then answers a series of calls on his cell-phone epaulets, learning that his sponsors are leaving him, he's being fired as the mayor's aide, a vague project (possibly his personal beauty product brand) is being cancelled, and he is being sued for 100 million dollars for damaging the stratosphere with his products.

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The Boogey Man

Boogey goes through the mother of all humiliation congas.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

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