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It's All Junk

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"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put the childish things away."

Some items, such as photographs, jewellery, stuffed toys, and family heirlooms, are imbued with more worth than money can buy. They have sentimental value and are a powerful link with a person or a memory. They can't be replaced on an insurance policy if they get stolen, because even if the replacement is identical, it doesn't have the same value as the original—it lacks the same connotations.

As such, these items are protected zealously, both in real life and in fiction. Sometimes they act as comfort blankets when the protagonist is far from home and missing his mother. Sometimes, they're all they have to remind them of a Doomed Hometown. Either way, the audience is usually informed of these items' deep significance.

But occasionally, there comes a time when you decide that whatever that trinket represents is no longer important, or, more drastically, you come to realize that the person or memory it binds you to are not people or memories you want to be associated with any more. Maybe the boyfriend who gave the heroine her heart-shaped pendant has been two-timing her for the past year, or an ice skater finally realizes that they're too badly injured to make it as a champion, making their favourite skating boots a painful reminder of their lost dream. Either way, it's time to get rid of the MacGuffin.

Usually, the item is an innocent scapegoat—the pendant itself didn't betray its owner, and the ice skates weren't driving the car that hit the protagonist. It's just that the hero(ine) can't actually get their hands on the person that's caused the problem, especially if the change or misfortune is down to nothing more than luck or time. Characters who can get their revenge, and have no qualms about doing so, don't tend to bother with destroying jewelry — they just go and punch the offender's face in. It's the gentler, less violent characters, or those who really have no actual person they can blame, who decide It's All Junk and get rid of a fairly innocuous item. Their destruction is purely symbolic, to show that the character is finishing a chapter of their lives and starting a new one.

It is quite rare for these objects to be sold, even if they are actually quite valuable. They're either destroyed (often with fire) or discarded (if the hero is getting rid of them because they want nothing more to do with what they symbolise) or passed on to someone else (if the hero is acknowledging that their time in a particular role has passed and wants to hand the item down to someone who can make better use of it). By not even claiming the money they would make from a sale, the character further acknowledges that they reject their trinket and everything it stands for.

Sometimes it's not even a trinket—it can be something as big as a house or even a home town. Rarely, it might be a pet, though this has to be dealt with sensitively. A potentially callous example would be to discard one's own child if said child either fails to meet expectations or for the child to be a painful reminder of a spouse who had left or betrayed the parent in some way and the child who is the product of the two parents ends up as a scapegoat for the bitter feelings toward the spouse.

Broadly speaking, the destruction of an item in a fit of It's All Junk can be quite sad; chances are, the audience will feel much the same about what the thing represents as the character does. If it's something established to have a personality (a pet or Empathic Weapon) it can be downright heartbreaking.

Certain significant items, however, may refuse to be discarded...

This can also result in some irony if Always Need What You Gave Up is involved, as the seemingly useless gift or deadweight item they've finally gotten rid of turns out to be a vital Plot Coupon they now have to dig out of a dumpster or trawl a lake for. In the worst cases this can be a A Tragedy of Impulsiveness, as that unopened letter they just turned into confetti and burned turns out to have had some vital information that they can't get back now.

Contrast with Memento MacGuffin. No relation to What a Piece of Junk, or Trash of the Titans, and is not the inversion of Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill.... See also Smash the Symbol and Break-Up Bonfire.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Haibane Renmei, Kuu, the smallest of the Haibane, gives a large winter coat to Rakka, the newest Haibane. Rakka appreciates the gift, but only fully realizes its significance when the others explain to her that Kuu had kept the coat, which was too big for her, in the hope that she would eventually grow into it. By passing it over to Rakka, Kuu accepts that she will never grow to be as big as the other members of her group. This is a major turning point in the series — shortly afterwards, Kuu ascends in her "Day of Flight," which the Haibane can only achieve after dealing with their personal issues. In Kuu's case, this seems to have been disappointment in her status as a small, "unimportant" member of their society — which Rakka helps her overcome, by accepting Kuu's guidance and acknowledging the little Haibane as her senior/sempai. By giving the coat to Rakka, Kuu showed that she was content with who she was, and prepared to move on rather than chase the impossible.
  • Juri, in Revolutionary Girl Utena, has a locket with a picture of her unrequited crush, Shiori. She throws it into the lake in an attempt to distance herself from the manipulative Shiori (water seems to be a popular method of disposal for such items...) only to have it return to her later in what seems to be a case of the Clingy MacGuffin it's not really — the locket doesn't make its own way back to Juri, someone plants it where Shiori will find it, and she then uses it to taunt Juri. When Utena finally destroys the locket in a duel, Juri finally begins to move on with her life rather than mourn her unrequited love.
  • Manga angstfest Mars (1996) sees the painting that brought the Official Couple together in the first place incinerated, when the two lovers begin to doubt whether they can stay together.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Jet keeps a broken pocket watch as a memento of his former lover Alyssa, who had walked out on him one day and left only the watch and a goodbye note without an explanation. Eventually, Jet returns to Ganymede in "Ganymede Elegy" and meets up with Alyssa, now running a failing bar and having hooked up with a former criminal. She explains that she left Jet because she was tired of being taken care of and controlled and prefers to try living on her own merits even if it means failing. Having obtained the closure of an explanation and realizing he's been unhealthily hung up on his own past (symbolized by the 'frozen time'), Jet tosses the broken watch into a canal and moves on.
  • Although it wasn't entirely Sara's choice to have her musical necklace stolen in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry, nor was it Ralph's to have his crayon drawing blown to bits later on, it still strongly symbolizes that their connection has been severed and one of them will have to kill the other, Big Brother Worship or not.
  • In Planetes, Yuri loses his wife in a spaceship accident in the opening seconds of the series. Her antique compass was in her hand, and it contained a message Yuri never got to read. He passes up lucrative opportunities in space industry to be an orbital garbage collector, secretly hoping against phenomenal odds to find that watch. By a small miracle, he manages to collect it; the message was "Please Save Yuri". However, as he finally comes to terms with his loss, he gives the watch to his co-worker's brother, an amateur rocket builder, and tells him to put it back in space.
  • Throughout the first season of Code Geass, Suzaku hangs onto his father's pocketwatch despite the fact that it was broken a long time ago; later on, after Lelouch shoots Euphemia dead, he leaves the watch with her corpse. Rather than marking the point where he leaves the past and looks towards the future, however, this serves to further reinforce his being tied to the past, but now by his rage over Euphy's death rather than his own guilt over killing his father.
  • America of Hetalia: Axis Powers tries to do this with all the gifts England gave him when he was a child during the colonial period, but in the end can't bring himself to do it.
  • The house of the Elric Brothers in Fullmetal Alchemist serves as this. After Ed got his state alchemist license, they burned the house where they had lived with their mother and the same place where they tried to revive her through human transmutation before going on their quest to find the Philosopher's Stone. According to Pinako Rockbell, the Elric brothers think if they do not have a home to return to, then they could continue moving forward and not have to turn back. Hohenheim however states the real reason they burned the house was that they didn't want to face the reality of their mistake and were running away from the problems they should have faced instead. He even compares it to a child hiding the bedsheets after wetting himself.
  • A variation occurs in Ai Yori Aoshi. When Aoi wants to know why Kaoru ran away from home, thus annulling their Happily Arranged Marriage, he explains that he was the product of an affair between the son the head of the powerful Hanabishi family, and a common woman. When Kaoru's father died, his mother was forced by the Hanbishi family to hand him over to them to be groomed to be heir to the Hanabishi name, and he was ordered to have as little contact with his mother as possible. When she died, he went to their old home to get some mementos, only to find that his grandfather had burned anything that had belonged to his mother. When he takes a birth charm, the last thing that held a connection to his mother, Kaoru's grandfather orders him to burn it so that his mother can be wiped out from memory. When he refuses, Karou's grandfather beats him, and shortly after that, he runs away from home and renounces the Hanabishi name.
  • In Haru and Midori, the eponymous duo visits Haru's house to collect her late mother (Midori's best friend)'s belongings. Haru says she'd like to throw the belongings away since they only serve to remind her that her mother's gone for good.

    Comic Books 
  • At the beginning of the '90s revamp of Green Arrow, Black Canary burned her (ugly) Eighties costume, calling it "trash". Which would have been a bit more plausible if the story introducing the costume hadn't had as a plot point that it was extremely fire-resistant.
  • In Gotham City Garage, Barbara Gordon is tricked into believing her sister Kara murdered their father. At one point she rips up Kara's comics. Then she remembers they were their father's and feels even worse.
    Barbara: I tried hating you. On one particularly bad night, I tore up your illegal comics. It was only afterward I remembered they were Dad's. I tried hating him, too. That didn't work either.
  • An especially poignant example from Preacher, where the "junk" is the Saint of Killers' corpse, the skeleton of his mortal body before he became Heaven's hitman. Jesse Custer digs it up to get the Saint's attention; the Saint says "This ain't but bones" and smashes it.
    • On the other hand, Jesse did get the Saint's undivided-and-pissed-off attention with that stunt, so he may Protest Too Much.
  • An interesting example in Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan had always treasured a picture he has of himself when he was normal and his ex-wife. He just went ahead and dropped it on the ground showing him disregarding his last ties to humanity.
  • In the Garfield picture book Garfield's Judgement Day, Garfield convinces the pets of his hometown to break their taboo against talking so they can warn their owners of an approaching natural disaster. One of these animals, an old dog, is unable to convince his elderly owner to leave their house. The man explains that he has no life outside of the house anymore since all of his memories are in it and at his age memories are all he has. The dog refuses to abandon his owner and waits for the oncoming storm. After the storm passes, the old man's house is wrecked and the dog is apparently dead, though the man himself is unhurt. The old man grieves over his friend, declaring that his memories and the house don't mean anything to him anymore since his dog is more important. Fortunately the old dog was just playing dead.
  • Used VERY darkly, and combined with That Man Is Dead in The Punisher when he forces Rachel Alvares, AKA "Lady Punisher" to make the choice to burn the only photo she has of herself and her husband, as well as shed the remnants of her old life, or even as a member of the living human race. In his words, the dead don't get music, or love, or warmth. They only get a Mission.
  • The Ultimates: Tony Stark started throwing away all the stuff in his house that he does not actually use anymore. And, as a billionaire, there is loads and loads of junk that is incredibly expensive but not actually useful... such as the original WWII helmet of Captain America.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sight, when Ichigo disproves years of study by his non-violent confrontation and agreement with his Inner Hollow Hakuran, Urahara throws out his Visored research, furious that he hadn't found a solution to help the Visored at all.
  • After breaking up with his longtime girlfriend Ran in the Deconstruction Super Fic Dominoes, Intrepid Reporter Kudo Shinichi looks through the photos on his phone and realizes that his now ex-girlfriend had given up their relationship, whether she'd realized it or not, the day she agreed to become Angel and hide her life from him like the rest of his family, visibly represented in his photos by the day she first began wearing her disguised International Super-Hero Association communicator earrings—the same day she decided to quit all of her extracurricular activities sans her new training with Shinichi's father, and the day that marked the beginning of her joining the rest of his family in shaming Shinichi for his interests and activities rather than supporting him. At this realization, Shinichi deletes every trace of her from that day forwards off his phone. Then he deletes every picture of Hakuba, and every picture of his parents, and every communication with any of his ex-girlfriend's superhero team, erasing things faster and faster until his phone is "emptied of everything that wasn’t strictly professional," unable to really articulate why he did this other than their existence on his phone hurt him.
  • In Code Geass-Kallen of the Rebellion, Kallen gets rid of every single piece of memorabilia of her time with the Black Knights, viewing it as nothing but reminders of all of her failures without a single meaningful victory.

    Films — Animated 
  • Up uses this as a central narrative device where Carl associates his house and its contents as his link to his late beloved Ellie. While it's cool how he has it take to the air in the beginning, it eventually becomes obvious that it has become a millstone. When he realizes that Russell and Kevin are more important and need his help, he does not hesitate to throw everything out as so much ballast to enable the house to fly again — although he did (inadvertently) place his and his wife's chairs together in exactly the same position, and although he snatched all the pictures off the walls he put them in a box. At the climax at the villain's defeat, the house is lost in the process, but Carl's loved ones are saved and that's all that matters to him. Of course, it helps he has traded up for a magnificent Dirigible in the process.
    Carl: It's just a house, Russell.
  • This trope is the entire point of Toy Story 3... with the twist being that the story is told from the junk's point of view.
  • In Frozen (2013), during "Let It Go," Elsa casts aside her remaining glove, her coronation mantle, and her crown before conjuring her Snow Queen getup.
  • In The Simpsons Movie, Marge tapes a "Dear John" message for Homer and runs off. The kicker is that she deliberately erases their wedding video in the process, the only item she had saved from the Simpson home before it burned down, thus signifying that she really means it this time: it's over. Of course, it isn't.
  • In Cars, Doc Hudson has three Piston Cups but considers them worthless, as after being injured in an accident the racing community abandoned him. It was the respect and friendship associated with them that really gave them any value. It's brought up again at the end where after Lightning McQueen loses the race in order to help The King to finish; Lightning is celebrated and cheered for stopping on the final lap to help the severely injured King cross the finish line, while all his hated rival has is an empty cup and the crowd's animosity for obviously causing the King's crash in order to win.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Namer is Labyrinth when Sarah is offered the comfort of all her childhood belongings in return for giving up the quest for her baby brother. At first reassured by the familiarity and sentimental value of the possessions — many of which had long since been lost or thrown out by her parents — she suddenly realizes "It's all junk!" By rejecting her childhood memories and everything that reminds her of them, she breaks away from the past and is able to move ahead in the Labyrinth.
  • In National Velvet, a teenage girl, Sarah Brown, works hard to earn money in order to buy a foal her neighbor owns. When she finally has enough, she goes to make the purchase, only to find that the horse has already been sold. Bitterly disappointed, she throws the tin with all her cash into a lake. The symbolism is, of course, that she considers the money worthless in itself — she only obtained it in order to get her horse. It was her aunt that bought the horse as a present for her, and he's in the paddock waiting for Sarah when she gets home. Given what the upkeep of a horse actually costs, the discarded money would have come in handy...
  • In Hook, Captain Hook tricks Peter Pan's son into destroying the watch his father gave to him, by convincing the boy that his father doesn't care about him (it didn't help that the son thought his father favored his sister over him).note 
  • In Titanic (1997), elderly Rose discards the "Heart of the Ocean" diamond which she'd carried around all these years and shown to no one, as while she still cherishes her memories of Jack, she's finally told her tale and no longer needs to have it weigh on her soul anymore. (It might have been nice of her to give it to the guys who spent bazillions looking for the damn thing, instead of dumping it in the ocean, mind you.)
    • In an alternative ending, Rose shows the crew the necklace before throwing it back into the sea. Although they understand why she's doing it, they're still very disappointed.
    • Also, passengers are seen hauling luggage and other prized possessions with them to the lifeboats early on, but once the danger becomes obvious the only things people struggle to take along are life vests. A special exception is made for one of the little girls in Collapsible Lifeboat "D" (the boat Rose gets in and then jumps out of), who is allowed to take her rag doll with her.
  • American History X: After Derek beats up Cameron and fully explains his prison experience to Danny, the two return to their house and methodically remove all Nazi paraphernalia from Danny's room, signifying the full separation between the Vinyards and the local white nationalists.
  • In The Royal Tenenbaums, one of the things keeping one of the characters from getting over the death of his wife is her dog, which is the only thing that survived her plane crash. It's run over and killed in the end, and that along with his increasingly strengthened relationship with his father finally gets him to get over her.
  • At the end of Top Gun, Maverick throws Goose's dog tags into the ocean to symbolize him getting over the loss of his navigator. Of course, it does raise the question of why Maverick, rather than Goose's wife, wound up with them in the first place.
    • A bit of Fridge Brilliance comes into play for those that have been in the military. Dog tags are fairly cheap to make, and many soldiers will have multiple setsnote . Having several sets in pockets or tucked into your shoes guarantee that at least one can survive so that your remains can be identified. Also, given that Goose is a family man, he likely had a set at home for his son to mess with as a toddler (sans the easily breakable chain of course).
  • The Top Gun scene is parodied in Hot Shots!, where Topper has his father's eyes and tosses them into the ocean in an identical scene.
  • It's not always the character that owns it that realizes it's all junk — in the movie Richie Rich, the antagonist goes to incredible lengths to get into the Rich family vault, convinced that it's full of gold, jewels, money, etc. When he finally gets Richie's parents to open up the vault, he finds that it's full of...bowling trophies, tricycles, and baby shoes. Turns out the actual family fortune doesn't exist in some cartoonish Scrooge McDuckian vault, but like any sane wealthy family, is tied up in investments. The Riches firmly believe that A) sentimental value is much more important than fiscal value and B) the best place for money is in a bank, where it'll make some interest. The antagonist, predictably, is annoyed by this healthy and fiscally responsible outlook.
  • Saw III has a brutal forced example. In order to be able to save Halden, Jeff Denlon must turn on an incinerator that will destroy his dead son's toys (which he's been keeping in pristine condition).
  • Citizen Kane uses this as a central theme, of Charles Foster Kane, a man who devotes his life to gaining objects, which moves to treating people like objects and in the end, mere objects is all he has. This is epitomized by the climactic scene after his second wife walks out on him, Kane totally trashes her room like a mindlessly destructive machine rebelling against the superficial materialism that has helped ruin having any real meaning in his life. In a morbid turn of this trope, maybe the only one of his thousands of material objects that might've meant something to him, Rosebud, is burned up at the end of the film by the managers of his estate, with the order of "Throw that junk out!" There's a reason why this movie became the Trope Namer for It Was His Sled.
  • In Inception Cobb no longer cares for the totem top when he is back with his kids.
    • There's a darker interpretation to that. After he spins the top the final time, he doesn't wait to see if it falls. Cobb no longer cares if he's still in a dream or not.
  • If you substitute a zealously pursued goal for a sentimental item, Danny's refusal of the band award at the end of Brassed Off fits the trope pretty well.
    Danny: The truth is I thought it mattered. I thought music mattered. But does it bollocks? Not like people matter.
  • See this scene from the film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in which Brick furiously destroys most of his family's (and his father's) treasured possessions and keepsakes, in a desperate plea for his father to understand the value of love as opposed to possessions or personal wealth.
  • Done in Taxi Driver. After Betsy rejects Travis for taking her to a porno for their date, Travis buys her a bouquet of flowers. She sends them back and he keeps them in his apartment just as they were. They eventually die. When he finally goes off the deep end he's shown burning the flowers in the sink, driving the symbolism home.
  • In The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway's character tosses her cell phone in a fountain when she rejects the cutthroat fashion-magazine world.
  • In Uptown Girls, Molly selling her deceased rock star dad's collection of guitars is an unusual example in that they are sold, not destroyed, but for significantly less than she anticipates and she goes through with the sale just to get rid of them.
  • In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, thief Kevin Caffery risks life, limb, and imprisonment to retrieve the 'lucky ring' his girlfriend Amber had given him: becoming involved in an Escalating War with the tycoon who stole it. At the end of the film, Amber presents him with the ring, having retrieved it. Amber then presents Kevin with an ultimatum: he can either keep the ring or her, as his obsession with the ring was driving them apart. Kevin considers this for a few minutes, then throws the ring away (where it gets run over by a truck).
  • In Soul Surfer, as part of her 10-Minute Retirement, an angry Bethany gives away all of her surfboards, convinced that the loss of her arm meant that she was unable to surf forever.
  • Jimmy from The Air Up There always wears a basketball championship ring that he earned before his Career-Ending Injury. When he climbs a mountain as part of a Winabi Initiation Ceremony, he throws the ring off the mountain.

  • House of the Scorpion: Towards the the end of his life, the very powerful El Patron, while he's in the hospital, caresses some diamonds that he owns. He references this trope by muttering "in the end they are only rocks." Ultimately averted by him, as his tomb has him buried with all his worldly goods, and his servants, and he damn near has an aneurysm when Matt suggests that he should give things away.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Sirius views everything in 12 Grimmauld Place as junk and would love to burn it all. Unfortunately every last shred of anything in the house is viewed as a Memento MacGuffin and considered far more valuable than Sirius by Kreacher who considers Sirius a traitor to his bloodline and their differing views and Sirius' attempts to clean up contribute to Kreacher betraying him to his death in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
    • Harry goes through this moment with the Elder Wand, after it backfires on Voldemort and gives him the victory. In the movie, he snaps the wand. In the book, he simply puts it back with Dumbledore.
  • Tamora Pierce's novels frequently deal with growing up, and the things we leave behind as a result:
    • Alanna's sword, Lightning, was given to her by the gods in a dramatic scene. Imbued with magic, it was almost a character in itself. However, it is broken in the novel The Woman Who Rides Like A Man and, to repair it, she merges it with an "evil" crystal sword. Lightning is never quite the same afterwards, and Alanna finally abandons Lightning for good when she uses it to kill her nemesis and leaves it embedded in his corpse, to make sure he doesn't resurrect himself. Again. The loss of Lightning coincides with Alanna's acceptance of adulthood and its responsibilities, and the end of her life as a free-roaming teenager/young adult.
    • Protector of the Small uses the pet version of It's All Junk, but in a more gentle manner than usual. When Keladry leaves the palace to begin her apprenticeship as a squire, she leaves behind most of the sparrow flock she took care of as a page. Only a few of the most prominent birds follow Kel on her journey as a squire.
  • In Circle of Magic, this is done to the point of overdose in The Will of the Empress. The now-grown-up quartet of mages, Tris, Daja, Sandry, and Briar, must leave Winding Circle Temple, their home, as no one is allowed to stay there past the age of sixteen without becoming a Dedicate (priest/priestess). The house they grew up in, "Discipline Cottage," is now home to a new generation of troublesome mages. Even more poignantly, Tris leaves their pet dog, Little Bear, at the temple to keep the youngest of the new Discipline residents company. The Circle must begin their adulthood with little left but their magic and each other.
  • Discworld:
    • In Carpe Jugulum, the pastor Mightily Oats' most valued possession is his copy of the Book of Om. However, when Granny Weatherwax is freezing to death, he uses the book to start a fire. This is a major step on his journey to becoming a Badass Preacher
    • Initially played straight in Wintersmith, when Granny Weatherwax makes Tiffany get rid of her precious silver horse pendant to stop the Wintersmith from following her. Of course, it finds its way back to her. Later averted; once the danger is over, Granny offers to teach Tiffany all her magical secrets if she'll throw it away. She refuses, which is probably the right answer.
  • The novella The Pearl ends with the titular object being tossed back into the ocean after the struggle over it cost the life of the main character's son.
  • In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, aspiring writer Francie keeps all her beautiful "A" Compositions. When her father dies, she starts writing more realistic stories about her father and how despite his faults, namely alcoholism, he was a good man. Her English teacher calls these stories "sordid" and tells her to burn them. Instead, she realizes the "good" compositions were cliched and insincere, and burns them.
  • The Three Musketeers has the sapphire ring Milady gives to d'Artagnan. It was a gift from her ex-husband Athos who inherited it from his mother. The ex protests quite a lot when d'Artagnan tries to restore the ring to him and ultimately sells it.
  • In Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, the traumatized soldier's foreign wife takes off her wedding ring after coming to England to be with him, only to have him descend into madness and neglect her. She tells him that it was because it doesn't fit in her finger anymore (she's lost weight because of their poverty), but he sees it as the end of their marriage. Somewhat subverted in that she didn't destroy the ring (not that one), but we're told puts it away in her purse instead.
  • The Boyhood of Grace Jones shows the titular tomboy winning a gold ring for "Best Female Student" at the end of the year. She is proud and pleased until the Best Male Student is announced, and it's a kid that never stands out in any way. Grace realizes that the two of them were merely chosen as the "students who caused the least problems for teachers," and is so disappointed that she not only gets rid of the ring but forbids her proud parents from even mentioning it.
  • In The Wheel of Time, an elaborate version of this is part of Aviendha's leaving the Maidens of the Spear to become a Wise One. She has to destroy her uniform and spears and have them made into tools and children's toys, which she must give away herself. Since she hadn't wanted to become a Wise One but was required to as a channeler, they very much were not all junk to her.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain: In series finale The High King, Fflewdur burns his magical harp (whose strings break whenever Fflewdur tells a lie) to provide a fire for him and his friends when they are about to freeze to death. As the harp burns, Fflewdur tries to downplay the loss and claims he's happy to be rid of it. As he says it, two of the harp's strings break.
  • In The Grapes of Wrath, as Ma Joad gets ready for the move to California, she burns several small items of sentimental value (a postcard, a souvenir from a World's Fair) in a combination of bringing only what is necessary and breaking with the past.
  • Michael Shayne's Long Chance opens with Hardboiled Detective Shayne, grief-stricken after the death of his wife Phyllis, deciding to both quit the private detective business and leave Miami. As he's packing up his stuff he looks at the mementoes he's kept from various cases and decides that it's all "mere rubbish."

    Live-Action TV 
  • At the end of Primeval Series 2, Nick Cutter tears up his photograph of lost love Claudia Brown, which was the last proof she existed at all. It is patched back together after he himself dies.
  • On The George Lopez Show, George inherits a watch from his deadbeat father, and his father's will also asks George not to go to the funeral, in order to keep his father's secret about having abandoned his wife and son. Because George is offended by the latter request, he destroys the watch in a fit of rage. Then he talks to his mother about it, and it is clear that he hadn't even considered the idea that it might have been better to sell the watch, and he clearly regrets overlooking this possibility.
  • Return of Ultraman: In the pilot episode after the death of budding racecar driver Hideki Go while saving a child from a kaiju attack, the Sakatas decide to burn Hideki's prized racecar, symbolizing how Hideki's dream died together with him... of course, later in the episode, Ultraman Jack resurrects Hideki to use him as a host, and Hideki discovered what his friends have done, much to his chagrin.
  • Taken to extremes on Track Me If You Can, a Discovery Channel program on how to avoid surveillance. The show's host demonstrates how to abandon your old life and go into hiding, by discarding everything that might tie you to your former identity: home, job, relationships, electronics, habits, preferences. Tossing out old mementos is just the beginning on this show.
  • White Goods is a virtually unknown ITV drama (with a surprisingly awesome cast including Lenny Henry, Ian McShane, Rachel Weisz, Chris Barrie) about a severe falling-out between two families after they win a bunch of stuff in a game show and can't agree on how to divide up the loot. Lenny Henry's character eventually decides to burn the lot.
  • An interesting contrast occurs in the Battlestar Galactica (2003) episode "Final Cut": Adama finds some old Caprican magazines left in a Raptor from a civilian run. Racetrack tells that she was gonna throw them away but Adama tells her to put them somewhere safe instead.
  • An interesting case in True Blood. Back during the first season, after Gran is killed, Sookie seems to get violently attached to a pie that Gran had made, including rather violently screaming at a woman who took it out of the fridge to make room. A little later, when the denial and anger wear off, and acceptance starts to creep in, Sookie sits down and forces herself to eat the whole thing as a way of letting go.
  • Married... with Children: One story arc featured Al temporarily leaving Peg. Marcy then encouraged Peg to destroy everything in the house that linked her to Al. It stopped when Peg unknowingly or not destroyed a gift from Marcy.
  • Hoarders: The goal of the show's intervention is essentially this trope on a much larger scale, and the more successful hoarders are eventually able to recognize that most of their possessions are this. Essentially, the mental illness that leads to hoarding is the inability to distinguish truly valuable or useful items from junk.
  • Clean Sweep was a TLC show with a similar premise, but with less extreme cases.
  • Several regenerations in Doctor Who result in trademarks of the Doctors getting trashed or snubbed, usually clothing items:
    • When the Second Doctor gets up from the floor after first regenerating, the First Doctor's Ring of Power slips off his smaller new fingers and clatters to the floor. Ben points this out and takes it as evidence that the man cannot be the Doctor.
    • The Fourth Doctor regenerates with a tamed, tidy, well-combed, dandyish hairstyle that is almost identical to the one worn by the Third Doctor. The very first thing he does, before he even opens his eyes, is ruffle it up with his hand into his trademark messy curls.
    • At the start of the Fourth Doctor's regeneration story ("Logopolis"), the TARDIS begins to break down. Particularly, he is forced at one point to jettison Romana's bedroom (a recently departed companion who had stayed with him for at least decades of in-universe time).
    • When the Fifth Doctor is wandering through the TARDIS in a delirious state after regenerating, he unravels the Fourth Doctor's signature super-long scarf as he goes, eventually working it down to nothing.
    • The Fifth Doctor's 'death' storyline leads to him — and his pristine white and cream outfit — getting progressively more tattered and dirty, eventually being filthy rags by the time of his demise.
    • The Seventh Doctor begins his Costume-Test Montage with an emphasised shot of him very firmly tossing the Sixth Doctor's coat into a trunk. He then tries and discards a sequence of costumes similar to those belonging to other Doctors — a pastiche of the Fourth Doctor's outfit (he aggressively slings the hat at the floor), the frilly-shirt-and-smoking-jacket Third Doctor look, the Fifth Doctor's coat and cricket whites, and then finally the Second Doctor's fur coat — which he throws off to reveal his own outfit.
    • The Eleventh Doctor's regeneration from the Tenth, which also signified a new showrunner taking over, leads to him destroying the Russell T. Davies-era TARDIS (which changes into a new version) and shredding the Tenth Doctor's clothes to ragged ribbons.
    • Just before the Eleventh Doctor regenerates into the Twelfth, he takes off his bowtie and there is a significant shot of it falling to the floor before the Twelfth Doctor suddenly bursts into existence.
    • At one point in the Twelfth Doctor's first episode, he is disguising himself with a mask made out of human skin. The face of the mask looks just like the Eleventh Doctor's.
  • One of the saddest cases of Kitchen Nightmares USA was a man named John who ran a pizzeria in Brooklyn, NY, "Mama Maria's/Sal's Pizzeria", named for his late mother and father. It's very evident that John has not come to terms with losing his parents and refused to change anything in the following years out of fear of unraveling their memory. He even kept a specials board that hasn't been updated in 40 years and none of the items on it are specials anymore. Gordon tries to plead with him to abandon this mentality and let go of the past, which he thankfully does. The pizzeria is still open and getting positive reviews, by the way.
  • An early episode of The Office (US) had Michael explain how he bought himself a "World's Best Boss" mug. In "Michael's Last Dundies" when he's close to leaving, his employees present him with a "Word's Best Boss" trophy. The next scene shows him throwing out the mug.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit features a transgender girl who is suspected of having assaulted her father, who couldn't accept that his child was a girl. The father carried an old photograph of her as a boy with a toy firetruck, years before she came out as trans. When she is given the photo by the detectives, she tears it and states simply "I hated that truck."
  • An episode of How I Met Your Mother has Ted helping Marshall and Lily pack for their move to Rome. Ted insists they take an old, long worn-out beanbag chair from college since he claims it holds all their memories. After calming Robin down who thinks the universe is telling her not to marry Barney he says "maybe a chair's just a chair" and texts Lily telling her to get rid of it.
  • The Sopranos: After his wife Karen's untimely passing, Bobby Baccalieri just can't bring himself to eat her last frozen ziti, as it's the last dish she ever cooked and to him it serves as a memorial to her. It takes new partner Janice's cajoling for Bobby to finally eat the ziti and move on.
  • Touched by an Angel: In "The Christmas Gift", an old violin-maker learns that his son is gay and, on top of that, is dying of AIDS, leading him to destroy the unfinished violin he was making especially for him. At the end, it's miraculously been repaired and finished.
  • The Musketeers: At the end of the first season, after sparing Milady's life and telling her to leave Paris, Athos throws away the locket she gave him when they were married. However, this proves to be a Subverted Trope - as the next season indicates, you can't force closure by getting rid of a memento, and Athos is still haunted by their past and hasn't remotely moved on.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Extra Innings", Ed Hamner has been collecting baseball cards since he was a child and has dozens, possibly hundreds. His wife Cindy doesn't see the point and accuses him of wasting money on them. Ed later decides to use the Monte Hanks baseball card to travel back to 1910 for the third time instead of giving a speech at VectroComp as Cindy had arranged. In revenge, Cindy burns all of his cards one by one, telling Paula that each one represents a day that Ed wasted.
  • Many customers on Pawn Stars come in to sell family heirlooms because they have no sentimental attachment to the item and are more interested in whatever they can get for it.
  • Young Sheldon: In "The Wild and Woolly World of Nonlinear Dynamics", Missy starts to throw away her toys and tearing her posters off the walls. It's later revealed that it's because Marcus is dating a seventh grader, and Missy believes she needs to act more older to get Marcus back.
  • Money Heist: Invoked by the Professor in a flashback from the Season 2 premiere, when he explains to Berlin why he's burning sentimental photos and other paper objects with correlation to his father in the countryhouse's chimney furnace; they would become easy evidence leading to the Professor's own identity, not to mention that they could potentially make nostalgic mesmerizing get in his way during his occupation for the heists. Later in the episode, the ashes from the objects turn out to be important in the present, as forensic officer Alberto Vicuña figures that they're the only legitimate evidence correlating for the heist team's plans and identities among the Orgy of Evidence the Professor had left in the countryhouse by that time.

  • In James Keelaghan's song "Kiri's Piano," Kiri Ito loves to play piano, and the narrator loves to listen to her play from outside her house. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the narrator is one of the soldiers who escorts Kiri and her family into internment camps. As he helps tag the Itos' belongings for auction, he plans to take the piano for himself.
    But Kiri had not left it there for me to take as plunder
    She'd rolled it down onto the dock and on into the harbor
    That old upright in strangers' hands was a thought she couldn't bear
    So she consigned it to the sea to settle the affair
  • Graham Kendrick's "Knowing You, Jesus" begins with this:
    All I once held dear, built my life upon,
    All this world reveres and wars to own,
    All I once thought gain, I have counted loss,
    Spent and worthless now, compared to this:
    Knowing Jesus, knowing You,
    There is no greater thing.
    You're my all, You're the best,
    You're my joy, my righteousness,
    And I love You, Lord.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Phillipians, goes through a whole list of qualifications that make him impeccably Jewish, then says it's all worthless compared to Christ's salvation (different translations use words like rubbish, garbage, or even dung):
    "Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ."
    Epistle to the Philippians, ch. 3, v. 8

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, it's become canon that a sorcerer has to make a sacrifice to enter the art, and increasingly greater sacrifices to go deeper into the art. Then again, these sacrifices don't have to be negative; the first sorceress is said to have learned the art by sacrificing her indecisiveness.
  • Warhammer 40,000: When the Primarch Roboute Guilliman exited the stasis cell he'd been in ever since the Heresy, he noted that the Ultramarines collected everything he'd ever been in contact with as a holy relic, even and especially if they didn't know what it was for. Thus some of the venerated holy objects were just trash.

  • In Avenue Q, Princeton gives Kate his lucky penny. When Kate believes Princeton had stood her up, she throws it off the top of the Empire State Building. Ironically, Kate inadvertently gets her revenge from this, since Lucy (who caused the whole mess) was passing by, and the penny nails Lucy in the head, knocking her into a coma.
  • Towards the end of the Australian play Summer of the 17th Doll, "Roo" Webber destroys the eponymous kewpie doll in a fit of rage, in bitter realization of this trope.
  • In The Cherry Orchard, Ranevskaya's estate and the orchard itself serve as a link to her happier childhood. In contrast, for Lopahin and the other former peasants and serfs, it serves as a reminder of their miserable past. Ranevskaya isn't really able to let go of the past until Lopahin buys the estate in a mandatory auction and gets ready to chop down the orchard in order to put summer cottages there, forcing Ranevskaya to find happiness elsewhere.
  • In David Conte's opera adaptation of The Gift of the Magi, the aria "Jim's Soliloquy" centers around this trope as Jim explains why he sold his heirloom pocket watch to buy combs for his wife's hair. He sings that he had treasured the watch as a reminder of his dead father, its previous owner, and as a symbol of his own manhood since it was bequeathed to him when he came of age; but now he realizes that his father's memory needs no physical reminder to live on in his heart and that what makes him a "man" are his actions, namely providing and caring for his wife.
  • In the opening of the stage version of The Little Mermaid (1989), Eric tosses various royalty-related treasures overboard in protest of his impending coronation. One of these is a fork that Ariel retrieves (found in a sunken ship in the film) and Scuttle identifies as a "dinglehopper".

    Video Games 
  • LISA: The Pointless - Scholar of the Wilbur Sin: If Alex joins the Infinity Franchise, then he silently discards of Joel's gun and hat after looting them off his corpse.
  • Complete The King of Fighters '94 as the Ikari Warriors and in their ending, Heidern tears a photo of his wife and daughter in two, now able to live with himself after avenging their deaths.
  • In Pool of Radiance: Return to Myth Drannor, Myth Drannor's resident baelnorn (an elven lich whose existence is tied to a place of power like Myth Drannor) made a deal with the Big Bad by offering her the secrets of Myth Drannor because the Big Bad promised to restore Myth Drannor to its former glory. Near the end of the game, the baelnorn has a Heel Realization and helps to foil the Big Bad. As he puts it, "The past I knew is gone. But the future can still be saved." This is especially poignant since baelnorns only exist to preserve and protect the past.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog, who had just spent his entire game on a Quest for Identity, ultimately concludes the past doesn't matter. To drive the point home, he tosses away a photo of his deceased childhood friend, Maria, while saying "Goodbye forever, Shadow the Hedgehog."
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, as Hien is preparing for the liberation of Doma, he reminisces about the past and ultimately decides to flood Doma Castle for a great tactical advantage, sacrificing a bit of the past so that the Domans have a better chance at freedom.
  • In Batman: The Telltale Series, Alfred offers Bruce Wayne tickets, of the show which his parents were murdered, to remind him of who he is. The protagonist has the option to tear them up.
  • At the end of Episode 1 of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, Rachel reveals a picture of her and her father gone hiking in Mt. Hood, where she had broken her arm and James had carried her three miles to a car; Rachel had carried the picture ever since as a sign of their extremely close relationship. When she thinks she sees James kissing another woman at the park, she loses all respect for him; she sets fire to the picture and tosses it into a trashcan, before, in a fit of rage, kicking said trashcan over, starting the forest fire that forms an important part of the plot in the rest of the episodes.


    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Aang's glider-staff is one of his few remaining links to his dead-and-gone people, and was a personal gift from his father figure; it's not just tremendously useful, it's deeply sentimental. But at the start of Season 3, Aang and friends have to go undercover in the Fire Nation to prepare for their best chance at routing the now-unopposed power, and his glider-staff gets busted up badly. Accepting his inability to repair it, and that it would have too easily given away his identity, he stabs it into some rocks near a lava flow, where it bursts into flames. Even after he gets a new glider-staff later, it will never be that glider-staff (even if it does have a snack compartment).
    • Zuko also burns some family pictures while he, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee discuss the ways in which their respective childhoods sucked.
  • DuckTales (2017): In the season one finale "The Shadow War", Huey, Dewey, and Louie are so mad at their Uncle Scrooge they throw out the treasures they'd collected during their adventures with them: Huey his "I Survived Mount Neverrest" T-shirt, Dewey the trophy he and Scrooge won in "The Missing Links of Moorshire!", and Louie the golden khopesh from "The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra!". Louie being Louie, he's reluctant to part with his treasure, and he even stops to retrieve it when the kids head off to help rescue Scrooge from the clutches of Magica DeSpell.
  • In an early episode of The Simpsons Marge reveals that when she was a teen, she used to paint portraits of Ringo Starr, only to be ridiculed by her art teacher. She left the paintings in the attic (except for one she mailed to Ringo) and never lifted a paintbrush again for years, until Lisa located the paintings and encouraged her to continue paintings, and after Ringo mailed her back to thank her for the painting. Turns out Ringo has been spending his post-Beatles years answering all the fan mail that piled up during the height of Beatlemania.
    Ringo: P.S.: Please forgive the lateness of my reply.
    • In "The Boys of Bummer", as part of his Humiliation Conga, Bart tears off his posters of The J. Geils Band from his wall after Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney sing an insulting version of their song "Love Stinks".
    • Averted in one episode where, in an attempt to safeguard the family's memory trinkets by storing one item of choice from each family member in a fireproof safe ends up destroying all of them because Lisa, Homer, and Bart's items (a Malibu Stacy car, a Krusty talking doll, and a bottle of novelty cologne called "Scent of A Wookie") ends up interacting and causes a fire inside the safe, destroying both the items and Marge's family photo album. Marge is so distraught over the loss that she forces the family to re-enact the photos, including baby pictures and once-in-a-lifetime events like the Star Trek: Voyager finale party or Homer going into space. The entire plot is eventually forgotten (as per usual) when Homer notices Duffman out on a date with Boobarella in one of the photos and becomes a paparazzo.
  • Played surprisingly straight on Futurama, when Fry decides not to resurrect his dog's fossilized corpse. Though a form of subversion does appear, it's a rather unhappy one the reason Fry decides not to do so is that he believes his dog lived a full life after he (Fry) was frozen, however the audience finds out that his dog never did anything but keep waiting for Fry. This was eventually retconned in the first Futurama DVD movie ( A time copy of Fry eventually returns to the 21st century and resumes his role as the dog's master before disappearing and putting on a new identity as a whale expert named Lars). Many fans speculate the retcon was done exclusively because of how horrifically sad the original ending was.
  • In the season five premiere of The Venture Brothers, Dean burns his learning bed, along with many of his childhood relics, in an attempt to become his own man.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Flight to the Finish", during her Heroic BSoD over her inability to fly, Scootaloo tears down her Rainbow Dash posters and throws her scooter in the trash can.
    • In "Trade Ya!", Twilight plans to trade away her old spell books but changes her mind upon realizing their true value. One of the books happens to be a copy of Daring Do and the Sapphire Stone, which she gives to Rainbow Dash in consolation for her failed trade for a first edition copy. Double subverted when the books are destroyed along with the library at the climax of the season finale.
    • In "Twilight's Kingdom - Part 2", Tirek claims that both his medallion and his own brother, who had originally given the medallion to him, are worthless due to his brother Scorpan betraying him centuries ago. After betraying Discord and draining him of his magic, he uses this to explain that giving the medallion to Discord as a symbol of gratitude was an empty gesture. However, when Discord gives the medallion to Twilight after his Heel Realization, it becomes the final key to the Chest of Harmony.
  • The Bob's Burgers episode "Sea Me Now" ends with Teddy burning the boat he made to impress his ex-wife in a beautiful moment quickly ruined by the Belcher's pointing out a lot of their stuff was still in there including the steering wheel of his car.
  • An episode of The Fairly OddParents! opens with Timmy, Chester, and AJ having turned 10, and deciding that they're too old for their toys, so they're disposing of them. Timmy is a little reluctant to get rid of his talking Crimson Chin action figure because, even though he's outgrown it, he had a lot of fun with it. After the plot of the episode is over (which revolved around how miserable Tooty's life as Vicky's sister is), he ends up wishing for the toy to become indestructible, for its catchphrases to insult Vicky, and gives it to Tooty as a memento that Vicky can't ruin for her.
  • Played with in South Park. When Cartman gets his entire school mad at him for dragging down their average health scores, someone makes fun of him for still playing with his dolls. Shortly after this, his dolls begin turning up "dead" in increasingly bizarre ways (nailed to a tree, set on fire, strapped to a bomb) and Cartman decides it's a classmate who is doing it out of revenge. It turns out that the culprit is Cartman himself, pretending that it was one of his dolls who was murdering the others because it "understood" that it was time for Cartman to grow up and get rid of his dolls. Cartman then shoots the final doll at its own "request", so that the other kids would think he was "cool".
  • Subverted at the very beginning of The Owl House. Luz puts a fantasy novel into a garbage can while her mother is watching... and then goes to retrieve it as soon as her mother is gone. In fact, she's willing to do more than this to get back the book, because she immediately finds that an owl is trying to steal the book and she must run after the owl to take back her book.
  • Duncanville: In "Undacuva Mutha", Annie burns her police DVD collection after she's kicked off a murder case because she's a meter maid and not a "real cop".
  • King of the Hill: In "Pretty, Pretty Dresses", Bill suffers an emotional breakdown around Christmas time, since that was when his ex-wife Lenore left him, and after a Bungled Suicide attempt, Hank, Dale, and Boomhauer all take turns watching over him. When Hank sees that Bill had bought gifts for Lenore, Hank smashes them in an attempt to snap him out of his despair. Instead, this pushes Bill past his breaking point, as he begins thinking he is Lenore himself.
  • Western Animation/Jumanji has a more sentimental version: In the episode "Gift," Peter tries to give Alan their dead father's pocket knife as a birthday present, only for Judy to apologetically take it back, explaining that it's too important for her to part with. The events of the episode prove how much Alan thinks of them as family, however, and she returns it to him at the end (thus also solving their clue: Release the thing you most adore, it comes back closer than before).

    Real Life 
  • Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke Wellington was an accomplished violinist in his youth. The last thing he did before leaving his home to start his military career was to burn his violin.
  • Many people have this experience—or desperately try to avoid having it, and end up with too much junk—while doing "spring cleaning".
  • Traumatised by the First World War, the war poet Siegfried Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the River Mersey.
    • Though in that case, the symbolism of the Military Cross was irrelevant. He simply wanted to destroy something for the catharsis, and that was what was most readily to hand.
  • "Narnia" author, C S Lewis as a child wrote regular stories about an imaginary world called "Boxen" with his brother, basing it on the imagined personas of their stuffed toys. Eventually, they decided to ceremoniously bury all the toys and leave childhood behind. Though one could say the world lived on, in a sense, since many of the concepts were used in the Narnia works.
    • Also, this statement suggests that he may have regretted the act:
      When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
  • Muhammad Ali, an American professional boxer, activist, philanthropist, and who is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, wrote in his 1975 autobiography that shortly after his return from the Rome Olympics where he won a gold medal, he and a friend were refused service at a "whites-only" restaurant and were attacked by a white gang; as a result, he threw his medal into the Ohio River.
  • Marie Kondo and her memetic "Does this spark joy?" has inspired people to take a good long look at all their possessions, one-by-one ask themselves if each individual object sparks joy, and throw away anything that doesn't. Reportedly she, her book, and her show were so successful in inspiring this that thrift stores were inundated with donations.
  • Just like the Pawn Stars example above, people who receive family heirlooms might not have the attachment to them that their relatives did and sell them for cash.