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Meat Puppet

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"And if at first they think it's strange, they won't think twice if they don't have a brain!"
"I'm not too fond of getting my hands dirty; instead, I take over the minds of others. They do everything I say, like good little puppets."

Not to be confused with People Puppets — or a certain rock band from Phoenix — a Meat Puppet is a biological and (usually) living Host that has been taken control over by a Puppeteer Parasite, Body Snatcher, or similar character, be it through biological means, science, or occultic sorcery. The attempt to control a potential Meat Puppet in such a manner either results in Mind Control, Body Control, or Demonic Possession. Compare to Empty Shell.

The purpose of a Meat Puppet is usually to act as a tool for the controller, ranging from basic slaves to intricately placed spies, sometimes also being used as a "Seeing Eye Dog" if the controller can remotely view through the puppet's senses. Generally, a Meat Puppet is a Faceless Goon, used as a Meat Shield, or simply becomes a brainwashed Mook that's expendable to a villain or antihero in control of it.

The following are special types of Meat Puppets chosen for specific purposes:

  • Big Dumb Body — A meat puppet that holds little intelligence but is desirable for its physical prowess and durability.
  • Living Bodysuit — when a host is chosen as a disguise for reasons of secrecy and espionage.
  • Wetware Body — a biological body possessed by a computer.
  • Willing Channeler — a Host who "wants" to be controlled, or at least isn't against having their body used by someone (or something) else.

Not to be confused with the Forum Speak term for someone who posts on another user's behalf.


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    Comic Books 
  • Immortal Hulk: The Leader gains the ability to hijack people thanks to his stay in the Below Place, including Rick Jones, then the Green Scar Hulk. Though after three bodies he starts to get distracted from splitting his attention four ways.
  • Nova: The Eldritch Abomination Nightmare Rich encounters on his first visit to Knowhere likes to turn people into these, starting with an entire team of heroes called the Luminals. Side-effect, they tend to explode if grazed with a gravimetric beam.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): For his final confrontation with Artemis and Diana the White, Magician uses magic to override and physically alter Cassie Arnold and Cheetah into his minions, who attack whomever he directs them at and seem to have no mental capacity of their own. Cassie is killed by the experience, though Cheetah survives.

    Films — Animated 
  • Pokémon: The First Movie. Mewtwo takes control of the local Nurse Joy's mind and uses her as the interface between it and the trainers invited to the island before it reveals itself.

    Films — Live-Action 

Examples by author:
  • George R. R. Martin had a short story in which the corpses of executed criminals were implanted with control chips and sold as industrial equipment. They were only good for certain types of work, because they were somewhat clumsy and required human operators. Much of the plot revolved around the practical and financial issues facing the corpse-driver protagonists.
Examples by work:
  • In Animorphs, people who have been infested by a Yeerk are known as Controllers. The host is fully conscious but unable to move, save for a few seconds of Fighting from the Inside if they're lucky. The Yeerk can read all of the host's thoughts and memories, and communicate them through thought-speak.
  • Two very creepy examples in The Caster ChroniclesSarafine inhabiting Mrs. Lincoln in Beautiful Creatures, and Mrs. English being possessed by the Lilum in Beautiful Chaos.
  • In The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton, the demon Elmek possesses a local priest. When the protagonist demands to know what happened to the real Father Anton, Elmek points out he just stepped on his entrails. Turns out in this case Demonic Possession means ripping out the victim's insides and sitting inside the body, working it like a literal puppet.
  • Imperial Radch: The ancillaries from Ancillary Justice. They're typically made using dissidents from conquered worlds, who have implants shoved into their brains that permanently render them extensions of a ship's AI, obliterating all previous identity. They're used as ground soldiers or anything else that needs a pair of hands. Most people call them corpse soldiers.
  • Old Virginia by Laird Barron has a Humanoid Abomination sitting on the shoulders of various people and using them for transport (a case of being literally hagridden), controlling them through tendrils inserted into their spine. This ends up being the fate of the protagonist as well.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Dead Gorgeous, Mr. Griffith is laid up with a kidney stone. To avoid having Miss Sinclaire expel the Ainsworth girls, their ghost guide Agatha possesses Mr. Griffith and forces him up out of bed.
  • Doctor Who: In "Resolution", the villain controls archaeologist Lin in this fashion, forcing her to build it a new set of armour. After its casing is destroyed, the Dalek recon scout takes over Aaron, Ryan's estranged father.
    Lin: Who are... what are you?
    Creature: I am your pilot now.
    [Lin struggles to pull the creature off her back, only for her hand to be forced back down]
    Creature: Do not fight me. I have control of your body. All brain and motor functions are under my power.
    Lin: Please, no...
    Creature: Silence. See how I control you. Turn. [Lin jerks round to face the mirror] Look. [speaking through her mouth] You are my prisoner now. You are my... puppet.
  • In The Flash (2014), Doctor Alchemy was created by Savitar taking over Julian Albert's mind with the Philosopher's Stone.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: In "Centennial", the captain takes over Claymore's body so he can dance with Mrs. Muir.
  • In Supernatural, demons and angels require vessels to walk the earth. The term "meat puppet" is often used.
    Meg: [possessing Sam] Sam's still my meat puppet. I'll make him bite his tongue off.

    Tabletop Games 


    Video Games 
  • Geist surrounds itself in having the player possess hosts both biological and machine to affect the living world and defeat the Big Bad. There's even a minigame devoted to Ghosts vs Hosts.
  • Ghost Trick: Yomiel can possess and manipulate living creatures the way Sissel manipulates inanimate objects. Aside from his cat the hosts are either unknowing or unwilling, but he can also possess the Empty Shell of his own corpse.
  • The Half-Life series features various types of headcrab creatures that overlap with Zombie Mooks. The headcrabs apparently latch onto the skull of the host, eat their way through it, and then control the new "corpse" while simultaneously mutating it to make it even nastier. The host remains alive and conscious the whole time, of course.
  • The Flood parasites of Halo insert their tendrils into the nervous systems of their host subjects. Afterwards, they control and mutate the host in the same way that headcrabs do.
  • This is the implied case with Millennia from Kagero: Deception II. She never speaks in cutscenes aside from nodding or shaking her head, but exactly how much control the Timemoids are exhibiting over her is up to the player via Dialogue Trees.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, after defeating Cackletta, her defeated spirit takes over the beaten-up body of Bowser and becomes... Bowletta.
  • Mass Effect 2: ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL. Really, Reaper Indoctrination in the ''Mass Effect' series is a mass (no pun intended) version of this.
  • Meat Puppet: Yes, there is a game whose title is the same as this trope, and the game mostly follows the description at the top. Lotos/Lotus Abstraction answered a personal ad that said about "nocturnal missions". She is being controlled by the Puppet Master/Martinet. She is required to make Asshole Victims out of six leaders of the most profitable corporations (also known as ambassadors), and do this in one night, or else the suit that was put on her without her consent will self-destruct and kill her! This is what Martinet is trying to accomplish: the Puppet Master wants to use Lotos to reassemble the fractured genetic key to universal entropy and shut down the universe. That would make Lotos accomplice to the biggest murder of all time a prospect that displeases her greatly. She'd rather save the world instead. You can find out more here.
  • In Oddworld, Abe possesses and controls his enemies in his efforts to save his species from extinction and free them from slavery. Ironically, in Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, secondary antagonist General Dripik refers to Abe as a 'Mudokon Meat-Puppet', without any correlation to the trope.
  • Pain Killer also contains a character who uses mind control to manipulate potential enemy hosts, (and sometimes including allies).
  • Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy refers to mind-controlled soldiers (under the terrorist group called the Movement) as Meat Puppets, and is the Trope Namer in this case.

  • In Chapter Two of Antlers, Colorado, Austin is possessed and used as a vessel by an evil entity that has been bound to a lake for centuries. There's a chapter from Lake-Austin's point of view where it's obvious that the lake has no idea what the limitations of a human body are, or just doesn't care.
  • In Fite!, the Mutali turn out to be just puppets of Skerry.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent gives us the unnerving possibility of this being the ultimate fate of victims of The Plague that resulted in the current After the End setting the characters find themselves in. Be they Beast (animal-based victims), Troll (human-based victims) or Giant (combo-platter critters). As if facing becoming a Body of Bodies and/or Meat Moss Body Horror wasn't enough, you could be trapped and watching yourself attack others for decades.

    Western Animation 
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In the episode "Little Rock of Horrors", a singing meteor monster from outer space crashes in town. It feeds on brains, and convinces Billy to bring him his friends, family and neighbors to feed on. The monster feeds by taking out their brains from their ears, which instead of killing them turns the townspeople into green-eyed, tongue-lolling zombies vulnerable to control to its psychic powers (as pictured above). The more brains it eats, the more backup dancers it can add to the throng.
  • This is an integral part of Irken biology when you delve deeper into the lore of Invader Zim, one that would have been explored in more detail had the show not been cancelled. The Irkens' bodies are just a vessel, their memories and personalities are all contained in the PAKS on their backs. In one episode where we see Zim's birth, at first, he lays on the ground motionless, but the instant the PAK is placed on him, he is able to move and speak. The cancelled episode "Ten Minutes to Doom" would have revealed that the body can only live ten minutes without their PAKS.
  • Steven Universe: It's revealed in "Change Your Mind" that White Diamond has Eye Beams that can turn other Gems into these for her, turning them monochrome in the process. She also happens to think that Steven himself was created to serve as one for his Missing Mom Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond. White is proven wrong when pulling out Steven's gemstone creates a Literal Split Personality of him instead of his mother.