Follow TV Tropes


Playing with Puppets

Go To

Often when someone is under control of the mind or the body, the controller will force them to do things that either don't advance the Evil Plan at all or are simply very inefficient in doing so. This is because getting things done isn't the point. The point is to torment or humiliate the victim, or the onlookers if the victim isn't aware, by making it abundantly clear just how helpless and owned they are.

Sometimes the controller claims they're testing the extent of their control, but it will never be the most reliable way of doing that, either; the purest examples are clearly For the Evulz. If the victim is only made to Kneel Before Zod, they got off very lucky indeed; the Power Perversion Potential here is all too obvious, not to mention the possibility of forcing the victim to injure himself or someone else. A less malicious mind-controller might just force his zombie slave to perform routine manual labor or perform a dance for simple entertainment, without the motive of triumphant gloating about how he has obliterated someone else's free will. Of course, any mind-controller who would be simply indifferent about his victims' free will might ultimately seem to be even more alien to the audience's normal value system than a Card-Carrying Villain who enjoys forcing a slave to kneel before him.

Compare Hypno Fool, which is more benign and usually accidental. Has no relations with Consulting Mister Puppet, which is about literal puppets.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch is usually relatively responsible and economical with his Hypnotic Eyes, but during one of many emotional fits, he commands some drug dealers to do push ups, squats, handstand (he quite dislikes PE class), dance, howl and clap. The catch is that following these order is permanent and forces the victim's body beyond its limits if necessary to carry out the command. And Lelouch did not specify a time limit.

    Comic Books 
  • In Earth X, the Skull takes over the minds of everyone in America and most of the world's heroes. He's too inexperienced to do this on that vast a scale, but he has great fun with his superpowered army — especially pretty girls like MaydayParker. He is, however, squicked when Spiders Man and the Iron Maiden profess love for each other, and makes them stop.
  • In the first issue of Brit, the villain Master Mind takes control of hundreds of people on a stretch of highway and forces them to dance.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ella Enchanted: When Edgar demonstrates to Ella that he's aware of her curse (which forces her to obey any order she's given), he makes her touch her toes, jump up and down on the spot, and dance the Hokey-Pokey before getting on with his actual plan.
  • Used for a Mythology Gag in the Thunderbirds movie, when the Hood forces one of the Tracy family to walk "like a puppet on a string".

  • Spider Robinson's Callahan's Lady. A villain uses her Mind-Control Device to force the people in Lady Sally's House to perform disgusting and embarrassing acts for her own amusement.
  • Before turning the principal into Captain Underpants, George and Harold made him pretend to be a chicken and give them money with their hypnotic ring.
    • And the boys got up to this because the principal is a cranky slave-driver who doesn't like kids and does this with his authority when they put even a breath out of line.
  • The Imperius Curse in Harry Potter, doesn't usually fit the trope because normally it's used to put moles in the Ministry, but Voldemort does try to use it to humiliate Harry at one point (in Goblet of Fire) and earlier in the same book is the antics in defense against the dark arts class when fake Moody is teaching them to resist said curse. Justified as it's stated that one has to enjoy dominating others for the curse to be at its most effective.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: "Planet of the Spiders" has the Great One taking control of the Doctor's body and forcing him to march in a circle. An especially frightening example as this is arguably the first time we've seen the Doctor so powerless and utterly dominated by one of his foes.
  • Farscape has Scorpius taking control of Grunchlk's body with a Mind Probe, and forcing him to eat two of his own fingers — partly for Scorpy's amusement, but mostly to get him to talk.
  • Heroes has Eric Doyle, whose superpower is controlling other people's actions with his mind. He uses this power to force Claire, Sandra, and Meredith into a twisted three-person game of Russian Roulette, among other things.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Plato's Stepchildren": The Platonians use their telekinetic powers to make the Enterprise crew members act in absurd and humiliating ways.
  • This trope was exaggerated for the creepy factor in Torchwood: Children of Earth when the 456 took over every child on Earth to make them Speak in Unison to deliver the aliens' ultimatum.
  • White Rabbit Project has Kari do this with sadistic glee to Tory in the Mind Control theory segments in the Super Power Tech episode.

  • In A Very Potter Musical, Voldemort and Quirrell use the Imperio spell to make Harry dance during the song "Dance Again".

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • In Journey of the Cartoon Man, when Oswald Sherzikien first puts on the Glove of the Animator, he uses it to make Roy, Karen, Valerie, and Simon dance.
  • Alucard from Hellsing Ultimate Abridged uses mind control to get a penthouse suite in a Brazilian hotel, and also to kick out its former would-be inhabitant (Chevy Chase). He then demonstrates this trope in a fashion that disgusts Pip.
    Alucard: White Chicks was amazing...

    Western Animation 
  • In Disney's Aladdin, when Jafar takes over Agrabah, he humiliates Sultan and Jasmine with People Puppets. One of his cut songs involved doing this to Aladdin.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The water tribe member who is teaching Katara starts doing this with Aang and Sokka, both to demonstrate how powerful bloodbending is and to force Katara to use bloodbending to stop her.
  • Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes, "Puppet Master": Puppet Master, who has just discovered what his radioactive clay can do, makes Reed's powers go out of control on TV.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: Ben casually defeats Mike Morningstar by possessing him as Ghostfreak, and takes the time to invoke Stop Hitting Yourself and doing a silly dance.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "The Twin Factor", Drakken has Kim dress up in Shego's clothes and Shego wear a pink apron and clean the lair.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series — Under the control of a hypnotizing experiment he just captured, Experiment 625 and Hamsterviel force Gantu to: eat a peanut butter sandwich with sardines, hop on one foot and say 'blah, blah, blah', dance like a ballerina and say he's a 'big blubberhead', stick out his tongue and make spitting noises, and balance himself on a rolling pin while juggling sandwiches and a cake on his head... with a cherry on top. Lilo herself does this to her rival, Mertle, by using the same experiment to make her act like a chicken.
  • Quack Pack: Huey does this when he accidentally gets braces laced with mind-control head gear. He forces his brothers to pull their own underwear and act like monkeys, and then orders Donald to recite William Shakespeare's soliloquies.
  • On The Simpsons, the bully Nelson is fond of grabbing his victim (typically Milhouse), forcing him to slap himself, and taunting, "Hey, why are you hitting yourself?" This is, of course, a way of Playing With Puppets when you don't have any phlebotinum, and the idea came from bullies in real life.
    • In one of the "Treehouse of Horror" specials, which parodies Harry Potter, he does use phlebotinum in the form of a magic wand, and he engages in the same mocking of Milhouse for "hitting himself."
  • In Teen Titans, Slade gains access to Terra's powers via a special suit with neural interfaces, supposedly to help her control her powers. But later when Terra starts to have second thoughts, he uses the suit to practically hijack her body and forces her to fight her former Love Interest while she's clearly in distress.


Video Example(s):


Ben makes Mike dance

Ben as Ghostfreak possesses Mike Morningstar, and forces him to smack himself and do a silly dance. He leaves Mike's horrified expression intact.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlayingWithPuppets

Media sources: