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"Pop!" Goes the Human

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Kitana thinks her opponent is a real blast.

"Thirty pounds of pudding and ham
Eighty steaks with cumin
Stuff 'em all inside of your face
POP! goes the hu-man!"

This is when Inflating Body Gag or Balloon Belly is taken to its logical conclusion. Fill a living organism or some random body part with enough food, water, air, etc. and it will eventually burst. Of course, when this is applied to Death by Gluttony, it's usually Played for Laughs. There is little actual Truth in Television to this, as, while the skin can indeed rupture, it wouldn't do so drastically in most cases. Even barring that, the internal organs you are filling (stomach, lungs, nasal area) would rupture long before the skin itself. Yet in fiction, the rupture is simply measured by the body exploding.

Can sometimes be Nausea Fuel, though in lighter works, the lack of blood and gore may counter this somewhat. Sometimes the body just pops and disappears, though sometimes, the exploding body will shoot the contents it was filled with everywhere, with the actual body parts not showing up. Sometimes the character's explosion is caused by an outside force such as a sharp object. In many cases, the character often regenerates shortly after exploding.

Largely a Discredited Trope, as it was mostly born from an Urban Legend that eating too much would make a person explode, then evolved to other forms of humans popping from overfilling. However, it is still sometimes used in works that are not going for realism, and is a timeless favourite as a Scare 'Em Straight cautionary tale against Gluttony. Also favored in comedy, for the logical reason that it mixes Stuff Blowing Up with Vulgar Humor.

See also The Last Straw, Explosive Decompression.

Not to be confused with Action Bomb (although there are rare cases of overlap), where people pop more like firecrackers than balloons, and on purpose.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers: The eleventh issue has a flashback to Captain Victory's youth where he witnessed his grandfather Blackmass's minions execute King Zarid, the captured leader of a planet they conquered, by forcing him to ingest a compressed air pill, which causes him to inflate like a balloon and explode.
  • A variation that sits halfway between this trope and Explosive Decompression can be found in a Silver Age The Incredible Hulk storynote : at the story's climax, Hulk leads his new friends, a band of mutant humans descended from a Mad Scientist and his mobile deep-sea colony, to the surface. Unfortunately, they realize too late that the mutations they developed to survive at the bottom of the ocean make them overpressurized for the far lighter atmosphere of the surface, and they all explode. Hulk can only watch in horror and weep over the foolishness of father and son, which lead to this whole tragedy.
  • Sullivan's Sluggers: McKee is killed by George Malice when he's grabbed by one of Malice's tentacles. Malice then squeezes McKee until his body bursts.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mr. Creosote (blaaargh) from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. The wafer-thin mint is what finally sets him off. Many of the extras in that scene had no idea what was going on — that large amount of retching and disgusted cries in the background? All genuine.
  • Brenda (heeuurrrk) in Slither, after Grant turns her into a breeding factory for alien brain slugs.
  • The goon who gets a firehose stuck in his mouth in The Naked Gun 2.
    Jane: What happened out there?
    Frank: Nothing! Nothing to worry about. But if I were you, I wouldn't leave until they've had a chance to shampoo the carpets.
  • Big Trouble in Little China. After David Lo Pan's death, Thunder inflates himself by inhaling and finally commits suicide by slicing himself open, causing a Ludicrous Gibs explosion of flesh. Body Horror indeed.
  • Marlena in Cloverfield dies this way after getting bitten by one of the "fleas" that came off the Clover monster. Her death plays out in silouette, as she's pulled behind a screen just before she pops, but even the obscured view is pretty horrifying.
  • One unfortunate Mook in Kick-Ass gets shoved into an industrial microwave and explodes.
  • One of the more inventive deaths in Leprechaun 3 has a woman's breasts, bottom and lips swell until she explodes.
  • Portrait In Crystal has more than one unfortunate human inflating and exploding after having their qi overcharged to excessive levels, with very bloody and graphic results.
  • Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky: This is the fate of victims shot by the corrupt warden's pellet gun. Exhibit A: The Hook-handed Assistant warden.
  • The inept 2003 horror film spoof Scream Bloody Murder has a girl killed by being tied to a chair and inflated to bursting with an airhose put down her throat. Her stupid friend, when finding her, can only goggle in horror instead of, you know, trying to remove the hose.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child has a combination of this and Auto Cannibalism.
  • James Bond examples:
  • The planned (and storyboarded) death for Nauls in The Thing, wherein a tentacle moves up his body and explodes his head.
  • The 51st State has a spectacularly gory version; a brilliant chemist expected to need to kill someone at an upcoming drug deal, so he mixes a cocktail that is stable at room temperature but will explode at about 98.6 degrees. The guy who drinks it basically performs the Mr. Bean "dynamite painting" gag with his guts.
    Ikki: That'll clear your sinuses.
  • At the end of Ready or Not (2019), the surviving members of the Le Domas family — kids included — all get turned into Ludicrous Gibs by Mr. Le Bail after they had failed to sacrifice Grace. Alex, Grace's new husband, is saved for last, just long enough for Grace to tell him that she wants a divorce before he explodes all over her.

  • Stephen Leacock's The New Food: Technology has allowed an entire family's Christmas Dinner to be concentrated down into one small pill, just waiting for water to be added to reconstitute it. Then baby eats the pill.
  • In Stephen King's never-anthologized story "The Blue Air Compressor", Nately shoves the hose of an air compressor down the unfortunate Mrs. Leighton's throat, and overinflates her 'til she bursts.
  • In Jon Agee's collection of palindromes Go Hang A Salami Im A Lasagna Hog, a sister asks her brother "Did Mom pop?" as they're standing by shreds of their mother's body. The brother, holding a pin, then says "Mom did."
  • Aesop's Fables: In "The Frog and the Ox", the frog insists that he can be as big and awe-inspiring as the ox if he just tries hard enough. He inhales air to inflate himself larger and larger, until he explodes.
    Moral: "Self-conceit leads to self-destruction."
  • In The Tin Woodman of Oz, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow and Woot the Wanderer stumble upon a Wacky Wayside Tribe of balloon people called the Loons, who attempt to arrest the trio for trespassing on their town. They defeat the Loons by popping them with needles and leaving them as deflated bags of skin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One CSI episode had a couple of guys who were out hunting. One gets the bright idea to try something with a device used to quickly detach skin from carcasses. He dies from blowing up and rupturing things inside. It’s a rare non-murder case for the crew.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: In what was probably a Shout-Out to the Ant-Man/Thanos joke fan theory mentioned under "Other", The Atom took out Rasputin much the same way — although he went in through his mouth. As an "Encore", Rasputin was technically already dead and thus couldn't be killed, but he could be reduced to bloody gunk — which, while still conscious, couldn't actually do anything to harm anyone.
  • MythBusters tested the "Little Mikey's stomach ruptured from a mixture of Pop Rocks and soda" myth. It failed. It turns out it's pretty much impossible for the digestive tract to overinflate thanks to the large orifices at either end specifically designed for releasing gas. When the ends were tightly sealed off, they actually did get their stomach model to pop, but doing that to a human would kill them from suffocation long before any explosion happened.
  • In one episode of In Living Color!, Oprah Winfrey eats so much during her show that she inflates, floats above the audience and explodes in a shower of food and confetti.
  • Similarly, an episode of Mad TV spoofed on Oprah. In the sketch, she was depicted as hugely fat, but hid it with some magic cameras. When she discovered that she was being filmed with the wrong camera, she goes berserk and starts to swell, then explodes all over the audience.
  • Happened in the original version and the remake of Brazilian soap Saramandaia, which was a Fantasy Kitchen Sink (the author had one or more serious work censored by the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, so he deliberatedly wrote an all-fantastic soap as a veiled protest). Dona Redonda (literal translation: Ms. Round) was a well-known glutton woman. One day, she ate so much that she entered Balloon Belly mode and literally exploded.
  • A couple of these happened on 1000 Ways to Die:
    • Happened to a carjacker in one segment when he tried to steal a truck. The boss of the driver shoved the jacker against the truck, and he accidentally wound up getting an air pump stuck in his ass. The pump blew him up like a balloon until he exploded.
    • A female scuba diver who was recovering from the bends suffered this via explosive decompression when a clueless janitor opened the door to the pressurized chamber she was in order to clean it.
  • A kaiju-sized version of this trope; from the original Ultraman, the monster Skydon's fate have him being pumped full of helium, causing his body to inflate rapidly as it floats into the air. Ultraman then flies after the floating Skydon and tackles it, causing the monster to blow up.
  • In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a woman kills a man by stabbing him with a dive knife that can inject a blast of compressed gas through the blade. The results aren't pretty.

    Music Videos 
  • In the music video for Bubble Butt the dancer who is suspended on aerial silks meets this fate. While she's dancing, her butt starts to swell and she suddenly explodes ass-first, raining down as confetti on the other dancers, who keep partying as if nothing is wrong.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Print: There's a Celtic fairy tale about a boy who goes into a Chain of Deals to get the materials for a gibbet so he can hang his brother for being a glutton. After spending several days trundling around the countryside, he gets the materials and returns home to find that his brother exploded.
  • An Eskimo folktale tells the story of a boy who could never get enough to eat, until he ate a cod, a seal, an oogrook note  and a beluga whale, then drank an entire pond. Finally full, he went home, but got to close too a lantern and there was a tremendous explosion, with nothing left behind but a pond with a cod, seal, oogrook and beluga swimming around in it.
  • Polish legend has the Wawel dragon, a fearsome beast that terrorized the city of Krakow. The dragon is vanquished not by direct confrontation, but by someone tricking it into eating a cow skin or lambskin filled with burning sulfur and other flammables. In the oldest versions of the story, the dragon simply dies from internal burns. But in later tellings, the dragon tries to quench the flames by drinking from the Vistula River until it bursts.

  • A poem by Colin McNaughton foresees this and kindly warns its fellow diners.
    "If you eat one more slice of pie
    then you will burst, I fear."
    "Well, that's a risk I'd gladly take,
    but just in case — stand clear!''
  • This anonymous parody of "The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" note  (scroll down to read).
    There came a hideous thunder-clap —
    The boy, oh! Where was he?
    Ask of the maid who mopped him up,
    The breadcrumbs and the tea.
  • F. Gwynne Evans' poem "Little Thomas" (in the anthology Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls). A choice verse:
    His old nurse cried, much disgusted
    "There, just when I've swept and dusted,
    Drat the boy! He's gone and busted
    Making such a mess."
    While the painful task of peeling
    Thomas off the walls and ceiling
    Gave his family a feeling
    Of sincere distress.
  • S. D. Rodrian's "The Man Who Could Slurp A Pig Up Through A Straw" does Exactly What It Says on the Tin — until in the process of proving it to witness after witness, he goes and swallows one pig too many.
  • This is the implied ending to the children's poem "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." She dies after swallowing a horse to catch the cow to catch the donkey to catch goat to catch the dog, and so on.

  • In the 2013 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory stage musical, unlike other adaptations, Violet doesn't make it to the juicing room in time and winds up exploding off-stage, showering purple glitter onto the balconies.

    Video Games 
  • 77p: Eggwife have the first boss, the overweight Pissco CEO whose sole attack is vomiting projectiles all over the place. When finished off, his entire body bursts like a balloon filled with... disgusting stuff.
  • Mortal Kombat:
  • One of the weird ailments in Theme Hospital is "Bloaty Head", where the patient has a massive swollen head. The cure is to pop their head with a pin and re-inflate it.
  • It's one of the methods of getting rid of enemies in Dig Dug, by inflating them with a pump until they pop.
  • Jitsu Squad have the villain, Lord Origami, inflating and exploding a henchman by pumping his body up like a balloon before exploding the guy, in a move ripped from Mortal Kombat. The cutscene where he does this even announces "CARTOONALITY!" to enforce the reference!
  • Technically not a human (he's a halfling) but in Overlord, when you defeat Melvin Underbelly, he does just this at 2:25.
  • This is the death animation of all characters in Arvoesine. They suddenly inflate for no particular reason and explode.
  • Wario Land:
    • Wario Land II has a boss (The Bubble King) like this.
    • You have to defeat a certain boss in Wario Land 3 by pumping him full of air until he explodes.
  • Entering a certain code incorrectly in the earlier Tomb Raider games would cause Lara to explode.
  • In Metamorphic Force, enemies swell up and explode into goo when killed.
  • The Microwave Expander in Duke Nukem 3D turns the target into a bomb with the killing shot, damage and all.
  • Arcane beams in Magicka, much like Duke Nukem above.
  • The secondary function of the Microwave Pulse Gun in Soldier of Fortune does this to enemies, and may have been inspired by Duke Nukem 3D's Expander.
  • Dusty Revenge has toad and frog-people as enemies, whose main attacks are by regurgitating bombs from their Stomach of Holding and spitting them at you. Time your hits right though and you'll trigger the bombs, causing those enemies to comically inflate before bursting.
  • Vanquish has this happen to several victims of the microwave beam attack during the intro.
  • Any character or enemy in Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends inflate like balloons and pop when they die. It's as weird as it sounds.
  • Saints Row IV has a weapon called the Inflato Ray that can inflict this on any of the human or alien enemies. It doesn't affect machines though.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, after defeating Zant, Midna angrily uses the power of the Fused Shadows to impale him with several twilit tendrils that cause him to rapidly swell up and explode. Much to her own horror, especially since she was only using a fraction of their power.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: The second boss Fraaz has this happen to it upon its defeat having lost control of its self-inflation superpower.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: One of the bosses is Mimmy, a strange little girl who Henry fights in a dream. After he defeats her, he stabs her in the back, which somehow causes her to inflate to enormous proportions until she explodes. It's bloodless, but as weird as it sounds.
  • In Angry Birds 2, the Pig Inflater spell will massively inflate several pigs in one stage. It doesn't pop them right away, but it can cause them to squeeze out of towers and platforms to fall and/or cause collapses.
  • Killing Floor 2: The Firebug's Microwave Gun, rather than lighting enemies on fire, instead causes them to inflate and then explode.
  • How you're supposed to beat the final boss in the Quake expansion pack Shrak.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day: A quest has Conker getting rid of a mouse by feeding it cheese three times. After the third time, the mouse becomes so gassy he inflates and explodes.
  • In the Metal Slug series from 2 onwards, player characters suffer this when killed while in Fat mode.
  • The Main Character from Tribal Hunter, Munch, suffers this when he either over inflates/feeds himself, or gets hit with a piercing attack when nearing max fullness. Diminished as Munch is a spirit inhabiting a doll, so all that's left is a busted doll as the spirit flies off to a new doll.
  • In LS Jumble, the first of the Wishing Well tests based on the Seven Deadly Sins is Gluttony. E. Michelson Beaux can stomach a beer, a donut and a Fatburger, but if he so much as nibbles on the nachos, he explodes and dies.
  • League of Legends: In the ARAM game mode, there are small, fluffy creatures called Poros meant to spice up the icy, bleak map—and instead of a vision trinket (like in the main game mode), the trinket item slot is reserved for Poro Snax that make a nearby Poro grow bigger and bigger when used. If you feed one of the Poros enough times, it explodes into a large number of smaller Poros.
  • Bomberman, at least in most of its earlier installments, usually has the titular player character explode like a balloon popping as a recurring death animation.
  • Noita: Eating or drinking fills your stomach. At 100% fullness, you slow down. At 175% fullness, you take damage with further consumption. You explode and die at 200%.

    Web Animation 

  • Unsounded: The Silver soldier talking to Lemuel after Danila's death steps on a magical mine, which expands him before blowing him up. A couple of his teeth flying as shrapnel scar Lemuel's face.

    Web Original 
  • In Another Kingdom, during the sewer escape scene, the sewer beast kills a prison guard this way.
  • One of Bad Two Sentence Horror's most famous stories has Joel watching the Super Bowl, unaware he's about to explode into chunks of delicious meat in 3 minutes and 52 seconds.
  • MatPat actually pondered this one on his Food Theory channel - at least as far as stomach goes, because as previously mentioned, you can't make a whole body explode just by filling it with food. He also listed several reasons why it's so uncommon for a stomach to burst even in the biggest gluttons.
  • In Sheigala: Vampire Business Women, the titular vampire women explode when giving birth, or are prone to exploding when killed.

    Western Animation 
  • One of Kenny's many deaths in South Park is when he explodes after eating a whole tray of effervescent tablets (which he mistakes for mints) and drinking a glass of water. After the initial Oh, Crap! moment, everyone else in the room finds it hilarious.
    Stan: [laughing] That was a good one!
  • A non-lethal version of this trope is used as the core concept of Kablamus, a villain from The Mask.
  • Happens to Captain K'nuckles in an episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, after he eats so much so he can fit into a pair of fancy pants.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show:
    • At the end of one episode's transmission, Stimpy blows himself up as if he were a balloon, and pops over Ren, partially covering Ren with his ruptured body.
    • A downplayed example happens in the episode Son of Stimpy. In an attempt to prove that Stinky is real, Stimpy tries to fart for Ren. However, after the strain of trying to fart becomes too much, Stimpy's ass cheeks burst and deflate like a pair of balloons.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Just One Bite", SpongeBob warns Squidward not to eat so many Krabby Patties at one time.
    Squidward: What's gonna happen? Am I gonna blow up?
    SpongeBob: No, worse! It'll go right to your thighs!
    Squidward: My thighs?
    [camera pans down to Squidward's bloated lower half]
    SpongeBob: ...And then you'll blow up!
    [Squidward explodes and we cut to Squidward's head attached to an IV in the back of an ambulance with a paramedic]
    Paramedic: Yup, I remember when I had MY first Krabby Patty.
  • Pigs Is Pigs features the cute, tiny, but unrepentantly gluttonous young piglet named Piggy, and he dreams he's been captured by a mad scientist who force feeds him for an entire day. When it's all over, he can barely walk or even speak, and just as he's about to escape, he can't resist more food. Once he takes a big bite, he explodes into several bloodless chunks before waking up.
  • In Totally Spies!, this was the plan for two villains, both of which involved addictive sweets. One was a cookie factory owner who made her cookies so addictive, they threatened to make anyone who eats too much explode. The other used protein bars that made the consumer's muscles grow until they explode.
  • Kaeloo:
    • Happens to Mr. Cat in one episode when he swells up after having an allergic reaction.
    • Happens to Stumpy in the Beach Episode. He incorrectly uses muscle-growth steroids, winds up getting inflated instead of getting muscular, and pops when trying to hit a volleyball.
  • Infinity Train: In the final episode of book 2, Agent Sieve meets his end by being zapped by Alan Dracula's Eye Beams, causing him to swell up and explode into a spray of chrome-colored goo.
  • Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory anticipates this will happen to him as the result of gassy buildup from eating a burrito, and spends the episode settling his affairs. Ultimately subverted when he attempts to do the last thing on his list, telling his parents about his laboratory, and as he's about to tell them, he lets out such a huge fart, that he blows the tv through the wall.
  • Viva Piñata has Dr. Quackberry blow up in "Party Parasite". The nature of everyone in the setting means he's just fine as only a head, though.
  • In Episode 3 of What If…? (2021), this is how the Hulk dies. During his fight with the military at Culver University, he suddenly starts inflating to massive size before exploding in a giant green cloud. This leaves Betty Ross distraught, since she thought the Hulk couldn't die. Turns out this was caused by Hank Pym, the Yellowjacket, entering his bloodstream via his arm (which intially seemed to be a sniper shot from the military) and using a Pym Disk to make his heart grow exponentially, triggering the aforementioned explosion.note 
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, fairies can suffer what’s called “magical buildup” if they go too long without granting a wish for their godchild, which causes them to inflate until they explode into sentient piles of confetti and eyeballs.

    Real Life 
  • Be careful with air compressors! There have been cases where as a joke someone crams one into a person's rear end. It usually ends with multiple exploded organs followed by death. As an example, a construction worker nearly suffered from this when an industrial air compressor nozzle wound up get stabbed into his abdomen and released air into him. It wound up inflating him to three times his normal size and separated muscle from bone. They quickly rushed him to the hospital where the doctors couldn't do anything. Any attempt at cutting him open to let the air out could cause this trope to happen as all the air would rush out. So they had to monitor his situation and wait for his body to get rid of it naturally.... By farting....
  • While not as dramatic as this trope in fiction, Compartment syndrome, in which pressure within one or more of the body's anatomical compartments rises to critical levels, risking blood circulation, is this trope in spades. As pressure rises, muscles may literally rupture, especially in the legs and arms where strong tendons and fascia limit the extent to which the muscles may swell. Fasciotomy is a means of releasing this pressure, and simply involves cutting the affected compartment open to relieve the pressure, saving the limb in the process.
  • This ended up happening to England's first king, William the Conqueror, who near the end of his reign, had gained a substantial amount of weight. So much, in fact that when he died, his body was too big to fit into his stone sarcophagus. This, combined with postmortem bloat caused the bowels to explode during his funeral service. The similarly obese Henry VIII's corpse exploded in the coffin while the funeral procession was stopped for the night at Syon House.
  • Dead whales are known to burst open due to the build up of gas inside their decomposing bodies that have nowhere to escape. While all animal carcasses produce methane gas upon decomposing, whales are huge with thick layers of blubber, which can trap the gas. The gas builds up until the body eventually ruptures, spraying the whale's guts and blood all over the place. There was a case of this happening in the middle of a town where a dead whale's body was being transported for study when its body suddenly exploded, spraying its innards all over buildings and people.

  • In the months leading up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, one of the popular joke theories circulated online was that Ant-Man would kill Thanos by shrinking to microscopic size, going through his anus, then expanding back to regular size.note 


Wicked Pump: Knight Punks

Mischief's Fwoompop spell fills a stunned opponent with air until their body can't take it, knocking them out.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / PopGoesTheHuman

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