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Ripping Off the String of Pearls

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When a lady in a visual medium is wearing a lovely string of pearls around her neck, the odds of a Dramatic Necklace Removal occurring skyrocket. Why? Because removing jewelry with such force that it breaks is great for drama, and the individual pearls look awesome in slow motion as they clatter to the ground.note  Similar to Priceless Ming Vase or Ashes to Crashes — when you see this item, you can expect it to be broken.

While a Dramatic Necklace Removal fixates on the retrieval of a Plot Coupon in the form of a necklace, this trope focuses on the symbolism of a pearl necklace coming undone by force. As such, it leans on the symbolic connotations that pearls have: pearls are considered a feminine gem, and are often used to represent classic beauty and elegance in a character. note  Strings of pearls can also indicate that a character is wealthy (usually Old Money) or at least connected to the upper class. Any girl wearing a string of pearls is likely on her way to (or just returning from) a fancy event. If she's an Action Girl wearing them in a dangerous situation, viewers might expect that she's about to be Kicking Ass in All Her Finery.

Like the Insignia Ripoff Ritual, this trope generally comes in two flavors:

  • Pearls Ripped Off by an Assailant: If the pearls are ripped off by an assailant, it indicates that the wearer is dealing with a dangerous or cruel enemy. She's in a confrontation that's turning violent, she's likely not dressed for battle, and someone who is willing to damage an expensive piece of jewelry like that obviously has no qualms about damaging the person wearing the jewelry.
  • Pearls Ripped Off by the Wearer: If the wearer rips off her own pearls, she's indicating a visceral rejection of everything the pearls represent to her; wealth, femininity, or even a suitor if those pearls were a gift. Or she might just want to use the multitude of small, round pearls to create hazardous terrain around her.

This trope can also work with beaded necklaces, but the impact is diminished when the beads are made of less precious stones, glass, or macaroni.

Often used as a Symbolically Broken Object. Can be played for laughs if the characters break a necklace and then scramble to pick up the individual beads afterwards.


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  • A 1988 advert for the Volkswagen Golf features a woman who has obviously just been dumped (or caught her man cheating) divesting herself of his expensive gifts. She slams the door behind her as she leaves his flat, then crams her diamond ring back through the mail slot. She starts off down the street and rips off her pearl necklace before chucking it in a bin. She also tosses an expensive-looking brooch over a fence and dumps her fur coat, but she chooses to keep the VW Golf as it was more reliable than the man!
  • A 2014 television commercial for Dior's J'adore perfume features Charlize Theron climbing out of a gilded, baroque-style room on a length of champagne-colored silk. She stops to remove her shoes before climbing, but as she nears the top of her ascent she rips off a collar of golden pearls around her neck . The camera cuts away to show the pearls clattering to the ground around her discarded shoes, several stories below her, as she emerges from the sumptuously decorated rooms into a gleaming, futuristic cityscape. A voiceover stating that "the past can be beautiful, but it's no place to live" seemingly links the pearls to the idea of the past — just as she leaves "the past" by literally moving from the antique-styled interior to the more modern exterior, she cuts ties with "the past" metaphorically by removing the necklace.

     Anime and Manga 
  • One Doraemon issue have Shizuka showing off her mother's pearl necklace to the gang, and inevitably it gets ripped with pearls spilling everywhere when Gian tries snatching it from Nobita who's holding it. Nobita and the boys tried their best to relocate all the spilled pearls, and eventually Doraemon decide to bring out his gadget-of-the-week, the "Pearl Producing Oyster Case" which creates pearls in minutes (proving that yes, Doraemon does have a gadget for everything).
  • In a flashback sequence in Episode 3 of Macross Zero, Dr. Hadsford bribes a young Sara Nome into giving him a blood sample (an act forbidden by her island's traditions) by offering her a pretty beaded necklace. At first Sara first admires her new accessory, but when she realizes the effect of her actions in breaking an island taboo she tears the necklace off and runs away from Dr. Hadsford in horror.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Yumi's necklace is undone and the pearls fly everywhere as she's stabbed by Shishio, who's trying to stab Kenshin.

     Comic Books 
  • The various versions and adaptations of Batman produced since Batman: The Dark Knight Returns often have Joe Chill dramatically rip off Martha Wayne's pearls, complete with a Slow-Motion Drop of said pearls before shooting her and Thomas dead. For added dramatic (and horrific) effect, Miller's The Dark Knight Returns depicts the gun getting snagged by Martha's pearls, causing the killer to position the muzzle directly against her neck before pulling the trigger...
  • This trope was in use as much as a century ago, as evinced by Nell Brinkley's WWI serial "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill", released between 1918 and 1919. Installment 6 (post-rename) shows protagonist "Golden Eyes" sumptuously attired as part of her Go-Go Enslavement to the nefarious German Captain Hugo Von Schwatzenburg. The illustration depicts Golden Eyes wearing at minimum 3 strands of pearls, and the necklaces are given special mention in the passage that describes her outfit: "decked out in siren-fashion, made gorgeous, her gold curls piled high, her throat laced with pearls." Installment 7 depicts Golden Eyes in the aftermath of Von Schwatzenburg's attempt to force himself upon her (not to worry — Von Schwatzenburg is tackled by the heroic canine companion Uncle Sam and knocked out by a falling champagne bottle). Her finery is torn and tattered and her hair tumbles from its updo as the text accompanying the illustration describes Von Schwatzenburg "clutching at 'Golden-Eyes' knees, dragging the toppling golden star of a candlestick down with him, and lying at last, stunned, his hands a-froth with lace and roses, a guttering candle on his chest!" Though the text of Installment 7 makes no specific mention of the pearls, the illustration shows that the necklaces mentioned previously are now hanging by a thread, with loose pearls scattered at Golden Eyes' feet and across the unconscious form of Von Schwatzenburg.
  • Occurs in the short comic A Lady's Hands Are Cold in Through the Woods. A young woman marries a wealthy man. One day the husband goes hunting, leaving his young wife with a beautiful pearl choker to wear in his absence. The young wife discovers the dismembered corpse of her husband's previous bride hidden within the manor. The second wife reassembles the body of the first wife, thinking it will grant the first wife peace, only for the first wife to reanimate as a vengeful corpse. The revived first wife attacks the second wife and rips the pearl choker off her throat, furious at her husband for taking a new bride and showering her with gifts that once belonged to the first wife.
    your hands... are so warm... & your soft skin so fair...
    Did you know, little one, that is my necklace you wear?

     Films — Animation 
  • In Cinderella, the sequence where the ugly stepsisters ruin Cinderella's first gown is kicked off when Drizella wrenches a string of blue beads off Cinderella's neck. Not quite pearls, but the overall effect is similar — Anastasia and Drizella proceed to rip the terrified Cinderella's dress to shreds just as their coach is arriving. They exit, and a wide shot shows Cinderella in the aftermath of their attack: clutching the remains of her ragged dress, staring in disbelief at the scraps of torn fabric and loose beads at her feet.
  • Pocahontas: As Kokoum is shot, he grasps at Pocahontas's iconic beaded necklace (which belonged to her mother) — the necklace breaks off and falls to the ground in pieces, signifying how the shooting breaks relationships between the two sides and brings them to the brink of war. It got fixed at the very end, though.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • As mentioned in the Comic Book folder, all Batman films that deal with the character's origin story have their own rendition of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, with Martha's pearl collar breaking. In chronological order:
    • 1989: It's Jack Napier who murders Thomas and Martha in Batman, but not before his partner tears the pearl necklace from Martha's throat. Interestingly, the pearls come off in one unbroken string when tugged, but the individual pearls only start to fall after Thomas and Martha are shot.
    • 2005: Batman Begins has Joe Chill yank Martha's pearls off her neck before shooting her.
    • 2016: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice uses the same method that the Dark Knight Returns uses in the comics. Martha backs away when Joe Chill puts the gun in her face, causing her pearl necklace to snag on the gun. When Chill fires, the gun's recoil breaks the string, causing the pearls to scatter — in dramatic slow motion, of course.
    • 2019: The murder of the Wayne couple is featured yet again in Joker, and so is Martha's collar breaking. This time, it's one of the clown rioters of the crowd that got set ablaze by Joker's murder of Franklin Murray who kills them, and he rips the collar seemingly for the sake of it.
  • Exploited by Fairchild Van Waldenberg in Blades of Glory: after skaters Fairchild and Stranz fail to detain their opponents Jimmy and Chaz (to stop them from making it to the ice in time to perform their final routine, which would have resulted in an automatic forfeit), Fairchild seizes her last opportunity to sabotage the competition. With Jimmy and Chaz beginning their routine, Fairchild tears off the pearl necklace she's wearing as part of her Marilyn Monroe costume and flicks the pearls onto the ice, causing Chaz to break his ankle when he skates over one and loses his balance. The camera focuses on the single pearl that injures Chaz as it bounces across the ice and into his path.
  • Fred's promotion in The Flintstones leads to him turning into a Rich Jerk, and his behavior ultimately costs him his friendship with Barney. When Wilma confronts him over this, Fred haughtily claims that they don't need the Rubbles because they can buy whatever they want. Wilma says that the Rubbles are worth more than anything Fred could buy, and she drives her point home by ripping off the pearl necklace he bought for her.
  • The 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby takes a few liberties with Jordan's flashback to the day of Daisy's wedding to make it more dramatic and visually impactful. In both versions, Jordan informs Nick that Tom had gifted Daisy a pearl necklace "valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars" as an engagement present, only for Daisy to reject the gift when she receives a letter from Jay right before her wedding. In the book, a languidly drunken Daisy deposits her pearls in a waste basket next to her bed, telling Jordan to return the pearls and break off the engagement. In the film version, Daisy rips the strings of pearls off her throat, screaming and crying as she casts them down a long hallway. The magnitude of her action is emphasized by the camera's low angle, showing the pearls rolling away from her. The film plays the symbolism of the moment for all it's worth — the shot where Tom drapes the pearls around Daisy's neck ends when he draws her in for a kiss, cutting to a closeup of the necklace clenched in his hand like a leash. After Daisy's drunken outburst, there's a quick cut to Daisy's mother Inverting the trope by re-stringing the pearls (with Jordan's assistance). That shot serves to show how Daisy's own family wants her "leashed" to Tom and his fortune.
  • Subverted and Downplayed examples both show up in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — Uncle Vernon's sister, "Aunt Marge", wears a necklace of amber-colored beads when she visits the Dursleys, while Aunt Petunia wears a short pearl necklace and matching earrings. Marge's spiteful comments about Harry's dead parents cause Harry to snap at her during dinner, accidentally cursing Marge with a bout of body-inflating magic. As Marge's torso and neck start to swell, the buttons of her blouse pop off and her necklace snaps, raining glass beads all over the dinner table. Aunt Petunia's pearl necklace escapes the scene unscathed.
  • Invoked in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York — as Kevin is being chased through the streets of New York by Harry and Marv, he stops to buy a bunch of cheap beaded necklaces from a street vendor. Kevin breaks the strings and spills the plastic pearls all over the sidewalk, causing Harry and Marv to slip and fall on their behinds. This gives Kevin enough time to escape.
  • Spencer: During a tense dinner scene, Diana hallucinates Anne Boleyn and becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the environment. She reaches up to the pearl necklace she's wearing and tries to undo it, fails, and rips it instead so that several of the pearls clatter in the soup.
  • Downplayed in Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. When Rey receives a husk necklace during the Festival of the Ancients on Pasaana, the beads are a dull woodsy color and the string is constructed with knots between each bead to keep them from scattering. Even so, the necklace breaking foreshadows disaster for Rey and her companions — Kylo Ren is able to snatch the necklace off Rey's neck through their increasingly tangible force-bond, and his intelligence officers are able to pinpoint her location on Pasaana down to the valley where the festival is being held after examining the string of beads. Kylo Ren and his Knights of Ren converge on Pasaana and are able to capture Chewie, the Millennium Falcon, and the dagger Rey and her crew had been searching for, severely demoralizing the group.

  • In V. C. Andrews's Dollanganger Series, Corrine Foxworth wears a signature rope of pearls that's broadcast pretty loudly as the symbol of all the luxury she sacrificed her children to obtain. In possibly one of the longest projected examples of this trope in literature, it takes three books before someone finally tears the pearls off her neck.
  • In the novelization of The Fugitive, Helen Kimble's killer does this when struggling with her. Richard Kimble arrives home soon after and the first thing that sets off his alarm bells is finding one of her discarded pearls on the floor.
  • In A Murder Is Announced, Letitia Blacklock always wears a pearl necklace. When she accidentally breaks it and the pearls go everywhere, her horrified reaction makes everyone wonder why the necklace was so important to her. It was concealing a scar from an operation — but it was Charlotte Blacklock who had the operation, not Letitia.
  • The Night Mayor is set in a virtual reality realm based on Film Noir movies. It's always two-thirty in the morning, it's always raining, and you can't throw a rock without hitting somebody getting murdered. One such murder is a woman who gets strangled on a fire escape with her own pearl necklace; as she dies, the necklace breaks, and the pearls fall photogenically into the street below.
  • Described in The Wheel of Time book "The Fires of Heaven". When Nynaeve makes a disparaging remark about Queen Alliandre allowing the mad self-styled prophet Masema to strip off her jewelry, Uno retorts that Alliandre's motives are more complex than blind faith. Masema's followers deposed three of Alliandre's predecessors, and on their first official meeting the prophet ripped strands of pearls from the queen's hair. She's since learned she can appease the most dangerous man in the country with a few bracelets and rings every now and again:
    "You think she's a fool because Masema took her rings? She's flaming smart enough to know he might demand more if she stopped wearing jewelry when she comes to him. The first time, he went to her—been the other way round, since—and he did take the rings right off her flaming fingers. She had strands of pearls in her hair, and he broke the strings pulling them out. All of her ladies-in-waiting were down on their knees gathering the bloody things off the floor. Alliandre even picked up a few herself."

     Live-Action TV 
  • On All My Children, after Gloria discovers her husband Adam's betrayal—he pretended to be stalked and kidnapped in order to test her fidelity, putting her through MONTHS of emotional trauma—she rips off the pearl necklace he gave her and lets the pearls fall to the ground.
  • Occurs in Columbo Season 2, Episode 4 "Dagger of the Mind" — husband and wife actors Nicholas Frame and Lillian Stanhope are putting on a production of Macbeth financed by Sir Roger Haversham, who has only bankrolled the project because he believes Lillian is romantically interested in him. When he realizes she isn't, he confronts the pair in her dressing room and tells them he'll ruin their careers. He rips off the pearl necklace Lillian wears for her Lady Macbeth costume as he does so, scattering the pearls everywhere. Columbo eventually uses the pearls to get the pair to confess to murdering Sir Roger, moving his body back to his estate, and staging his death as an accident. Columbo bluffs Lillian and Nicholas by claiming to have found one of Lillian's scattered pearls in Sir Roger's umbrella — proof that he'd visited them in the theater the day of his death.
  • Gotham is a Batman adaptation that surprisingly averts the "ripping the necklace from Martha Wayne's neck" part so common to the film adaptations (see the Film—Live-Action folder above for examples). Instead, Joe Chill forces her to take it off and surrender it. The necklace nonetheless breaks with pearls falling in slow motion on the ground as Chill shoves it in his pocket.
  • Monk: In the episode "Mr. Monk and the Class Reunion," Kyle Brooks is plotting to kill his wife and make it look like a suicide using a suicide note she wrote in college. Before he does that, he has to kill a nurse who knew about the original note. He lures her into a stairwell in her building, where he then shoves her down the stairs to her death. Then he pulls out a necklace, breaks it, sending the beads scattering, with the intended effect being to make it look like the nurse slipped on the beads. His efforts are all for naught, as Captain Stottlemeyer quickly figures out that the scene was staged.
  • Veronica Lodge of Riverdale owns a string of pearls that were a gift from her father Hiram (before he went to prison for fraud and embezzlement). In Season 1, Episode 9, Veronica learns that her parents' dirty dealings have driven her classmate Ethel Muggs's family into bankruptcy and caused Mr. Muggs to attempt suicide. Despairing of her family's actions, Veronica dashes to the girls' locker room so she can cry in private and ends up tearing the pearls off her neck out of disgust with Hiram's actions. Extra points for doing it in front of a mirror and the Slow-Motion Drop as the pearls bounce off the floor next to her 3-inch heels. Extra-extra points for Veronica having explained the emotional significance of the necklace earlier in the episode:
    Veronica: My dad gave them to me. He always brought home gifts whenever he did something wrong. As a way to make up for it, I guess.
    Ethel: Did it work?
    Veronica: What girl is immune to the charms of a Givenchy bag? And I still wear these pearls he gave me.


     Music Videos 
  • In Madonna's video "Oh Father," a little girl is seen playing dress-up with her dead mother's clothing. Her angry, grief-stricken father confronts her and rips a strand of pearls from her neck. The (very obviously CG) pearls fall to her feet in slow motion. The scattered pearls continue to reappear throughout the video at significant moments, symbolizing loss.
  • Justin Timberlake's video, "SexyBack," depicts Timberlake being romantically involved with a rival spy (played by Elena Anaya), and pursues her in her hotel room. During the climax, the two begin to have sex and Timberlake tears off the pearl necklace from her neck.

  • In the show within a show in Guys And Dolls, Adelaide tells her lover to take back presents he gave her, including pearls... and just about everything she is wearing.

     Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Scarecrow's toxin causes Batman to relive his parents murder. While it isn't shown, sharp eared players can hear Martha's necklace being ripped off and the pearls scattering.
  • The epilogue in Batman: Arkham Knight shows a wealthy couple heading down an alley and being beset by muggers. The man is struck on the head and the thugs advance on the woman, ripping off her pearl necklace complete with dramatic scattering. Just when it looks like we're about to witness a new Batman's origin, the thugs are attacked by...something.

  • The trope gets played with and then inverted in Cursed Princess Club, and the deployment of the trope in both instances serves the characterization of several key players:
    • An interesting execution of the trope happens in Episode 57. Princess Aurelia, who wears a doubled string of gold beads/ pearls, has gotten herself in deep trouble with Club President Calpernia for tricking Princess Gwen into visiting the forbidden barn. Calpernia pins Aurelia against the wall of the barn by her necklace while she berates Aurelia for putting another club member in danger, then terrifies Aurelia by summoning her arachnid spies from the eaves. Aurelia shrinks back in horror, tearing the necklace in her haste to escape the army of spiders dangling just above her face, and the pearls go flying dramatically. Aurelia, who hadn't gotten much spotlight up till that point, is shown to be a bit of a spoiled Rich Bitch whose jealousy causes her to lash out. Under her veneer of righteous indignation, she's a coward who won't take responsibility for nearly getting another club member eaten by a giant spider. President Calpernia, who has thus far presented herself as a moderate, mature, and levelheaded leader of the Club shows what she's capable of when one of the princesses under her protection is threatened. Though she never loses her cool, President Calpernia clearly demonstrates her control of the situation and the consequences Aurelia will have to face for her actions. Getting Aurelia to break her own necklace mirrors how Aurelia freely "confessed" her misdeeds when she tried to justify her actions to the members of the CPC.
    • The trope gets Inverted right afterward by Gwen, who feels terribly when Aurelia is banished from the club even though banishment is Aurelia's punishment for putting Gwen's life in danger. Episode 60 ends with Gwen collecting up the scattered beads from Aurelia's necklace, while Episode 61 opens with Gwen repairing the necklace and returning it to Aurelia. Gwen's sweet nature is made obvious when she takes the initiative to repair Aurelia's necklace even though Aurelia called Gwen ugly and tried to get Gwen kicked out of the CPC. When Aurelia accepts the repaired necklace from Gwen, she doesn't quite display remorse for her actions or apologize, but Aurelia does come pretty close to admitting she was wrong when she tells Gwen "I feel sorry for that fiancé of yours. Because you make it really difficult for people once they realize they were wrong about you."
  • Happens accidentally in Lackadaisy. Zib grabs Mitzi's pearl necklace, and when Mitzi pulls away, the necklace breaks, and the pearls go everywhere. Afterward, Mitzi scrambles to pick up the pearls.
  • A variation occurs in the first chapter of Queen Cecia's Shorts. The eponymous Queen Cecia has an angry outburst when one of her Chancellors pesters her about getting married and producing an heir. After ten years of building up her country, defending her borders, and spending every waking moment of her days in administrative meetings, she tells the Chancellor she doesn't have time or patience for a husband and a child — especially if she's forced to do all of the above while wearing stiff, uncomfortable Requisite Royal Regalia. Saying this, she tears the fabric rosettes and strands of pearls from the bodice of her Pimped-Out Dress and demands that her subordinates find her something more comfortable to wear... or else.
  • Downplayed in Sister Claire — when Mother Abraham is forced to give up her position as the leader of the Helsings, she surrenders the trappings of her station in a public ceremony. Though it was not given specific prominence in previous comic strips or Missing Moments, the rosary she throws aside breaks apart dramatically; as described in the Missing Moment Keeping Strange Company:
    They make a loose semicircle around her as she gives all the witnesses a show, removing her hood and wimple, her robe, holding a moment to her rosary, letting the polished wooden beads run through her fingers, before shrugging and tossing them aside onto the cobbles. The thread holding them together wasn't terribly strong. It snaps upon impact. The beads shoot off in all directions, like if a firework were made of marbles.

     Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons, Marge's iconic pearls are ripped off by a hobo outside of the Kwik-E-Mart's bathroom in the episode "The Strong Arms of the Ma" which results in Marge feeling vulnerable and developing a fear of leaving her home.


Video Example(s):


$350,000 Pearl Necklace

Jordan tells Tom about the day Daisy married Tom, and how she specifically tore the expensive pearl necklace he gave her.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / RippingOffTheStringOfPearls

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