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Ripping Off the String of Pearls

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Above: Inflicting this trope on another
Below: Self-inflicted example

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.

Whereas a Dramatic Necklace Removal is focused on the retrieval of a Plot Coupon in the form of a necklace, this trope relies on the symbolism of a pearl necklace coming undone by force. As such, the trope leans on the symbolic connotations that pearls have: pearls are considered a very 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, it can be an indication that she's about to start Kicking Ass in All Her Finery.


Like 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 gifts. She slams the door behind her as she leaves his flat, then dumps her 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 chucks an expensive looking brooch 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, futusitic 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 & Manga 
  • 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 "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 shows her finery torn and tattered in the aftermath of Von Schwatzenburg attempting to force himself upon her (only for Von Schwatzenburg to be tackled by the heroic dog Uncle Sam and knocked out with a champagne bottle). 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.

    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 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 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' necklace (which belonged to her mother) and it breaks off and falls to the floor 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 
  • It's Jack Napier who murders Thomas and Martha Wayne in Batman (1989), but not before his partner tears the pearl necklace from Martha's throat. Interestingly, the pearls comes off in one unbroken string when tugged, but the individual pearls only start to fall after Thomas and Martha are shot.
  • 2005's Batman Begins has Joe Chill yank Martha Wayne's pearls off her neck before shooting her.
  • Played with in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice when Martha Wayne is killed. She 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.
  • Exploited by Amy Poehler's character Fairchild Van Waldenberg in Blades of Glory: after Fairchild and Stranz fail to detain Jimmy and Chaz (to stop them from making it to the ice in time to perform their final routine), Fairchild thinks they still have a chance to sabotage the two. She 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 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 the scene right before Daisy's wedding to make it more dramatic (and visually appealing). In both versions, Jordan informs Nick that Tom gifted Daisy a pearl necklace "valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars" as an engagement/ wedding present. In the book, a languidly drunken Daisy deposits her pearls into a waste basket next to her bed and tells Jordan to return them. 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 a low angle shot that shows the pearls rolling away from her. The film plays the symbolism of the moment for all it's worth — the shot where Tom draped the pearls around her 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 outburst, there's a quick cut showing her mother re-stringing the pearls (with Jordan's assistance) that serves to show how her own family wants her tied down to Tom and his fortune.
  • Invoked in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York — as Kevin is being chased through the streets of New York by crooks Harry and Marv, he stops to buy a bunch of cheap imitation pearl 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.

  • Invoked in The Wheel of Time by Queen Alliandre. In an audience with the mad self-styled Prophet whose army deposed three of her predecessors, he makes a disapproving remark about her obvious wealth, so she tears off her ornate pearl necklace as a donation to his cause. As a third party observes, the gesture costs her a piece of jewelry to appease the most dangerous man in the country.
  • 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.
  • In V. C. Andrews' 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.

    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.
  • 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 episode 9, she learns that her parents' dirty dealings have driven Ethel Muggs' family into bankruptcy and caused Mr. Muggs to attempt suicide. Despairing of her family's actions, Veronica dashes to the girl's 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Happens accidentally in Lackadaisy. Zib grabs Mitzi's pearl necklace, and when Mitzi pulls away, the necklace breaks and the pearls go everywhere. Afterwards Mitzi scrambles to pick up the pearls.

    Western Animation 


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