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Scavenged Punk

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Scavenged Punk is a stylized setting that focuses on technology and culture based on an unusual source: scavenged junk. Weapons, tools, clothing, and sometimes entire cities will be built out of repurposed materials. A key factor here is that these materials, often pieces of trash, are being used for something other than their original purpose (as opposed to simply being repaired and reused). This trope shows up almost exclusively in two cases.

Firstly, it's used for After the End set stories in Scavenger Worlds where supplies are short and hence items from the past civilization must be used for basic necessities. Scavenged Punk specifically crops up when Improvised Armor (or Post-Apunkalyptic Armor) and Improvised Weapons are emphasized.

Secondly, it shows up in stories where beings smaller than human (rodents, bugs, corvids, Lilliputians, etc.) have urban civilizations and use materials scavenged or stolen from humans. Many stories with anthropomorphic animals will have this to an extent as part of a Mouse World, but only when it's strongly emphasized does it really become Scavenged Punk.

In either case (but especially the second), this trope is often made to be extremely visually interesting as random objects are put to surprising practical (or not) new uses. Because of this visual focus, Scavenged Punk has been common as Scenery Porn in animation especially recent CGI films.

When technology is constructed in a much more limited capacity it is simply MacGyvering. Note that while Scavenged Punk is not exclusively a fiction trope, most real life examples fall under MacGyvering or Scavenger World. Also contrast with Bamboo Technology where technology is built from rudimentary natural materials but not junk, and Resurrect the Wreck, when broken or abandoned technology (usually a vehicle) is rebuilt enough to work.

A Sub-Trope of Improvisational Ingenuity.

Examples with their own pages:

Other Examples:

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    Films — Animation 
  • 9 takes this to its extreme with a hyper stylized After the End world where even the characters are built out of zippers, gloves, and spare bits of trash. Once again the characters are small enough to utilize almost anything (see lightbulb staff, scissor knives, and candle hat). Director Shane Acker has referred to them as stitch punk. This film actually fulfills both typical scenarios as it set After the End and contains miniature creatures.
  • An American Tail and its sequels have this as part of its Mouse World, particularly the homes that the mice live in.
  • Arrietty is very much this trope in the way that all adaptations of The Borrowers are. That said, it being Studio Ghibli, this film is a particularly stunningly beautiful example.
  • A Bug's Life drifts into Scavenged Punk during the city sequence. The city is built entirely out of discarded boxes and trash with a tipped over soup can doubling as a dive bar (the countertop inside the bar is a swiss army knife). The background of the entire sequence is scattered with numerous details like this.
  • Chicken Run has this for its animal characters. It's especially noticeable in the rats Nick and Fletcher who work as, well, scavengers, and effectively take on the role of the guy in a prison movie who "knows where to get things". One of the rats sports a coat made out of a food sack with a full-sized human zipper whose pull tab is as big as his head. Supplies they scavenge include a human spoon which becomes a shovel and a badminton birdie which is used as a hat. The movie, like Flushed Away, is full of similarly great background details.
  • Disney Fairies features this a lot. Basically, all the fairy civilizations do this to some degree, but it's especially true with the "tinker-talent (or class) fairies", from which Tinker Bell along some others are part of, re-utilizing mostly any garbage or lost things from the human world.
  • Flushed Away, from the same creators as Chicken Run, features a sewer world, populated by animals, that is entirely this trope. For example, a pair of eggbeaters is repurposed as jet skis.
  • Over the Hedge provides a mild example as RJ the raccoon uses solely scavenged equipment (such a pocket fishing rig as a grappling hook) and begins to teach the other animals to do the same.
  • In Peace on Earth, a group of forest animals, inspired by a verse in The Bible about "rebuilding the old wastes" following mankind's destruction, construct a village out of war weapons, including making homes out of helmets and converting bayonets into streetlamps.
  • Rango has an old west town where the inhabitants (anthropomorphic animals) all have technology built from human trash.
  • In both The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under, the rodent-sized civilization makes considerable use of human castoffs.
  • The Secret of NIMH has this trope in place as a background element, as the hideout of the rats was built from whatever they could steal from Farmer Fitzgibbon’s home, including their electricity. This actually becomes a major plot point, as the majority of the rats want to move away to be less reliant on humans and find their own destiny. The movie's villain, Jenner, is the leader of a faction who wants to stay where they are, and is prepared to use violence to maintain the status quo.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Attack of the Clones has some of this in the freelance engineers hanging around low-rent spaceport docks on Coruscant, as well as, presumably, other worlds like Tatooine. The Visual Dictionary even has a picture of such an engineer, wearing his equipment, including one device which is stated to have had its casing made from part of a toilet.
  • The BFG features this for anything in Giant Country that couldn't be crafted by the giants themselves, but in a twist on most other examples they are on a large scale rather than a small one. The BFG's suspenders are rope ladders, his magnifying glass is a porthole, his seat is the wing of a Spitfire, he uses a London telephone box for storing grain, a snowplow for a chopping knife, and the soles of his shoes are made from melted truck tires, with their treads forming the bottom sole pattern. This extends to the other giants as well, such as Gizzard Gulper wearing many tarps for trousers.
  • In The Borrowers (1997), the eponymous characters take this to an extreme, with tools made from strings, paper clips, and needles. There's even a vehicle made out of an abandoned roller-skate.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: There are shades of this as the kids begin to piece together some makeshifts equipment.
  • Kingsajz is about a society of dwarves living in "Drawerland", a city made out of filing cabinets in an old, abandoned archive connected by rope bridges made of packing twine and matches.
  • This is naturally all over the Mad Max movies. Mad Max: Fury Road in particular has some very intricate use of scavenging in its props and costumes; the mask that Max is wearing for most of the movie's first act, for example, looks like it's made from a gardening fork.

  • The elves' village in Afternoon of the Elves runs on this, with a touch of Bamboo Technology. Most impressively, they build a magic-powered (???) working Ferris wheel out of bicycle wheels, wire, and popsicle sticks!
  • The Borrowers is probably the Ur-Example. Its plot revolves around a race of tiny people who live in the walls of the homes of normally sized people and "borrow" whatever they need to survive. Movies based on these books have provided some very cool visual looks at Scavenged Punk.
  • The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett features this, with natural materials coming from the carpet and what's on it: tools and weapons are made out of varnish melted from the World Tree-like pillar known as achairleg (a... chair leg), lumber is mined from the Woodwall at Burned End (a matchstick), and bronze is obtained from the vast mesa called ON EPEN NY (a penny). Note that the biggest city on the Carpet is about the size of a period in the book.
  • Dark Life: Hardluck Ruins and the Surf's garden. Both are partly submerged cities being reuse by the Surfs. One is as a Black Market in city with one part of it is made out of parts of various boats stack together and another part being contain in a few of the remaining buildings. The Other as the top of its buildings and recycle bottles formerly polluting the oceans being uses to grow crops.
  • Over the course of The Dresden Files, Harry's dewdrop-fairy ally Toot-toot acquires his armor and weaponry by cobbling them together out of things like Pepto-Bismol bottles, hollowed-out golf balls, and hacksaw blades sheathed in pen casings.
  • In Edward Eager's book Knight's Castle, a magic world made entirely out of toys and fictional characters comes to life at night. This fantasy world contains cities built out of soup cans and generally formed (albeit not scavenged) out of everyday objects. In this respect, Knight's Castle is a homage to E. Nesbit's The Magic City.
  • The Nomes Trilogy (also by Pratchett) contains this in a similar way as The Borrowers. A small race of Nomes utilizes a whole lot of scavenged material from people.
  • Railsea, like many of China Miéville's other books, features a Steampunk-inspired world set a really long time After the End where scavenging is so commonplace that it comes in several distinct categories from which people gather resources.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles: Thimbletack the brownie lives in the walls and steals human items for his home. In the illustrations, he is shown to wear a cobbled-together outfit that includes a hat made out of sewing equipment and to use a duster made from a badminton birdie.
  • The Tale of Despereaux: The Mouse World operates largely as Scavenged Punk. Desperaux even wields a needle as a sword.
  • Un Lun Dun features entire anti-cities made of scraps and discarded items from their regular counterparts, which grow magically from the streets and are often sentient. A very novel setting in that the 'discarded items' include people, ideas, and abstract concepts that all 'cross over' to the un-city when nobody is looking. China Miéville seems to be a big fan of this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bush Mechanics features things like foot coverings made of bits of tyre, brake shoes made from pieces of old boomerang, windscreen wipers made of rags wrapped around the wiper arms, and a soup can made into an improvised billy to hold the coil inside with some water when the coil overheats. Minor example when the gang use the car's battery and some jumper leads to start a fire.
  • True to form, the Community episode "Modern Warfare" (a parody of most apocalyptic tropes) contains a nod to the Post-Apunkalyptic Armor variety of this. Many of the characters outfits are pieced together from random available equipment. In some cases, it makes solid sense (Troy, a football player, wears some modified football pads); other times, it is simply amusing (members of the chess club wear plastic bowls with chess pieces attached as helmets).
  • Dad features some of the protagonists' fathers' improvisations, including jumper leads linked to the phone jack in the shed hidden behind an old sign which swung up on a hinge, allowing him to carry a large old phone around with him in the garden. The son freaks out when he reads the sign (Danger: High Voltage).
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife", the Doctor encounters a "bubble universe" that is filled with trash from the wider universe that has been fashioned into something of a home on top of a living asteroid. It's interesting to note that much of the scavenged junk is not supposed to be from earth and hence looks very strange.
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel — stranded in space aboard the Satellite of Love — used "the special parts" from the satellite's movie theatre to make his robot friends. From the design of their puppets, it looks like he also used a gumball machine, a bowling pin, and a hockey face guard. More broadly, due to the show's low budget and the creators' DIY philosophy, a lot of the sets and props have a very homemade, repurposed look that became a signature of the show (and matched the low production values of the B Movies featured), landing somewhere between this trope and Off-the-Shelf FX. Even when the budgets got bigger and the sets got more elaborate, they retained this look.
  • In Sesame Street, the Twiddlebugs' house is made from a half pint milk carton with golf pencils for roof shingles, a backyard swing is made out of paperclips, etc.
  • Stormworld features the protagonists improvising a means of producing fuel for their boat, and a submersible made out of part of an aircraft.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The initial setting involves a universe where centuries of war have pushed knowledge backwards to 20th Century levels, and surviving advanced technology (like battlemechs and faster than light travel) is maintained only through scavenged tech and held together with figurative spit and bailing wire by techs who don't understand the underlying engineering.
  • Big Eyes, Small Mouth had a western animation supplement called Big Ears, Small Mouse which gave a Mouseworld universe to work from.
  • Junker devices in Deadlands: Hell On Earth are liable to be made from any old thing found lying about, similar to the Rifts example, as it mostly works by magic.
  • Mausritter is set in a Mouse World, so this is to be expected. The item card artwork includes things like sewing needles used as weapons, shields made from buttons, and maces with polyhedral dice for heads.
  • Mutant: Year Zero takes place a few decades after the world has ended, The Mutants barely understand their surroundings and have to make use of anything they find. It even has a massive table for scrap, which an innovative GM can use for item requirements for a Gearhead's jury-rig skill. From bits of rubbish to heaps, nothing is considered junk despite what the random Scrap Table implies. As such, this has become a core theme of the setting which is has this aesthetic utilized heavily in the artwork.
  • Improvised Weapons and Improvised Armor are all par for the course in Nuclear Renaissance. Most equipment is made from sources unrecognizable as having been vehicle parts. Of particular note is the Engine Cannon, made from the head and part of the block of an engine, using the fuel/air mix detonating to propel the projectile.
  • Often happens in Rifts. Australia describes the uses for old CRT monitors mostly being limited to a bin for spare bolts. Techno-wizards make amazing devices out of anything they find; bespoke parts may be professionally made, if the Techno-wizard decides to spend that much, but need not, as it works by magic anyway. This is only beginning when an internal combustion engine is converted to magic without becoming a telekinetic engine, and is converted to steam because petrol and diesel engines cannot be simply converted to run on magic, and have to be converted into something else; in the novel Sonic Boom, a Techno-wizard uses a device made from a saltshaker to heal a cut on a young mystic's foot.
  • The Small Folk are Lilliputians hiding in the corners of the modern world, who scavenge a fair amount of discarded human stuff.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls, this is a common trait of Goblins. They have been known to salvage weapons, armor, and other items created by the other races for their own use. Likewise, the goblin-like Rieklings of Solstheim are known to collect detritus of the civilized races and set it up for apparent worship.
  • Fallout:
    • Weapons, equipment, clothing, armor, and at least one entire city are made of Pre-War junk, aptly named "Junktown".
    • Fallout 4 has a much heavier focus on scavenging than its predecessors with the crafting system intertwined with the settlement system and gun upgrades. Shop Fodder is now more than a way to scrounge up more cash; now you can scrap that junk for nails, wood, metal, even nuclear material for supplies. It's even enforced as traders have far less caps and supplies to go around, making you rely more and more on what you can make over what you can buy. Guns also can be upgraded in order to make them stronger or adapt to your play style; even the humble crank-and-fusion-cell laser musket can be upgraded to be strong enough to kill a Legendary Deathclaw in a single sneak headshot.
  • A combination of an arts and crafts aesthetic mixed with a miniature scale meant that many of the contraptions in LittleBigPlanet fall into this, with many more able to be created by the player. This has been de-emphasized in later games as the "show the strings" look gives way to a more approachable sensibility, although it appeared again in the Rise of the Cakeling DLC.
  • Though it's not as prominent as it is in Fallout, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light feature a fair amount of technology made from pre-war scrap and salvage. Highlights include a handheld dynamo with a motor from a sewing machine, guns partially constructed from pieces of plumbing/gas pipes, and an improvised river raft built from what looks like sheets of roofing material, empty oil drums, and pieces of chain-link fencing. The Metro blacksmith has also fashioned a functioning railgun out of post-war scrap, and it's one of the strongest guns Artyom can find and use.
  • In Overwatch, there's the aptly named Junkertown, a town in the Australian Outback where many of the people living there holed up following the destruction of the Omnium that ravaged the continent. The city itself is made of scrap metal, and surrounding the city are small settlements where the city's outcasts (including our Junkrat and Roadhog) live in hovels built of scrap wood and metal.
  • Early game Path of Exile equipment is made out of such materials as driftwood and whalebone. Standard RPG equipment starts replacing it at about the second act, and it's gone by the third. During your second loop through the game, you're finding items that are better than what you had before, but still look scavenged, which is very strange, needless to say.
  • Splatoon: The technology and weapons of the Octarians and Salmonids are constructed from junk left behind from a now-extinct humanity; the former are capable of constructing hovercraft out of recycling bins and repurposing a showerhead as a war machine, while the latter specifically favor using cookware as the basis of their equipment. In the Octarians' case, this is because they've been mostly living underground inside abandoned human shelters for the past century or so. But that's only scratching the surface.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, the Hidden Village of the Machina is built largely on parts scavenged from Mechonis proper.

  • In Gifts of Wandering Ice, people gather ancient things that melting icebergs bring and use them as they see fit. Most of the time, they don't know what these things were originally used for.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Most of Jimmy's inventions are made from everyday items he can get his hands on.
  • Adventure Time functions partially off of this, with Finn and Jake scavenging a lot of things. Also, the Hyoo-man society scavenges from the ruins of old humanity.
    • It also applies to alternate timelines like Farmworld, where a 400-year planetary ice age destroyed most of humanity's technological advancement, but has managed to advance to a mix of medieval society with aspects of The Apunkalypse where a gang of criminals and thugs rule several population centers.
  • In The Buzz on Maggie, much of the town of Stickyfeet (which is located in a dump) is constructed from human refuse. Maggie's house, for example, is an old milk carton.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers has this a lot. All of Gadget's inventions are made from discarded junk, as is most of the furniture at their headquarters. Some of this discarded human trash technology is also in the "Two Chips and a Miss" short from the 1950s.
  • Droners mixes Scavenged Punk with High-Tech Hexagons and more primitive technology. An entire ethnic group called Shorescrubbers specialise in building machines exclusively out of scavenged parts.
  • In Futurama, the sewer mutants build their entire impressive civilization out of human trash flushed down toilets.
  • Little Robots follows the adventures of a group of small robots who live in a cave in a scrapyard and have built their whole world — including the sky — from junk, as is said in the opening credits.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Much of Bikini Bottom appears to be built from discarded human items and trash; a lot of the big downtown "buildings" are fast food drinking cups, and many episodes begin with a human item falling to the ocean floor and being used this way.
  • The Wombles make good use of the things that they find — things that the everyday folks leave behind.

    Real Life 
  • To varying extent, this was the case throughout Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Roman structures continued to be used and inhabited, often for very different purposes than they were designed for: over the course of succeeding centuries, the Colosseum was converted into a tenement, then workshop, and then partially dismantled for its stone. While otherwise a very impressive construction, the romanesque section of Aachen Cathedral (consecrated c800) uses old Corinthian-style columns to support several of the arches. The early medieval period also saw Roman iron implements and fixtures of all sorts melted down and recycled to make new tools and weapons.
  • Some isolated island cultures did this with iron nails that they recovered from driftwood, although this was more of a rare curio than an important part of their civilisation.

Alternative Title(s): Junk Punk