Follow TV Tropes


Tear-Apart Tug-of-War

Go To

Two or more characters are fighting over an object, tugging it back and forth until it rips or breaks. Typically, the act of fighting over the object is itself caused by other unrelated factors and the object in question serves as an object to vent their frustrations over. Sometimes the object getting broken or torn is of incredible sentimental or personal value to one or both of the characters. Generally, the item will remain ripped, though sometimes the item gets mended. Subtrope to Nice Job Breaking It, Rivals!. See No MacGuffin, No Winner when the tearing happens to the MacGuffin. Contrast Judgment of Solomon, where an object is threatened to be ripped in half so as to settle a dispute between people who are fighting over the object in question.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Digimon Tamers: Impmon observes this happening when his tamers Ai and Mako, a pair of siblings less than 10 years old each, fight over a doll they both want. It serves as the impetus for him to run away, declaring he doesn't need a tamer to get strong. When Impmon eventually returns to the children during the latter half of the series, he's surprised to find the children have repaired the doll. It seems in the interim they'd come to realize their constant fighting is what drove their digi-friend away, and they were determined that, should he return, they would prove they were capable of getting along.
  • Boruto: In "The Day Naruto Became Hokage", Himawari insists on taking her favorite stuffed animal to her father's ceremony, but Boruto angrily protests that doing so will make the other villagers think she is too childish. They fight over the toy and accidentally tear it in half, causing Himawari to unlock her Byakugan and assault her brother in a trance-like fury.

  • Billy Connolly has a humorous variant in one of his jokes. "You may have heard that nasty rumour floating around that copper wire was invented by two Scotsmen fighting over a penny."

     Film — Animated 
  • The Boss Baby has the titular Boss Baby get into a fight with Tim over Tim's stuffed animal Lam-Lam, which culminates in Lam-Lam getting ripped. Lam-Lam is fixed by the Boss Baby by the end of the film as the Boss Baby's way of making amends to Tim.
  • The Brave Little Toaster: Blankie is crying over a photo of the Master, and Kirby, who has had enough of his behavior, tries to wrestle it away from him. The photo slips and falls, breaking the frame.
  • Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas: In "A Very Goofy Christmas" (after Goofy pretends to be Santa), Goofy and his son Max get into a fight over whether or not Santa is real, all the while having a tug-of-war over a stuffed teddy bear. Their skirmish ends in the teddy bear's arm getting ripped off. The teddy bear remains ripped by the end of the story.
  • In The Rugrats Movie, Tommy and Dil take shelter in a hollow tree during a rainstorm, with Tommy putting a blanket over themselves to keep them warm. When Dil tries to take the blanket for himself, he and Tommy have a tug-of-war over it, resulting in the blanket ripping in half.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A downplayed example occurs in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland; Zoe wants to hold Elmo's blanket, but Elmo is reluctant to let her borrow it even for a minute. When Elmo tries to take it back, he and Zoe have a tug-of-war over it, causing the blanket to rip. Fortunately, the blanket doesn't rip in half, but Elmo is still mad at Zoe and tells her she isn't his friend anymore.
  • Happens to the Star Of Bethlehem in The Christmas Chronicles 2 when Santa and disgraced elf-turned-human Belsnickel get into a fight over it.
  • In Clockwise, Brian and Laura trick a car driver into dressing as a monk, so they can steal his suit. The driver tries to tug the suit out of Brian's grasp, but rips the sleeve off.
  • In The Last Jedi, Rey and Kylo Ren get into a Force-powered tug-of-war over the Skywalker lightsaber. It breaks in half.
  • Played with in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. When the twins are fighting over a teddy bear, Miss Peregrine tears the bear in half, and gives one half to each twin, which makes them happy.

  • The Railway Series: In Book #24, "Oliver the Western Engine", the climax of the third chapter, "Toad Stands By" has Oliver prepare to take a goods train. S.C. Ruffey, a privately owned ballast wagon who is the leader of the Troublesome Trucks and teased Oliver for his accident in the turntable in the previous chapter, "Resource and Sagacity" is put at the front of the train. S.C. Ruffey orders the Troublesome Trucks to hold Oliver back, but Oliver sands the rails to give him traction. Oliver and the Troublesome Trucks pulling S.C. Ruffey in opposite directions proves to be too much for him to handle, especially given his rotten wood and rusty framework, and as a result, he breaks apart. When Sir Topham Hatt comes to inspect the damage, he decides to scrap S.C. Ruffey.note 
  • Sweep: The second book, The Coven, begins with Morgan being confronted by her Catholic parents for continuing to practice Wicca. She retorts that she's a blood witch, and therefore they must be too. When they deny this, she jokes, "What am I, adopted?" only to be met with their Oh, Crap! faces and realise it's true. She runs to find her birth certificate and confirm, only for her mother to try to snatch it from her. They struggle, and the document tears in half, but Morgan is holding the piece that proves it.
  • One issue of the Neopets magazine features a story about two young siblings fighting over a plushie and tearing it apart, causing their mother to scold them and tell them that because they've been bad, they'll never see the Plushie Faerie, who gives magical toys to good children. When they try to make up for it by agreeing to share their toys, she fixes the plushie.
  • Franklin: The book/episode "Franklin Says Sorry" is where Bear makes a flag for the group's make believe ship, and reluctantly shows Franklin when he notices him sneaking it there. Bear entrusts Franklin with keeping it a secret. Fox bugs Franklin to tell him the secret, promising not to tell, and Franklin does so. But when he and Bear return, we find Fox showing the flag to the others. Bear storms off wanting to take the flag with him but Franklin holds onto it wanting it to stay. It ends up getting ripped, leaving Bear furious with Franklin. After a few unsuccessful attempts to make things right, he finally lures Bear to the treehouse, and learns that the word "sorry" is more important than you think.

    Live Action TV 
  • Power Rangers Mystic Force: In "Fire Heart", Vida and Necrolai struggle over a map to the eponymous artifact. The map is ripped in half, with each one getting half of it.
  • Played with in the Thunderbirds episode "The Mighty Atom": Parker and Kyrano squabble over who will serve the drinks, and they play tug of war with the loaded drinks tray, with predictable results.
    Jeff Tracy: By the sound of it, we're going to stay thirsty.

  • A humorous article in Sinclair User imagined a videogame adaptation of Kramer vs. Kramer as the tug-of-war event from a sports game. Pull too hard, and little Billy would come in two.

    Video Games 
  • WarioWare: Smooth Moves: In 9-Volt and 18-Volt's stage, 18-Volt breaks 9-Volt's DS-like Game and Watch when he can't wait his turn. By the end of the stage, they make up when they find another one.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Sequential Art has Kat Vance and Hilary Locke get into a fight over a nice tank top, beginning in strip #113. A tug-o'-war concludes the drama by strip #117, resulting in the garment being ripped in two. Suddenly, neither female wants it, especially when a store security man insists upon payment.
  • In Archipelago this actually happens to a character who is at the same time a Plot Coupon That Does Something. The Listing of Names, the book that lists names and lineages of the six heirs, is sentient and kept in custody of the Hidden Island nuns. Since both heroes and villains need to find the heirs, both groups want the book, and it gets torn in half during the battle, when both Credenza and Snow tug at the covers. She gets the "head" bit which retains its sentience, though.

    Western Animation 
  • A literal example occurs in the Arthur episode "Arthur's Birthday" where a game of tug-of-war between the boys and the girls results in the tug-of-war rope being torn apart, resulting in a draw.
  • In Baby's One Afternoon, an animated short that aired in between shows on Nick Jr. in the early 2000's, the titular baby plays with a toy horse attached to a string. The two dogs then grab the horse, stopping the baby in his tracks. The baby and the two dogs have a tug of war over the horse, causing the string to break in half. As the baby's half was the one that didn't have the horse, he begins to cry, so the dogs lick his face to cheer him up.
  • In The Loud House episode "Potty Mouth", Lori and Leni fight over a sweater, which then tears down the middle, causing them both to swear (censored by the washing machine beeping).
  • In an episode of the animated series adaptation of The Moomins, Little My and the Mymble fight over a cushion, which ends up tearing and spraying stuffing everywhere.
  • In the Rugrats (1991) Passover special, Phil and Lil pull a cube-shaped stone in separate directions, causing it to break. The twins then argue over who is to blame.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • "Friend or Foe" has a flashback in which Krabs and Plankton fight over a patty recipe and accidentally tear it apart, marking the beginning of their bitter rivalry.
    • In "No Free Rides", Mrs. Puff tries to get SpongeBob out of her class by giving him an "extra credit" assignment: a 10-word essay on what he learned in boating school. When SpongeBob finishes and then tries to make revisions, an impatient Mrs. Puff tries to take his paper, leading to them accidentally tearing it in half.
    Mrs. Puff: (reading the torn paper) "What I learned in boating school is..." Uh... Well, the rest doesn't matter! You pass! You pass!
  • At the beginning of the Super Mario World episode, "The Night Before Cave Christmas", Yoshi and Oogtar have a tug-of-war over a barbecue mammoth rib as they argue over who it belongs to. When Mario tries to intervene, telling them there's plenty for both of them, Yoshi and Oogtar rip the rib in half, causing the sauce from it to splash Mario.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: In "No Toon is an Island", Plucky finds a note in a bottle. When Babs takes the note from the bottle, she finds a map leading to the treasure of Booty Island inside. While Buster, Babs, and Hamton agree to split the treasure equally once they find it, Plucky wants to keep all the treasure for himself. He and Babs have a tug-of-war over the map, which results in it ripping in half. When the toons head out to Booty Island later in the episode, Hamton tapes the map back together.

    Real Life 
  • This is a risk in actual games of tug-of-war. Too much force can break the rope, which can also cause the ends to effectively turn into very dangerous whips; people have been killed by this. [1]
  • According to Greek tradition, that was part of the events leading to the founding of Syracuse. A nobleman named Archias attempted to kidnap a boy he fell in love with, and in the struggle the boy was torn in half. The father attempted to seek justice, and after failing, committed suicide. The ensuing controversy (and bad omens) forced Archias to seek fortune elsewhere. Later, he was killed by a former boy lover.