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That Man Is Dead

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Carl Grissom: Jack, listen! Maybe we can cut a deal!
The Joker: Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me... Joker. And as you can see, I'm a lot happier.

A Stock Phrase uttered by someone who's been completely subsumed by their alter ego. The idea is that they have completely abandoned their past lives to the point where they wouldn't even recognize themselves. It's almost always a major turning point for the character, though there are a few cases where it merely emphasizes what the audience has already observed.

If a genuine hero utters it (though they generally use one of the variations below), it's because their past life was naive, evil, or selfish, and it's a sign that they've overcome their problems in the beginning and are ready to ascend to the grand finale. If an Anti-Hero utters it, it's to emphasize their dark (or at least rebellious) nature. If a villain utters it to another villain, it's to show that they're Eviler than Thou.

Finally, if a villain utters it to a hero (particularly if they've done a Face–Heel Turn, though usually their past life is relegated to Backstory), it determines their fate: If they speak this line with contempt, then they're irredeemable and will die; if they speak it with regret, then The Power of Friendship will prove them wrong and... well, they'll probably die anyway, but they'll feel better about it.

May be said as part of the resolution to a character's Identity Breakdown. Occasionally, mentioning the old life may be a Berserk Button. If a Split Personality is involved, then it's a Split-Personality Takeover. Very common when somebody is Becoming the Mask. If they ever purposefully mention their previous life, they will remark that No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me. Commonly, these characters Used to Be a Sweet Kid.

Usually this is just speaking figuratively, but Death of Personality, Demonic Possession and More than Mind Control can make it literal.


  • "No... not 'Frank'... not anymore..." (Or if you want to get creepy, "Frank doesn't live here anymore!" Or "I'm sorry, the old Frank can't come to the phone right now!")
  • "My name is X!"
  • "It's X now."
  • "'Frank'? Who's 'Frank'?" (generally only for the insane)
  • "Frank's not here... he never was." (if the person everyone thought they knew was a mask.)
  • "There is no 'Frank'...only X!"
  • "Frank grew up!" (if the person was only a good guy in their childhood)

It may be inverted when the character gives up his second identity, and embraces his basic civilian life. The quote then is something like "I'm not Captain Righteous anymore, I'm just Joe".

May overlap with Artifact Alias. Compare Demoted Memories, Do Not Call Me "Paul", and Third-Person Person. Don't confuse with He's Dead, Jim; in that case, someone is quite literally deceased.


Other examples:

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    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In the season-ending Cliffhanger "Neverland", Charley finds the Doctor, who has just barely survived a massive anti-time explosion, but has been transmuted into a quasi-mythological villain, announcing, "I'm not the Doctor; I am become Zagreus."
    • In the Unbound series of audio plays (also by Big Finish), we have "He Jests at Scars", which is pretty much nothing but this trope.

  • Green Day's American Idiot follows the main character, Jesus of Suburbia. Jesus develops a split personality named St. Jimmy, who encourages his partying and drug abusing habits. Eventually, Jesus frees himself of this split personality and claims that St. Jimmy killed himself.
    Jimmy died today,
    he blew his brains out into the bay.
    In the state of mind
    It's my own private suicide.
  • Pink Floyd
    • In the Rock Opera The Wall, after Pink's Freak Out when his wife leaves him, he is forced back on stage to perform - but emerges as a neo-Nazi, and announces his change by claiming to be a new person:
      Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel
      And they sent us along as a surrogate band
    • Former frontman Syd Barrett refused to answer to "Syd" after leaving the band, preferring his birth name, Roger.
  • The rapper Gemstones uses an interesting version of this on his mixtape, The Testimony of Gemstones.
    "I had to switch it up so I could let my wings spread/This is the "Testimony of Gemstones, Gemini is dead..."
    • What makes it fit the trope is the fact that he released a few songs under the name of Gemini that he wasn't too proud of, as he didn't agree with their themes. As it turns out, he was forced to change his name anyway, because the name Gemini was already taken.
  • Nine Inch Nails' song "The Becoming", from The Downward Spiral, has this happen to the album's protagonist, who phrases his loss of the ability to feel like a dissociation from the person he used to be.
    The me that you know, he had some second thoughts
    He's covered with scabs, he is broken and sore
    The me that you know, he doesn't come around much
    That part of me isn't here anymore.
  • "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" by Steely Dan:
    If I had my way
    I would move to another lifetime
    I'd quit my job
    Ride the train through the misty night-time
    I'll be ready when my feet touch ground
    Wherever I come down
    And if the folks will have me
    Then they'll have me

    Any world that I'm welcome to
    Is better than the one I come from
  • Sun Ra was born Herman Poole Blount; when asked about it, he once said, "That's an imaginary person, never existed. Any name that I use other than Ra is a pseudonym."
  • Prince, after his name change to o(->: "Prince is dead, but I control his music". Come's cover even had the epitaph "Prince: 1958-1993".
  • Taylor Swift; the bridge in her single "Look What You Made Me Do""
    "I'm sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, 'cause she's dead."
  • From "Halliburton Boardroom Massacre" by David Rovics:
    I was supposed to stay a year
    They sent me for four
    By the time I got back home, no one knew me anymore
    Of the man I once was there didn't seem to be a trace
    And when I looked me in the mirror I didn't recognize my face
  • While this is played with, unlike many of the examples above, Eminem's Slim Shady alter-ego occasionally claims to have killed Marshall and Eminem. Eminem has also claimed to have killed Slim.
    • In the intro skit to Slim Shady EP, Eminem screams "I killed you!" when encountering the Monster, his Enemy Within, lurking in his mirror. The Monster takes over him, turning him to Slim Shady.
    • In "Soldier" — "motherfuckers know that I'll never be Marshall again!"
    • In "My Name Is", Slim claims to have killed his original self at age twelve by hanging himself from the top bunk with a belt.
    • Throughout Kamikaze, Eminem disowns his more wholesome and inspiring Recovery persona, promising us "you'll swear I forgot I'm the guy that made "Not Afraid"". The music video for "Fall" also shows him grinding a copy of his Revival CD into the dust under his heel, in a demonic possession state, Slim fully in control.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • This is basically how being "Born Again" works in Christianity. God "executes" one's old nature (known as "The Flesh," because it's all the basic, temporal instincts that lead one to sin), allowing the supplicant to become a new person in-tune with His will. Baptism is a symbolic Death by Drowning sentence for the selfish, cruel, licentious "old you." Of course, it doesn't (usually) involve taking on a new name.
    • Confirmation (at least, in the Catholic Church) doesn't involve ditching your old name, but often adding a new middle name (usually that of a saint one wishes to emulate or admires).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pro-Wrestler "The Undertaker" is a big believer in Kayfabe (a rarity these days). Fans who ask him, at appearances, about Mark Callaway usually get the answer "Marc Callaway is a dead man, now."
    • Which has a double meaning, given that the Undertaker is also known by the nickname "the Deadman".
  • Jeff G. Bailey said this in regards to former NWA Wildside Champion Prince Justice when he sent him to regain the belt from Onyx... as Abyss! This was before Abyss talked, in case you're wondering.
  • Done humorously by Chavo Guerrero Jr. when in the summer of 2005 he suddenly denounced his Guerrero heritage and transformed into "Kerwin White," a stereotype of the white, upper-middle-class 1960s American, complete with a sweater vest and a golf club and entrance theme reminiscent of the tunes of Frank Sinatra. On the night he made his first appearance (on Sunday Night Heat), some people in the audience asked where the hell Chavo was, and "Kerwin" explained that he was out looking for work "with all the other unemployed Hispanics." The only thing that ended the gimmick? The death of Eddie Guerrero.
  • As part of his Face–Heel Turn, Stardust proclaimed no one would ever see "Cody Rhodes" ever again.
  • When, in 1989, manager Bobby Heenan introduced his latest client, Steve Lombardi, by having him attack Terry Taylor on the set of Prime Time Wrestling, Lombardi was immediately renamed The Brooklyn Brawler, the appellation by which he'd be best known for the rest of his career. In an interview following the attack, he embraces his new character in full, stating outright, "Lombardi's dead."
  • In September 1988, Slick announced that One Man Gang had discovered his African roots, and from that point on until he departed the WWF in October 1990, he wrestled as Akeem, the African Dream. After wrestling in other wrestling organizations, he resumed his One Man Gang persona.
  • "The old Daniel Bryan, the "YES!" movement...they're all dead. You may now refer to me as...The NEW Daniel Bryan!"
  • No one has done this quite as uniquely as Bray Wyatt. After several years as a Max Cady Expy, Wyatt finally dropped the gimmick come 2019, remerging as the nightmarish Fiend. And just to drive the point home that his old character was dead, he arrived in his first match with a lantern resembling his severed head.
  • Ultimate Warrior probably qualifies as an example of some sort, given that he seems to have become so profoundly Lost in Character that he legally changed his name to "Warrior". Some say that it was just a particularly creative way of getting around the fact that WWE kept the trademark on his stage name when he left the company, but one of the main reasons his WWE career ended was that his... eccentric... kayfabe persona and his philosophy of life outside the ring had started to blur together (making for an unusually literal example of Becoming the Mask), so it could go either way.

    Tabletop Games 
  • An innate part of becoming an Abyssal Exalted; you must throw your destiny and your birth name into the Void, to be consumed forever, and take on a moniker given to you by your Deathlord. Were you Rose once? Well, now you're Bitter Taste of Blood on Thorns. Oh, and if you ever let someone call you by your old name, you build Resonance, which may lash out and kill people close to you.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Calistarius of the Blood Angels succumbed to the Black Rage, the curse of his chapter that turns those afflicted into frothing, rabid murder machines that are typically put down with a Mercy Kill. Calistarius however was trapped for a solid week under rubble when his Black Rage took hold. And through sheer force of will, overcame it. When he emerged, he shunned his old name, becoming the famed Mephiston, Lord of Death.
    Mephiston: I once was Calistarius. He has been dead for many years. I stand in his place, with death in my right hand, darkness in my left, and I would know who this is who bears the name Mephiston.
  • A possible plot complication in Promethean: The Created is one of the titular beings encountering someone who knew their body's previous owner. All Prometheans are created from corpses (barring some very strange corner cases), but the person who used to be in the body/bodies is gone - the Promethean is a completely new individual. Now, explaining that to the confused friend/relative/enemy, while also dealing with Disquiet...

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, the musical, has the song "I Know Those Eyes / This Man Is Dead", which juxtaposes the titular character's persona from before and after his wrongful imprisonment.
  • Played with in Man of La Mancha. After Alonso Quijana/Don Quixote dies, Aldonza says:
    Aldonza: A man died. He seemed a good man, but I did not know him.
    Sancho: But—
    Aldonza: Don Quixote is not dead. Believe, Sancho, believe.
    Sancho (in confused hope): Aldonza?
    Aldonza: My name is Dulcinea.
  • Les Misérables. "Jean Valjean is nothing now!"
  • At the end of Othello, the title character replies to the character asking for "this rash and most unfortunate man" with "That's he who was Othello: here I am".
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street plays with this. The eponymous Todd says this of his real identity of Benjamin Barker. In some adaptations, he uses the exact words, "That man is dead." However, at the climax, Todd insists on revealing his true name to the villain who wronged him.
  • The Tin Man in The Kansas Collection hates being called by his original name from when he was a human, Nick Chopper.
  • In Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke, when the transformed Alma throws herself at John, she tells him that, "The girl who said 'no' [to his advances], she doesn't exist any more — she died last summer, suffocated in smoke from something on fire inside her." Unfortunately, it's too late for her, as John is also no longer the man he once was — the one-time player has accepted a settled life with another girl that he plans to marry.

    Visual Novels 
  • Although he never utters the line in question, Archer from Fate/stay night takes this trope to a whole new level. He not only considers himself to have outgrown his past self to the degree that he's not the same person, he states that he doesn't have his past self's memories anymore, he wants to kill his past self to ensure said past self will never have to become him as well (and in the hope that it will cause a Temporal Paradox and erase him from existence — Archer also takes 'self-loathing' to a whole new level). So, "That man isn't dead... yet."
  • Rin's route in Katawa Shoujo has Hisao doing this on the school rooftop after spending weeks resenting his condition:
    Hisao: After Rin leaves I finally let tears roll down my cheeks and cry for my condition for the first and only time in my life. Then I cast away that hollow person lying on the hospital bed, forever.
  • At the end of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Edgeworth leaves a note in his desk that says "Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth chooses death". He meant that as in it's a Journey to Find Oneself, to leave his old ways behind, but Phoenix took it literally.

    Web Animation 
  • Minilife TV: In the Minilife Chronicles episode "The Student and the Master", Master Quoker insists to Abel that the Master Quoker he's been searching for is no longer around due to his transformation.
  • Red vs. Blue has Agent Maine getting slowly corrupted by his AI Sigma until he finally snaps and loses his human identity. Even after Sigma and the other AI fragments were killed by an EMP, Maine continues to carry out Sigma's will.

  • In Fans!, Alysin (note spelling) assumed her name when she became a hard-partying Goth with a hidden sadistic streak. Later, after being cured of a rare life-threatening disease and finding true love and a fulfilling life with husband Rikk and their third partner Rumi, she put that part of her life behind her, dropped the Goth wardrobe and persona (but kept some of her bondage gear in the bedroom for "therapeutic" purposes), and is now referred to as simply "Aly".
  • Parodied in Narbonic, when Dave finally gets laid.
    "The Dave you knew is dead. I killed him with awesomeness."
    • Played straight ater he goes mad.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures uses this trope for a Prophecy Twist: an oracle declares that the life of the succubus Destania "has ended at the hands of Daniel Ti'Fiona". What actually happened is that after the giving birth to Daniel, she declared: "Destania... Such a foreign name... The name of a succubus and the name of a life that is now long since over. I can't go back now... So I guess I'll start over and a new life... starting with these li'l hands."
  • General Grievous in Darths & Droids:
    Obi-Wan: Oh my god. You were once Valorum, the Chancellor.
    Grievous: Irrelevant! That name no longer has any meaning for me.
    • As in the movies, Vader says as much about Anakin Skywalker. And this time, it's literally true.
  • In Endstone, Cole Montaigne uses it word for word.
  • In Dragon Mango, they can't be told the name of the great warrior they are looking for, because she abandoned it when she left the kingdom.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Malack denies being the person he used to be before becoming a vampire. He is being entirely literal: as a vampire, Malack is an evil spirit possessing that former person's corpse and stealing his memories.
  • In The Dragon Doctors:
    • Invoked by Kili when she takes a trip to the part of the spirit world inhabited by the spirits of people's former selves, or their Shadow Archetype — where she and Greg meet a bitter, much saner Preston Chang, and Kili and Greg's younger selves (an annoying, grumpy thirteen-year-old and a Totally Radical headbanger, respectively).
    • At the end of the second Mr. Smith arc, both Blue and Elka (Tanica's real name) say this about Tanica the Assassin.
  • In Inverloch, Silvah says this when Lei'ella says that he has to be Kayn'dar—the person they've been looking for—because he's the only white-haired gold-eyed elf who can use magic. Silvah says that Kayn'dar is a broken shell of what he once was, which they assume means he was corrupted by dark magic. What Silvah really means is that Kayn'dar's soul was switched into Acheron's body—Silvah is the real Acheron.
  • In the Mystery Babylon prequel comic Kick Girl, Chris recognizes Kick Girl and calls her by her real name, Six. Kick Girl furiously shouts at him that Six is dead.
  • Luna of Bongo and Luna. Since she became such a different person following her death, damnation (Which she thoroughly enjoyed) and return as a ghost to the mortal world, she considers her previous life just that. Even forgoing her original name of Meredith Ann Merribelle.
  • In Sam & Fuzzy, Fuzzy uses a variant of this trope in the Grand Finale when he gives up the hunt for his old memories as Eric. He explicitly calls Eric 'dead' and states that Brain 'killed him', which is something he'd refused to to previously.

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role:
    • Played with in Campaign 1 by Grog takes the pseudonym "Phillip" for a pit fight, which he promptly loses. When he comes back for a rematch, he says "Philip is dead! There is only GROG THE VENGEFUL!"
    • Invoked by Mollymauk Tealeaf in campaign 2, who woke up with complete amnesia about two years before the start of the campaign. When the party discovers information on his past, he makes it perfectly clear that he doesn't consider himself the same person as he was before he dug his way out of his own grave.
      Molly: Let me make this abundantly clear. My name is Molly. That person is dead and not me. It's just a person who had this body. They abandoned it, it's mine now.
    • Invoked a second time by Lucien when the Mighty Nein catch up with him in Eiselcross.. He remembers nothing about his time as Mollymauk Tealeaf, and sees his old self as an abberation or a mere shard of his current personality that he seems to harbor quite a bit of resentment towards.
      Lucien: I am sorry, for whatever it's worth, that your friend is gone. Whatever part of me they were, is not of me anymore.
    • Invoked a third time by Kingsley Tealeaf, the resultant personality after the Nein kill Lucien and try to resurrect Molly; while he has some of Molly's memories — enough, at least, to recognize the Nein are people he can trust — much like Lucien and Molly, Kingsley sees himself as a separate person. In contrast to the loathing Lucien had for Molly, Kingsley is much more amicable to his old selves, and likes to think of Molly as a brother.
  • Almost literally done on the Dream SMP. Ghostbur insists he's not Wilbur, and often speaks of his living self as if he's a whole separate person. In fact, if Wilbur is to be believed, Ghostbur has an entirely separate soul altogether, as Wilbur apparently saw him entering the Afterlife as Wilbur himself was leaving. One interpretation suggests that the original Wilbur's soul might have split into two fragments, the personification of the "vulnerabilities" that he severely repressed in his trauma to survive in the Crapsack World he lives in (e.g. trust, idealism, and belief in peace and diplomacy to solve conflicts), and the rest being the cultivation of his less-than-stellar experiences on the SMP.
  • A variation is used in Survival of the Fittest with Bobby Jacks. 'Make it Rob, please,' Oddly, it signifies a Heel–Face Turn rather than the other way around.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: "There is no Joey. There is only Steve!"
  • "Hanzo Hasashi is dead. My name... Is Scorpion."
  • In Worm, Taylor slowly subsumes herself into her "Skitter" persona, becoming a ruthless and feared parahuman warlord in control of a major American city, but one that distinctly cared for the individuals under her rule. After joining the Wards, she adopts the identity of Weaver, a Knight Templar Well-Intentioned Extremist driven to stop the end of the world no matter who she needs to kill, rejecting all bonds and devaluing all her emotional ties. Finally, after failing to prevent the end of the world but at least saving the multiverse, she resumes being Taylor again.
  • In Noob, this happens to Arthéon from the in-game perspective. At the beginning of the fourth novel and Season 5, the player behind him gets a job controlling the equivalent of a Non-Player Character with human instead of artificial intelligence. The process involved pasting the statistics that the character is supposed to have whitin the game's story on Arthéon's standard gaming avatar while the player had to start roleplaying to fit his new story role. Since the player had very recently decided to adopt a new attitude towards both his in-game and real life when he got offered his job, he decided to act as if this trope applied to his former game persona. That included informing the other players with whom he used to hang out that "There is no more [full name of the old gaming avatar], there's just [character that I'm roleplaying].".
  • Heavily implied with Blake in RWBY Abridged, who insists that she doesn't have a name and only refers to herself as "Cat Girl", and soon afterwards reveals her past life as a terrorist, which left her so scared that she questions whether the world she sees is really what's real, or if she's so broken that she doesn't even realize what the world is still like anymore. Luckily, after a couple episodes, she's already showing signs of getting better and has started letting other people know her real name again.

    Real Life 
  • The Real Life version of this is a Fugue state, a form of Dissociative Disorder which involves a person losing all connection with their past identity. A person in a Fugue state can lose some or all aspects of their old self in the adoption of their new identity, often losing episodic memories, and the condition can last anywhere from a few days to forever.
  • While some Transgender people retain some part of their birth names as acceptance of both past and present self, or allow the use of their birth names in highly particular circumstances, such as pre-transition history, others do not feel comfortable about being referred to by their birth name in any circumstance. The act of referring to these people using their birth name is even referred to as "deadnaming."
  • When Joy Division first formed, the members made a pact that should any one of their members be removed from the lineup for any reason, the band would change its name should it continue. Surely enough, lead singer Ian Curtis was Driven to Suicide in 1980, at which point the surviving members of Joy Division renamed the group New Order. For many years, they even refused to play any Joy Division songs in concert, though they were later added to setlists once they'd felt they'd established a distinct musical identity for New Order. Though Joy Division and New Order are for all intents and purposes the same band, the remaining members treat Joy Division as a separate, discontinued entity on account of both the pact and Curtis' death.
  • After Ian Watkins was convicted as a sex offender against children, Lostprophets' remaining members disbanded the band and disowned the name, refusing to play any Lostprophets songs. They've since reformed under the name No Devotion, continuing to disown their past as Lostprophets.
  • In his later years after leaving Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett refused to answer to "Syd," preferring his birth name, Roger.
  • Lady Gaga: Stefani Germanotta suffered several tribulations in her childhood, including being bullied for her nose and getting molested. After her music career took off, she used her stage name of Lady Gaga as the common way she would like to be addressed to distance from her childhood, with even her family calling her by her stage name out of respect for her wishes. She has actually stated in interviews that Stefani Germanotta is dead, invoking this trope.

Alternative Title(s): That Woman Is Dead


An Old Friend, No More

Jack wouldn't turn his back on an old friend, but he will turn his back of Vlad, who was hardly ever his friend.

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