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Viewers in Mourning

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Some character deaths come and go. Others can have so much impact that fans erect a shrine which becomes a permanent attraction in Wales.

"No man should have to outlive his fictional wizard! No man!"
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, "The Haw-Hawed Couple"

Fans can be a strange lot. They get really emotionally invested in the show they are watching, they come to empathise with and care for the characters. They come to see them as friends. Sometimes this gets taken to a strange place.

When a fictional character dies, there is often a very emotional response. In fact it can often lead to the sorts of public displays of affection that we might expect for a major public figure. In certain cases, Shipping will play a big part in this situation. A One True Pairing will be dashed because of a character's death, and the fan outcry will be massive.

This can either be a sign of a great writer, or a terrible one. Likewise, it can be the sign of a touching viewer following, or a fanatical one. Or perhaps both. Either the death struck a chord deep and meaningful or the fans become enraged. In any case, sometimes it almost seems to border on Daydream Believer with how "real" the character's death feels. A denial is called He's Just Hiding.

As this trope is about reactions to character deaths, here be spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A real life funeral was held for Raoh of Fist of the North Star. Though it was more of a publicity stunt.
  • From Wikipedia on Tomorrow's Joe:
    "When the fans of the series saw the death of Rikiishi, there was a special funeral for him. In March 1970, about 700 people packed the streets dressed in black, wearing black armbands and ribbons with flowers and incense, participated in the funeral. The event was called for by poet Shuuji Terayama. The service was conducted in a full scale boxing ring watched over by a Buddhist priest."
  • A LOT of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann fans were heavily affected by one or more of three deaths: Kamina, Kittan, or Nia.
  • When the Sailor Senshi die in the two-episode finale to the first season of Sailor Moon, children in Japan were so upset by this that they made themselves sick.
  • Although it is a series where Anyone Can Die, the especially vivid and cruel twist of fate where Petra Ral got crushed by the Female Titan in Attack on Titan was a rather shocking death for some.
  • Being that he was such a popular character and few saw it coming (he was supposed to fix the Hyuuga clan!), many Naruto fans fell into grief at Neji's death. Shippers were especially distraught as their Neji pairings were now unable to happen.
  • Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School has done a bang-up job of pushing its fanbase into despair in the final stretch, with the killing off of fan favorites Kyoko Kirigiri and Chiaki Nanami in the span of two weeks. While the latter was largely expected, the sheer brutality of the scene was enough to push the characters' fans into a quick depression mode. The creators have taken glee in the response. Kyouko ultimately survived (she was poisoned in such a manner that she could ultimately hold on and be given an antidote), but Chiaki remained dead.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: The death of Satoru Gojo in chapter 236 was so shocking to fans, that many of them in Chile created a memorial to him.
  • An In-Universe case of it kicks off Kiss Him, Not Me's plot. After her favorite character Shion dies in Kachuu Ranbu(a fictional version of Touken Ranbu), overweight Yaoi Fangirl Kae Serinuma falls into such a big Heroic BSoD that she starves herself in her room for a whole week—and comes out losing most of her unseemly weight.
  • For most of its run, One Piece had characters either die in flashbacks or have a Disney Death. Not for Portgas D. Ace and Whitebeard, who died almost back to back in the Marineford Arc and completely shook the One Piece fandom for the rest of its run.
  • After the death of Magical Girl Mamika in Re:CREATORS, fans staged a funeral for her.
  • The Grand Finale of Code Geass R2 led to a lot of fans mourning the death of Lelouch. Most fans are in denial as they believe He's Just Hiding and many theories of his survival had been discussed for a decade until the release of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection in 2019, which is an Alternate Continuity set after the Compilation Movie trilogy instead of the TV series.

  • When Superman (temporarily) died, a lot of fans went crazy with apparent grief. Despite the fact he's a Comic Book character and it was therefore inevitable when he came back to life a few months later.
    • Given how broad Superman's sphere of public awareness is, most of the mourners were non-comic book fans, while the Genre Savvy regular readers were more shocked that they actually did it, still it's a mark of how much said savviness has grown over the years: Superman's death made national news. Batman's death, fifteen years later, went mostly unnoticed outside of the DC readership.note  There was still some interest; if any superheroes can breach the mainstream, it's Superman and Batman. Captain America's assassination made a few ripples, too.
    • Something which may have helped here was that the "Death of Superman" storyline was, if not the first such occurrence in superhero stories, then the one that really codified the Killed Off for Real/Back from the Dead cycle in comic books. While it's been played so often since it's become cliche in comics that Death Is Cheap, the idea that DC Comics would actually kill off their flagship superhero for an extended period of time and possibly even replace him with a new version was a lot more of a novelty at the time, and while there was never an intention to keep Superman dead it was in a way that made it ambiguous for the reader whether Superman's inevitable return really was that inevitable.
  • When Flattop, a villain of all people, finally died in the original Dick Tracy strip, fans staged a funeral for him.
  • Actual news shows reported on the death of Captain America in 2007. Fans, however, knew he'd be back eventually, which he was of course.
  • This can even happen with non-major characters. When the third DC hero to go by The Atom, Ryan Choi, was killed during the Brightest Day crossover, the grief and rage from the fandom was such that, much like Superman and Captain America, mainstream news sources covered it. What made this death particularly infamous was a) how graphic it was, with the villain Deathstroke running Ryan through with his sword in loving detail, then shrinking his corpse and sending it to his nemesis in the mail; b) the fact that Ryan was one of DC's few non-Captain Ethnic Asian heroes; and c) the fact that, relating to the previous, the issue where he died in had the profound bad timing to come out during Asian-American Heritage Month. The backlash was such that in a later event, Convergence, it was revealed that due to a quirk of his powers he had actually been Only Mostly Dead, and was subsequently fully restored.
  • When Archie Andrews died towards the end of Life With Archie: The Married Life (despite the reminder that the teenaged Archie will still live on in media for years to come), Seanbaby did an In Memoriam Cracked article for him... in the 8 Bizarre Horrors Found in the Squarest Comic Book Ever!
    • Dr. Donald DeMarco summed it up in The Catholic Transcript's column, "The killing of an icon", to describe the tragic event.
  • The public mourning of Andy Lippincott's AIDS-related death in Doonesbury extended to his getting a square in the AIDS quilt. While Andy had been a secondary character, he was pretty much the first openly gay character in American daily comics.
  • Not necessarily a death, but Tangle the Lemur's transformation into a Zombot (metallic zombie-like being) in Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) caused a fan to start his #SaveTangleTheLemur campaign and go on local television to spread it.
  • The Spider-Man spinoff Superior Spider-Man opens with Peter Parker's nemesis, Doctor Octopus, switching Spidey's mind into his own dying body, which subsequently does in fact die, and his mind into Spidey's body. Writer Dan Slott then proceeded to not only repeatedly insist the change was permanent, but that Ock would actually be portrayed as being a better Spider-Man than Peter was. Despite the sheer improbability of both these statements, many fans took them at face value and hounded Slott, who, apparently, began to legitimately fear for his real-life personal safety. Likely to no surprise of the fandom's cooler heads, the initiative ended up only lasting a year before Peter reclaimed the mantle, complete with Ock admitting to him that try as he might, he will never surpass Peter as the Superior Spider-Man.

  • When Godzilla vs. Destoroyah premiered in Japan in 1995 and Godzilla died, a huge funeral was held for him on national television with many of the people behind the series in attendance. Even CNN was abuzz about it.
  • While the Browncoat fan community was very pleased to have a follow-up movie made of the short-running TV series Firefly, director Joss Whedon's decision to kill off Wash, one of the most popular characters, who should have had Plot Armor, ultimately ruined the joy of having Serenity for many fans. Shepherd Book's death, while also sad to many, had a muted reaction at least in comparison, probably since viewers usually get fixated on a single character. Probably a moot point, but Book's death happened offscreen, whereas Wash was dead-center (for lack of a better term) in the frame.
  • After Loki's death in Avengers: Infinity War, his fans added little suns to their nicknamesnote  and used multiple hashtags (such as bringlokibackalive or undyingfidelity) to express their disappointment and grief. They flooded Marvel's social media accounts to the point that The Russo Brothers half-jokingly admitted that they had to temporarily withdraw from social media to avoid fans' wrath, and later said killing Loki was the most impactful thing they've ever done in terms of audience reactions. Some of the comments on twitter or weibo remaining since May 2018 are pretty telling. The directors' page on Wikipedia has been repeatedly vandalized, with "murderers" being added to their occupation list. Thousands of viewers in China vowed to stop watching Marvel movies altogether if Loki is gone for good, fans across Russia were attaching hand-made drawings of Loki to the Infinity War official posters in the movie theaters (he was missing from all of them), and there was an abundance of implausible theories of how He's Just Hiding. Some of those theories would be vindicated in Loki's own spin-off show, which has an episode featuring an Older and Wiser Loki who really did fake his death.
  • The Rise of Skywalker saw Kylo Ren/Ben Solo die shortly after a turn to the side of good. Many fans mourned his death, with many particularly attached fans insisting that He's Just Hiding and begging for him to be brought back.

  • A quarter of the Phenomena fandom failed to notice that the series actually continued after the fourth book, while the rest of the fandom went into silent mourning with loads of crying after the heroine died. There is allegedly a chance that the author will bring the character back, but many fans are afraid of being hurt again so they try to avoid news about the subject.
  • Young men in London wore black mourning bands on their arms after Sherlock Holmes died in "The Final Problem." Conan Doyle was finally forced to resurrect him when Queen Victoria told him he should. One does not lightly disregard the wishes of one of the most beloved monarchs in British history, after all.
  • When the Sienkiewicz Trilogy was originally published, the death of Longinus is said to have inspired a similar response. Old pious ladies asked for masses to be held for the peace of his soul.
  • The death of Little Nell in Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop.
  • Sirius Black's death in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix caused extreme grief in the fanbase — a popular avatar/signature saying shortly after the book's release was "JK took my love away; I am still in mourning." The fact that his death was never really explained, as it involved magic only seen in that scene, didn't help.
  • Older Than Steam: Richard Barber, in his The Knight and Chivalry, notes that people used to get really emotionally invested in Chivalric Romances (the ones parodied in Don Quixote) and recounts a 16th-century anecdote about a man who returns home, only to find his family in tears and despair. He asks them if anyone died, and they answer that, indeed, Amadis Of Gaul (a protagonist of a particularly popular romance) did. Even if it's just a joke, there were also recorded real-life cases of people swearing by the Bible that their favorite romances actually happened, so such mourning, comparably mild, was probably quite frequent.
  • Hercule Poirot's obituary was on the front page of the New York Times (August 6, 1975).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire, all over the place. It's become something of a game for book-readers to film the reactions of people who have only watched the show to the more brutal scenes. Particularly infamous are Ned's death and the Red Wedding.
  • Misery: An In-Universe example, as Paul's number one fan Annie becomes outraged that he would kill off Misery Chastain, the protagonist of her favorite bodice-ripper series. Her despair is so intense that when she gets the chance, she forces a Retcon of Misery's death.
  • The death of adorable Manic Pixie Dream Girl Leslie of Bridge to Terabithia fame spawned an entire genre of Fix Fics known as "LDD" - "Leslie Didn't Die." Of note - the character was based on a real person who actually died.

    Live-Action TV 
  • When Sherlock Holmes "committed" suicide in Sherlock, spontaneous memorial for the character was created under St. Bart's Hospital in London (place of suicide). Worldwide action using various hashtags, mainly #IBelieveInSherlockHolmes, continued up to two years later, when next season premiered.
  • When Ianto Jones died in Torchwood, a spontaneous memorial was constructed by fans outside the supposed entrance to Torchwood where it remains to this day. They also raised a lot of money for charity in memory of Ianto.
  • When Mrs. Landingham died on The West Wing, she was eulogized in Congress.
  • Daniel Jackson's first real death in Stargate SG-1 didn't make the fans sad... it made them downright angry! So they made a website and eventually got him back. Then the Stargate Atlantis writers thought they'd do it again with Beckett...
    • Beckett's fans actually donated a large amount of money to a Save the Turtles foundation in his memory after the character had mentioned liking turtles once. He too made his way back to the show.
    • And not long after Beckett, we lost Elizabeth Weir, which really didn't sit well with fans.
  • The death of Maid Marian on the BBC's Robin Hood was met with abject fury, a flood of complaints, and a lot of suspicious behind-the-scenes dealings (including the resignation of the writer and co-creator who wrote the episode in which she died). The writers/producers seemed to have realized just how spectacularly they fucked up, as the third season was given little publicity and a terrible time-slot, and after the ratings dropped exponentially the show was duly canceled.
  • An odd villainous example: When General Black of Kamen Rider was killed, the children who lived in the same neighborhood as General Black's actor gave him flowers. To the actor, this was when he first realized that Kamen Rider was actually popular.
  • When Breaking Bad ended, some fans took out an obituary for Walter White in the Albuquerque Journal, and a mock funeral was held for charity. People weren't mourning Walt himself so much as the show, which he personified.
    • Some crew members wore black armbands during the filming of "Say My Name", the episode where Mike died.
  • Beauty and the Beast (1987) built itself on heavy emotional investment in even the minor characters, and especially the long-building romance between Catherine and Vincent. When Linda Hamilton left the show in season 3, several episodes that were in the can had to be scrapped, and the writers killed Catherine off in the season premiere. Fanon Discontinuity ensued, and viewers lost interest in the much darker storyline that followed.
  • The Grace Archer story was parodied in a TV episode of Hancock's Half Hour. The producers of Hancock's radio soap are delighted to have got rid of him until they realize how much public grief his character's death has caused, and then he has them over a barrel.

  • When Grace Archer died in The Archers a surprising number of people sent her husband flowers and condolences cards care of the BBC.

    Video Games 
  • Aeris' death in Final Fantasy VII caused this, to the point that many people were desperately hoping that there was some way (or point) she could/would be revived, even to this day. This was a particularly effective one, partly due to how far technology had advanced in gaming (making the death scene even more poignant) and partly since the writers actually set out to invoke this reaction (they succeeded... a little too well, some might say). Other Final Fantasy games before and since also had this response at times, but Aeris's to this day remains the strongest.
  • Mentioned In-Universe in Dragon Age: Inquisition. In party banter, Cassandra admits to Varric that she gave up on reading one of his stories because he killed her favorite character, and was so upset that she threw the book across the room.
  • Arthur Morgan's tuberculosis and eventual inevitable death in Red Dead Redemption II prompted many fans who first played the game to look up on Google Search for ways to find a TB cure, in spite of the fact that there is none for Arthurnote  (though he does get warned by the doctor to "rest somewhere warm and dry" in an attempt to slow down the infection, which is not on the cards). Also, his death became a catalyst for many fans to go and vote for the game's nomination categories in awards ceremonies in his honor, with the game winning the "Fan-Favorite Fall Release" award at the Gamers' Choice Awards, both "Action-Adventure Title of the Year" and "Game of the Year" at the Australian Games Awards, and about half of the eight categories at The Game Awards 2018 (said half being "Best Audio Design", "Best Narrative", "Best Score/Music", and "Best Performance" with Arthur's voice actor Roger Clark, who indeed admitted that he looked surprised at his win).
    • It became quite so touching, in fact, that Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation decided to open up his review of the game with his experience of Arthur's plight, using a shot of Yahtzee's avatar lying on his back with his head turned toward the side and letting out a sigh and the opening line that follows as cryptic clues for other fans who have played the game:
      "Well, I managed to get through the story of Red Dead Redemption 2, and I have to say, I'm quite shooknote ; possibly the emotional impact, more likely from delirium tremens."
    • Another gamer, Austin Hourigan of Game Theory, became so stunned at Arthur's (possible) death by TB that he decided to make a video on Arthur's plight, after studying the research on tuberculosis and its risk factors by looking them up on medical websites and on Wikipedia, and combining them with video clips from the game itself, including one of its High Honor endings. He even included links to charity websites like TB Alert, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and TB Alliance, the latter of which made an interview with Hourigan himself, who said that he thought he could use "an evocative moment in a game, where the protagonist succumbs to his tuberculosis infection, as a way to more or less piggyback ride a broader conversation."
    • One of Polygon's authors, Eirik Gumeny, managed to play the game and was quite surprised at Arthur's passing by a real-life disease that he decided to write a tribute article by sharing his personal experience of growing up with another terminal disease (cystic fibrosis) along with Arthur's while keeping the fictional protagonist's memory alive. Eirik concludes that, though dead, "Arthur Morgan is still with me... [and] will always be there to remind me that I am more than my disease. That there are still things left to do. That, while I may not always be here, I am for now, and that means there's still time to get to work."

  • Happens a LOT in Homestuck. In general, at least one of the deaths in the series will get to you. People have had mental breakdowns because their favorite character died. Fans certainly are weird.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Tuuri's death. Several factors made things worse: the death being a Better to Die than Be Killed suicide (which stirred up people's feelings about the latter issue), Fanon that nobody was going to die in the story that existed up to that point and the feeling that the death betrayed the "lighthearted" story announced by the author herself. Some people took things so hard they outright stopped reading the comic, some of the more dedicated fans demoted themselves to casual readers and some regular fan work producers had to take a break.

    Web Original 
  • Many fans of Critical Role were so shocked and devastated by the sudden death of Mollymauk Tealeaf, that some of them even lashed out at the DM in grief, even though he was heartbroken by the loss as well.
  • RWBY
    • The show caused a lot of this on fans in the last episodes of Volume 3, which had a few shocking deaths in succession: Robot Girl Penny Polendina was torn apart, Starter Villain Roman Torchwick was devoured alive, and in the one that caused the biggest amount of mourning, The Ace Pyrrha Nikkos was shot and turned into ash. While Penny was brought Back from the Dead in Volume 7, Pyrrha’s chances of a similar revival is very low, given that her death was planned by series creator Monty Oum, who died a year before her in-show death. Because of this, many Arkos shippers see him as the true killer of Pyrrha and not Cinder Fall, often demonizing him on par of that with JewWario.
    • And as of Vol 6, Adam Taurus can be added to the list, as many felt that his character was ultimately wasted potential.
    • And now that Volume 7 is finished, the sudden death of Clover Ebi can also be added as some fans loved him for being an excellent foil and friend to Qrow, while others thought the chemistry the two had was indicating something more.
    • Volume 8 ended on another Darkest Hour just like Volume 3, and Penny was once again killed. This time however, she was given a human body before she died which means she was Killed Off for Real.

    Western Animation