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We've all seen this before. Perchance the character Does Not Know His Own Strength. Maybe he's entering a Heroic BSOD. Perhaps her Berserk Button has just been pushed. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: that glass in their hand doesn't stand a chance.
Next thing you know the character has clenched the glass (or other breakable object) so hard that it shatters in their hand. Depending on the mood, realism of the work and the thing that broke, there may be a cut to a dramatic closeup of blood dripping down from the hand that got cut on the shards. If the character is mad enough they're likely to not notice the bleeding, which might be a good sign that it's time to start running away really, really, fast.
What shatters doesn't have to be a cup; it doesn't even have to be made of glass. It can be a metal can being crushed, or paper being crumbled unconsciously. The important thing in this situation is the distress of the character which caused them to inadvertently crush whatever they were holding. A purposely snapped pencil is a common way to show Suppressed Rage, especially when it becomes personal.
This trope can be used to heighten drama or, in the case that the character breaking the glass is unscathed, played for comedy.
A subtrope of Dramatic Shattering. Truth in Television under certain (painful) circumstances, but usually invokes the Soft Glass effect. Result of Rule of Drama, or possibly Rule of Funny, depending on the mood of the scene. Intersects with Knuckle-Cracking. Geometric opposite of Drop What You Are Doing.
Anime & Manga
- In Death Note, Light, acting as L, "advises" Near to escape from a situation Light himself created to trap him. While smirking. Near crushes the toy in his hand at Light's brazenness in barely even trying to hide his satisfaction.
- Non-glass example in Bleach. When three of Barragan's Fraccion are defeated, he crushes one of the baubles on the sides of his makeshift throne, showing that he is quite pissed.
- Roberta does this with a beer mug -- holding just the handle -- at the Yellow Flag in Black Lagoon, one of the few hints we get that she's an utter Badass before she breaks out the kevlar-lined Parasol of Pain and starts blasting people to hell. It also doesn't hurt her hand because she's wearing gloves or, more likely, because she is that Badass. And, as the next episodes show, this is the bottom of what she can go through unscathed.
- Dragon Ball Z
- Vegeta's scouter suffers this fate in the infamous OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAAAAND scene.
- Much later, Jeice does this to his scouter after reading Vegeta's Power Level.
- A much more literal example comes when Gohan and Goku return from the Hyperbolic Time Chamber having learned how to become Super Saiyans in their daily lives -- they attempt to have dinner with Chichi but Goku and Gohan can't help smashing glasses in their hands due to their insane strength.
- Geki Hyuuma crushing his communicator is a Running Gag in Gao Gai Gar.
- Shinn Asuka does this at least three times with soft drink cans in Gundam SEED Destiny.
- Was also by Michelo Chariot in the first episode G Gundam, although it was more form battle lust.
- Parodied in G Gundam the Abridged Series where he crushes the glass... and screams out in pain as we cut to the title.
- Kirby of the Stars: King Dedede crushes a potato chip. What?
- A JSSDF official in the first episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion snaps a pencil in two over astonishment that no conventional weaponry is working against Sachiel.
- Kanou shatters a glass after pouring over a jerk's head in Okane ga Nai, as a clear indication that he is a Badass.
- One Piece
- Crocodile snaps the handle of his tea cup after Mr. 3 admits that he never used his transponder snail on Little Garden, indicating that the Straw Hats are still alive.
- Boa Hancock does this while speaking with Granny Nyon.
- Duval crushes a glass of wine in his hand when he hears that the Straw Hats pirates, including the hated Sanji, are coming near his island.
- In the anime special "Mewtwo Returns", Giovanni did this once with a whiskey glass, and later again with a cellphone. The man must have incredible grip strength.
- In the manga, Norman is so upset when he finds out his son Ruby ran away from home that he does this with his cell phone. His wife implies he does that quite often.
- Similarly, Pokémon Special's Koga does this to a Golbat-shaped viewing screen/communicator after being defeated by Green.
- Ranma One Half
- In the anime episode covering the unveiling of the Nekoken, Genma does this while lamenting over how his son has suffered by having learnt the technique in question, crushing the glass he was drinking from (bloodlessly) while weeping over how you "just can't save a child from himself". The Hypocritical Humour here, of course, is that Ranma never wanted to learn the Nekoken -- Genma was the one who repeatedly wrapped his son in fish and hurled him into a pit of starving cats until the trauma gave him a phobia that could induce a cat-like split personality if he got too frightened.
- In both anime and manga, when Akane has "traded" Ranma to Nabiki, she at one point hears what she thinks is Ranma entering Nabiki's room, which is right next door, and does the "listen through a glass against the wall" trick. Between the sounds she hears and her own imagination, the glass promptly shatters violently between her fingers as she sees in her mind's eye Ranma jumping a not-exactly-unwilling Nabiki for sex, whereupon Akane goes storming into Nabiki's room. And gets even more pissed off when she finds out that Nabiki psyched her out; Ranma isn't there and never was there, and Nabiki was just messing with her to get her to pay Nabiki to break up with Ranma.
- An occurence from the last book of the manga: Mousse, Ryôga, the Jusenkyô guide and his daughter Plum are spying on Ranma and Shampoo through a wall, Mousse using the old trick of putting a glass against his ear. When he hears Ranma asking for Shampoo to take off her clothes (a ploy to steal some of the Phoenix people's magical eggs, but Mousse doesn't know this), the glass between Mousse's fingers cracks.
- In Shaman King, Tao En seems like a nice guy, right? I mean, he's stroking a panda's head. Then when he gets riled up... well, you know... this trope... Complete with Lampshade Hanging as he tosses the now decapitated panda aside. And yes, the panda felt it coming. And because he has the power to animate "Chinese zombies", the same panda makes an appearance at his lap again a few weeks later.
- In Texhnolyze, Ichise accidentally does this after recently having a mechanical arm grafted on. He particularly has trouble with fine motor control using his new hand.
- In Yami no Matsuei, Tsuzuki does this after his new partner Hisoka introduces himself very curtly.
- Yu-Gi-Oh: Yugi's aura was once so powerful, he broke a glass in someone else's hand. Through a TV screen.
- Mima from Perfect Blue does this with a tea cup in one scene.
- Shizuo ends up doing this in vol. 5 of Durarara. Since it's Shizuo, he doesn't break a glass. Instead, he crushes a steel cup into a ball of foil. Accidentally.
- Ouran High School Host Club: Tamaki does this with his cell phone in the second Kasanoda episode.
- In the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, manga, Teana does this with a paper cup when Subaru suggests that they can, through effort, shake off their reputation as the "airheaded pair," before grabbing her necktie and telling her it's her fault they have this reputation.
- In the Mai-HiME manga, Haruka does this with a phone receiver when Shizuru informs her that Mai has defeated Nao.
- In Noein, Yuu crushes a paper cup when he notices Haruka is fawning over Karasu.
- Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman has a Running Gag where Riko (the Salmon Pink Shinesman) crushes paper cups of hot coffee when excited. Lampshaded when someone asks her "Doesn't that hurt?"
- Sasuke from Naruto does this with a hand sized rock to try and size up the Sand village team before the start of the Chunin Exams.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Makato Shishio crushes a katana with one hand, a momento returned to him by his AWOL Dragon, symbolic of his relentless belief in Social Darwinism. The animated adaptation goes further and shows whatever remaining fragments in his hand afterwards was held so tightly that it vaporized.
- A Treacherous Advisor type does this in the X Wing Series after two Rogues refuse to turn on one of their own.
- In Watchmen, Rorschach makes another person do this as an interrogation method, crushing the glass in his hand to cause tremendous pain.
- Lilandra's reaction to Reed Richards saving planet devouring Galactus.
- Scott Pilgrim crushes the plastic booze cup in his hand when he first tries to talk to Ramona Flowers.
- The Batman arc "Prey" has Bruce Wayne break a glass when he hears Hugo Strange perfectly profile what might drive a man to become Batman on a news broadcast.
- In Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality, Snape gets so angry during Harry's sorting that he crushes a silver goblet into a lump.
- In Dragon Age the Crown of Thorns, while in Orzammar, the only reason anyone realizes that Raonar is pissed off at how Faren was slammed with Leske's betrayal is because the prince grips on his glass of wine hard enough to crush it in his bare grasp, blood and all.
- Paul in With Strings Attached does this twice, once with a trash can lid and once with a stone cup. The first time, he is annoyed at John; the second time is inadvertent, and he douses himself with tea.
Films -- Animation
- The Incredibles: Bob/Mr. Incredible is almost out the door to save a mugging victim when his boss threatens to fire him if he leaves. He lets go of the now crumpled doorknob.
- In The Black Cauldron, the Horned King shatters the goblet in his hand when Taran refuses to show him how Hen Wen predicts the future.
- Cats Don't Dance: Angry at Danny crashing her premiere, Darla squeezes a doll so hard the head pops out.
Films -- Live-Action
- Sutler in V for Vendetta shatters a glass of warm milk as he sees a comedy sketch mocking his inability to stop V on television.
- James Bond
- Not quite a glass but the same general idea: In Octopussy, the angry henchman Gobinda crushes dice in his hand.
- Which was basically a copy of the time in Goldfinger when the insanely strong Oddjob crushes a golf ball in his hand, although he seems rather cheery about it.
- Dr. No crushes a golden goblet with his metal hand to intimidate Bond.
- In L.A. Confidential, Russell Crowe's character, Bud White, does this with a goddamn chair, snapping the solid wood chair back in half right before he busts into the interrogation room to play Russian Roulette with the prisoner.
- Used humorously in Jaws, where (big strong tough guy) Quint crushes a beer can, and (bookish weaker guy) Hooper crushes a styrofoam cup in response. Note that in 1975, beer cans were made from tin rather than aluminum, so crushing one actually was an impressive show of strength.
- The Scorpion King does this in a similar fashion to the Watchmen example above, except the guy doing it wanted the other guy to bow rather than for any practical purpose.
- In Catwoman, the villain crushes her glass and marvels at how her hand is completely unscathed, an attempt at The Reveal. Unfortunately, it didn't work so well, considering how ground into the mind Soft Glass is.
- In Superman Returns, during Clark's first day back on the job at the Daily Planet, he picks up a picture of Lois and her son from her desk. Jimmy sees it and confirms that yes, "fearless reporter Lois Lane is a mommy." The glass in the frame cracks instantly.
- Enter the Dragon: After being defeated by taking that large kick by Bruce Lee's character, Oharra grabs a bottle and shatters it, intending to use it on Lee. Unfortunately for Oharra, this wasn't enough to prevent his death by being crushed underfoot by Lee.
- A Raisin in the Sun: Walter crushes a glass in his hand upon learning that his mother has put a down payment on a better house, rather than giving him the money to invest in a liquor store.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Lucas Lee crushes a paper cup filled with coffee after realizing that Scott beat up all his stunt doubles.
- True Lies: Harry uses binoculars to watch the slimy used car salesman he thinks is sleeping with his wife. His partner makes several quips about the situation, and we know one has hit a nerve when we see one of the lenses crack under Harry's grip.
- In Army of Darkness, Ash crushes a pewter mug with his new gauntlet-hand.
- In Breaking The Waves, an old Norwegian fisherman spots a teen chugging down a can of beer and chugs down his glass of liquor in response. The teen watches, then crushes his beer can and smirks in invitation. Not to be outdone, the old man crushes his glass mug with his bare hand.
- Harry Potter
- In one book, Dean crushes the glass in his hand after Harry kisses Ginny.
- In Harry Potter, Aunt Marge believes she has accidentally broken a glass by squeezing it too hard. In actual fact, Harry subconsciously made it explode. However, she does claim to have accidentally broken another glass a few days before at someone else's house.
- In Five Red Herrings, Peter is talking to a witness/suspect while playing with a tube of paint. When the witness innocently says something important to the case, Peter accidentally bursts the tube.
- A mild variant of this -- the narrator crumpling a photograph in his hand when startled by a noise, then reflexively stuffing it in his pocket -- sets up The Reveal in Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model".
- Subverted in Tim Powers's The Anubis Gates: the protagonist tries to break a beer mug in his hand to show how tough he is and intimidate his way out of an awkward situation, but discovers, to his embarrassment and onlookers' amusement, that he isn't quite strong enough.
- In Magic Bleeds, Kate Daniels is on the phone with a man who tried to seduce her away from her love interest. Said interest listens to their conversation with a blank face while slowly rolling his plate into a tube. His metal plate. Kate has to explain the screeching noise as "construction". When he finally sets it down, it's been compacted into a ball an inch across.
- In the Liaden Universe book Conflict of Honors, Shan does this when he thinks Priscilla might be dead.
- Red Dwarf has the Cat say of Rimmer: "You can tell he's tense by the way he scrunches up cups and throws them in the bin, and I'm not talking Styrofoam, I'm talking enamel." Of course, he is a Hard Light hologram.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Buffy once crushes a glass bottle in her hand. Then again, she does have superpowers.
- In "Entropy", Spike breaks a bottle in his hand after having a flashback of his Attempted Rape of Buffy.
- In the sitcom Sparks, a judge is talking about a criminal at a party, unaware that said criminal is all spruced-up and standing right next to her. The wine glass he's holding breaks when she calls him "scum".
- A Bit of Fry and Laurie parodies this in one of their "John and Peter" sketches, where the normally hard-drinking mid-level businessmen have been reduced to operating a public restroom and sipping instant coffee out of paper cups. John, as disproportionately passionate about their situation as ever, keeps crushing the empty cups in his hand, leading to the prematurely crushing of one that's still full of very hot coffee.
- Near the end of the run of the original Iron Chef, Chairman Kaga crushes a glass in his hand at the thought of closing his beloved Kitchen Stadium. We later see him holding a glass in his bandaged hand -- and, unfortunately, getting anguished enough to crush that glass too.
- Happened on The Daily Show, as pictured above. The trope was quickly exaggerated, as Jon would first break the glass, then the bottle, then a "comedically placed" aquarium.
- In an interesting Cut Himself Shaving twist, in The West Wing Josh's hand is (supposedly) cut up by a broken drink glass in the episode "Noel", when in fact he smashed his hand through a window during a particularly intense reaction to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Spoofed in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, when Thornton Reed crushes a paper cup in his hand... despite the fact that the shot immediately before showed him holding a shovel.
- Happens exactly so to Oliver Queen in an episode of Smallville. This is, of course, not the first nor the last time in the show's history a character breaks something because they don't know their own strength or how to control it. Another notable example is glass-breaking girl Maddie who can control glass with her mind.
- In Star Trek Deep Space Nine, O'Brien is compelled to act normally at a party by a pah-wraith possessed Keiko. The stress becomes too much for him when she shows mock-affection for his daughter, and he shatters his whiskey glass.
- In The Outer Limits, a man is electrocuted while holding a beer bottle, which he proceeds to crush in his hand.
- In the Knight Rider episode "Knight of the Juggernaut", Philip Nordstrom breaks a drinking glass in his hand. Justified, in that the hand in question is cybernetic and therefore super-strong.
- In Leverage, this happens when a Victim Of The Day starts hitting on Parker's "pretzels". With a beer bottle.
- Warehouse13 has an episode where an artifact granted Super Strength The man using it threatened the agents by crushing a cup.
- Bill from Alphas crushes a coffee thermos when he feels a sharp pain in his chest.
- Phil from Modern Family is tasered while holding a mint-condition baseball card. He continues to seize, crushing it more and more while going through a descending list of collectible quality levels from "mint condition" to "trash".
- In Streets of Rage 3, if you get the ending as a result of you fighting Shiva as the final boss, you see Mr. X staring at a monitor showing him defeated with the heroes standing triumphantly over him. He promptly crushes the glass of wine in his left hand.
- Dracula in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night holds a wine glass in the prologue, which he then violently throws to the floor before he gets up off his throne to fight Richter.
- Elsewhere, in Portrait of Ruin, Brauner gets angry enough before his boss fight that he presses his cane into the ground until it snaps.
- In this trailer for Deus Ex Human Revolution, Adam pours himself a glass of whiskey and, presumably due to not being used to his mechanically augmented arms, cracks the glass when he holds it. It's a minor example, since the glass doesn't actually shatter, but it still counts.
- In No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle, Travis breaks an (empty) glass as he tells Sylvia that he wants revenge on the people who killed Bishop.
- Street Fighters Vega will take his aggression out on his mask in Alpha 3 if he fails to KO his opponent by round end.
- Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
- Diego Armando does it to his cup of coffee at the end of the fourth case of , after the defendant commits suicide before he can testify against his girlfriend. This instance also leaves out the Soft Glass (soft ceramic?) effect, as his hand bleeds profusely after breaking the mug.
- In the first game, when you break through Dee Vaquez's alibis, she crushes her pipette between her fingers.
- Happened on Boy Meets Boy. Mik being stronger than he thinks plus distraction = broken glass.
- Walkyverse: A frustrated Galasso demands something to crush. Mike gives him a glass. We never see the results, but it probably wasn't pretty, given the frantic cry for paper towels and a first aid kit in the very next panel.
- Happens hilariously in Air Force Blues, with a chipmunk.
- Happens with Pip and a beer bottle in Sequential Art. Apparently, including Crystal Skull as part of the Indiana Jones movies displeases him.
- Sniper Wolf does it with a glass of water in The Last Days of Foxhound.
- Daisy Owl: Mr. Owl does it with a note from Steve saying that the moon school called to tell him they'd kidnapped Daisy and Cooper. He resolves to go save them and...Justice.
- Poor Equius, one of the trolls in Homestuck, suffers from the Does Not Know His Own Strength version of this every time he tries to have a glass of milk... or a glass of anything, really.
- Forget a glass. Shelly of Wapsi Square crushes a stainless steel frothing cup when Tina makes her angry.
- The Tasting Judge, Harvey, from Nectar of the Gods does this effortlessly and constantly throughout the Tournament Arc, it's not for dramatic effect or because he's angry, it's just an easier way to quickly judge through dozens of drinks without verbally announcing the loser
- Zintiel does this in Flaky Pastry.
Alt Text: Hey, what did that orange ever do to you?!
- Whenever something needs juicing, squeezing or mashing on Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time, it stands a fair chance of getting crushed to death in one hand.
- Spoofed in The Simpsons, where Mr. Burns in incapable of crushing a paper cup without Smither's aid.
- Used in an episode of Code Lyoko. Yumi is in the middle of threatening Sissi when her cup (made of plastic or something otherwise hard to break, but not glass) shatters. Yumi's hand is mildly cut (but no blood) and Sissi wisely backs down. Somewhat subverted in that Yumi wasn't actually responsible for breaking the cup; XANA has been testing sonic vibrations to eventually knock down the school. Yumi is as surprised as Sissi when the cup breaking occurs.
- On Phineas and Ferb, Isabella snaps a pencil in "Summer Belongs to You" when Phineas talks about failed romantic encounters in Paris, oblivious to the fact that she wanted one with him.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob does this in "Can You Spare a Dime", when he starts getting sick of Squidward's demands and laziness. Being a cartoon sponge, the broken glass is never touched on after it happens.
- During the making of Genesis' epic "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway", band member Steve Hackett was reportedly so tense that he succeeded in this, severing a tendon in his thumb in the process.
- One of the challenges in designing prosthetic hands and grippers is avoiding this trope. It's funny when your manipulator's force feedback sensors fail and you squish a glass. It would be less funny if you were shaking someone's hand at the time.