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You didn’t break the chain, the necklace has a Drama Clasp! It’s a special kind of clasp that comes undone when you dramatically yank on it. You used to have some outfits that incorporated them. You’d rather not go into any details on that."
For some reason, a Plot Coupon often takes the form of a necklace or talisman worn around the neck, and any prominent locket, pendant or other item that is worn in this fashion will either be a piece of Applied Phlebotinum or just something with significant emotional baggage (or fodder for a later plot twist).
Naturally, for such an item to be useful for the plot, it can't just stay there.
Thus there will inevitably come a time for said pendant to be removed. Maybe the wearer has decided It's All Junk. Maybe it's a power source that's been causing undesirable side-effects. Maybe the evil ring MacGuffin needs to be thrown into the volcano (you know the one I mean). Maybe a baddie wants its Phlebotinous powers for himself. Or maybe it's the symbol of La Résistance and an official of The Empire is nosing around.
In any of these cases, because Reality Is Unrealistic, nobody will simply unclasp the thing and pocket it until later. Rather, the one doing the removing- be they friend, foe or even the wearer themself- will grab the pendant and rip it forcibly off of their neck. There's never any difficulty in this, whether the item is held by a string, a leather thong, or even a chain, nor does the wearer seem to suffer any injury. And, when the item is invariably seen again on someone's neck, nobody complains about having to tie the broken string back together, fix the chain, etc. Apparently all Applied Phlebotinum comes with magnetic breakaway clasps.
Note that this applies to other forms of jewelry or clothing that serve the same purpose. It may be a bracelet, earrings, a ring, or even some piece of clothing. Body jewelry probably doesn't count, as removing such generally does cause an injury to the wearer, even on TV.
Anime & Manga
- In Inuyasha, Kikyo protected the Jewel of Four Souls by wearing it on a necklace. What happens to it becomes the MacGuffin in the main plot.
- In Bleach, Chad becomes friends with Ichigo when the later saves him when a group of delinquents ties him up and taunt him over the coin he wears around his neck (which reminds him of his grandfather who, according to the same flashback, taught him to stop being a Jerkass and become the technical pacifist he is). They then agree to protect one another, as Chad refuses to fight to protect himself (luckily he happens to be Made of Iron).
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi wears his Millennium Puzzle around his neck. Given that the Puzzle is his connection to Yami no Yugi, you know that something major is going down whenever he takes off the Puzzle in public. He also switches from thread to a chain halfway through the series specifically to avoid someone else yanking it off.
- Played with in an episode in the anime along with the Abridged Series: In the very episode where Yugi first puts the chain on, a bad guy steals it and puts it on a ring-ended metal spike which is stabbed into the wall. Because the puzzle is on a chain and not a string, Yugi can't pull it free. Doesn't work well when the building it is trapped in is on fire! Good thing for Yugi that Joey and Tristan were nearby.
- Played with in the Devil May Cry 3 manga. Dante's amulet is very important to the plot, and when the chain holding it breaks, his efforts at a quick fix don't work out very well.
- Sailor Moon has Mistress 9 doing this with the Silver Crystal to Chibiusa.
- When Moka's necklace comes off in Rosario to Vampire, you don't want to be anywhere nearby. Inner Moka tends not to ask too many questions before kicking some serious ass.
- Definitely don't be caught next to Tsukune when his 'Holy Lock' breaks. While Inner Moka has higher cognitive mental processes, Ghoul Tsukune does not.
- In the Sandman Story Arc "A Game of You", Barbie is wearing a magic necklace which must not be taken off her; it's said to be the only thing keeping her alive. In the dream-world, The Cuckoo later makes her take it off and smash it against a rock, which causes it to disappear in the "real" world as well.
- Pictured above: The various versions and adaptations of Batman often have Joe Chill dramatically rip off Martha Wayne's pearl necklace, complete with a Slow Motion Drop of said pearls before shooting her and Thomas dead in front of Bruce.
Films -- Animation
- In Disney's Cinderella, Anastasia and Drizella destroy Cinderella's dress, starting with Drizella yanking her necklace from her neck.
- Pocahontas has a pretty disturbing one -- Pocahontas' father gives her a necklace at the beginning of the movie during the scene where he talks about her eventual marriage to Kocoum. She's supposed to wear it to her wedding, and it used to belong to her mother. In the scene where Kocoum sees Pocahontas consorting with John Smith and it all hits the fan, Kocoum is fatally shot and dies falling backwards into water... and as he goes down, he grabs at the necklace around Pocahontas's neck, breaking it.
- In The Prince of Egypt, when Moses is wandering aimlessly around the desert after he accidentally killed a slave driver, he rips his sandal, and begins removing his Egyptian jewelry (including a big honking breastplate necklace thing) and leaves them in the sand as a symbol of him leaving the identity he's known. He keeps one piece of jewelry, though: the ring his brother gave him. He doesn't remove it until much later when he symbolically (and dramatically) severs his last ties with Rameses.
- Princess and The Frog. Lawrence rips off the voodoo talisman around his neck and throws it back at Facilier. Facilier ties it back together though, and talks Lawrence into keeping it.
- Near the end of The Little Mermaid, just right after the animals discover that Vanessa is actually Ursula in disguise, they all attack her during her wedding to Eric and smash the necklace Vanessa/Ursula had trapped Ariel's voice in.
Films -- Live Action
- Top Gun has Maverick, after a whole bunch of angst over the guilt he feels over Goose's death, taking Goose's dog tags and chucking them into the ocean.
- In the 1995 movie version of A Little Princess the Sadist Teacher Miss Minchin takes Sara's locket from her this way, telling her that she can have her arrested for stealing things.
- Undercover Brother: The title character wears a medallion around his neck given to him by this father so he'll never forget who he is or what he stands for (protecting black people from racism). Late in the movie the racist villain Mr. Feather captures him and rips it off his neck. In a final battle Undercover Brother beats the fertilizer out of Mr. Feather and retrieves the necklace, securing it around his neck again.
- This happens at least twice in Underworld. Viktor tears off the golden necklace with the green stone from Sonja after she's killed by sunlight, then from Lucian after he's killed by silver overdose. It may have happened in Underworld: Evolution, and was repeated in the prequel.
- In Ella Enchanted, Ella takes her mother's necklace back from her stepsister this way.
- The protagonist of Red Scorpion does this as part of his Heel Face Turn, leaving his old life behind and siding with the rebels.
- This happens several times to Elizabeth Swann's pendant in the first Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with changing chain length.
- The Phantom of the Opera (musical): Christine wears Raoul's engagement ring on a chain around her neck, hoping nobody (read: the Phantom) will notice it. He does. This ensues.
- "Your chains are still mine! You belong to me."
- Happens to Satine in Moulin Rouge when she goes to have supper with the Duke. She is standing on a balcony when he gives her an immense diamond necklace, but she can't go through with her plan to seduce him when she sees Christian standing below her in the snow. The Duke proceeds to rip the necklace off (pretty painful, it was a metal choker) before attempting to rape her.
- In Stargate, Ra takes Daniel Jackson's pendant, and then later, Daniel takes it back the same way.
- In The Descent, Beth rips Juno's necklace from her as she collapses to the floor, due to being stabbed through the throat with Juno's pickaxe.
- Played straight at the end of X2: X-Men United with Wolverine's dogtags.
- The Lord of the Rings: Isildur does this in order to get the One Ring off the chain around his neck and onto his finger when he was ambushed near the start of the Fellowship of the Ring. Justified, since he was under attack and therefore in a bit of a hurry.
- As mentioned in the description, this happens numerous times with the One Ring, which is removed and reattached often despite being on a length of chain that, in the film, has no visible clasp.
- Done to Sandra in The Expendables.
- In The Matrix: Reloaded, the Keymaker does this with the key he wears around his neck. How (or, more importantly, WHY) he manages to do this while dying from bullet wounds is anyone's guess.
- In Ice Cold in Alex Tom Pugh removes Otto Lutz's dog tags in this manner to prevent him from being executed as a spy, as he had been posing as a South African soldier.
- In Rambo III, Rambo rips off his lucky Buddha necklace to give to the hurt kid.
- In Poison Ivy - a climactic scene involves Ivy half dangling off a building, struggling with the protagonist, when her eye is caught by the meaningful necklace the protagonist is wearing and she makes a grab for it. For one of them, it's a good thing that chain wasn't very strong. For the other one, well, *splat*.
- David Eddings' Belgariad: Belgarath, Polgara and Belgarion all have neck chains with an amulet on them. Late in the series, C'nedra is given one as well. The chains are unbreakable by normal means, but during the climactic battle the god Torak breaks Belgarath's.
- In the novel Number the Stars, the Jewish Ellen is hiding with her Gentile friend Annemarie's family. When the Nazis show up the girls realize Ellen still has her Star of David necklace on, but she's worn it so long she can't figure out how the clasp works in her panicky state. Annemarie then grabs the necklace and rips it off, breaking the chain just as the soldiers enter the room.
- Note that the broken chain is addressed: When Annemarie finds the necklace at the end she asks her father to fix it, declaring that she will wear it herself until Ellen comes back from hiding. And she does warn her first that it's going to hurt.
- At the end of the third Codex Alera book, Amara dramatically removes the coin she wears as a sign of her loyalty to the First Lord after she witnesses him willingly unleashing a volcano on a major city in order to kill the subversive who runs it.
- In the beginning of American Gods, Shadow accidentally sorta resurrects his recently-deceased wife by leaving a magical gold coin in her grave. She wears the coin on a necklace for the rest of the story, until the end when she decides she doesn't want to get fully resurrected and Shadow takes the coin off, making her properly dead.
- David Drake's The Forlorn Hope takes place during a civil war in which one side is controlled by a particularly intolerant breed of Protestants. This is demonstrated when a "chaplain" threatens the life of a foreign neutral for the "crime" of being Roman Catholic; he pulls the foreigner's crucifix necklace until the chain breaks, drops the crucifix on the floor and steps on it, and says, "On Cecach we no longer worship a dead god, Captain. We worship the One Who is Risen. This will be your only warning."
- Late in Neverwhere, Big Bad Islington finally gets the key he's been after, which is on a chain around Door's neck. He rips it off with no more than a wince from her.
Live Action TV
- Seen several times on Lost, on which necklaces are a motif. The Nigerian warlords who take Eko rip his cross off his neck. Eko later removes the same cross from his brother's corpse. In season 5, Amy removes Paul's ankh necklace gently, but without ever untying or unclasping it.
- There's an inversion in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Buffy goes to face Angelus for their final battle in "Becoming II" she puts on the necklace that Angel had given her in their first meeting, and that she hasn't worn since he lost his soul.
- A earlier straight example, in "Prophecy Girl": Buffy tears off the same necklace (a crucifix) when she "resigns", and later puts it back on before she faces the Master.
- And let's not forget Anya's vengeance demon pendant necklace, first seen in "The Wish", which must be snatched away from her and crushed in order to reverse the wish Cordelia had made to her.
- Lampshaded and parodied in "The Harsh Light of Day" with this quote from Harmony, uttered when Spike dramatically rips a necklace off of a corpse: "Ew. Like you're too good to work a clasp."
- Are You Afraid of the Dark??, "The Tale of the Quicksilver": The protagonist realizes the ghost-trapping ritual they're performing isn't working because the piece of silverware the last girl used as the required sample of "silver" is, of course, actually made of steel. He rips his silver necklace off his neck and uses that instead.
- A minor example in Veronica Mars: Veronica wears her best friend Lily's necklace to a dorm-room casino when she's searching for Logan when everyone in the room is robbed, and the masked robber pulls it off her neck. When she finds the robber, she takes Lily's necklace back in like fashion from the robber's daughter.
- On All My Children, after Gloria discovers her husband Adam's betrayal--he pretended to be stalked and kidnapped in order to test her fidelity, putting her through MONTHS of emotional trauma--she rips off the pearl necklace he gave her and lets the pearls fall to the ground.
- The season 2 premiere of Warehouse 13 has the Big Bad of season 1 wearing a necklace that prevents his blood from turning acidic and eating through his veins. The new big bad sneaks up behind him and cuts the necklace off with a knife, causing his body to disintegrate.
- Done repeatedly with the mind-reading pendant in Torchwood, which makes you wonder how they kept putting it back on...
- Anne Boleyn does this to Jane Seymour in The Tudors, ripping off a locket that was a gift from Henry to her. One of Anne's ladies gives the locket back to Jane later in the episode.
- In the Stargate Atlantis episode "Harmony", Shepherd rips off Harmony's royal necklace to activate the Ancient Device. The eponymous heroine almost hangs him for treason.
- In H₂O: Just Add Water when Charlotte tries to turn Lewis against the girls and become the most powerful mermaid, she steals Cleo's necklace like this, breaking the clasp. Later after Charlotte is defeated, Lewis has it fixed and puts it back on her.
- In The Mentalist, O'Laughlin's dying act is to tear off the necklace he had given to Grace.
- In the Supernatural episode "Hook Man", Sam does this to Lori's necklace because they need to burn it to destroy the titular Hook Man.
- Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater. He spends most of the game going around with a modified bullet on a chain around his neck. Before climactic moments he rips it off his neck to get at the bullet. Although, since Ocelot is all about over-the-top imitation of movie tropes, it's probably slightly parodic.
- In the first case of Apollo Justice, THE client takes a necklace off the victim shortly before he is killed. This is plot-important, as it leads a witness to believe the victim was strangled, when in fact he was clonked on the head. As for why he took the necklace, the exact reason is never specified, but you can probably guess considering that it's a locket containing a picture of the victim's daughter, who the client has been raising for seven years.
- A variation in Final Fantasy IX: in the final cutscene, when Queen Garnet runs toward Zidane, her Falcon Claw necklace comes loose and lands on the pavement behind her. She glances at it briefly before leaving it behind and rushing into Zidane's arms. She also removes her crown at that point for some reason.
- In Girl Genius The pendant that Agatha wears gets this treatment, thus kicking off the entire plot. She's mugged early on, and the mugger yanks it off; later when she gets it back, the chain is intact again. Granted, fixing a chain would be no problem for Klaus, but still...
- And after the Sturmhalten arc, Dramatic Necklace Removal is a sword of Damocles hanging over the plot at all times.
- In Lackadaisy, kinda. Zib grabs Mitzi's pearl necklace. When she pulls away, the necklace breaks and the pearls go everywhere. He didn't do it on purpose, however.
- While accidental, considering the previous dialogue, and seeing Mitzi scrambling to collect her pearls, it's very symbolic.
- In Order of the Stick, O-Chul removes Xykon's phylactery from Redcloak's neck in this fashion. After gouging out his eye.
- In Red String, Kazuo breaks the string around his neck, signaling the finality of his breakup with Miharu. Miharu does it herself later on to symbolize her starting to get over him.
- Flik's rejection of his mother in Para-Ten.
- Rhea steals Buwaro's star pendant in this manner in Slightly Damned. As the pendant prevents Buwaro from being in a permanent berserk state, it doesn't end well for her.
- In Prequel, Katia's Amulet of Silence is specially prepared for such.
"The necklace has a Drama Clasp! It’s a special kind of clasp that comes undone when you dramatically yank on it."
- In Pirates of Dark Water, whenever Bloth captures Ren, the first thing he'll do is rip the compass from around his neck in this manner.