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A generally comic form of punishment in which you take someone or something that has been annoying you (or simply the designated Butt Monkey) and put it to work serving a useful function as a paperweight. Or a hole plug. Or live bait. Or a tv/radio antenna. Or anything in a long list of possibilities that are both a: improbable in real life and b: uncomfortable and awkward, even dangerous, for the person so used. (The danger may be mitigated by the person being Made of Iron or even Made of Indestructium, which is often the case.)

The actual utility of putting a person in this position is less important than the comic factor and any accompanying karmic retribution.

A Human Shield is explicitly NOT this: that's grabbing an innocent as a hostage. Nor is it quite a Meat Shield (a.k.a. Stone Wall), someone who (usually willingly) puts themselves in harm's way between an enemy and his target. A Human Ladder may count though, depending on the circumstance. May also entail a less-heroic version of Load-Bearing Hero.

A subtrope of Cool and Unusual Punishment. Related to Human Resources.


Anime and Manga

  • In the Ranma ½ movie Big Trouble in Nekonron, China, the main cast is chasing Prince Kirin's airship across the Sea of Japan to China. They're picked up by Lychee's boat, there's an argument, and an angry Jasmine (Lychee's elephant) stomps a hole in the boat. How do they plug the hole? With Happosai, whose theft of a scroll years ago started all the trouble.
  • For an episode of The Slayers Zelgadis, thanks to his stone skin, gets to do double duty as a boat anchor when the team is fishing for a lake dragon and the guy leading the fishing trip forgot to bring one. Later in the same episode, Gourry gets a turn being fishing bait.
  • In One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy is about to get attacked by Mihawk, a legendary swordsman. Finding old enemy Buggy standing around next to him, Luffy grabs him and uses Buggy as a shield. Mihawk proceeds to slice up Buggy anyway. This is okay, as Buggy's power allows him to separate himself into many pieces; all that happens is a thoroughly annoyed Buggy.
    • In the Impel Down arc, Buggy uses his powers to carry Luffy over a spiked floor.

Film - Animated

  • Open Season: The Rabbits were treated as mooks, towels, gas-masks, jokes, and projectiles throughout the course of the move.

Tabletop Games

  • Being assigned reactor shielding duty is one of the many punishments available to traitors in Alpha Complex. If they're lucky, there will be enough lead vests to go around. Just another day in Paranoia.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • Kevyn from Schlock Mercenary has lately taken to reprogramming rogue Burnabots and strapping them to the ship's hull as extra armor.
  • In Brat Halla, Balder is completely immune to damage.... not so much pain. This didn't stop his brothers from using him often as a decoy, and as a substitute for a number of items (too many to list them all) most notably as a hammer, and as a sled.

Western Animation

  • The Busy World of Richard Scarry once did a parody of the "little boy who stuck his finger in the dike" story where the hole in the dike was much larger than the boy's finger, so he plugged it with an annoying American tourist who'd been hanging around all episode.
  • The Megas XLR episode "The Fat and the Furious" ends with Kiva needing to quickly wire the robot's core to the system to get it working in time to repel the Glorft. Meanwhile, Jamie complains the whole time. The final connection she makes? "Could you hold this wire? And this one?"
  • Shaun the Sheep: Shirley is a big sheep that tends to stand in one place, eating whatever she has in front of her, oblivious to anything that happens around. One "incident" that comes to mind is other sheep putting her in front of the barn door to trap their owner inside. Also, they used her as a trampoline at one point.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: Mort has been used by King Julien as a thermometer, an easel, a nose clamp and a TV antenna. The penguins are not that much better, using him to defuse traps or as a decoy. Through it all, Mort takes all this humiliation with unabashed enthusiasm.
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