7 Moments in Pop Culture That Were Excessively Cruel (To Us)

Drama is an important element in narrative fiction. No wait—it’s more than important, it’s essential. Drama means action, and even as I type this I can smell the pretentiousness of the place where this paragraph was going so I’ll stop and save face. For us, “drama” has taken a different meaning, connoting sadness, conflict, tragedy, who totally ditched whom at the mall, and who took Brad the QB to the prom (it was that two-faced bitch Megan Rogers).

Having a story pull at your heartstrings is great. I love it when I get so invested in a story and its characters that something bad happening to them means something bad happening to you. The Constant Gardener and Buffy’s “The Body” are two examples of bummers that work incredibly well as narrative engines and heartstring pianists. Both made me tear up hard.

So yeah, drama is one thing; being a giant asshole to your audience is another one. This list isn't for the saddest moments in pop culture, but the ones when the story took a step beyond just “drama” and went full-on psychopathic heart stabbing sons of bitches.

Watch out for SPOILERS in each paragraph.

The Explosion (Planet Hulk)

When I started reading Planet Hulk, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into. Some important character arc for Hulk, a touching story of a monster finding peace, and a shitload of action. What I did not expect, was a twist at the end coming out of the left field and ruining pretty much everyone’s goddamn day.

After a long battle in Planet Sakaar, Hulk finally defeats his captors (some Overlord who went “Hey this one is big; make him fight shit”), at which point he becomes, ironically, a force of peace. He brings the warring clans together and becomes King of Everything, finding in Local Tail Caiera a wife. Finally after so many years of inner torment, the big fellow is happy.

So then of course a huge bomb inexplicably goes off and kills everyone, including Hulk’s wife and his unborn son (though not really).

Because why the fuck not?
I understand the dramatic arc here. Hulk had to return to Earth and be ticked off so there could be the whole World War Hulk deal (the ending of which was bullshit, by the way) but did it have to be so mean spirited to a character we all love? Just killing Caeira would’ve been an acceptable compromise that would’ve gotten the job done, but goddamn. It left me more pissed off than Hulk himself. I was glad to see him bust some heads in World War Hulk.

“Tell Me What The Rain Knows” (Wolf’s Rain)

With this dramatic title, I'm referring to the final four episodes of the series which were released as OVAs (and yes, I’m aware that song plays in episode 26). The show ended on what could be considered a cliffhanger, with one of the four lead characters wounded and the villain still undefeated. The real finale came in the form of four extra episodes (27-30) released directly on video which tell the story of a cast of nine characters (five wolves, three humans, and an annoying magic bitch) going into a frozen wasteland to find the villain and stop him from triggering an apocalypse.

Everything seems to be going well until they have an accident while riding a tank-like vehicle. While everyone is getting off the now useless tank, the ice beneath cracks, taking down the tank and Cher, one of the main characters, with it.

Oh damn, you think. Well, someone had to die! But then next episode, the villain shoots and kills Toboe, one of the wolves. While one of the human characters is mourning Toboe, the villain shoots him too. Then one episode later, while trying to scale a mountain to face the villain, Hubb (Cher’s husband) falls to his death. Then they fight the villain, who kills Blue and Hige, two of the wolves who were in love. A few scenes later, the villain kills another one of the wolves, Tsume. Then, the lead, Kiba, fights the villain trying to protect Annoying Magic Bitch. He kills the villain, but also dies. Then Annoying Magic Bitch dies triggering the ‘rebirth’ apocalypse.

Yeah, the epilogue might be hopeful, but that doesn’t make up for a string of four consecutive episodes featuring the random and violent deaths of the entire fucking cast. I worship Wolf’s Rain, but I still haven’t forgiven it for this manipulative bullshit. When Toboe died and everyone was mourning him (one of the saddest scenes in the show), I kept thinking “Wow they killed Toboe! They’re not messing around!”

Little did I know this shit was just getting warmed up. By the end, it was almost funny. Someone was nice enough to compile all these deaths here. The comments are hilariously accurate.

Lisa’s Epiphany (Silent Hill)

Silent Hill seemed to be created under the concept of oppressive melancholy. The mournful music, the depressing back stories, the level design, and the constant feeling of hopeless isolation worked in favor of this, creating not only an incredibly scary experience, but also one of the most emotionally jarring video games of all time (both feats that would be outdone two years later when Silent Hill 2, the single most depressing game I’ve ever played, was released).

It tells the story of a man who finds himself searching for his daughter, who disappeared in an abandoned resort town. Throughout this journey, he begins uncovering the town’s grim past, eventually facing the god/devil/demon responsible for the darkness that has consumed it. Only a handful of people remain in Silent Hill, and they’re all directly tied to the story. One of these survivors is Lisa, a nurse Harry finds hiding in horror within the deserted hospital.

Hi! Try not to like me.
Lisa doesn’t seem to understand what happened to the town, or why she’s still there while everyone else is gone. She seems to be the only local who is completely innocent, and is. Eventually, when nearing the end of the game, you meet Lisa again. She claims to finally understand why she’s there: she’s just another monster, a part of the town that is falling apart. She begs Harry to comfort her, but when she tries to hold him, he pushes her back. Cue one of the rendered CGIcutscenes showing Lisa slowly beginning to decompose and transform into a demon nurse. It begins with blood streaming down her face, and she slowly loses her humanity while this depressing goddamn song plays in the background. The game sort of ruins her sendoff by showing her in the finale taking one of the villains down in demon form, but it doesn't make the scene any less hard to watch.

This isn’t the only sad moment in the game, but it’s the only one that felt unnecessarily miserable. The only thing I could think (other than “Man, fuck this game”) was “No. She didn’t deserve that.”

The Ending (Conker’s Bad Fur Day)

Hey so what’s the perfect way to end a game that’s all about fun? We have movie spoofs, game spoofs, hilarious English accents, and songs about poop? Well, let’s see. If the game’s about a squirrel version of Charlie Sheen trying to rescue his dame from evil, it should probably involve him facing evil in the end and then rescuing his dame?

Well RareWare thought it’d be funnier to have everyone fucking die at the end, including Berri (the dame), and leaving him as the king of a land he hates, surrounded by people he explicitly says he can’t fucking stand.

Y-yeah guys . . . this was . . . this was fun.
You know what makes it worse? After Berri dies, there’s this funny meta joke where the game ‘freezes’ and Conker complains about Rare’s lack of beta testing, then asks the programmers for some help. They give him a katana, which he uses to kill the villain. Then he suddenly realizes that he could’ve asked them to bring Berri back, but didn’t. Too late. She’s dead.

I’m still trying to figure this one out. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was all about pushing the envelope of mature content in a videogame. Despite its cartoony nature, it was all about fart jokes, dick jokes, booze, violence, and fowl language. It had been so damn funny the entire way through so why the fuck would they decide to make a 180° in the game’s mood and suddenly transform it into fucking furry Hamlet? I literally went online to see if I had gotten some kind of “Bad” ending. It was hard to believe that’s how the game ends.

The Whole Blasted Thing (The End of Evangelion)

There isn’t much to say here. It’s a story about the apocalypse so having the entire series end with the world coming to an end, taking the lives of everyone on Earth, was to be expected (to a certain degree). What we did not expect was that almost the entire main cast would get killed in violent ways before the apocalypse took place. Some get shot, some get exploded, some get their eye gouged out and then are impaled by twelve lances. Add to that the constant psychological torture of the protagonist, and a mean as balls epilogue where the last thing you see of the protagonist is him getting told “You disgust me” by the girl he’s in love with.

Behold! The ultimate "Now what?"
Apparently people were so disgruntled by the original ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion (and they had every right to be, as it was a notorious disaster after the production team ran out of money), they went as far as sending death threats to creator Hideaki Anno. The movie was made as a retelling of the final events of the TV show, finally wrapping the story in a coherent, understandable (words used very loosely) manner.

Well, here’s a lesson: don’t piss off the guy in whose hands lay the fates of your favorite characters. Though The End of Evangelion is a masterpiece of animation, one of my top five movies of all time, and the best thing in the Evangelion universe, there’s no denying that there was a bit of a mean streak behind the writing. Not one of the characters deserved the ending they got.

The Red Wedding (A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones)

Wouldn’t it be so funny if halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring, the gang was betrayed by Samwise, raped by a pack of Uruk Hai, decapitated and torn apart, only to have the One Ring back in Sauron’s power?

It’d be so hilarious, George R. R. Martin basically did exactly that with his own story, A Song of Ice and Fire. Though there isn’t much context needed as this has become a huge part of modern pop culture, the gist is this: after two and a half books, the Starks, lords of the Northern realms, are out waging war for independence and revenge, led by seventeen year old Robb Stark. Good Guy Robb leads his armies, making mistakes along the way, and is well on his way to avenge his father’s death and take down the evil Lannisters. Then, Robb, his mother, his soldiers and bannermen, are invited to a wedding which would rekindle an important alliance with the Frey family, a key to his victory.

House Stark: Things Can Always Get Worse For Us
Then, when everyone is having a good time at the wedding, Robb is betrayed by the Freys. He is killed. His mother is killed. His entire army is killed, and with them the Stark’s chances for victory. It completely comes out of the left field and there is some serious viciousness in the scene (reading Catelyn Stark’s final thoughts is a bolt to the goddamn heart). The meanest twists are the ones that happen just when you think the characters are doing fine, and as far as fantasy goes, nothing is as horrifying and disturbing as the sudden slaughter of the main characters of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Addendum: Oberyn’s death in Game of Thrones (specifically the TV show, not so much in the book) goes in here as well. Another example of a show going from “Yay!” to “FUCK NAY!” in 3.1 nanoseconds. That twist was so messed up, I was compelled to write down my feelings to try and understand it.

Night of the Chimera (Fullmetal Alchemist)

This is it. The single most horrifying, disturbing thing a piece of media has ever bitch-slapped me with. If you’re a fan of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, you know what I’m talking about. We might have met in the support groups.

I don’t talk much about it here, but this is my single favoritest serialized piece of fiction of all time. There isn’t a single thing about it I don’t both admire as a writer and adore as a geek. This is the closest thing any long series has ever gotten to being perfect, and it single-handedly made me quit anime because I decided nothing could ever be better. And nothing has. If you haven’t seen this show, stop reading and watch it. It’s 63 twenty-minute episodes, and this is not something you want spoiled.

So. There are two versions of this show: one that shares a first act with the original manga but then takes off on its own with its own story (and does a phenomenal job of this divergence), and the superior Brotherhood, which follows the original manga almost beat by beat. Though the event I’m talking about happens early in both series, I’ll be speaking about the representation in the original show, which is worse.

Have in mind this is a story that begins with Ed and Al Elric, two young boys, who attempt using alchemy (magic/science they don’t really understand) to try and resurrect their dead mother. They fail, and bring her back as an incomplete, horrible monstrosity, and lose parts of their bodies (or their entire bodies) in the process. The mom-monster is killed anyway.

Ah, when the show was lighthearted.
That’s the first scene, and it’s not even what I’m talking about. In a show that’s famous for very dark twists and depressing character deaths, having one that towers over all the rest is quite a feat.

Yeah, it begins with some real heavy hitting darkness, but then it takes a very fun and light mood. The brothers—one left with robotic limbs and the other’s soul trapped in a huge suit of armor—begin their quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone, a mythical artifact which would in theory give them their bodies back (yeah, the whole series isn’t even about the dead mother; it’s just some really long damage control). It picks up a much lighter and funny mood where the brothers get into wacky adventures while trying to better understand Alchemy and the world around them.

Soon into the story, they come across an alchemic scholar named Shou Tucker, who lives with his adorable young daughter Nina and their dog Alexander. The brothers spend time with the Tuckers, using his vast libraries and knowledge to improve their skills. Meanwhile, they befriend Nina and Alexander. Despite being little more than a toddler, she becomes a constant companion to Ed and Al, keeping them company and making their lives altogether a bit brighter, because adorable little girls do that.

Hello! Tell your psychiatrist he's a rich man!
Three episodes of funny and cute brothers-and-symbolic-sister bonding time, this totally fun show takes the most sudden and horrifyingly mean plunge into darkness I’ve ever seen anything take. For some time, the brothers had noticed that Shou was under some extreme pressure to create something very special (a speaking chimera, which he had mysteriously created once before), or else he would lose the prestigious license and all the privileges of a State Alchemist. One night, Ed and Al get to the Tuckers’ home to find that Shou has finally re-created his talking chimera. Great, right?

Nope. Turns out he achieved this by using Nina and Alexander, fusing them together using bio-alchemy, creating a dog/lion like monster.

The moment in which you realize that the sad monster sitting next to Tucker is actually Nina and Alexander, is an incredibly well executed twist that hits like a mallet to the nuts. You just can’t believe the show could ever go that far (after all, it was fun). That shit alone would be enough to traumatize anyone, but the show decides to keep making it worse, and worse, and worse.

Yeah, have fun with the rest of your life.
First, the Nina/Alexander hybrid recognizes Al and Ed as her brothers, and speaks to them in this defeated, pathetic whimper. Ed (the hothead of the duo) fucking explodes and beats the shit out of Shou, who taunts him by saying how they’re not so different, only to be stopped by the chimera who appears to be crying. The military arrives and takes both Shou and the chimera into custody. Outside, Edward helps the chimera escape. After wandering alone, she is soon found by Scar, another powerful alchemist and the villain of the show, who recognizes her for the monstrosity she is and kills her. Not just kills her though—he makes her explode, violently splattering her against the wall.

The show further twists the knife by altering the ending theme, adding cute images of Nina and Alexander when they were alive (and, you know, separate entities), ending with an image of them curled together, sleeping peacefully. That original show still goes farther into this twist in really weird ways many episodes later, but at least in Brotherhood, it never gets this bad again.

I shouldn’t have to explain why this has become one of the most (or the most) infamous moments in anime. The show is never the same after this. Ed and Al learn the darkest side of alchemy, and lament Nina’s death all the way to the end, which takes place many years later. I still remember finishing the episode and thinking that if it was not just a nightmare, I’d stop watching (cutie). If you think you felt bad with the Red Wedding, believe me—it’s nothing compared to “Night of the Chimera”.

I don’t think—and I sincerely hope—anything will ever surpass this as the meanest, most disturbing and depressing twist in mainstream pop culture. It broke all the rules of the genre, subverted our every expectation, and did it with sharp writing and phenomenal dramatic timing. It’s a lesson in how horrible happenings aren’t enough to make something truly stand out; it’s also about the execution. And this show/s just knocked it out of the park.

Fuck them. But also bless them for it.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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