Harmless Electrocution

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Not pictured (nor present): long-term neurological and/or physiological damage.


From the same twisted laws of physics that allowed people to be frozen without problems comes harmless electrocution! Whether it's cartoon, comedy or action film, electricity just doesn't seem as damaging as other hazards; no, at worst you'll fall over with a Non Sequitur Thud and be left with soot all over your clothes and face, and your hair all messed up. Despite briefly conducting enough juice to make your skeleton visible through your skin, there'll be no lasting damage, even from the most traumatic Electric Torture.

Of course in Real Life, electricity can cause skin burns, muscle damage and death. Even at low power levels it can inflict great pain; just ask anyone who has been the victim of a tazer. Those who survive severe shocks (especially by lightning) often suffer from brain damage afterwards. An alternating current is more likely to kill you than a direct current, but a direct current is still very dangerous. Don't Try This At Home, especially considering the unfortunate consequences of kids playing around with electricity because they saw it on cartoons.

Please note that straight examples are those where it does far less damage than it should, subversions are where we expect them to be fine but they do suffer, even if they end up with super powers. Characters with electrical immunity should be aware that not everyone is like that.

Fun Fact: The strict definition of electrocution is "to kill by electricity."[1] Electrification, on the other hand, means "to charge with or subject to electricity."

Related tropes include Lightning Can Do Anything, especially for lightning as a source of powers.

Examples of Harmless Electrocution include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Pokémon:
    • In the early episodes Ash gets shocked at least once per week (without any long term suffering) and some time later he even teaches a girl to respect her own Raichu by resisting its shocks.
    • An extreme Pokémon example: Ash's successful tactic in the episode Pikachu Re-Volts relied on his ability to stand up to his hypnotized Pikachu's malicious electric attacks as they caused nearby machinery to explode.
    • At one point, Ash actually asks Pikachu to jolt him to help him think.
    • Dawn/Hikari gets shocked once in a while, usually by accident. Her hair always needs serious reconditioning afterward by Piplup's Bubble Beam attack just to return it to normal.
    • Meowth even uses this to his advantage at one point, where not only does he free a poacher's caged-up Pokémon, but he comments that he's been electrocuted by Pikachu so much that the electrified bars are nothing to him.
    • Strangely averted when everyone seemed worried when Clair got hit by one of Pikachu's electric attacks while protecting her Dratini. Jarring since the main characters (Ash in particular) have been shocked so many times that it's surprising they even flinch any more.
    • However, Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions subverts this HARD with Kodai's Weapon of Choice, an extending claw with a powerful electric shock, which is specifically shown to be able to kill and almost does when he uses it to mortally wound Zoroark and torture and almost kill Zorua.
  • Excel Saga: This happens to Excel in the anime while she was a prisoner. She even asks for more just as the next prisoner supposedly dies from the same electrocution.
  • Ed ends up electrocuting herself in one episode of Cowboy Bebop. After Faye and the others question if she's dead, she literally springs back up and continues on her business as if nothing ever happened.
  • From A Certain Scientific Railgun - Misaka Mikoto's lightning attacks do a lot less damage than one would expect from their looks. For example, Kuroko is on the receiving end of these every episode, yet she doesn't have any problems. Well, apart from those that get her electrocuted that often.
  • The Riding Bean OVA shows how a taser isn't enough to awake Bean when he's taking a nap. Played for laughs but also telling us that he is absurdly Made of Iron.
  • Thankfully averted in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni with Shion's taser of doom.
  • Happened once to Hikaru Gosunkugi in Ranma ½.
  • Lum's standard attack in Urusei Yatsura is electricity. Of course, the show is a comedy, so at worst the targets are knocked out. At one point she zaps a whole bunch of people and only Ataru remains conscious, because he's gotten used to it.
  • Zig-Zagged in One Piece when fighting Big Bad of the Skypeia Arc, Enel, who is made of lightning after eating the Rumble-Rumble Fruit. On one hand, it's definitely played straight that electricity is fatally dangerous, and taking down one side-character in a confrontation was allegedly enough to kill every single person in a river at that point in time. On the other hand, some characters get blasted away multiple times by his lightning and only come out with burns. Luckily for Luffy, this isn't a problem due to some wacky Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors.
  • Zig-zagged in Gundam. In the original series, Amuro's Gundam gets shocked by the Gouf's heat rod and he suffers the usual cartoon electrocution reaction (minus the sight gags). In Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Shiro is in an identical situation, but it's portrayed more realistically by showing him suffering muscle spasms, losing control of his bladder, and briefly blacking out.
  • Inuyasha gets struck by lightning in one of the movies, and is perfectly fine less than two minutes later.
    • In an early episode, he gets hit repeatedly with a lightning-shooting halberd and is shown to be in considerable pain with each strike, but again has no problems less than a minute later.
  • Titular character Beelzebub is a big shout out to Lum of Urusei Yatsura down to the green hair color and the effects of electricity, meaning the worst that happens is people get charred or temporarily knocked out. Being a gag series, no one expects an adorable baby to actually kill someone with his electricity, do they?

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Ranzz family from Legion of Super-Heroes. They all got powers from being repeatedly electrocuted by lightning beasts.
  • Subversion: In the X-Men, Storm's powers go awry and she ends up badly burned by a lightning strike she created, which is part of the reason she spent awhile as Mohawk Storm.
  • In The Phantom Affair, Wedge Antilles is shocked twice by some electrified bars. Both times, afterward he's obviously limp and in pain, but manages to drag himself to his feet in both cases, and then escape to fly combat.
  • In the 1950's and 60's Batman, The Joker used harmless hand buzzers; from the 70's and onward, they received a deadly upgrade.

Film[edit | hide]

  • In Spies Like Us, Emmett (Chevy Chase) uses his own body to close an electrical circuit. Partially justified in that he was doing it to save the world.
  • In Our Man Flint, Derek Flint and Lloyd Cramden use an electrical socket and their own bodies as an impromptu defibrillator. They're both fine afterwards.
    • In Like Flint has Lloyd Cramden electrocuted again, this time by a malfunctioning electronic bugging device. No aftereffects.
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint attaches a jumper cable directly to a power line, shocking him for a few moments (complete with X-Ray Sparks), but is none the worse by the next scene.
  • Hot Shots, Played for Laughs, complete with visible skeleton despite being live-action.
  • Batman: The Movie (1966). The Joker uses his electric hand buzzers on the Penguin and the Riddler with no permanent effect. Watch it here, at about 1:15.
  • In Down Periscope, this often happens to Nitro, the Stingray's electrician. Since he's undoubtedly absorbed quite a bit of voltage during his years of service (a fact that is not lost on Cmdr. Dodge), getting shocked doesn't bother him so much any more.
  • During the climatic fight in Commando, Matrix throws Bennett into a high voltage generator, which sparks and goes haywire as our victim WHO IS WEARING A CHAINMAIL VEST screams like a little girl. About eight seconds later, however, Bennett immediately bounces back in the fight and is arguably fighting better than he did before the electrocution.
  • In Predator 2, the Hunter climbs a building, his prey's skull and spine in hand, and he bellows into the air while hoisting his spear and his trophy. Lightning strikes him directly through his spear, sparks flowing all over his body, and he doesn't even react to it.
  • Multiple examples from Star Wars:
  • A minor character in the comedy The Great Outdoors had apparently been struck by lightning 66 times and survived, albeit with a near-inpenetrable stutter, constant palsy-like trembling, and the ability to detect thunderstorms (not that it does him much good: he gets struck for the 67th time before the ending credits roll).
  • In the second Home Alone movie, one of the Wet Bandits, Marv, is electrocuted by one of Kevin's traps, complete with X-Ray Sparks, but seems fine afterward.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Subversion: In Charlaine Harris' other series, the main character has the ability to detect the location of the dead after being struck by lightning. In addition, she is scarred, and has muscle spasms and debilitating migraines as a result of the lightning strike as well.
  • The title character of Crazy for Cornelia, who's obsessed with electricity, gets forced to undergo ECT. She still keeps her personality intact afterwards—yeah, right, that would happen.
  • In the Invasion crossover event in the Star Trek Expanded Universe, Neelix falsely claims to be immune to the dangerous effects of electricity so that the team will let him short-circuit a lock by sticking his fingers in a light socket. Why this matters is unclear, since Janeway also needs to link hands to complete the circuit. Neelix recovers, but is knocked to the floor; Janeway is mostly uninjured but finds that her arm is stuck between the bars because her muscles have gone into spasm. Their limited resources mean Janeway has to be phaser-stunned to escape.
  • Subverted in The Truce At Bakura. Set directly after Return of the Jedi, throughout the book Luke Skywalker aches and suffers from The Emperor's Force Lightning, even though he hadn't been shocked by it for all that long.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The titular character in Jack of All Trades acts as a living conduit for the electrical power source for a hand-cranked wooden submarine. Not only does he get Einstein Hair and a rictus grin during the experience, but all of this takes place while Jack and his English genius-girl partner are rescuing Benjamin Franklin. You know, the guy with the kite and the key in the rain?
  • Averted heavily in Supernatural. During a fight, Dean receives an electric shock so powerful it causes massive damage to his heart which doctors cannot fix and Sam spends a large part of the episode trying to figure out how to save him.
  • In MTV's late-90s reality show Fear, one stunt involved a young woman named Holly whose challenge was to grab on to two exposed wires and hold them both for five seconds. As she was doing this, a Do Not Try This At Home banner scrolled across the bottom of the screen, which stated that she was experiencing a high-voltage/low-amperage shock which was proven to be medically harmless.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In GURPS, it is nearly impossible for a TASER or electrolaser to kill someone (like Real Life, at least if the company that makes them is right). On the other hand, even an outlet in a house can do lethal damage.

Toys[edit | hide]

  • Chiara from Bionicle regularly hurls lightning around and zaps people just to prove a point. They don't seem to suffer any permanent damage, but Chiara has been shown to be more than capable of killing creatures with her powers when she wants to...

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Video game characters in general can usually be on the receiving end of electrical attacks with no lasting damage.
  • In Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, Luigi frequently electrifies Mario, just so that they walk facing the same direction.
  • Video Games example: in Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman doesn't actually suffer any terribly noticeable injury to himself if he runs into an electric field, unlike mooks who get knocked right out. On the other hand this might just be because, well, he's Batman.
    • Batman's armor takes the brunt of shock. Same thing happens with getting too close to explosive gel blasts.
  • In Batman: Arkham City you get a gadget that acts as a wireless taser. Given that it causes enemies to spasm and hit each other, though, it might be an aversion...
  • The electro bolt from BioShock (series) (unless combined with water.)
  • In the opening credits of Dawn of War 2, it is averted with the Farseer quickly killing a Space Marine with a bolt of lighting from her hands. It doesn't kill the Force Commander she attacks with it afterwards, but he is breathing heavily and worse-for-wear from it. On the other hand, electric attacks in the gameplay fall completely under Critical Existence Failure.
  • Pikmin will be instantly fried by bursts of electricity, though the yellow ones and Bulbmin are unaffected.
  • While most Electric attacks in Pokémon deal damage, Thunder Wave is a weak jolt of electricity that deals no damage, but instead just inflicts the Paralysis effect. And if the target is already sleeping, poisoned, or burned, it does nothing whatsoever.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. series, Pikachu's (and in Melee, Pichu's) electricity is as normal of an attack as any other. No paralysis, no burns, nothing. Even on Squirtle and Charizard, who in their own series would be hurt much more than other monsters being electrocuted, although Pichu's lightning attack will damage Pichu itself.
  • Averted in The Sims, where getting electrocuted makes all your needs drop severely. If they drop low enough, the Sim will die.
    • In the Sims 3, being electrocuted gives you the singed attribute, which lasts an indefinite length of time but always more than a day. Not only does it ruin their mood, but doing any further electric work is more likely to fail, and if they get electrocuted again while singed, they automatically die.
  • Played straight, and eventually averted, in Spyro the Dragon. Zoe, a fairy who auto-saves your progress, zaps you. In Hero's Tail it's revealed that it hurts, and that it's making Spyro's brain cells disappear.
  • A few Street Fighter characters have the ability to electrocute opponents (Blanka and Crimson Viper being the most notable,) visible skeleton and all. The opponent is flung away and knocked flat on his or her back, but is really hurt only as much as if hit by a fierce punch and goes right back to fighting.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Too many Looney Tunes cartoons to count.
  • Likewise, too many SpongeBob episodes to count, as well as other Nicktoons intended for comedy as opposed to exposition (Fairly Oddparents, Mighty B, My Life as a Teenage Robot, etc.)
  • In one episode of Megas XLR, Kiva finishes her rushed attempt to fix Megas in time to stop a Glorft attack by telling Jamie to hold a couple of wires for her.
  • In the Batman the Brave And The Bold episode "Deep Cover For Batman", the character Red Hood is tortured for a while with some kind of adjustable-current electric chair by Silver Cyclone of the Injustice Syndicate. He starts laughing cackling and says 'it tickles!' This could have more to do with the fact that he's a slightly cracked Badass and alternate-universe good Joker than any actual lack of suffering, but after he's freed he fights perfectly handily with his impressive acrobatic abilities undampened.
  • The Simpsons sometimes uses this trope, but there is an unexpectedly subversion in one particular episode. A new worker called Frank Grimes gets employment at the power plant, but is aggravated at Homer's terrible ineptitude and how good his quality of life is compared to his own. His frustration builds throughout the episode until it climaxes in him going insane and imitating Homer - eventually he grabs a live power cable believing that he will survive the electric shock (like how most characters would do in the show), but he doesn't. He dies. And still gets no respect.
  • The KaBlam! episode Under New Management had Henry and June trying to fix a faulty sign together. They turn off the sign's power beforehand...but just as they touch it, Mr. Foot accidentally flips the switch back on and electrocutes them. Of course, they end up on the ground with black marks all over them and their hair sticking up (though surprisingly, we didn't see their skeletons.
  • After Kim Possible kicks her into a signal tower that zaps her and collapses on top of her in So The Drama, Shego receives only minor damage to her clothes, hair, and dignity.
    • Possibly justified since she IS an energy-channeling metahuman.
  • Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender; being directly hit with a lightning attack appears to be one of the few things which is unambiguously lethal.
    • Played straight in a non-typical manner when Iroh gets struck by natural lightning. He isn't injured by it (managing to use his technique to redirect lightning), but nevertheless ends up with the usual charring and hair on end.
  • Happens to Fry on Futurama in the episode the Luck of the Fryrish while he attempts to retrieve a horse racing ticket from some electrical wires while using a conducting rake.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The whole point of tasers.
  • Aversion: Lightning strikes that leave no apparent physical injury have been shown to often alter the personality of the strikee.
  • A static discharge can be pretty painful without inflicting any noticeable injury.
  • While technically not electrocution (which is defined as death by electric shock) plenty of people survive encounters with household electricity with nothing worse than a tingly arm. However, electricity is capricious. Slight changes in what the person is touching can mean the difference between a shock passing harmlessly between the thumb and forefinger or fatally between the thumb and foot by way of the heart.
  1. Making the title of this trope an oxymoron.