Sedgwick Speech

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
"I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way for simple bullets. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

A fierce battle is about to ensue. One brave Red Shirt will step forward and give an uplifting speech, only to be paid for his efforts by getting brutally killed. Bonus points if he is killed before he finishes the speech.

The speech in question will either be an idealistic plea for peace to an implacable enemy, or an attempt to boost morale by emphasizing how the heroes will never give up, never surrender, with bonus points if the character in question actually apes Churchill's manner of speech. This can be a chilling Kick the Dog moment to show just how inhuman the enemy is, a comedic moment to show how ineffective wide-eyed idealism is against violence, or, disturbingly, both. Or it could simply be a moment of overconfident gloating on the part of a genre blind villain who hasn't read the Evil Overlord List....

This is often a result of the Temptation of Fate.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Sedgwick Speech include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Death Note, Matt is cornered by Takeda's Kira-worshiping bodyguards. He starts telling them why they wouldn't dare shoot him. Cue barrage of bullets.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist. "It's not like they have tanks." Cue the Briggs brigade deploying Tank Goodness for one hell of a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Subverted in One Piece during the war at Marineford. When Coby made a passionate plea to stop the fighting Admiral Akainu tried to kill him then and there, only to be stopped by Shanks.
  • Russia in Axis Powers Hetalia doesn't actually die, but comes close when he jumps from a plane with no parachute. Beforehand, he claims he'll be fine because the snow on the ground is soft enough to break his fall. China asks if he's sure, and Russia says "I'm Russian, I know everything about snow!" Too bad he knows nothing about parachuting.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Happens to Captain America during the Korvac saga, The Avengers Under Siege, and Infinity Gauntlet.
  • Used almost verbatim in The Losers (with "she couldn't hit..." instead of "they couldn't hit...")

Film[edit | hide]

  • In Mars Attacks!, Martians embark on a humorously vicious invasion of Earth. When they've reached the President of the United States (played by Jack Nicholson), he makes a moving speech, ending with an impassioned, "Why can't we all just get along?" The Martians appear convinced, for just a moment—then they skewer him. Martians are one bunch who just cannot give peace a chance. The same scene also features the film's blatant Patton parody delivering a direct quote of Churchill's famous "we will fight them on the beaches" speech and firing his pistols wildly. The alien leader shrinks him down and squishes him.
  • Deep Blue Sea: One of the defining moments is when Samuel L. Jackson's Rousing Speech to the other survivors is cut short. By a shark. While indoors.

Russell: Enough! That's enough now, from all of you! You think water's fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once -- it got a taste for murder. When the avalanche came, it took us a week to climb out. And somewhere, we lost hope. Now I don't know exactly when we turned on each other, I just know that seven of us survived the slide... and only five made it out. Now we took an oath that I'm breaking now. Swore that we said 'twas the snow that killed the other two. But it wasn't. Nature can be lethal, but it doesn't hold a candle to man. Now you've seen how bad things can get and how quick they can get that way. Well, they can get a whole lot worse! So we're not going to fight anymore! We're going to pull together and we're going to find a way to get outta here! First, we're gonna seal off this- CHOMP!

  • War of the Worlds: A classic example is Pastor Collins in the original film version, who goes out to the Martians to try and communicate, and gets a heat-ray in answer.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: A lone dissenter in New Mecca says the Necromonger Warlord is an intolerant conqueror rather than the "enlightened" liberator he presents himself as and... gets his soul ripped out for it. Ouchies.
  • Sergeant Farrell in 28 Days Later says a few reassuring words about how life on Earth goes on and that the end of the human race won't be the end of the world. He gets chained to a radiator and shot. What did you expect?
  • Boris, GoldenEye. "Yes! I am inVEENcible!" *flash-frozen* Aaand now you're a coat rack.
  • In The Bourne Supremacy, Marie's last words: "You have a choice". Subverted somewhat because Bourne does, in fact, take them to heart, and refrains thereafter from killing in cold blood.

Wombosi: If they want to kill me, they'd better kill me the first time! They'd better kill me dead! They'd better kill me when I'm in my sleep! (shot by a sniper)

  • Brother Jacobus in Dragonslayer tries out a pre-beta version of the power of Christ on a dragon: "Unclean beast! Get thee down! Be thou consumed by the fires that made thee!" Though nonverbal, Vermithrax's response translates, approximately, to "no u lol".
  • Pretty much exactly the same thing happens in the movie Outlander.
  • In Day Of The Jackal, Bastien-Thiry, failed assassin of Charles De Gaulle is shown remarking that he is a patriot and no firing squad will dare shoot him. The next shot is immediately after his execution.
  • In a bit of Moral Dissonance, the movie of Return of the King had Aragorn cheerfully kill Sauron's spokesperson while the latter was discussing the terms of peace. Though knowing Sauron, they were probably more like "terms of unconditional surrender".
  • In the CG movie pilot to Star Wars: The Clone Wars a clone trooper jumps up on the makeshift barrier the Republic troops have erected to keep the droids out of their base perimeter. His rallying cry is abruptly cut off when he is hit by a blaster bolt and killed. The clones still charge, anyway.
  • The Live Action Adaptation of Golgo 13 (the second one, with Sonny Chiba as Duke Togo) shows a mook spying on Golgo with binoculars see him look their way. He turns to his partner and says, "Ah, who cares? It's over 300 yards!" Anyone familiar with the series will know how short that mook's lifespan is.
  • Tropic Thunder: While they weren't going to a war, but to film a movie about one, the director Damien Cockburn died this way. He stepped into a mine after giving a speech about filming the best war movie of all time.
  • Near the end of Three Amigos, a bunch of El Guapo's men run off. As El Guapo yells at them for being cowards, Jefe says, "Cheer up, El Guapo... you still have me!" Guess who gets shot immediately thereafter.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: Curt gives an uplifting speech before fatally crashing his motorcycle into the invisible barrier the audience knew was there all along.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Discworld series
    • Guards Guards: After Ankh-Morpork gets taken over by a dragon, a group of citizens start complaining about the new ruler, and Sergeant Colon tries to rally them. When the dragon shows up in person, one inspired citizen stands defiantly in front of the beast and starts to make an impassioned speech. The dragon burns him to cinders in mid-sentence. So much for "The people united can never be ignited!". Although this is unusual in that the momentum wasn't lost when the dragon incinerated the man. People were already starting to question what, precisely, was being proposed to stop the dragon from just killing them all and moving to a different city if they didn't cooperate.
    • Night Watch: Reg Shoe says, "They can take our lives, but they can never take our freedom!" At which point he's shot about seventeen times. Subverted in that Reg keeps going anyway, but his body quits before his mind makes itself up to be a zombie (that happens later). It's specifically noted that it was possibly the most stupid battle cry ever spoken.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar, the villain's last words are "You're a Betan, you can't do-". Turns out she can. Later, another character thinks of "the general whose last words were reputed to have been, Don't worry, Lieutenant, the enemy can't possibly hit us at this ran--"
  • Slayers: Kanzeil from the light novel version. His exact last words are "Don't waste your time! I'm more powerful than any of your paltry parlor tricks!" A second later, he gets vaporized. The anime version of Kanzeil is somewhat different, but he still dies with a Sedgwick Speech.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Before Dishonor, a Federation diplomat attempts to negotiate with the Borg—and comes back declaring that "There will be peace in our time." Then the Borg blow his ship out of space.
  • In John Scalzi's Old Man's War, people are recruited into the military at the age of 75. This means their recruits have a lot more experience than new recruits in most nonfictional militaries; unfortunately, not all experience is applicable. Private Senator Ambassador Secretary Bender finds out the hard way that just because they're singing does not mean that they'd rather talk than fight.
  • A pair of girls in Battle Royale attempt to convince everyone to lay down their weapons and refuse to fight any more with the aid of a megaphone, and promptly get slaughtered by the token psychopath who's armed with a sub-machine gun.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In the Doctor Who episode "Evolution of the Daleks", the leader of Hooverville attempts to show the Daleks that they're Not So Different than him, and gets X-Ray Sparks through his body for the trouble.
    • "Whadda you, Daleks?"
    • "Exterminate!"
  • On Buffy, the Watchers' Council is blown up at the climax of an inspiring speech Quentin Travers is giving.
  • In Sharpe's Peril, a priest tries to convince the villainous leader not to fight because it's the Sabbath. The villain replies that "you of all people should know that God does not work on a Sunday" and shoots him.
  • In the series finale of The Wire, during a meeting of the remaining high-ranking drug dealers after the Stanfield Organization collapses, Cheese Wagstaff (the sole high-ranking member of the Stanfield group left standing) goes into an impassioned tirade about how "there ain't no back in the day" and how it's now their time to shine, inadvertently implying that he was in on the coup that led to the death of his uncle, the former kingpin of the Baltimore drug trade. He never gets to finish the speech, as said uncle's right-hand man shoots him in the head point blank mid-sentence.

Cheese: "When it was my uncle, I was with my uncle. When it was Marlo, I was with him. But now, nigga --"

  • In the second episode of Firefly , Crow makes such a speech. Also inverted in the first episode, when Mal gives a short speech to one of the last members of his platoon about how they're "too pretty to die!" and then they both stand up...and the other guy gets shot down.
  • One episode of Dad's Army has Jones comparing Mainwaring to an officer he had in World War One who didn't like crouching in the trenches and one night decided to walk on the parapet to show the Germans he was not afraid and to set an example to his men. He got shot. In a very awkward place. Did a lot of crouching after that.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

Goodman: "It's ove-"

    • Kathleen Martin too.

Kathleen: "Oh Adam, there's no way you could shoot me with that gun. You see, people like you aren't fit for these kinds of situations. Sure, you're basically a big load of muscle with more than enough attitude to compensate, but compared to people like me, you're nothing. Ultimately, it's the smart, the beautiful, and the well-prepared that are going to make it far in this game, and when it comes to you-" * shot*

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the Futurama episode "A Taste of Freedom", Old Man Waterfall stands up to the Decapodian Oppression Palace and declares, "Do your worst, you sea devils! I'll make my stand with Old Freebie! You can crush me but you can't crush my spirit!" No points for guessing what happens next.

Old Man Waterfall: Ow, my spirit!

  • In The Simpsons, a statue of a general is seen with the words "I'll die before I surrender, Tim" engraved on it. Tim is presumed to be the man next to him before he was shot. The more likely explanation is that Tim killed the general, then surrendered.
  • South Park: "Cheeri-o! My name is Pip. I would like to see if you wouldn't mind not smashing our little town to bits."

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The trope is named for John Sedgwick, a Union general in the American Civil War, who, during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, said "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way for simple bullets. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!" seconds before being fatally shot by a sniper.
    • Sedgwick's words are sometimes recorded as being "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--", implying that he was Killed Mid-Sentence. This is not accurate. It is, however, much funnier.
    • Also, the 'Elephant' quote was actually his penultimate sentence. His last last words were, "All right, my man; go to your place", in response to a soldier saying ducking was generally a good idea. The quote is sometimes misattributed to General Custer or Stonewall Jackson.
    • Part of the reason for Sedgwick's overconfidence came from the fact that, up until the Civil War, most troops were armed with smoothbore muskets that were wildly inacurate beyond 50 yards or so. He simply wasn't prepared for the new reality that standard-issue rifles were imposing on the battlefield. (He wasn't alone in that regard; part of the reason Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg was such a slaughter was because General Lee underestimated what a line of men with rifles could do to an advancing army.)
    • The Horrible Histories book about the era includes a cartoon which depicts two soldiers looking at Sedgwick's corpse, one saying "Pity he wasn't an elephant."
  • A World War Two example, although the guy wasn't killed, comes from Operation Chariot, the St. Nazaire Raid—the Crowning Moment of Awesome for commando operations. The destroyer that was supposed to blow up and destroy the dock gate hadn't blown up on schedule. A German wonders aloud to the vessel's captain why they'd decided to ram the gate with the destroyer, when it wouldn't work. As he's making this speech- there's a bang... 250 Germans and civilians die and bits of body are found 400 yards away. The destruction of the dry dock prevents the battleship Tirpitz from putting to sea at all (lack of a safe haven on the Atlantic) until it is sunk in 1944, removing the biggest threat to Atlantic convoys.
  • The British writer Saki (H.H. Munro) had the last words of "Put that damned cigarette out!" (because lighting a cigarette would allow enemy snipers to see you). Munro jumping up to scold another soldier had the same effect.
  • There is an instance of a King inviting dinner guests to eat on the edge of a battlefield and assuring them they were out of range only to have a cannonball rip two of the guests in half and blind another. Reportedly he ordered that servants remove the two bodies and bring out the wine.
  • A variation of sorts, in the battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812, one of the American commanders was struck 9 times just after getting off his boat and trying to rally his troops. He survived somehow though.
  • An Australian officer at Gallipoli during the initial landing came under fire, his unit pinned down on the beach. He stood up and said, "Right lads, this is what we'll do," before copping a Turkish sniper round in the back of the head.