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Guard: P-please, man. Let me go. Take what you want. I won't stop you... Please. I've got a wife and two kids...
Someone is caught by the villain. That someone is being (or is about to be) tortured, or killed. For some reason, while begging/negotiating, said captive may feel the need to inform his tormentor that he has a family. No one really knows why, since this revelation never leads to release or sympathy. The idea seems to be that the victim hopes that his or her captor is not too dark of an Anti-Hero — or at least a Noble Demon — not to hurt the innocent and helpless. Even by proxy.
In reality, this serves only to demonstrate how big and bad the torturer is.
Other variation of this is that the bad guy or Mooks use this card when defeated in the battle and pleading for their lives. This can be either a trick to have a cheap attack when the Hero lets his/her guard down or it can lead to Heel Face Turn if The Hero spares the poor mook's life, since Even Evil Has Loved Ones.
Should you be dealing with a Badass Family or The Mafia, you may consider this a threat rather than pleading. If they say this so that they can offer them up first, they're just playing the Dirty Coward.
Often written as "I have a wife/kids."
Anime & Manga
- A sort of variation on this can be seen in Fullmetal Alchemist, when Maes Hughes uses the line after he thinks he's killed one of the bad guys. He's not using it to beg for his life so much as to say why he can't afford to die. He dies anyway.
- A rare Inversion occurs in the first episode of the Trigun anime. Vash the Stampede gets the drop on a bounty hunter mook and orders him to surrender... but finds himself stymied when said mook immediately calls his bluff.
Mook: I FOUND 'IM, BOSS, OVER HERE!!
- In One Piece, during the Marineford War arc, a Marine was trying to desert the battlefield (which by the way was involving forces so ridiculous that in no way he could've done anything other than getting killed) and was stopped by Admiral Akainu who told him to return to the battlefield. The Marine then invokes this trope, which made the Admiral even angrier and he melted him to death right on the spot.
- Used quite brutally in Ultimate X-Men. The X-Men had been captured by Weapon X and were being forced to work for them to take out some foreign guys who had captured Nick Fury and were in the middle of illegal genetic experiments. When confronting the lead scientist, Jean is ordered to kill him or watch Scott's head explode. As she agonizes over the decision, the lead scientist starts describing his family in an attempt to bargain for his life. Jean kills him.
- In a bit of a subversion, in The Authority, a guy pleads with Midnighter that he has kids, "somewhere." The implication is, as secret mutant soldier, that he's lead a promiscuous and nomadic life, probably leaving litters of illegitimate children behind. Midnighter responds by punching his head off and stating that they're better off without him.
- In The Flash, when his plea for help from fellow former Rogue (turned FBI agent) Trickster goes south, Piper forces the two back-up-agents to hold their guns to one another's heads. James immediately shouts their names and the fact that both have families in effort to get Piper to let them go. Unnecessary, really.
- The line above comes from an eighties Batman storyline entitled "Dark Knight, Dark City," where The Riddler (turned Ax Crazy via Demonic Possession) lampshades this line.
- In the Order of the Stick book Start of Darkness, Big Bad Xykon tells this to a random heroic Red Shirt:
Xykon: Hey, fun fact: If you beg for mercy, I'll let you live.
- Black Fox, an old cat burglar in Spider-Man stories, is an admittant abject coward and will plead for mercy the instant he is threatened. This trope is then Played for Laughs as he will claim to have sixteen kids, or two wives and eight kids with each, the details growing more ridiculous and changing all the time, and that they all depend on him.
- In Secret Six, Jeanette has caught Cheshire poisoning the title characters, and dangles her off the roof of a building by her hair while chiding her about "manners." Cheshire tries to get out by talking about her baby, but Jeanette doesn't give two shits, and while she doesn't drop her, doesn't let her off easy either.
Films — Animation
"You can't do this me, i have a wife and kids, millions of kids!"
- The line would pop up again in one of Gabby's own shorts subjects, "King For A Day".
- Parodied in Shark Tale, when Lenny the vegetarian shark is pressured by his father, Don Lino, to eat a shrimp. The shrimp starts by crying that he has a family, then goes on to describe each and every one of his kids in excruciating detail as Lenny and Don Lino argue.
Shrimp: It's true, it's true! And the other thing is, my sister had a baby and I took it over after she passed away and the baby lost all its legs and arms and now it's just a stump but I take care of it with my wife and... and it's growing and it's fairly happy... and it's difficult because I'm working a second shift at the factory to put food on the table but all the love that I see in that little guy's face it makes it worth it in the end. True story.
- Also parodied in the film version of Over the Hedge.
RJ: Please, I'm just a desperate guy trying to feed his family!
- In The Return of Jafar, Iago tries to convince Abu to open his cage by yelling, "I have a wife and three eggs! Imagine them hatching... never knowing their daddy..." He doesn't, really. Abu opens the cage to introduce Iago to Rajah the tiger. ("Close the cage! Close it close it close it!!!")
- Puss in Boots plays this card when he is defeated after trying to assassinate Shrek in the second movie. According to his own spin off film though, he's lying.
Puss: Oh no por favor. Please, I implore you. It was nothing personal Señor. I was doing only for my family. My mother, she is sick and my father lives off the garbage. The King offered me much in gold and I have a litter of brothers...
Films — Live Action
- Inverted nightmarishly in Alien³. At a moment of a breakdown, Ripley actually seeks the Alien and calls it out to kill her. The beast approaches, examines Ripley closely and then withdraws, not willing to hurt the "baby" Alien queen maturing inside Ripley.
- In Reservoir Dogs, while Mr. Blonde is torturing the cop, the officer screams out, "Please! I got a little kid at home man, now please!" This line was actually ad-libbed by the actor, and the shock it brought to Michael Madsen (who played Mr. Blonde), who had just had a son, made him walk off the set. You can actually hear Madsen break character and say "Oh, no no no..." after this line.
- Spoofed in the 1999 production of The Mummy, when Rick threatens Beni:
Beni: Think of my children!
- Subverted in Total Recall with Benny the cab driver.
[[spoiler:Benny: I needed the money. I got four kids to feed.
- Used in The Hurt Locker, when a man with a bomb strapped to him asks for help from the American military to disarm it.
- Vernita Green tries to use this in the first part of Kill Bill to dissuade The Bride from killing her. Of course, this was the worst possible strategy Vernita could have tried on The Bride, seeing as how she had tried to kill her while she was pregnant. The Bride calls her on this, and states that if she really wanted to get even, she would kill Nicky and Vernita's husband as well.
- The scientist who the Gangsters tried the Cement Shoes routine on near the start of the film adaptation of The Shadow tries this line. As expected, the boss scoffs and replies, "They'll get over it."
- To be spared from being shot to death on the Carousel Trap in Saw VI, both Emily and Shelby try this. Quite an inversion as the guy they're pleading for their lives to is not a villain and that one of them (Shelby) is blatantly lying, and unmasked by a fellow captive. Unfortunately a very nasty case of Men Are the Expendable Gender occurs and she survives anyway.
- Played with in Inglourious Basterds. It's actually a Nazi soldier, Wilhelm, who survives a bloody shoot-out and makes a deal with the Basterds. He begs them to make a deal with him and end the bloodshed as his wife just had their first child. It doesn't work.
- In Defiance, the Jewish partisans capture a terrified Nazi soldier, who tells them he has a wife and two kids. One of the partisans yells out, "So did I!" They beat the Nazi to death while yelling about their lost relatives.]]
- "My wife is having a baby...!" - a last, desperate attempt by the titular Withnail of Withnail and I to avoid a beating after he had run afoul of an Irishman. He was lying, of course. This makes for a Funny Aneurysm Moment, as Richard E. Grant's wife had a miscarriage while filming.
- In Training Day, when Jake is about to be murdered by drug dealers, he shouts in panic that he has a little girl. It doesn't work by itself, but it does motivate them to check out whether he's telling the truth about his Chekhov's Gun.
- In Timeline, one of the protagonists pleads with De Kere another time-traveler permanently stranded in the past to spare him, mentioning that he has a family. However, it doesn't work, because De Kere had a family too.
De Kere: "You have a family?"
- In a The Three Stooges short, a detective threatens to have them arrested for allowing a bank robber to escape.
Shemp: Please officer, I got six wives and two kids!
- Subverted in Predators, when the Russian affectionately shows the doctor a photo of his kids, just before all hell breaks loose, and they're all forced to flee while the latter still has the photo. When the doctor is crippled and the other characters consider leaving him behind, he says "I've got kids" and shows the photo. While it's a lie, this looks like an understandable case of a terrified, desperate man trying anything to not be left behind, but the discovery that he's actually a psychopathic serial killer makes it less surprising that he was able to think up this sort of lie on the spot and without any hint of unease.
- In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Dead Beat, after Phil dies, Butters tells Harry that he didn't have a family — and they agree that no, it doesn't make it better.
- Spoofed in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents:
Rat Catcher 2: Have mercy! If not for me, please think of my dear wife and my four lovely children who'll be without their daddy!
- In one of Christopher Pike's Last Vampire books, a guy tries a line similar to this on Sita, the vampire MC. She replies, telling him "the line is 'I have a wife and two kids'" and adding that sometimes that line works and sometimes it doesn't. It works for this guy
- Horribly subverted in 1984, one of the prisoners at the Ministry Of Love is being dragged off for torture in Room 101, and begs that he has a wife and family... and then begs his captors to kill THEM instead, rather than having to face the horror of Room 101.
- Which is actually the desired effect of The Party's torture. The idea is not to punish you, but to break you to the point where you will betray anyone you once cared about to make the torture stop. It is their fault your torture continues, when you break your loyalty to them, The Party is a merciful, loving figure that takes away all the pain.
- At the end of the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire, Merrett Frey is captured by outlaws who intend to hang him and invokes this trope. The outlaw Lem retorts, "That Young Wolf never will."
- An inversion appears in Brisingr, the third book of "The Inheritance Cycle." A soldier fighting for The Empire begs Eragon to spare his life, as he is too young to die - he has yet to marry and father a child. Unfortunately, Eragon cannot spare him, as the soldier has sworn a magical oath in service of Galbatorix that would force him to betray Eragon.
Live Action TV
- A nameless factory worker makes this plea of the hell goddess Glory in Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Said factory worker actually makes a reappearance a few episodes later after Glory has Mind Raped him. Turns out he wasn't lying, as it involves his family visiting him in the psyche ward in hospital.
- Played utterly straight in the first episode of Heroes, where Nikki reminds her creditors that she has a son. Jessica gets better results a few episodes later by telling a goon what exactly she'll do to him if her threatens her son again.
- Played with on House, where one patient tries to get the medical proxy of another patient to sign off on a brain biopsy with it. It doesn't work, and it's revealed that she actually doesn't have the husband and daughter she said she did.
- A rare example of it working occurs in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Because she's a hero and a mom, she lets him go. Subverted in that he is actually a bad guy and shoots her. Later, she kills him. Also, she finds out that while he doesn't have a son, he does have a wife.
- Jason Pillar used this on Jack Bauer on 24 and Jack spared him. He ended up getting his comeuppance in the final hour.
- This is also done in season 1 with Ted Cofell, but it doesn't work as well.
- In Oz, an illegal immigrant being held in the prison is about to be murdered by Guerra with a nail gun.He begs, pleading "My wife and son?" Guerra cruelly responds "They will mourn you forever."
- Inspector Morse. Sgt Lewis is taken out into the woods and forced to dig his own grave by the Murderer-Of-The-Week. At one stage he turns to the killer and yells angrily, "For God's sake, I've got a wife and kids!" but the killer just tells him to keep digging. Fortunately Morse turns up at that moment.
- Boardwalk Empire: Angela tries this when Manny has a gun on her, having just killed her lover Louise, albeit accidentally. It doesn't work.
- Subverted in a Garfield strip. A spider tells Garfield that he has thousands of kids, "all teenagers." Garfield smashes him and the spider proceeds to thank Garfield for putting him out of his misery.
- A similar Garfield example has a mouse walking in front of him and telling him, "Okay, you caught me. Go ahead and eat, never mind that I have seven kids at home." When Garfield tells the mouse to go home, the mouse says, "To seven screaming kids? What kind of monster are you!?"
- In another strip, Garfield is about to eat a goldfish:
Fish: Please, spare me, Mr Cat! I've got a wife and six kids!
- This even occurs in music, in the song "Stagger Lee."
- Better Than Ezra's "One More Murder" contains the lyric "Saturday night, comin' out/Parking lot a figure come about/Feel a piece click against your head/Pleading to his sympathy/'Take the car, I got a family'/Hear a laugh, 'don't mean shit to me.'
- Jim Ross, commentator for WWE Raw, frequently exclaims "That man has a family!" when a wrestler is on the receiving end of a beat down.
- There is a variation in Sweeney Todd, where Todd is about to slash the throat of a customer in his typical manner, but then spares him when he sees he has a child.
- The movie puts the wife and child in the room at the time, which makes it unclear whether he's being spared out of kindness or because there are witnesses present.
- Considering the entire scheme began as a method of silencing witnesses, more likely the former.
- The movie puts the wife and child in the room at the time, which makes it unclear whether he's being spared out of kindness or because there are witnesses present.
- In the opening of Sweet Tooth's story in Twisted Metal Black, a voice is heard saying this. The response from Sweet Tooth: "Shut up and bleed, you mother--," interrupted by the sound of a knife striking home.
- In The Punisher for the PS2, this crops up as one of the special flashbacks. A random mook, upon being "interrogated," may respond "I have a family!" giving Punisher a flashback to his own, dead, family.
Punisher: (Kill) Everybody does. *BANG*
- There are a lot of variations on this, each resulting in a flashback for the Punisher. These include: "I'm just a soldier!"
Punisher: (Kill) That's no excuse. *BANG*
- "I ain't ready for a coffin!"
Punisher: (Kill) No one ever is. *BANG*
- And... "There's gonna be a massacre!"
Punisher: (Kill) You're right. *BANG*
- Played with in Baldur's Gate:
Guard: You wouldn't kill a man with a wife and ten children, would you?
- Occasionally, the innocent civilians in Oni will say this if a fight starts near them. One specifically begs Konoko not to kill him ("I have a wife and kids!") after divulging information.
- Spoofed occasionally during kidnapping missions in City of Villains.
- "Please don't do this, I have kids! Well not now, but I'd like to someday."
- World of Warcraft: A few NPCs in the "Death Knight" starting zone shout this when you attack them. Just in case the mere fact of being a Death Knight wasn't enough.
- In Fable, when you are offered a chance to spare a merchant after raiding his trading post, you get to hear him beg for his life. For some reason, he feels the need to inform you that he has a shop in the same breath that he tells you about his family.
- If Batman continues interrogating mob mooks after getting the information he wants in the Batman Begins video game, they'll start pleading that they have families.
- Knights of the Old Republic 2 has seemingly dozens of these, often just when you're talking nicely to them on the street. Almost everyone you catch double-crossing you will try it as soon as you find out. This happens if you're good or evil.
- The first game pulled a subversion. With the Mandalorian raiders on Dantooine, they have a farmer at gunpoint. The farmer begs for his life, asking for his family to be taken instead of him. The Mandalorian shoots him anyway.
- Mafia: "You should have thought of them before."
- Mass Effect II has rogue Spectre Tela Vasir take a hostage, a waitress named Mariana, in order to stop Shepard from killing her in the game's Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. The hostage tries one of these, saying she has a son, but Vasir uses this as more reason for Shepard and the squad to drop their thermal clips. Shepard can either distract Vasir while Liara hits her from behind, non-fatally wound the hostage and hit Vasir or drop their thermal clips. Either way results in the hostage getting away relatively unscathed and one of the toughest fights in the game.
Mariana: "Please, I have a son."
- In general, playing a heavily-renegade Shepard will get you to hear this a lot. Immediately followed by "pew pew".
- Wounded enemies in Grand Theft Auto IV will often scream something to this effect.
- Heavy Rain has a rare dramatic non-villainous use of it. One of the trials protagonist Ethan Mars has to endure to find his kidnapped son is to kill a specific man and take a photo. Should you choose to go through with it, he will espouse that he's a father and even show a photo to you to prove it.
- In the finale confrontation between Guybrush and LeChuck in the church in The Secret of Monkey Island special edition, the player can make Guybrush say this
Guybrush: "Please don't kill me." (Player's choice)
- Bob (Le Chuck's right hand man) also uses this line when Guybrush attempts to kill him with voodoo root beer (which Guybrush can succeed at, depending on how many times he tries to kill him). However, none of Bob's family is seen on Le Chuck's ghost ship.
- A guard in Batman: Arkham Asylum tries this line on traitorous fellow guard Frank Boles just before being gunned down.
- In Scarface the World Is Yours, after Tony finishes slaughtering his way through Sosa's mansion, a random mook appears and begs for mercy using this. Tony offers him a job.
- The witch in No Rest for The Wicked pleads with the heroes to spare her because "I have children! There's no one else to care for them!". She doesn't. She wanted to keep them so safe that she killed and ate them, so they would be safe inside. Then she proceeded to kidnap, kill, and eat other children on the delusion that they were her own, who somehow sneaked off.
- Schlock Mercenary, as Schlock is threatening to eat the guard from whom he is trying to get information :
Guard: I've got a wife and three kids!
Ninja: Please, don't hurt me! I have children, too!
Black Hat Guy: Jon! Obama's leading in Iowa! Gimme a wry, witty comment on the situation!
- Celesto Morgan does this to himself by accident in Dominic Deegan. After killing a Jerkass athlete, he asks the stripper he was with to give her a reason not to kill her... and (as he's a seer) sees a vision of her with her young daughter. Knocked for a loop, he makes a decision:
Celesto: Go home, hold your daughter close, and thank her for that good-luck pinch. It just saved your life.
- In this The Whiteboard strip, after watching an awful movie Doc threatens a janitor with violence over it. The janitor pleads for pity on account of having three mouths to feed. Two goldfish and a gerbil, which is sufficient to get the janitor off the hook.
- Also occurs in Let's Destroy The Shagohod! where Naked Snake tried interrogating a scientist who utters this trope... only for Snake to accidentally kill him.
- Parodied in Red vs. Blue when "Phil" is being threatened by Wyoming and says he's a single parent.
- The Legend of Neil features an annoying Octorok in the second episode who nearly kicks the crap out of Neil, before Neil grows a pair and decides try out his new wooden sword. After the mook fails to intimidate him ("You FOOL! Ganon will SWALLOW your SOUL!"), he resorts to this as Neil turns the tables on him. Of course, since he's a just another enemy monster, he says "No! I have a Family of MILLIONS...!"
- This becomes a running joke in Episode 4 of Season 2, as he appears on a "Have you seen me?" type of poster.
- Rec.Humor.Funny has a joke titled Dicipline. The US soldier won't jump off a cliff because he has a wife and family. He receives no sympathy, and is escorted for court martial. The Russian soldier jumps because he has a wife and family.
- Spoofed in Invader Zim. In "Gir Goes Crazy And Stuff," Zim is about to erase a police officer's memories. The man pulls out his wallet to show Zim the photos therein, lamenting, "I have a home, a wife, children, pets, a toilet..." There is indeed a photo of a toilet at the end of the roll.
- He also apparently has toilet children.
- Also spoofed on The Simpsons. Homer, confronted by aliens Kang and Kodos, shouts, "Don't eat me! I have a wife and kids! Eat them!"
- And Mayor Quimby in another episode: "No! I have a wife and three girlfriends!"
- Deconstructed Trope in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Joker's Favor." The episode's main character says this as he tries to convince the Joker not to hurt him after he cussed out the Joker for cutting him off in traffic. It doesn't work and just gives the Joker more potential targets.
- Bugs Bunny does this in Haredevil Hare: "I have a wife and kids, millions of kids!"
- Daffy Duck also did it. Having actually been cornered by Porky Pig and moments away from being killed, he called his wife and kids out to say goodbye. Porky changes his mind, after which the "wife and kids" reveal themselves to be Daffy's drinking buddies in disguise.
- In another cartoon, Daffy is a vagrant sleeping inside a department store display, and he's about to be thrown out by police officer Porky when he passes off two wind-up ducks as his kids. Porky takes pity on them and lets then stay, and at the end is seen with his own two wind-up kids.
- Parodied in an episode of Tiny Toons called "The Boiling Pot" where Hamton is trying to boil a lobster.
Lobster: Please have mercy. I have a wife and children! (flips open a wallet full of pictures of humans)
- It actually works for a random civvie in Avatar: The Last Airbender, and he doesn't even have to say anything. A visibly starved Zuko rides by while he's cooking and is ready to rob the poor guy blind — until seeing his pregnant wife. Cue swords sheathing, because Zuko's not that kind of villain/ Anti-Hero.
- Incidentally, said random civvie and his pregnant wife play an important role in the plot of a later episode. Avatar was good at this element (that is, humanising even minor characters rather well).
- Transformers Animated: Bulkhead has to pretend to berate Professor Sumdac so Dirt Boss won't do something worse. The Professor, being a Genius Ditz who was only just rescued from Megatron, takes him seriously and begs Bulkhead not to hurt him. "I am a father!"
- Played with in Ugly Americans, when Randall has joined an evil zombie cult and his initiation requires him to kill and eat a man. His intended target is a bit of a jerk, and when begs for his life, he mentions that he has a wife and mistress.
- In Sam and Max Freelance Police a store clerk begs "Please! I have an ex-wife and two kids!"
- Spawn in the first episode, when some poor schmuck about to be set on fire by trio of mobsters, tries to plea for his life. Pretty much goes ignored.
Poor Schmuck: Please I have a family, kids.
- Problem Child: Mayor Healy and Principal Peabody failed to keep their end of a bargain with mobsters. Healy played straight with the trope by stating he had a family. Peabody, on the other hand, said he didn't have one but could get one.
- In the book All the President's Men, there's a scene where Bob Woodward was talking on the phone with someone about whom he was going to publish some dirt. Part of the man's plea not to publish was the statement, "I have a wife and two children and a dog and a cat!"