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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

From YKTTW:
YYZ: Do we have this one? If so, I'm not aware. It's a trope seen frequently in comedy and elsewhere: A character undergoes various hardships, losing almost everything they hold dear, and yet seems never to lose their sunny disposition. When played straight, you get the feeling they're conducting some serious repression in order to continue functioning - and occasionally you have them go into a complete nervous breakdown. When played for laughs, the fates the character endures are too horrendous to actually happen in real life, yet evoke no qualms from the character himself/herself; it seems as though the gods themselves are playing, and losing, a vicious game of Break the Cutie.

The archetype is Pollyanna, who was brilliantly satirized by Alan Moore in a throwaway joke in the pages of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Pollyanna would be a good name for this trope, and yet - here's the frustrating part - despite my familiarity with it, not enough other examples come to mind. (And dammit, I know I've seen this elsewhere - would Excel Excel count?).

Ununnilium: I can't really think of any examples of this, though I haven't read Pollyanna.

Looney Toons: Hmm. The young heroines of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett almost qualify — they fail only because they both have moments of despair at key points in their respective books. Otherwise, they're perfect.

Seth: Based on the above description i would count excel, Also i would love to see a trope where Job (See Bible, i think he counts as well) and Excel Excel are both incarnations.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Death - From the song, i had other suggestions but that one alone wins in my mind.

Tzintzuntzan: I can think of a few examples, like Basi, Ned Flanders, some episodes of Spongebob...

But it seems that it's more common to combine YYZ's two versions (comic and serious) for a related trope: a character goes through hell and is ludicrously optimistic about it. Living in denial is clearly the only way they can avoid killing themselves, and this is milked for all the dark humor it's worth. (The Oblongs are a prime example.)

BTW, Job really doesn't fit any of this, because in the original story, he isn't patient at all.

Andyzero: The Anime Fruits Basket has the main character Tohru Honda who is like this. She's somewhat infuriating, I don't think I could be her friend at all in real life, given how little she thinks of herself. (including how little she thinks her friends think about her) In the anime she's compared to a character in a story who lets the entire world take advantage of him, to the point of letting goblins eat him. The goblins give his eyeless head a sign saying "Fool" and he's happy someone gave him something, right before he dies. The series tells us this is a good thing.

YYZ: Heck with it, I'm going for this trope. I'm sure we can refine it further once it gets into an article.
Ununnilium: "When she's played straight, you get the feeling she's conducting some serious repression in order to continue functioning" — something about this bothers me. It doesn't seem to really match up with the characters I've seen — mostly, it's just that they're That Good. The Messiah, and such.

Binaroid: It's true, The Messiah and The Ditz tend to exhibit this trope. On the other hand, the repression theory does sometimes come in — like if the plot does Break the Cutie, or at least drives them into a 10-Minute Retirement.

osh: To bring up Andy's point, most of the anime I've watched does tend to treat Pollyanna a different way, which may have something to do with a different philosophy of suffering for others than most shows in the West seem to have.

Kendra Kirai: You sure about Kasumi Tendou there? Nothing bad ever seems to happen to her...nobody ever messes with her, it's like she's sacrosanct, off limits...The worst thing that happens to her is that she has to clean the place a bit more, or cook more food than usual.

Looney Toons: I agree. Kasumi never has anything bad happen to her to rationalize away Pollyanna-style. She just coasts serenely around the edges of the chaos that drives the show. (Fanwank abounds over whether she's a Zen Master, or just oblivious...)

  • Inkki Bookman: Unless you think that losing her mother when she was 9-10 years old and more or less been forced to replace her role in the family doesn't count as a trauma.

Paul A: I've taken out the assertion that the heroine of The Secret Garden was a Pollyanna, because that's just silly. (Mary Lenox? Sunny disposition?)

Lale: Maybe that editor was thinking of Sarah Crewe in A Little Princes, though she's more of a Plucky Girl.
Kilyle: Okay, I've seen the episode, so I know what you mean, but still:
  • ...prompting her to kill him and commit suicide. Both fail, but she doesn't know that.
How on earth would she fail to comprehend that her attempt at suicide failed? lol


Stm177: I added Candide and Pangloss to the bottom as an entry. It's discussed in the text in the description of a Pollyanna, but I thought that it deserved its own example. If it seems repetitive, I don't mind if it is deleted.


Clerval: I still can't see Sara Crewe as qualifying. Yes, she only has one moment of true despair, but she is consciously unhappy and fully aware of how dire her situation is, and aims only to maintain stoicism and dignity, not for actual sunniness. Sometimes she retreats into fantasies of luxury, but she's as likely to be found pretending she's a prisoner in the Bastille and must be brave only because noblesse oblige.

Runespoor: I agree very much with the above comment.

MUCH LATER: Clerval: Aargh, seeing Sara described as "Pollyanna-ish" on her own page has finally sent me over the edge! She isn't one! She's frakking miserable and she knows it. Courage and stoicism in the face of terrible deprivation aren't the same as irrepressible perkiness. She fantasises about being a princess to bolster her self-esteem against the daily assaults on it by just about everyone and to remind herself to be brave, not because she actually thinks everything can be made genuinely fine by the pretence. She has no particular hopes for the future. One might as well call Sam Gamgee a Pollyanna.


Sijo: "Brilliantly satirized?" More like "disgustingly mocked". We are after all talking about her being RAPED by The Invisible Man. And let's not forget, Moore would go on to make a graphic novel featuring underage sex with Fairy Tale characters. Not all of his work has equal merit.

Pink Lime: Fixed.
Dragon Quest Z: After this discussion, the trope was slightly renamed to this, and the page Pollyanna is now about the book.
So, if the protagonist falls in love with an incredibly sweet pixie-dream-girl but it turns out she has so much love inside her she can't limit it to one person, would that be... a Poly Anna?


PG 556: I can't remember the name, but I have read of a Real Life example (from Michael Veitch's Fly if you're interested) of an Aussie pilot, captured by the Japanese and forced to work for 3 years on the Burma-Thai railway, with little to no food or rest and with his mates dying every week. When he was interviewed, he mostly talked about the kindness done by one or two Japanese soldiers to him and his fellow POW's (who probably would have been executed for doing so) and said he wasn't bitter about the experience, since he can now say that he helped carve a valley through a mountain with his bare hands.

Question is- does this count, or would it belong under another trope.