History Main / DesignatedProtagonistSyndrome

11th Jun '14 11:50:13 AM ChaoticNovelist
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A Designated Protagonist is a protagonist whose characteristics and background are plainer or simpler compared to the rest of the cast. This type of protagonist thus serves as a window by which the audience may experience more varied and colorful supporting characters.


The designated protagonist will typically be familiar and easily relatable, giving the audience the opportunity to step into their shoes. They will usually not be too much of anything, or vanilla so to speak. The DP acts as foil for other more unique characters the audience will encounter through them. In other words, the other characters drive the story, and the DP is simply the vehicle. The DP may have no voice for this reason.

In video games, when the protagonist is the player character, this can make the main quest line (when it revolves around TheProtagonist) less appealing than side quests or side-character-related quests.

Since these characters need to be relatively flat by their own merit, they may be unpopular with the fan base. However, TropesAreTools, and having a lead who is a flat or static character isn't necessarily a bad thing if done well; in video games, for example, it can give a player freedom to shape their character, or to think outside the box. ''This trope is not for complaining against heroes one may dislike.''

Not to be confused with DesignatedHero, which is a character who the story plays up as being heroic, but comes off as being distinctly unheroic. Compare the PinballProtagonist, which may result if this trope is done poorly; the poor sap is simply dragged around the plot by the stronger and more developed characters around him.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* A variation of this is common in shows with {{harem|Genre}}s or {{Love Triangle}}s. Often, the first girl or obvious winner is much more down-to-earth than the competition.
** [[TheEveryman Harem leads]] themselves tend to be less well regarded than their female co-stars. Look at the games that many harem series are spun off from. The DatingSim as a genre has existed since the dawn of gaming, beginning with PornWithoutPlot games; though 1992 brought the first games that really developed the haremettes, there wasn't a truly fleshed-out male lead until Yuuichi from ''VisualNovel/{{Kanon}}'', and that game came out in ''1999''.
* Invoked in ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica''. Madoka Kaname believes there's nothing special about herself and this feeling is highlighted by the four other members of the main cast becoming {{Magical Girl}}s, and beating the crap out of witches and each other. [[spoiler: As the story goes on, we find out that this is justified, as ''mahou shoujo'' in the series are doomed to become the very witches they fight, and Homura has been keeping Madoka in this role to protect her. In the end Madoka ''does'' become an ultimate savior.]]
* ''Franchise/YuGiOh'': TheProtagonist, Yugi is the only duelist without a quirk. He's not the bug guy or the dino guy or the gambling card guy. His own alter ego has his "age old pharoah" thing going for him.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion.'' Most fans won't admit to liking Shinji over, say, [[MemeticSexGod Rei]], [[MisaimedFandom much to Anno's confusion]]. Gendo, Asuka, Kaji, etc are all more colorful than him.
* ''Manga/DanshiKoukouseiNoNichijou''. Tadakuni is a inversion. He's a plain GenericGuy with no backstory and he has less relationships with other characters than his two friends Hidenori and Yoshitake. Tadakuni's suffers from being OutOfFocus ,with basically no presence in some episodes and many chapters. His status is often lampshaded. However, Tadakuni is one of the most popular characters in the series and he's much more popular than Hidenori and Yoshitake. He's OutOfFocus after the ''first volume'' and episode 5, making him somewhat like an EnsembleDarkHorse.
* ''Anime/SonicX'': Sonic is fazed into the background as the role of TheAce, with AudienceSurrogate Chris Thorndyke played more as the show's lead. Neither garnered well with fans over other supporting characters who had more colorful personalities and CharacterDevelopment.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Duke from ''Franchise/GIJoe'' is fairly bland and doesn't have very much characterization aside from being "TheLeader" and for refusing a promotion so he could stay in the field. His teammates include a silent ninja master with a wolf, a Vietnam veteran who was once a street thug, a heavy machine gunner who surfs and plays bass guitar, and a gourmet chef who wields a massive chaingun.
* Franchise/{{Tintin}} was deliberately designed so that [[TheEveryman every reader could identify with him]], so he has no family, no back story, no personal connections, nothing apart from what is shown in the adventures. Thus, it is no coincidence that he was overshadowed by the colourful Captain Haddock . Even the Thom(p)sons and Bianca Castafiore seem to be more popular subjects of critical treatises.
* Also from FrancoBelgianComics, Comicbook/{{Asterix}} sometimes gets eclipsed by his best friend Obelix due to having a more bland personality compared to the quirky FatIdiot.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* This is a common affliction in the Franchise/DisneyAnimatedCanon, particularly during the early years, where the main characters are easily overshadowed by the villains with [[VillainSong better songs]] and supporting cast. Part of this is inherited from the source material - [[TheVillainMakesThePlot most fairy tale heroes and heroines do little but wander around and react to the events around them, or wait around to be rescued]] - but it was also due to the fact that the heroes were treated in a more realistic fashion, and thus were harder to draw, and so the more flamboyant supporting characters carried most of the storytelling weight. After the [[TheRenaissanceAgeOfAnimation Renaissance of the 1980s]], the main characters became more complex and pro-active.
** ''Disney/TheLionKing'' follows Simba, but Timon and Pumbaa were popular enough characters to get [[WesternAnimation/TimonAndPumbaa their own TV show]] and a POVSequel. Simba himself was DemotedToExtra in the sequel.
** ''Disney/{{Frozen}}'''s protagonist, Princess Anna, despite being quite proactive, tends to be overshadowed by her older sister and {{Deuteragonist}} Queen Elsa.
** ''Disney/SleepingBeauty'', even the creators of the film weren't all that interested in the beauty herself, hence why the movie spends so much time with the magical and bickering trio of fairies.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Madagascar}}'': Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria are the main characters of the series, but most fans like the franchise for the penguins or King Julien. Creator/DreamworksAnimation is aware of this and that's why ''WesternAnimation/ThePenguinsOfMadagascar'' focuses exclusively on the latter two, and thus averting this trope.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/GIJoeTheRiseOfCobra'' stayed true to its comic roots. Ripcord is funny and charming, Heavy Duty is tough and awesome, Breaker is lovable and clever, Snake Eyes is a dang ninja, and Duke is... the main character. The fact [[spoiler: that he dies and DwayneJohnson, a more interesting lead replaces him]] furthers this point.
* This is the primary and most common criticism of ''Film/{{Godzilla 2014}}''. Critics generally felt that Creator/AaronJohnson's somewhat bland soldier character got too much focus compared to Creator/BryanCranston and Creator/KenWatanabe, who both play scientists involved with conspiracies or secretive groups.
* ''PacificRim'' the main protagonists are bland compared to more colorful side characters, such as the Russian, Chinese, and Australian Jaeger teams. All three of the latter have turned out to be [[EnsembleDarkhorse Ensemble Darkhorses]] and [[MemeticBadass Memetic Badasses]].
* ''[[Franchise/PiratesOfTheCaribbean Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl]]'': Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan are polite civlians and so the contrast with the colorful crew of the [[LargeHam hammiest]] pirates in the world is all the greater. There's [[InsistentTerminology Captain]] Jack Sparrow, who may or may not be insane, Cotton and his talking parrot, Wily Barbosa, and others.
* ''StarWars'': Luke Skywalker is a FarmBoy on his TheHerosJourney He's traveling with a mystic war veteran, a LoveableRogue smuggler, and two droid comedians. On the other side is a an adversary that not only [[LukeIAmYourFather thickens Luke's mythical qualities]] but the movies he recieves transform the seriers into ''[[FallenHero his]]'' hero's journey...
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' Frodo Baggins's position in the Fellowship is "the NonActionGuy carrying the ring" and so he's naturally overshadowed by the epic heroes he's traveling with. Side characters do as well.
** Tom Bombadil was made to be mysterious and he has certainly attracted the interest of many fans.
** Sam is regarded by many as the "real hero" of the story, and Tolkien was not unreceptive to the idea. It helps that Sam is one of the very few canon characters to not give into the Ring's temptation. Considering the RousingSpeech he gives to Frodo, [[OneOfUs he might be a troper]].
* Creator/KAApplegate once suggested this was true of Jake from ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'': while the other characters had clear, definable traits that made them easy to identify (Marco's ruthlessness, Rachel's bloodlust, Cassie's empathy, Ax's alienness, Tobias' conflicted nature as a hawk and a human) Jake had the dubious honor of being the "normal" one. Late into the series, this is dropped because he grows into the role of TheChessmaster. He also develops a [[TheChainsOfCommanding serious complex regarding his leadership qualities]]. In many ways, he's like Cyclops, only without as much fan-hate.
* ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'': Fans and detractors mostly agree that Bella, who's specifically written [[AudienceSurrogate so that the reader can step into her shoes]], lacks a personality and is generally boring. This is especially the case when her backstory is compared (CoolLoser moves from Phoenix to a small town in Washington, becomes popular, falls in love with supernatural beings) with that of Carlisle (devout Christian vampire hunter becomes vampire, spends his life helping people even though they're his natural prey), Rosalie ([[spoiler:girl becomes a vampire after being raped and left for dead by her fiance, kills him]]), Jasper ([[spoiler:ex-Confederate soldier and some of his friends raise a vampire army]]), and others.
* Creator/TerryPratchett says that when he wrote ''Discworld/GuardsGuards'', he thought Carrot was the main character and that Vimes would be a viewpoint character to introduce Ankh-Morpork and in general set things up for Carrot. Then he realized that Carrot would be this trope so he switched protagonist duties to Vimes.
* In ''Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus'' (the sequel series to the Percy Jackson books) introduces Jason Grace as the new hero and leader. The first book spends a lot of time telling readers how powerful and good looking he is but gives no original character traits. Even when he recovers his memories he's outclassed by the rest of the cast: SadClown Leo, BackFromTheDead Hazel, LittleMissBadass Annabeth and the others, all of who are more relatable and flawed.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Oz}}'' avoids this by making the narrator, Augustus Hill, a minor character and perhaps the most sympathetic in the series, and by otherwise having LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters.
* ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'' has this as an EnforcedTrope because a major point of the series is that Echo slowly develops a personality after having been repeatedly mind-wiped. This makes it hard for her to compete with the side characters who already ''had'' fascinating personalities, or even her fellow Dolls Sierra and Victor, who managed character development early on via their romance.
* In ''Series/TheSarahConnorChronicles'', the eponymous character turned out to be the least interesting of the bunch. She was sharing screentime with RobotGirl Cameron and [[AntiHero Time Traveling Terrorist Vigilante]] Derek. Mostly, Sarah ''was'' important because John ''would be'' important, but that meant that both of them couldn't be important at once. The more John ''becomes'' TheChosenOne, the more Sarah becomes just another sidekick...
* Ally on ''Series/AustinAndAlly'' is a surprising aversion considering how easy a Straight Man (i.e. Ally) lead can slip into this in the kid-com genre. The reasons could include that only Austin and Ally sing, ruling out the intra-fandom rivalry that other shows like ''Series/{{Victorious}}'' suffer from. There is also no realistic opponent to the Austin/Ally 'Auslly' Shipping pairing, which would cause DieForOurShip in the event of a lopsided FanPreferredCouple that does not include Ally. Finally with such a small cast of four main characters, there is no room for a typical overshadowing Ensemble Dark Horse to suck all the popularity on the show away from the main two cast members.
* ''Series/LostGirl'' has Bo, the bland main character overshadowed by the cast of supporting characters. They include a goth pixie girl that comes from a family highly connected with Russian organized crime, a doctor who is a literal slave, the bartender who was once an all-powerful king who now lives anonymously, and a valkyrie who has laid waste to entire armies. Not to mention that one of Bo's frenemy's is a mesmer who owns several bondage clubs, one of the light fae cops has a long family history, and even the leaders of the sides have vast histories. With colorful supporting characters, it's easy for the rather generic to get lost.
* An example involving real people shows up in ''Series/WheelOfFortune''. Pat Sajak may be the host, but it's Vanna White that often shows up in all the board and video games based on it.
* ''Series/KnightRider'''s original series might seem to be this, with KITT overshadowing Michael Knight in just about every way, but if you read the original production notes it turns out this was completely the point. The producers wanted a show with an attractive lead actor who had to do as little acting as possible, with the car otherwise holding the show.
* ''Series/WKRPInCincinnati'' had this problem with Andy Travis, who was written to be the OnlySaneMan protagonist a la [[Series/TheBobNewhartShow Bob Newhart]] or [[Series/TheMaryTylerMooreShow Mary Tyler Moore]], but was cast with an unknown young actor, Gary Sandy, who was overshadowed by the rest of the ensemble cast. The writers recognized the problem and reconfigured the show so all the characters were roughly equal in importance.
* ''Series/{{Defiance}}'' : Nolan. Compared to all the fascinating aliens in town, he's just some guy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* ''ComicStrip/OnTheFastrack'' creator Bill Holbrook [[http://www.kevinandkell.com/about/faq.html#1.13 admitted]] that original protagonist Bob Shirt was this, and that he had to switch focus to save the strip.
[[/folder]]


[[folder:Video Games]]
* This is commonly a EnforcedTrope in video games since the hero is often meant to represent the player. Thus, many games will give them a minimal personality (or [[FeaturelessProtagonist none whatsoever]]) so the player can project themselves in their place, thus the supporting cast gets all the personality and most of the drama to themselves. It's especially prevalent in the case of a HeroicMime. Unlike examples in other media, many fans ''love'' having this in their games and will sometimes complain if the hero has a strong personality, though the reasons can vary from not being able to insert themselves into the role to the strong personality being one they find utterly abhorrent.
* Link of ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' is a HeroicMime ''and'' a MemeticBadass despite the large and colourful supporting cast, and amazing countries each one inhabits.
* ''VideoGame/FarCry2'' : player chooses from one of 12 characters to play as at the beginning. The remaining 11 are found throughout the game, and interact with the player, usually are quite interesting and have distinctive personalities. The player's character on the other hand becomes a personality-less HeroicMime. Players would find it most enjoyable therefore to play as their LEAST favorite character.
** ''VideoGame/FarCry3'' follows a similar trend. The main character, Jason Brody, is a virtual cypher, with the only real information about his past and relationship with his girlfriend showing up in the first few missions. Meanwhile, the supporting cast includes a villain who plays up the "definition of insanity", a tribal queen who alternately seduces and sends you on quests, a kooky survivalist with suicide vest-wearing monkeys (if you bought the DLC) and plenty more mysterious side characters. Compared to them, Jason's generic "[[TheChosenOne rise to warrior]]" arc means he comes off looking ineffectual and uninspired.
* ''VideoGame/ValkyrieProfile'': [[ZigzaggedTrope Feelings of certain characters bounce all over the place]]; many fans simply see Lenneth, the main valkyrie and protagonist of the first game, as a useful party asset, but otherwise find her trite, dull, and [[TheStoic lacking compassion]]. On the other hand, many of the LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters that Lenneth can recruit are also pretty thin.
* ''Franchise/MortalKombat''; InAWorld with energy-wielding ninjas, {{Physical God}}s, fantastic creatures, {{Cyborg}}s, et all, the most anyone seems to remember about Liu Kang, TheProtagonist of the series, is that he's [[FanNickname the Turkey Boy]].
** In ''VideoGame/MortalKombatArmageddon'', we got Taven. Fans consider him as an unfit choice for a protagonist in the Konquest Mode.
* Welkin of ''VideoGame/ValkyriaChronicles'' sometimes falls into this. He's the main character and instantly becomes the leader of Squad 7 despite all of his major subordinates being veterans, while this is his first tour in real combat. He's had officer training, but he's mostly in charge because he's the guy who owns the tank. The rest of Squad 7 is ''notoriously'' colourful, with three DLC stories centering around secondary characters and one centering on Selvaria. Unlike many video game heroes, Welkin does have a personality of his own, but it makes him less a generic game hero and more a generic romance-story hero, and he pales in comparison to the more interesting, quirky Squad 7 soldiers.
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'': Reimu from has had some problems with this. It took a while for her to develop much of a personality, and said personality is [[GoodIsNotNice unpleasant]]. This is a seres where ''sidebosses'' have sizeable fandoms. Notably, even the creator seems to prefer the deuteragonist, Marisa, with her getting more focus in a fair amount of the side material.
* Although ''VideoGame/CorpseParty'' is more of a EnsembleCast game, Satoshi is called the central protagonist. He's a generic teenage boy surrounded by people with more interesting personalities, motivations, and reactions to being sent to a hellish ghost school. His sole defining trait, being somewhat cowardly, doesn't even come into play apart from some dialogue options. While Ayumi and Yoshiki are getting to the bottom of the mystery and getting things done, Satoshi spends a whole chapter stuck in a subplot [[TrappedByMountainLions trying to find a bathroom so his little sister can go pee]].
* ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'' : Makoto Naegi. Even in-universe the other characters are chosen by Hope's Peak Academy for being remarkably skilled in some aspect, and as a result they are all quite colourful and interesting. Makoto, on the other hand, got into the Academy by pure chance and even criticizes himself for being average.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Antimony of ''Webcomic/GunnerkriggCourt'', whose general calm and open-minded approach to everything, combined with her [[WeirdnessMagnet ability to be near-central to every subplot she comes across just by existing]] and the enticingly vague development of the other students, tends to make her the least interesting of the Court's residents. This is diminished after it's revealed that she's [[spoiler:part fire elemental]] and unknowingly responsible for [[spoiler:her mother's death]], both of which give her emotional depth. Plus, she started [[http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=1179 having fun with it.]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'':
** John was the first character introduced out of the [[LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters stupendously large cast]] and acts as the AudienceSurrogate through much of the series, being the kid to whom all the bizarre and improbable game mechanics have to be explained, so he wasn't nearly as well-developed as some of the other characters at first. He's gotten a bit more CharacterDevelopment now that we can see his actions through other points of view.
** Karkat on the Alternia side is the first troll introduced and becomes team leader, which in the end is responsible for their victory. From introduction onward, most other trolls are more interesting to watch than him, aside from awesome moments like [[SanityBall calming down his homicidally insane friend]] by shoosh-papping him into submission.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Although Orson's (from ''GarfieldAndFriends'') imagination comes to life and he's a leader for a reason, he really isn't as interesting/colorful/funny as [[JerkWithAHeartOfGold Roy]], [[LovableCoward Wade]] or any of the other U.S. Acres characters. Bo and Lanolin who are great singers along with Orson only got two or three songs to sing, while Orson got to sing alot more songs.
* Rufus and Amberley of ''TheDreamstone''. While getting decent exposure in the pilot, they soon proved less flexible and colorful characters than the Urpneys and contributed far less to the show's slapstick, usually ending up OutOfFocus while the Urpneys served as borderline {{Villain Protagonist}}s. [[OvershadowedByAwesome Even compared to the rest of the heroes]] they suffered due to [[{{Muggles}} lack of defining abilities]], many episodes playing them as {{Useless Protagonist}}s, especially early on.
* The ''LooneyTunes'' series went through a long tenure of this as it [[GrowingTheBeard slowly gained it's trademark slapstick]]. The series originally utilized Mickey Mouse-alike characters such as Bosko and Buddy, who failed to garner popularity due to their flatness. Beans the Cat was then billed as a new more colorful star, but ended up eclipsed in popularity by his sidekick {{Porky Pig}}. Porky himself gradually got overshadowed by more abrasive stars such as DaffyDuck and BugsBunny, his Everyman persona making him better fit as TheStraightMan or TheComicallySerious. Allegedly Porky was unpopular with many of the actual Warner Bros staff as a result of his lack of flexibility, having never quite returned to star billing as a result.
[[/folder]]

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to:

A Designated Protagonist is a protagonist whose characteristics and background are plainer or simpler compared to the rest of the cast. This type of protagonist thus serves as a window by which the audience may experience more varied and colorful supporting characters.


The designated protagonist will typically be familiar and easily relatable, giving the audience the opportunity to step into their shoes. They will usually not be too much of anything, or vanilla so to speak. The DP acts as foil for other more unique characters the audience will encounter through them. In other words, the other characters drive the story, and the DP is simply the vehicle. The DP may have no voice for this reason.

In video games, when the protagonist is the player character, this can make the main quest line (when it revolves around TheProtagonist) less appealing than side quests or side-character-related quests.

Since these characters need to be relatively flat by their own merit, they may be unpopular with the fan base. However, TropesAreTools, and having a lead who is a flat or static character isn't necessarily a bad thing if done well; in video games, for example, it can give a player freedom to shape their character, or to think outside the box. ''This trope is not for complaining against heroes one may dislike.''

Not to be confused with DesignatedHero, which is a character who the story plays up as being heroic, but comes off as being distinctly unheroic. Compare the PinballProtagonist, which may result if this trope is done poorly; the poor sap is simply dragged around the plot by the stronger and more developed characters around him.
----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* A variation of this is common in shows with {{harem|Genre}}s or {{Love Triangle}}s. Often, the first girl or obvious winner is much more down-to-earth than the competition.
** [[TheEveryman Harem leads]] themselves tend to be less well regarded than their female co-stars. Look at the games that many harem series are spun off from. The DatingSim as a genre has existed since the dawn of gaming, beginning with PornWithoutPlot games; though 1992 brought the first games that really developed the haremettes, there wasn't a truly fleshed-out male lead until Yuuichi from ''VisualNovel/{{Kanon}}'', and that game came out in ''1999''.
* Invoked in ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica''. Madoka Kaname believes there's nothing special about herself and this feeling is highlighted by the four other members of the main cast becoming {{Magical Girl}}s, and beating the crap out of witches and each other. [[spoiler: As the story goes on, we find out that this is justified, as ''mahou shoujo'' in the series are doomed to become the very witches they fight, and Homura has been keeping Madoka in this role to protect her. In the end Madoka ''does'' become an ultimate savior.]]
* ''Franchise/YuGiOh'': TheProtagonist, Yugi is the only duelist without a quirk. He's not the bug guy or the dino guy or the gambling card guy. His own alter ego has his "age old pharoah" thing going for him.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion.'' Most fans won't admit to liking Shinji over, say, [[MemeticSexGod Rei]], [[MisaimedFandom much to Anno's confusion]]. Gendo, Asuka, Kaji, etc are all more colorful than him.
* ''Manga/DanshiKoukouseiNoNichijou''. Tadakuni is a inversion. He's a plain GenericGuy with no backstory and he has less relationships with other characters than his two friends Hidenori and Yoshitake. Tadakuni's suffers from being OutOfFocus ,with basically no presence in some episodes and many chapters. His status is often lampshaded. However, Tadakuni is one of the most popular characters in the series and he's much more popular than Hidenori and Yoshitake. He's OutOfFocus after the ''first volume'' and episode 5, making him somewhat like an EnsembleDarkHorse.
* ''Anime/SonicX'': Sonic is fazed into the background as the role of TheAce, with AudienceSurrogate Chris Thorndyke played more as the show's lead. Neither garnered well with fans over other supporting characters who had more colorful personalities and CharacterDevelopment.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Duke from ''Franchise/GIJoe'' is fairly bland and doesn't have very much characterization aside from being "TheLeader" and for refusing a promotion so he could stay in the field. His teammates include a silent ninja master with a wolf, a Vietnam veteran who was once a street thug, a heavy machine gunner who surfs and plays bass guitar, and a gourmet chef who wields a massive chaingun.
* Franchise/{{Tintin}} was deliberately designed so that [[TheEveryman every reader could identify with him]], so he has no family, no back story, no personal connections, nothing apart from what is shown in the adventures. Thus, it is no coincidence that he was overshadowed by the colourful Captain Haddock . Even the Thom(p)sons and Bianca Castafiore seem to be more popular subjects of critical treatises.
* Also from FrancoBelgianComics, Comicbook/{{Asterix}} sometimes gets eclipsed by his best friend Obelix due to having a more bland personality compared to the quirky FatIdiot.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* This is a common affliction in the Franchise/DisneyAnimatedCanon, particularly during the early years, where the main characters are easily overshadowed by the villains with [[VillainSong better songs]] and supporting cast. Part of this is inherited from the source material - [[TheVillainMakesThePlot most fairy tale heroes and heroines do little but wander around and react to the events around them, or wait around to be rescued]] - but it was also due to the fact that the heroes were treated in a more realistic fashion, and thus were harder to draw, and so the more flamboyant supporting characters carried most of the storytelling weight. After the [[TheRenaissanceAgeOfAnimation Renaissance of the 1980s]], the main characters became more complex and pro-active.
** ''Disney/TheLionKing'' follows Simba, but Timon and Pumbaa were popular enough characters to get [[WesternAnimation/TimonAndPumbaa their own TV show]] and a POVSequel. Simba himself was DemotedToExtra in the sequel.
** ''Disney/{{Frozen}}'''s protagonist, Princess Anna, despite being quite proactive, tends to be overshadowed by her older sister and {{Deuteragonist}} Queen Elsa.
** ''Disney/SleepingBeauty'', even the creators of the film weren't all that interested in the beauty herself, hence why the movie spends so much time with the magical and bickering trio of fairies.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Madagascar}}'': Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria are the main characters of the series, but most fans like the franchise for the penguins or King Julien. Creator/DreamworksAnimation is aware of this and that's why ''WesternAnimation/ThePenguinsOfMadagascar'' focuses exclusively on the latter two, and thus averting this trope.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/GIJoeTheRiseOfCobra'' stayed true to its comic roots. Ripcord is funny and charming, Heavy Duty is tough and awesome, Breaker is lovable and clever, Snake Eyes is a dang ninja, and Duke is... the main character. The fact [[spoiler: that he dies and DwayneJohnson, a more interesting lead replaces him]] furthers this point.
* This is the primary and most common criticism of ''Film/{{Godzilla 2014}}''. Critics generally felt that Creator/AaronJohnson's somewhat bland soldier character got too much focus compared to Creator/BryanCranston and Creator/KenWatanabe, who both play scientists involved with conspiracies or secretive groups.
* ''PacificRim'' the main protagonists are bland compared to more colorful side characters, such as the Russian, Chinese, and Australian Jaeger teams. All three of the latter have turned out to be [[EnsembleDarkhorse Ensemble Darkhorses]] and [[MemeticBadass Memetic Badasses]].
* ''[[Franchise/PiratesOfTheCaribbean Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl]]'': Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan are polite civlians and so the contrast with the colorful crew of the [[LargeHam hammiest]] pirates in the world is all the greater. There's [[InsistentTerminology Captain]] Jack Sparrow, who may or may not be insane, Cotton and his talking parrot, Wily Barbosa, and others.
* ''StarWars'': Luke Skywalker is a FarmBoy on his TheHerosJourney He's traveling with a mystic war veteran, a LoveableRogue smuggler, and two droid comedians. On the other side is a an adversary that not only [[LukeIAmYourFather thickens Luke's mythical qualities]] but the movies he recieves transform the seriers into ''[[FallenHero his]]'' hero's journey...
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' Frodo Baggins's position in the Fellowship is "the NonActionGuy carrying the ring" and so he's naturally overshadowed by the epic heroes he's traveling with. Side characters do as well.
** Tom Bombadil was made to be mysterious and he has certainly attracted the interest of many fans.
** Sam is regarded by many as the "real hero" of the story, and Tolkien was not unreceptive to the idea. It helps that Sam is one of the very few canon characters to not give into the Ring's temptation. Considering the RousingSpeech he gives to Frodo, [[OneOfUs he might be a troper]].
* Creator/KAApplegate once suggested this was true of Jake from ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'': while the other characters had clear, definable traits that made them easy to identify (Marco's ruthlessness, Rachel's bloodlust, Cassie's empathy, Ax's alienness, Tobias' conflicted nature as a hawk and a human) Jake had the dubious honor of being the "normal" one. Late into the series, this is dropped because he grows into the role of TheChessmaster. He also develops a [[TheChainsOfCommanding serious complex regarding his leadership qualities]]. In many ways, he's like Cyclops, only without as much fan-hate.
* ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'': Fans and detractors mostly agree that Bella, who's specifically written [[AudienceSurrogate so that the reader can step into her shoes]], lacks a personality and is generally boring. This is especially the case when her backstory is compared (CoolLoser moves from Phoenix to a small town in Washington, becomes popular, falls in love with supernatural beings) with that of Carlisle (devout Christian vampire hunter becomes vampire, spends his life helping people even though they're his natural prey), Rosalie ([[spoiler:girl becomes a vampire after being raped and left for dead by her fiance, kills him]]), Jasper ([[spoiler:ex-Confederate soldier and some of his friends raise a vampire army]]), and others.
* Creator/TerryPratchett says that when he wrote ''Discworld/GuardsGuards'', he thought Carrot was the main character and that Vimes would be a viewpoint character to introduce Ankh-Morpork and in general set things up for Carrot. Then he realized that Carrot would be this trope so he switched protagonist duties to Vimes.
* In ''Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus'' (the sequel series to the Percy Jackson books) introduces Jason Grace as the new hero and leader. The first book spends a lot of time telling readers how powerful and good looking he is but gives no original character traits. Even when he recovers his memories he's outclassed by the rest of the cast: SadClown Leo, BackFromTheDead Hazel, LittleMissBadass Annabeth and the others, all of who are more relatable and flawed.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Oz}}'' avoids this by making the narrator, Augustus Hill, a minor character and perhaps the most sympathetic in the series, and by otherwise having LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters.
* ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'' has this as an EnforcedTrope because a major point of the series is that Echo slowly develops a personality after having been repeatedly mind-wiped. This makes it hard for her to compete with the side characters who already ''had'' fascinating personalities, or even her fellow Dolls Sierra and Victor, who managed character development early on via their romance.
* In ''Series/TheSarahConnorChronicles'', the eponymous character turned out to be the least interesting of the bunch. She was sharing screentime with RobotGirl Cameron and [[AntiHero Time Traveling Terrorist Vigilante]] Derek. Mostly, Sarah ''was'' important because John ''would be'' important, but that meant that both of them couldn't be important at once. The more John ''becomes'' TheChosenOne, the more Sarah becomes just another sidekick...
* Ally on ''Series/AustinAndAlly'' is a surprising aversion considering how easy a Straight Man (i.e. Ally) lead can slip into this in the kid-com genre. The reasons could include that only Austin and Ally sing, ruling out the intra-fandom rivalry that other shows like ''Series/{{Victorious}}'' suffer from. There is also no realistic opponent to the Austin/Ally 'Auslly' Shipping pairing, which would cause DieForOurShip in the event of a lopsided FanPreferredCouple that does not include Ally. Finally with such a small cast of four main characters, there is no room for a typical overshadowing Ensemble Dark Horse to suck all the popularity on the show away from the main two cast members.
* ''Series/LostGirl'' has Bo, the bland main character overshadowed by the cast of supporting characters. They include a goth pixie girl that comes from a family highly connected with Russian organized crime, a doctor who is a literal slave, the bartender who was once an all-powerful king who now lives anonymously, and a valkyrie who has laid waste to entire armies. Not to mention that one of Bo's frenemy's is a mesmer who owns several bondage clubs, one of the light fae cops has a long family history, and even the leaders of the sides have vast histories. With colorful supporting characters, it's easy for the rather generic to get lost.
* An example involving real people shows up in ''Series/WheelOfFortune''. Pat Sajak may be the host, but it's Vanna White that often shows up in all the board and video games based on it.
* ''Series/KnightRider'''s original series might seem to be this, with KITT overshadowing Michael Knight in just about every way, but if you read the original production notes it turns out this was completely the point. The producers wanted a show with an attractive lead actor who had to do as little acting as possible, with the car otherwise holding the show.
* ''Series/WKRPInCincinnati'' had this problem with Andy Travis, who was written to be the OnlySaneMan protagonist a la [[Series/TheBobNewhartShow Bob Newhart]] or [[Series/TheMaryTylerMooreShow Mary Tyler Moore]], but was cast with an unknown young actor, Gary Sandy, who was overshadowed by the rest of the ensemble cast. The writers recognized the problem and reconfigured the show so all the characters were roughly equal in importance.
* ''Series/{{Defiance}}'' : Nolan. Compared to all the fascinating aliens in town, he's just some guy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* ''ComicStrip/OnTheFastrack'' creator Bill Holbrook [[http://www.kevinandkell.com/about/faq.html#1.13 admitted]] that original protagonist Bob Shirt was this, and that he had to switch focus to save the strip.
[[/folder]]


[[folder:Video Games]]
* This is commonly a EnforcedTrope in video games since the hero is often meant to represent the player. Thus, many games will give them a minimal personality (or [[FeaturelessProtagonist none whatsoever]]) so the player can project themselves in their place, thus the supporting cast gets all the personality and most of the drama to themselves. It's especially prevalent in the case of a HeroicMime. Unlike examples in other media, many fans ''love'' having this in their games and will sometimes complain if the hero has a strong personality, though the reasons can vary from not being able to insert themselves into the role to the strong personality being one they find utterly abhorrent.
* Link of ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' is a HeroicMime ''and'' a MemeticBadass despite the large and colourful supporting cast, and amazing countries each one inhabits.
* ''VideoGame/FarCry2'' : player chooses from one of 12 characters to play as at the beginning. The remaining 11 are found throughout the game, and interact with the player, usually are quite interesting and have distinctive personalities. The player's character on the other hand becomes a personality-less HeroicMime. Players would find it most enjoyable therefore to play as their LEAST favorite character.
** ''VideoGame/FarCry3'' follows a similar trend. The main character, Jason Brody, is a virtual cypher, with the only real information about his past and relationship with his girlfriend showing up in the first few missions. Meanwhile, the supporting cast includes a villain who plays up the "definition of insanity", a tribal queen who alternately seduces and sends you on quests, a kooky survivalist with suicide vest-wearing monkeys (if you bought the DLC) and plenty more mysterious side characters. Compared to them, Jason's generic "[[TheChosenOne rise to warrior]]" arc means he comes off looking ineffectual and uninspired.
* ''VideoGame/ValkyrieProfile'': [[ZigzaggedTrope Feelings of certain characters bounce all over the place]]; many fans simply see Lenneth, the main valkyrie and protagonist of the first game, as a useful party asset, but otherwise find her trite, dull, and [[TheStoic lacking compassion]]. On the other hand, many of the LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters that Lenneth can recruit are also pretty thin.
* ''Franchise/MortalKombat''; InAWorld with energy-wielding ninjas, {{Physical God}}s, fantastic creatures, {{Cyborg}}s, et all, the most anyone seems to remember about Liu Kang, TheProtagonist of the series, is that he's [[FanNickname the Turkey Boy]].
** In ''VideoGame/MortalKombatArmageddon'', we got Taven. Fans consider him as an unfit choice for a protagonist in the Konquest Mode.
* Welkin of ''VideoGame/ValkyriaChronicles'' sometimes falls into this. He's the main character and instantly becomes the leader of Squad 7 despite all of his major subordinates being veterans, while this is his first tour in real combat. He's had officer training, but he's mostly in charge because he's the guy who owns the tank. The rest of Squad 7 is ''notoriously'' colourful, with three DLC stories centering around secondary characters and one centering on Selvaria. Unlike many video game heroes, Welkin does have a personality of his own, but it makes him less a generic game hero and more a generic romance-story hero, and he pales in comparison to the more interesting, quirky Squad 7 soldiers.
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'': Reimu from has had some problems with this. It took a while for her to develop much of a personality, and said personality is [[GoodIsNotNice unpleasant]]. This is a seres where ''sidebosses'' have sizeable fandoms. Notably, even the creator seems to prefer the deuteragonist, Marisa, with her getting more focus in a fair amount of the side material.
* Although ''VideoGame/CorpseParty'' is more of a EnsembleCast game, Satoshi is called the central protagonist. He's a generic teenage boy surrounded by people with more interesting personalities, motivations, and reactions to being sent to a hellish ghost school. His sole defining trait, being somewhat cowardly, doesn't even come into play apart from some dialogue options. While Ayumi and Yoshiki are getting to the bottom of the mystery and getting things done, Satoshi spends a whole chapter stuck in a subplot [[TrappedByMountainLions trying to find a bathroom so his little sister can go pee]].
* ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'' : Makoto Naegi. Even in-universe the other characters are chosen by Hope's Peak Academy for being remarkably skilled in some aspect, and as a result they are all quite colourful and interesting. Makoto, on the other hand, got into the Academy by pure chance and even criticizes himself for being average.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Antimony of ''Webcomic/GunnerkriggCourt'', whose general calm and open-minded approach to everything, combined with her [[WeirdnessMagnet ability to be near-central to every subplot she comes across just by existing]] and the enticingly vague development of the other students, tends to make her the least interesting of the Court's residents. This is diminished after it's revealed that she's [[spoiler:part fire elemental]] and unknowingly responsible for [[spoiler:her mother's death]], both of which give her emotional depth. Plus, she started [[http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=1179 having fun with it.]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'':
** John was the first character introduced out of the [[LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters stupendously large cast]] and acts as the AudienceSurrogate through much of the series, being the kid to whom all the bizarre and improbable game mechanics have to be explained, so he wasn't nearly as well-developed as some of the other characters at first. He's gotten a bit more CharacterDevelopment now that we can see his actions through other points of view.
** Karkat on the Alternia side is the first troll introduced and becomes team leader, which in the end is responsible for their victory. From introduction onward, most other trolls are more interesting to watch than him, aside from awesome moments like [[SanityBall calming down his homicidally insane friend]] by shoosh-papping him into submission.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Although Orson's (from ''GarfieldAndFriends'') imagination comes to life and he's a leader for a reason, he really isn't as interesting/colorful/funny as [[JerkWithAHeartOfGold Roy]], [[LovableCoward Wade]] or any of the other U.S. Acres characters. Bo and Lanolin who are great singers along with Orson only got two or three songs to sing, while Orson got to sing alot more songs.
* Rufus and Amberley of ''TheDreamstone''. While getting decent exposure in the pilot, they soon proved less flexible and colorful characters than the Urpneys and contributed far less to the show's slapstick, usually ending up OutOfFocus while the Urpneys served as borderline {{Villain Protagonist}}s. [[OvershadowedByAwesome Even compared to the rest of the heroes]] they suffered due to [[{{Muggles}} lack of defining abilities]], many episodes playing them as {{Useless Protagonist}}s, especially early on.
* The ''LooneyTunes'' series went through a long tenure of this as it [[GrowingTheBeard slowly gained it's trademark slapstick]]. The series originally utilized Mickey Mouse-alike characters such as Bosko and Buddy, who failed to garner popularity due to their flatness. Beans the Cat was then billed as a new more colorful star, but ended up eclipsed in popularity by his sidekick {{Porky Pig}}. Porky himself gradually got overshadowed by more abrasive stars such as DaffyDuck and BugsBunny, his Everyman persona making him better fit as TheStraightMan or TheComicallySerious. Allegedly Porky was unpopular with many of the actual Warner Bros staff as a result of his lack of flexibility, having never quite returned to star billing as a result.
[[/folder]]

----
[[redirect:VanillaProtagonist]]
11th Jun '14 12:32:51 AM Psi001
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* Rufus and Amberley of ''TheDreamstone''. While getting decent exposure in the pilot, they soon proved less flexible and colorful characters than the Urpneys and contributed far less to the show's slapstick, usually ending up OutOfFocus while the Urpneys served as borderline {{Villain Protagonist}}s. [[OvershadowedByAwesome Even compared to the rest of the heroes]] they suffered due to [[{{Muggles}} lack of defining abilities]].

to:

* Rufus and Amberley of ''TheDreamstone''. While getting decent exposure in the pilot, they soon proved less flexible and colorful characters than the Urpneys and contributed far less to the show's slapstick, usually ending up OutOfFocus while the Urpneys served as borderline {{Villain Protagonist}}s. [[OvershadowedByAwesome Even compared to the rest of the heroes]] they suffered due to [[{{Muggles}} lack of defining abilities]].abilities]], many episodes playing them as {{Useless Protagonist}}s, especially early on.
7th Jun '14 5:54:29 PM FirebirdMaximus
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Added DiffLines:

* This is the primary and most common criticism of ''Film/{{Godzilla 2014}}''. Critics generally felt that Creator/AaronJohnson's somewhat bland soldier character got too much focus compared to Creator/BryanCranston and Creator/KenWatanabe, who both play scientists involved with conspiracies or secretive groups.
5th Jun '14 5:49:43 PM Psi001
Is there an issue? Send a Message


* The ''LooneyTunes'' series went through a long tenure of this as it [[GrowingTheBeard slowly gained it's trademark slapstick]]. The series originally utilized Mickey Mouse-alike characters such as Bosko and Buddy, who failed to garner popularity due to their flatness. Beans the Cat was then billed as a new more colorful star, but ended up eclipsed by his sidekick {{Porky Pig}}. Porky himself gradually got overshadowed by more abrasive stars such as DaffyDuck and BugsBunny, his Everyman persona making him better fit as TheStraightMan or TheComicallySerious. Allegedly Porky was unpopular with many of the actual Warner Bros staff as a result of his lack of flexibility, having never quite returned to star billing as a result.

to:

* The ''LooneyTunes'' series went through a long tenure of this as it [[GrowingTheBeard slowly gained it's trademark slapstick]]. The series originally utilized Mickey Mouse-alike characters such as Bosko and Buddy, who failed to garner popularity due to their flatness. Beans the Cat was then billed as a new more colorful star, but ended up eclipsed in popularity by his sidekick {{Porky Pig}}. Porky himself gradually got overshadowed by more abrasive stars such as DaffyDuck and BugsBunny, his Everyman persona making him better fit as TheStraightMan or TheComicallySerious. Allegedly Porky was unpopular with many of the actual Warner Bros staff as a result of his lack of flexibility, having never quite returned to star billing as a result.
5th Jun '14 5:47:47 PM Psi001
Is there an issue? Send a Message

Added DiffLines:

* The ''LooneyTunes'' series went through a long tenure of this as it [[GrowingTheBeard slowly gained it's trademark slapstick]]. The series originally utilized Mickey Mouse-alike characters such as Bosko and Buddy, who failed to garner popularity due to their flatness. Beans the Cat was then billed as a new more colorful star, but ended up eclipsed by his sidekick {{Porky Pig}}. Porky himself gradually got overshadowed by more abrasive stars such as DaffyDuck and BugsBunny, his Everyman persona making him better fit as TheStraightMan or TheComicallySerious. Allegedly Porky was unpopular with many of the actual Warner Bros staff as a result of his lack of flexibility, having never quite returned to star billing as a result.
5th Jun '14 3:16:44 PM Dragon-Kid
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* ''Franchise/MortalKombat''; InAWorld with energy-wielding ninjas, {{Physical God}}s, fantastic creatures, {{Cyborg}}s, et all, the most anyone seems to remember about Liu Kang, TheProtagonist of the series, is that he's [[FanNickname the Turkey Boy]].

to:

* ''Franchise/MortalKombat''; InAWorld with energy-wielding ninjas, {{Physical God}}s, fantastic creatures, {{Cyborg}}s, et all, the most anyone seems to remember about Liu Kang, TheProtagonist of the series, is that he's [[FanNickname the Turkey Boy]]. Boy]].
** In ''VideoGame/MortalKombatArmageddon'', we got Taven. Fans consider him as an unfit choice for a protagonist in the Konquest Mode.
5th Jun '14 1:07:39 PM FirebirdMaximus
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* This is the primary and most common criticism of ''Film/{{Godzilla 2014}}''. Critics generally felt that Creator/AaronJohnson's somewhat bland character got too much focus compared to Creator/BryanCranston and Creator/KenWatanabe.
2nd Jun '14 11:44:00 PM Scabbard
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* ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'' Fans and detractors mostly agree that Bella, who's specifically written [[AudienceSurrogate so that the reader can step into her shoes]], lacks a personality and is generally boring. This is especially the case when her backstory is compared (CoolLoser moves from Phoenix to a small town in Washington, becomes popular, falls in love with supernatural beings) with that of Carlisle (devout Christian vampire hunter becomes vampire, spends his life helping people even though they're his natural prey), Rosalie ([[spoiler:girl becomes a vampire after being raped and left for dead by her fiance, kills him]]), Jasper ([[spoiler:ex-Confederate soldier and some of his friends raise a vampire army]]), and others.

to:

* ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'' ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'': Fans and detractors mostly agree that Bella, who's specifically written [[AudienceSurrogate so that the reader can step into her shoes]], lacks a personality and is generally boring. This is especially the case when her backstory is compared (CoolLoser moves from Phoenix to a small town in Washington, becomes popular, falls in love with supernatural beings) with that of Carlisle (devout Christian vampire hunter becomes vampire, spends his life helping people even though they're his natural prey), Rosalie ([[spoiler:girl becomes a vampire after being raped and left for dead by her fiance, kills him]]), Jasper ([[spoiler:ex-Confederate soldier and some of his friends raise a vampire army]]), and others.
2nd Jun '14 11:43:18 PM Scabbard
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** Sam is regarded by many as the "real hero" of the story, and Tolkien was not unreceptive to the idea. It helps that Sam is one of the very few canon characters to not give into the Ring's temptation. Considering the RousingSpeech he gives to Frodo, [[ OneOfUs he might be a troper]].

to:

** Sam is regarded by many as the "real hero" of the story, and Tolkien was not unreceptive to the idea. It helps that Sam is one of the very few canon characters to not give into the Ring's temptation. Considering the RousingSpeech he gives to Frodo, [[ OneOfUs [[OneOfUs he might be a troper]].
2nd Jun '14 11:39:50 PM Scabbard
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** [[TheEveryman harem leads]] themselves tend to be less well regarded than their female co-stars. Look at the games that many harem series are spun off from. The DatingSim as a genre has existed since the dawn of gaming, beginning with PornWithoutPlot games; though 1992 brought the first games that really developed the haremettes, there wasn't a truly fleshed-out male lead until Yuuichi from ''VisualNovel/{{Kanon}}'', and that game came out in ''1999''.

to:

** [[TheEveryman harem Harem leads]] themselves tend to be less well regarded than their female co-stars. Look at the games that many harem series are spun off from. The DatingSim as a genre has existed since the dawn of gaming, beginning with PornWithoutPlot games; though 1992 brought the first games that really developed the haremettes, there wasn't a truly fleshed-out male lead until Yuuichi from ''VisualNovel/{{Kanon}}'', and that game came out in ''1999''.
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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/article_history.php?article=Main.DesignatedProtagonistSyndrome