Created By: KJMackley on October 4, 2013 Last Edited By: KJMackley on January 26, 2015

Character A is Character A

No matter how much you change, you can\'t fight your true nature

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Trope
Character Development is an Omnipresent Trope, it just happens whether you mean to or not. You take a character, put them through a story and regardless of the outcome, they have a new story to tell. Other times it may be a Coming of Age story, they are forever changed by the events that took place and have a wildly different outlook on life. But... they are still the same person. No matter how much you change there is something that sticks around.

This trope is about the fundamental attributes of a character remaining consistent even if they (or someone else) think they've changed significantly. And they very well might have changed, but something will always be left behind. Consider a Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk gradually becoming nicer to become a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, they are still a jerk.

Compare It's What I Do, I Am What I Am. Contrast Characterization Marches On and That Man Is Dead.

Examples

Live-Action TV
  • A season 8 episode of Scrubs had J.D. dealing with Denise, a bright but very insensitive intern who struggles to connect with patients. In a conversation about it she asked J.D. what he was going to do to fix her and he said he wasn't going to do anything, because it was her character flaw to deal with. He goes on to point out that despite having grown significantly in the past few years his girlfriend (Elliot) still struggles with her own neurosis, his teacher (Dr. Cox) is constantly getting in his own way and J.D. himself struggles with being too close to patients to be objective about what they need, complete with quick cuts to those exact problems.
  • In The Big Bang Theory Leonard and Penny try hanging out together on a friend date, only for things to go sideways because Leonard realized since he and Penny weren't dating anymore he didn't have to conform to exactly what she wanted. After getting into a heated argument, Leonard later apologized and Penny commented that some part of her LIKED that he showed some backbone for a change (hinting that was one reason she broke up with him). He inadvertently backtracked to his needy self, but was a marked example of his character development.

Western Animation

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • October 5, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work names, grouped examples by media.
  • October 6, 2013
    DAN004
  • October 6, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    X Never Changes? Character Never Changes? He Never Changes?

    damned stock phrase, but it's exactly what this is from how i see it.
  • October 6, 2013
    Arivne
  • October 7, 2013
    DAN004
    Sometimes enforced by Executive Meddling.
  • October 15, 2013
    KJMackley
    An inversion happens in Transformers Prime. Optimus unleashed the power of the Matrix of Leadership, with a side effect being that Optimus lost his memory of the Civil War, believing himself as the person he was before, the archivist Orion Pax. In the confusion Megatron convinced him that he was part of the Decepticon cause. When the rest of the team was dismayed that Optimus unintentionally switched sides, Ratchet comments that no matter how deep Megatron's deception was Orion Pax is still an Autobot at heart.
  • October 16, 2013
    DAN004
    Lovin' the current title.

    ...Though, isn't this either omnipresent or in aggregate?
  • October 16, 2013
    KJMackley
    There is an aspect of this that is along the lines you are thinking, as the premise comes from a specific form of Character Development. But the trope itself is about specific moments that are pointed out within the story, it isn't about gleaming general impressions or comparing it to other stories of a similar nature.
  • October 17, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ ...Then the title must change. As much as I liked it. :/

    Maybe Old Characterization Moment?

    Compare Character Rerailment when it happens to be permanent; this trope is about one-time gag, right?
  • October 17, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Do these count?
    • How I Met Your Mother: When Robin's old crush comes to town she squees over him even though he's a balding, fat never-was musician who still lives with his mother. Lily is also shown to revert to her high school Jive Turkey wigger persona whenever she hangs out with Michelle, an old high school friend - who likewise reverts to acting ghetto even though she's working on a Ph.D. in psychology, but at least Michelle is aware of it. The gang dubs it "Revertigo."
    • On Cheers Woody is Formerly Fat, and when his old girlfriend from back home comes to town they both start eating constantly.
  • October 18, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    • Carlitos Way explores this theme. Carlito seeks to go completely legitimate and live within the law once he's released from prison. But old ties, loyalties, and habits—including what would turn out to be a fateful machismo-laden violent confrontation of a younger gangster rising up in the neighborhood as he once did—threatened to get the better of him.
  • October 18, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    • House of Cards (US version) had Pete Russo, who was trying hard with temporary success to ditch his alcohol and drug abuse in order to run for Pennsylvania Governor with Underwood's sponsorship, but was very easily manipulated back into drinking when a situation orchestrated by Underwood presented itself.
  • October 18, 2013
    Bisected8
    Often the reason a Clone By Conversion fails.
  • April 30, 2014
    KJMackley
    • In Last Man Standing, Mandy has her computer and phone privileges taken away for being behind in schoolwork and is distraught she doesn't have any social media as an outlet. Desperate for some form of electronics, she finds her dad's ham radio station and starts talking with some WWII vets who, incidentally, help her with her history homework. She ends up building a ham radio network using Tumblr lingo like hashtags.
  • April 30, 2014
    DAN004
    Again, maybe Old Characterization Moment would work.
  • May 1, 2014
    KJMackley
    I don't know, I think the current title is just about perfect and 'Old Characterization Moment' makes me think Emotional Regression or Meet Your Early Installment Weirdness.

    Maybe I'll rework the description because the point is that the character is who they are, you can change the situation or the timeline but they are still themselves.
  • May 1, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Now I'm confused: is this "character still with their old traits despite Character Development", or "character who's never given a chance to develop"?
  • May 1, 2014
    KJMackley
    It's not about the lack of character development, but a counterpoint to thinking Character Development = New Character. For example, in Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Sabrina cast a spell that made the Alpha Bitch Libby become a nerd. After accepting her place among the nerds, Libby turned them into a clique that mocked other students for not being like them. She changed but was still the same person, and the lesson of the story was that your situation doesn't dictate your personality as much as you think it does.

    All the examples given is about characters being put into different circumstances either through time, location, social groups, etc and expecting to behave differently, but prove to still have the same traits through it all.
  • May 1, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Change Proof Personality then? Or Core Trait That Never Changes? (Maybe you can lose the "trait" there)
  • May 1, 2014
    KJMackley
    What's wrong with Character A Is Character A?
  • May 1, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Too broad.

    Laconic should also be "No matter how much your circumstances change, you can't fight your true nature" - you said yourself that Character Development foesn't matter here.
  • May 1, 2014
    acrobox
    Yeah cause you could interpret it in a meta out of universe way like "even after the Jerk Jock gets character development and hes relatively less of a jerk, his primary characterization and role in the story is that of being a jerk and the writers still assign bullying roles to him, even though Informed Ability he's grown out of it."

    or it can be an inuniverse can't fight fate thing where "The Jerk Jock gets character development to be nicer to people, but still ends up hurting people on accident or geting involved in things he thought was innocuous but ending up being really mean, or having a relapse when he falls into being a jerk again naturally, so he personally feels like he's cursed to being a bully no matter how hard he tries to be something else."
  • May 1, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In the "Homeschooling" arc of Runaways, Chase questions whether or not he'll ever be able to anything other than a Stein, with all the criminality and abusive tendencies that come with the family name, as he struggles to deal with the loss of his last tie to Gert and the sudden re-appearance of his paternal uncle.

    Video Games
    • In Dragon Age II, the Qunari believe that everyone has one specific role in life, and they cannot deviate from those roles, and therefore shouldn't even try.
  • May 2, 2014
    KJMackley
    The truth is that the name was chosen because I feel it is related to Magic A Is Magic A peripherally, focusing on characters rather than magic. It is meant to be a broad trope.

    It's the examples that are more narrow because "Character X behaves the same from episode to episode" is People Sit On Chairs, while "Character X wonders if he'll ever overcome a negative trait" or "Character X remakes his new situation into a mirror of his old situation" is worthy of mention.

    There is always a possibility of misuse from the name, but that will happen regardless and I'd rather have a name that conveys the scope of the trope rather than limits it like the ones proposed.
  • May 2, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ that's one hell of a dissonance, dude. Two, in fact.
  • May 3, 2014
    KJMackley
    What do you mean by that?
  • January 26, 2015
    DAN004
    I just found Character Check.
  • January 26, 2015
    Snicka
    Compare Aesop Amnesia, where a character shows Character Development in every episode just to forget it for the next episode.
  • January 26, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
    • The wild young 'uns Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn from Mark Twain's works get a huge status uplift after recovering the loot of Injun Joe. While Tom Sawyer takes to the soap and the fancy clothes easily enough, the trappings of high society only make Huck Finn itch. Huck ditches all the finery to return to his renegade hellion roots.

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