Created By: thewriterDecember 13, 2010 Last Edited By: thewriterDecember 16, 2010
Troped

Subbing For Santa

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Do We Have This One? In your world Santa Claus, The Grim Reaper, the Tooth Fairy, any popular mythical figure actually exists yet something happens which causes them not to be able to complete their mythical duty. Perhaps they fall sick or perhaps the legend wishes to teach someone a lesson in humility. Maybe it's a case of Someone Has To Do It and there is only one who can step in when Death Takes A Holiday. Who'll step in? You, of course! Subbing For Santa is when the protagonist of a story takes the mantle of a mythical being and takes over their job, even if it's just temporary. This is not when a character is infected by a creature and so becomes that creature, like with some vampires or some werewolves. The mythical task has to be explicitly given or falls upon the protagonists because of the circumstances of them maybe being in the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe because they're the only one who can at that moment. In the event of an inversion, a character will steal the mantle of the mythical figure in order to reap the benefits or the glory for their own. In such cases, the main characters may need to save Christmas or lives, or the world even in order to set things right.

Examples:

Live Action TV

  • One or two episodes of Sabrina The Teenage Witch had the titular character delivering presents at Christmastime. And one time Sabrina takes a local Sandman duty as a summer job.

  • Saturday Night Live: "The Night Hanukkah Harry Saved Christmas." Santa is sick so Hanukkah Harry steps in to help out. In a sequel he and the Prophet Elijah step in for the Easter Bunny after the bunny gets caught in a steel trap.

  • Santa Baby Santa's Daughter takes the reign.

  • In Charmed when Piper became the Angel of Death. Paige was once turned into a nymph to replace one that just died. Charmed also had many inversions of demons and warlocks and other bad guys stealing the powers of good magical creatures for their own gain. Just to name a few: A Demon steals Cupid's ring and starts breaking up relationships in revenge. A warlock steals a ring which allowed him to harness the powers of Muses. A warlock stole the powers of a Whitelighter in order to get into heaven and kill all the elders. A demon once used a Sandman's dust in order to bring the Charmed One's dreams to life.

  • Dean became Death in a recent episode of Supernatural.

  • The Twilight Zone's The Night of the Meek deals with a santa example.

Film

  • In Fred Claus Fred temporarily taks his brother's mantle.

  • In Bruce Almighty Jim Carrey's character is given the powers of the Christian God in order to teach him a lesson in humility. And in its sequel Evan Almighty Steve Carrell's character is bestowed the fantastic non-powers of Noah. Spoiler: He can make a boat and animals like him!

  • The Santa Clause movie and its follow-up films:
    • In the first film, the Santa Sub is Scott Calvin for, well, Santa Clause.
    • In the first sequel the Santa Sub is Principal Newman in that she must become the new Mrs. Claus, through a Mrs. Clause. binding magical contract.
    • The third film has an inversion in that Jack Frost becomes Santa by tricking Scott Calvin into giving up the role.

  • An inversion occurs with The Nightmare Before Christmas: The King of Halloween, Jack, wishes to take over the job for Santa, so has him kidnapped. Despite his 'good' intentions, Jack forcefully takes Santa's mantle and the entire Holiday.

  • The Tooth Fairy film with Dwayne Johnson.

  • Like the above movie, Toothless has Kirstie Alley's character take up the mantle of Tooth Fairy when she goes to Limbo. Other beings you have to become in Limbo include Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Cupid, Cinderella (?), a Boogeyman, and Sleeping Beauty(?).

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Will takes over for Davy Jones, who guides the souls of the dead to the afterlife.

Western Animation

  • Several Christmas specials have the protagonist having to fill-in for an indisposed or sick St. Nick.

  • On Family Guy Peter takes over as Death when he twists his ankle. On Family Guy Brian and Stewie sub for Santa when they discover that all the deliveries are killing him.

  • In an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, the titular trio try to stop the villian Princess Morebucks from taking everyone's presents Santa delivered, and thus ruining Christmas. They stop her later, but damage is already done, and there isn't enough time for Santa to deliver the presents by morning. The solution? Have the super fast Powerpuff Girls deliver them!

  • An episode of Johnny Bravo had Johnny having to deliver the gifts after he attacked and beat up Santa mistaking him for an burglar.

  • As if the concept of a Flintstones Christmas episode wasn't Wall Banger enough the plot centered around Fred filling in for Santa with Barney helping as an elf. Again this is Christmas... with Santa.. in the Stone Age.

  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures Christmas Episode, Santa is kidnapped by the Big Bad and Tohru has to fill in for the night. Jade and Paco join him as elves, keeping them out of trouble, for once. Played straight again in the thrid season of the series. when the 12 Talismans of the Chinese Zodiac are destroyed, the powers fall onto one 12 of the actual animals.

  • Phineas And Ferb: Due to Doofenshmirtz' Naughtyinator, Santa won't be visiting Danville to deliver gifts, so Phineas, Ferb, and company decide to deliver the presents themselves.

  • Olive The Other Reindeer: A variation. Olive takes over for one of the reindeer after he breaks his leg.

  • On one of The Simpsons's Treehouse of Horror shorts, Homer takes Death's mantle after death has a mishap.

  • Disney's Hercules did this quite a few times where Herc had to sub for quite a few gods, such as driving Apollo's chariot, or covering the land with Morpheus' blanket of sleep.

  • More an example of Switching with Santa, in one episode of The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy, Grim and Billy switch lives for a day leading to Billy taking over as The Grim Reaper and, well, Hilarity Ensues

  • In the Futurama episode "A Tale Of Two Santas", Bender has to take the place of Robot Santa.

Literature and Folklore

  • In Hogfather, Santa Claus the Hogfather goes missing, and Death has to temporarily take his place.
    • Another example from Hogfather - when Bilious was embarrassed to admit to being the Oh God of Hangovers he made up a story about how he does this on a professional basis, substituting for any deity that needs time off.

  • This is a staple of the Death-centric Discworld books. In Soul Music Death goes missing, and Susan has to temporarily take his place.

  • Sometimes in Greek Mythology tragic hero or demi-god like Heracles would temporarily take the mantle of another god. Like Hercules being tricked into holding up the sky by Atlas or Phaeton taking the chariot reigns from his father, Helios.

Compare: You Kill It You Bought It, Someone Has To Do It, God For A Day, Saving Christmas, Death Takes A Holiday, and may lead to An Ass Kicking Christmas.

Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • December 13, 2010
    OranjeLament
    How about the groan-inducing example of "The Santa Clause" and it's sequels...
  • December 13, 2010
    thewriter
    And the movie where Dwayne Johnson becomes a tooth fairy. Or Evan Almighty, or Bruce Almighty.
  • December 13, 2010
    SweetMadness
    Whoops, never mind, misread the description.

    I thought for sure we had this one, but I can't remember what it was called.
  • December 13, 2010
    troacctid
    I'm sure there must be a better title. Substitute Santa Claus?
  • December 13, 2010
    Micah
    I thought we had it too, but I can't find it. Just in case we don't:

    • This is a staple of the Death-centric Discworld books.
      • In Soul Music, Death goes missing, and Susan has to temporarily take his place.
      • In Hogfather, Santa Claus the Hogfather goes missing, and Death has to temporarily take his place.

    Compare You Kill It You Bought It, Someone Has To Do It.
  • December 13, 2010
    thewriter
    I was actually origianlly going to call it Substitute Santa Claus, but it applies to more than just Kris Kringle.

    And there really isn't a trop I found which covers this, but if i'm wrong please do tell.

  • December 13, 2010
    troacctid
    ^ It's okay, people would get that it doesn't have to be Santa Claus. That's how Trope Namers work, after all.
  • December 13, 2010
    randomsurfer
    • Saturday Night Live: "The Night Hanukkah Harry Saved Christmas." Santa is sick so Hanukkah Harry steps in to help out. In a sequel he and the Prophet Elijah step in for the Easter Bunny after the bunny gets caught in a steel trap.
    • Family Guy: Death twists his ankle at the Griffin place so Peter subs for him.
  • December 13, 2010
    StarryEyed
  • December 13, 2010
    Darthcaliber
    As if the concept of a Flintstones Christmas episode wasn't Wall Banger enough the plot centered around Fred filling in for Santa with Barney helping as an elf. Again this is Christmas... with Santa.. in the Stone Age.

    An episode of Johnny Bravo had Johnny having to deliver the gifts after he attacked and beat up Santa mistaking him for an burglar.
  • December 13, 2010
    nrjxll
    I prefer Subbing For Santa to Substitute Santa Clause, just for the Alliterative Appeal. Although something like Santa Substitute could work too.

    And yeah, I don't think too many people will think it's exclusively about Santa Claus.
  • December 13, 2010
    sainatsukino
    Time for some anime/manga exemples!

    X1999: Subaru kills the Sakurazukamori (a supernatural murderer) to avenge his twin sister. BUT! The succession ritual to become the new sakurazukamori is to kill your predecessor. Therefore, Subaru has to take Seishirou's place as the new murderer. also, he loved him. Long story.

    XXX Holic: Watanuki inherits Yuuko's shop and title as Wish-granter until she comes back from the dead

  • December 13, 2010
    randomsurfer
    RECENT SPOILER
    • On Family Guy Brian and Stewie sub for Santa when they discover that all the deliveries are killing him.
  • December 14, 2010
    WackyMeetsPractical
    [[quoteblock]]The Santa Clause movie and its unfortunate follow-up films[[/quoteblock]]

    Can we please avoid subjective terms like "Unfortunate"? Tropes should not be about Complaining About Shows You Dont Like.

    • The Nightmare Before Christmas: The King of Halloween, Jack, wishes to take over the job for Santa, so has him kidnapped.
    • Olive The Other Reindeer: A variation. Olive takes over for one of the reindeer after he breaks his leg.
    • Phineas And Ferb: Due to Doofenshmirtz' Naughtyinator, Santa won't be visiting Danville to deliver gifts, so Phineas, Ferb, and company decide to deliver the presents themselves.
  • December 14, 2010
    troacctid
    You don't need to sort by the mythical figure replaced. Just sort by medium like other tropes and have the examples describe the situation individually.
  • December 14, 2010
    LadyMomus
    I'd vote for Substitute Santa as the trope title.
  • December 14, 2010
    JoeG
  • December 14, 2010
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    God For A Day has part of this covered
  • December 14, 2010
    troacctid
    Well, I suppose the disadvantage of Substitute Santa is that it frames this as a character trope when it's really more of a plot trope.
  • December 14, 2010
    Generality
    This is covered by, variously, Someone Has To Do It, Death Takes A Holiday, and God For A Day.
  • December 14, 2010
    IronicMouse
    Pirates Of The Caribbean: Will takes over for Davy Jones, who guides the souls of the dead to the afterlife.
  • December 15, 2010
    FinalGamer
    Could be a related trope to God For A Day, or a sub-trope even. Either way it's distinct enough to merit its own trope page I believe. I support this.

    Disney's Hercules did this quite a few times where Herc had to sub for quite a few gods, such as driving Apollo's chariot, or covering the land with Morpheus' blanket of sleep.
  • December 15, 2010
    thewriter
    NOTE: I've deleted the Glee and Grinch examples because the mythical character in question must be confirmed to actually exist in-universe.
  • December 15, 2010
    Blork
    Another example from Hogfather - when Bilious was embarrassed to admit to being the Oh God of Hangovers he made up a story about how he does this on a professional basis, substituting for any deity that needs time off.
  • December 15, 2010
    TonyG
    In the Futurama episode "A Tale Of Two Santas", Bender has to take the place of Robot Santa.

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