Created By: SomeGuy on February 21, 2010

Internal Retcon

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Let's face it. Facts are rather inconvenient things. If people know exactly how some really bad things went down in the story, they might freak out a little bit, realizing that they live in a Crapsack World and are liable to be killed senselessly and pointlessly for ridiculous reasons.

Enter the Internal Retcon. This trope allows the reigning authority figure (typically determined by Might Makes Right) to force everyone to pretend like something else is what really happened, simply because the consequences of the truth coming out are really dangerous.

Most popular as a way of ending either a story arc or a story proper. Naturally, spoilers are rather unavoidable in describing this phenomenon as a result.

  • One of these is integral in making the ending of Watchmen work - and the one character who refuses to go along with the plan is naturally killed.
  • This is how the first issue of Sin City concludes. For obvious reasons it can't come out that a member of the Roark family was involved with a cannibal serial killer, so the police force Marv to confess to all of the crimes committed by Roark and Kevin.
  • An open-ended example occurs in Order Of The Stick where Haley agrees to act as if her "leaving" the Thieves' Guild was a highly elaborate ploy to make adventurers everywhere hesitant to accept a non-Guild sanctioned Thief in their party lest they turn out to be a secret assassin. It's open-ended because Haley kills Crystal and leaves the Thieves' Guild again- but it likely isn't in Bazzok's current interest to undo the Retcon since it would also undo the public relations scheme.
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • January 8, 2010
    I'm not sure what this trope covers.

    Does it cover the Men In Black use of the Neuralyzer to make people believe something other than what happened?

    Does it cover the government in 1984 that altered the records so no one knows the real history, only what the government wants them to?
  • January 8, 2010
    Yeah, all of that.

    This is prett much Ret Con, only used by characters in-story as opposed to writers from beyond the fourth wall.
  • January 8, 2010
    random surfer
    I wholly approve of this as a trope; I tried to do it myself once but it didn't work out. I was gonna eventually re-try using the name Pen And Paper Retcon; feel free to use that if you'd like. A couple from that long-lost YKTTW:
    • The Simpsons: Armin Tamzarian was legally declared the one and only Seymour Skinner, and nobody was ever to mention it again under peanalty of law.
    • Real Life: Stalin/Mao removing people from photographs when they became UnPersoned
    • Captain America being "considered a founding member" of The Avengers
  • January 9, 2010
    Real Life: Every child school textbook ever for every nation on Earth. If you don't believe me, go look up Christopher Columbus in any American school textbook vs. an adult source (or even The Other Wiki).

    Columbus was a Complete Monster. His first voyage he kidnapped some ten to twenty-five natives and took them back with him. Only seven or eight of the native Indians arrived in Spain alive. There is increasing modern scientific evidence that this voyage also brought syphilis back from the New World.

    An entry in his journal from September 1498 reads, "From here one might send, in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold..."

    During Columbus's stint as governor and viceroy, he had been accused of governing tyrannically. According to testimony of 23 witnesses during his trial, Columbus regularly used barbaric acts of torture to govern Hispaniola.
  • January 9, 2010
    Good trope. We need to avoid turning the real life examples into a soap box for folks with a personal grudge. Or at least the appearance of one. After all, Colombus is already mentioned on the Warts And All page.

    Obligatory HarryPotter example: After Voldemort's return at the end of the Fourth book, the Ministry of Magic spends most of the Fifth book declaring that Voldemort has not returned at all. That and painfully persecuting anyone who dares contradict the official story.
  • February 21, 2010
    When you launch it, don't forget to add As an Ending Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware. and un-spoiler all your examples.
  • February 21, 2010
    Dragon Ranger
    I think the title should be some kind of "coverup" instead of "retcon". A "retcon", in my mind, changes what actually happened, while a coverup only affects what people think, not the actual events.

    Real Life examples already seem to be covered in the Real Life section of Dis Continuity.

    And I don't think the Captain America thing counts; he has founder status in the Avengers but they aren't trying to convince the Marvel Universe he was part of the team from day one.
  • February 21, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    I've seen a number of stories where a former hero goes bad, often under fire, and betrays his colleagues who then have to kill him. I guess that's probably a trope in his own right; anyway, his former buddies then agree to tell the world he died a hero. Seen It A Million Times, just can't call any specific examples to mind right now.
  • February 22, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Treachery Cover Up is a subtrope
  • February 24, 2010
    YKTTW Bump. Last call for examples before launch.