Created By: Worldmaker on October 17, 2011 Last Edited By: Worldmaker on January 27, 2013
Nuked

Modern Rank Stasis

Works About Future Military Forces Retain Modern Military Rank Structure Despite There Being No Reason to Do So

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
This YKTTW is a restart of an old one that got so tangled up in "That's a bad name, use my suggestion!"/"No your suggestion sucks ass, use my suggestion!"/"This is just Trope X"/"No, its not" arguments that only two examples were ever added. (I have added some more for this restart below.)

So we're trying again in order to generate some examples. PLEASE do not endlessly restart yet another "My idea for a name is better than yours so use mine"/"This is not a separate trope" argument. Just add examples.

Now, on to the trope:


Essentially, there is a tendency for military forces in sci-fi settings to use rank structures strongly resembling those used by turn-of-the-millenium American armed forces. For some flavor, they might use the British or German rank structure instead. This is despite the fact that there really is no reason that the rank structure used by any real world military in the early 2000's should survive for over two hundred years, past World War III, and be adopted by a humanitarian and peacekeeping armada made up of service-members from numerous different planets.

Related to this is the tendency for fans to assume that the rank structure should be identical to that used by a real-world military force, just because it shares some elements with it.

The main problem is that even the rank structure of the American armed forces hasn't managed to stay consistent for the past 20 years, let alone 200. The rank and organization systems of any military service, or indeed almost any organization, are constantly changing, with ranks being introduced or abolished or repurposed to fit the needs of the service (or, if you are more cynical, the whims of the leadership).

The question becomes even larger when you start wondering why an alien species uses modern American ranks. Translation Convention only carries it so far.

Typically a result of the United Space of America. A Sub-Trope of Modern Stasis. Tangentially related to Space Marine, where every space-faring nation regardless of origins has the United States Marine Corps in space.


Examples:

Film

Tabletop Games
  • The Sword Worlds use German ranks in ''Traveller.

Television
  • Star Trek is the most obvious example. Starfleet uses a rank structure lifted directly from the United States Navy.
  • Both Battlestar Galactica series used American ranks, though the structure got a bit muddled as you approached the flag ranks. Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) actually took place a hundred thousand years in the past, but it was still using American ranks.
  • Babylon 5


Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • October 18, 2011
    Worldmaker
    Literature
    • Starship Troopers. The Federation's armed services use modern (well... modern for 1959, when the book was written) American military ranks for the most part.
  • October 18, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    I really don't get all the "no reason to do so" stuff. Why should they not use modern ranks? They work, and they make more sense than making up a bunch of stuff that no one knows. BTW, the structure of US officer ranks has not changed in at least an century, and there has been little change to the enlisted ranks outside of phasing out most of the specialist ranks in the Army.
  • October 19, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    I think that if you look at the expanded universe sources of Star Wars and Babylon Five, you will see that there is at least as much more difference between the rank structure of said military forces and the United States than there is between the current United States and the United States of 20 years ago.
  • October 19, 2011
    Trotzky
    Anti-trope of Call a rabbit a smeerp. Sub-trope of People sit on chairs. General is bigger than colonel, colonel is bigger than major. What possible advantage is there in calling military officers "squiggles and squoggles and poos"?
  • October 19, 2011
    Falco
    Yeah. Invented Ranks might be a trope, but this isn't.
  • October 22, 2011
    AFP
    Just for the purpose of discussion, Auxdarastrix, the officer ranks have changed a few times, at least in the US Navy and Coast Guard. Both services added the rank of Commodore, to replace Rear Admiral (Lower Half), this rank was renamed to "Commodore Admiral" to avoid confusion with the title of Commodore given to Captains in command of a group of ships, then renamed again back to "Rear Admiral (Lower Half)" .

    Anyhow, sponsor of the previous YKTTW for this trope. There's really no particular advantage to calling your Captain "Squiggle", aside from possibly being able to make your fictional universe richer by showing that it is not just the present day copy-pasted into a later calendar year. If it's done well, of course. If it's done poorly, then all you've done is created a weird and awkward sounding title when you could have just stuck with "Captain". I figure if Modern Stasis is trope-worthy, this might be as well.
  • October 22, 2011
    Worldmaker
    I'm still trying to figure out what part of JUST ADD THE FARKING EXAMPLES AND STOP ARGUING ABOUT WHETHER THIS IS A FARKING TROPE OR NOT went past everyone.

    Television
    • Space Above And Beyond not only used modern rank structure, it used the US Marine Corps despite being a "multinational" planetary military.
  • October 22, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    AFP: If the biggest example of a change you can point to is the difference between commondore and rear admiral, than Star Trek is not an example of modern ranks or stasis, given that the current practice in the United States is to not use to term commodore, yet the term is used by Star Fleet at various times. Also, they sometimes use "Rear (Admiral Lower half) instead, indicating that even over the course of their history they went back and forth several times rather than maintained a stasis.

    Babylon Five uses the term "General" for naval officers, something which not an example of modern usage. They also do not have the exact same enlisted rank structure as any current Real Life militaries.

    @Worldmaker: The entire purpose of this board is to develop tropes, and part of that purpose is to decide if something is a trope. If you have to resort to yelling at people not to discuss your proposals but to just automatically agree with you, there is probably something wrong with your proposal.
  • October 22, 2011
    Falco
    Indeed. Given that ranks like Admiral, General, Corporal, Sergeant, Captain etc. have been in use for hundreds of years already, why is it so remarkable that they still might be in use hundreds of years from now.
  • October 23, 2011
    Worldmaker
    The irony of this situation is that originally this was about the fact that American rankings were used in the future. But people got all provincial and parochial and whined about how its not just American ranks... and so it was rewritten to include pretty much any modern ranking system, and now its not a trope anymore.

    Sometimes you just can't win with you nitpicky people.
  • October 23, 2011
    Gatchaman432
    • Halo follows the Naval ranking system pretty closely despite it being set in the 26th century- John-117's rank of Master Chief Petty Officer actually exists.
  • October 24, 2011
    AFP
    Well, if this ends up a trope, we will probably want to mention why some ranks are particularly persistent, such as Captain and Lieutenant (both being derived from Latin phrases which almost literally translate as "Head Leader" and "Place Holder").
  • October 24, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    Laconic is too long (laconic means "using few words").
  • October 24, 2011
    Trotzky
    Call a rabbit a Smeerp: General > Colonel > Captain > Lieutenant. It is a standard Translation Convention. The Glory is that Klingon/Romulan ranks are "Commander" which sounds like a Bad Ass rank, but is a gay rank in the Puny Human Navy.
  • October 25, 2011
    jatay3
    Ranks have changed their connotation. "Colonel" used to mean "CEO of a band of Private Military Contractors" back in the times when a regular army was thought of as an assembly of mercenary units on permanent contract to a given ruler.
  • January 27, 2013
    Catbert
    I'm not really seeing a trope here. It would appear that I'm not the only one. There has been no action here in over a year. Discarding.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=6kaz5rxnehypzvik3tq4bk2o&trope=DiscardedYKTTW