Created By: repicheep22 on February 4, 2010
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Advertised Extra

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Remind me again why she's the title character.

Rolling Updates

Plan to launch on Friday

This is a character who, is supposed to be a main character, but for whatever reason does not get developed nearly as much as his counterparts. He's on all the advertisements, gets a witty one liner in the trailer, but when the release date comes, he almost fades into the background. Basically, he was Demoted to Extra before the story even came out.

This character is introduced at some pivotal point (usually the beginning) and then is generally ignored for the rest of the story. Maybe he's seen for all of five minutes in a three hour movie, or maybe he just lurks in the background while his friends do all the important stuff. Whatever the case, to qualify for this trope, a character must have been introduced in a way that implied he was going to be important, but is left out of most of the story.

If the wasted character is in a series, the author may realize his mistake and give him some development in later episodes/books/etc. Alternatively, he can just put him on a bus or kill him off for real to avoid having to deal with another character.

May be a victim of the Spotlight-Stealing Squad, and expect him to become an Ensemble Darkhorse.

Compare to The Artifact, who starts out prominent and then fades. A Advertised Extra is advertised as prominent, but never actually achieves that status.

Examples:

  • Aurora of Disney Animated Canon - all she really does is fall in love, and the spotlight is completely stolen by the good fairies and Maleficent.
  • Characters on Lost are invariably either some of the most dynamic and developed characters on TV, or completely wasted. Sun and Jin have yet to find a real dramatic story post-season 1. Sayid has been reinterpreted for convenience. Desmond disappears for almost all of Season 5 and 6, doing absolutely nothing of interest in the scenes that he does have. Daniel disappears for most of season 5, and dies immediately upon re-appearing
  • Battlestar Galactica. In season 4.5, at least according to This Troper, nearly every protagonist was wasted for the benefit of explosions, secondary characters, explaining just what the heck has been going on, and clearing up some past mistakes. Especially the finale itself, which featured Tigh and Tyrol in glorified cameos. Your Mileage May Vary.
  • Trillian in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy radio series doesn't have much character development, supposedly because the actress's performance didn't give Douglas Adams much to work with. Her character is much more developed in the later books.
  • Jeanette from Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: The boys and her sisters all get ample screen time, whereas she seems to fall by the wayside. Old fans know her from the old cartoon as a genius, but this never really comes out. She's never seen without her sisters, and even then she gets about five minutes of screentime that isn't singing.
  • Possible subversion with Venom in Spider-Man 3. Eddy Brock was around for most of the movie, but Venom is seen for all of fifteen minutes. However, he did a LOT in 15 minutes, including finally doing what no other villain in the movies could do kill one of Peter's loved ones, Harry Osborn, and yet had so little screen time. Fans revolted, and there was a lot of controversy. Very little depth was given to the character in comparison to other Spidey villains in the series, or even in that movie, and many fans feel Venom was wasted.
  • Mayweather on Enterprise.
  • Vaan in Final Fantasy XII, famously.

Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • January 19, 2010
    Chabal2
    Decoy Protagonist maybe? In Discworld Carrot's first appearance was later overshadowed by Vimes, but neither is underdevelopped; does that count?
  • January 19, 2010
    repicheep22
    No, this is for characters who are there for the whole story (or at least most of it). He or she is introduced at the beginning along with the rest of the cast, and it's made plain that they are going to be the one of the centers of the story. But it never happens. It's not that he gets developed and then Put On A Bus or Killed Off For Real. It's that he never gets developed at all.

    Take the (only) example I have. Jeanette is introduced at the very beginning of the movie, along with her sisters and the other main characters. The boys have to deal with Alvin turning into a jock, and the girls with an evil manager. Alvin/Brittany and Theodore/Eleanor get a pair of scenes together, but altogether, Jeanette is on screen for maybe ten minutes out of the movie when she isn't singing, and gets maybe five lines.

    So, they Wasted A Perfectly Good Character.

  • January 19, 2010
    goodtimesfreegrog
    So, essentially this is the inverse of the Spotlight Stealing Squad, but who can also become the Ensemble Darkhorse?
  • January 19, 2010
    repicheep22
    Characters on Lost are invariably either some of the most dynamic and developed characters on TV, or completely wasted. Sun and Jin have yet to find a real dramatic story post-season 1. Sayid has been reinterpreted for convenience. Desmond disappears for almost all of Season 5 and 6, doing absolutely nothing of interest in the scenes that he does have. Daniel disappears for most of season 5, and dies immediately upon re-appearing -- I'm not sure this last one fits perfectly within the trope's bounds, but it damn well fits the title.

    Battlestar Galactica. In season 4.5, at least according to This Troper, nearly every protagonist was wasted for the benefit of explosions, secondary characters, explaining just what the heck has been going on, and clearing up some past mistakes. Especially the finale itself, which featured Tigh and Tyrol in glorified cameos. Your Mileage May Vary.
  • January 19, 2010
    pure.Wasted
    Question -- what if their screentime isn't so much reduced in length as it is reduced in significance? Say, a character is shown doing the most trivial things for a very prolonged period of time because no one knew what to do with them.
  • January 19, 2010
    LeeM
    Trillian in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy radio series doesn't have much character development, supposedly because the actress's performance didn't give Douglas Adams much to work with. Her character is much more developed in the later books.
  • January 19, 2010
    DaGamesElite
    Possible subversion with Venom in Spider-Man 3. He did a LOT in 15 minutes, including finally doing what no other villain in the movies could do kill one of Peter's loved ones, Harry Osborn, and yet had so little screen time. Fans revolted, and there was a lot of controversy. Very little depth was given to the character in comparison to other Spidey villains in the series, or even in that movie, and many fans feel Venom was wasted.
  • January 19, 2010
    repicheep22
    I think I've made the definition a bit too narrow. (Fixed it.) The point I'm trying to get across is that the audience is told that someone will be a main character, but they're never developed.
  • January 19, 2010
    duralict
    This title seems to have potential for a much broader trope.
  • January 19, 2010
    Idler2.0
    Garfunkel might have something to do with this.
  • January 19, 2010
    Yam
    If the character gets a lot screentime the technical term would be Passive Protagonist
  • January 20, 2010
    Jonti
    Mayweather on Enterprise.
  • January 20, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    Aurora? You call that a character? I call her a vacuum with a pretty face.
  • January 20, 2010
    Wyvernil
    May be related to The Artifact - the character's intended role may have become redundant or unnecessary, but the character cannot be easily removed, so the narrative tries to ignore him.
  • January 24, 2010
    Semi-colon e
    The Cat from Red Dwarf. He's in every episode, sure, but he usually just says something stupid. He doesn't really have much plot significance after series 2 (or even 1), especially in the later series, while 2/3 of the episodes are about Kryten. Holly as well, but she is eventually put on a bus anyway.
  • January 24, 2010
    Aminatep
    Hardy Boys Investigation?

    Ah, wait, it's about development, not influence...
  • January 24, 2010
    duralict
    This trope is more or less unavoidable in party-based RP Gs with subplots that require the characters be in the active party. If you leave people at camp in, say, Dragon Age or ''Mass Effect', they'll pretty much be limited to occasional ensemble appearances.
  • January 25, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Could this be The Ishmael (narrates the piece and is the Author Surrogate, but isn't the main character) or Supporting Protagonist (is the main character of *this* story, but clearly not The Hero)?
  • January 25, 2010
    Unknown Troper
  • January 25, 2010
    Cidolfas
    Vaan in Final Fantasy XII, famously.
  • February 4, 2010
    MartineBrooke
    I'm pretty sure this is Useless Protagonist. Can we merge the two?
  • February 4, 2010
    Vree
    She is the title character because she's the Mac Guffin Girl. (Which is actually still sad.)
  • February 4, 2010
    repicheep22
    @ Martine Brooke I don't think so. They are similar, but the Useless Protagonist can still be a good, developed character. The difference between the two is that the Passive Protagonist is ignored regardless of their status in the story.
  • February 4, 2010
    random surfer
    Charlie Bucket in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Once they get in the factory he does nothing, so he wins.
  • February 4, 2010
    Kilyle
    Passive Protagonist is explained to some extent by Christopher Booker in his The Seven Basic Plots. Now, he's got a very Jungian gender-based view of things, but here we go:

    Most stories fall under one of these categories:

    • Balanced hero, passive heroine
    • Balanced hero, active heroine
    • Either of those two, from the heroine's point of view
    • Dark hero redeemed by light heroine (or, tragically, fails to get redeemed)
    • Dark heroine redeemed by light hero (or, tragically, fails to get redeemed)

    So Sleeping Beauty and similar stories are "Balanced hero, passive heroine" from the heroine's point of view.

    Also bear in mind that a character based on the Waif or Persephone archetype, who classically gets considered a weakling, can actually be a demonstration of inner strength: the power to bear up under unreasonable difficulties. This is an important archetype for certain Rags To Riches stories, because the hero gets whipped around between various situations without much control over her fate.

    I've actually wondered if it's the only possible characterization for a story about a kid going through foster care. A kid in foster care has no control over the situation, and although I think it might be important to create a book about a brave hero kid in foster care, I'm not really sure how to approach it as a plot.
  • February 4, 2010
    macroscopic
  • February 4, 2010
    repicheep22
    @ macroscopic: No, it isn't. A Useless Protagonist has to sit on the sidelines while someone else does the fighting, but he can still get screen time and character development. A Passive Protagonist gets no character development and very little screen time. A character can be both at the same time, but they aren't synonymous.
  • February 4, 2010
    SevenOfDiamonds
    Snow White doesn't fit this. She has more screen time than anyone in the movie and is always the center of attention. She meets the prince, nearly gets killed, runs through the woods of nightmare fuel, talks to the animals, finds and cleans the house, discusses her situation and makes a deal with the dwarfs, bosses them around, hangs out with them during the silly song and then she tells them her life's story... I could go on.

    But yes, Aurora is this.
  • February 6, 2010
    Kilyle
    Oooh, Advertised Extra - that's an awesome name! Who suggested it? I think it describes this trope perfectly.
  • February 6, 2010
    MartineBrooke
    @ repicheep22, if the character gets no character development and little screen time, they are by definition not the protagonist.
  • February 15, 2010
    axelseru
    Dr. Lantis from Star Ocean 2: Second Story/Evolution. You know next to nothing about him save for a disk 2 mention, but it turns out that he's one of the most, if not the most, pivotal character in the game! He made the Ten Wise Men to protect Nedian rule, but programmed them to annihilate the universe when he went insane because of the death of his daughter. Dr. Lantis also implanted himself and his daughter into Gabriel. However, you won't know any of this unless you manage to find the "Secret Files". Beyond that? He is a SUPER Boss with very little more revealed about him other than "oh, he's really smart". What was he like as a father? A Symbologist? A PERSON? What does he really look like? No one knows. Was he an otherwise good person who snapped? Was he a narcissistic jerkass made worse by grief? Was he evil? All of the above? None? He isn't mentioned in any other Star Ocean game, so we may never know.

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