Created By: theFirebottle on May 28, 2009

Desk Jockey

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I must be going crazy... do we really not have this one?

A character who has been promoted to the rank of inaction, or a character whose career path within an action-oriented organization is pedestrian. Usually found in shows that revolve around military, Mildly Military, or Police Procedural organizations. Usually derided as a Non-Action Guy or Obstructive Bureaucrat who pushes paper around all day and would be completely useless in an action situation. Could be top brass or mid/low-ranked support staff.

It's different from Kicked Upstairs in that the character may actually have been a competent Action Hero in his/her youth but couldn't avoid getting promoted on considerable merit.


  • Starfleet admirals are never seen in action. When James Kirk gets promoted to admiral, he hates being a Desk Jockey and does his level best to get either demoted back into action or kicked out.
  • Stargate's SGC Generals spend much of their screen time at paper-laden desks.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • May 28, 2009
    if we don't,I have af ew good examples...If I'm understanding you right, this is about a character who was previously an Action guy or a Field-man and got kicked to the desk?
    • Subverted In The Lives Of Others at the end of the movie one of the main characters (who did a good job) is demoted to the mail-room.
    • Subverted also in Hot Fuzz at the beginning: they try to promote Nicholas Angel on his merits (and because the rest of the froce does not like him). But Iistead of a Desk Job he gets transferred to the middle of nowhere.
  • May 28, 2009
    • Captain Samual Vimes of the Disk World Night Watch gets promoted to Commander of the Watch. He then spends a lot of time fighting this trope.
  • May 28, 2009
    random surfer
    In one of the Foundation books one of the Emperor's gardeners gets promoted against his will to head gardener; he feels the promotion will take him away from his beloved gardening and make a desk jockey out of him (he's right). He assassinates the Emperor over it.
  • May 29, 2009
    "When I was a lad" from Gilbert And Sullivan's HMS Pinafore is all about this. How do you get to be the ruler of the Queen's navy? Kick ass at pushing paper and doing not much else!
  • May 29, 2009
    • In Metroid Prime 2, one character complains about it, saying that it would never happen to Samus.
  • May 29, 2009
    • Hayate and Reinforce are mostly confined to desk jobs in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS.
    • In Mass Effect, ex-Spectre candidate Captain David Anderson is confined to a desk job at the beginning of the game, though you can make him the Terran representative in the galaxy in the end.

    The tendency of high-ranks to be occupied with desk work is mentioned in Colonel Badass. The antithesis to it is the Four Star Badass.
  • May 29, 2009
    In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Wedge Antilles resists being promoted to General because he wants to stay a pilot rather than get stuck behind a desk. He finally relents when he finds out that his underlings have started refusing their promotions for the same reasons, and he doesn't want to impede their careers (or bring about the total collapse of the New Republic's rank system)
  • May 29, 2009
    Related to being Kicked Upstairs?
  • June 3, 2009
    Okay, I'm gonna launch this over the weekend when I have some time to expand the writeup. No objections?
  • June 3, 2009
    No objection.

    This trope is pointed out in David Drake's RCN series. As the captain of a frigate Daniel Leary has seen more combat than most fleet admirals.
  • June 3, 2009
    I'm not sure if this applies... But Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles was legally forced to take a desk job after being sued by one of the people he rescued...