Created By: Damr1990 on April 22, 2011 Last Edited By: Damr1990 on September 29, 2012

The Backbone

A character who tries to make his/her shy friend to be more Assertive

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"Listen, Simon, never forget. Just believe in yourself! Not in the Simon that I believe in, not in the Kamina that you believe in, believe in the Simon... that believes in you!"
You've got to learn to be Assertive Fluttershy, Don't be afraid of speak off

You known when There this person, he/she (let's say a she) is very timid, and doesn't want to call too much atention, she doesn't have many friends, often acts in a clumsy way and Apologises a Lot , she probably has some hidden skills, but she doesn't want to be a showoff, may even be The Chosen One but also has a low image of herself and she let her feelings be hurted without complaining

and when it comes to take a desition or confront some problem , she doesn't respond very well to preasure, may just do as other people tells her to do in order to avoid fights, panics, or just plain is unable to give a straight answer

Then it Comes the Backbone The backbone is a character whose role is precisely to help the Shrinking Violet to come out of the shell, they can have a wide vatiety of personalities: a sarcastic friend who while sarcastic, will always give her the best suggestion, a stoic person, blunt and too direct in his/her speaking, who, while can hurt her feelings from time to time, will alwyas tell her the honest truth, and also will not have any problem pointing the defects of those who mess with her friend, makit it Imnune to The Libby's atacks , a member of the popular group people, who somehow is friend of the Shrinking violet and thinks she needs to be more social, a older student/proffesor who sees the potentian of the shrinking violet and wants them to develop it to it's fullest, and even a bully who somehow befriended the Shrinking Violet and doesn't want other people to mess with her, acting as her bodygyard

the backbone has a more outgoing person thatn the violet, and how they ended being friends varies, maybe the were childhood friends, who despite the fact they growed up in diferent ways, never stoped being friends, perhaps the shrinking violet helped the backbone in a hard situation the past and now they try to return the favor or even is possible the backbone was similar to the violet in the past and wants him/her to come out of the shell so he/she can have a better life. In the end, it's not how they became friends, but the fact that this character will help the violet no matter what, always showing a strong sensce of loyalty to his/her friend.

it must be noted that most of the time, the backbone doesn't have any personal motives to want the violet to come out, he/she does't win anything for this, except maybe the satisfaction to know they helped a friend, hoewever, if the Karma dictates he/she must win something,hey! thats a plus! but it must be winned out of generosity, not as a wanted reward, however cases when someone did wanted something to but ended up genuinely worryng for her also count

However, the role of this character will not to be "the sword" of the shrinking violet, THE BACKBONE WILL NOT FIGHTS THE VIOLET'S FIGHTS, while them will stand up from his/her friend if needed (and in fact, if they are the violent kind and/or they have little time being friends, the bakcbone may acually start as a sword), the main concern of the backbone will be that the violet can develop some guts of their own, so they can deffend by themselves, however, if things get bad and the violet needs a somewhere to cry they always will be ther to cheer them up and motivate them to try again

It also must be noted, that while they want the violet to come out of the shell, THEY DON'T FORCE THE VIOLET TO CHANGE , while depending on the type of character has this role, the more agresive types may try to make him/her confront the situation directly, while the tamer characters will try to conveince her with a talk first, but in most cases the backbone will know how much they can pressure they can apply without breaking the violet and will stop when if they have to, and even in the case they have to take a more firm position when it takes to conveince the violet, they will always do it with the best intention, and maybe apologize after that

however, this doesn't mean they are just there to make their egos grow, they want them to become a secure, they don't whant them bo become the kind of person that the violets were afraid in the first place, if by any chances the violet changes their character and turns into a pretentios person, gets in the wrong group, or just changes for worse , expect the backbone to confront them and remind them their mistakes and limitations, and try to return them into the right way again

If Done correctly, it helps as a great tool for the character development of the violet, it can show a contrast from both characters and how their relationship changes as the violet becomes more secure, and depending of the type of character it may also show how this character has aquired some of the good things of the violet (for example, at the beginning the backbone was a jerk, but after being the violet's friend they become more considerate on their own), done badly it could become a character whose entire life revolves around the violet and no traits on their own or even made the violet seem as an useless character who always needs to be helped by the backbone

In Resume, the backbone is:
  • A extroverted person who is friend of a Shrinking violet
  • It's really loyal to his/her friend
  • they don't want to resolve all the problems the violet has
  • rather their main interest is that the violet can do it him/herself
  • doesn't have any personal benefict from the violet's growth (at least not one that they want, if they get any reward it will be as a side effect, not as a intended goal from the begginging)
  • don't force the violet's to change, but try to make him/her to confront their problems and become more assertive
  • wants the violet to still being good, if they made a mistake or made a wrong turn, they'll be ther to correct them and put them back on the right way

Compare/contrast with The Lancer, The Chick(is not uncommon for them to take this role, specially if they are the team's mom), The heart(shares many of their atributes), Students with Sempai/Kohai mechaninc can work this way, Stealth Mentor, Big Brother Complex (they both are very similar, and want their protegés to improve, eventhough they don't show it directly), both the Mysterious Protector and the Stealth Mentor share the "not so direct /let them do it for themselves" approach, Poisonous Friend(when they decide to become "the Sword" of the violet and do the fight for them... even if it has to be a dirty fight), Living Emotional Crutch For when the protected becomes too dependant of the backbone ,Yandere(when they become too obsesed or jealous with the character they want to protect),the corrupter(when this character actually incites them to turn to the Dark Side), both a Handsome Lech, a Bastard Boyfriend and a Manipulative Bastard may claim to be this, but they are probably using the violet to their own benefit

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Urd is constantly trying this for Keichi in Ah! My Goddess.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Kamina tries to get Simon to be more confident.
    • Also This is a very interesting example, Because Both Simon and Kamina are Both The Backbone and the Emontional Crutch of each other at the same time, Simon is competent, but too timid live up to it. Kamina, meanwhile, knows how to inspire confidence, but can't do much by himself other than boast. For these reasons both believe they need the other to go on. Simon's Ability to Get the job done inspire kamina, who in change, gives simon the confidence to continue through his speeches
    "Kamina: Hey, don't you remember you were the method to my madness? The one who made my big talk more than words? "
    • he is also conscious of Simon's low self-stern but gladly will share part of his confidence with him, this is easily showed through his initial speech to him
    "Listen up, Simon. Don't believe in yourself. Believe in me! Believe in me, who believes in you!"

  • However before Kamina dies he realizes the Unfortunate Implications of the above line, as it makes Simon too dependant on him, and changes it to fit better the attitude he wanted from simmon in the first place, to be more self-confidant:
"Listen, Simon, never forget. Just believe in yourself! Not in the Simon that I believe in, not in the Kamina that you believe in, believe in the Simon... that believes in you!"

Film

Literature
  • Shakespeare example: Shallow is his nephew Slender's backbone in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Live Action-TV
  • Gilligan's Island: a Plain Jane named Eva Grubb gets stranded on the island. Ginger gives her a makeover and it turns out she looks just like Ginger. Grubb manages to steal a powerboat and leaves a note saying she's going to Hollywood to take over Ginger's career.
  • The Brady Bunch: Marcia takes a shy girl named Molly who has been mockingly nomiated for "Banquet Night Hostess" under her wing and gives her a makeover & self confidence. Marcia then finds out the she has been nominated as the other candidate - but she already gave Molly all her best notes for the debate speech, and everybody thinks Molly is so much cooler now. In the end Molly wins, but realizes that without Marcia's help she wouldn't've won so she proposes that they be "co-hostesses."
  • Jon Snow is this to Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones.

Web Original
  • Homestuck. Vriska claims that she's trying to make Tavros tougher and more assertive. Considering that Vriska believes in the effects of ancestry and she knows that Tavros's ancestor was a great leader (and her own ancestor's one true love), it's likely that she really is trying to help Tavros on some level. However, her methods are outright abusive and tend to hurt his confidence more than they help. Eventually, Tavros fails to be assertive at one crucial moment, and Vriska gives up on him.

Western Animation

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • April 23, 2011
    Chabal2
    Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Kamina tries to get Simon to be more confident.

  • April 23, 2011
    Bisected8
    Extreme cases might overlap with Cloudcuckoolanders Minder
  • May 13, 2011
    Damr1990
    Depending on How you see it, Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion could be considered one, although she is Shinji's Commander Officer and she(as well as everybody on NERV) does gain something of using shinji (Surviving the Atack of the angels), she goes beyond her official duties, going as far as Making Shinji move to her house in order to look out for him (and to reduce her own lonelines), tried to help him to do more friends and improve his self-confidence, and in the different occations shinji did quit NERV, she first talked to him to make him recapacitate and make him realize the conssequensces of his desitions, while never forcing him to Stay on NERV... however, this show being this show... things didn't went out pretty well
  • May 19, 2011
    Damr1990
    See also Living Emotional Crutch for the cases when the the Violet gets too dependant of their backbones
  • May 19, 2011
    Gatomon41
    My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Angel is Fluttershy's backbone.
  • May 20, 2011
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
  • May 20, 2011
    Augustine
    Ritsu for Mio in K-on!.
  • May 20, 2011
    GinaInTheKingsRoad
    • Shakespeare example: Shallow is his nephew Slender's backbone in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
  • May 23, 2011
    Ardiente
    Rainbow Dash and Flutter Shy take turns during the Sonic Rainbow episode.
  • May 23, 2011
    CaveCat
    Subverted in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where Plankton only wanted Spongebob to assert himself in an attempt to build a second Chum Bucket.
  • May 23, 2011
    hevendor717
  • May 23, 2011
    ElaineRose
  • May 25, 2011
    Fanra
    Ferris Buellers Day Off:

    Ferris: I'm so disappointed in Cameron! Twenty bucks says he's in his car right now debating on whether or not to go out.
    Cameron: [Cameron's in his car] He'll [Ferris] keep calling me. He'll keep calling me until I come over. He'll make me feel guilty. This is uh... This is ridiculous, ok I'll go, I'll go, I'll go, I'll go, I'll go. What - I'LL GO. Shit.
  • May 26, 2011
    Premonition45
    Would Marty McFly count as a backbone for George McFly in 1955?
  • May 26, 2011
    Damr1990
    i'm not completey sure, maty also had to make sure George's date went propertly in order to ensure his own existance

    also

    @Augustine are you sure, for what i've seen, ritsu has little more ofa mix of Vitriolic Best Buds and "Tsukkomi and Boke" and a prankster/troll as well, however i haven't seen season 2 so maybe i missed an important momment

    i'm thinking if i should expand a little more the Selfishness/Interest part, maybe they can want a reward, but still giving priority to the Violet's needs
  • May 28, 2011
    MiVaTh
    About My Little Pony; EVERYONE is Fluttershy's backbone at some point.
  • May 28, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • The Brady Bunch: Marcia takes a shy girl named Molly who has been mockingly nomiated for "Banquet Night Hostess" under her wing and gives her a makeover & self confidence. Marcia then finds out the she has been nominated as the other candidate - but she already gave Molly all her best notes for the debate speech, and everybody thinks Molly is so much cooler now. In the end Molly wins, but realizes that without Marcia's help she wouldn't've won so she proposes that they be "co-hostesses."
    • Gilligans Island: a Plain Jane named Eva Grubb gets stranded on the island. Ginger gives her a makeover and it turns out she looks just like Ginger. Grubb manages to steal a powerboat and leaves a note saying she's going to Hollywood to take over Ginger's career.
  • May 30, 2011
    Damr1990
    ^However, Angel takes the gold because fluttershy is the only pony he'll help, to any other pony(or Spike), they better don't expect him to be very cooperative and we've seen him givin fluttershy ideas on more of one ocation
  • August 20, 2011
    MiinU

    Manga

    • In Aki Sora, Nami fills this role for her best friend, Kana, by giving her the confidence to ask Nami's twin brother, Sora, on a date. It's eventually revealed that Nami only helped Kana get together with Sora so she could live vicariously through him, since she was unable to express her own feelings for her. Double whammy since Kana was doing the exact same thing, by having Sora crossdress, as it was her way of secretly being with Nami! They eventually come realize their feelings for each other, thanks to the guy they were both using.
  • August 21, 2011
    TonyG
    Rugrats: Tommy to Chuckie.
  • August 22, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    I think Rainbow Dash (especially from the Sonic Rainboom episode) would provide a more fitting page quotation, though specific examples aren't coming to mind...
  • August 22, 2011
    nitrokitty
    I would argue that Jon Snow is this to Samwell Tarly in Game Of Thrones.
  • August 22, 2011
    MetaFour
    • Homestuck. Vriska claims that she's trying to make Tavros tougher and more assertive. Considering that Vriska believes in the effects of ancestry and she knows that Tavros's ancestor was a great leader (and her own ancestor's one true love), it's likely that she really is trying to help Tavros on some level. However, her methods are outright abusive and tend to hurt his confidence more than they help. Eventually, Tavros fails to be assertive at one crucial moment, and Vriska gives up on him.
  • October 13, 2011
    spideydude
    Yul Brynner becomes this for Junior in Cool Runnings.
  • October 28, 2011
    TBeholder
    Growing The Backbone for a subtrope of Character Development.

    For a role, maybe Backbone Gardener =) But i'm not sure it's not yet another variety of the recent proposals falling under "[Trope]-ifier" template without any good reason to separate this from [Trope].
  • February 18, 2012
    Damr1990
    bump
  • February 19, 2012
    Koveras
  • February 19, 2012
    TBeholder
    so, a failed launch?
  • September 21, 2012
    Damr1990
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=dl6l32ap4dbfsym9401kb3zh