Created By: Bisected8 on September 11, 2012 Last Edited By: Bisected8 on October 14, 2012
Troped

The Team Benefactor - Name Crowner Open

The member of the hero's crew who funds their quest, financially or otherwise.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Formerly The Backer and The Rich Guy

Needs a Better Name: Click Here

The Team Benefactor is the member of the team who allows the adventure to continue by supplying some sort of resource they (and only they) have access to rather than their own talents (unless said talents are something very narrow). The resource in question might be;

  • Money (Either covering the group's expenses as they travel or providing a large sum of money to fund the trip).
  • Knowledge of what they're specifically dealing with (characters who provide this are often The Smart Guy as well).
  • Being The Chosen Zero, who hasn't got anything in their favour apart from some vague prophecy that they'll be useful.
  • Have something special about them (e.g. being of a given lineage needed to enter their ancestor's tomb) that the group need to continue.
  • Just own a means of transport which the group need to make use of.
  • Have some sort of connection to someone who fits one of the above, who agrees to help on the condition that this character can travel with the group (e.g. the representative of a company who's funding an expedition or the son of a king who lent the group a ship).

This trope a good way to justify The Friend Nobody Likes, since it allows the writer to include a character that is at odds with the rest but they can't get rid of. Even if they're not, it's likely that what they provide is the only thing they can provide (at first), making them The Millstone. The expertise variant is the most likely to subvert this, since their knowledge might allow them to double as The Medic or a Gadgeteer Genius even if they aren't a Badass Bookworm.

Characters who provide money might be an example of Uncle Pennybags or Spoiled Sweet. A character with some sort of destiny in this position might be The Chosen Zero if they don't provide anything but their status as such. A character who merely gives the heroes what they need and sends them on their way (without joining them) is some form of Big Good rather than this trope. If this character joins the group as The Sixth Ranger then they might be a Mysterious Backer or an Anonymous Benefactor. They often appear in a Caper Crew. Compare Eigen Plot where it is contrived so each character can overcome an obstacle. See also Crimefighting with Cash (for when this trope is a superpower).

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Dryden Fassa in The Vision of Escaflowne is an Intrepid Merchant, with zero fighting skills, who manages to join Hitomi and Van's little gang by providing funding (read: an ungodly sum of money) for the eponymous mech's mid-season repairs.
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Sylia Stingray serves as both the leader and the backer for the Knight Sabers. She designs all of their equipment, including their hardsuits, and finances their operations, using her family's wealth, and by lining assignments with high paying officials, and businessmen.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Bulma and her family fund and personally build the ludicrously expensive operations of building interstellar spacecraft, time machines, and the copious amounts of food that saiyans eat. Ox King and Hercule do too, to a lesser extent.

Comics
  • Angel acted in this capacity when he was with the Champions. He funded the group as well as being on the team. He also funded and led The Defenders, turning them into an actual team instead of a non-team.
    • Nighthawk (the Marvel Comics version of Batman) provided funds for the Defenders while he was on the non-team, and they met at his ranch estate.
  • Iron Man's civilian identity, Tony Stark, originally funded The Avengers, setting them up in his mansion and giving them the use of his butler Jarvis.
  • The Immortal Iron Fist would sometimes fund the Heroes For Hire group if Luke Cage was hardup for cash.
  • Kate Bishop (the Hawkeye of Young Avengers) provides funding for the team using her father's wealth, and converts one of his old buildings into a base for their operations. Unlike most examples, not only is she a fully fledged member of the group, she sometimes also acts as their unofficial leader.
  • R. J. Brande funded the Legion of Super Heroes. In the current version (based mostly on the original one) he gained his fortune by making suns.

Film
  • Ruben in Ocean's Eleven. All he does is provide the initial investment and snark.
  • Inception: Saito, a ludicrously wealthy CEO, hires the team to perform the inception, and insists on going with them to protect his investment. He buys an entire airline to make it easier for them to get to their target, but isn't much use after that.
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has the "bond company stooge" who (if I remember correctly) is an accountant who joins the crew to report back to their benefactors and make sure they stay within budget.
  • Villainous example; The Neimodian race from Star Wars is cowardly and lacks military expertise, but their participation in the Separatist Confederacy provides it with resources, since they control the Trade Federation. In the novellization of Revenge of the Sith, the Neimodian viceroy Nute Gunray tries to call General Grievous out, pointing that all of Grievous' sucess is funded by Neimodian money. Grievous is not impressed.
  • Fight Club: The narrator is an example of this, since he blackmails his boss at a large automobile company into funding Fight Club, and presumably later Project Mayhem. Of course, also being Tyler, the same person provides all the leadership and creative force behind those operations too, but he is not aware of that at the time.
  • Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network. He's the team member who repeatedly steps in with the cheque book before the money starts rolling in.

Literature
  • Gandalf has shades of this in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but his sheer power and habit of disappearing to deal with his own business pushes him closer to Big Good status.
  • Toad from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows starts out as this. He provides the caravan for their trip but doesn't really give much else to the team apart from that and his dangerous, endless desire for adventure. He becomes pretty resourceful past the halfway mark of the novel, though.
  • The protagonist (a journalist) of The Lost World is essentially on the trip to authenticate everything they find (since the professor has been ridiculed for years for his theories).

Live Action Television
  • In Prison Break one character invokes this trope to keep himself useful by memorising and destroying a map the rest of the cast are following.
  • In season two of Nikita, Birkhoff provides the money, the home base, and is the team's invaluable Techno Wizard.
  • A BBC adaptation of The Lost World had the protagonist secure his place on the trip by having his employers help fund it.

Video Game
  • In the metagame of World of Warcraft, healers were like this (they were hard to level up so there weren't many about, but they were needed to survive in most of the endgame instances). This lead to the stereotype of a Jerk Ass who played a priest so other players would have no choice but to put up with them.
  • In Dragon Age 2, Varric uses his wide network of connections to find jobs for Hawke, keep the Coterie off Anders' back, and keep Merrill out of trouble with the City Guard.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, King Edgar of Figaro provides much of the resources for the Player Party. He is also the resident Gadgeteer Genius.

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 83
  • September 11, 2012
    Boston
    Saito has this role, kindasorta, in Inception.
  • September 11, 2012
    abk0100
    definitely Saito
  • September 11, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Can overlap with Anonymous Benefactor.
  • September 11, 2012
    surgoshan
    • Ruben in Oceans Eleven. All he does is provide the initial investment and snark.
  • September 11, 2012
    Bisected8
    ^^^, ^^^^ Could you elaborate on what Saito does?
  • September 11, 2012
    Koveras
    • Dryden Fassa in The Vision Of Escaflowne is an Intrepid Merchant with zero fighting skills, who manages to join Hitomi and Van's little gang by providing funding (read: an ungodly sum of money) for the eponymous mech's mid-season repairs.
  • September 11, 2012
    abk0100
    • Inception: Saito, ludicrously wealthy CEO, hires the team to perform the inception, and insists on going with them to protect his investment. He buys an entire airline to make it easier for them to get to their target, but isn't much use after that.
  • September 11, 2012
    MiinU
    may also one be part of a Caper Crew.
  • September 11, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou has the "bond company stooge" who (if I remember correctly) is an accountant who joins the crew to report back to their benefactors and make sure they stay within budget.
  • September 11, 2012
    Duncan
    Charlie in Charlie's Angels- the owner of the Private Investigation agency that employs the women.
  • September 11, 2012
    YC19916
    Doug in The Hangover could qualify. he provides the reason for being in Las Vegas and finding him is the films main plot and yet he contributes very little
  • September 12, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime

    • Bubblegum Crisis: Sylia Stingray serves as both the leader and the backer for the Knight Sabers. She designs all of their equipment, including their hardsuits, and finances their operations, using her family's wealth, and by lining up assignments with high paying officials, and businessmen.
  • September 12, 2012
    Bisected8
    @YC 19916: Not really an example, since he's driving the plot, not the protagonists.
  • September 13, 2012
    Bisected8
    Any thoughts on the name? Or is it fine as is?

    I don't think this would lend itself to a page image (feel free to surprise me) but if anyone's got a page quote, I'm all ears.
  • September 13, 2012
    aurora369
    A nasty example: the Neimodian race from Star Wars is cowardly and lacks military expertise, but their participation in the Separatist Confederacy provides it with resources, since they control the Trade Federation. In the novellization of Revenge Of The Sith, the Neimodian viceroy Nute Gunray tries to call General Grievous out, pointing that all of Grievous' sucess is funded by Neimodian money. Grievous is not impressed.
  • September 13, 2012
    abk0100
    i like the name
  • September 13, 2012
    Wumblee
    Literature:

    Toad from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows starts out as this. He provides the caravan for their trip but doesn't really give much else to the team apart from that and his dangerous, endless desire for adventure. He becomes pretty resourceful past the halfway mark of the novel, though.
  • September 13, 2012
    kjnoren
    I believe the description is too wide, and quite rambling.

    My impression from the title and the laconic was that this was a character who has a quite passive role in the stories: grab the protagonists, tell them the issue at hand, stay at home, get the report on the result.

    But the description is quite a bit wider, so characters like the Neimodians and Gandalf also fits. Gandalf is most explicitly not this guy - he's an active participant in the story and the adventures.

    Some examples that fit this mold are Charlie of Charlies Angels and Judge Fulton of The Persuaders.
  • September 13, 2012
    Bisected8
    Well someone who just stayed behind wouldn't be part of the ensemble...

    Could you explain where I was rambling (I'd best cut the filler out if that's the case)? I tried to keep it into three distinct paragraphs (A description, a brief analysis, and a comparison to other tropes) and I thought it was a fairly easy trope to pin down (they're the member of The Leader's crew who's role is to provide some sort of resource that they need).

    EDIT: I've edited the laconic and the first sentence of the description to make this a bit clearer
  • September 13, 2012
    Quatic
    • Archangel in Airwolf
    • Wilton Knight (who dies in the premiere) and then Devon Miles, in Knight Rider
  • September 13, 2012
    Bisected8
    They're both closer to being the Big Good of their series, since they never really travelled with the protagonist...I think they might count though.
  • September 13, 2012
    NimmerStill
    • Fight Club: The narrator blackmails his boss at a large automobile company into funding Fight Club, and presumably later Project Mayhem. Of course, also being Tyler, the same person provides all the leadership and creative force behind those operations too, but he is not aware of that qua narrator at the time.
  • September 14, 2012
    kjnoren
    @Bisected8: Frankly, I think the entire description is rambling, unclear, and hard to follow. The word "they" is used a lot, without a clear inference who it refers to: the team or the backer. A long list of possible things the backer contributes. Lots of potholes, with mays and mights.

    Here's my vision of what this trope is about:

    Name: The Backer

    Laconic: A character who enables the group to function while still being apart from it

    The Backer is a character whose role is to bring the team members together, to give them a mission and a direction, and receive their results, but who is still apart from the group.

    This is a very handy character in bringing a disparate group of people together and sending them on episodic adventures. The recruitment might be by simply hiring them, or involve coercion. Taken to its logical extreme, this is a character that never appears in the stories, all we get are messages. In a way, The Backer can be thought of as a talking, recurring Mac Guffin.
  • September 14, 2012
    Koveras
    Maybe Batman in Justice League? He is the one who has built the Watchtower in Earth's orbit with his money for them to use as headquarters. Though, of course, he is more than just the backer, as he combines it with the roles of The Lancer and The Smart Guy.
  • September 14, 2012
    Bisected8
    @kjnoren: Sorry, but that's not what this trope is at all. What you've described is the Big Good. This is about a member of the team (that is the hero's team, the band, the group, the True Companions) who's role is to provide some sort of useful resource. Also, it's bad practise to pothole a trope in its own description more than once.

    Batman's a pretty clear example.
  • September 15, 2012
    kjnoren
    Then the name and the description is terrible, because I get no sense of what you're trying to accomplish here.
  • September 15, 2012
    Bisected8
    Can anyone else weigh in on this?

    EDIT: I've rewritten the description (mostly by putting the list of varients in the first paragraph into bullets),
  • September 15, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    I had no idea what the title was talking about, to be honest. :/

    The 'chosen one' bullet point doesn't really go with the others, either, I don't think. The basic idea is that this is a character who is part of the team but their only major contribution is to enable everyone else to do their stuff without having any directly-relevant skills, right? The Chosen One is usually (forced to be) more engaged than that...

    ...I'm kind of thinking about the idiom about involvement versus commitment now even though I'm not sure it's precisely relevant.
  • September 16, 2012
    Bisected8
    Would The Rich Guy make more sense (to go with The Big Guy, The Smart Guy, etc)?

    I've also changed The Chosen One to The Chosen Zero, since they usually don't have anything going for them other than their status at first.
  • September 16, 2012
    MorganWick
    Rich Guy doesn't imply the "backer" role (the former title actually made me think of Kickstarter, which made me think of a Kickstarter campaign for an adventuring group...). I would want to get "benefactor" in the title.
  • September 16, 2012
    norsicnumber2nd
    Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne in basically everything they're in. Steve Rogers (in The Avengers) inspires strength and teamwork and stuff, too.
  • September 16, 2012
    abk0100
    ^^ I like "benefactor"
  • September 16, 2012
    norsicnumber2nd
    ^ ditto
  • September 16, 2012
    Bisected8
    The problem with benefactor, is that it still has the same potential for confusion as The Backer.

    My thinking for calling it The Rich Guy was that it followed the same pattern as other tropes (e.g. The Smart Guy brings their Smarts, The Big Guy brings their strength, The Leader, formerly The Hero, brings their leadership skills, etc) which made it clearer that they were bringing their resources in to help the team, rather than just financing them and sending them off.

    I'll just use whichever gets the most votes.
  • September 16, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    From the name, it could be confused for any rich character. For the laconic, I thought it was anyone on the team who happened to be rich (like Angel in X Men and Iron Man in the Avengers).

    Since the trope is more specific, it needs a more specific name.
  • September 16, 2012
    Bisected8
    Good point. It needs to be something that makes it clear that the character a) Funds (or otherwise provides something for) the group and b) Is an active participant, not just an "investor".

    How does everyone feel about The Team Benefactor?
  • September 16, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ That could work.
  • September 16, 2012
    Bisected8
    I'll put that as the placeholder then. With any luck someone can think of something better.
  • September 16, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^Actually, Angel did act in this capacity, just not on the X-Men. When he was with the Champions he funded the group as well as being on the team. And he funded & led The Defenders, turning them into an actual team instead of a non-team.

    Also from The Defenders, Nighthawk (the Marvel Comics version of Batman) provided funds while he was on the non-team, and they met at his ranch estate.

    And and, Iron Man's Civilian identity did originally fund the Avengers, setting them up in his mansion and giving them the use of his butler Jarvis.
  • September 16, 2012
    Xtifr
    Team Benefactor seems ok. The laconic needs to have the reference to Five Man Band removed, though. That trope is far too abused, misused and shoehorned as it is. People need to be encouraged not to think it's the trope-about-teams.
  • September 17, 2012
    Bisected8
    ^^ I'll add those tomorrow (having some computer trouble).
  • September 17, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    And after this is launched, go to Lousy Alternate Titles, and put an entry: "We call it Team Benefactor because Team Sugar Daddy would just be wrong."
  • September 18, 2012
    TBeholder
    Team Sponsor?
  • September 19, 2012
    Bisected8
    That sounds a bit too much like someone who just funds the team, rather than an actual member of the band.

    *Still having some computer troubles, hopefully I'll be up nd running again by the end of the week.*
  • September 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Ted Turner owned the Atlana Braves and managed them for one game, before it was pointed out to him that the rules specifically prohibited managers from having a financial stake in the team.

    George Halas owned, managed, and coached the Chicago Bears for many years. He was also a player on the team in his younger days.
  • September 21, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ This isn't about sports teams, more like crimefighting teams.

    Or would it also include villains?
  • September 21, 2012
    Bisected8
    It's about teams in general (all groups are eligable, including the Five Man Band, Five Bad Band, Player Party, etc). I'm not sure a sports team would be an example though...
  • September 22, 2012
    SailorKitty

    Video Games

    • In Dragon Age 2, Varric uses his wide network of connections to find jobs for Hawke, keep the Coterie off Anders' back, and keep Merrill out of trouble with the City Guard.

    TV

    • In season two of Nikita, Birkhoff provides the money, the home base, and is the team's invaluable Techno Wizard.
  • September 25, 2012
    Koveras
  • October 1, 2012
    Bisected8
    So, any more name suggestions?
  • October 3, 2012
    johnnye
    Should Charlie from Charlies Angels count? He's not "part of the team", per se, he's more like The Spymaster or the Big Good. AFAIK, you never even see him.
  • October 3, 2012
    Bisected8
    ...he isn't an example then (I only really know about the show from Pop Cultural Osmosis v_v).

    In fact, Airwolf and Knight Rider don't seem to be either (since, from what I can tell, the characters in question just fund the hero without helping directly).
  • October 3, 2012
    AP
  • October 4, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^^ Wait. This requires more than just funding the team? It's that what a benefactor does?
  • October 4, 2012
    Bisected8
    Yeah, that's why I wanted a name which made it clearer that they were an actual member of the team rather than a silent partner or "investor".
  • October 4, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Why not? Why does that person have to be an active part of the team? Funding it is still a role, and Mission Control is another kind of team member that isn't in the active group.
  • October 4, 2012
    tardigrade
    Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network. He's the team member who repeatedly steps in with the cheque book before the money starts rolling in.
  • October 4, 2012
    Bisected8
    @Dragon Quest Z: Actually, I'd say Mission Control counts as an active member of the team. Just one who doesn't have the ability to physically influence things (the description of it notes that AIs which are physically present but can't do anything but talk also count). The same applies to this trope; they have to be an active member of the team who's contribution (or one of them) is bringing some sort of resource (in fact they could be the team's MC as well) rather than an area of expertise.

    @tardigrade: Could you elaborate?
  • October 4, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Why do they have to be? They are funding the team. That is still a role in the team.
  • October 4, 2012
    Bisected8
    If they're just giving the team their resources and aren't an actual member of it then that makes them more of a Big Good or mentor figure, doesn't it?
  • October 4, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ This is more specific. It's giving them the funds they need, when there is often a question of how they can afford to do this stuff.
  • October 5, 2012
    Bisected8
    I'm not sure I follow?
  • October 5, 2012
    bananasloth
    • Kate Bishop (the Hawkeye of Young Avengers) provides funding for the team using her father's wealth, and converts one of his old buildings into a base for their operations. Unlike most examples, not only is she a fully fledged member of the group, she sometimes also acts as their unofficial leader.

    See also Crimefighting With Cash.
  • October 5, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ The mentor is to teach and inspire, not fund. The Big Good says nothing about funding the team. How is that hard to follow.
  • October 5, 2012
    Bisected8
    I think I see your point, but the idea here is that the character has money (or whatever) as their ability. The Smart Guy helps the team with their mind, The Big Guy helps the team with their brawn, The Leader...leads, The Chick councils and this trope brings their money (or something else useful that anyone can own, but they have plenty of). Does that make sense?
  • October 5, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ That ability doesn't require being active. After all, someone who provides the money is still a role on the team.
  • October 5, 2012
    JonnyB
    Web Original
    • Trip Hope, the Executive Producer of The League Of STEAM's "Adventures of the League of S.T.E.A.M." web series, sometimes plays League benefactor Albert Able, Esq. in the videos. I believe he also sets them up on some quests, to retrieve items, etc.
  • October 5, 2012
    Bisected8
    @Dragon Quest Z: What I mean is, they have to be active in the way they're using the money (or what have you) rather than just handing the heroes a prepaid credit card or a briefcase full of money and calling it a day.

    This character is the one who hands the guard his bribe (or just pays the toll) and pays the innkeeper for their stay, or who drives the gang around in their car (and is the only one who's allowed to drive it). Not just someone who gave them a bag of cash or a car and waits around somewhere else while they're using it.
  • October 5, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Well that is a good distinction, it still is an important role in the team.
  • October 6, 2012
    mythbuster
    In Dragonball Z, Bulma and her family fund and personally build the ludicrously expensive operations of building interstellar spacecraft, time machines, and the copious amounts of food that saiyans eat. Ox King and Hercule do too, to a lesser extent.
  • October 6, 2012
    DracMonster
    Party Patron for alliteration? (Not sure if it passes the clarity test)
  • October 7, 2012
    Bisected8
    We don't seem to be getting anywhere on the name, so I've opened a crowner; here.

    Feel free to add your own suggestions.
  • October 7, 2012
    Koveras
  • October 7, 2012
    Bisected8
    Whoops, I must have copied the URL too early. Sorry. >_<;
  • October 8, 2012
    Bisected8
    There don't seem to be many votes....
  • October 9, 2012
    Telcontar
    I posted over here; that might or might not get a few more.
  • October 9, 2012
    Bisected8
    Good thinking.
  • October 9, 2012
    arromdee
    R. J. Brande funded the Legion Of Super Heroes. In the current version (based mostly on the original one) he gained his fortune by making suns.
  • October 12, 2012
    Bisected8
    The Team Benefactor seems to have been in the lead for the last two days. If it still is on Sunday I'll launch it as that.
  • October 13, 2012
    Bisected8
    One more day to go....
  • October 13, 2012
    Bisected8
    There don't seem to have been anymore votes, so I'll launch this tomorrow as The Team Benefactor.
  • October 14, 2012
    Koveras
    Just Launch It Already, man. This YKTTW is older than Jesus in the meantime...
  • October 14, 2012
    Bisected8
    Launching at 15:00 GMT +0
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=fmroyyz0w6o3jrujp1lvrml1&trope=TheTeamBenefactor