Created By: GrigorII on November 18, 2012 Last Edited By: Alucard on August 23, 2014

Mook Needs Recognition Badly

A character is a faceless goon, and does not like being so

Name Space:
Page Type:
Number Two: "You are number six"
Number Six: "I'm not a number! I'm a free man!"
It is good to have power and be in command. If you are the Big Bad, you have countless Faceless Goons ready to die at your command. If you are the General Ripper, you have countless Red Shirt Armies ready to die at your command. If you are a Corrupt Corporate Executive, you have countless White Collar Workers ready to die working at your command. And if you are the President Evil, well, then you have a whole country of Gullible Lemmings ready to die at your command.

However, this day we will not talk about this powerful man and his army of followers. Instead, we talk about a single and specific follower from this lot. He has a big problem: he wants some recognition from his boss. He has made important works for him, he he has been a steady and reliable worker, he has even saved his boss, or prevented his defeat... and yet, his boss does not recognize him. For him, his countless goons are all alike, all equally inferior, and fails to set one apart from the others.

It can also take the form of a citizen in a dystopia, a world were all people are like pieces of a clock. We may lack the boss figure in here, or it can be too high above, but there is a similar problem: the citizen who stands out of the masses and scream: "I exist! I have my own personality!"

In the case of machines, Growing Beyond Their Programming is a usual requirement. For this trope to apply, it should not be just a quest for self-improvement, it should be accompanied by a figure of authority who wants the machine to keep being Just a Machine. More than the machine itself, there should be someone opposing his change, or having to get used to it.

Not to be confused with A Day in the Limelight. The character is unimportant only as plot context, for us readers, the character is important, he may even be main character of the story. If it is a one-to-one relation between servant and boss, with no countless other servants involved, it's just a Beleaguered Assistant.



  • The DC crossover Invasion! features an alien race of Spocks, the Dominators. They wage a war on the human race, seeking to understand and control the gene that allows the existence of metahumans. The aliens are defeated, but a young Dominator counters the human victory by creating a bomb that would kill all metahumans. He thought that, by doing this, his society would honour him with their highest recognition: allowing him to have an individual name.
  • The Argentine comic book Ernie Pike, set in WWII. It does not feature important battles or the known military personnel, just human stories of random soldiers from either army. Either if fighting for the allies or the axis (sometimes, the detail is not even mentioned), all soldiers in the battlefield are just people who, having the option to choose, would better stay at home with their beloved ones.
  • When Ultron created The Vision, he did not give him a name. Not even a number. The wasp described him as "some sort of unearthly inhuman vision", and it sticked. The Vision turned against Ultron immediately, and began a quest to be more human.
  • Hydra is one of those terrorist organizations in Marvel with a nearly-infinite supply of faceless goons. We known some of Hydra's leaders, such as Madame Viper or Red Skull, but do we know of any of those goons on a first-name basis? Yes, of course! Bob, agent of Hydra, and Deadpool's sidekick!


  • Bicentennial Man is a movie about a robot of the class NDR, one of several countless servant robots made by North Am Robotics. The film details how he slowly develops a unique personality, upgrade his body to make it more human, and his struggle to be accepted as an equal to a human being, first by his master, then by North Am Robotics, and finally by the Congress.
  • Inverted in Iron Man 3. The real villain began in this role many years ago, but he realizes later the advantages of staying in the shadows, and operated through a decoy villain instead.


Live action TV

  • The quote at the top is from the British TV series The Prisoner. It is about a man who resigns from a government job, and gets kidnapped and taken prisoner to a strange village, where he has a number rather than a name.
  • This was a recurring theme of Star Trek: Voyager. A ship stranded in the other side of the galaxy, where both the medic and the medical assistant died, had to rely on the Emergency Holographic Doctor (a robot, if you will) for everyday medical needs. Although only one per ship, the doctor is a standard software included in all the ships, and it was initially treated as such. As the series advanced, he managed to develop his own personality and be accepted by the crew as an equal. A similar theme was used with 7 of 9, a human rescued from the Borg, who rediscovered her humanity.


  • There would be countless examples to list. No matter if the situation is really that accurate, Rock music and its countless variants have always said that "the system" wants you to be an automat, a mere consumer and a quiet citizen. And the answer: defy the authority, break the rules, destroy the system, be yourself! Anarchy in the UK! School's out! Break the law! Run free! Fight the world! Kill'em all!

Western animation

  • The Simpsons: This was a running gag about Homer Simpson in the Nuclear plant. Mr. Burns never recognized him, and Smithers clarified something in the lines "It's Homer Simpson, sr., an organ bank of the sector 7-G". It got really out of control at the episode "Who shoot Mr. Burns?"
    • Bart Simpson has a similar problem with Krusty. In most cases, Krusty does not initially recognize him, and treat him as yet another annoying fan.
  • Futurama: In the episode "Free will hunting", Bender is declared innocent of a crime because he is a robot and has no free will, only capable to do what he is programmed to do. He finally gets a "free will unit" that he can plug to a slot in his head to have free will. And, as a happy ending, he is condemned for murder attempt.
  • The clonetroopers in The Clone Wars use this as their recurring theme. After all, they are the faceless goons dictionary definition (just remember their name, they are Expendable Clones). In this animated series they make up proper names for themselves instead of numbers, ruminate on their status as living weapons, try their best to develop free will and individuality, as adviced by Yoda. Of course, we know that almost none of them will defy Order 66.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • November 18, 2012
  • November 18, 2012

    • Bob Seger had a song called "Feel Like A Number" that was all about this, with a list of numerous ways his existence is depersonalized by different organs of society, with the defiant refrain:
      I feel like a number/ I'm not a number/ I'm not a number/ Dammit I'm a man/ I said I'm a man

  • November 19, 2012
    this Far Side cartoon ("I gotta be me!"). Although it doesn't involve an individual being known as "a number", it invokes the spirit of the trope, someone asserting their individuality in a sea of sameness.
  • November 19, 2012
    In Les Miserables, Javert refers to Jean Valjean by his prisoner number, 24601.
  • November 20, 2012
    Tip: Do not use Camel Case in a YKTTW's working title. Space and punctuate it exactly how it might appear in the final article.

    (Otherwise, agreeing with Karjam below about needing better titles.)
  • November 20, 2012
    Guess That Trope Definition!

    The name's suffering from Trope Namer Syndrome, as it's not indicative that it's related to faceless mooks nor the fact that said mook doesn't like being one.
  • November 20, 2012
    Defying Dehumanization

    Wants To Be A Special Snowflake

    Complaint In The Machine (Does that work as a pun on "cog in the machine"?)
  • November 20, 2012
    Defying Dehumanization sounds better, I think.
  • November 22, 2012
    I changed the title to "Defying Dehumanization". The "Wants to be special" sounds similar to a trope around there, which is for character who want to be fantastic and not mere regular human being (as in having superpowers, fighting in a fantastic crusade, or similar things).
  • November 22, 2012
  • November 22, 2012
  • November 24, 2012
    The clonetroopers in The Clone Wars use this as their recurring theme. They make up proper names for themselves instead of numbers, ruminate on their status as living weapons, try their best to develop free will and individuality, as adviced by Yoda. Of course, we know that almost none of them will defy Order 66.
  • December 5, 2012
    E-102 Gamma from Sonic Adventure. She saves Amy, hunts the others, and gives her life
  • November 12, 2013
    • Hokuto's Lackey in Cromartie High School is constantly trying to tell everyone else what his name is, but always gets interrupted in some way or another. Everyone just knows him as "Hokuto's Lackey", and got so used to it that they eventually tell him that it wouldn't feel right to learn his name at that point because it would completely change the dynamic of the friendship they have with him.

    Heh. A defied example of a trope about defying something.
  • November 12, 2013
    Well. Defying Dehumanization ain't half bad.

    but it makes the trope sound like a deep, existential treatise on how the working class man must deal with discrimination and subhuman treatment from his abusive masters.

    when it's about a mook fed up of being a mere part of a statistical whole.

    suggesting Mook Needs Recognition Badly or Mook Needs Uniqueness Badly. yeah, snowclones Wizard Needs Food Badly. emphasizing badly.

    also. related to Uniqueness Value.
  • November 20, 2013
    You need to correct the Star Trek Voyager entry. The entire medical staff died, not just one doctor and one nurse. With a nominal staff size of a hundred fifty or two hundred, I'd imagine at least a couple dozen medical personnel would be standard.
  • November 20, 2013
    • In Mega Man Zero, TK-31 is just a working-class Reploid in Neo Arcadia. But it changed when he happened to stumble into an ancient library containing infos of the Elf Wars and other events that surround it (which, as Harpuia notes, are classified infos and those who happened to discover it will be declared a Maverick). He then Went Mad From The Revelation, claiming himself to be the "Elpis" of the Project Elpisnote , and renaming himself "Elpizo" (simply Elpis in Japanese version). To that end, he then becomes the leader of La Resistance in the second game, then tries an all-out attack on Neo Arcadia, and when it failed, he sought the Dark Elf (sealed by X's body) to empower him.
  • November 20, 2013
    Nate, Voyager (in fact, all ships in the Star Trek franchise, as far as I know) had no "medical personnel", only a main doctor, a nurse and that's it. That's because The Main Characters Do Everything.
  • November 21, 2013
    The first paragraph of the description starts with some irrelevant background, and the second is an Example As A Thesis.

    I also think the trope is confused on what it is about, partly because of the bad description. Is it about recognition of worth from ones superiors, or is it about identity? They are connected but still distinct.

    The name also should be improved. I'd prefer to use Redshirt since it's easier to go from the protagonist to the villain side.

    Defying Dehumanisation worked better, but is a mouthful. Wishing For A Mauve Shirt could work, referencing the upgrade.
  • November 21, 2013
    Two heroic examples: One character in Galaxy Quest is terrified that he's going to die because he played a Red Shirt in the series, and will die because no one knows his name. Similarly, Daigo in The Order Of The Stick exchanges his name with a fellow soldier so they both get Nominal Importance (and later get married).
  • November 21, 2013
    Meta: According to one anecdote about Star Trek The Next Generation Colm Meaney, who at the time played a nameless Recurring Extra who was in charge of the transporters, became upset when he saw in a script that someone named "O'Brien" was the Transporter Chief in the episode. "But I always run the transporters!" Replied Jonathan Frakes, one of the lead actors, "Relax Colm, they just gave you a name."
  • November 21, 2013
    ^^ Everyman Needs Uniqueness Badly then? Mauve Shirt are previously Red Shirts who got "promoted" story importance wise. and not all examples involve Red Shirts. they're kinda Mauve Shirt already.
  • November 21, 2013
    I don't think the titles involving shirt colors are good, per Everythings Worse With Snowclones. A reader may not get the joke and not understand the meaning, and wonder "mauve shirt? But if the characters has always used a blue shirt!", thinking that it's literally about shirts.
  • November 21, 2013
    Red Shirt and Mauve Shirt are Bad Trope Namers (of Star Trek) anyways.

    Yeah, I'd like Everyman Needs Uniqueness Badly - but then again, we have I Just Want To Be Special.