Created By: BuckRiveraJuly 19, 2011 Last Edited By: BuckRiveraFebruary 23, 2012
Nuked

Ongoing Obvious Omission

Nobody Poops - for 180 episodes!

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Needs More Examples. Needs A Better Name. Possible candidates: Elephant Shaped Hole In The Living Room, Elephant Shaped Hole, Conservation Of Missing Detail. Input's welcome.


Every detail is important. That's called the Law Of Conservation Of Detail. Relevant plot information is revealed on a need-to-know basis - because there are limits to the running time of the work and the audience's attention span. But what if time becomes less of an object, if, say, your show becomes a Long Runner or gives rise to an Expanded Universe? Does it still make sense that Nobody Poops if your show has gone on for five years and has seen more and more Filler material, Slice Of Life stories and Lower Deck Episodes? When it seems increasingly unlikely that a given topic that pertains to the kind of situations the characters often get in has never been broached?

What had started out as an omission for the sake of the Law Of Conservation Of Detail or the Rule Of Cool has now become an Elephant In The Living Room, a conspicuous Artifact in spite - or one could argue because - of the convention that only the details actually shown are important. With more and more installments being churned out, the probability increases that not only the audience will call shenanigans but the people in charge, too, will want to address the missing detail, if only for laughs. Possible ways to deal with this include:

Alternatively, the omission may be addressed out-of-universe by Word Of God. There's always the possibility, however, that it never gets addressed and thus remains in Audience Reaction territory, should it be impossible to ascertain whether the writers used the trope deliberately or not.

See There Are No Indexes for popular candidates for this trope. Compare Forgotten Phlebotinum. Contrast with Just Eat Gilligan (where the omission is necessary). Find solace in Bellisarios Maxim.


Examples:

Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • July 19, 2011
    Aielyn
    I'm sorry, but this is not a trope. This is just Law Of Conservation Of Detail looked at from a different perspective.
  • July 19, 2011
    Shnakepup
    Yeah, I'm trying to think of how examples would be listed. "I didn't see someone poop once on Friends. I feel robbed."

  • July 19, 2011
    NateTheGreat
    Wrong show to make that joke with. Ross got trapped in the bathroom when his leather pants shrunk, Joey played catch while using the toilet, etc.
  • July 19, 2011
    Stratadrake
    That last line of "someone might want to address the Elephant In The Living Room" sounds possibly tropable, except that it would probably be a Lampshade Hanging of Conservation Of Detail (or aforementioned Elephant).
  • July 19, 2011
    BuckRivera
    ^ That was what I was trying to get to. But there are multiple possibilities to deal with the non-existent elephant: Lampshade Hanging, Reimagining The Artifact, Hand Wave, Ret Con etc.

    Oh, and it's not just about pooping, natch, although I'll start off with one pooping example.

    Why is there no Headscratcher article?
  • July 20, 2011
    Aielyn
    I agree with Stratadrake - if you were to adjust the trope to focus on cases where an Elephant In The Living Room is addressed after a long period, it might actually be tropeable. But best not to focus on the discussion aspect (that is, the Lampshade Hanging). In fact, I'd think that the key quality of this trope would be that it suddenly not only gets addressed, but gets a remarkable amount of focus. So I'd probably drop the Voyager Nobody Poops example, which sounds like nothing more than a throwaway line.

    Oh, and the name needs to change. It's not a conservation trope in any sense.
  • July 20, 2011
    BuckRivera
    I can't think of an example where the missing detail gets lots of (narrative) attention. This kind of attention is just a result of the perception that something is strangely missing. Examples were supposed to include both the missing detail, possibly its duration and severity and the way it's finally addressed (but this last bit is actually optional because it might never be addressed at all - Downplayed Trope goes in that direction).
  • July 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^There's a whole Headscratchers namespace (formerly known as It Just Bugs Me).
  • July 20, 2011
    c0ry
    I agree that this is only Law Of Conservation Of Detail applied to Long Runners. Very subject to YMMV.
  • July 20, 2011
    Cidolfas
    This is not a trope.
  • July 21, 2011
    YouKeepUsingThatWord
    I doubt you can apply "statistically unlikely" since the editing on any series is not a random sampling of time, but driven by what matches the story and genre.

    How long would a TV show last if 30% of it showed the characters sleeping?

    With the pooping Friends examples, of course it will only show the pooping that they could build a joke around. The uneventful pooping won't be shown. And many genres would be less likely than a comedy to find a way to fit pooping into it.
  • July 21, 2011
    Stratadrake
    That last paragraph describes Nobody Poops perfectly -- it's never shown, mentioned, or ever referenced unless it's (1) a plot point, or (2) for humor.
  • July 21, 2011
    BuckRivera
    ^^ True. "Statistically" is the wrong word here.
  • July 24, 2011
    BuckRivera
    So the overwhelming feedback on this is that it's not a thing. I still think it's - at least - an Audience Reaction (although that's just part of it) because it's really something actively used by the creators of the work - first in perpetuating the missing detail, then, possibly, in addressing their omission.

    The typical cycle would be:
    • A detail is left out because of the Law Of Conservation Of Detail, the Rule Of Cool or whatever.
    • Time passes. As more and more installments are churned out, the omission becomes standard practice or is even considered canon.
    • The omission is addressed in some way. (This step is optional.)
  • July 24, 2011
    Aielyn
    Actually, I think the overwhelming feedback is that it's not any different from an existing trope, it's just worded to look at the reverse of the situation.

    As I noted, if the "The omission is addressed in some way" step is left optional, then this is Law Of Conservation Of Detail described in reverse (same trope, viewed the other way). Only if you require that step could it possibly be a trope, in which case it's less about the Law Of Conservation Of Detail, and more about the eventual subversion of it in a significant manner, by directly addressing the detail, and not just because of plot necessity.

    You could call it Liberation Of Detail, perhaps?
  • July 24, 2011
    BuckRivera
    I guess there is no proof that it's not subjective until the creators admit to playing the trope by addressing it. But still, leaving out the detail beyond the requirements of the Law Of Conservation Of Detail is a story-telling choice and hence could be considered a trope. My point is that to leave out a given detail - gradually - ceases to be about conservation of detail but becomes a common practice, a standing order for the writing staff.

    Maybe I should include that thought in the description. A name change is indeed welcome but your suggestion focuses on the resolution, not the process (which I still think is the actual meat of this). I can't think of anything better than Starfleet Issue Toilet Paper or Federation Stock Exchange.
  • July 25, 2011
    BuckRivera
  • July 26, 2011
    BuckRivera
    Bumping for feedback.
  • July 26, 2011
    YouKeepUsingThatWord
    "leaving out the detail beyond the requirements of the Law Of Conservation Of Detail"

    But the only requirement of Conservation of Detail is lacking a reason to put the detail in.

    I was about to give a hypothetical example of a medical show that doesn't show any of the doctors at home, because that's not what the series is about. But then I realized all of your examples have been Science Fiction. So maybe what you're getting at is more of a world-building thing. The parts of your imagined world that can't be tied into the plot and main characters will become atrophied, in a sense.
  • July 26, 2011
    BuckRivera
    The idea is that it's first left out because it's not needed, but then the show moves in a direction (typically expands in scope) that makes the omission The Artifact. So the medical show wouldn't count as long as showing the doctors at home isn't the logical solution to a story-telling problem.

    Example: If one of the doctors struggles for several episodes to save a patient's life (so the patient gets a lot of airtime), then marries them and talks about them all the time, but the patient never appears again despite having been established and strung along as an important character, just because of the convention that nothing outside the hospital is shown - that would be the trope.

    So it doesn't have to be about world-building and science fiction.
  • July 27, 2011
    Aielyn
    So essentially, what your trope is the conversion from omission to design? Like, say, having Maris not seen in the first season of Frasier, only to turn that into a Running Gag in later seasons when they actually had reason to show her?

    If I'm understanding correctly (and it goes beyond merely a case of The Artifact), then it might be a valid trope... to which, I'd suggest going for something like Conventionalisation Of Detail... hmmm, a bit long, though. Maybe Standardisation Of Detail?

    And it would still require that it be in some way commented on, even if indirectly. However, if The Artifact or Running Gag is ended, it should be when a show breaks this trope.
  • July 27, 2011
    BuckRivera
    I've never watched Frasier, but that sounds like the trope. At first, the omission is innocent and acceptable, but after a while it becomes conspicuous and both audience and writers will itch to see it addressed.

    Your title suggestions leave out the fact that the detail in question is missing, which is central to the concept.

    Please check if I have the Frasier example right in the example section.
  • July 27, 2011
    Aielyn
    Well, how about Standardisation Of Omission?

    Also, I don't think you'd call the Maris example one of Lampshade Hanging, since it doesn't just involve dismissing a missing detail, it involves actively coming up with ways to hide the character, mocking the idea that you're going to see the character, etc. Indeed, it's a case of He Who Must Not Be Seen (specifically, a case of The Ghost). For instance, there's an instance in which Frasier and Niles are waiting at the coffee shop, expecting Maris. You see Frasier and Niles wave just as a woman almost entirely covered up in a scarf and glasses, body-covering dress, etc, walks in... and she seems to react, but isn't really - it turns out that Maris's maid, Marta, is behind that woman, and that's who they're waving to.
  • July 27, 2011
    BuckRivera
    I see. I mended the example.

    Standardisation Of Omission describes most of the trope pretty well but is really unwieldy. It also might imply that how the omission is treated becomes standardized, which isn't necessarily so. I'd still prefer Elephant Shaped Hole In The Living Room (or maybe just Elephant Shaped Hole) or Conservation Of Missing Detail, even though they're far from perfect. Ongoing Obvious Omission, maybe, but I dread Added Alliterative Appeal in trope names and it's vague. Still Not Pooping?
  • July 27, 2011
    Sackett
    We already have this.
  • July 27, 2011
    Aielyn
    Care to elaborate, Sackett? Perhaps provide a link to it?
  • August 5, 2011
    BuckRivera
    Bumping this again for constructive feedback.
  • October 17, 2011
    BuckRivera
    Just revisited this - I had forgotten about it. I still thinks it's tropeable. Any new thoughts?
  • October 19, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    I want to nitpick the Star Trek point under money. There was an episode in the TNG series involving people from 20th or 21st century Earth being rescued from cryogenic capsules (where they were stored until medical science could cure them). One of the people found was a Wall Street type who had to be told his investments and the markets he knew didn't exist any more. Besides, they had replicators to provide so many things and abundant energy to run them, along with everything else.
  • October 19, 2011
    Shnakepup
    This is starting to look more tropeable. I like the Ongoing Obvious Omission title, but the Elephant In The Living Room based titles are good as well, since they illustrate what this is about.
  • October 19, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    I don't mind Added Alliterative Appeal myself, but Elephant Shaped Hole works well.
  • October 19, 2011
    Stratadrake
    ^ Elephant Shaped Hole doesn't work, especially in comparison to Man Shaped Hole.
  • October 20, 2011
    BuckRivera
    ^^^^ I totally forgot about that episode. That has to be worked in, yes.

    ^ I didn't know about the alternative title for Efficient Displacement. It's unfortunate because Elephant Shaped Hole was my (mild) favorite among several unsatisfactory title suggestions.

    I'll change it to Ongoing Obvious Omission for now.
  • October 20, 2011
    JohnDiFool
  • October 20, 2011
    Ghilz
    I like the angle of The Elephant In The Living Room by omission. In fact, this is something The Elephant In The Living Room already has as a pseudo subtrope, which could be split:


    In Anime, this trope is known as a Pregnant Ranma Problem, based on the following anecdotal discussion between the author/artist of Ranma 1/2 and a random fan at a convention:

    Random Fanboy: What would happen if Ranma got pregnant as a girl, then changed back to a boy?

    Rumiko Takahashi: I don't think about that, and neither should you.

    Otherwise the YKTTW as is written is not tropable.
  • October 20, 2011
    Stratadrake
    ^ The Ranma example is also a case of Bellisarios Maxim.
  • October 22, 2011
    BuckRivera
  • October 22, 2011
    troacctid
    So what do we call it when in Scars Of Mirrodin The Quest For Karn (a Magic The Gathering novel), Melira (a major character and a Living Mac Guffin) is traveling with the heroes, but for three whole chapters she's never mentioned at all, as if the author has forgotten she exists? (Besides Bad Writing.)
  • October 22, 2011
    BuckRivera
    Sounds like this trope. Although there seems to be two types: omission of common sense stuff and omission of previously established stuff/characters.

    Do we have a name for this, the above example, I mean?
  • October 24, 2011
    Stratadrake
    How does this differ from Elephant In The Living Room, again? Your laconic effectively reads "Nobody Poops ... played Up To Eleven!" and that's an automatic strike against it.
  • October 24, 2011
    BuckRivera
    It's possibly a subtrope, depending on the way you look at it. The point of the laconic lies in the "nobody" part - the fact that something that should be there is not there and that fact getting ignored until it isn't. Elephant In The Living Room is about something that's there but is ignored.

    It's a combination of Nobody Poops and Elephant In The Living Room.
  • February 21, 2012
    BuckRivera
    Still in love with this one.
  • February 21, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Dom Com The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet the produucers decided that Ozzie (the dad) wouldn't have a job, so he could be around the house in order to have the eponymous adventures. (Being the 1940s-1960s, Harriet of course was a Housewife.) How they supported themselves in an upper-middle class way was never discussed.
  • February 22, 2012
    TheChainMan
    The Ranma example is also a subversion, since the manga answered it anyway.
  • February 22, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^^ That sounds too much like Elephant In The Living Room.
  • February 23, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I have to agree with others who have said that this is Not A Trope. Several of the examples in the OP aren't actually examples. In fact, the examples are all over the place, not examples of a unified phenomenon in fiction. Sorry.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable