There are some times where you'll find a character that's there and isn't a part of an in-universe story/religion/legend, yet they have no purpose, and nothing they do affects the plot (outside of other characters mentioning them or interacting with them, though, true to the trope, these interactions tend to appear non-canon, later on).
These are often found in Cutaway Gags
, and tend to do ridiculous things that are completely contradicted later when something happens or is shown that would suggest whatever the character did didn't even happen (even though it did). Sometimes, in extreme cases, this canonless character may even do something as drastic as violently murder the main character, yet, not even 5 minutes later, you see the main character walking around as though nothing even happened.
Nobody even acknowledges the event, and will carry a normal conversation with the canonless character upon their next encounter. Are this Snap Back
Sam's actions All Just a Dream
, or is he just locked in perpetual Negative Continuity
as the world around him moves on in a sensical fashion? We don't know, because it's never specified.
For a character to qualify for this trope:
- It must be proven that their actions are not canon to the plot.
- They must be a Recurring Character.
This trope is not to be confused with:
- Snap Back - This is where only certain things (or everything) is completely non-canon, and will "reset" later. For instance, Kenny in South Park is an example of Snap Back, as only his death appears to have not actually happened. Everything else that he does can affect the plot, and, actually - even his death has a lasting effect through an episode. If it was a canonless character that died/killed Kenny, nobody would acknowledge his or her death (or they would just reappear soon after with no explanation)/Kenny would reappear soon after, unscathed.
- Negative Continuity - this is when the entire in-story universe appears to be canonless, and there are a bunch of contradictions all over the plot as opposed to one big, contradictive character. If you want to see an example of Negative Continuity, take a look at Happy Tree Friends.
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- Family Guy. There have been scenes where people have destroyed things, hurt people, or even killed people. Later on, you'll see the thing that was destroyed looking as though nothing happened (even immediately after) or the supposedly hurt or killed person looking perfectly fine right after. There have been scenes where Peter has destroyed his entire city in a fight with a giant chicken, yet none of the damage appears to have even existed in canon segments of the show, and the chicken is rarely (if ever) mentioned outside of his appearances.