Created By: OREOSTUFFER on November 6, 2013 Last Edited By: ShanghaiSlave on November 12, 2013
Nuked

Canonless Character

Some characters are so pointless that they can't even affect the plot.

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Trope
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.


Examples

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    Western Animation 
  • 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.

Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • November 6, 2013
    Larkmarn
    So a Negative Continuity character? Without any more examples, I'm not sure this is distinct.
  • November 6, 2013
    kjnoren
    The proposed trope name doesn't indicate the concept in any way, and I'm not sure you use the term "canon" in any way that I can understand it.

    If I understand this correctly, the world functions normally in terms of continuity, except for the one character that is in full-on Negative Continuity? Not sure that's really possible, though I'd be happy to be proven otherwise.
  • November 6, 2013
    MetaFour
    Snap Back might be a better comparison than Negative Continuity?
  • November 6, 2013
    DracMonster
    The one example cited has nothing to do with a character.

    Motion to discard.
  • November 6, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    well, there's OC Stand In...
  • November 6, 2013
    DAN004
  • November 6, 2013
    DAN004
    Subtrope would be Faceless Masses, Red Shirts, Mooks...
  • November 6, 2013
    FreemDeem
    Interesting. Is what you're referring to a character who, in a show with an ongoing continuity and where Status Quo is not necessarily God, seems to have no lasting effect on the plot despite the fact they should?
  • November 7, 2013
    OREOSTUFFER
    Freem, that's exactly it. No matter what they do, it never affects the plot - they can even kill the main character, but, not even five minutes later, you see the main character again, as if nothing happened. It probably won't even be acknowledged that they killed that main character to begin with.
  • November 7, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
  • November 7, 2013
    OREOSTUFFER
    I was thinking of mentioning Kenny, but that's just a normal Snap Back - besides, everything else Kenny does has relevance to the plot, or at least can have a lasting effect.
  • November 7, 2013
    OREOSTUFFER
    I tried to fix my description a little - is it any better?

  • November 7, 2013
    kjnoren
    I think this is an interesting thought, but Too Rare To Trope. I mean, do we have any examples yet?

    There are instances of characters who never have any impact or relevance to the plot, but this is like a constant undoing of their plot relevance.
  • November 7, 2013
    Earnest
    Would this count?

    My Google-Fu fails me, but there is a German movie later remade in the US about a boy who dies and becomes a ghost. He's able to move around and destroy things only for the camera to cut back and reveal he did no actual damage. Turns out it's An Astral Projection Not A Ghost.

  • November 7, 2013
    noirgrimoir
    This name makes no sense and neither does the description.
  • November 8, 2013
    DAN004
    You don't give use clearer distinctions with either Snap Back or Negative Continuity (or Reset Button for that matter).
  • November 8, 2013
    Arivne
    Edited the OP in an attempt to make it more readable.

    Namespaced and italicized the single example we have.
  • November 8, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    paragraphed the description.
  • November 8, 2013
    dspitzle
    As far as a descriptive name, how about Continuity Eunuch? Continuity Wimp? Continuity Dud? Walking Continuity Sink?

    Do we have any recurring words in tropes that reference characters who are ineffective in various ways?
  • November 8, 2013
    DAN004
    Family Guy example is more of a Negative Continuity. :/
  • November 12, 2013
    OREOSTUFFER
    Maybe this is Too Rare To Trope... Oh, well.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=s4kk67ru1lybeg60rgsj48qd&trope=DiscardedYKTTW