Created By: LyendithNovember 6, 2012 Last Edited By: LyendithNovember 24, 2012
Troped

Pen Pushing President

Being in charge mostly means signing and stamping mountains of papers.

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Trope

Who didn't dream to one day be appointed President of a country, executive of a big company, or leader of a big organisation? You can give orders, have a pretty life, and have the most important and spotlight-earning jobs! You can be a hero and a model!

And now that you have won the election, here is a pen and a stamp: warm up your arm, 'cause from now on you will use them a lot. Apparently, the main activity of people in charge is to spend their days with a desk and giant piles of papers as only company. Of course it is Truth In Television to some extent (notably in law-related responsibilities), but naturally, in fiction it tends to be exaggerated to the point of torture. Expect some secretary to occasionally show up in the office with an additional pile, to the dismay of their boss. Usually Played For Laughs to show a less glamourous side of leadership.

Despite the title, it can apply to "Presidents" but also to any job involving some kind of important leadership.

Can be the reason for someone being Kicked Upstairs. May result in Trash Of The Titans if disorder comes on top of quantity.

Examples:

Anime And Manga:
  • King Enma in Dragon Ball, as the man in charge of deciding who will go to Heaven or Hell in the entire universe is usually shown chain-stamping files without so much as looking at them, while complaining about his insane amount of work.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Simon has this kind of life in the second part of the story, as President of all humans on the surface. Well, before shit happens at least…
  • Hanaukyo Maid Tai. In one episode Taro finds that one of his daily duties as head of the family is going through a huge pile of paperwork and signing documents.
  • The Hokage is sometimes portrayed like this in Naruto, including Tsunade after she assumed the role. They are by definition one of the strongest fighters in their village, but their job is mostly to assign missions rather than go on them.
  • Etna from Disgaea becomes this in the anime after becoming Overlord. It's hilarious considering her normal personality

Comic Strip

Film
  • In Bruce Almighty, when Bruce is made God For A Day, he is suddenly confronted with the prayers of millions of people--which are presented in one scene as a massive layer of "Post-It" notes covering every wall and surface in his home. He then clears the clutter by instantly converting them to an e-mail format on his computer ("You've got prayers!").

Literature
  • In Rainbow Six, John Clark laments that he's a bureaucrat and not an elite counter-terrorism soldier like his men. Rainbow jumps out of helicopters and trains to put bullets between eyes with perfect accuracy, Rainbow Six sits at his desk and has to justify the dollar value of each bullet.
  • Sam Vimes spends a few Discworld City Watch books lamenting the piles of paperwork he's obliged to deal with as its Commander. Eventually averted when he recruits some secretarial help, first from the Gooseberry-imp and then from A.E. Pessimal.
    • Averted by Archchancellor Ridcully, who just lets the paperwork pile up on his desk, periodically bins it, and assumes that if anything is really important someone will start shouting soon enough.
  • In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan notes that while many people are envious of Emperor Gregor Vorbarra's power, he's never heard of anyone being envious of Gregor's desk.

Live Action TV
  • The Stargate SG 1 episodes "Zero Hour" and "Lockdown" played this for laughs as Jack O'Neill settled into his new job as commanding officer of Stargate Command. Both episodes featured an instance of sorting through piles of reports and memos to find something.
  • This is the basic concept of Yes Minister and sequels.

Video Games

Visual Novels:

Western Animation
  • In Ren And Stimpy, when Ren becomes president of Stimpy's fan club, this is all he does, and it leads him to have a mental breakdown.
  • Commander Nebular from Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command, due to being the Space Ranger's commander, is forced to constantly do paperwork by his robotic desk.
  • The Simpsons Movie: The President is dissapointed that, instead of leading the country, he is forced to spend his days signing papers and approving motions.

Real Life
  • In the military, this is often mockingly referred to as a "Chairborne Ranger", a high-ranked officer who spends his days behind a desk in a cozy office yet pretends to know how life is on the frontlines.
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • November 6, 2012
    StarSword
    Live Action TV
    • The Stargate SG 1 episodes "Zero Hour" and "Lockdown" played this for laughs as Jack O'Neill settled into his new job as commanding officer of Stargate Command. Both episodes featured an instance of sorting through piles of reports and memos to find something.

    Video Games

    Also, one minor point: there's two 'G's in "exaggerated".
  • November 6, 2012
    Rotpar
    • In Rainbow Six, John Clark laments that he's a bureaucrat and not an elite counter-terrorism soldier like his men. Rainbow jumps out of helicopters and trains to put bullets between eyes with perfect accuracy, Rainbow Six sits at his desk and has to justify the dollar value of each bullet.
  • November 6, 2012
    nielas
    • On NCIS this is one of the reasons why Gibbs never tried to become director of the agency. Whenever he has to step in as acting director people always complain that he is ignoring vital paperwork. He prefers to leave the job to people with the temperament necessary to handle bureaucracy and politics.
  • November 6, 2012
    Rotpar
    Correction to my example: it's the novel. I don't know if it shows up in the game, never played it.
  • November 6, 2012
    acrobox
    The Hokage is sometimes portrayed like this in Naruto even applies to Tsunade sometimes after she assumed the role. They are by definition one of the strongest fighters in their village, but their job is mostly to assign missions rather than go on them.
  • November 6, 2012
    StarSword
    ^^It doesn't. That's book only.
  • November 6, 2012
    elwoz
    This is the basic concept of Yes Minister and sequels.
  • November 7, 2012
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
    • Hanaukyo Maid Tai. In one episode Taro finds that one of his daily duties as head of the family is going through a huge pile of paperwork and signing documents.
  • November 7, 2012
    Lyendith
    Err, damn, how do I remove a tag again?
  • November 7, 2012
    StarSword
    Last YKTTW I did, I could remove them by clicking the tag icon next to the tag description.
  • November 7, 2012
    Lyendith
    I thought so too, but that doesn't work...
  • November 7, 2012
    SharleeD
    • Sam Vimes spends a few Discworld City Watch books lamenting the piles of paperwork he's obliged to deal with as its Commander. Eventually averted when he recruits some secretarial help, first from the Gooseberry-imp and then from A.E. Pessimal.
  • November 8, 2012
    Oreochan
    @Lyendith: Only mods can remove tags, since people were taking off tags when the problem wasn't fixed. You can request for a tag to be removed in Ask The Tropers.
  • November 10, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Another Discworld example:
    • Averted by Archchancellor Ridcully, who just lets the paperwork pile up on his desk, periodically bins it, and assumes that if anything is really important someone will start shouting soon enough.
  • November 10, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^^ Actually, it was mainly Google spiderbots who kept removing tags (and not just from one or two, but pretty much all of them). So, only the YKTTW's original author (and mods) are allowed to remove tags now. It's a bug, yes.
  • November 10, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ Does tag removal use a GET request at the HTTP level? 'cos there's your bug right there. GET's not supposed to ever change anything on the server, and indexing bots use that to decide whether or not it's safe to follow a link.
  • November 10, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Anyway, for titles I think Pen Pushing President could work a notch better.
  • November 11, 2012
    Lyendith
    Hum, yeah, I'm always hesitant in the "-er/-ing" distinction... the latter sounds a bit better at least.

    Oh, and thanks for the tags.
  • November 11, 2012
    Surenity
    In Ren And Stimpy, when Ren becomes president of Stimpy's fan club, this is all he does, and it leads him to have a mental breakdown.
  • November 16, 2012
    KarjamP
    Commander Nebular from Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command, due to being the Space Ranger's commander, is forced to constantly do paperwork by his robotic desk.
  • November 19, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    In Bruce Almighty, when Bruce is made God For A Day, he is suddenly confronted with the prayers of millions of people--which are presented in one scene as a massive layer of "Post-It" notes covering every wall and surface in his home. He then clears the clutter by instantly converting them to an e-mail format on his computer ("You've got prayers!").
  • November 19, 2012
    Chernoskill
    In the military, this is often mockingly referred to as a "Chairborne Ranger", a high-ranked officer who spends his days behind a desk in a cozy office yet pretends to know how life is on the frontlines.
  • November 21, 2012
    Murgatroyd314
    Literature:

    In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan notes that while many people are envious of Emperor Gregor Vorbarra's power, he's never heard of anyone being envious of Gregor's desk.
  • November 21, 2012
    StarSword
  • November 22, 2012
    Lyendith
    Calm down man, it just got 5 hats yesterday... I'll launch it this evening, probably.
  • November 22, 2012
    Mauri
    Well there are missing examples in any case (if someone has examples that fit). Rushing can be a bad thing. Comic Book (Heck it is just the dragon magazine)

    On Whats new with Phil and Dixie: It is shown a bit of a subversion the Dragon King actually burns all the paperwork (therefore a bit of an inversion).

  • November 23, 2012
    Arivne
  • November 23, 2012
    Lyendith
    ^^ It also lacks some related tropes now that think about it...
  • November 23, 2012
    TheHolotome
    Maybe say how it is the result of being Kicked Upstairs.
  • November 23, 2012
    MusikMaestro
    The Simpsons: In the movie, the President is dissapointed that, instead of leading the country, he is forced to spend his days signing papers and approving motions.

  • November 23, 2012
    Lyendith
    Okay, I'm launching this tomorrow, if you have some more examples or suggestions, it's now or never. Well, additions can still be made after the launch but, you know what I mean...
  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Please pothole the image to its source.
  • November 24, 2012
    Lyendith
    There is no source in particular, it's just a random image I found with Google...

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable