Memetic Bystander
A character who becomes absurdly popular, despite not being involved in the story in any way whatsoever


(permanent link) added: 2011-05-31 21:07:22 sponsor: UltimateChimera (last reply: 2011-06-08 01:43:50)

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All shows need to have extras. Whether they're the Faceless Masses or a Cast of Snowflakes, everything needs to have some way to show the main characters are not the only people existing in the world (unless, of course, that's the point). But every now and then, someone will stand out... and all of a sudden they become incredibly popular for whatever reason. They may be endowed with a Fan Nickname, and a whole backstory and personality may be extrapolated... from just one character, with few or no lines and highly limited appearances.

The fandom may latch onto these characters because they are either a Recurring Extra or a One-Scene Wonder. If the creators of the work get wind of with phenomena, the character may become an Ascended Extra. Compare Background Gag. Overlaps with Ensemble Darkhorse. Can overlap with Memetic Badass, but not all the time.

Examples

Anime
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, as Rossiu Announces Simon's execution, a man can be seen in the crowd giving a Bicep-Polishing Gesture. However, due to cultural differences the Western audience interpreted as the man giving an "up-yours" gesture. Dubbed Bruce Ironstaunch, this man became the vent of viewer's hate to Rossiu.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has Poorfag-chan, a girl in the protagonists' class taking notes in a notebook. This was only picked up because everyone else in this particularly fancy school was using laptops. After many threads on a certain Image Board, she became an incredibly optimistic young girl despite her horrendous living circumstances. She is somewhat ditzy and takes whatever the world throws at her with good grace.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the "Aquarium Lady", who, despite having less than two minutes of screen time and doing nothing of real relevance to the plot, is widely shipped with Mako Tsunami (when he's not being shipped with Ocean, that is.)

Film
  • Figwit, from Lord of the Rings. As a result of the "Frodo Is Great, WHO IS THAT?!" meme, this originally nameless background extra was given a name and backstory, courtesy of the fans, and Peter Jackson brought him back with dialogue for the following movie.
  • The belching frog thing in one of the scene transitions in Return of the Jedi.
    • A few ewoks. One ewok that's staring blankly, as if he's stoned. There's another ewok carrying one of his wounded brethren out of the fray during the Endor ambush.

Live-Action Television
  • Morn from Deep Space 9 is an invoked in-universe example, he personally doesn't do anything, but the other characters commonly reference his attributes.
  • Balding Asian Guy from Stargate Universe had some popularity from appearing in crowd scenes in one episode.
  • The extremely hot guy standing behind Carrie when she gets splashed in the Sex and the City opening had quite a following in certain circles.
  • The Observer in Fringe is an in-universe example - though he is significant to the plot, he and his kind have an oath of non-interference ( which is only mostly adhered to), but were noticed by the characters because of their habit of turning up at significant events throughout history.
  • The Glee fandom loves Brad the accompanist, despite him having never spoken. Not to mention he doesn't do anything other than accompany the kids on the piano.

Music
  • In Rebecca Black's Friday video, a girl in pink dancing awkwardly next to Black in one scene exploded in popularity from an already notable song.'

Video Games
  • In Street Fighter II, There's a background character in the Las Vegas stage that always loses a bet no matter who wins. He sobs on his forearm once a round is over.
  • Mega Man X2 has the Green Biker Dude, a Reploid who appears at the beginning of the intro stage and whose only purpose is to pop a wheelie and die.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has the 3-13 Archer and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years has Monk C (known by many in the fandom as "Monk Coleman", though that's of course not an official name). In the PSP remake, Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, Monk C even has a slightly different color scheme from Monks A and B.

Web Comics
  • The Order of the Stick gives us That Guy With A Halberd, a nameless Azurite soldier armed with (you guessed it) a halberd who appeared briefly during the battle for Azure City. A thread devoted to him on the OOTS forums reached 28 pages.
  • Homestuck has Ms. Paint, a Prospitian woman who carries a bucket of paint and seems to be a part of the White Queen's retinue. Fan reaction lead to a cameo in one of the comics many fourth wall breaking segments.

Web Original
  • The Epic Beard Man viral video, featuring a fistfight on a bus between two men, mysteriously spawned a popular sub-meme around a disinterested bystander who was listening to music. She became known as "Amber Lamps", after one of the men's mangled cry for an ambulance.

Western Animation
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has the cock-eyed Derpy Hooves, spotted in an early episode. Some of her traits have actually become canon.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has Foaming Mouth Guy. His first appearance was only for a few seconds in Season 1 as a background character, but he became such a fan favourite he reappeared again in Season 2 (still in the background, but with a lot more screen time).
  • In Daria, there's a blonde kid in an army jacket that's always in Daria's classes or in the hallway. He seems to have a lot of fanart dedicated to him.

Real Life
  • Cigar Guy from a famous Tiger Woods photo is a man wearing a strange wig and fake moustache, smoking a rather large cigar.
  • Frowning Flower Girl appeared at the Royal Wedding, looking rather disgruntled and covering her ears right next to the happy couple about to kiss.
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