->''"Thatís literally all they do. Maya and Joey are observers in Maradonia while Sagitta and a couple other magical beings do all the fighting and bail them out when they get themselves into shitty situations. And, of course, in the process Joey starts a couple forest fires. Thatís it. The entire effect of The Encouragers in Maradonia was to slightly damage the environment. [[DesignatedHero These are our heroes.]]"''
-->-- Impishidea ''[[Literature/MaradoniaSaga Maradonia]]'' Sporkings, [[http://impishidea.com/spork/maradonia-sporkings-part-thirty-one part 31]].

The protagonist has spent a significant portion of the story bouncing around the tale like a pinball. He provides no plot impetus in and of himself, and has essentially spent the entire story thus far in a reactive state.

Whatever is going on in the world, be it war or intrigue, it just drags him along in its wake.

This is not a DesignatedHero. Designated Heroes actually do things. The things they do may not be considered heroic, but they still do things and thus have an impact on the world around them. Eventually they pick up the Plot Ball and move it around. Even the LittleHeroBigWar still has the hero do something important to affect the larger mess around him. The Pinball Protagonist spends a decent amount of time failing to actually have any effect at all. They aren't even lucky enough to ''be'' the Plot Ball.

If the writing and tone of the tale all imply that the character is the protagonist, and yet they can be lifted right out of the story and have little to no impact on anything that has or will happen: then they're just a little silver ball in the cosmic pinball game of life.

If done badly, the reader is left wondering why in the hell the character is the protagonist. It ''can'' be done well. Perhaps the protagonist is like a vehicle or a touchstone for the reader, a way of exploring some strange new world or meeting interesting characters.

Many characters will have pinball episodes where they are simply overloaded with too many problems in far too short of a time frame to do anything effective.

Compare TheWatson and FirstPersonPeripheralNarrator. Also compare the [[RomanceGenreHeroines Waif]] and [[MasterCharacterHeroines Persephone]] archetypal characters, both defined by the ability to bear up under hardship (an undervalued heroic quality often {{Flanderized}} into a passive characterization). This can be seen as VillainsActHeroesReact taken to an extreme. Not to be confused with UselessProtagonist, where the main characters make ''no'' attempt to make themselves seem important, although these tropes may overlap over time. Contrast with a YoungConqueror HeroProtagonist, who actually drives the plot and makes the villains react to them.

For a detailed overview on the use of passive heroes who get tossed about between situations with little control over their external destiny, try ''TheSevenBasicPlots'', especially the ''RagsToRiches'' plot and ''Voyage and Return''; the passive hero is ''supposed'' to be undergoing CharacterDevelopment, of course.

Not to be confused with BouncingBattler or BeTheBall, where the protagonist fights by acting like a pinball.

----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Most harem-leading males are pinball protagonists. The main characters of Manga/AhMyGoddess (though this depends on the arc and the adaptation), ''ToLoveRu'', ''RosarioToVampire'', ''Manga/HeavensLostProperty'', ''SteelAngelKurumi'', ''{{Maburaho}}'', and ''RozenMaiden'' all have main leads with no ambition, aside from trying to live normally under ridiculous circumstances. Most harem shows don't have much plot to begin with, though. ''PrincessResurrection'' (at least in the anime) [[UselessProtagonist barely has the lead male do anything at all]].
** ''Manga/HayateTheCombatButler'' falls into this category until the time comes for [[spoiler: Athena's reappearance]], and he still has to be pushed into things even then, but he has drive.
** In the manga ''RosarioToVampire'', the male lead Tsukune [[TookALevelInBadass takes several levels in badasses]], becoming a very competent fighter ''and'' one of the most powerful living beings in the series.
* Until the climax of ''OsamuTezukasMetropolis'', Kenichi and Tima spend most of their time wandering from one SceneryPorn locale to the next, occasionally getting shot at. Tima may also qualify as a walking MacGuffin.
* Natsuru in ''LightNovel/{{Kampfer}}'' gets dragged around by other people and he just goes along with them in the end anyway. Much worse in the anime than in the manga and light novels, although its still pretty bad in the latter two. The main difference is, in the latter, s/he at least ''tries'' to make a token effort to undermine the Kampfer War and learn the truth behind it, whereas in the anime, s/he just sorta stands there with a confused expression.
* Kyon of ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'' spends a lot of time mostly just watching things happen and doing whatever people tell him. [[DeadpanSnarker That isn't to say that he's boring or without personality, however,]] and his apathy is a source of frustration to other characters, which is amusing.
** He becomes a much more active protagonist after the fourth book.
* Ichigo from ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' is like this in a way. He does have an impact on the story but only due to reacting to his newfound duty as shinigami or rescuing his friends from the BigBad. Since he is not under the ''direct'' influence of [[BigGood Yamamoto]] or [[BigBad Aizen]], he never really confronts the BigBad directly until said BigBad threatens to [[DoomedHometown annihilate his hometown]].
* The titular ''SteamBoy'' spent the majority of the movie doing whatever grandpa, Scarlet, father or Mr. Stephenson wanted. [[CharacterDevelopment To his credit]], when circumstances finally did leave him alone for a moment, he quickly [[IndyPloy came up with a plan of his own]], rejected the BastardUnderstudy's advice and became the hero of the day.
* Brandon Heat all throughout ''{{Gungrave}}'' is a quiet and obedient henchman. He initiates nothing, suspects nothing, and says almost nothing. Even his undead rampage is less [[RoaringRampageOfRevenge roaring]] than [[TranquilFury sedate]].
* Ichise of ''{{Texhnolyze}}''. There doesn't appear to be much consideration of his actions, reacting like a rabid animal when he's not simply following orders.
* This is what the protagonist of any rape-themed {{Hentai}} anime or manga is if he or she ''isn't'' a UselessProtagonist or a VillainProtagonist. After spending most of the story trying ineffectually not to be raped, he or she will obtain or discover a power with which to take revenge on his or her tormentors, killing and/or raping them in return. (''Soul Chain'' is a good example of how this plot typically goes.)
* Madoka spends most of ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' like this, not becoming a magical girl until surprisingly late in the series. [[spoiler:An unusual case in that Madoka being this way was intentional on the part of one of the other characters, Homura, who was attempting [[SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong via time travel]] to protect her from the [[{{Deconstruction}} utterly horrifying]] [[OurLichesAreDifferent true nature]] of magical girls.]]
* Renton of ''EurekaSeven'' actually spends a great deal of the series completely in the dark and out of control of the events that transpires around him. He doesn't even come face to face with the BigBad of the series despite being the protagonist.
* Shu from NowAndThenHereAndThere attempts a lot of heroic stuff, but his actions have little to no effect on the series' plot or resolution. Remove him and pretty much the same things would have happened.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* There's a comic book where SherlockHolmes meets ThePhantomOfTheOpera; it pretty much follows the original Leroux book, with Holmes tacked on to watch the show.
* In several issues of ComicBook/{{Venom}}'s first limited series, ComicBook/SpiderMan actually got more screen time. The subsequent ones fixed this problem.
* Spider-Man himself tends to turn into this in any multipart story in his own series that has lots of guest stars. He's always been a guy who works best alone, and quickly takes a back seat as part of a team. The biggest example was the ''ComicBook/MaximumCarnage'' storyline; the cover of one issue even lampshaded the trope by having Spidey shout, "Hey, who's book is this here??" Fortunately, he was indeed the star at the climax, both defeating Carnage himself and preventing Venom from killing him to show he'd still hold onto his principles, despite all that had happened.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk'' would have ended with an [[spoiler:epic face-melting of the nazis]] even if good old Indy had just stayed home. At least he saves Marion.
* ''Film/ForrestGump'' just does whatever he feels like doing at the time. At one point, he becomes sort of a running guru and unintentionally leads a group of literal cross-country runners for months. At one point he stops running ("Listen, he's about to say something!") and he just says "I'm kinda tired. I'm going to go home now," and just walks home (to Alabama, from the Nevada desert!)
--> '''Runner:''' "What are we going to do now?"
* Because of {{Disneyfication}}, Mowgli in Disney's ''Disney/TheJungleBook'' spends all his time reacting to the other characters and doesn't instigate any plot events. This is totally ironic if you know the character from Creator/RudyardKipling's original stories.
* Film/TheBigLebowski: The Dude just wants to bowl and smoke weed when his life is interrupted by a case of mistaken identity, resulting in the ruining of his rug. His attempt to obtain a new rug leads him down a twisted path of mystery and intrigue that he ultimately has no control over.
* Music/TheBeatles for much of ''{{Help}}'' This is partially Lampshaded: Ringo Starr is told he can remove his ClingyMacGuffin if he commits one courageous act--and when he does, ''much'' later, it's the end of the film.
* The protagonist from the 1966 B-movie ''Film/TheWildWorldOfBatwoman'' is a perfect example of this. The protagonist is pretty much like Charlie from ''Series/CharliesAngels''. She does show up from time to time, but she has her batgirls do all the work. An [[Website/TheAgonyBooth Agony Booth]] recap can be read [[http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/The_Wild_World_of_Batwoman_1966.aspx here.]]
* Slevin Kelevra from ''LuckyNumberSlevin'' is apparently this during the beginning of the film, [[spoiler: before the Kansas City Shuffle and Slevin's true intentions are revealed]]
* Brad and Janet in ''TheRockyHorrorPictureShow''. Though Janet does get up to do something halfway through the plot - that 'something' being Rocky.
* Jen of ''TheDarkCrystal'' spends much of the film's first and second acts [[LampshadeHanging commenting on]] how he has no idea where he is going or what he is looking for as various characters comment on prophecy and destiny and the like. In an example of this trope being done well, it serves to show the audience the wonderfully imaginative world of the movie, and the fantastic special effects of JimHenson's Creature Shop.
* Charlie Bucket from ''Film/WillyWonkaAndTheChocolateFactory''. Once he gets to the factory, the only notable things he does is to steal a Fizzy Lifting Drink (which disqualifies him from the promised lifetime supply of chocolate) and return the Everlasting Gobstopper to Wonka rather than give it to a rival competitor (negating the disqualification and becoming the owner of the factory in the process), and so he wins.
** Note that this is an ''improvement'' on [[Literature/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory the original book]], in which Charlie does almost ''nothing'' upon arriving at the factory; his only act of any significance is at the end, when he informs Wonka that he is the only child left. Wonka then immediately announces that Charlie has won ''by default''. However, given that Charlie is exceptionally well-mannered, this makes sense given the fates of the other children (he gets it for just being ''nice''.)
** [[Film/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory The second film version]] improved on this, and Charlie regularly questions Wonka, triggering most of his flashbacks, and then outright defies him at the end forcing him to seek out his estranged father.
** [[Theatre/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory The 2013 stage version]] puts its own, smaller twist on the whole business by giving Charlie a [[MrImagination highly imaginative, creative streak]], which affects the plot in that [[spoiler: a certain someone, upon learning of his potential, makes sure that he gets a Golden Ticket]].
* Szpilman from ''Film/ThePianist'', who manages to survive the Holocaust only through the goodness of strangers and sheer dumb luck. Of course, this is totally justified considering it's based on a true story, and the real Szpilman's real experiences.
* In the movie {{Film/Inferno}}, the main protagonist Mark does absolutely nothing to defeat the villain. He does not even aware of most of the events going on in the film. The villain was defeated by her own actions and not by anything Mark had done during the film. His only victory is surviving by the end of the film.
* The title character of ''{{Barbarella}}'' fits this perfectly. The entire movie consists of her repeatedly getting into trouble through her own stupidity, being rescued by some guy, and then having RescueSex with her savior. The only reason she managed to find the man she was looking for at all was because Duran Duran accidentally stepped on the device she had been given to track him down (Which she had not once even thought of turning on since receiving).
* Test pilot Lance Schroeder in the original ''Film/HouseOnHauntedHill1959'' doesn't do anything particularly heroic throughout the movie. He's attacked in the dark at one point and thinks he hit his head. (The ''{{Rifftrax}}'' crew constantly joke about him being trapped in closets and bumping his head.)
* Once ''Film/ThePagemaster'' [[RogerRabbitEffect becomes animated]], it's a bunch of encounters between Richard, his book companions, and various literary characters on the way to the exit. Richard and the books at times change the things happening, but at most it's just them meeting people - not that different from Alice, Dorothy and Wendy, listed below.
* When you examine too closely the plots of ''Film/{{Goldfinger}}'' and ''Film/{{Skyfall}}'', you see Film/JamesBond is this in both.
** In the former, ignoring the ColdOpen, he causes the death of two sisters on the way to know the villain's plan - which only occurs after he's captured by the villain, and his attempts to both escape and warn his allies of the scheme fail. The only things Bond do that help foil Operation Grand Slam are [[SexFaceTurn seducing Pussy Galore]] and killing TheDragon. Even when the villain returns, he's killed by accident.
** In the latter, he doesn't recover the hard drives that start the plot. Afterwards he manages to find and capture the villain... who manages to escape. Then he saves M from said villain, and goes away with her to a hideout... which is attacked, and [[spoiler:M dies from her wounds, as Bond killed the villain before he could try to shoot himself and M with the same bullet.]]
* The titular unicorn from ''WesternAnimation/TheLastUnicorn'' leaves her forest to find the rest of her kind...and does practically nothing else for the rest of the story. She falls asleep on the side of the road and is captured by a WickedWitch who knows where the rest are, she is freed by one of the witch's magician assistants - who knows how to get there. He also ends up accidentally changing her into a human so she can reach King Haggard. Though she finally does ''something'' in the climax.
* ''Film/CirqueDuSoleilWorldsAway'': While Mia and the Aerialist are seeking each other, they spend most of the film getting caught up in and reacting to the events taking place around them. They rarely affect said events and are offscreen for significant stretches of time.
* In ''[[Film/TheDamned1947 The Damned]]'', a film about a group of Nazis and Nazi collaborators fleeing to South America aboard a U-boat at the end of the war, the protagonist is a French doctor who is kidnapped and forced aboard the sub. He does nothing through the course of the movie and has no influence on events.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Another good SherlockHolmes example (see above) is one of his most ''well-known'' cases, ''Literature/TheHoundOfTheBaskervilles''. There's a large gap in the novel where Holmes is not present, the story being dictated to Holmes by Dr. Watson via letters describing his experiences.
* [[TheEveryman Richard]] from ''Literature/{{Neverwhere}}''. It takes him over half the book before he ''really'' does anything terribly useful, and it wasn't exactly proactive on his part, either. He finally does start to take more initiative down the road, but for most of the story he is merely a vessel for viewing [[FantasyKitchenSink London Below]] and the events unfolding around his companions.
* ''Literature/{{Inkheart}}'' by Cornelia Funke (Meggie spends a lot of her time just reacting to things the adults do. On the rare occasions she tries to affect things her plans are thwarted, stalled, or rendered useless.)
* Bilbo Baggins, in JRR Tolkien's ''Literature/TheHobbit'', initially.
* ''Literature/{{Candide}}'' is a nice example.
* In ''Literature/AliBabaAndTheFortyThieves'', Ali Baba is [[ProtagonistTitle the protagonist at first]], but he pretty much stops being such after he recovers Kasim's body from the lair of the Forty Thieves; at that point, the role is taken over by Morgiana, with Ali Baba now a supporting character.
* The entirety of ''Literature/TheCryingOfLot49'' is like this, although that is because it is about a person just exploring a secret organisation, being told to go to another part of the organisation, and then going there - she only begins to take initiative right at the end, with the eponymous auction of the title.
* Fanny from the Creator/JaneAusten novel ''Literature/MansfieldPark'', due to the emotional abuse she's suffered for eight years living with her rich aunts and uncle, basically feels she has no right to her own opinion or happiness and thus lets her aunts and cousins push her around for most of the novel. Naturally, this makes the two times she stands up for herself all the more impressive and the other characters all the more shocked.
* This accusation is often thrown against those three classic young heroines of literature: [[Literature/AliceInWonderland Alice]], [[PeterPan Wendy]] and [[Literature/TheWonderfulWizardOfOz Dorothy]]. [[Literature/{{Discworld}} Susan Sto Helit]] is described as an aversion of this... [[{{Chickification}} and then came]] ''Discworld/ThiefOfTime''. Dorothy gradually averts this trope in later Oz books, and all three strongly avert it when featured in the webcomic Webcomic/CheshireCrossing. A SpearCounterpart is Charlie Bucket from ''Literature/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory''; see above under Film for how adaptations handle this issue.
* Jurgis in ''TheJungle.'' [[DeusAngstMachina To the point where nobody cared]] except about the meat stuff.
* In ''Literature/TheIslandOfDoctorMoreau'', Richard Prendick does nothing but get thrown overboard, land on an island and watch more interesting people do experiments.
* Terisa Morgan of Stephen R. Donaldson's ''Mordant's Need'' novels (TheMirrorOfHerDreams, A Man Rides Through) acts this way through most of both books. (This is deliberate. She has a cripplingly low level of self-confidence thanks to an oppressive father and passive mother; the narration makes an analogy to a princess imprisoned by a curse.)
* Shasta in ''[[TheChroniclesOfNarnia The Horse and His Boy]]'', has very little control over the plot, being surrounded by stronger personalities (including the titular horse) for most of the tale.
* In ''Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' [[UnfazedEveryman Arthur Dent]] started out as this. It's made explicitly clear that he's the main character early on, yet it takes awhile for him to take an active role and not just react to events around him.
* Augusten Burroughs in ''RunningWithScissors''. Particularly the movie version. It's an autobiography, but still...
* Both [[Literature/{{Twilight}} Bella]] and [[Literature/TheHost Wanderer]] tend to fall into this during periods of action (which admittedly are in the minority in the slow, conversation-heavy books.) They're both {{Extreme Doormat}}s, so it makes sense from an in-story standpoint, but it's one of the reasons Stephanie Meyer's works are so polarizing.
* Beverly King in L.M. Montgomery's ''TheStoryGirl'' is there purely to observe the more interesting characters around him. Then again, they ''are'' very interesting characters.
* Cosette in ''Literature/LesMiserables''. Yet Victor Hugo [[InformedAbility assures us that she has the soul of a gypsy.]]
* Kino from ''KinosJourney'' tries to be this type of character; being a Traveller, one is not supposed to pass judgment or meddle in the affairs of the places they visit and is only there to observe objectively. However, various circumstances typically get Kino wrapped up in the affairs of the places she comes to and forces her to act, whether she wants to or not.
* In many ways, Richard Papen from Donna Tartt's novel ''Literature/TheSecretHistory'' qualifies as this.
* Both the book ''Literature/TheManuscriptFoundInSaragossa'' and [[Film/TheSaragossaManuscript the movie adaptation]]: Alphonse van Worden has various bewildering or scary things happen around him and to him, and is told lots of stories. [[spoiler:Most of it turns out to be a show staged for van Worden in an attempt to convince or convert him.]]
* Almost all of the main characters WilliamGibson writes would qualify, but Case in ''{{Neuromancer}}'' is a cut above the rest: it's difficult to name one decision made in the book that's solely his.
* In ''Literature/{{Excession}}'', most of the plot is driven by starship [=AIs=] and other superpowerful Minds while the protagonist, diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen is sent by his mysterious bosses on a journey to the GSV ''Sleeper Service'' to find the one person who may have knowledge of [[NegativeSpaceWedgie the Excession]], but it becomes apparent that [[spoiler:she isn't even there, and his whole trip occurred because the Eccentric ship wanted him to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend, which has no impact on the story. And then [[BigDumbObject the Excession]] leaves with no real explanation.]]
* The main character of ''TheSharingKnife''. In terms of plot, almost everything that happens is because of her primary love interest, with her dragged along for the ride. When fighting starts, said love interest is impressive even for a member of the resident SuperiorSpecies, whereas she's physically unsuited to combat and tries to stay out of the way. However, as the series progresses she learns more self-confidence. To the point that when her husband is threatened, she defies an entire camp of sorcerers to ride out and rescue him.
* Geralt, in ''TheWitcher'' saga. Mostly because the setting is populated with dozens of wizards, nearly all of them {{plan}}ners of various degrees. His person isn't even important to the plot.
* The protagonist and narrator of Iain Bank's ''A Song of Stone'' is an aristocrat called Abel living during in a civil war. He starts the novel trying to escape from the country with his [[BrotherSisterIncest wife/sister Morgan]] but gets caught up with a group of soldiers and has very little control over the plot from that point onwards.
* OlderThanSteam: The 1554 Spanish picaresque novel, kicked off by ''Lazarillo de Tormes'', is the TropeMaker: the protagonist is almost always a circumstance- and happenstance-dependent drifter through life, with very little proactive situations. In the 1700's, English picaresque fiction (such as ''Tom Jones'' or ''Peregrine Pickle'') inherited the trope.
* ''Stuck in Neutral'' by Terry Trueman has a justified example that's probably impossible to top. The main character can't control his muscle movements enough to communicate in any fashion, and it's commonly assumed by those around him that he doesn't even have a mind. The "plot," such as it is, is his commenting on how his life is and how people react to him, with him unable to change anything [[spoiler:even to save his own life.]]
* Nick Carraway does absolutely nothing in ''TheGreatGatsby''. [[TropesAreNotBad He is, however]], an outside view of rich people screwing up the lives of themselves and everyone around them. He ''does'' organise that meeting between Daisy and Gatsby, but that's about it.
* Literature/DavidCopperfield is a prime example from classical literature.
* ''TheStand'' may or may not have this trope, depending on what you see the main plot of the book as being. In terms of rebuilding society in the wake of an apocalyptic event, the MainCharacters actually do quite a bit. In terms of fighting Randall Flagg, the BigBad of the story, though, they accomplish virtually nothing; at best their role is to serve as witnesses to [[spoiler:his defeat by [[DeusExMachina the Hand of God]]]] (with a little help from the [[SpannerInTheWorks Trashcan Man]]).
* Tyrone Slothrop of ''GravitysRainbow'', who never solves the mystery he's after, spends his time on various sidequests instead, avoids death only by accident and eventually simply goes mad, gives up and disappears from the story.
* The ''DocSavage'' novels pulled in involved bystanders to their plots to act as first person narrator protagonists assisted by the titular [[HeroicArchetype Man of Bronze]].
* {{Lampshaded}} in Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Discworld/GuardsGuards''. Although Sam Vimes and company play little part in the successful resolution of the novel [[spoiler: as the dragon is defeated by Errol the Swamp Dragon]], the Patrician specifically states that people need to see there are heroes and so rewards Sam Vimes and the Night Watch accordingly. It is also implied that the Night Watch are heroic, merely because they actually did something to stand up to the dragon, even if unsuccessfully. [[spoiler: Vimes did also stop Wonse from killing the best Patrician the city had ever had and looked after the dragon that eventually saved the day.]]
* Pretty much the whole human race and indeed nearly the entire biosphere in every adaptation of ''Literature/TheWarOfTheWorlds''.
* Otto in ''Otto of the Silver Hand'' by Creator/HowardPyle.
* Bernadette Manuelito is this in the murder mystery ''TheSinisterPig.'' She asks interesting questions as a Border Patrol officer and talks to a variety of people, but the murder mystery is solved by other officers Chee and Leaphorn; the whole plot is resolved when Bernadette walks straight into a trap, and a different character (who's been developed in other parts of the book) solves everything.
* In [[http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/brazil/soaresj2.htm this review]] of Brazilian novel ''Twelve Fingers'', it's even stated that the [[BeenThereShapedHistory Forrest Gump-like protagonist]] "bounces around like a ball in a pinball machine, occasionally disappearing from view entirely for longer periods of time."
* Carnelian is like this for incredibly long stretches of ''Literature/TheStoneDanceOfTheChameleon''. In the first book, the only instance of him taking matters into his own hands ends in disaster. Only at the very end of the trilogy does he finally step up.
* Nora of ''Literature/HushHush'' is this. She spends most of the book going about her daily life, reacting when something or someone tries to kill her, then promptly forgets about it in favor of going back to her daily routines.
* This pretty much sums up [[Literature/HouseOfNight Zoey Redbird]]. If something isn't directly affecting her right then and there, she'll forget about it. In some cases, [[IdiotBall she forgets about it right after it happens]].
* Discussed in ''Literature/ThePinballs'', where Carlie's speech about the three protagonists being pinballs evokes a very dark interpretation of this trope. Justified since she's an abused child, also [[spoiler: she ultimately renounces her claim]].
* Some of HPLovecraft stories like Dagon or the Nameless City the main characters do little only being observers of the events
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* There was a long period when virtually everyone on ''Series/{{Lost}}'' was like this. They'd have little fits of trying to do something, only to be completely stymied, and then they'd go "Oh... no..." and sink back into frustrating helplessness. Early on, the show was mostly about introducing the various... erm... pinballs and the Island and there were many pinballs in play. Later on, the show began to conform to this trope less and less.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** While he is generally a major player in most stories, this has been known to happen with The Doctor on occasion:
*** Infamously in the case of "Revelation of the Daleks", where it takes over half the story for the Doctor to even ''meet'' anyone involved in the main plot and, believe it or not, ''the Daleks'' save the day by swooping in and carrying Davros off as a prisoner. Orcini completes the job by blowing up Davros' new Dalek army, something he could have done without the Doctor's assistance, and the Doctor's sole contribution is to prevent collateral damage by helping evacuate the area first.
*** One criticism levelled at "Planet of the Ood" is the fact that it ends with the Ood thanking the Doctor and Donna for saving them when they've spent most of the episode wandering around doing nothing after blundering into two plans set in motion before their arrival (Ood Sigma dosing Halpen's hair tonic to turn him into an Ood and Ryder powering down the restraining field around the Ood brain in order to restore their free will). The Doctor ''does'' deactivate the explosives Halpen had set up to destroy the Ood brain but he's a very minor player in events.
*** "The Celestial Toymaker" involves the crew being trapped in a parallel dimension run by a godlike immortal who just wants to play {{Deadly Game}}s with them, and demonstrates his power by phasing the Doctor out of existence and forcing him to play "[[TowersOfHanoi the Trilogic Game]]". This means that the Doctor spends the whole plot able to do little other than argue with the Toymaker in {{ADR}}ed lines, and even Steven and Dodo have no real agency except to win the games the Toymaker set out for them until the Toymaker just gives them the TARDIS back.
*** "The Tenth Planet" plays with this trope in an interesting way. The Doctor has only very few lines in the story because William Hartnell's health was failing, and even spends a whole middle episode asleep (apparently for no reason); and his plan for dealing with the evil planet draining the Earth's energy is incredibly passive - simply to wait for it to die, which he says it will do in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, his expansive apparent knowledge followed by his sudden absence ramps up the paranoia among the humans to fever pitch to the point where everyone turns against him and the General even accuses him of killing his son. Even after his prediction turns out to be right and the planet dies, it's a hollow victory, as the Doctor's unconsciousness is revealed to be a ChekhovsGun foreshadowing a [[TheNthDoctor majorly controversial plot decision]].
*** In the audio "The Holy Terror", the movers in the plot are the TARDIS itself, various characters in the DeadlyDecadentCourt, and the rules of the intensely ritualistic society that the story is set within. Frobisher is the viewpoint character and creates plot development by total accident, the Doctor is absent from large chunks of the plot and the one-shot companion Eugene is explicitly unable to intervene in events, being as he is a scribe whose job is to write down everything that happens. Frobisher briefly becomes king but is powerless to do anything, especially once the GooGooGodlike character shows up and starts killing people. The Doctor's only helpful option is telling Eugene what he has to do to the child at the end. This is all very intentional, as the characters are trapped in a TheoryOfNarrativeCausality-based simulation (intended as an IronicHell for one of the characters) and their lack of influence on the plot just emphasises how strong the story is.
** The companions sometimes get this too, even in ADayInTheLimelight:
** "The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve" has the Doctor go missing early on, leaving his companion Steven stranded in sixteenth-century Paris. Steven spends the story as main protagonist, but he completely fails to change events in the slightest, and has no real idea what is going on. He only just finds the Doctor in time to escape Paris and avoid the impending atrocity.
** "Asylum of the Daleks" mostly has Oswin moving the plot along, while the Daleks set up events and the Doctor concludes them. Rory is used as the viewpoint character for much of the episode and doesn't influence events at all beyond being a prop through which Oswin can interact with the plot. Amy, meanwhile, is only there for some rather contrived CanNotSpitItOut romantic drama, and has even less to do with anything that happens.
* In the ''Series/{{Torchwood}}'' episode "[[Recap/TorchwoodS1E5SmallWorlds Small Worlds]]", the [[TheFairFolk antagonists]] have supernatural powers which Torchwood have no ability to counter. As a result, throughout the episode Torchwood can do little more than rush to the site of the latest manifestation and helplessly watch events unfold.
* This happens quite frequently to Arthur on ''Series/{{Merlin}}'', particularly in the later seasons. In one notable example ''The Eye of the Phoenix'', Arthur has a vision that instructs him to seek out the Trident in the lands of the FisherKing. He wanders all the way to the Perilous Lands where he's promptly knocked unconscious by a spirit-destroying bracelet given to him by Morgana. Merlin follows in his wake, meets the FisherKing, retrieves the true McGuffin (the trident is useless) and is told that the entire journey was for ''his'' benefit. Arthur was just the catalyst for getting him there, and one can't help but wonder why the vision wasn't just sent to Merlin in the first place.
* This trope is discussed in an episode of ''Series/TheBigBangTheory'', in which Amy points out this in regards to Sheldon's beloved film ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk'' (see above). Sheldon spends the rest of the episode trying to find flaws on Amy's favorite films or book series to get back at her for "ruining the film for him".
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Sports]]
* Fans of the NFL, when discussing which quarterback is better than another, tend to fall into two distinct categories. One school believes that a quarterback's statistical achievement determines his greatness. The second cares less about the stats and more about his leadership--the best quarterbacks are the ones who win games and bring home championships, even if their stats don't always impress. When the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, it was due almost entirely to a defense of almost legendary repute. Their quarterback that year was Trent Dilfer, who bounced around from team to team his entire career and was never any better than strictly average throughout. He 'won' the Super Bowl that year and was unceremoniously dumped by the team soon after. Because of this, Dilfer embodies the PinballProtagonist trope among NFL fans, and if the topic is ever brought up for any reason, Dilfer's name inevitably follows as an example.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* PinballProtagonist can often be the end result of a {{Railroading}}. As a result, some railroaded adventure modules in tabletop roleplay games, such as ''Ravenholm'', are accused of leaving the players as mere observers to the events pinballing around them.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
* ''Theatre/{{Oliver}}'': Oliver's an orphan, gets passed from orphanage, to a funeral home, then gets kicked out and gets picked up by the thieves guild, then is taken in by a rich old man. It's a musical, and the characters mostly sing around him as well.
** [[Literature/OliverTwist The book version]] is no more proactive.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Pick an {{FPS}}. ''Any'' FPS. The main character is just there obeying orders with no personal entanglement with the plot. Provided there is a plot beyond "go shoot some designated baddies", that is. The FPS mentioned below are subversion, aversion, or deconstruction.
* Many story-heavy games with scripted events and {{heroic mime}}s.
** Jack from ''Videogame/{{BioShock|1}}'' is an excellent example -- not only does he rarely speak, he also plays a nearly negligible role in the story for most of the game. It turns out to be a deconstruction, however. [[spoiler: Jack is literally mind-controlled. And he ends up killing not only Andrew Ryan, but Fontaine as well. And saves the little sisters, or damns them! Pretty good, and the last one is up to the players which.]]
** For many players, games with excessive amounts of FollowThePlottedLine, {{Railroading}}, EvilPlan, MissionControl and StopHelpingMe can rob them of all SuspensionOfDisbelief about their and their PlayerCharacter's creativity and initiative, causing them to feel like a complete nonentity even if "their" successful execution of goals make a huge difference in the events of the plot.
** Most however just accept it as a simple narrative convention and focus on the gameplay.
* Likewise, many games set during wars with a modern military influence, particularly combat simulators like MechWarrior and FreeSpace. Even if you have a character with a personality, you're still one small speck of a very big situation, and the important decisions just aren't up to you.
** Averted in the ''VideoGame/WingCommander'' series, as the overall progress of the war depends on your performance in certain key missions; later games in the series give you the opportunity to make decisions and influence the story with dialogue options.
* The protagonists in [[VisualNovel/{{Air}} Studio Key's]] [[VisualNovel/{{Kanon}} visual]] [[VisualNovel/{{Clannad}} novels]] are justified in their general pin-ball status in the games, because that's the whole point of the genre. But as these games were turned into {{Anime}} series en masse by Kyoto animation, the fact that the boys simply bounce from girl to girl helping them [[DysfunctionJunction resolve]] [[ThereAreNoTherapists issues]] can be bothersome.
%%* Kage was like this in ''VideoGame/ZoneOfTheEnders: the Fist of Mars'', until character development and plot events forced him to stop playing NaiveNewcomer and actually do something constructive.
%%* Snake, and more infamously Raiden of ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' are deliberately tragic examples.
* In ''VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2006''... Sonic himself is this. He has an entire "storyline" to himself being the main character and all, but he doesn't actually affect anything. Some of the side characters (Knuckles and Tails mainly) are even worse so. That, and he's [[DontExplainTheJoke literally a pinball]] in some games.
* Allegretto from ''VideoGame/EternalSonata'' is a JerkWithAHeartOfGold with little connection to the main plot, yet acts as the player's avatar for most of the game.
* Alex from ''VideoGame/StreetFighterIII'' coined the Japanese counterpart of the trope, "[[FanNickname main character (lol)]]." He was meant to be the next hero of the series representing a new generation of fighters. But with no projectile and two command throws, he fit the grappler image better. Which would have been fine except combined with his all-rounder stats, nothing about him really stood out. Worse, Ryu was still where the Player 1 cursor started and Alex's ending had him losing horribly to said previous protagonist. Not fitting the main character mold was one thing but becoming completely overshadowed as well sealed it.
* The VideoGame/AceAttorney series by its nature falls into this as the games all star criminal defense lawyers and prosecuting attorneys and follows them through their work on individual murder cases. In other words, they have nothing of relevance in the plot until someone drops dead and they get pulled into to defend them/prosecute them and they must rely on other people a good amount of the time to get all the information they need to win their case. Notably, while the protagonists often have a reactive nature to the cases themselves, they still have their own individual character plots that play out during the game to ensure they remain a central part of the story. They're not so much irrelevant to the story (no, not even Apollo, who gets played like a puppet in his self-titled entry) as they are required to wait for something to happen so the player will have something to do.
* The playable duo from VideoGame/ResidentEvil0, Rebecca and Billy don't do a whole lot over the course of the game. The only character interaction that isn't between them or other S.T.A.R.S. members is running into the [[BigBadWannabe final boss]] of the game. Any plot developments happen in cutscenes, involve Wesker and Birkin, and are completely separate from what the protagonists are doing.
** This is true of all ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'' games until the fourth came along. Typically the plot involves running around just trying to stay alive amidst odd enemies and even odder puzzles while the plot works independently of you. All those storylines would have had the exact same outcomes had Chris, Jill, Claire, Leon, Carlos, and the rest died within the first 30 seconds.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'': Hawke is the main character, but for most of the story is just reacting to the events that occur around him/her, with Isabella and Anders being the main driving forces in the plot. Many fans felt this was a step back from the first game, where the player could make some pretty massive changes in the would depending on the choices they made.
* Hisao, the viewpoint character of KatawaShoujo, starts out like this thanks to being jaded by losing all his old friends and thoroughly unenthused with the idea of attending Yamaku Academy. [[spoiler: Shizune reveals in her route she recognized this and make it a goal to set him straight]], and succeeds [[XanatosGambit no matter who he ends up chasing]], since at least he's showing an active interest in something.
* In VideoGame/{{Zone of the Enders}}, Leo starts out as this as some random kid who finds the all important mech for a resistance movement. However, thanks to Viola, he eventually becomes emotionally involved with the story and becomes a more important character.
* Subverted in SpecOpsTheLine, where the main character constantly asserts that everything he's doing, no matter how horrible, [[NeverMyFault is because Konrad keeps forcing his hand.]] [[spoiler: Then it turns out Konrad was a hallucination the entire time, and he could've easily stopped at any point.]]
* Luke from TalesOfTheAbyss is this trope for the first part of the game. He's just a sheltered noble who by circumstance ends up kidnapped and dragged halfway around the world and back by others. When he DOES try to take an active role and be a hero, [[NiceJobBreakingItHero it ends VERY badly.]] Throw in the resulting dose of CharacterDevelopment and he becomes much more proactive for the rest of the game.
* The main character of ''HotlineMiami'' goes through the whole game simply following orders from his answering machine (until his RoaringRampageOfRevenge in Part 4,) and consequently both he and the player never learn anything about what's going on behind the scenes. Richard even tells him in Part 4 that nothing he does from that point on will mean anything. [[HeroOfAnotherStory The Biker]], on the other hand, is much more proactive, with his storyline revolving around figuring out who's pulling the strings.
* ''Videogame/IndianaJonesAndTheFateOfAtlantis''. The player has a few different paths to choose from but the Nazis are almost always one step ahead and they reach Atlantis and it's god-making machine regardless of Indy's actions. The machine doesn't actually work so the antagonists would have presumably killed themselves with it or given up even if Indy had never got involved. In fact, the final puzzle is to convince the BigBad to (fatally) use the machine on himself instead of the player. All Indy really manages to do is rescue Sophia. [[MultipleEndings Unless he doesn't]].
* In ''VideoGame/EternalEden'', Noah is a mostly [[ExtremeDoormat passive character]] who was forced into the conflict by his best friend's actions. [[spoiler: Ultimately subverted since the best friend in question is really a manifestation of himself, created by his subconscious to cover up his own misdeeds.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* ''RiceBoy''. The titular Rice Boy is kind and meek, so when he's told that he's fated to fulfill a prophecy and save the world, he has little problem stepping up. But he's ignorant about the larger world, and has no idea how he's supposed to do the job, so he spends the majority of the story bouncing from one source of exposition to the next, following their instructions.
** [[http://forums.koalawallop.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4524 No really, he bounces a lot]]
** At least until he [[TookALevelInBadass Takes A Level In Badass]] by the end of the story.
** [[spoiler:Shockingly, it's a subversion: Rice Boy and every potential prophesied one before him are just diversions, and the ''real'' hero is TOE, who has been proactive with tough decisions through the entire story.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* The Pooh's Adventures series on Website/YouTube. Pooh doesn't do anything to change the plot of whatever movie he is in. He just spouts off random comments. In fact, when it does come time to fight the villain, it's usually someone else who vanquishes the villain.
* Lampshaded (like everything else) in ''Machinima/FreemansMind''. Gordon mentions at various points that he's "just a rat in a maze...with no cheese", and that he's [[GenreSavvy "caught in the middle of some cosmic politics."]]
* Most of the cast of ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' falls into this, especially in the first five seasons. Calling the Blood Gulch crew "reactive protagonists" would be stretching for a compliment, honestly. When left to their own devices, the most they'll instigate by themselves is childish bickering.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Omar of ''WesternAnimation/RockAndRule'' just sits back and look petulant while his sidekicks take the initiative to find Angel. Once he realizes what kind of danger she's in he turns around and actually comes off as quite heroic.
* The narrator of ''Animation/WaltzWithBashir'' is a decidedly tragic example. When his [[FieldPromotion commanding officer is killed]] he doesn't rise to the occasion and completely fails to get any of his squad mates out alive; afterward he bitterly realizes that there was a lot more he could have done but was just a [[SurvivorsGuilt confused kid who got in over his head]].
[[/folder]]

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