Audience Surrogate

aka: Audience Avatar
Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale): So, Kristen, there must be something really special about you for Robert to take such a liking to you and risk the lives of his entire family. Tell us about yourself.
Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan): Me? Oh, no. I'm just a hollow placeholder for all of the teenage girls in the audience to project their personalities onto. I have none of my own whatsoever.

There are three things that can be referred to as an Audience Surrogate:

  1. The viewpoint character; See Point of View.
  2. A character who asks questions the audience would ask and says things the audience would say.
  3. A character who the audience (or the children in the audience) doesn't just sympathize with, but are supposed to actively see themselves as — by desire, by default, or by author inference.

This trope is about the third one, as the other two have tropes of their own.

Compare Sliding Scale Of Viewer Intelligence.

Video Games usually use a variant of this, the Heroic Mime. This Loser Is You is an Audience Surrogate by definition. Super Trope for Ascended Fanboy, The Everyman, and Unfazed Everyman (See Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions for an explanation of the difference), and related to Escapist Character and Otaku Surrogate. Parent of Lead You Can Relate To (see parent/child relationships page). Examples below should not cover these.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kagome Higurashi from InuYasha.
  • Ryuk, in Death Note, is the character who's in it for the same reason as the audience is: Gambit Pileups are fun to watch.
    • Aizawa also counts as this later in the series, by virtue of not being a super-genius but still being smart enough to suspect Light of being Kira.
  • Kirie serves this purpose in Uzumaki: asking the necessary questions as well as witnessing all the strange goings on in her cursed town; and her love interest, Suichi, plays the role of Author Avatar, providing many of the answers that would have been difficult to provide otherwise.
  • Saten Ruiko from A Certain Scientific Railgun is pretty much the only unambiguously normal person of the main cast.
  • In the fist half of Fist of the North Star, Bat and Lin both seem to exist mainly to have someone for Kenshiro to provide exposition during a sudden plot development.
  • Kyon, the only Ordinary High-School Student in Haruhi Suzumiya. This is probably also the second reason why he is the most frequently shipped character in the fandom.
  • Na´ve Newcomer Rakka serves as the audience surrogate in Haibane Renmei, as the other characters explain how the world of the show works and what the Haibane are to the audience through her.
  • Chris Thorndyke from Sonic X.
  • Armor in the X-Men anime.
  • Medaka Box: Zenkichi Hitoyoshi is quite literally, the Normal of the main cast. He's often left to comment on the absurdity of the cast, but isn't without his own quirks and moments of badassery.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the main character Yugi Mutou. Jonouchi also had his moments that qualify for this trope.
  • One of the Fullmetal Alchemist OVAs used this, "filmed" in the first person from the perspective of an unnamed probationer alchemist who interacts with Fuhrer King Bradley and Roy Mustang before a giant alchemist vs. homonculus battle.
  • Benio of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei, beneath her straight-A student mask, has a Sister-sister Incest fantasy with a side dish of lolicon tendencies. This is from a seinen yonkoma manga, which means a large number of the readership are otaku, who stereotypically have these kinds of fantasies.
  • In Shirokuma Cafe one episode has a character named Mr. Necktie who (despite the series takes place in a world where humans and animals live as equals) is completely surprised by the talking, walking animals and constantly questions their lifestyles, and the world in comparison to ours, as if he literally crossed through the fourth wall.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin was introduced to the Batman comic in order to appeal to the young audience who bought the comic. Even among the various Robins, Tim Drake (Robin III) is often cited as the easiest to relate to and identify with as he wasn't an orphan, acrobat, or street rat although he became the first one in Identity Crisis. Just a regular kid who knew Batman needed a Robin.
    • This is also a big part of the reason why Stephanie Brown is so popular, especially among female readers. Like Tim, she's not an acrobat, an orphan, or a street rat, but unlike Tim, she's also not a super genius or particularly rich. She's not as poor as Jason Todd, but she comes from a working class background, and her skills are largely limited to what a teenager could actually do, making her a lot easier to identify with.
  • Presumably, Jimmy Olsen existed for the same reason: to be Superman's normal, youthful buddy.
  • Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers introduces Ironfist, a hugely sympathetic Ascended Fanboy who has been chronicling the adventures of his heroes, the Wreckers. This image (created by the author himself) makes it pretty explicit.
    TF Wiki caption, on a picture of Ironfist fanboying: Oh dear lord, he's us!
  • Super-Boy Prime is an interesting example. He's from Earth-Prime, which is portrayed as the "real" Earth, our Earth. He was a Kryptonian and the only super-powered person in a world without them, and everything he did in the Multiverse could be read in the comics. He is what happens when you give a bullied kid superpowers and take his world away from him, make him kill so much, then put him back in his world, a world where now, everyone hates him. And to think, he used to be a sweet little kid that read Superman comic books, dreaming that he could be like him....
  • Probably the most well known audience surrogate in comics is also one of the most popular characters, which is largely cited to be because of how much of an Audience Surrogate he is: Peter Parker, The Amazing Spider-Man. His status as this is part of the reason he was created and why he sold so well.
  • Rick Jones, sidekick to The Incredible Hulk, is an audience surrogate originally created for young baby boomers. He's an ordinary, well meaning teenager, but one who has more of an authority problem than previous teen comics characters.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The four hobbits (Merry and Pippin in particular) in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Bilbo in The Hobbit.
  • In his introduction to The Book of Lost Tales, Christopher Tolkien supposes that the reason The Silmarillion was less popular than The Lord of the Rings is that it lacked an Audience Surrogate. In fact, the original draft of The Silmarillion (the Lost Tales) actually did have an Audience Surrogate — a Man named Ălfwine of England to whom the tales of the First Age were narrated by the Elves.
  • Bella of Twilight has a very inconspicuous personality, her actions are often hard to interpret, her characterization is only implied and the story is told in the first person so the audience can project themselves onto her very easily by disregarding some elements of said characterization when they contradict their views. Stephenie Meyer has even said on her website that she deliberately avoided describing Bella's physical features so that it would be easier for the readers to picture her as themselves.
  • Firestorm in Less Than Three Comics' Brat Pack. Even though he should be the opposite, what with his family upbringing and all. Sometimes Mr Perfect will take this role.
  • Italo Calvino's If On A Winters Night A Traveler, written almost entirely in the second person, is centered around two readers: one as a stand-in for male readers, another for female.
  • Harry Potter. Especially in the earlier books when he's just discovering the wizarding world. Even in the later books, after several years of spending time at Hogwarts and learning about magic he doesn't develop extra knowledge about the wizarding world or magic relying on others to give him, and the reader, the occassional Info Dump. Being The Boy Who Lived does not always agree with his deepest wish to settle down with a family and lead a normal (for a wizard) life.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Arthur Dent.
  • Never Where: Richard Mayhew.
  • To some extent, Taran, the hero of the Chronicles of Prydain. The author never gives him a physical description, or an age, and his backstory isn't revealed until the final chapter of the final book. Although he is, ultimately, the true hero of the series, he's also something of an Everyman, making it easy for young readers to connect to him.
  • Light And Dark The Awakening Of The Mageknight: Daniel Fife makes his target audience clear by stating in the narration that Danny is an Ordinary High-School Student and starting the book on the first day of school when the plot doesn't truly start until the following summer. Until then he's occupied with bullies and crushes.
  • Ibn Fadlan in Easters of the Dead. It's noteworthy as Michael Crichton explicitly noted he required a cultural outsider for audience surrogacy purposes in his retelling of Beowulf. He also subverts it by putting footnotes in to outright explain the differences in both historical context and religious differences Ibn experiences in contrast to the target audience.
  • Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is an ordinary, if virtuous and poor, kid, who — like everyone else in and out of story — is curious about what's in the mysterious titular factory, and it's through his perspective that the audience is introduced to all of the other major characters as he and his family follow news of the Golden Ticket contest. And then he finds the last ticket and gets a chance to visit it...

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Penny fills this role for non-geeky fans. Whenever one of the guys makes an obscure reference to something in geek culture, Penny's always there to sarcastically ask what the heck they're talking about, when many viewers were wondering the exact same thing.
    • For everyone else, it's Leonard, a generic geek without his friends' more overt flaws (Howard's lechery, Raj's gynophobia, and Sheldon's Jerkassery ).
  • Bones: Agent Booth responds to Bones and the other squints just like any non-anthropologist in the audience would, making them explain the more complicated concepts in laymen's terms and sometimes lampshading their Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
    Dr. Hodgins: It's seventy percent amorphous silicon dioxide.
    Booth: What's that?
    Dr. Hodgins: It's a common domestic container.
    Booth: Oh, like a jar. Why can't we just say "a jar"?
  • Code Lyoko: Evolution: Laura Gauthier is this for viewers who didn't see the first series. She's (potentially) a new member of the Lyoko Warriors who is unfamiliar with the world or XANA.
  • Doctor Who: The companions pretty much exist for this role, when they aren't The Watson.
    • A particularly extreme case of this is in the first two TARDIS teams, which had four characters deliberately representing a different demographic of the 'family' audience. There is a teenage girl (Susan or Vicki) representing the older child audience, mature adult male and female characters who work with children (Ian and Barbara) representing the Dads and Mums, and a grandfather-figure with eccentric Man Child qualities (the Doctor) who is a surrogate for the grandparents as well as for the younger child audience.
    • Clara takes the concept of companionship and the audience surrogate companion to extremes that become fantastical, representing the concept of the audience itself rather than just being a relatable character. She was born on November 23rd and constantly observed the Doctor throughout his life, even in his other bodies. She always dies at the age of 26, which was the age the Classic series was when it was finally cancelled. She's from Blackpool, which was where the Doctor Who museum used to be and the place where the Sixth Doctor was going to take Peri at the Cliffhanger after the Classic show's first cancellation. She serves an extremely important role in the 50th Anniversary special based around her interactions with past and future Doctors. The Doctor describes her once as 'the not-me one, the ask-me-questions one'.
  • ER: John Carter was apparently this, as his character was introduced as a 3rd-year medical student, new to the hospital, unlike the other, who were rapidly established as having worked at there for the past 1-5 years with considerable backstory.
  • LOST: Did this a couple times to acknowledge fans' desire for answers. In season 1, Hurley gets frustrated at one point with all the mysterious happenings on the Island, saying that he wants answers. Then, in the epilogue, "The New Man in Charge", Ben comes to visit the guys at the DHARMA packing plant. As he turns to go, one of them says "Wait! You can't just leave without giving us any answers!" which is exactly what the viewers were all thinking at that point.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: When Fred Rogers is alone with the camera, he's a parental character. But when he's with a friend, they become the parental figure and Mr. Rogers becomes a child on behalf of the audience.
  • The Office (US): Jim's mugging for the camera often reflects how the audience perceives the ridiculous events on screen.
  • Revolution: Charlie Matheson is supposed to be a character that you could project your personality onto. The bad news is that a number of critics completely missed the point and hate the character for being bland, whiny, rude, weak, and confrontational. The good news is that she has gotten better by the first season finale.
  • Supernatural: In one episode towards the end of Season 7, it is Anviliciously clear that the showrunners really want us to see guest star Charlie as a Type 3, as they have her spend a huge chunk of time making sci-fi references, wondering what Hermione would do in a given situation, and talking about Comic Con (the fact that they cast Felicia Day in the role helps hammer in the point). It feels as if the entire opening sequence with Charlie is basically the writers saying "See, SPN fans? She's just like you! Root for her, dammit!" However, some in the audience felt like the show was trying way too hard to get the audience to like her. And the fact that she was an Anvilicious and strident mouthpiece for the writers' political viewpoints (and the fact that she takes illegal actions on behalf of the writers' viewpoints) meant that it was virtually guaranteed that there would be a chunk of the audience that would see her as annoying rather than as the sympathetic, plucky heroine the writers wanted the audience to see her as.
  • In Cranford, Miss Mary Smith comes from Manchester, but the town is close to her heart and her sanctuary. She is a strong and fun female character, she is helpful to Dr Harrison and the Misses Jenkyns, she ships two ideal mates and her friends Sophy and Dr. Harrison, she investigates the incident with Valentine cards, and then as an guardian angel, she solves most problems by writing letters to appropriate places.
  • Donna in The West Wing acts as this, often asking the commonsense questions the other characters don't think of. (Also see Women Are Wiser.)

  • In The Insect Play, the Tramp (known as the Vagrant in some translations) is the only human character present for most of the play. He mostly serves to draw analogies between human societies and insect societies.
  • "Interviewer," in Autistic License. In some variations, he spends the entire time on stage! Kudos to any actors with that level of stamina. Unless the variation is just him sitting the entire time, which only hammers the point home.
  • Dr. Lyman Hall in 1776. As the newly-arrived delegate from Georgia, he has to meet the Congress, which is a handy way to introduce the audience to the various state delegations—and be a little taken aback by them. The Founding Fathers were a lot of bickering real people rather than wise marble statues. (Hall also serves as Chekhov's Gunman, but that's another story.)

    Video Games 
  • Rule of thumb: If a game has a Silent Protagonist, that character is an Audience Surrogate.
  • Magma in the first X-Men Legends game, who is a mutant saved and taken in by the X-Men. We go through her first days in training all the way up to becoming the newest member of the team, though the first few missions don't even have her as a playable character.
  • Ethan Mars in Heavy Rain. There are four main characters in the story, but it's clear right from the beginning that Ethan's the one the player is supposed to empathize with the most.
  • Phil from the Riddle School series is confirmed to be this via Word of God.
  • Raiden is pretty much this in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Like the player he has experience from the prequel based on "virtual reality" and the game is not subtle at all in later parts when Raiden is told to "Turn the game console off." It is also worthy to say that Raiden has dogtags written by the player in the game's beginning and he throws it away in the end, having decided to find a new identity.
  • Martin Walker from Spec Ops: The Line is played for every negative connotation this trope provides. He treats the events of the story the way your average modern military shooter player would: As a power fantasy and a chance to feel like a hero. In the process, he does a number of horrible things, and every single one of them is your fault.
  • James Vega of Mass Effect 3 performs this role for people new to the trilogy. He is literally the only crewman (or significant character for that matter) that Shepard hasn't met in either of the first two games.
  • Final Fantasy X is Yuna's story from start to finish, but one of Tidus's major roles in the plot is so people who've lived within this society all their lives have to explain it to somebody.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction has your character, who gets to hang out with Yugi and Joey and save the world.

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Ahsoka in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: a child, not having learned yet all she needs in order to survive in the universe, suddenly thrust into a life of excitement and adventure (and, more importantly, authority [at least, in her own mind] over more experienced adults). Isn't that what lots of kids fantasize about (among other things)?
  • Orko on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) was clearly supposed to represent the target demographic viewer.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Spike seems to be a surrogate for the Periphery Demographic, being The One Guy and all. Case in point, the end of the episode "The Ticket Master", where he complains that he's not interested in going to the Grand Galloping Gala, but is secretly delighted about getting an invitation (though this was hinted at because Spike's supposed disinterest didn't appear until Twilight got the two tickets and he wasn't considered.)
    • Later, Big Macintosh takes up the role of representing the Periphery Demographic in "Lesson Zero", where he, despite being the most muscular pony on the show at the time, shows genuine interest in owning an old doll meant for girls. Sound familiar?
    • Rainbow Dash in "Read It and Weep". She passes off reading a popular book series as uncool, until she picks up a copy and discovers that she likes it, and then tries to hide the fact from her friends. Several older fans compared this to how they first got into the show.
    • The Cutie Mark Crusaders represent the children who aren't sure what they're good at and what they want to do with their lives.
    • And of course Twilight Sparkle is this for the intended audience demographic.
    Twilight Sparkle: All the ponies in this town are crazy!
  • Beast Boy acts as this sometimes in Teen Titans. As the youngest, and the least smart, he sometimes has the science-y stuff explained to him by his more educated teammates (e.g. the Chromaton Detonator in Apprentice: Part One, Xenothium in X).
  • Kid Flash in Young Justice. He is the only member of the team with a remotely normal childhood, as well as the only one who lives in an a two-parent household and attends public school. Rocket takes on this role later in the series, where other character summarize the events of past episodes for her.
  • Word of God is that The Falcon is this in Avengers Assemble.
  • The Simpsons
    • Lisa, Yeardley Smith's character, often fills this role on the series (whenever Comic Book Guy isn't around):
    Marge: Don't you remember when Maggie shot Mr. Burns?
    Homer: I thought Smithers did it.
    Lisa: (under her breath) That would have made a lot more sense.
    • Frank Grimes in the infamous eighth-season episode "Homer's Enemy". The character's sole purpose was to represent a realistic person from our universe — accustomed to toil, pressures and hardship with little, if anything, to show for it — transplanted into a universe that caters to and rewards the lazy and stupid, and how it would understandably drive him/her absolutely insane.
      • Granted, his childhood was pretty exaggerated and far from being realistic so perhaps more of a cariacture of a real person.
  • Gus in Recess can be considered one, as he seems the most confused about the way the school is set up, causing the other kids to explain them to him- and the audience.
  • Huey Freeman in The Boondocks passively observes the antics and idiosyncracies of the other characters, sometimes as the Only Sane Man.
  • Fry in the first season of Futurama, although he started to move away from this role once he became more accustomed to life in the 31st century.
  • South Park has Stan and Kyle, which would make sense since they were supposedly based off of the show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone respectively.
  • Jubilee is this in the beginning of X-Men. It's through her eyes that we're introduced to the REAL main characters and the mutant world at large.

Alternative Title(s):

Audience Avatar