Sometimes, we hear about a character who doesn't really line up with the way they've been described, whether it be their abilities
or their personality
. Sometimes, though, this information all comes from a second character who is simply amazed
at this character. They sing their praises, gushing their little hearts out. Okay, that's all well and good, Mister Fervent Admirer, but why are you praising them so openly?
This is what is known as Character Shilling
. Whether it be an attempt to make us like the character, a way of quickly establishing that someone new is a badass a level above anything we've seen before or whatever the case may be, other people will be extremely impressed with this person and let we the viewers know about it. Whether they actually match up to the hype is optional. Sometimes they really are amazing, and sometimes we have ourselves a case of Informed Ability
. Or worse, Creator's Pet
Remember, it's only really shilling when we don't know why such praise and admiration is being given. If they've already shown they can back it up, it probably doesn't count.
This trope does have some useful functions
. Sometimes shilling can be used to build suspense for a character who has yet to appear (or whose abilities have yet to be shown), in order to make a climactic scene where we see the truth behind all those stories all the more powerful. Other times, it can be used to build up a character who never appears at all
, either to serve as an inspiration or a foil to the main cast. Sometimes the credentials of The Rival
will be established through shilling, especially when their reputation (and the hero's efforts to compete with it) is important to the story than their actual abilities.
Compare Informed Attribute
, Informed Ability
and Creator's Pet
, the last of which is what happens when this goes wrong and the fans just end up hating
the shilled character. May lead to Stop Worshipping Me
if it's to the person's face and they're more modest. A character who shills himself in-universe
may be a Fake Ultimate Hero
or Miles Gloriosus
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Anime and Manga
- Happened with Kyle Rayner when he replaced Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. Having folks like Martian Manhunter and Superman (not to mention Batman and Sandman) say what a terrific guy you are, completely unsolicited, led to much eye-rolling even amongst fans of the character, who felt that such shilling validated many complaints that haters of the character had. Luckily, Rayner managed to survive the shilling and was officially rescued from the scrappy pile.
- It's been widely joked that Kyle got shilled specifically because DC were pissed off that fans (rightfully) saw how The Death of Superman and Azrael becoming Batman were temporary plotlines. DC were deadset that Kyle would stick, hence the shilling. However, Grant Morrison refused to give Kyle the same treatment in JLA. Yes, most of the team respected him, but he had to work to really be seen as something more than a rookie. And The Flash was open about his initial dislike of Kyle and it took a good amount of character development for them to become friends. As a result, Kyle Rayner grew his own crop of decidedly enthusiastic and loyal fans...
- Invoked in The Flash comics for Barry Allen after his recent return to life. Writer Geoff Johns acknowledged that people who haven't read any story with Barry in it before (basically anyone who started reading comics after the Crisis, which is to say, anyone under 30), will see him as a Replacement Scrappy for Wally, so his first priority in the Flash: Rebirth miniseries was to sell Barry to newer readers. The first issue of Rebirth is mostly scenes of every single major superhero in the DCU talking about how awesome Barry is, save for Kid Flash, who refuses to accept him because he's not the one he grew up with, essentially making him their Straw Fan.
- This is particularly ironic as the Kid Flash at the time was Bart Allen, Barry's grandson who had idolized him in most of his previous appearances.
- Post Crisis, Lois Lane got a lot of free shilling from most characters having anything to do with her. They would praise Clark Kent for having such a wonderful wife, and Superman would also rave about how great a woman she was.
- Occurs in regards to the character of Carlie Cooper in the Spider Man comics. Much is made about how great a person she is, how perfect not only is she for Peter, but how perfect she is in general. Unfortunately, this sort of shilling has done little to endear her character to the general fanbase, as her positive character traits come off more as an informed ability while her more negative character traits are overlooked.
- The Room: Lisa is consistently described as being incredibly beautiful. Her actress isn't ugly, mind you, but it comes off as somewhat over-the-top for someone who would be Hollywood Homely in a more mainstream film.
- Mercilessly parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Sir Robin's Minstrel, who keeps gushing in song about "Brave Sir Robin" (despite repeated commands to shut up) while Sir Robin is trying to avoid picking a fight, and goes on gushing about it even after Sir Robin has fled in abject cowardice.
Minstrel: Brave Sir Robin ran away!
Minstrel: Bravely ran away, away.
Robin: I didn't!
: When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Minstrel: Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about,
Robin: I didn't!
: And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet,
Robin: I never did!
Minstrel: He beat a very brave retreat.
Robin: All lies!
Minstrel: Oh, bravest of the braaave, Sir Robin!
Robin: I never!
- This is, more or less, the only way that the two main characters in the Left Behind series ever interact with non-main characters. It's either Buck and Rayford are thinking about how special they are and what a privilege it is for the rest of their unnamed co-workers and friends to associate with them, or it's these unnamed co-workers and friends gushing about them. This can be seen as the authors ignoring the Show, Don't Tell method of storytelling, merely telling us how earnest, passionate, and sincere their characters are rather than actually showing any of these qualities.
- Not to mention Nicolae Carpathia. The narrator constantly talks about how enthralled he is at the man's "genius" speeches and "complete charm". The speeches he gives, though, mostly consist of random facts and dates connected by childish analysis that would fail as high school reports.
- Also, he literally gives a speech that involves NAMING EVERY COUNTRY IN THE UNITED NATIONS. The delegates are of course wowed by his oratory skills and give him a standing ovation.
- Parodied and Played for Laughs in the first two Discworld novels. Rincewind is the most incompetent and cowardly wizard on the Disc, even to the point that he can't spell the word right. His companion Twoflower, however, thinks he's the mightiest magician who ever lived. This really gets on Rincewind's nerves, especially when he's going on about what a mighty warrior he is, and all the wizzard wants to do is run far, far away.
- Can be pretty much applied to any of the main cast in Twilight. We're told how wonderful Edward and the Cullens are (from Bella's POV anyway), but their actions and behavior throughout the series suggest anything but.
- In the final book of The Wheel of Time, Elayne is chosen to be in charge of the armies of light. She was the perfect choice, a wonderful leader, and did a great job. We know this, not because we see any examples of her leadership, but because at least once a chapter someone comes up to her and tells her what a wonderful leader she is and how glad they are that she was chosen to be in charge.
- Katniss' father and sister have strong elements of this in The Hunger Games and Peeta is a mild case as well. It's actually Fridge Brilliance: The book is told from Katniss' perspective. Her father died years ago and she only remembers him as a saint, forgetting or ignoring his bad qualities. She adores her baby sister and is very protective of her and can't imagine anyone not loving her. As for Peeta, the elements of shilling with regards to him are subtle clues that she's falling in love with him.
- Taken Up to Eleven with Zoey Redbird in the House Of Night books. Nyx chose her because she is supposedly wise beyond her years, is a fount of empathy and compassion, and is well versed in both the old ways and the modern world. She has an instant fanclub of people that serve mainly to ooh and ahh over how wonderful she is, men fall at her feet in droves because of how beautiful and awesome she supposedly is, and she gets new tattoos and praise for her bravery from Nyx anytime she takes care of whatever problem is plaguing her that particular book. Actually reading the book shows us that she's a stupid, shallow, judgmental, hypocrite that doesn't do much of anything except bemoan her boyfriend problems until the authors decide that something needs to happen so the book can end.
- Babylon 5: Had a Lower Deck Episode in its last season, featuring a couple of maintenance workers who end up praising new character Captain Lochley and telling her that she was OK in their book. Apparently, both of the two "little guys" were openly Author Avatars.
- Bones: In the sixth season, for the character of Hannah Burley there is constant reinforcement of her beauty, talent and intelligence. Other popular characters in the show (including Angela) constantly refer to Hannah and Dr Brennan as being "friends", although the scenes depicting their "friendship" seem awkward at best (especially one scene in which Hannah makes Brennan give her her sunglasses). Many fans found it frustrating, and it certainly didn't make the character any more likable.
- Degrassi: This happens quite a bit with Mia during Season 8, much to Holly J's (and many fans') annoyance.
- One particularly Egregious example was in Degrassi Takes Manhattan, when Jay was telling Spinner that Emma wouldn't screw him over like Jane did. Because Emma NEVER cheated on anybody. It's especially perplexing that Jay would talk Emma up like this, because a few years ago, she basically prostituted herself to him. For rubber bracelets.
- Doctor Who: Rose Tyler. The Doctor and Captain Jack would gush about how special she was... though a few fans would argue that there was very little evidence of this and considered her a Canon Sue.
- Interestingly, it got worse after she left. Then, suddenly nearly every episode has to have the Doctor talk about how amazing Rose was. By the end of the season she never appeared in, one of the most liked characters, whose departure caused many tears, had gained a Hatedom. When even a liked character's popularity can't survive the Carlie Cooper treatment, you should know this method is doomed from the word go.
- Everybody Loves Raymond: Showrunners gradually became aware that the conflict between Debra and Marie was polling well with certain key demographics, and began playing up this conflict to the point where it became the show's new focus, and became intent on shilling Debra as much as humanly possible. They also began trying to make her husband more doofus-like, in order to make her seem more sympathetic. Her descent into Sue-dom has been a point of contention among the fanbase ever since.
- General Hospital: Brenda Barrett can fit into this. When she's not in Port Charles (and even when she is there), characters are constantly singing her praises. Both men and women rave about how beautiful she is and how perfect she is, and most every heroine on the show is compared to her and told how they will never measure up to her. Not to mention she's been designated as the soulmate to two different men on the show. Brenda however is far from a perfect person, and her returns usually result in the ruination of a few relationship. But almost nobody has anything bad to say about her, and anyone who does is vilified for it.
- Glee: Increasingly, the show treats Will and Finn this way — particularly, other characters stand around gushing about how talented, good-hearted, and attractive they both are.
- One of the complaints about the first half of the Season 2 was that this went on a lot with Kurt Hummel in spite of sometimes treating his friends rather cruelly. This culminated in "Furt" which was basically a whole episode of Kurt-shilling. Thankfully they let off on it after that, but did so by sending Kurt to Dalton.
- Other characters constantly talk up Blaine as a talented, attractive dreamboat; especially in Season 3.
- Rachel Berry swims in an unending sea of this. Every character, even those who are rightfully put off by how incredibly self-centred and rude she is, fall over themselves to talk about how her singing voice is flawless, miraculous, the greatest thing they have ever heard, how she is destined to be a shining star. It even takes bald-faced Character Shilling from Tina to persuade the dean of Rachel's dream school to give her a second audition... after Rachel completely screwed her first one.
- Gossip Girl: With regards to Dan Humphrey. Especially grating in the series finale. Throughout the series Gossip Girl has stalked them, outed their secrets, caused them trouble, humiliated them and all in all been an element of their lives that they've all complained about and wanted to see and end to. When they find out Gossip Girl is Dan everyone suddenly thinks s/he made their lives better and that no real harm was done even though a lot of harm was done.
- How I Met Your Mother: Has begun to do this in season 5 with Don. He was introduced as "the guy Robin would inevitably marry," but his subsequent appearances paint him as annoying and flawed. However, once he started showing romantic interest in Robin, he met the group and suddenly Marshall does not stop gushing about him. We don't see their interactions, but Marshall opens by saying that he is "smart, handsome and funny". This is jarring because two episodes ago we were supposed to hate the guy.
- At the same time that was going on, Barney was flanderized into a supreme womanizer who scored with every girl he hit on... and the rest of the cast inexplicably became his enthusiastic cheerleaders, even though in earlier seasons they'd only kind of put up with it and even expressed occasional disgust at some of Barney's slimier methods. They rooted for Barney every time he hit on a girl, actively helped him out at one point, and celebrated every time he scored (they did a lot of celebrating). It was as if the writers were desperately telling their viewers, "See? See? See how much better Barney is as an exagerated caricature of himself than when he was paired with Robin?"
- Revolution: Done by Nora on behalf of Charlie, just in case we had forgotten how "special" she is. In fact, Miles can't ever seem to call her out on being an Idiot Hero without being seen as a bastard. Fortunately, Charlie hasn't received any shilling for many episodes now, so it's not as extreme as some other examples listed here.
- Robin Hood: Kate is given this to an ungodly extreme. Think Lana's situation, but even worse.
- Smallville: Lana spent the first several years of the show's run being the girl everyone was in love with; she was Clark's long-term hopeless crush, the object of every villain's twisted affection (so that Clark could rescue her every week or so) and everyone else's bestest friend. All of the praise heaped upon the character couldn't hide the fact that she really wasn't all that amazing, and would often indulge in petty behavior. As the show wore on, her awesomeness caught up with all the shilling of her when she got a dose of superpowers. This made her all the more irritating and she finally left the show in season eight.
- Stargate Universe: By the latter half of season 2, Scott's line telling Young, "You are a good commander!" was added to every episode intro, apparently in an attempt to convince the audience of just that. He wasn't.
- Scott himself. He's constantly touted on being a great leader, really gets around and the creators even called him the "Jack O'Neill of ten years ago." Fans countered that the comparison doesn't work because we actually like Jack.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In one particularly glaring example from a first-season episode, a Sufficiently Advanced Alien known as "The Traveler" stopped-in seemingly for the exclusive purpose of telling the crew how wonderful Wesley was. While Wesley hadn't quite become a Creator's Pet by that point, further treatment along these lines basically ended up as one of the most definitive examples of Creator's Pet.
- Another TNG example, "The Outrageous Okona", did nothing actually outrageous except taking advantage of his incredibly hyped reputation as a wild maverick man of action to get laid. Popular with the ladies, but not with the fans, who largely consider him a joke.
- In-universe, the Zakdorn. The species relies on their reputation as master strategists, which has ensured that nobody ever dared to fight them. Characters who meet one on TNG are less than impressed with his abilities.
- Survivor: Rob. Also, Russell. The reunion for Redemption Island was especially terrible, essentially being an hour of "Isn't Rob awesome?" in between talking to Russell and asking if he'd return, or asking if Phillip was that crazy. Many fans cheered just because the worst season of Survivor finally ended, and with the thoughts that Rob would finally go away. He and Russell still get mentions every season thereafter.
- The Wire: A lot of characters in the third season comment on just how bad and cold Marlo Stanfield is, actually saying that he's "for real". As it turns out, he really is.
- Warhammer 40000 does this so often it is hardly notable, with every faction update portraying said faction as mighty and unstoppable and everyone else should tremble at their very presence (except for the Eldar, who never escape being the galaxy's Butt Monkey), purposefully to sell more models. However, the Ultramarines receive a ridiculous amount of shilling even by these standards, 5th Edition changing them from the "standard" Space Marine chapter, whose main characteristic was being a jack of all trades, to the epitome of Imperial virtue and the pinnacle to which all other Space Marine chapters aspire to emulate. The codex being mostly written by a confessed Ultramarine fanboy might have had something to do with it.
- Here's a fun exercise for Horde players in World of Warcraft: While leveling to the cap, keep track of the number of NPCs you encounter who refer to Garrosh Hellscream as a master tactician or military genius. This would probably not be so aggravating if he ever actually displayed any of his supposed skill, but usually we're just told about it and the times we actually see him in action he's incompetent at best (notably, he sends the player character on a Suicide Mission in Borean Tundra, and his attempt to ambush the Alliance in Twilight Highlands backfires spectacularly when Deathwing shows up with a fleet of Twilight dragons and wrecks the now-defenseless Horde fleet).
- And to add insult to injury you then incite an insurrection against the Dragonmaw by.....talking about how awesome Garrosh is. It doesn't help matters that the horde introduction is much longer and more interesting than the Alliance's which just has you get in a drunken dwarf's plane and pass out.
- By the time of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, Makoto Nanaya has been enjoying quite a bit shilling for someone who's just minding her own business rather than taking part of the plot actively. Hazama considers her a Spanner in the Works, Relius Clover becomes obsessed with her apparent 'strong soul', as he described, and the one moment she met the resident snobby bitch Rachel... the latter wasn't even being snobby and instead praising her like hell. Whether she lived up to the shilling is for the sequel to report.
- Played with in the Metal Gear series. All the characters comment on how legendary a hero Solid Snake is, and despite being able to live up to his reputation, Snake constantly insists that he is anything but a hero.
- In Mass Effect 3, during the Citadel DLC, the entire team goes on a mission together, chock full of observations during a gunfight, scared realizations by their enemies on who the protagonists are, and, quite fittingly, the team teasing each other. Except, of course, for Urdnot Wrex, whom the rest of the party lavishes only praise. However, he doesn't do something anyone else in the team won't do.
- Inverted in the Monkey Island series. Guybrush wants to be recognized by everybody for his "success" in defeating Le Chuck and constantly boasts about how heroic he is for it. The problem? Nobody else gives a damn.
- Played for dark humor during the fifth and sixth chapter of Umineko No Naku Koro Ni where the narration and everyone keep going on about Erika Furudo. The problem is that there's so much gushing because it's Lambdadelta's script and she's also callous and an incredible bitch. She does end up satisfying her reputation. But she's still a bitch.
- Owen on Total Drama Island. Most of his accomplishments are either a) based on dumb luck or b) somehow related to eating, yet everybody keeps praising him for them. In the first episode of Total Drama Action, for example, he manages to avoid being caught by the monster simply because he's too fat to pick up, then eats a bunch of fake food because he wouldn't just stop and listen to Chris tell him it was fake. But by coincidence he happened to burp out the key they were supposed to find, and immediately we get confessional scenes of other characters praising him.
- Played for Laughs during the infamous "Poochie" episode of The Simpsons; when pitching the character, Homer talks about putting extra emphasis on the new character by suggesting that, whenever he's not onscreen, other characters should be asking, "Where's Poochie?" When the episode actually airs, Itchy and Scratchy's very few lines center on how awesome Poochie is.
- A 1985 Betty Boop cartoon titled "The Romance Of Betty Boop" takes this to the extreme, with people gushing about how wonderful Betty is as she walks down the street. Yes, it's every bit as cringe-inducing as it sounds.