How can they make me eat meat? I don't
eat meat! I don't want
to eat meat! I'm a vegetarian. Grant Morrison:
a vegetarian. You'll be whatever you're written to be.
In some stories, a character is very different every time they appear — so different that it's almost a different character with the same name
. This is particularly common with Long Runners
and comic books, due to the large number of writers on staff. But there are some characters where even the same writer makes them different every time.
This is not the same as Character Development
— nothing happens in the story to justify the personality change. Writer on Board
or Creator Breakdown
Don't get this confused with character depth. Just because you can't predict a character's moves 100% of the time doesn't mean they're inconsistent. Now, if you can predict a character's moves 100% of the time only when you know who's writing
, then they're definitely inconsistent.
Different writers with different ideas and understandings of the work are also the usual culprit of Continuity Drift
If the writers themselves begin to notice this, they might attempt an Author's Saving Throw
. If they can find a way to plausibly reconcile the two depictions, it may even lead to genuine Character Development
, acknowledging that real people are complex and full of apparent contradictions.
See also Ping Pong Naďveté
Compare Alternate Character Interpretation
, Depending on the Artist
, Era-Specific Personality
, Interpretative Character
, Armed with Canon
, Running the Asylum
, Character Derailment
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Anime & Manga
- The original Getter Robo team generally alternate between the Heroic Sociopath characterization of the original manga and most of the more recent animated productions and the more conventionally heroic 1970s anime version.
- The closeness of Musashi/Jessie and Kojiro/James in Pokémon varies with each writer, as well as their good nature.
- Sailor Moon: Minako/Sailor Venus' maturity varies wildly; sometimes she's the more mature, experienced one, and other times she's an overbearing, proverb-confusing oddball. This is more obvious in the anime than anywhere else, though the ditzyness actually stems from the Code Name Sailor V manga, so there's inconsistencies all over the place.
- There were also some episodes of the anime where Rei/Sailor Mars is Sailor Moon's arch rival and seemingly hates anything and everything about her, and there are others where their relationship is more friendly.
- Most Senshi have their personalities considerably changed between the manga and the anime. Ditzy Minako was entirely invented by latter. In the manga she's dutiful second-in-command of Sailor Senshi.
- The title character of Cardcaptor Sakura can range between being something of a fairly normal Naďve Everygirl with visible cynicism and neuroses, or an incorruptably sweet and cheery Cloud Cuckoo Lander. This usually plays into the characters she interacts with (against Kero or Tomoyo for example, Sakura is something of an exasperated Straight Man, when paired with Syaoran however, her obliviousness and affectionate qualities are exaggerated to unbearable levels for the poor guy).
- It's hard for those who have only seen Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell movies to imagine the introverted and philosophical Major Motoko Kusanagi getting drunk off her ass or engaging in a drug-fueled lesbian sex orgy but that's just the way Masamune Shirow rolls. The TV series, meanwhile, strikes a comfortable balance. While the Major's less of a party animal she does retain some of the manga version's sarcastic sense of humor, and her vices are hinted at, but kept mostly off-screen.
- In the Area 88 manga and OVA, Mickey is cheerful and friendly without being overbearing, and his angst is mostly internalized. In the 2004 TV anime, he's loud, overbearing, and has serious anger issues.
- In the manga and OVA, Shin is sociable and develops warm relationships with others at Area 88. In the TV anime, he speaks only when necessary and is aloof from the other pilots, only developing shallow ties to Mickey and Kim.
- Under the ironic pen of Paul Magrs in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio Excelis Dawns, Lord Grayvorn is something of an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, with strong hints that his unseen army is a lot less impressive than he suggests. In the subsequent audios in the Excelis Trilogy, he's a much more serious threat. It could be that he's Taken A Level In Badass, but even the Doctor doesn't argue much with the idea that he was the planet's most powerful warlord back in the day.
Comics as a medium are heavily subject to this trope, especially when they run for decades and necessarily have many different writers, some of whom are cavalier about consistency.
- The comics made of the various Disney icons. Such as Donald Duck.
- Scrooge himself: heartless bastard tormenting Donald for the sake of a few more cents, perfectly willing to exploit workers, destroy the environment and let his own family die in the name of profit? Indiana Jones-style treasure hunter? Jerk with a Heart of Gold who prides on having made his fortune "fair and square" and deeply cares by his family and his friends? Complete and utter badass? An eccentric old man who's not really good or evil?
- Scrooge's money bin may be a simple box made of stone or a blue and red dome; the Beagle Boys may frequently hide out in an old trailer or a shack or under the very foundations of Duckburg; Flinheart Glomgold may live in South Africa or in Duckburg as a member of the Billionaires' Club (or alternatively, he may not exist at all, with John D. Rockerduck in his place); Donald may range from being an average chef to a Lethal Chef; Magica de Spell may be a real powerful sorceress or a normal person who dabbles in sorcery; Granma Duck may be Scrooge's sister or not related to him at all; Gladstone Gander may be really lucky because a Triple Distelfink sign was painted on the barn door on the day of his mother's birth or because the goddess of fortune is in love with him.... The list goes on.
- The Beagle Boys' competence (and numbers) also seem to flip-flop (from few as three or as many as eleven). And do they use guns, or are they simply too poor to even afford those?
- Even Rockerduck himself, despite not even existing in most writers' minds, has flip-flopped between honorable businessman Scrooge likes to screw with for fun, slightly crooked bastard who enjoys spying, swindling and bribing to get his way, white-collar criminal, and murderous gang leader.
- Wonder Woman might as well be the patron saint of this trope. Every writer since her re-creation in the 1980s has wanted to put their own stamp on the character to the point where they flat out ignore what the previous writer has done with the character. Her revolving Supporting Cast and extraordinarily minor Rogues Gallery are testaments to this.
- Post-Crisis, the biggest element to swing back and forth with her is whether she's going to be the man hating Straw Feminist that makes a little more sense when she first leaves Themyscira, or the more mature rounded character who actually has a sense of humor and good relationships with several male characters.
- Pretty bad in the New 52. Azzarello's Wonder Woman in her own book is a completely different person from Geoff Johns' Wonder Woman in Justice League.
- Cassandra Sandsmark (the second Wonder Girl): Is she a confident Cute Bruiser? Is she filled with Wangst and ill-tempered at the level of the Alpha Bitch? Has she gotten over her boyfriend's (temporary) death or not? And is she the Tomboy or The Chick? Such writing inconsistencies have derailed her character practically since she became a Teen Titan, though she originally started out as The Scrappy when written by John Byrne. It took Peter David to deliver the first "fix" on her character, though Byrne decried it, along with the very idea that Cassie would ever join a superhero team. According to Byrne, she was not supposed to be "unique". Byrne would later become incensed by the revelation that Cassie's father was Zeus, as well as the idea that she would lose her virginity to Superboy.
- Batman books are full of this.
- First there's the caped crusader himself. He's had so many writers that he's barely the same character in some appearances. And that's just in the main DCU, and not going into All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, the movies, and various TV shows based on him. To list all the different ways he's been portrayed (is he a really good detective or not? Is he admirable or a Jerk Ass? Is he the craziest or the Only Sane Man of the Justice League?) would take up way too much space. This is perhaps best represented in the Batman alignment chart◊
- Former sidekick Nightwing arguably gets it worse. While DC will usually run with one interpretation of Batman in all the books and then shift to another, Nightwing gets to be a relatively happy and well-adjusted leader of men in the bat-books, but shifts into a dark and broody Batman 2.0 in team books. Maybe they are both correct. He's grim and broody, but compared to Batman he looks cheery and well-adjusted!
- Don't even get started on the Joker...
- From the earliest comics to The Dark Knight Saga to the various animated series, he's been portrayed as a Harmless Villain, Magnificent Bastard, The Mad Hatter, Affably Evil, Faux Affably Evil, Bored With Insanity, Complete Monster... listing everything he's been would warrant its own section! It's probable that all of these are true. A text story by Grant Morrison in Batman and son, leading to the Joker's role in Batman RIP, has him deciding it's time for a new persona and considering various options.
- Another aspect also in flux is the Joker's fighting ability. Sometimes he's got a glass jaw and has to hide behind his schemes, sometimes he can hold off Batman or even take him on toe-to-toe, or even take on monsters, gods and the greatest martial artists in the world.
- The Riddler... Nerdy milquetoast with a debilitating gimmick who is considering not even worth killing by other members of Batman's Rogue gallery... or a suave, calculating and Magnificent Bastard with an intellect possibly comparable to the dark knight himself? There's also the fact that some interpretations have him as hyperactive and rather reminiscent of the Joker (think Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey), while others portray him as more of a smooth-talking, calm intellectual (think John Glover and Robert Englund).
- Killer Croc gets altered constantly both in appearance and character. Is his intelligence below average, is he retarded, is he an animal? Is he just a thug, a thug with a cannibalistic MO, or just a savage monster who wants to eat everyone in the room? The only thing writers seem to agree on is that he's not very bright and has some sort of skin condition. Croc gets it worse than most examples here in that they can't even keep his race consistent. Is he a white old-time gangster film heavy? A black inner city thug? Or is he just a big green reptile? None of these interpretations are even remotely in line with the pre-Crisis version of Croc, who was a rather intelligent (not super-genius or anything, but still at least average) gang leader that just happened to have a skin condition. He wasn't even green. Early on, there was even some debate as to the character's proper name, and he would variously be King Croc, Killer Croc, or simply, as he was listed in Who's Who, Croc. And this same Who's Who profile claimed that Croc had no actual powers; he just had leathery skin and was abnormally, not superhumanly, strong. Compare most modern versions and you'll see the obvious discrepancy here. Some of this has been explained, albeit through Retcon; Chuck Dixon's Batman run said Croc was in a process of mutation that started out as a skin condition and gradually led to him becoming more reptilian. Why he's now more human than he was when Dixon left him is another story...
- The Planetary / Batman Cross Over "Night on Earth" is essentially an issue-long Lampshade Hanging of this trope as it pertains to Batman; it involves reality 'shifting' around Crime Alley in Gotham City, with the Planetary team meeting variations of Batman ranging from Adam West to Frank Miller to Neal Adams and more besides in their varying universes. However, the actions of the issue still play out exactly the same and perfectly in character for each version of Batman, the point being that for all the different interpretations they're all nevertheless the same essential character.
- Damian Wayne, the latest Robin, gets this too. With his creator, Grant Morrison, he tends to be written as a Sociopathic Hero who is excellent at everything. Other writers tend to downplayed his skills in combat.
- The Mad Hatter. Sometimes he's a somewhat sympathetic Carrol-Obsessed loony, who truly seems to think of his mind-controlled henchmen as his friends, however delusionally. Other times he's a murderer and a child molester... with a thing for blonde girls.
- Two-Face's "schtick" tends to ping-pong between a genuine split personality, with the Harvey and "Two-Face" personas engaging in discussions (and, in No Man's Land, a courtroom debate) with disputes between them being resolved by the coin, to a single personality with a violently extreme case of bipolar disorder and obsession with duality. Or a mixture. Also, his appearance changes drastically between each adaptation.
- Jason Todd/Robin II/Red Hood. Is he an Anti-Hero, an Anti-Villain, or just a full-on villain? He has more interpretations than hair colors.
- The varying changes in portrayal of Jason Todd goes all the way back to his days as Robin. After Post-Crisis some writers portrayed him in a sympathetic light as a character learning to come into his own while other writers such as Jim Starlin, who did not like Robin, intentionally wrote him in a negative light going against all the characterization he had.
- Kimiyo Hoshi, the female Doctor Light, was initially written as an Alpha Bitch. When she joined the JLE, her personality was softened and it was explained that her earlier behavior was the result of drinking too much soda (no, really). Later writers ignored this development and brought her back to said Alpha Bitch personality, with Kimiyo fluctuating between these characterizations ever since. Judd Winick had Kimiyo lose her powers. Gail Simone (possibly erroneously) then had her using her powers when she guest-starred in Birds of Prey. Dwayne McDuffie ended up splitting the difference via a retcon establishing that her powers had returned, but were now wildly unstable.
- Superman is probably worse, considering he is the Trope Codifier of the Flying Brick. That was the main thing that made Superman II fail for the fans, because he was given random powers that had never appeared before. When handled at his most popular, his powers are fairly straightforward: Flight, Invulnerability, Heat Vision, Ice Breath, and the super abilities of Super Senses, Super Speed and Super Strength. Power Creep, Power Seep aside, writers would give him the most bizarre super-"whatever" power (including super-marble playing and the "S" saran wrap shield). This is probably what gave fan Jerry Seinfeld his thoughts about him having "super humor." One strip has him use super-puppeteering to put on a play for Lois, and super-memory to learn the script quickly. Superman's powers were never really set in stone during the Golden and Silver ages. Superman was rife with New Powers as the Plot Demands up until John Byrne's post-crisis revamp gave a definite set of powers for Superman, removing some like freezing breath, forgetting others like "Super Ventriloquism" and "Super Elastic Facial Muscles" (this is not a joke), and limiting others like his super strength and speed. (Seriously, how else could a mook like the Toyman be even kind of a threat?) That is until later writers decided to undo all of that since a superhero with limits just wasn't "interesting" enough. At the Superman rollercoaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, there are giant plaques hung up that you can read while advancing through the line. Superman's plaque lists one of his powers as "Super-Intelligence". Now, we are talking about a guy who, canonically, built functional android duplicates of himself realistic (and powerful) enough to take his place if he's indisposed. He actually is supposed to be scary smart. But, well ... you know. His weaknesses suffer this too. Kryptonite is often shown to have him on the ground in pain in seconds just from waving it in front of his face while red sunlight shuts his powers off instantly. Then he'll turn around and fly through a Kryptonite asteroid belt (he is the Trope Namer for Fight Off the Kryptonite) and a red star and still somehow survive a crash landing on a planet before his powers completely fade. Though some of this is genuine retconning. Red sunlight was changed to cause rapid power depletion instead of instant powerlessness for a couple of decades before it went back to being his off switch.
His vulnerability to magic can be even more confusing. Do you have a pencil that's magically enchanted to write what you say? You can stab Superman with that even though nothing about the magic actually makes it a better weapon. On the other hand some writers have him able to square off with Thor and Captain Marvel who should be able to tear him apart if the above was true. His weakness to magic was originally supposed to be lack of resistance to spells that violate the laws of nature so he can be turned into a frog as easily as the next guy but magic super strength is no better than regular super strength against him.
Another issue is his mortality; the pre-New 52 modern comics (as well as Smallville) basically said that he'll live forever as long as no one kills him. However this is certainly not true in the Silver Age: for instance the Earth-2 Superman is obviously in late middle-age.
His character in the comics tends to vary as well, from being completely content identifying as a human to being all too aware of his status as an outsider. Among other heroes he's generally optimistic and upbeat but still serious whereas his solo titles tend to show him brooding and angsting over his role, whether or not he's doing enough, balancing his heroic and personal life (at least since the Bronze Age), and so forth. Its possible that he he outwardly projects optimism and confidence to fulfill his role as a leader while keeping his doubts to himself.
- Superman's reality warping enemy, Mr. Mxyzptlk, flips back and forth between sociopathic pest and Stealth Mentor. In Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, he explained that he gets bored and switches personas every so often.
- Many comic-book villains alternate between Noble Demon and baby-eating psycho depending on who's writing them (Dr. Doom and Magneto being the most obvious). It's very strange to see Magneto go between being Chris Claremont's Well-Intentioned Extremist Magneto and Grant Morrison's parody Silver Age drug addict Magneto. Which is why Grant Morrison's Mags officially wasn't him. And afterward Magneto (written by Chris Claremont) commented "Why would anyone think I was capable of that?"
- John Byrne's Alpha Flight were (his protests to the contrary) well-Rounded Characters with depth and interest. After he quit, they rapidly went to being whiny losers and have never been portrayed consistently since, until they all died to show how powerful a random villain was (and pave the way for Omega Flight).
- Spider-Man 's J. Jonah Jameson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, gets this treatment when it comes to the reasoning behind his newspaper's anti-Spidey reporting: to some, it's because he's jealous of the fact the Spider-Man is more heroic than he could ever be; to others, it's just a case of JJ being an asshole. Even more inconsistent is his personality beyond the Spidey-hate; is he a Jerk with a Heart of Gold to his employeees and a decent newspaperman with one unfortunate blind-spot, or is he a Bad Boss and a headline-chasing scaremongerer?
- X-Men example:
- Cyclops tends to go from bad-ass leader, to whiny emo-kid, to punchable asshat who treats his women like shit due to his constant infidelity.
- Wolverine is even worse, as he can be a murder-happy asshole, honorable warrior, fatherly mentor, and the gruff veteran super-hero whose violent nature is a source of conflict within him. His personality being all over the place is par for the course, but combine that with his tendency to be everywhere at once in various different costumes. And his powers aren't even consistent. He goes from taking a gunshot to the stomach and taking a few days to heal to standing right next to Nitro when he goes off and regenerating from only his skeleton in seconds.
- Both Wolverine and Colossus have an actual physical problem in this area: writers can't seem to decide once and for all whether adamantium and organic steel are magnetic... which is kind of important given who the X-Men's most frequent recurring big bad is.
- One of the worse examples in the X-Men has to be Polaris and Havok. Either they are insane with rage at the treatment of mutantkind, running screaming into the hills to try and live normal lives (their original default personalities BTW), or are being written as the brainwashed pawns of the villain of the week. A controversial moment in Uncanny Avengers had Havok declaring to the public that he despises the "m-word" and wished to be treated just like everyone else. A number of people online pointed out that a statement such as this was extremely out of character for Havok, who in the past had been shown to be very proud of his mutant heritage.
- In one old X-men comic, Colossus is shown to be especially weak to Storm's lightning because he's made of metal, the tiniest spark sending him into bouts of pain. Only a few issues later, he takes one of Storm's normal lightning bolts with a smile on his face. Maybe he just became a masochist.
- Nightcrawler, another member of the X-Men, falls prey to this trope as well. In his initial appearances, he's Fun Personified, though some later writers downplay this quality and a few remove it almost entirely. It also happens with his religion, initially he didn't talk about it much and said it was just a matter between him and God, but some writers make him more religious, even to the point where he's training to become a priest.
- A storyline from late in the Chris Claremont's classic run has the team killed and resurrected, which renders the lineup at the time, which included Rogue, Storm, and Wolverinenote invisible to cameras, a fact referenced and exploited frequently throughout the rest of his run. This is completely forgotten by the next writer, and since then, whenever one of the eight shows up, they turn up on camera unless it's written by Chris himself, who makes references to this trait well into the noughties.
- Another is the use of the word "human" by sympathetic characters — certain villains draw a bright line, but whether aliens feel the need to specify "humans and mutants" or whether the X-Men themselves refer to "humans" or "non-mutant humans" depends far more on the writer than the characters.
- The portrayal of Sabretooth is all over the place. He can go from animalistic berserker to calm criminal mastermind within the same storyline, and not in a Jekyll-and-Hyde way. Likewise, his looks vary from completely monstrous to human with slight orthodontic issues.
- Is Black Canary a genuine, butt-kicking, Action Girl? Or is she a Faux Action Girl who, as Green Arrow's Designated Love Interest, needs Green Arrow to get her out of trouble? Depends on who's writing her, and what comic it is. If it's Birds of Prey, expect the former. If it's anything with "Green Arrow" in the title (or if Judd Winick is at the helm), expect the latter. Strangely enough, if it's Justice League where she would be more likely to find herself out of her depth, she, like Batman, kicks all kinds of ass, probably for the same reason Batman does, because writers always feel the need to justify the Badass Normal and low power characters on the team.
- Namor the Sub-Mariner has had this non-stop since he was first published in the late thirties. He's either a violent and bitter anti-hero with an unjust grudge against humanity, a noble leader who is only seeking the best for his people, a stalwart pragmatist whose loyalty to his comrades is without question, or some combination thereof. In fact, his writing varies so much that Marvel eventually canonized it: he has a disorder caused by his amphibious physiology that manifests in that way.
- Runaways: The portrayal of Chase Stein has always swung between Jerk Jock and Cute but Troubled, but Terry Moore seems to have taken the "Idiot Jock" interpretation and run with it, giving Chase a very immature personality. And Chase wasn't the only one, virtually all the characters were heavily derailed by Terry Moore. Nico went from a leader to a megalomaniac, Molly went from playing naive and innocent to throw people off to actually thinking "we could build a fort!" is an appropriate response to an emergency, Victor stopped being funny, Xavin became too funny, and Klara lost anything resembling a personality. The closest thing to a consistent character is Karolina, who still seems to have lost her backbone.
- The original Phantom Lady between cosmic reboots, has gone from A superspy goverment agent to a bored senator daughter with a gimmick-and personality wise from a delicate Ice Queen impossibly ace to a tough talking bruser.
- Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four has alternated between self-obsessed prima donna and self-obsessed whiny asshat, while Susan Storm has switched between defenseless butterfly to empowered female. Additionally, every new writer of the book seems to like to take a socially well-adjusted Ben Grimm and throw on the angst about his condition so they can take him out again. Reed Richards? Always a dork, but it's not quite clear how many shades of Badass Bookworm he has, and tends to be either a socially ignorant genius who's more interested in his work, than his family, to a guy who really does care about his family. Some FF writers, most notably Tom DeFalco, have tried to upgrade Johnny to at least being savvy about his powers and status. Later ones felt the need to make him dumb and dumber both. Also, a character who can end up spending months away from Earth aiding his team and family is frequently taken to task for not going to college. Some courses are crazy, and require you to show up for class.
- None of this compares to Victor Von Doom. Dr. Doom is swung back and forth from being a baby-eating psycho, to practically being an Anti-Villain more noble and courageous then Reed Richards, and everything in between. In particular, the way he runs his country comes under fire from this — does he make it a complete utopia with happy, contented citizens, or is it just a facade the citizens put on because Doom will kill anyone who disagrees, and Doom himself only cares for them as a master would care for his pet? Writers almost always wind up disagreeing with one another about Doom's correct portrayal and declare stories they don't approve of to have been Doombots instead. "Baby-eating psycho" isn't an exaggeration of how some writers view him. Here's Mark Waid's take on the character:
"The truism that Victor von Doom is, despite his villainy, a noble person is absolute crap. A man whose entire motivating force is jealousy is ridiculously petty, not grandly noble. Yes, Doom is regal and yes, whenever possible, Doom likes to act as though he possesses great moral character because to him that's what great men have... [but Doom] would tear the head off a newborn baby and eat it like an apple while his mother watched if it would somehow prove he was smarter than Reed."
- Dr. Doom gets an additional layer about running his own country. Does he truly care about his citizens? Does he act the monarch just for arrogant sense of self-entitlement, and to gain access to the resources of a nation and diplomatic immunity? Are the people of Latveria genuinely happy under his rule? Is Latveria a police state where no public display of malcontent is allowed?
- In most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptations, Raphael is portrayed as a brooding loner who frequently breaks from the group and fights with his brothers — particularly Leonardo, who has a much more commanding presence as a leader. In others, like the original Fred Wolf animated series, Raphael is a good-natured albeit sarcastic jokester while Leonardo seems more toned down and unofficial in his leadership role. Michaelangelo and Donatello remain constant for the most part.
- Depending on who's in control, Solomon Grundy can be incapable of saying anything more than "Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday" or perfectly capable of rational speech. The differences can get quite jarring at times. Surprisingly, there's actually an explanation for this. Every time he dies he comes back with a different personality, and it's very hard to stop him without killing him. A recent miniseries is focused on him returning with his mortal personality and trying to break this cycle. The first arc of the Justice League revamp began with, surprisingly, Solomon Grundy as the Big Bad and actually the brains behind the whole scheme (which was to steal Red Tornado's new robot/android/cyborg body and place his soul in it so he'd stop dying). It was extremely odd seeing Grundy looking like a buff, albino gangster.
- His Strength Level. He ranges from getting a beatdown from Batman up to solely curbstomping the whole Justice League, including Superman.
- How about The Punisher? Generally a good man who's committed to trying to make sure his family's deaths don't happen again? Psychopathic monster who'll kill people for littering or being junkies? A man on a mission with a singular purpose and great at planning? Barely rational gun-toting lunatic?
- Garth Ennis's take, as a sadistic torturer who enjoys killing for its own sake. Tricking a crime boss into following him into a polar bear enclosure and riling them up to attack her because he is unarmed? Okay, proactive self defense. Kicking same crime boss, who was an elderly woman and is now a quadruple amputee, into a house fire? Well...
- Then came Born from the MAX imprint, which puts a stunning twist on his origin: Not only was it was never about vengeance for his family, he (unwittingly) caused their murders. What happened was that in Vietnam, he'd grown to love war, both because he was a master of killing and he liked being able to punish wrongdoers. He made a deal with a mysterious unseen entity (the Grim Reaper, according to the author's notes) that once the Vietnam War ended, he could have his own war which would never end...for an unspecified price. It was only after he returned that he learned that the price was his family.
- The the last four Max arcs (Kingpin, Bullseye, Frank, and Homeless) muddle things even further. It turns out that the aforementioned deal with Death was just a possibility, and that avenging his family was still on the table (although that too was only a possibility). Then in Frank, Frank himself denies both explanations and gives the "punishing himself" rationale given by previous authors (which at the time was mostly an attempt to keep the moral guardians at bay). Bullseye himself lampshades this, spending several days just pondering the possible origins.
- The second female Hawk of Hawk and Dove named Holly Granger was a case of this in her tenure in the comics. Was she a bad-tempered bratty younger sister with a punk edge? Or was she more of a promiscuous seductress? Did she speak in a phony British accent with slang or not? And was she Dawn's younger or older sister (the latter which would technically make her a case of Christmas Cake when she slept with Power Boy in that Squick-inducing scene, thank you very much, Judd Winick.). Is it any wonder she became Blackest Night cannon fodder?
- The Hulk has numerous factors of his character that vary between writers; Whether he's a dumb brute that can only speak in Hulk Speak, a completely mindless monster who can't talk at all, or someone with a fairly average intellect with a somewhat odd speech pattern. This is somewhat justified by Banner having multiple personality syndrome and there being thousands of Hulks in his mind. Also depending on the writer is the Hulk's powerlevel; while it is in a state of flux depending on his emotional state, some writers have him being knocked out by an average python choking him for less than a minute, and dying from being impaled by a triton when he's previously survived wounds that make that seem like a papercut by comparison.
- One telling comparison is to look at a few recent depictions of the Hulk by three very different writers. Greg Pak has been the main writer on the Hulk for about five years now and has gone into great lengths to give the Hulk, rather than Bruce Banner, some in depth character development through such storylines as Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, and Fall of The Hulks, which paint a complex and sympathetic picture of the Jade Giant. Then there's Mark Millar's run on The Ultimates and the Old Man Logan mini series. The former shows Banner as weak willed and insecure(not completely unjustified given it's meant to be early on in the character's history) and the Hulk as, among other things, an active cannibal. The latter shows Banner/Hulk as an insane red neck who leads a gang of his inbred mutant children(sired with his cousin, She-Hulk, suggested to have been by rape) and rules over the ruins of the west coast. Granted, Millar's versions are an alternate universe and Bad Future, respectively, but one gets the idea that he doesn't think highly of the character.
- Portrayals of The Authority vary from writer to writer, to the point where it's not consistent whether they're the Wildstorm Universe's greatest force for good or a bunch of sociopathic fascists. Also doesn't help that they get used as punching bags in series other than their own.
- John Constantine in Hellblazer suffers from this trope. Is he just an ordinary blue-collar bloke who happens to attract a lot of supernatural attention and who learned some magic in order to deal with this, or a master sorcerer who can casually bend the laws of time and space at will? A more or less decent guy at heart who struggles with his conscience like anyone else would in his situation, or an utter and unrepentant bastard who'd throw anybody under the bus without a second thought? Is he in fact sane, or isn't he? Some of his writers have tried to explain away the changes they make to his personality (like externalizing all his guilt into a demon infant and tossing it off a cliff) and some haven't.
- The relative goodness of Deadpool varies. Sometimes he's depicted as heavily mentally unstable, even Ax-Crazy covered up by a facade of goofiness, whereas at other times, he's a Crazy Awesome anti-hero who would Never Hurt an Innocent. The Hulk Vs. series kind of splits the difference, having an amusing Deadpool who is also completely malevolent.
- Fin Fang Foom's size, intelligence, backstory, and alignment vary wildly between appearances, as discussed here.
- The New Gods. Oh boy the New Gods. You have some names and some basic relationships. Nothing else will stay consistent between writers or even in different appearances by the same writer. This falls broadly into two camps: people who never actually read the thing and people who did but changed things they didn't particularly care for. Examples: the nature of the Anti-Life Equation, the nature of the New Gods themselves, whether Neo Genesis and Apokolips were somewhere in space or another dimension entirely, and what their actual size is.
- The team formerly known as the Micronauts has kept reappearing occasionally since 1996 revealed that Arcturus Rann, Mari, and Bug were somehow still alive. They've appeared in Cable, Captain Marvel, Earth X, Realm of Kings, Son of Hulk, and Alpha Flight. Rann and Mari have had different personalities in each. In the Cable appearance, Rann was rather genial and avuncular, Mari was taciturn and humorless (along with sporting a lesbian look). In following appearances, they've ranged from having no personality other than a sci-fi plot device (Mari technobabbles like a Star Trek episode), to Realm of Kings, where Mari acts like a ditzy motormouth amazon and Rann acts bored. Admittedly, since Bug is no longer part of the team, the comic relief falls of the shoulders of Mari and her android sidekick Carl.
- Spirou changed writers many times over the years. Aside from being very visible, the storylines vary, too. Rob-Vel started Spirou being an actual bellboy, Franquin turned him into an journalist adventurer, Fournier made him run into more surreal stuff, various other writers had their own stint before Tome and Janry made the series return to the Franquin era, with the stories getting progressively Darker and Edgier, while starting a Spin-Off about Spirou in his youth, and, after a commercially failed attempt at a (sort of) realistic story, Morvan and Munuera took a more Manga-style take at it, the stories no longer stuck to the present day. The current team, Yoann and Vehlmann, have been leaning heavily on surreal sci-fi elements.
- The teen Vision from Young Avengers had the memories of the original Vision, but the writers were unsure how far to take this. Young Avengers made it clear that the new Vision had his own distinct personality and was for all intents and purposes a new character, while New Avengers and Captain America seemed to indicate he was essentially the original Vision in a new body.
- the Avengers Assemble annual Lampshaded this by having Iron Man and Hank Pym state that they left the original Vision in storage because the team assumed the new Vision was just the classic version with an upgraded appearance.
- The Archie Comics are famous for this.
- Is Archie a nice guy, or a Jerkass? Does he chase Veronica and ignore Betty, or does he treat them both equally? His obliviousness or ditzy nature has been the subject of the laughs for years, but exactly how stupid he is depends on the writer - sometimes he's flat out Too Dumb to Live, but other times he's the Only Sane Man.
- How much does Jughead eat? Does he really hate girls, or does he have secret crushes? Or is he gay? Wait, best not answer that.
- How rich is Veronica? For that matter, how much of a Rich Bitch or Spoiled Sweet is she?
- Is Reggie a Jerkass, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or just a nice guy? How well does he get along with Archie and Jughead?
- Is Moose Book Dumb, The Ditz, Too Dumb to Live, or Smarter Than he Looks? Does he go crazy when other guys so much as look at Midge, or is he kind and accepting?
- Is Chuck madly in love with Nancy, or does he ignore her for his art?
- Is Betty a sore loser, or a sad loser? Does she have a crush on Archie, or is she obsessed with him?
- Is Ethel completely repulsive or Hollywood Homely? (Also a case of Depending on the Artist too)
- How smart is Dilton, and how socially awkward is he?
- Is Mr. Lodge completely on edge, or is he a Jerk with a Heart of Gold?
- Is Ms. Grundy crabby and grouchy, or is she kind and caring?
- How heavy is Mr. Svenson's accent?
- Is Captain Atom a god, as much more powerful than, say, Superman, as Superman is compared to a normal human, or is he of mid-level power by the standards of the DCU? Does he like having power over other people, even to a pathological extent, or does he see leadership as a burden that he'll take up only because he's the only one who can? Does he have problems with authority, or is he a stereotypical military man who will salute and say yes sir? Is he stuck as Captain Atom, losing his connection to humanity, or is he able to transform back and forth at will, facing him with the dilemma that he can always just walk away from being a superhero?
- Death Of The Family: The Batman franchise started in 1939, so this trope had to happen, and this storyline is no exception to the rule. For instance, Catwoman's personality and perhaps intelligence are portrayed quite differently between Judd Winick and Ann Nocenti.
- Is Lex Luthor a Card-Carrying Villain, a Noble Demon, or a Well-Intentioned Extremist? Considering he started as a Mad Scientist and was rectonned into being a Corrupt Corporate Executive, he has legitimately fallen into more than one of these categories but even within his incarnations, writers have different takes on just how much Lex really wants to help mankind (to the exclusion of aliens) and how much he's in it for himself or at least his pride. His hatred of Superman is consistent but the motivations for that hatred have varied considerably.
- When René Goscinny was writing Astérix, he kept Asterix himself as a fairly bland Standardized Leader Ideal Hero character who was almost never wrong about anything, and gave the Character Development to The Lancer Obelix, who was a sweet, profound and adorably frightening take on a Man Child. When Albert Uderzo took over, Asterix got a lot of Character Development and became more complicated and sympathetic, developed weaknesses and was no longer infallible, but at the same time Obelix was severely Flanderized into being significantly more stupid and selfish, and usually The Millstone to boot. This is most noticeable in The Magic Carpet, where Asterix almost fails on multiple occasions because he has to constantly babysit Obelix. On the bright side, Uderzo introduced a lot more memorable female characters than Goscinny managed to do (Bravura, Melodrama, Orinjade, Latraviata...) and fleshed out some of Goscinny's Spear Carrier and Satellite Love Interest female characters (like Fulliautomatix's wife and daughter, and Obelix's perennial love interest Panacea) into more well-rounded human beings.
- While the Transformers franchise as a whole is prone to this, it is particularly noticeable in the original Marvel Comics' series — most of the stories were written by either Bob Budiansky or Simon Furman, who often had sharply different depictions of key characters. To pick but one example, Grimlock was a vain and power-mad Designated Hero under Budiansky, whereas Furman writes him as a Noble Savage of a Proud Warrior Race.
- Very common in fanfics written by more than one author, which is sometimes two existing authors on the same site, but more often than not two friends, or a group, writing together using a shared account. Only ten percent of these are done well; the rest of the time, you can usually tell which chapter was written by a different author under the following criteria: characterization, shipping preferences, and what direction the plot goes in, no matter how improbable.
- There are also cases in which a beta reader influences the story to an extent that it's clear which sections they wrote and which were done by the main author.
- Touhou fanworks. It's extremely common to see takes on characters that either hew close to the official details, exaggerate them for parody or drama, or blatantly ignore them. Complicated with endless arguments about what is canon and fanon. One doujin can make one character extremely nice, another a complete jerkass, another an Axe Crazy mass murderer.
- This is just as pronounced, if not moreso, in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom; different authors will very often have different interpretations of the characters and setting, as expected of fanfic. But it gets really extreme when it comes to works about the many Memetic Bystander characters whose personalities are based primarily in fanon rather than canon. Two stories by different authors about characters like Derpy Hooves or Lyra will likely treat the characters very differently.
- The Total Drama fandom does this with select characters, where different authors might have drastically different characterizations for the same people. While almost everyone gets hit with this to an extent, these are some of the most notable examples:
- In general: Should the biographies on the campers written back in season one be followed to the letter, or ignored much like what canon does?
- Ezekiel: Shallow Jerkass or good-at-heart borderline Moe?
- Courtney: Reasonable if a little uptight person or capslocking, sue-crazy sociopath? This would be a case of Ron the Death Eater, except depictions of her in the series following the first season does lean over to the latter, particularly in season two.
- Owen — not so much the guy himself, but what people think of him. Is he still one of the most popular characters in-universe or does everyone feel sympathetic, yet sick of him at the same time?
- Izzy: Truly deranged nutcase or just an energetic Shameless Fanservice Girl who happens to like telling tall tales?
- Gwen: Thanks to the Duncan-kiss incident, she can either be a hero in the right or a devious antagonist depending on the author's character and/or shipping preference. Mostly shipping preference.
- Alejandro: The season's sadistic Big Bad or misunderstood guy who just wants Heather to love him?
- Fanfiction is, by its very nature, this trope. How canon characters are portrayed vary greatly from fanfic to fanfic depending on the writer.
- Harry Potter: Screenwriter Steve Kloves has often been derisively called a Harmonian, for the emphasis his films put on Harry and Hermione's relationship, including a slow dance after Ron abandoned them in the forest in the Deathly Hallows movie (though the end stuck with the book's Hermione/Ron marriage).
- Loki's characterisation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Thor movie writers portray him as an Affably Evil Anti-Villain and tragic figure, where Joss Whedon's version is Faux Affably Evil and almost entirely without redeeming features.
- Of couse, given that mind control figures pretty heavily into the plot of The Avengers, it's possible that he wasn't really himself for that movie, especially since his personality seems much closer to the first Thor movie in its sequel.
- An Older Than Print example: the original Beowulf gave no physical descriptions of Grendel or his mother, and as a result, their appearances often vary in adaptations. Grendel is usually portrayed as a brutal and ugly ogre, but sometimes he is a more-human (but just as brutal) barbarian warrior. His mother is often depicted as a hag, but sometimes as a Dark Action Girl, and modern depictions sometimes portray her as a demonic Shapeshifter who can assume the form of an attractive, seductive, human woman. (The original poem gave no real physical description of the dragon either, but let's be honest, a dragon is something that's pretty easy to picture.)
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has some very bad examples of this, especially in the long, interconnected series of novels. The New Jedi Order series (19 novels, 27 stories, 12 different writers) was legendary for this, and its followup, Legacy of the Force, managed to be almost as bad — despite being only three writers writing three books each.
- Even before then, some parts of the Bantam Spectra-era Expanded Universe had some serious Character Derailment, depending on the writer. Largely this is because writers apparently didn't like one anothers' work and did as they pleased, ignoring the fact that the Star Wars EU is supposed to be continuous. This led to quite a few Fix Fics — and see that article for how this was eventually repaired in Canon.
- The best example is probably the character, Tahiri. She has managed to cycle through being the girl Raised by Natives, the Victorious Childhood Friend, the shell shocked torture victim, the widowed lover, Ax-Crazy, the girl with split personalities (which later merge into a 3rd personality), the cultish bug girl, a Sith apprentice, the lover who just won't let go, a pedophile seductress, the Femme Fatale and is now on the journey to find herself. These all occurred with little to no character development and all function subsequently from each other? Oh boy....
- The Black Fleet Crisis, Callista and Jedi Academy Trilogy books portrayed Luke Skywalker egregiously bad. He went from The Hero to Quickly Demoted Leader to everywhere in between. They even managed to introduce The Scrappy in Callista and Akanah. Black Fleet Crisis turned Luke into more of an Invincible Hero than he's ever been before or since, giving him Story Breaker Powers out of absolutely nowhere, and then thoroughly disregarding his character in order to get him out of the way. For instance, he decides that trying to help the galaxy, particularly his family, is annoying and a lot of work, so he declares that he's going to stop so that he can be a hermit. Don't contact him, he'll come out when he wants to. And no one finds this the least bit strange or out of character.
- In a word: Mando'a. Depending on the writer—that is, depending on whether the writer is Karen Traviss or not—the Mandalorians are either gruff, psychologically diverse mercenaries and warriors with questionable pasts and practices, or eternally morally-upstanding Warrior Poet heroes of Mary Suetopia who show the Jedi what they're really supposed to be like. Traviss's work has included A Jedi dropping his saber and joining them, and an attempt to justify Order 66. Traviss's moments of Small Name, Big Ego don't help matters.
- Are Imperial stormtroopers a bunch of faceless mooks, poorly equipped, poorly armed, half blind, disorganized, blindly obedient, dim-witted, in fragile armor, easily killed, and fundamentally evil so it's okay to kill them? Or are they a widely disparate military force of individuals, who joined the stormtrooper corps for many reasons including the desire to protect civilians, who may question the orders they are given, who think of themselves as preservers of order and justice, highly trained and well equipped, a Badass Army that too often gets led by incompetents and evil people? Depends. Are you reading most EU novels, or are you reading anything by Timothy Zahn?
- Generally this depends on how much character development the Imperials get. For example, the TIE Fighter video game, which had the player as an Imperial pilot the entire time, have the Imperials on the right side of morality in virtually every battle, with some "questionable" secondary objectives.
- Also any ex-Imperial military personal (Stormtrooper, Officer, Pilots, etc) instantly becomes elite if they join the Rebels or mercenaries. That is a pretty strong indication they are well-trained, just forced to use ridiculously bad tactics.
- Another good one for a long while was Luke's love life. You could see the canon wars as practically every single writer made a new beautiful girl for Luke to fall for, convinced that his creation was the future Mrs. Skywalker. Timothy Zahn just got the last shot.
- In his defense, Timothy Zahn also got the FIRST shot, in terms of the EU.
- The Millennium Falcon's speed. Does "Fastest Ship In the Galaxy" apply to realspace and hyperspace both, or just hyperspace? The movies, Word of God, and several pieces point towards the former (the Falcon is clearly shown flying the fastest in Return of the Jedi, but some writers, perhaps drawing too much from the tabletop RPG, make it slower than fighters. But it was also shown being outrun by a Star Destroyer in "The Empire Strikes Back" (hence Han's line about "We can still outmaneuver them"), though admittedly this was while it was in a state of disrepair.
- Pretty inexcusable overall is every writer meddling with the HP Lovecraft mythos.
- H.P. Lovecraft never really attempted to portray his stories as a single, consistent mythos. A few names and ideas are shared, but there's no actual continuity. He was attempting to give the feel of a hidden mythology, and mythologies have no canon, being instead self-contradictory and inconsistent. One of Lovecraft's goal with his Mythos stories was the show a back story in which Depending on the Author was the dominant factor.
- Which is rather fitting given the themes...
- The problem is not the continuity, but the mood of the setting. For Lovecraft, it was heavily about how the universe just doesn't care about mankind. Later writers making humans more important and worth the notice of monsters is what is often complained about.
- The War of the Spider Queen series of Forgotten Realms novels suffers from this trope very badly. In a sextology where each book was written by a different author, this sounds like it should have been inevitable, but RA Salvatore was billed rather prominently as the series' editor (most likely for other reasons). All of the characters got hosed with this from book to book, but Deadpan Snarker and fan favorite Pharaun Mizzrym in particular suffered from wildly inconsistent characterization in the later books of the series. And then was killed off.
- There was also Halisstra, resident Heel Face Turner and Defector from Decadence, who was pretty consistent in her first few appearances as a scheming but not-particularly-cruel drow who jumped ship when a nicer deity than Lolth came down the line. Then after her conversion she got flanderized into an idiot who shouldn't have lasted a day in drow society and made some utterly boneheaded moves that ultimately got her forcibly converted into Lolth's Brainwashed and Crazy The Dragon. Sigh.
- Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
- As regards the Eighth Doctor Adventures:
- The Eighth Doctor was played on-screen by a man who is about 5'8", and it happened to come up that he's 160 lbs fully (over)dressed with shoes on. He's no Noodle Person. He is shorter than average, with a compact, athletic build. Nonetheless, in the novels, even the same author sometimes cannot decide whether he is very tall and skinny, slight, or merely a little shorter than your typical human, Human Alien, or Ambiguous Human. Fitz, previously described as so tall he feels mismatched standing next to a woman who does not seem to be excessively petite, is in one scene surprised that a 6'6" young woman is taller than the Doctor. Who, like I said, ought to be a full ten inches shorter than her. This also happens to eye colour — in Fitz's intro book, his eyes are twice mentioned as gray, and once as blue. They eventually settle on gray. The Doctor's eyes can't decide whether to be pale blue, electric blue, blue-gray, blue-green, or green.
- Also, almost every character is written inconsistently to some extent: Sometimes the Doctor is basically just an All-Loving Hero with a side of Cloud Cuckoolander, and sometimes everyone spends the whole book shouting, "What the Hell, Hero??!" at him. Fitz's intelligence fluctuates, and he runs the gamut of Kavorka Man, Chivalrous Pervert, and, on rare occasion, comes across as Doctorsexual. He once committed contempt of court because someone insulted Anji for her ethnicity, but he once asked her if her people speak Hindu, and continues bugging her even when she gets obviously annoyed — considering the fact his father was a German immigrant (hey, Fitz do your people speak Dutch or something?) and Fitz is most of the time practically The Chick in that once you get beyond the snark, he's a ridiculously sweet, caring person, it's all the more egregious. Then there's Sam Jones, who at first was a 'generic companion' with a wildly different personality in every story. The book Alien Bodies attempted to do a Fix Fic on this by saying she was created as a 'perfect companion' for the Doctor, fulfilling whatever role she has to.
- Do other people always judge the Fourth Doctor's smiles as hopelessly innocent and cute (The Death Pit), beguilingly charismatic (Shada), or unintentionally unnerving (The Eye of Heaven)?
- This happens in the Dragonlance series of novels as well. Elves in particular can get very different portrayals depending on the writer. They are sometimes depicted as being vegetarians, and being disgusted with eating meat, or they are depicted as having no problem with eating meat. They are also sometimes depicted as having a somewhat different mindset than humans due to their long lives, other times they are very human-like and have no trouble relating to humans. The world as a whole can either be depicted as a gritty, medieval one, or a fairly tame Renaissance Faire-like world.
- The Arthurian mythos. Dozens of medieval authors created works related to the Matter of Britain - and the number of knights, the location of Arthur's court, and countless minute details, tended to vary from one writer to another.
- Atlanta Nights manages to do this within a single book, which makes sense considering that it's a collaborative hoax by several writers.
- Older Than Dirt: The Mesopotamian Epic of Atra-Hasis (18th century BCE) tells details of the Great Flood which contradict the somewhat older The Epic of Gilgamesh.
- In the Hardy Boys spinoff series, The Hardy Boys Casefiles, the opening chapter of the first book Dead on Target has Joe's girlfriend Iola killed by a terrorist car bomb. Since the series was written by a great many ghostwriters, many ignored this fact for the most part, and Joe would slingshot between essentially a non-married grieving widower to his more typical fun-loving, girl-crazy self.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Buffy's level of angst, Xander's level of competence, Spike's level of Evil, Cordelia's level of maturity, and how exactly magic works in the Buffy-verse oscillate back and forth depending on who's writing them this episode. This was especially true in the sixth season.
- See also the vampires. Are they demons who just look like you and share some of your memories, or are they you with the morality taken out and a desire to eat people? Add into that Spike in S5 doing the Right Thing several times...
- Part of this problem is the fact that they say that vampires are always evil by default due to their lack of a soul, but they really don't explain what that means in this universe. Obviously, there are plenty of people who have a soul and yet commit evil acts, so what makes the vampires special and what does it mean that they "have no soul"? One explanation could be that the vampires "having no soul" means that they are on par with robots or zombies -they are just reanimated corpses with an unwavering instinct to kill and spread their kind, albeit with higher reasoning powers filtered through the personality of their host. This is validated with Buffy's explanation early on that the demon is wearing your friend's corpse, but your friend isn't there anymore, and would also explain why other demons dislike vampires so much. However, other writers have contradicted this with pathology and self-reflection on the part of specific vampires, especially Spike and later, Russell Winters.
- Buffy and Spike's romance was a particularly bad case. The production staff have openly stated that there were harsh disagreements over who to portray as the aggressor and whether it was genuine love. So everyone just wrote it their preferred way when their turn came around, with no thought as to whether it made any sense with what came before or would come after.
- There are several episodes which imply Drusilla isn't quite as insane as she's perceived, that at least some of her craziness is faked, and that she's actually much more lucid and cunning (in her own way intelligent) than she may appear. Most simply portray her as a unintelligible loon who can't see what's in front of her. It also varies whether she genuinely loves and cares about Spike, or if she simply sees him as a favored toy to manipulate and use. While the second half of Season 2, "Lie to Me" and "Lover's Walk" seem to support the latter theory, other episodes like "Crush," "School Hard," "Fool For Love" and pretty much all the comics write Drusilla as a heartbroken ex-lover who really does love Spike, albeit in her own, strange way.
- Darcy Edwards from Degrassi The Next Generation is the only religious character on the show, and it's painfully obvious that the writers weren't sure how to write a religious character. Even in episodes with the same writer, she's different every time. She's been a snob, a saintly Trickster Mentor, shy and insecure, a girl who feels the obligation to be perfect but wishes she could rebel, etc.
- In Degrassi The Next Generation in general, the show's fondness for the Face-Heel Turn and Heel-Face Turn can sometimes causes this. The characters adjust to the new personality so quickly (often forgetting the old one ever existed) that even when the character had a sensible reason to turn, it can feel like they changed completely out of the blue.
- Practically every example of Continuity Drift in Star Trek has this trope to blame.
- Captain Archer on Star Trek: Enterprise. On alternating episodes he'd go back and forth between no-morals-hardass and morals-are-the-most-important-thing paragon. One episode he threatened to shoot someone out of an airlock and in the next episode he refused to do something that was far more justifiable.
- Same goes for Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Rebel? By the book? Violently gung-ho? Depressive and self-recriminating? No matter what she decides (usually without conferencing with her officers beforehand, something which Picard did regularly), the script will be on her side.
- Kate Mulgrew, a talented actress, was rather displeased with the way her character would change from script to script. She commented once that she thought Janeway had some sort of mental illness, namely Bipolar Disorder.
- This kind of thing goes all the way back to Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series ; sometimes he was portrayed as an earnest pacifist unwilling to use a phaser and uncomfortable with the idea of hurting others under any circumstances, and sometimes he was portrayed as a cold tactician who was willing to Shoot the Dog at a moment's notice, if such an act was for the greater good. (Also, his Vulcan disdainfulness of anything human or illogical was sometimes played up to the point where he could, at times, enter Jerk Ass territory.)
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard will do everything imaginable to avoid violent conflict, even with entities or aliens that seem to be nothing but Card-Carrying Villain, he will make certain that violence is the only way before resorting to it. Amongst other things he refused to commit genocide against the Borg, and this was after he was made into Locutus. 'Movie' Picard, however, considers diplomacy that obligatory 'stop or I'll shoot' line, before proceeding to go about killing.
- Which is strange, as the movies were written by the TNG showrunners (except Nemesis, though Rick Berman was still part of the writing staff on that one). Generations portrayed Picard the closest to the series (probably due in part to being produced right on top of the Series Finale "All Good Things..."), while the other movies were made years apart.
- Or it could be Fridge Brilliance: Picard in the first movie is Picard in the series, but Picard in the following three is Picard having lived through several years of the Dominion War, during which Earth was first infiltrated, almost underwent a coup, was attacked by the Breen, and went to war with their long-time allies the Klingon empire. That might be enough to turn anyone jittery and trigger-happy.
- That said, Picard in the early seasons of the series is very much something of a loose cannon- being prepared to photon torpedo a world's cities from orbit because they didn't answer his call instantly in "Code of Honor", despite being ordered to make whatever concessions he had to to secure a trade agreement with the planet's inhabitants.
- Q, as SF Debris points out, was strongly subjected to this. He could either be detached and sinister ("Encounter at Farpoint", "Q Who", "True Q", "All Good Things...") or wild and silly ("Hide and Q", "Q-Pid", and his subsequent appearances on Deep Space Nine and Voyager).
- SF Debris also pointed out a third personality in that of the educator (see his review on Tapestry). This can be seen in Tapestry where Q teaches Picard something about himself or "All Good Things..." where Q is actually trying to help Picard, without the other Q actually knowing about it.
- The application of the Prime Directive by various captains also qualifies. Sometimes, it means not interfering in the affairs of only pre-warp civilizations; other times, it means not interfering in the affairs of any civilization. It was also inconsistent internally; supposedly you could break it to prevent an injustice to one member of your crew, but at the same time it's considered so important that you should sacrifice your entire ship to preserve it!
- Rodney McKay of Stargate Atlantis changes personalities constantly for the first 3 Seasons, sometimes competent and worried, sometimes an incompetent whiner, sometimes brave, sometimes a coward, sometimes an egotistical twit who saves the day but won’t shut up. Season Four, he makes the transition to reluctant hero. McKay is the guy that the writers forgot that walked 6+ miles just from the Stargate and back and forth and back for a total of at least 24 miles without breaking a sweat or falling behind while carrying a heavy rifle and bearing a full fifty to seventy pounds of field gear in Season Three’s Vengeance— with the writers constantly poking fun at him for being out of shape in dozens of episodes. There are times that you can actually like the guy instead of wanting to sacrifice him on a suicide mission. There are other times... such as when the writers can’t resist bringing back the whiny old Rodney-type from Seasons 1 to 3 to later Seasons in episodes like Season Five’s “the Lost Tribe” after you’ve gotten used to the “new and improved” reluctant hero model that’s had the impurities burned away. It’s like he’s had his reset switch hit, right back to Season One. Poink! Instead of character derailment, it’s more like jumping the tracks at random, for five years running.
- Add to this his portrayal in Stargate SG-1, where the cockiness was Up to Eleven and the whininess was all but nonexistent. Once SGA debuts, he (and everyone else) acts like he was always his SGA self whenever he pops up in SG-1.
- This is one of the biggest complaints about Alexis on Ugly Betty. Alexis was a shadowy Big Bad figure for the first half of season one. Then she had a Heel-Face Turn while retaining her aggressive, competitive personality. From then, it was on. The writers just couldn't decide if she was a good guy or a bad guy. This got so bad that Rebecca Romijn - the actor who plays Alexis - decided to quit the show. Romijn has said that
"They made a tremendous amount of changes, especially with the writing staff [during the writers' strike]. And while I know I'll be coming back next season, with all the changes, I'm not sure they can take care of my character they way they have been. So I'll be leaving, back in a recurring capacity, but time for me to leave and find something else."
- Doctor Who:
- In Russell T Davies's tenure, the Doctor's moral standard varies for better or worse depending on the current writing staff. Partly justified when the change happens between regenerations; at the end of the first Tenth Doctor episode, he gives a speech about how each time he changes he becomes a different type of doctor in personality terms as well. Mainly, the question is this: How "technical" is this Technical Pacifist? Usually he fits the definition perfectly, but we've had I Did What I Had to Do moments to the point he doesn't even qualify even if he Does Not Like Guns, and we've also seen him hold to principle even when the greater good will not be served by it. This is not always a thing that changes with regenerations but consistent within each incarnation, either. The Tenth Doctor was notably darker, but it's hard to know what's intended with him, as the moments that most made viewers say What the Hell, Hero? were things we're clearly expected to agree with (see Harriet Jones) and the times people said he was getting too scary, he'd usually just saved their butts in a way they didn't like (hey, it was the spiders or the Earth!)
- More generally, the Time Lords as a collective culture have wildly varied in their depiction according to writers' tastes and political attitudes, from benevolent, god-like protectors of the universe to pompous but weak old codgers who can't actually do much to an almost completely self-serving and ruthless Deadly Decadent Court to a full-blown Omnicidal Maniac culture. The Doctor did point out that the last one was a result of the Time war however.
- The first two are somewhat reconcilable, the Time Lords are immensely powerful but have so dedicated themselves to non-interference that if something manages to get inside their defenses, they are almost helpless since they have no idea how to deal with it (and in every case in the classic series, that something is a Time Lord, not some random invading race Even in "Invasion of Time", it is the Doctor that allows the aliens to invade, because he knows that if he doesn't, some other, more sinister Time Lord, eventually will).
- The Master is a notable example of this. While, like the Doctor, regeneration is an explanation for a lot of differences in his personality, his exact goals, his intelligence, and how insane he actually is, varies WAY more than the Doctor's personality does between regenerations. Anthony Ainley's Master, in particular, suffers from this: he wanted to play the character as cold and calculating but, with the exception of his final appearance in Survival, in which he was allowed to do that, the production staff insisted that he lay it on thick with the old mustache twirling and psychotic laughing.
- Sarah Jane Smith. This character is a feminist, and she was featured at a pretty chaotic time for feminism, so the character completely changes depending on the current author's attitude to women and/or feminism. She varies from a Straw Feminist to a Plucky Girl to The Load to Adorkable (like the author is saying feminists are sooo cute with their silly little ideas!) to You Go Girl. That she continually came across as intelligent, able to take care of herself, and able to stand up to the Doctor, points a lot to Lis Sladen's skill. Sometimes there would even be a more feminist-friendly script editor contrasting with a more antifeminist writer - see "Robot", where fun is poked at Sarah's hypocrisy in making an Actually That's My Assistant blunder between a man and a woman, but a later scene shows her getting justifiably angry with a nerdy male political crank who thinks that in an ideal world Sarah would dress to his tastes.
- Leela was a particularly bad example. When first introduced by Chris Boucher and Robert Holmes she was relatively uncivilised but in fact highly intelligent (she is shown as abandoning all superstition when the Doctor explains science to her). In "The Robots of Death" (also by Boucher), she immediately understands what's going on with Poul, but lacks the cultural context to articulate it to any characters other than the Doctor. In "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" by Holmes, she caught on the nature of the villain almost as quickly as the doctor. Bob Baker and Dave Martin, on the other hand, saw her as just uneducated and stupid and struggled to use her - in "The Invisible Enemy" she's described as 'all instinct and emotion', and in "Underworld" by the same writers she gets hit by Stun Guns and spends most of the story acting stoned as comic relief. Compare to "The Sun Makers", in which she is also comic relief for most of the story, but able to understand fairly sophisticated economic situations.
- Matthew Waterhouse complained about Adric being written like this, particularly "Four to Doomsday". From that story's notes (quoting Doctor Who Magazine):
My performance varied from script to script, particularly after I drew the conclusion that there wasn't going to be any continuity with Adric. Then what I did was that every time I read a script, I re-developed it—as far as I'm concerned in each four episodes he was a new individual. Every time I developed a gut feeling about him, about what he should do and think, it was contradicted in the next script.
- Susan had originally been intended as a Creepy Good Action Girl with Psychic Powers but was ReTooled into a "normal girl" after the unaired pilot. The result of this is that her character fluctuates wildly between scripts: in "An Unearthly Child" she is a nice girl who wishes she was normal but shows a little Nightmare Fetishist behaviour ("I like walking through the dark. It's mysterious.") and physically attacks a massive, armed caveman to save her friends; in "The Daleks" she is a Kiddie Kid who displays exaggerated fear about walking through the dark and the few times she's allowed to speak it's to make stupid suggestions ("First we all lie down and pretend to be dead..."); in "The Edge of Destruction" she drifts around in a long dress, babbles about creatures inside her and threatens to shred Ian with a pair of surgical scissors; in "Marco Polo" she is a Totally Radical sixties teen who thinks everything is "gear"; in "The Keys of Marinus" she is a Distressed Damsel; in "The Aztecs" she has nothing to do; in "The Sensorites" she has a fight with her grandfather and saves the day with her telepathic powers; and then in "The Reign of Terror" she refuses to attempt to escape from a prison when she and Barbara are due to be guillotined because she's scared of the rats and then develops a fever for plot convenience. It's such a horrible mess you can tell the writers were relieved to start again with a blank slate when she got replaced with Suspiciously Similar Substitute Vicki.
- Steven Moffat once criticised Tom Baker for this, saying his performance was 'thunderously effective' but he 'completely reinterpreted his character to fit that week's script', saying it's impossible to tell that the Doctor in "Seeds of Doom" and "City of Death" are supposed to be the same person. Moffat since disowned this criticism, but there is a grain of truth in it. For instance, does the Fourth Doctor have a genuinely childlike personality including an adolescent propensity for self-important sulking, or does he use a veneer of childishness as Obfuscating Cuteness to obscure from his enemies the byronic, brooding personality he really has until it's too late, or does he use consciously funny affectations to direct his friends away from the dark parts of him he doesn't think deserve to be liked? Is his contempt of authority a selfish desire to do things that are fun rather than doing errands for the powerful (meaning he respects authority that isn't directly messing with him), or is it an anarcho-Punk philosophical objection to the whole concept of power? Does he love travelling and new experiences and find himself frustrated or wearied by all the evil, or does he love getting into fights with evil because that's what he finds fun, considering safe new experiences boring? Is his relatively solitary nature based around a desire for a life free of responsibilities, a frustration with other people for not being as brilliant as him, or because he loves other people so dearly that he can't stand to expose them to his dangerous life and knows that to fail to protect them would emotionally destroy him?
- First Doctor companion Steven Taylor started with a fairly consistent personality but devolved into a cypher due to necessity - at the time, the production was very shaky (new producers, a new technical team, tensions throughout the crew, and a lead actor who was struggling with mental health problems and couldn't remember his lines) and so the writers had to adapt scripts intended for recently departed characters for Steven, and adapt them to de-emphasise the role of the Doctor as there had been talk of completely removing his character and ReTooling the show around Steven. As a result his character ended up filling whatever niche it needed to - funny, serious, an Action Hero, an All-Loving Hero, a romantic lead, a quirky Doctor Expy, and so on. The TARDIS Eruditorum has pointed out that it's possible Steven's chameleonic personality is underappreciated in terms of keeping the show together - it kept stories ticking along well enough that regenerating the Doctor - and thus ensuring the show would continue for decades - became possible.
- Whenever Robert Sloman wrote a Third Doctor script, he became a Warrior Poet in a very obviously Buddhist mould.
- In Chris Boucher's Fourth Doctor stories, he is a passionate atheist who has Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. He's a lot more respectful of other religions in other scripts.
- Supernatural: Dean can either be a complete bimbo, a Genius Ditz or very clever depending on who writes him.
- Done to a frustrating degree in the last two seasons of Dawson's Creek. Take your pick from the supporting cast: Charlie, CJ, Eddie, or Natasha will happily go back and forth between being kind, sweet and understanding and complete jerks.
- On the latest BBC series of Robin Hood, Guy of Gisbourne can range from a sadistic, remorseless killer to a tortured Byronic anti-hero. Sometimes he's both in the same episode.
- The Shield has this by the barrel: Shane Vendrell, villain or morally conflicted anti-hero who possesses the self-awareness that is completely absent in Vic Mackey? Claudette Wyms, the only character with a conscience on a show filled with moral ambiguity or a hypocritical bitch who is willing to let corrupt cop Vic Mackey do as he pleases (let alone cover up her own partner's complicity in corrupt antics) so long as Vic doesn't do anything to threaten her own Alpha Female status. Vic Mackey, who can go from anti-hero to heroic sociopath to villain, within a matter of a couple of episodes.
- Arguably, the show never tried to differentiate between any of the possibilities on purpose. That all were possible at the same time (this being a very crapsack kind of show) is entirely likely, given the persona each character would have to have for the given situation and the circumstances around them.
- The very nature of the universe in Andromeda varied depending on the writer. Inconsistencies existed from the start, but they were really severe by season three, when most of the show's original creative staff was gone. The remaining original writers continued writing it as a hard science fiction series, while the new staffers wrote it as a way-out space fantasy whose physics and technology (and often plots) were a hodgepodge of TV sci-fi cliches. Things like faster-than-light communication and forcefields would exist in one episode and be nonexistent the next.
- Prior to Season 6, House could either be a simply eccentric curmudgeon/Jerkass spouting sarcastic one-liners ("Yes, feel free to exclude any symptom if it makes your job easier!") to a Wangst-filled Nietzsche Wannabe with no regard for anything but solving the puzzle ("If your life's no more important than anyone else's, sign your donor card and kill yourself."). Fortunately, these fluctuations could be easily Handwaved away as the side effects of his Vicodin addiction.
- Sadly, these fluctuations seemed to have come back in Season 7, this time Handwaved away by House's alcohol use and subsequent return to Vicodin.
- All soap opera characters and relationships. A character can be written a certain way for years, and then, out of nowhere, their personality will completely alter. The same is true of back-stories.
- The transition from season 1 to season 2, with different writers and more Executive Meddling, left a few characters in Carnivŕle out in the cold:
- Stumpy was a rather complex character in season 1, but during season two he suddenly developed a gambling addiction when the (new) writers felt they needed something to pad out an episode or two, and became a straw racist when the writers suddenly realised that they'd never bothered to write a black character with any degree of complexity and needed to cover their arses.
- Similarly, Ruthie, a well-written, subversively sexual character (considering she's past a certain age), became a cliched recipient of Lodz's ghost, leading to lots of hammy acting and the elimination of any vestige of the effectual presence she used to have in the story beyond being something of a MacGuffin.
- Dr. Temperance Brennan of Bones can be anywhere between a Deadpan Snarker who makes fiery political commentaries and a Emotionless Girl with No Social Skills who can't get a simple joke. Within one season.
- Friends: Almost inevitably given it ran for 10 seasons, with numerous different writers. Phoebe, the Granola Girl and Cloud Cuckoo Lander, is often just 'weird enough to justify any conflict'. Monica, is usually a loving wife and Team Mom, but has occasional episodes where her Control Freak nature and OCD is turned Up to Eleven to create issues, which normal Monica would be sensible enough to solve not cause. One episode has her saying people can only eat cookies over the sink and telling them off for putting their feet up, even though almost every episode has the gang eating all over her apartment and using all furniture as footrests.
- Chandler could go from a guy who was hopeless at attracting women to a flirt who was just bad at keeping up relationships. For example, one episode features Joey asking Chandler and Ross (who was fairly consistently portrayed as being poor with women) how to kill a budding conversation with women, while another episode features Ross being jealous of Chandler and Joey's ability to flirt.
- Joey's acting skills could range from "surprisingly good" to "horrendously bad".
- On some episodes, Ross was the nicest guy of the bunch, on others he was a Butt Monkey and Jerk with a Heart of Gold at best, going crazy over the pettiest things.
- Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Since he is "the crazy" character, he can jump from one type of "crazy" to the other. He can swing wildly from being an extreme contrarian who disagrees with every tradition and social convention ("Why should we give present on birthdays? It makes no sense."); or be a crazy-obsessed, ultra-defensive authoritarian capable of rationalizing everything. ("Going to the movies and don't buy popcorn? Are you out of your mind?").
- Also, The Other Wiki mentioned that Howard can be either extremely elated over no longer being Sheldon's friend (the Friendship Algorithm),or hurt and offended when he's deemed simply an "acquaintance" (the Bozeman Reaction).
- It pretty much applies to all of the characters over their core personality:
- Leonard can range between being a sympathetic, cheerful nice guy who almost always does the right thing, stands by others and simply has trouble asserting himself. And being a winy, short tempered, holier-than-thou horn dog who has no problems mocking and dismissing his own friends, putting up with anything if it means there's a chance he will get sex out of it, being totally willing to sell out his own beliefs and likes the moment it will benefit him and going around acting as if the world owes him something.
- Penny is either a sweet, kind hearted woman of average intelligence who is simply fun loving and assertive. Or an arrogant, hypocritical, ungrateful, aggressive, dismissive, potentially alcoholic brainless beauty, who expects good things to just come to her, happily mooches off her friends and has no problems bullying and manipulating others into going along with her plans.
- Howard is either a misguided sympathetic fun loving man who just wants love and intimacy, but has very little idea or understanding of how to act around women and a loyal friend. Or a completely misogynistic and perverted jerk, who just wants to have sex with anyone and has little to no regard for women as people, who will happily abandon or turn on his friends the second he feels it will benefit him.
- Raj is either realistically lonely and slightly desperate for affection, as well as being in touch with his feminine side. Or a completely winy and potentially delusion jerk who blows all his good luck by turning arrogant to a level beyond Sheldon's the second things start going well for him.
- Bernadette is either a sweet and kind-hearted highly intelligent young woman, who is understanding, cheerful and friendly, but is not afraid to assert herself or put others in there place. Or a pintsized arrogant, condescending ball of fury, constantly ready to break down anyone who annoys her, and is potentially abusive towards her spouse.
- Amy is either slightly less socially awkward than Sheldon, more or less normal but still posing a few quirks here and there or seemingly more normal, but really just as loopy underneath it all.
- The characters have become more consistent over the years due to character development, but they still crop up now and then.
- Glee, so much. The show's writers don't seem to communicate at all, and it honestly feels like you're watching three separate shows. Characterization, continuity, everything changes on a dime. From the main trope page: "Brad Falchuk is writing a bittersweet dramedy about people who want to be special, Ian Brennan is writing a black comedy, and Ryan Murphy is writing a quirky Ryan Murphy show."
- This can even fluctuate in episodes written by the same person—in "A Very Glee Christmas," the school's hatred of the New Directions is rather clear when they go around caroling ("YOU'RE MAKING ME HATE CHRISTMAS!"), but by "Prom Queen" they're the ones performing all the music, and the crowd is going wild. Both episodes written by Ian Brennan.
- Characters who get this the worst are definitely Quinn, Will, Puck and Sam.
- Rachel Berry is pretty consistent from episode to episode: irritating, ambitious, conceited, but well meaning and she knows when she's crossing the Moral Event Horizon. The way the other characters react to her is a different story.
- iCarly and how it flits between The Power of Friendship and Comedic Sociopathy.
- Main character Karl in the Norwegian sitcom Mot i brřstet is a great example. Is he an everyman or a snotty upperclass jerk? Is he a semi-successful businessman or a delusional idiot no one takes seriously? Does he like or hate soccer and other low-culture nonsense? It all depends on the episode. Henry has also changed from brilliant manipulator to senile idiot, but I guess we can blame that on him turning old.
- Sometimes happens in Shake It Up. Cece and Rocky often switch between Tomboy and Girly Girl. Also, Cece may be just Book Dumb or she may be unable to add.
- Merlin. King Uther will either respond to the threat of magic with scepticism and bluster or with paranoia and deadly force. Gaius will either be urging Merlin to keep his head down and not interfere with anything, or telling him to step up and embrace his destiny. Arthur can be intelligent and sensitive, or an idiotic bully. The male writing staff write Morgana as a gleefully evil Femme Fatale, whilst the show's sole female writer Lucy Watkins tries to give her some shades of grey. Due to their Hidden Depths, Merlin and Gwen are the only two characters who have managed to sustain some degree of consistency, as most of the time they come across as shy and humble, but can take charge when the occasion calls for it.
- In Heroes, the characterisation of Sylar changed from episode to episode. Firing all the writers in Series 4 and bringing on a new team, certainly didn't help matters. He was constantly shifting between hating what he'd become and trying to be better, and rediscovering that Evil Is Cool. He was on the good side of the Heel-Face Revolving Door when the series ended.
- Blake's 7. In the later seasons. It's particularly noticeable because in the first season, each script was written by the showrunner with assistance from the script editor, so the characters tended to be internally consistent and have nice, smooth arcs. Then things started to disconnect: Servalan's priorities and competence, the state of Avon and Vila's relationship (it's always argumentative, but its balance varies widely; sometimes they trade barbs, sometimes Avon simply insults Vila, and sometimes they casually team up to scam a casino). Vila's intelligence also varies - in Terry Nation's scripts he's highly intelligent and competent, but will play the fool to avoid dangerous situations. In Chris Boucher's scripts he's an incompetent alcoholic. Tarrant's character lurches from being the cold and calculating mercenary he was originally conceived as, to heroic and chivalrous, and back again. Cally is either a passionate fighter or a passionate pacifist, depending on the script. At actor Michael Keating's request, Chris Boucher wrote the third series episode, "City at the Edge of the World". While Vila's fearful nature is still in evidence, the episode also features him at, arguably, his most intelligent and skilled as a safecracker. He's even the romantic lead in the story, and does some genuinely heroic acts.
- Young Dracula: How evil is Ingrid? Sometimes she's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and other times she's a bloodthirsty, power-mad lunatic.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The character's views on, and the show's message about justice, rehabilitation and phycology change drastically from one episode to the next. Sometimes they say rape is always about control, where sometimes it's about sex. Sometimes they're outraged by the notion of people being locked up when they've done there time and/or may not reoffend, sometimes they act as if rapists can't be helped and should be locked up forever.
- Gossip Girl had this in spades, though it can almost be said to be a case of Depending On The Show Runner. Josh Safran, writer turned show runner, saw Dan Humphrey as his self-insert and wanted him to be with Blair (the most popular female character). However, Blair was already in a relationship with Chuck Bass and Chair was by far and wide the most popular ship on the show. Safran solved this problem by having Chuck trade Blair for a hotel so that they would break up and people would dislike Chuck. After that point the characters became yo-yos depending on who was in charge of writing them. Chuck altered between being loving/supporting and possessive/petty. Dan altered between being a judgmental hypocrite and being always in the right. Blair went back and forth between seeing Chuck as her soulmate and not wanting to be around him, and seeing Dan as a friend and just as an annoying minion. The later half of season four and the entirety of season five suffered pretty badly from trying to retcon previously established characterizations and plotlines in an attempt to shoehorn Dan and Blair together, while still having occasional episodes that wrote the characters the way they'd been prior to this. Then Safran got fired and the sixth season focused on re-establishing the Chair relationship and bringing back Dan's negative character traits and cranking them up to eleven. The finale makes it all even more confusing with the revelation that Dan is Gossip Girl and everyone suddenly forgives the eponymous character they've all hated.
- Invoked with Vocaloid: In order to give users as much freedom with their song-writing as possible, the official creators generally give Vocaloids little-to-no personality each. Needless to say, this results in fans portraying any given character as an Axe Crazy killer one day to the kid-friendly salesperson of vegetable juice the next.
- May qualify as Fridge Brilliance: since the Vocaloids are musicians (at least in the context of songs that feature them) they may just be playing a role rather than actually acting like that (contrast Hatsune Miku's World Is Mine, where she's portrayed as something of a brat, to her vegetable juice commercial).
- Myths and legends are highly subject to this, as they originated from Oral Tradition and thus have no known "original" version. For one specific example, consider the Greek myth of Arachne. The basic details are always the same: Arachne is said to be a better weaver than even Athena (the goddess of weaving) herself, Athena challenges her to a contest to see who's better, and by the end Arachne is a spider. The specifics, however, change from telling to telling.
- In some versions, Arachne is a Jerk Ass who doesn't know when to stop (like dancing and singing "I'm better than you, nany-nany boo-boo" in Athena's face); in others she's just a talented weaver who crosses a goddess by virtue of being that good.
- Regarding Athena, sometimes she's a Jerkass God who transforms Arachne out of petty jealousy (and beats her first). Other times (such as the Cryptonomicon) say Athena willingly admits that Arachne is better, only for Arachne's overwhelming hubris to get on her last nerve.
- The character of Arachne's mother: in some versions she's the one who does the the Blasphemous Boast bragging; in others she's the Only Sane Man who tries to rein in her daughter's ego and begs Athena for mercy.
- The transformation itself is subject to this as well. Sometimes it's punishment for her actions, while in others it's comparatively a mercy, Athena choosing to spare Arachne's life and turn her into a form where the whole world can see her beautiful weaving.
- In the darkest version, Arachne hangs herself in Athena's temple as a self-imposed penance for defeating her idol whom she worshipped (She would have thrown the match had she known who her opponent was before hand). Athena is saddened by Arachne's death, and touched by her devotee's piety. To memorialize her skill, she changes the noose into a thread, and Arachne's corpse into the first spider.
- This can be a problem in games when, for whatever reason, a player can't make it to a session but the game continues anyway. One way to get around the absent player is to entrust their character to another player or the GM for that session. As a result, this character may end up doing or saying things they wouldn't normally do or say.
- Discussions of a sort of Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny within Warhammer 40,000 will generally have at least one fan stating the abilities of each army while being portrayed in an adaptation will always depends on the adaptation. Especially the Imperial Guard, who in a Space Marine based book will just run away and die, and in a guard based book will be courageous humans in impossible war situations.
- This actually happens to every faction: They kick ass in their own codex, but only appear in the other codexes to make that side look good. The 2nd Edition Tyranid Codex actually had a company of Space Marines get wiped out seventeen minutes after their Big Damn Heroes moment.
- Given how vast the W40K 'verse is, both extremes (and everything in between) could coexist.
- The Ultramarines have received a particularly nasty dose. They have no less than three overarching portrayals: Graham McNeill's, which portrays them as predominantly hidebound idiots who suffer a psychic fracture at the concept of disobeying the Codex Astartes, even when it's clearly not working; Mat Ward's, which portrays them as a Canon Sue who every other Space Marine Chapter wants to emulate on some level; and the rare "middle way" which portrays them as traditionalist but not suicidally stupid about it, and while they're respected no Chapter is exactly going to give up its own rites and ranks to duplicate them (previously thought extinct, it was recently sighted in Space Marine).
- In the Horus Heresy novel series, which fleshes out the 40K backstory, the Emperor is portrayed as a competent and well-meaning ruler who just happens to have the parenting skills of a coffee table (Graham McNeill), a competent but vicious ruler who is willing to go to any lengths to safeguard humanity and doesn't fully comprehend that he's supposed to be a father as well as a commander, but isn't so much malicious as he is very, very ruthless (Dan Abnett), or a sadistic jerk of such magnitude that it's amazing Horus only managed to turn half the Legions, rather than leading all eighteen back to Earth (Aaron Dembski-Bowden).
- The exact characteristics, abilities, etc. of some units or characters tend to vary a lot between writers, especially if the background on them has been previously vague. For example, the abilities of Pariahs vary depending upon who's writing them. Generally, they fall into two types: (1) they nullify the abilities of nearly psykers and creep people out a bit (typical of Dan Abnett's Pariahs), or (2) their very presence causes mass-Mind Rape and/or cranial explosions among psykers in the area.
- Tzeentch gets this a lot, owing to his status as the most abstract of the Chaos gods. Somewhat fittingly, given that he is a god of change, the writers can't seem to make up their minds about many aspects of him. Specifically, some writers believe he has a cosmic, overarching Evil Plan that all his schemes are working to achieve (and said plan is so complex, only Tzeentch himself can truly comprehend it). Others write Tzeentch as not having an overarching plan at all, and just scheming for the sake of scheming. Still others write him as a god of randomness rather than planning, where he is quite happy to institute change for change's sake, even if that change works against him.
- Warhammer is written by dozens of different writers so this happens a lot. Even down to how entire cultures within the setting act.
- White Wolf hires freelance writers to write their Exalted books, often assigning different people to write different chapters. Normally, it's not that noticeable, but the Infernals book bears mentioning. In some chapters, there are obvious hints that hey, Infernal Exalts don't HAVE to be evil, but in other chapters you're beaten over the head with the fact that all Infernals are horrible evil monsters and can never be good, ever. Word of God has since cleared up what the creators intended to get across, but it's still a hotly-debated subject.
- White Wolf tends to have a few problems with this, and one stand-out example is in Changeling: The Dreaming, where the writers kept going back and forth on what "Banality" was, aside from "the death of hope." Banality was trying to define and tie down the world too much... except the nockers kept insisting that the moon landing resulted in the biggest rush of glamour anyone had seen in several life times. So Banality was boring, ultra-focused practicalities... except there were sample NPCs who got Glamour from those activities because of mindset. When it got to the point that LARP was associated with the Autumn People, you knew there was a basic communication breakdown. Sadly, the line was cancelled before The Book of Glamour (which would have laid out some basics on Glamour and Banality) could be released.
- In any theater production, it is common that the way the characters are presented will be different depending on the actor and director. For example, in Oklahoma!!, Jud Fry can be played as a buffoon lacking intelligence, a possessive and evil man, a slightly insane man or a sympathetic and misunderstood man who struggles with depression. Curly could also be played as an overconfident and cocky braggart who is slightly cowardly or a person who is confident and charming. This mostly depends on the depth of the director.
- It can also happen with the choice of actor, too - some characters tend to make a character sound different. Or in the case of a certain character. Brunhilde. They normally had fat or extremely masculine looking women play her, but with a choice of actress, she becomes more attractive.
- There are lots of examples from William Shakespeare. Is Hamlet mad, or just faking it? Does Gertrude drink the poisoned wine deliberately (suggesting a greater understanding of the situation than indicated in the text)? Is Banquo's ghost really there during the feast, or is Macbeth hallucinating? Is Shylock a truly nasty piece of work, or is he an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain? Is Antonio in love with Sebastian? Just how straight is Kate's end-of-play lecture on wifely submission played? And so on ad infinitum. It all depends on the director and the actor.
- This was the downfall (or, rather, show stopper) of Adolf Hitler in The Producers.
- In the Super Mario Bros. series, Bowser is often like this. While other characters change personality in most adaptations and spinoffs as well, Bowser is a character who's completely different between the main series and many spinoffs. In the Main Platformers, he's a competent Evil Overlord and Card-Carrying Villain. In the Mario & Luigi series he can be anything from a Boisterous Weakling who's only truly competent when he's working with the good guys to a competent if blunt Boisterous Bruiser father to his menwhose only defeats are delivered by the brothers themselves. In the Paper Mario series he's a Noble Demon with an unrequited crush on the Princess and doesn't like it when other villains infringe on his territory. Mario Party has him as a Attention Whore Card-Carrying Villain who's only capable of Poke the Poodle levels on villainy and who probably just wants to be loved. Other spinoffs tend to have him as a Friendly Enemy of Mario's. The cartoons and anime series vary his personality per episode, and his size varies between appearances.
- His physical size is something that varies a lot too. In most games, he's huge. In others (like Super Mario RPG and Super Paper Mario) he's barely bigger than Mario.
- Wario too. In Super Mario Bros. spinoffs, he's more a villain, in Wario Land more an Anti-Hero with near super powers, and in WarioWare a normal person who's merely a greedy jerk.
- The sentience of Bob-ombs varies from game to game. Same thing with every other Mook.
- Luigi's personality generally contrasts his brother's (clumsy and timid rather than athletic and brave); but some games scrap this for a more adventurous Luigi who can be foolhardier than his brother.
- Super Pario Mario has Luigi cowering behind a bush in the Underwhere. So he isn't depicted as completely brave.
- Well, Mario's treatment of Luigi borders on abuse at times - in Mario Power Tennis, when you win as Luigi, Mario smacks Luigi on the back and steps on his foot, trying to make it look like he's congratulating him.
- Compare this to Mario & Luigi which turns him into a naive, idiotic, Cloud Cuckoolander.
- Whether or not Luigi can talk is another deal. Just to name one example, in the Paper Mario series he has full dialogue, while the Mario and Luigi series keeps him as much of a Heroic Mime as his brother.
- Peach's character changes quite a bit: Super Mario Sunshine casts her mostly as a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, whereas in Super Paper Mario she's a Deadpan Snarker, and other games place her at various points in between. She also flip-flops between Princess Classic and Royals Who Actually Do Something, in large part depending whether she is a playable character.
- In The Legend of Zelda series, we have Zelda and Ganon. Zelda can be a Princess Classic, a Tsundere, or even an Action Girl, while Ganon can be a straight Evil Overlord, a tragic figure with a Freudian Excuse, or even a mindless, bestial Humanoid Abomination.
- In the Dept Heaven series, while most aspects of Nessiah's characterization are generally consistent between games that director Shinichi Ito personally oversees and writes and those he doesn't, he's notably less competent in his manipulations in Blaze Union than in the rest of the series. His style of manipulation itself is much more direct and inelegant, and he's also portrayed with typical Asgardian racism against humans. For instance, if in Yggdra Union and Yggdra Unison Nessiah wants someone to dig himself a hole, he'll provide a situation where that person might want to dig that hole and hand them a shovel, but won't force them into it; Blaze Union's Nessiah will just flat-out tell them to dig. Too, in the rest of the series Nessiah prefers humans and demons to his own race, and has a clearly developed soft side. This inconsistency is one of the aspects of Blaze Union that gets criticized the most.
- In every game he has shown up in prior to Original Generation Gaiden, Axel Almer has never had a consistent character portrayal. If he is selected as the protagonist of Super Robot Wars Advance, he is a silly man who suffers from amnesia and he is a Casanova Wannabe. When he realizes the truth, he gets serious and he becomes The Atoner for the Londo Bell crew. If he is not chosen as the protagonist, he is a cold-hearted soldier who cares only about succeeding in his missions and he looks down upon the W series. In Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, Axel Almer becomes a full on Jerkass with a hatred for Kyosuke Nanbu because in his universe, Kyosuke (called Beowulf) was better than him and Axel was jealous. Axel also goes from looking down upon the W-series to outright hating them and when he is saved by Echidna, he expresses disgust that a doll would save him. He also says that he does not care for his lover Lemon. In the Videogame Remake, Axel is a Noble Demon who fights Kyosuke because Beowulf was evil and when he realizes that Kyosuke is not like Beowulf, he still fights him because he does not want Kyosuke to become like him. Instead of hating the W-series, he tends to mock them but he does respect them when they do well and later begins to become impressed by them. When he is saved by Echidna, he becomes upset that the Shadow Mirror lost a soldier like her. When he is finally defeated, he expresses the belief that the W-series were perhaps more than just dolls and he says Lemon's name, showing that he genuinely loved her.
- World of Warcraft has had this happen - often with certain controversial faction leaders or characters...
- Fallout 3 may have used the trope In-Universe. A computer in the ruins of Hubris Comics in D.C. contains a letter to the editor that, depending on your interpretation, seems to call out a writer for turning a well-developed comic book villain (the AntAgonizer) into a For the Evulz nutcase. (Since we never see the comics in question, this could also be in-universe Draco in Leather Pants. The Fallout wiki leans towards this interpretation.)
- Prototype and Prototype 2 had different teams of writers, and the protagonist of the first and the antagonist of the second is arguably an example of this. In the first game, Alex Mercer was an amoral but not expressly evil creature that gradually gained a conscience as events played out. He risked his life to stop Manhattan from being destroyed by the Infection, and later Blackwatch, expressing disgust at those who played god with peoples' lives for their experiments. He was blunt, concise, impulsive, not much of a thinker, and socially awkward to the point of hilarity. Come the second game, and he's suddenly a smooth-talking evil-genius-archetype planner that plots to recreate humanity in his image.
- Blackwatch also gets hit with this. In the original Blackwatch was portrayed largely as ruthlessly devoted to stopping the Virus, with a disdain for the USMC, and although they experimented with the virus, they didn't seem that reckless; additionally, they were fully aware that the protagonist could shapeshift very early ingame (to the point of gunning each other down if convinced Mercer was in their midst). In the sequel, the mad science and pointless sadism get played to the hilt, with Blackwatch releasing giant infected monstrosities in the middle of public to see what happens when you release giant infected monstrosities in the middle of the public, and the commanding officer in charge of Blackwatch being completely surprised that Heller can shapeshift (and apparently never noticing the dozens of fights Heller has with the Evolved; Mercer's sleeper agents in Blackwatch).
- It seems that the various crossover games in the Tales Series can't agree on whether to support Senel/Shirley (the Official Couple) or Senel/Chloe (the Fan-Preferred Couple, at least in the West).
- Sonic the Hedgehog has a pretty bad case of this, due in no part to how long the series has been in business. There have been numerous writers working on the series, and most of them don't seem to coincide considering the widely differing characterizations the cast have had between games. To give a few examples:
- Amy tends to bounce back and forth between a normal girl who has a rather affectionate crush on eponymous hero, but still cares about her friends and their well being. To an obsessive and clingy stalker whom Sonic is all she thinks about and threatens people with violence when they don't inform him of his whereabouts.
- In the 90's, Knuckles was the chuckling, mischievous rival to Sonic. In the first half of 2000, he was the no nonsense Aloof Ally to Sonic, and nowadays he's the Dumb Muscle Unknown Rival to Sonic. Makes you wonder where he'll be in the next couple of years.
- Even Sonic himself gets this; sometimes he's more of a straight laced Nice Guy, other times he's a cocky braggart.
- Guybrush is presented as way more intelligent in the first two Monkey Island games than the later ones.
- In the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VI, the game's main villain Kefka Palazzo was presented as a Psychopathic Manchild and The Fool. When Ted Woolsey translated the game for English-speaking audiences, he emphasized the character's hatred and sadism while keeping his sense of humour, which resulted in Kefka becoming much more popular in English-speaking regions (and probably had a large amount to do with why Final Fantasy VI itself is much more popular in English-speaking regions than it is in Japan). This would in turn influence his portrayal in all versions of Dissidia: Final Fantasy.
- Slender Man. The traits that every Slendy incarnation has had are a black business suit with black tie and white shirt, no features on his head, and "arms" that are actually tentacles. Everything else so far has been up to the imaginations of the writers and usually relies on Rule of Scary. Some new traits that have been codified and popularized by the more well-known Slender Man works (which include Marble Hornets, Just Another Fool, and Seeking Truth) are: his ability to cause electronic interference (typically with cameras); the ability to teleport himself and others; the famous circle with an X through it known as the "Operator symbol" being associated with him; only going after people who had been scared by him as children; making people sick with some mysterious disease; giving people mild amnesia; driving people crazy and presumably making them his acolytes (i.e. totheark, Albert Conaghan); and only appearing before people who have been thinking about him constantly on account of having looked at the various works. The number of these attributes present in the various blogs typically depends on their tone and how familiar the authors are with the mythos.
- In Survival of the Fittest, characters whose handlers leave the site are given new writers, whose opinion and take on the character may vary from the original writer. Some characters go through about 3 writers before they're given the personality that we've all grown to know and love, such as Elizabeth Priestly, Albert Lions, Blood Boy, and most infamously Liam Black. The most notable example, though, would be Danya himself. Due to his role in the story, he gets written by multiple staff members. As a result, due to the vast amount of interpretations his character gets one person's Danya can be somewhat different from another. A good example was at the start of v4, where, when doing profile conclusions, his main complaint about the students alternated between "too many pacifists" and "too many loners".
- The on-screen characters of most Internet reviewers usually remain constant - and then there's Film Brain. If it's a review show that he has a part in, he can be every bit as snarky and malevolent as his fellow Channel Awesome reviewers. In the anniversary specials - which are usually written by Doug Walker - he becomes the ultimate hyperactive keet whose catchphrase seems to be "I'm excited!" (Not that Mathew minds this; he actually admits the latter is closer to his Real Life personality.)
- Shiny Objects Videos: Though there is technically only one writer, the finished video (including the characters) can vary widely depending on the director.
- The Legendary Pokémon or the Gym Leaders in We Are All Pokémon Trainers are mostly subject to this due to being NPCs controlled by different players at different times, even if there is usually a primary player in charge of some of them.
- Similarly, on Neo Pokeforum different masters have different takes on the world. Do Pokemon speak Pokemon? Just how sentient they are? What do cities look like? Are goverments honest or corrupt? Gym Leaders, on the other hand, escape this treatment, because they are all played by one master.
- At least one person in the Metamor Keep verse tries to keep their stories between their own characters or only have the NPCs cameo or be referenced at most specifically to avoid this from happening.
- The only official rule at the SCP Foundation site is "there is no canon": any single article on a particular anomaly can imply or state things which are flat out contradicted by another article. The in-universe explanation for this is that most (or all) articles the reader can access are actually disinformation meant to mislead any spies. The site maintains what coherency it has by only letting people become members of the site (and hence able to create new articles) if the site administrators approve of their application, and by deleting articles which get more down-votes than up-votes.
- ALL the characters of Mr Deity alternate between speaking about Earth and humans as characters in a film and treating them as real people, even within the same episode.
- Carmen Sandiego varies between Friendly Enemy, Card-Carrying Villain and everywhere in between. Especially notable is her portrayal in the Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? cartoon, which took her to such Anti Villainous levels that by the show's end she was teaming up with the heroes to take down "real" bad guys with regularity.
- Dexter's Laboratory:
- Sometimes Dee Dee is insufferable and The Scrappy who causes nothing but deliberate pain for Dexter, while other times she's a sweet girl who cares for her brother and either helps him or is innocently unaware of the trouble she causes him.
- That said, this is quite justified, as anyone with brothers or sisters will tell you. Even in the show, Dexter would be overly spiteful towards Dee Dee, or be just plain petty for little to no reason at all. However, there was also a few times where he'd show compassion towards Dee Dee and right any wrongs that happened to her. Yeah, that's sibling rivalry for you.
- To show you just how valid the above two points are, watch the "Down in the dumps" episode. It did a pretty good job of showing Dex's and Dee Dee's positive and negative personality traits.
- Mandark can either be a hammy and morally ambiguous rival to Dexter, or genuinely villainous.
- Dexter can go from being woobie to an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, sometimes even within the same episode.
- In The Simpsons, Bart can be the most popular kid in school by a huge margin, have Milhouse as his only friend or anywhere in between depending on what best suits the story, though one episode did show that popularity can change rapidly as he went from the former to the latter after crying when hit with some mud. Similarly, while they eventually settled on her being Buddhist, there was a time when Lisa could switch between a hard-nosed skeptic, Flanders v2.0, or a New Ager at the whim of the writing staff.
- Though she is never popular, just how unpopular Lisa is varies from episode to episode. In some episodes, she hangs out with Janey Powell and some of the other girls but in other episodes she says she has no friends with even Janey teasing her.
- Homer's character varies with the plot's demands. He has been a well-meaning moron with selective common sense, so bored with life that he embraces any crazy idea he hears, and deliberately self-centered because he feels the rest of the world owes him. He's even lampshaded this:
"Because that's the kind of guy I am this week!"
- Nelson Muntz varies in character over a very broad spectrum. In some episodes, he's an insidious bully to Bart and the other kids at the school and he has no real friends. In other episodes, he is Bart's second best friend. Sometimes he is friends with Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph. In most episodes, he's just the brat who goes, "Haw haw!"
- His friendship with Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph also varies. In some episodes it seems like he's close friends with them, while others make it seem like he's only loosely affiliated with them. Either way though you'd think they would've at least attended his birthday party.
- Professor Frink can either be a legitimate, well-respected scientist who's just a bit quirky or a crackpot nobody listens to. He also ranges from dangerously crazy to the Only Sane Man.
- Discounting the trope he's named for, Ned Flanders can be a perfectly nice but boring guy in one episode, someone who can be pretty fun in another (he's been shown drinking and brewing beer, hosting BBQ parties, and even plays billiards in his house), or an obnoxious religious fundamentalist.
- Mister Burns can be a senile old man who can't do anything on his own and still thinks it's the early 1900s, or an extremely conniving Corrupt Corporate Executive (often he's both). He can also be Affably Evil, Faux Affably Evil (more commonly) and even (albeit very rarely) a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Rev. Lovejoy has run the gamut: He has been outright apathetic towards Christianity, a fire-and-brimstone preacher, a reasonable but boring minister, and an engaging preacher. On rare occasions, he has even been something of a Badass Preacher, such as rescuing Flanders from baboons.
- Depending on what the situation requires, Chief Wiggum can be motivated but incompetent, competent but villainous, lazy/apathetic, or brutally harsh.
- Bart can range anywhere from a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who's more talented than people give him credit for, a hyperactive idiot, or a sociopathic troublemaker, and everywhere in between.
- In Code Lyoko, Sissi went from being an Alpha Bitch in the first season (albeit with a handful of Pet the Dog moments that got undone by the Reset Button) to being a sympathetic and nice character in Season 2, getting Character Development to the point where many speculated she'd become the sixth Lyoko warrior. Enter Season 3 and she's just as much of a bitch as she was in Season 1. In Season 4, she barely shows up and fluctuates between the Alpha Bitch and Jerk with a Heart of Gold whenever she does show up. She only becomes fully nice at the very end when the characters offer their hands in friendship (at which point she's a bitch to Nicolas and Hervé).
- The Season 4 fluctuation is justified in that XANA has become such a big threat that the heroes' actions in fighting it have made them seem more suspicious than ever before to Sissi, and given the nature of her character, she can't just let that go even if she's striving to be a nicer person. No explanation for the Season 3 writing though, other than Seasonal Rot.
- Looney Tunes characters were shared between various writers and directors: Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck under Bob Clampett and Tex Avery were manic antagonists. As portrayed by Chuck Jones's writer Michael Maltese, they were almost platonic opposites, Bugs being the cool winner to Daffy's jealous loser. Warren Foster, writer for directors Bob Mc Kimson and Friz Freleng, portrayed Bugs as a more proactive version of the Jones-Maltese model and Daffy as a toned down screwball.
- The Daffy Duck example caused some problems during the making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Robert Zemeckis wanted to do the Bob Clampett version of Daffy, but he was working with Chuck Jones. Jones wanted to do his version of Daffy and had very personally disliked Clampett. Zemeckis had has way and this was one of the main factors in Jones's Creator Backlash against the film.
- Tweetie Pie can be either be a completely innocent bird just trying to protect himself and only hurting Sylvester by accident or he can be a sadist torturing Sylvester intentionally.
- Depending on who's writing, the titular character of Sponge Bob Square Pants goes from being sweet and stupid to being aggressive and possibly violently insane. He also can go from being very stupid and somewhat childish but with some common sense to being worse than a hyperactive five-year-old on a sugar rush. Just as often, his friend Sandy goes from being a genius obviously in her right mind, but somewhat crazy, to being such an idiot she must have invented all her fabulous machines by accident. She can also either be a scientist or a jock.
- This is even lampshaded in one episode, regarding Patrick's stupidity.
Squidward: Patrick, just how dumb are you?
Patrick: It varies.
- Another notable example of Patrick lampshading his own stupidity.
Patrick: You can't just expect my usual brand of stupidity. I like to mix it up. Keeps you on your toes.
- Mr. Krabs can, in any given episode, be a true Benevolent Boss, a money-obsessed Corrupt Corporate Executive, and anything in between the two. For example, in the episode "Pickles", Mr. Krabs orders SpongeBob to take some time off to get his act together after a humiliating encounter with a critical customer. Krabs even goes to help SpongeBob rehabilitate himself, showing great compassion for his employee's plight. Yet, in "Born Again Krabs", Mr. Krabs does not hesitate when he sells SpongeBob to the Flying Dutchman for sixty-two cents, an act that even Squidward openly finds shocking and detestable.
- Squidward has been a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, a complete narcissist, a plain old Jerkass, The Woobie, a Jerkass Woobie, and a Butt Monkey, sometimes more than one in a single episode. However, this can be blamed on Flanderization of the show's characters.
- His clarinet playing has also ranged from being abysmal to...actually pretty good.
- Similar to Squidward, Regular Show's Benson can be a Jerkass, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or a Jerkass Woobie.
- Rigby is sometimes written as more childish than usual for Rule of Funny. Examples include "Meat Your Maker" and "Wall Buddy".
- Mordecai can range from being the Only Sane Man to being just as stupid and immature as Rigby.
- Every character in 6teen changes depending on the writer. In one episode, they'll make witty pop culture references and act their age, if not older, and then act like eight-years-olds the next episode, complete with five straight minutes of fart jokes.
- Stan's attitude towards his family in American Dad! varies from "A Jerkass because he doesn't understand what he's doing wrong, and tries to fix it when he finds out" to "Manipulative Bastard who's so callous that he'll often put them through some horrible Evil Plan for some incredibly trivial/stupid reason".
- His attitude towards his family is dependent on who he's interacting with at the time: Hayley is either daddy's wayward grownup daughter who he tries to keep on the right (his) path, or the displaced trouble child he simply gives up on because they have nothing in common. Steve is both his school-stud son who has hidden geek qualities (in his mind's eye), and simply a shake of the head as to where he went wrong raising that boy. Francine is possibly his air-headed house wife who is slightly clueless as to what goes on in front of her, or his air-headed house wife who's rager past is contained by the suburban shell around her.
- Stan's competence also varies from episode to episode. In some episodes he is something of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer, and despite his shortcomings is a somewhat competent agent whose stunts ultimately prove his worth, or a completely hopeless excess of a human being who is actually far less capable of surviving than his family.
- Roger's Jerk Ass attitude can shift anywhere between a Jerk with a Heart of Gold that ultimately cares about his adoptive family or an Faux Affably Evil Psychopathic Manchild that Crosses the Line Twice repeatedly for laughs.
- Francine can either be a woman of average intelligence (if she sleeps at least eight hours, according to herself), or a full blown Dumb Blonde. She also shifts between a genuinely loving family woman who can scare Stan himself if she's pushed beyond ethical limits, or a psychotic Bitch in Sheep's Clothing (however, not quite as erratically as Lois Griffin). In the episode "Live and Let It Fry", she was insane.
- Hayley's Soapbox Sadie tendancies can switch between being genuinely passionate and well intentioned, or completely hypocritical and implied to be nothing more than a facade to irritate her father. Similar to Francine, she can switch between the most level headed of the family or as much a self-righteous Jerk Ass as Stan.
- Steve is usually laidback but can act like a spoiled brat on occasions. The episode Son Of Stan revolves around this trope.
- Peter's Jerkass nature and Meg's Butt Monkey status vary from episode to episode on Family Guy. Sometimes she merely suffers due to other characters' inadvertent bumbling or carelessness. On others she is such a target for misfortune that even Straight Men like Lois and Brian feel the need to directly make her life hell.
- On The Fairly Oddparents, the plot seems to dictate whether some characters will use their Flanderized personalities or their original personalities. Depending on the story, Crocker can be a competent fairy hunter (Formula for Disaster) or a delusional fool (Bad Heir Day), Tootie can be a sweet girl with a crush (Birthday Wish) or a Stalker with a Crush (Dread & Breakfast), Trixie Tang can be a pleasant and sweet girl (For Emergencies Only) or an arrogant Spoiled Brat (Movie Magic), Timmy's parents can simply be overworked (Momnipresent, Add-A-Dad) or the most neglectful parents in the world (Fly Boy, Birthday Bashed), Cosmo can either realize a wish might be potentially dangerous and attempt to talk Timmy out of it, or actively encourage absurd wishes and needlessly absurd ways to handle the fallout. Wanda can be either the Only Sane Man who puts out Timmy's and Cosmo's fires, or a doting godparent who doesn't think twice about the consequences.
- Exactly how Da Rules works or what's really legit. There are those - usually, again - permanent rules (no interfering with true love, no revealing your faeries to anyone and the like) but others seem conveniently flexible. In one episode, a kid feared that Timmy would wish he was richer than him, when an earlier episode established that poofing up money counts as counterfeiting. Glaringly, an early episode implies that a rule can be ignored if you simply tear the page out.
- In most episodes of Ed, Edd n Eddy, Kevin acts as a sort of Hero Antagonist towards the Eds, and merely mistrusts/dislikes them by default and will only actually start beating them up when he discovers them doing some sort of scam. However, in occasional episodes, he acts as a smug Bully to the Eds (and sometimes other kids in the cul-de-sac) and tends to just enjoy causing despair for them, whether they deserve it or not.
- He sometimes seems to just really detest Eddy. At one point he just asked Double D the time of day, and that led to a cheerful and apparently-friendly conversation between the two of them. In others however, he seems to have a "one's as bad as the other" approach and punishes them all no matter which Ed opposed him. One episode however seems to hint to Kevin gaining Knight Templar traits, with him becoming outright paranoid and deluded upon their disappearance.
- The majority of the cul-de-sac's behavior varies this way, either being benevolent characters who only despise the Eds upon provocation or being obnoxious bullies that generally abuse them for the sheer fun of it, provoked or not. Their treatment of each other also varies, particularly with Jimmy.
- Sometimes Johnny is shown to be almost as unpopular as the Eds to the other kids, while other episodes have him interacting with the others without any sort of problem.
- Jem and the Holograms is made of this. The rules of hologram projection change between almost every episode. On a Jem mailing list, head writer Christy Marx bemoans this. She finally became sick of it and became story editor in the third season to avoid inconsistencies.
- Batman himself from Batman: The Animated Series can be anything from a gritty, gothic, never-smiling character to a Spider-Man-esque wise-cracker depending on the episode's writer.
- Robin can either be the Deus ex Machina for Batman or the Designated Victim who does little else but get taken out of action by the villain in the first act. Batman is also more likely to be the never-smiling character described above when Robin's around to provide the sarcasm.
- The characterizations of TaleSpin are somewhat erratic, particularly the extent of Baloo and Rebecca's Not So Different aspects. Baloo can switch anywhere between a slovenly but well intentioned Ace Pilot or a brainless egotist. Rebecca can be a plausible Straight Man with subtle Not So Above It All tendacies or even ditzier than Baloo, she can also switch anywhere between a Benevolent Boss and a Mean Boss.
- Rebecca is usually a fairly no-nonsense business woman, while Baloo is willing to cut corners due to impatience or laziness. Sometimes though, to facilitate the plot Rebecca will suddenly latch onto some hair brained get rich quick scheme, with Baloo trying to talk her out of it the whole time.
- Additionally, the two may be equal forces that refuse to back down to each other or there may be a visible dominant side (even this is inconsistant, as sometimes Rebecca may be recessive to Baloo impudence and exploitation, naively holding onto the belief he will eventually take to her routine, or she will take no nonsense from him whatsoever, with Baloo acting as something of a surrogate Henpecked Husband that caves in or outright cowers before her overbearing attitude).
- Kit can range between something of an Only Sane Man and jarringly mature and perceptive for his age, or a naive Bratty Half-Pint (usually when neither Baloo or Rebecca are holding the Idiot Ball).
- Shego's capacity for evil in Kim Possible varies widely between episodes. She's chastised Dr. Drakken for wanting to steal Felix Renton's wheelchair in one episode, and was worried about the fish in a lake he wanted to drain in another. Her helping out in Graduation. On the other end of the spectrum, in that very same episode regarding Felix, she was more than happy to try and blow him to bits later on. We also have the episode Car Alarm, in which she and Motor Ed stole a rocket car. Ed wanted to simply cruise around with her, while Shego effectively wanted to destroy the planet with it. And while it had a Reset Button ending, A Sitch In Time shows us what she's really capable of.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars has some rather wild personality swings amongst the cast, often completely reversing opinions and personality between different episodes. In "Hostage Crisis" (written by Eoghan Mahony), Anakin makes a large speech about how Padme is the single most important thing in his life, whereas she seems preoccupied by the duties and responsibilities of her office and their obligations to the Republic. However, in "Senate Spy" (written by Melinda Hsu), their positions are diametrically reversed, and Padme becomes upset when Anakin lectures her on the nature of responsibility and the duties they have that supersede their personal desires. Neither seems to recall that they were ever on opposite sides of the debate.
- Many episodes of South Park have this. Wendy, for example, can be the Only Sane Girl or a Clingy Jealous Girl of epic proportions based on the plot. Likewise Cartman's level of evil can range from Jerk with a Heart of Gold (rarely) to Jerkass (more common), while Kyle can either be naively convinced of some good in him deep down, or outright overzealous that the world be rid of him. Additionally he and Stan can be genuinely good natured and saner than the rest of South Park or jerkasses only toned down compared to Cartman and perfectly fine tormenting anyone lower on the chain than themselves (eg. Butters, Pip, Kenny).
- Also, Craig can either be a callous Jerkass who bullies others and serve as an egotistical rival for the boys with his own gang ("South Park Is Gay"), an ordinary kid who hangs out with the boys along with the other kids and goes through crazy things with them ("Marjorine"), or a Deadpan Snarker who doesn't want to get involved in the ridiculous situations the boys go through ("Pandemic").
- For more minor examples: recent episodes have the Mayor oscillating from Only Sane Woman to just as stupid as all the other adults. Priest Maxi, meanwhile, can be The Fundamentalist Straw Hypocrite ("Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?"), an extreme progressive fighting against Pedophile Priests ("Red Hot Catholic Love") or just a normal voice for religious opinion, sincere even if he's portrayed as misguided ("Cartman Sucks").
- Done quite irritatingly in the sixth season of Futurama, which has the nerve to go back and forth not just on personality traits, but from Fry and Leela being an established couple to Fry and Leela having no hint of being a couple at all (even though they had declared their love for each other at the end of the fourth Big Damn Movie). Possibly the most egregious example — in "The Late Phillip J. Fry", they're blatantly a couple, dating, in love, and adorably committed to their relationship. In the very next episode, "That Darn Katz", Leela says perfectly seriously (with intentional pathetic-ness) "Well, I may not have a man, but at least Nibbler loves me."
- Leela still can be portrayed as being either the opposing poles of the token boring, buttoned-down, extremely unimpulsive character or the single most reckless, hot-tempered, and impulsive character in the show. The swings favored the latter more and more as the show went on, but trying to label it positive Flanderization would be misleading.
- Speaking of Flanderization, Fry. People often accuse the show of Flanderizing an average joe into a near-Ralph Wiggum, but Fry was acting like a reckless idiot as early as episode two. If an episode references Fry's backstory (such as the Delta Brain Wave), Fry will be elevated to a more witty, intelligent characterization.
- And rounding out the Power Trio, there's Bender, who can flip-flop between uncaring Jerk with a Heart of Jerk who's more than willing to go so far as to kill people in his way if it means getting what he wants to Jerk with a Heart of Gold who still shows some signs of guilt or remorse with occasional Pet the Dog moments.
- Are Rufus and Amberley of The Dreamstone rambunctious Kid Heroes who get in near equally on the story (and its slapstick) as the Urpneys, or are they heavily whitewashed Hero Antagonists? Can they also either curb stomp the Urpneys with ease or are they actually even more incompetent than them and succeed solely on sheer luck? They also range from more easy going Pragmatic Heroes to self righteous Unscrupulous Heroes from episode to episode.
- The Urpneys were usually in a static level of ineffectiveness, though it could stem from them being brainless laughing stocks or Cosmic Playthings who, is not for contrived bad luck, could actually act out plans rather efficiently.
- Odd personality traits such as Amberley's temperament, Urpgor's insanity and Sgt. Blob's Drill Sergeant Nasty tendencies also came at different levels from episode to episode.
- Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls can be an ingenious, manipulative criminal mastermind who can come within an inch of defeating the girls, a complete joke who's too stupid to see the gaping flaws in his plans, or anything in between.
- Similarly, HIM ranges from somewhat-effective Flaming Devil to full-on Eldritch Abomination, though, in his case, it also depends on whether he's the episode's main villain.
- Leaning between this and Continuity Error, Bubbles is sometimes depicted as vegetarian despite very often eating meat without issue.
- Tom and Jerry. The different ways in which these two were written is amazing. Most of the time, they're antagonistic towards each other, but sometimes they're best buddies, and sometimes, they enjoy their chase. Sometimes Tom is a sadistic jerk, sometimes he's painted as the villain for doing a cat's job, and sometimes he's a hapless victim. Sometimes Jerry is just fighting for his survival, sometimes he helps out others Tom is torturing, and sometimes he just torments Tom for fun.
- The Looney Tunes Show: Bugs can either a smug Deadpan Snarker (with some shades of The Ace) or the Only Sane Man and The Woobie.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The characters and their various interactions with other characters vary from writer to writer. Pinkie Pie can either be an insane stalker-like lunatic or a hidden genius, Fluttershy can ranged from being mildly socially awkward to a nervous wreck, and Spike's crush on Rarity can be almost complete devotion to her, simply non-existent or anything in between. Even Scootaloo's idolization of Rainbow Dash can range from Fangirl to not treating her any differently from other adults.
- Like the above page quote, Shaggy's vegetarianism varies from adaption to adaption. He definitely wasn't one in the early show, but became one after Casey Kasem did. He's one if Kasem is playing him, but if he's not, he usually won't be (specifically in Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, where one of his favorite foods was "hot dog tacos"). In a Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode, Shaggy is actually disgusted at the idea of tofu burgers.
- In the first live action movie, his vegetarianism is forgotten halfway through the story. This may be a symptom of having three writers on board.
- Some characters have bouts of this in Sonic Sat AM, especially in the first season which had multiple writers at the helm. Sally for example can range anywhere between a patient Team Mom with a subtle sarcastic wit to a stuck up brat who chastises Sonic over anything outside regulations. Antoine can also range anywhere between a comedic but somewhat relatably cowardly individual who has at least some nobilities, to a completely insane Dirty Coward with no real redeeming aspects whatsoever. Sonic himself can be somewhat egotistical and dizzy, but otherwise kind and thoroughly competent, or he can be a brainless Jerk Jock that constantly looks down on his friends and endangers them in his arrogant blundering.
- Some of the engines' personalities waver in Thomas the Tank Engine, particularly due to alterations made from their counterparts in The Railway Series novels. James in particular, since his very first appearances, can range anywhere from being friendly and reliable if slightly boisterous and arrogant, to a narcissistic Jerk Ass who is rude to everyone and objects constantly to work of any kind.
- In the Fleischer Studios Popeye cartoons, Bluto's character can vary judging by who's the head animator. At times he can be mean and ruthless under Willard Bowsky ("Be Kind to Aminals" and "Dizzy Divers"), while he's more comical and bumbling under Seymour Kneitel ("The Hyp-Nut-Tist" and "For Better or Worser"). Dave Tendlar was usually somewhere in the middle.
- Speaking of Fleischer Studios, if Myron Waldman is the head animator, expect it to be more cute and sentimental (like many of the later Betty Boop cartoons or the more subtle Color Classics).
- There's also a lot of disagreement as to how strong Bluto is compared to Popeye. Sometimes, Popeye is no match for him without spinach, while other times, Popeye can put up a good fight against him even without it. Still other times, Bluto has a terrible glass jaw, and even Olive Oyl can knock him out.
- Invoked by Jenny Everywhere - she's an open source superhero specifically designed for anybody to interpret any way they wish. She is described on The Shifter Archive (a fansite) as having a ready smile, good body image and loads of confidence and charisma, and that could be ignored if the writer chose.
- This creative writing assignment.
- The Dave Barry/Alan Zweibel book Lunatics was written like this, causing crazed Serial Escalation as they tried to write each other into corners.
- The Nuzlocke Comics involve turning a playthrough of one of the Pokemon games into a comic strip or written story, and there are a lot of variations on the rules of the challenge itself, as well as the setting and the characters involved. Does the term "Nuzlocke" have any meaning within the world itself? Is it a Self-Imposed Challenge, a curse, or simply an unnamed rule of the world? Can trainers understand what their pokemon are saying? If so, how? Can only some of their Pokemon communicate with them, via human speech or telepathy, or can all of them speak freely?
- Being a symbol of the United States of America, Uncle Sam can be interpreted as anything, ranging from a sinister fascist chessmaster to a poor old man begging for help.