"I think Homer gets stupider every year." —Professor Lawrence Pierce, The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular
The act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character. Most always, the trait/action becomes completely outlandish and it becomes their defining characteristic. Sitcoms and Sitcom characters are particularly susceptible to this, as are peripheral characters in shows with long runs.
The trope is named for one of the examples in The Simpsons, Ned Flanders, who was originally just a considerate neighbor and attentive father, with his devout nature simply being that he willingly attended and paid attention in church, all to make him a contrast to Homer, before becoming obsessively religious to the point of stupidity.
Note that the key to this trope is in how the process is a gradual thing, the character starts relatively normal then gains a few quirks, the quirks become more prominent and then gradually become the character. If it is simply about how the character is different early on before the writers know what to do with them, that is Characterization Marches On. Flanderization doesn't have to be a bad thing - sometimes it can be used to expand on a background character's personality when they are brought to the foreground, or make an otherwise bland character stand out more.
When Flanderization occurs as the result of adaptation from one medium to another (manga to anime, for example), it's Character Exaggeration and frequently a sign of Adaptation Decay. May sometimes be related to Lost in Imitation.
See also Never Live It Down for when the character is more associated with some action or event than the character actually changing, and Unintentionally Sympathetic, when realistic quirks are mishandled by the writers. Compare/contrast Early-Installment Weirdness (as it applies to characters), with early depictions of a character being different from later ones simply because the producers hadn't figured out what role they should play in the story.
Here's a list of cases of Flanderization:
A character is dumb, but manages to get gradually dumber as time goes by.
A character is only slightly dumb, and is capable of doing what he/she needs to, but later becomes unable to perform even the most simple tasks like reading.
Insanity is mistaken for stupidity, and a crazy character becomes a dumb character.
A character is not dumb, just lazy and/or hates studying, but is turned later into straight dumb.
A character is intelligent, but in realistic levels, later he/she becomes extremely intelligent, being comparable to many famous scientists, or even exaggerated to the point of being able to build wondrous gadgets at his house.
A greedy character has a kind side and often chooses what is more important instead of riches, but later, becomes even more greedy to the point that he even sacrifices friends and family just for a few more pennies.
A character is kind of annoying but only infuriates those who are constantly nervous, later becomes incredibly annoying to almost anybody, to the point that the audience understands those who gets infuriated with them.
A character is foul-mouthed, but only curses when the situation calls for it, like being angry, or being scared, or just sounds cool, but later, he/she can't complete a single phrase without a curse word.
A character gets in distress sometimes, but has many other uses in the plot, later, his/her only usefulness is getting in danger to be rescued.
Regis from TDA Bank. At first he started off as a person who would question what the bank offers, until now? He doesn't know what electronic banking is and calls Kelly every hour over the night about his balance.
Actually invoked by the Aperture Scientists in Blue Sky. In their Brain Uploading of Wheatley, they deliberately messed with his personality so that the part of him that produced terrible ideas would be dominant and would override other aspects of his personality in a crisis.
In general, the InuYasha fandom takes Inuyasha's liking to ramen noodles and exaggerates it into full-blown addiction.
The Legend of Total Drama Island inverts this trope in-universe. The Storyteller tends to depict the contestants more realistically and multidimensionally than the canon does, due to her insider perspective. She also makes references suggesting that the finished episodes mentioned in the reimagining didn't depict the contestants any more multidimensionally than the canon episodes did.
Twilight and friends are reduced to their basic personality traits in My Little Unicorn. For instance, Applejack’s only personality trait in the story is her accent. Rarity is only defined by her love of fashion, is portrayed as constantly forcing makeovers on those who don't want them and whining quite a bit. Pinkie Pie is portrayed as being so annoying that even her friends groan at her and is also shown to be a bit of a crybaby.
A great many Naruto fics will do this to one character or another. The most universal tends to be Mizuki who goes from a Reasonable Authority Figure that's secretly The Mole to a Jerkass that blatantly sabotages Naruto at every turn (including but not limited to: burning his books, putting him in the hospital during a sparring match, and outright trying to kill him publicly).
In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh is an egocentric bastard who tries to commit genocide because he doesn't think humanity is worthy of his rule who has attraction to Saber because she keeps resisting him. In Teach Us, Gil Sensei! said character is reduced to a whiny Saber fanboy willing to become a gym teacher just so he afford an apartment. Of course, being a comedy fic this is all Played for Laughs.
Happens to several characters in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Dave Clifton goes from a fairly unremarkable provincial DJ who Alan made nasty jokes about his alleged alcoholism to, to gleefully and openly recounting his experiences with booze, cocaine, heroin and prostitutes. Lynn, previously barely mentioning her Christianity, suddenly becomes notably more openly religious. Curiously, Alan himself undergoes the opposite, becoming less distinct and more general a character in the movie.
Angela in the Eddie Murphy movie Boomerang originally started out as really laid back, and in one scene where she finds out where Marcus cheated on her, she tells him to "Stay the fuck out of her life!"; later on in the movie her cursing habits are Amped Up To Eleven whereas, before that scene, she was relatively mellow.
Probably the best-remembered characteristic of Chinese detective Charlie Chan is his use of pithy "Oriental" aphorisms — a trait which comes directly from the Warner Oland film adaptations, and which were the only aspect of those adaptations that Chan's original author Earl Derr Biggers himself heartily disliked.
Eddie Wilson in Eddie and the Cruisers started out as a serious musician who wouldn't sell out. By the end of the sequel, his only emotional response was to run away from anything that might be critical of his music.
Agent Tom Manning from the Hellboy series. In the first movie, while not a very good field leader, he was still a competent bureaucrat; he and Hellboy butted heads but ultimately gained a bit of respect for each other, and bonded over cigars. The second movie made him almost completely incompetent, and reduced him to bribing Hellboy with cigars to keep him in line. Maybe justified by the fact that, without the professor, there is no one who can truly keep Hellboy from doing something stupid.
The James Bond franchise becomes increasingly campy over the course of its history, with increasing reliance on implausible action scenes, cartoonish villains, science fiction gadgets, Bond One Liners and loads of sex. The Roger Moore era was considered the height of the franchise's campiness, while the following Timothy Dalton films were an attempt to make the franchise darker. The campiness came back over the course of the Pierce Brosnan era. Casino Royale was specifically created to completely eliminate the campiness and return to the franchise's more realistic roots.
The Lethal Weapon series gives us Dr. Stephanie Woods, who, in the first film was a competent psychologist with legitimate concerns about Riggs' stability. By the third film, she was an inept, touchy-feely shrink who served as little more than comic relief.
In the original Men In Black movie, K is a rather stoic individual who takes his job seriously, but approaches everything with a calm demeanor, contrasting J who doesn't take the job seriously, but overreacts to everything. By MiB3, K is so stoic, he is unable to crack a joke or a smile.
Happened to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series. His French accent was originally straightforward, though A Shot in the Dark introduced odd accent-based pronunciation quirks ("beump" for bump, for example). When he revived the character in the mid-1970s, the accent was significantly thicker and the mispronunciations were more frequent ("minkey", "rheum", "leu"), etc. Other Shot in the Dark elements became Running Gags too: he donned more bizarre disguises with each film, and Cato's attacks grew increasingly destructive, as did the slapstick in general for the whole run of films. However, this went over like gangbusters with audiences and it didn't violate Clouseau's basic character, making it one of the less destructive examples of Flanderization on this list.
Pirates of the Caribbean, originally an Affectionate Parody and homage to the pirate genre, became a parody of itself after the first film, when all the character traits, quirks, and set-pieces that were more subtle in the first film were turned Up to Eleven, and subject to relentless self-referencing.
In the first Rush Hour movie, Chris Tucker's character (whose Butt Monkey status stems from his Cowboy Cop tendencies alienating everyone around him) is actually a fairly competent detective, but simply not as combat effective as Jackie Chan's character. In the sequels, his character's competence is completely jettisoned, he becomes a classic Small Name, Big Ego, and much Uncle Tomfoolery ensues.
Yoda's diction in the original Star Wars trilogy for the most part simply swapped nouns and verbs in certain situations in a manner similar to some Earth languages. It also appears that he may have been doing this intentionally just to get on Luke's nerves; once Luke figures out who he is he starts speaking somewhat normally for the rest of his screen time. This was exaggerated in pop culture leading the writers of the prequels to make up lines such as "Not if anything to say about it, I have!"
Ron Weasley in Harry Potter starts off fairly average if slightly lazy and only seems to get lazier - and dumber - as the series progresses, though every now and then he manages to snag a moment of average competence. It probably didn't help that the film adaptations tended to play him up as being a lot dumber than Harry or Hermione, to the point that he often came across as The Load - and then became or at least bordered on being The Load in the books as well.
In Animorphs, this happened to Rachel, though it was intentional.
All the characters were Flanderized, actually, to a lesser extent. Cassie was the most notable (other than Rachel) - she goes from a slightly more moral person than the others to someone who couldn't stand to kill Visser 3. Note that her Flanderization was mostly reversed after Book 45.
Jake was noticeably Flanderized as well - his leader angst goes from mild to extreme, until the last book, at which point he feels like Tom and Rachel's death was his fault and becomes clinically depressed.
The Flanderization was, really, the point. The war took whatever aspect of their personalities was most useful to the fight (bloodlust, strategizing, manipulating people, etc.) and forced them to exaggerate it until it ate the rest of their lives.
Anita Blake suffers from this in regards to Anita's sex life and sexually-fueled magical powers, to the point where the longest book in the series to-date barely managed to get out of the bed, to say nothing of the bedroom.
While she was originally just an aversion of the Model Minority stereotype, Claudia Kishi, despite being in eighth grade for about ten years, eventually gets to the point where she can't even spell her friends' names — or her own! Despite being able to spell them perfectly well in seventh grade, mind. Most of the other girls' quirks (Kristy's bossiness, Dawn's environmentalist soapboxing, Mallory's geekiness, and Jessi's anxiety about her race and dancing skills) suffered this to some degree, as well.
Margo Pike's motion sickness. In Boy-Crazy Stacey, Margo almost gets car-sick on the way to Sea City but feels better once she moves to the front seat. Somehow, this turned into pretty much her only character trait, to the point where it was surprising she could walk down the street without getting sick.
A significant amount of time passes for him over the course of those books, and it's strongly implied that for almost all that time, things are running around trying to kill him. That would be enough to make a devoted coward out of many people.
Plus he's been to Unseen University where, despite his being ragingly incompetent at both the theory and practice of magic, he may well have learned a little — just enough — about the narrative nature of life on the Discworld. That's enough to fuel an entirely justified paranoia. Wizards are paranoid anyway, because until Ridcully became Archchancellor (after Rincewind had been away from the university for quite a while), the accepted method of moving upwards was by killing everyone ahead of you. Even someone as incompetent as Rincewind was not necessarily safe (or he saw it happen enough that he was worried it would happen to him anyway).
There's also Willikins, who started out as Standard Issue Butler #48592, and then his combat skills were established in Jingo and his street-fighting past in Thud!. By Snuff a lot of his lines revolve around his ability to kill anyone with anything sharp, and he doesn't even bother to put on the Jeeves impression.
Granny Weatherwax's first appearance has her as a very competent witch (her Wizard Duel with the Archchancellor of Unseen University ends in a tie), but she isn't portrayed as being anything out of the ordinary as witches go, and doesn't receive an inordinate amount of respect. A few sequels later and she is The Dreaded, with entire species having titles for her that basically translate to "Stay the hell away!". Her stubbornness, strong will, grumpiness, and pride have all been exaggerated as well. To some degree this is justified, as she has defeated increasingly formidable opponents as the series has gone on, so it makes sense she would be more confident and have more of a reputation.
David Eddings' series Elenium and Tamuli have Kalten, who starts out as Sparhawk's boyhood friend, a talented knight and skilled fighter who can't use magic because their kind of magic requires being fluent in the Styric language, which Kalten can't get the hang of. As the books continue, he turns into someone too stupid to spell his name correctly, for some reason.
Kalten: I know, this stupid-looking face of mine is very useful sometimes.
A similar, if less deliberate, thing happened in another one of K.A. Applegate's series, Everworld. In the first book, Search for Senna, the eponymous character was a quiet, withdrawn, and somewhat strangeEmotionless Girl who had a mostly positive romantic relationship with David, and demonstrated genuine concern for others on occasions. As the books went on, her negative traits were repeatedly emphasized and expanded, though this was initially saved from being Flanderization by her character also becoming more complex and interesting. In the last two books, her goal of overthrowing the powers of Everworld and crowning herself took over her characterization, and just about all of her other personality traits were thrown out in favor of it. She became an outright sadist, a tyrannical and megalomaniac Evil Overlord who no longer cared at all for how much death or pain she caused if it got her greater power.
Played for horror and incorporated as a plot point in Faction Paradox. A Space Cult Colony called the Remote colonists became sterile, and so developed technology to avoid extinction: Remembrance Tanks. You insert some biomass ready for cloning (a corpse) and get a few friends of the deceased so the machine can scan their minds for memories of the dead person, allowing the device to weave them together and form the clone's mind. This had the unpleasant side effect of making every iteration more and more stereotypical, to the degree Remote time-travelers are often disgusted and confused by meeting their future selves, often wondering if they are just that damn unpleasant.
GONE has Drake, who was much more a misandrist and sadist than he was a misogynist. He seemed to want to torture everyone -Or most- equally, and never seemed to hold too much of a preference of who he wanted to beat up. Yes, he did hate women with a near religious conviction, but he seemed to hate men just as much. Yet in FEAR, he suddenly has some personal vendetta against all females, which is Lampshaded by himself.
This is how self-will destroys the damned in The Great Divorce. If one embraces a sin and never lets it go, it overwrites the rest of one's character, and sometimes the rest of one's self.
Both Brandon's ignorance and Nick's rage towards it are flanderized throughout The Leonard Regime.
All of the Flock from Maximum Ride suffer this. In the first book at least they were a bit more realistic and believable. Now however, Nudge has gone from an extremely talkative young girl to a materialistic celebrity-obsessed tween, Angel is a manipulative Karma Houdini, Total is now even more of a cartoonish sidekick figure than he was originally and Iggy seems to be getting dumber and more childish in each book. Where in the first three he was treated by Max and Fang as one of the older kids, now he appears to have a mental age of twelve and spends most of his time with Gazzy, who admittedly has a similar outlook and personality, but is way younger than him. Fang too used to be a bit more of an interesting character (in the first book Nudge worries about whether he'd ever decide to leave the Flock) but now he's lost all the interesting sides to his personality. As for Max, she's recently started to use Totally Radical slang and seems to be occasionally channeling the spirit of Bella Swan, in the author's clumsy attempt to cash in on the teen romance success of late.
Hannibal Lecter, who first appeared in Red Dragon, was originally just a very intelligent and cultured man, whose expertise in his chosen field of psychiatry made him a particularly dangerous (and somewhat ironic) insane killer. By the (book) sequel, The Silence of the Lambs, he is quite clearly one of the greatest if not the greatest psychiatrist in the world, and by the threequel Hannibal, he's revealed to be a world-class genius in pretty much any field he sets his mind to, from Renaissance art to particle physics.
In Neal Shusterman's The Skinjacker Trilogy, Shusterman unveils a world between life and death, where your appearance is based entirely on your memory of yourself. This leads to such effects as remembering only the chocolate smudge on your face and turning entirely into chocolate, or remembering your acute sense of smell and gaining nostrils that extend to your feet. The Lawful Evil villain even encourages this trope as her thousands of followers reenact their "perfect day" every single day (when they're not fighting our protagonist). This example takes the trope in more of a literal sense, as you may have guessed, rather than the degeneration of a character's demeanor.
Some accuse the Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul trilogy of flanderizing the relationship between President Zife and Koll Azernal, with Zife being an ineffective president relying on scheming Azernal to run the government for him. It is certainly more obvious in this trilogy than in Star Trek: A Time to.... The Brains and Brawn partnership of Rehaek and Torath from Star Trek: Titan is flanderized by this trilogy, too.
The novel ''Before Dishonor'' essentially Fladerizes Worf, Seven of Nine, and Admiral Nechayev, presenting them in a surprisingly one-dimensional way, taking their various social flaws (Worf's aggressive stoicism, Seven's cold precision, Nechayev's impatience and sharp tongue) and blowing them out of proportion. Or so some readers argue.
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe nearly everything mentioned in the Star Wars movies as a side-note is turned by the Expanded Universe into the main characteristic of whatever subject.
Apparently all Corellians find statistical analysis abhorrent, due to the method in which Han Solo told C3PO to shut up in The Empire Strikes Back ("Never tell me the odds!").
"You look strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark." The Clone Wars had its gundarks modeled with ridiculously huge ears. The explanation for one of the designers was "We know about the Gundarks that they have huge ears, so they have to be visible".
Just about every Sith falls victim to this at some point or another, especially as one moves further away from their original appearance. Most notably, Revan.
In Karen Traviss' early works the Mandalorians/Clones were badass and the Jedi were somewhat clue-less/misguided. Cue later works where the Mandalorians are perfect at everything and the Jedi are basically evil hypocrites.
Zabrak (Darth Maul's species) Sith like double bladed lightsabers better than regular ones.
Most species with a single mention in the movies experience this treatment. All Hutts are crime lords, all Wookiees go berserk, all Bothans are spies, all Trandoshans are bounty hunters, all Rodians are more bounty hunters, all Gand are still more bounty hunters, et cetera. One can find exceptions, but source material states this as the rule.
In Warrior Cats, Hollyleaf starts as the smart one of the group who tries to respect the Warrior Code. By the end, she is completely consumed by the Warrior Code, freaking out if someone even mentions breaking it. This culminates with her finding out her mom severely broke the code and going on a murderous rampage.
Far earlier, in the first series, Fireheart's sister Princess is a kittypet who is curious about Clan life but wouldn't want to live that way, and who makes one or two comments on how Fireheart doesn't look like he's getting enough to eat. By the end of that series, she's become a hysterical worrywart terrified of the forest.
Alice in Chains is a good example of fan-Flanderization. Many of the band's songs have nothing to do with drugs. However, Layne Staley's well-publicized heroin addiction, coupled with persistent rumors of Dirt being a concept album about his struggles, led many to assume that all their songs have drug-themed lyrics.
This is present Post-Staley as well. A lot of people assume all of the band's songs with Du Vall are about Layne in some way now.
Popular Warp Records techno group, Autechre, began their career composing clever but still mainstream sounding techno tracks with easy to follow rhythms. However, years later, they began to compose very complex songs that eliminated the easy to understand rhythms and sound like noise to those who don't understand their unique style. To get a good example: compare their earlier albums like Incanabula and Amber, to their later albums like Confield and Draft 7.30.
A certain portion of the Avenged Sevenfold fanbase have taken to portraying the band members as thuggish gangsters - when, in actually, the band members are generally down-to-earth and friendly.
One of the main things that annoyed The Beatles about their 'Fab Four' image was how it reduced all four of them to a quick-caption stereotype which lingered — John was the 'funny' one, Paul the 'handsome' one, George the 'quiet' one and Ringo the 'normal' (i.e. less talented and klutzy) one.
In modern times, the Lennon/McCartney writing partnership tends to be oversimplified as 'Lennon wrote all the angsty, complex, rebellious and therefore 'good' songs, whereas McCartney wrote all the Silly Love Songs and fluffy album filler.' Which not only tends to unfairly deny McCartney the credit in several cases and do a disservice to several of the songs, but collapses entirely when you remember that Lennon wrote "Mean Mr. Mustard", "Norwegian Wood ", "This Boy" and "Dear Prudence" and McCartney wrote "Eleanor Rigby", "Helter Skelter", "Carry That Weight" and "Yesterday". Furthermore, half of the Lennon/McCartney songs were genuine 50:50 collaborations. Lennon did tend more towards Creator Breakdown than McCartney in later years, however.
George is thought of usually as either 'quiet' 'mystic' or 'grouchy', but people forget that George Harrison wrote "Something", "Savoy Truffle", and "Here Comes the Sun".
George was also characterized in works like A Hard Days Night and Yellow Submarine as being a somber and serious mystic (especially in the latter). His son Dhani complained about this once, as his dad actually had a pretty good sense of humor. The man personally financed Monty Python's Life of Brian just because he wanted to see it and the last letter he ever wrote was to Mike Myers about how much he loved Austin Powers.
In A Hard Days Night George is more "deadpan" than "serious", not only because it was part of his personality but also because he lacked the natural talent for comedic acting of John and Ringo. But he gets two of the funniest bits of the movie: the "what would you call your hairstyle?" joke and the scene where he's mistaken for a fashion model (both of which work well with a Deadpan Snarker).
Elvis Presley has been shamelessly Flanderized after his death by Elvis impersonators. In his youth Elvis actually was slim with boyish good looks and a pleasant smooth tenor voice with only a little shaking in it. If he was anything like most of his impersonators he would not be nearly as popular as he was in the late 1950s.
NWA, on the album Straight Outta Compton, mostly stuck to an aggressive Gangsta Rap style they called "reality rap", and used quite a few songs to explicitly criticise the conditions and harrassment endured by the black population of Los Angeles. Then Ice Cube bailed, and they became ridiculously over-the-top, violence-celebrating Horrorcore with Efil4zaggin.note Basically, they went from Gangsta Rap Type 1 to Type 3.
Truth be told, many rap artist provide examples of Flanderization. In fact, they're so many examples you would need a separate page to describe them all.
Ozzy Osbourne gets this a lot from the press. For example, from the way people talk, you'd think he bites the heads off bats all the time. In truth, he only did such a thing once (completely by accident!) and went to the hospital for a rabies shot immediately after.
Pantera. When they hit the mainstream with Cowboys From Hell in 1990, they had a then-unique "street tough" attitude but had no problem getting into some pretty emotional/sensitive topics with their music. Starting around Far Beyond Driven, however, their "toughness" was heavily Flanderized with many songs revolving around Phil's over-inflated ego, and (with a couple exceptions) the band shed all traces of angst and sensitivity.
Queen is another example of fan-Flanderization. Due to the publicity surrounding Freddie Mercury's bout with AIDS, many now assume their classic songs are about his illness and/or bout with homosexuality. Freddie was actually bisexual, and he wasn't diagnosed with AIDS until after the release of A Kind Of Magic (the band's third-to-last official album before his death).
Freddie himself has been Flanderized by his tribute acts; he had so many different looks down the years yet what does every tribute singer focus on? Yep, THAT yellow jacket.
Red Hot Chili Peppers had success with ballads, and then did so many that they inevitably became bland and predictable.
When Rihanna came out she sang about a variety of topics. Now it seems like all of her singles have devolved into songs about sex with the occasional love song in them.
When Weezer burst into the music scene back in 1994, they were just naturally geeky. Instead of trying to have some kind of bombastic or showy image, they were completely themselves. However, around the time the Green Album was released, their geekiness was heavily Flanderized. They all began dressing deliberately in geeky/outdated fashions, frontman Rivers Cuomo began wearing thick-rimmed glasses, etc. Plus, even though he's now well over 40, Rivers STILL obsessively sings about topics like snagging the sexy cheerleader goddess!
Gods originally portrayed as Chaotic Neutral or even mostly good are frequently reinterpreted as evil by competing sects/religions historically. Modern media does the same and removes the character flaws of "good" gods in retellings of mythology in order to simplify them, making them fit modern good/evil dichotomies better.
Sports broadcasters and a lot of radio personalities do this to themselves as time goes on. Chris Berman, Tony Kornheiser, Dick Vitale, Jim Rome all immediately come to mind as people that have particular quirks that are used more in more as they continue and their knowledge hasn't grown so they cover it up with their personality.
Dilbert has played with this trope over the years. With some characters it's played straight: the Pointy-Haired Boss went from an ordinary Bad Boss to a complete moron, while Wally's sole defining trait has become laziness. Alice went from being a brilliant engineer with a low tolerance for stupidity to being defined by regularly screaming and punching people (or injuring/killing them with just a look.) On the other hand, Dilbert himself has become less of a nerd and more a mixture of Everyman and Only Sane Man.
While most of the FoxTrot characters had their personas taken to the extreme at times, Andy was quite extremely Flanderized, going from a simple, caring and concerned mother to the Granola GirlMoral Guardian of the strip who serves her family earth-friendly fare like braised zucchini every meal, keeps the thermostat so low that it flash-freezes the steam from a cup of coffee, and throws a fit if she catches the boys playing a violent video game. Unfortunately, since the series became Sunday-only, there's little chance of her changing. On the other hand, before this happened Andy pretty much didn't have a personality at all beyond Mom.
Which is not to say this didn't happen to other characters, too. Jason Fox pretty much became a vehicle to show how much Bill Amend knew about physics and computers, when in the early 80s he actually wasn't this as much. He was good at school but disliked it more than everyone else. Roger Fox became Too Dumb to Live - when in the 80s and 90s, he was actually somewhat rational, and his lack of knowledge about computers, while still Played for Laughs, was actually not as laughably stupid back then as it is to a modern reader.
Garfield managed to invert this trope, then play it straight. He started out very lazy and sarcastic, but de-Flanderized into a more playful attitude by the late eighties. Over time, he's gradually shifted back into his more cynical self. ** Garfield's (the character) de-/re-Flanderization pretty much mirrors the strip perfectly (as you'd expect). It began as a Slice of Life strip, but as the character became less Flanderized, the strip shifted to a light surrealist style, which set the tone for the franchise as a whole (probably best shown in Garfield and Friends). Around the mid '90s the strip shifted back to the slice of life style, becoming re-Flanderized into the strip we know today.
Played straight with Jon Arbuckle, who started as being The Straight Man and a bachelor who cared for Garfield. During the first months of 1979, he was Flanderized into being the Straw Loser compared to Garfield (with his role of the Deadpan Snarker going to Dr. Liz Wilson), and by the late 1990's, he was given a more Cloud Cuckoo Lander personality.
Charlie Brown, somewhat surprisingly, was a victim of this trope. In his earliest strips, he was basically the prototype of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes in that he was a wise cracking rascal who often got the upper hand. For instance, he comes across another character who is sweating and asks what's the matter. "I'm hot!" she says. "You don't look so hot to me," he retorts before running away with a smirk. In the very earliest strips, he even had girls fighting over his affections! Some vestiges of the later Charlie Brown were there in the early days in that the other children were somewhat crueler to him than they were to their other peers, but it wasn't until later that this and his tendency to come out behind became such an overpowering part of his characterization. The doo-wop song "Charlie Brown" actually manages to combine these two divergent characterizations, with "Who called the English teacher 'Daddy-O'?" and "Why is ev'rybody always pickin' on me?"
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin, anyone? At the height of his popularity, he was simply a very tough working-class guy who was lashing out at the oppression of the modern world. Over time, the "underdog" side of his character became deemphasized and the "rebel" side became predominant, with the inevitable result that he devolved into an unabashed Jerkass - and the fans still cheered him!
The Undertaker went from being simply, well, an undertaker to becoming almost literally a god of death and the occult. Briefly reversed when he became a "biker" character for a few years.
Inverted with Triple H, who started out as an Upper-Class Twit but eventually developed into a fairly normal, non-pretentious guy who just happens to be very rich.
Despite the negative connotations behind Flanderization, it's been said that the best gimmicks are really just exaggerations of a wrestler's real-life personality.
Table Top Games
One criticism of the second edition of Exalted is that it took the interesting characters from 1e and flattened them out. Especially the Deathlords - First and Forsaken Lion went from being an interesting character who wanted to take over the Underworld and didn't care about Creation to Mask of Winters v2 who wants to CONQUER AND/OR DESTROY EVERYTHING!
Interestingly, in the 2012 audio drama Chosen of Khorne, Khârn the Betrayer (who is often considered to be the epitome of the Ax-Crazy followers of Khorne in Warhammer 40,000) was significantly de-flanderized. In the drama, he is portrayed as quite level-headed outside of combat (if prone to visions of slaughter), and even refuses to harm non-combatants - as long as they don't touch his axe.
Matt Ward has been working on Flanderizing the Ultramarines from a respected puritan Chapter of strict adherents to the Codex Astartes into the absurd force of unimpeachable and unbeatablyawesomeUltrasmurfs that we all know and hate. At a stroke, he accomplished this mission for the Grey Knights with the 2011 codex, turning them from an interesting faction of thin-spread heroes fighting desperately against horrors which often threatened them and the entire Imperium into Big Damn Heroes who God-Mode Sue it up, curb stomp all your foes in tabletop, and not only are completely incorruptible, but can't be beaten. Let's see. Game Breaker units? Check. Incorruptible Pure Pureness that can survive alone in the Warp and isn't tainted by bathing in the blood of Sisters of Battle? Check. God-Mode Sue fluff? In spades. Before, Grey Knights were earlier well-liked by fans, who still used them even with a codex that was a bit out of date. Fan and critical reaction has not been positive to the changes.
The Necrons originally had vague allusions to ancient Egyptians, and their fantasy counterpart, the Tomb Kings. Come 5th Edition, they're all wearing pharaoh hats and wearing gold and blue jewelry while wielding sickle blades. Also done by Matt Ward. The players received massive Character Development in the process. That's because Games Workshop were Genre Savvy enough to control Ward's antics this time with at least two people getting the job of simply checking he does it right and stopping him when it goes awry. It worked. Of course, it also resulted in the complete destruction of the Necron's pre-fifth-edition backstory, but hey, you can't win them all.
There have been some attempts to reverse the Flanderization of the Imperium in the tie-in novels, most notably the Horus Heresy books and, of course, Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!!
Noob from Battlefield Friends started out as simply making rookie mistakes and only suffering an occasional misunderstanding. However, he quickly began to get dumber and dumber, to the point where, in the second season, he barely understands even core gameplay concepts and is a complete liability to his own team.
The title character was Flanderized from The Fool into The Ditz, while Coach Z's creepiness, the King of Town's unpopularity and Bubs's tendency towards dodgy dealings were also blown out of proportion.
Strong Sad actually seemed to go through reverse Flanderization, going from a rather one-note downer to an artsy and snarkyOnly Sane Man.
Several character in Neurotically Yours have undergone Flanderization. Foamy used to be a fast talking squirrel who said whatever came to his mind but he eventually grew cynical, foul mouthed, and and is willing to kill or seriously hurt people (or at least threaten them) over mundane things such as threatening Germaine to electrocute her if she didn't take him to the bagel shop.
Anchovie, AKA The Pizza Guy/Dude, was a young man that was deeply in love with Germaine, even though she always rejected him. He slowly became a stalker and even borderline rapist no matter how many times Germaine rejected him.
Germaine's sexual fantasies and desires were exposed more and more up to the point where Germaine relished it and became a hooker. The reboot arc eliminates the sexual shtick.
In Kirbopher's Super Freakin' Parody Rangers series, the Rangers themselves are basic Flanderized versions of the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Meat, the Red Ranger, is an extreme sports nut who continually flexes his muscles (and is surprisingly also Genre Savvy); Willy, the Blue Ranger, is a short and stereotypical nerd; Pinky, the Pink Ranger, is definitely The Chick; and in reference to the original Black and Yellow Rangers, Mace the Black Ranger and Chan the Yellow Ranger are, well, an African-American and a Chinese girl, respectively.
Achewood's Cassandra "Roast Beef" Kazanzakis is an interesting case. He didn't have a personality to speak of to begin with, but around the party arc we learn that he is depressed and borderline suicidal. Shortly after that the trait began to dominate his personality, though despite this high focus on his depression he remains a rather multifaceted and interesting character.
David from Bittersweet Candy Bowl. The author originally intended him to be far less weird and wacky than his later appearances suggest.
Ethan in Ctrl+Alt+Del began as The Ditz, but moved on to Cloud Cuckoolander. More recently, he has surpassed this, and some fans are starting to suspect he is in fact clinically insane. (This may explain why Ethan made a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent a dystopian future from happening, and the entire strip is going to be rebooted.)
Szark Sturtz from Dominic Deegan was originally a master swordsman and a sadist. Following his Heel-Face Turn and admittance to having a crush on the title character, he eventually became "Szark (who is gay)", according to one forum that follows the comic.
Siggy's racism. Quilt's stupidity. Dominic's ability to plan ahead. Luna's bids for independence. Dex's timing for Big Damn Hero moments.
Grim Tales from Down Below has Grim, the personification of death, speaking in a slightly garbled manner in the beginning but it begins to get more and more difficult to understand as the story moves on.
In the Homestuck Act 6 Intermission 3 game, some of the Pre-Scratch Trolls are revealed to be Flanderized versions of their "dancestors." In particular, Cronus Ampora reflects all of the worst, most recognizable traits in the fandom's vision of Eridan (i.e. his romantic troubles, douchebaggery, and hipsterism), while Meulin Leijon is an exaggeration of how the fandom sees Nepeta (i.e. shipping and cat puns).
Aradia is an interesting case, in that the trait that's been exaggerated is one she didn't actually possess at the beginning, but picked up after coming back to life. She went from a cheerful person with a couple of minor death-fangirl quirks to spending entire scenes bearing a truly demented Slasher Smile and generally being more than a little creepy.
Least I Could Do, from the same creative team, has seen this happen to most of the characters, but it's particularly noticable with Rayne, whose childlike obsession with Star Wars and other geek properties and 12-year old boy-like obsession with getting laid have basically consumed his personality, to the point where it's a surprise when he acts like an actual person, or even gets something accomplished, other than weirding people out with his desire to be Emperor or getting laid.
Richard from Looking for Group was always intended to be an Always Chaotic Evil insensitive dick and main comic relief, but his antics in later parts have done nothing but break the pace of the story.
Gary, from Ménage à 3. He was always a geek, but early in the series he seems to be more or less well-adjusted to the Real Life, work, romance, etcetera. As the series kept going, he was starting to look more and more stereotypical "geeky", to the grade his idea of a romantic place to take a girl out is a visit to a Comic Store. Not that Comics Stores are bad places per se, but isn't exactly a good location for a first date.
In-universe example in Ozy and Millie, where Llewellyn's horns exaggerate character traits when worn. Ozy becomes so passive he goes a whole day without moving, Millie becomes so mischievous she tries to cut off Ozy's tail, and Avery does nothing but gush about how awesome he is after putting them on.
Hannelore, shortly after her first appearance, mentioned that she had severe OCD. Over time, she developed more and more quirks and phobias to the point of being essentially a female Adrian Monk (she even had a "sex" dream about him, where they cleaned together in the nude). It wasn't long before they had to Hand Wave the fact that she even has piercings, and the circumstances of her first appearance — loitering in a public restroom, smoking and nonchalantly talking to a man peeing in the sink — have become absolutely inconceivable. (In fact she wins a massive bet with her wealthy mother by simply agreeing to briefly touch the toilet in a public restroom!) The problems had to be explained in Comic 1046, where Hannelore reveals she's always had these problems; it just varies by the drugs she takes.
Also from QC is Raven. At first she was an easy-to-rile goth stereotype who was not the brightest bulb. Then she reappeared as a PerkyEmo. Then she was a little bit of a Genki Girl with rare flashes of wisdom and occasional casual sex. More recently she is a flat out bizarre Cloudcuckoolander (even by the standards of Cloudcuckoolanders), and has probably gone around the block an innumerable number of times.
Even Pintsize to an extent. Originally he was just a quirky, sociopathic robot with weird fetishes. Now he is just /b/ personified doing anything for attention.
Inverted in Precocious (sort of). Most of the minor characters are introduced pre-Flanderized. Played straight, however, for Shii Ann Hu. Mentioned by trope name in the alt-text for strip 237.
Donut starts as a somewhat wimpy rookie who is unfortunately assigned pink armor. He at first despises and insists it is "lightish red" but later on seems to embrace that armor, becoming full-fledged flamboyantly Ambiguously Gay (or extremely, extremely Camp Straight, depending on your interpretation).
Caboose's childish incompetence becomes insanity.
Simmons changes from occasionally kissing ass to displaying extremely sycophantic behavior ("You're not only a wonderful leader but also a handsome man, sir!"). Sarge's dislike of Grif progressed to actually trying to kill Grif on a fairly regular basis.
Grif himself started as the most competent member of the Reds with occasional references to slacking off (most likely because his work would have been utter nonsense anyway). This evolved into extreme sloth and gluttony.
Tucker, who talked about "picking up chicks" in the first few episodes, became a literal font of innuendo. Tex went from a skilled and amoral special forces soldier to a legendarily powerful Badass.
Church, however, remained roughly as grouchy and cynical throughout, perhaps actually becoming more complex as time passed.
Doc. He started out as a conscientious objector but had no true defining behavioral quirks. Quickly he became a useless wimp (to the point that he reveals he ran track in high school because it was the least competitive sport he could find) and pacifist, serving as a hilarious counter-balance to O'Malley's aggressive ranting.
Leo from VG Cats was at first a typical Cloud Cuckoo Lander whom, despite some unusual quirks, still made sense at times. This got worse, much to the discomfort of his co-star, Aeris. Now he is effectively a textbook Ditz.
The Angry Video Game Nerd started out as a jaded sort of fellow who would only start dropping F-bombs when the game truly deserved it, and concentrated more on the reviews themselves. As the series continued, the Nerd would collapse into screaming apoplexy at the slightest provocation, game-related or not, and the shows gradually got more and more taken over by movie-like set pieces and Large Ham supporting characters (this was about when Mike Matei got an expanded role).
The Youtube user Benthelooney has suffered this in his videos. Originally, on his old PuffyZillaman4 account, he was consistently calm and laidback, despite several rants. However, enter later half of 2010, and he becomes a lot more loud and aggressive in tone. This is possibly to add effect to his rants however. Another thing that has been flanderized about him, is his opinions. For example: In his "Nickelodeon" salute, he didn't exactly say he hated Rugrats, but he didn't think that it aged well, but it was good for nostalgia purposes, but in a later video, he says he hates it, and that it's not even good for a "nostalgia trip" and was baffled that many people his age love it. The same could be said for his opinions on Rocko's Modern Life and Scooby-Doo. To add to this, he has received another Flanderization, when it comes to his opinion towards Pixar. In his older videos, he enjoyed their first couple of movies but wasn't too happy about their later ones and Pixar winning the Oscars. Now, it has gone to the extreme, of him actually hating Pixar, and thinking that they have ruined animation. He has expressed hate for them in several comments.
He even flat-out ranted on Pixar (He apologized for it later). However, in occasional videos, he realizes this and tries to go back to his 2009-2011 personna in occasional videos. Ben Tannehill (the web-show's creator) himself is pretty much the opposite of the character himself in real-life, as he is actually very nice.
One of the many side-effects of the World Split hitting Ink City was certain characters undergoing this as a sign they were growing increasingly unbalanced. Don, for instance, is a fan of giving and receiving hugs, which he calls 'sugar'. Due to losing all his ink after the Split, he turns bright pink and can't say anything other than "Sugar sugar sugar."
Jake from College Humor's Jake And Amir went from being a regular guy having to deal with Amir's antics to being somewhat of a Jerkass, and Amir became less and less sane.
Jon Tron was originally an AVGN-ish review show. Similarly to the Nerd's anger, Jon became more and more wacky and less down-to-earth as videos continued. After he quit Game Grumps, the videos became even more wacky as a result of his time there. This has worked out well, as his recent videos are some of the most-liked ones.
A lot of people probably don't realize that the original "Caturday" pictures (now known as LOLCats) were captioned in proper English. They were still funny, because the photos were inherently bizarre, like photos you might see in magazine caption contests. Now it's escalated to the point where any photo of a cat combined with bad enough English is supposedly hilarious.
Miranda of Miranda Sings started out as a fairly believable Stealth Parody of amateur singers on YouTube who are deluded about their talent before her singing, fashion sense, and overall attitude slowly started getting more and more over the top. Compare this to this. Colleen Ballinger, the creator of the character, says she was deliberately exaggerating whatever traits were most derided in the comments section in order to make her more annoying. And due to Poe's Law, some still seem to not immediately get that she's a fictional character.
Sparadrap started out as a Noob in pure form : annoying, not listening to people giving him advice, overestimating his talent and the ego that comes with it all. Overtime, forgetfulness and sheer idiocy became the only reasons he was doing anything wrong. That stupidity led to a tendency to be friendly in situations that called for battle that expanded to other domains, eventually making him into a Stupid GoodMan Child.
Gaea started out as the Audience Surrogate, then hinted that accumulating in-game currency was a bigger priority to her than other things, which makes sense for a new player. Her means of raking in more money have gotten more and more elaborate over time, to the extent that she's now known to be a greedy Manipulative Bastard by any of her acquaintances that are not a Horrible Judge of Character.
At one point, Open Blue's Espartano unit went from ostensibly unisex Tyke Bomb training program to Amazon Brigade factory. Has a bit of Never Live It Down due to the main contributor just happening to prefer badass lolitas, thus inadvertently bringing the other players assume the factuality of said flanderization. They in turn started making Espartano characters using said assumption, resulting in the concept's flanderization. This was cleaned up in v5, when the new unit for the role, the Engelmacht, was explicitly stated to be unisex.
PeabodySam's Garry's Mod tribute to Dino Attack RPG plays this for laughs, with every character oversimplified to their most basic traits. Rex is "a guy who was a dinosaur", Dr. Rex goes from spending three quarters of the RPG as the Big Bad to "a mad science guy who went into a thing that did something and became a dinosaur", Hotwire is a guy who lost a leg, Dust goes fromm a complex anti-hero to "this guy who was really cool and then he died", Kate Bishop is "a girl who cried", and Andrew is some guy who watched a movie with an alien.
Red vs. Blue is a good example of why Flanderization isn't necessarily a bad thing: in very early episodes, the characters are all quirky, but mostly sane enough to function in real life. Within the space of the first season, they grow increasingly zany, with increasingly hilarious results, and it's doubtful the show would have become so popular otherwise.
SFDebris delights in taking Star Trek tropes and characters to their extremes. These range from running gags in fandom, such as Janeway's coffee obsession or Troi's bad piloting skills, to total re-imaginings such as:
As Trek's Stock Aesops age naturally over time, The Federation is increasingly depicted as an Orwellian state.
Probably most famous is Chuck's interpretation of Captain Janeway as a supervillain on par with Palpatine and Dr. Wily. This originated with Janeway's inconsistent characterization over the course of the series, when viewers were expected to blindly side with her despite the writers disagreeing over how she would act from week-to-week.
Almost as famous is Harry Kim's sexual confusion and Butt Monkey role. It's worth mention that this and Janeway's mental illness are regarded as Word of Saint Paul by the actors themselves.
Captain Archer as a deranged homeless man who was abducted and put in charge of a starship. His resentment of the Vulcans, a running theme on ENT, has been inflated to cartoon-level paranoia.
Tales of MU does this to gnomes (its version of hobbits) to a certain extent, when comparing the species to the one from Middle-Earth. The latter are respectable to a fault and don't think much of people who travel too much or have adventures - the former literally consider "adventure" a dirty word and take pains to use an Unusual Euphemism.
Hazel: What I mean to say is that she’s an... a lady of wandering interests [...] You know, prone to seek out, ah, random encounters.
In Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Jonathan's signature move is the revolver he uses on Dio when Dio is a vampire. Will A. Zeppeli repeatedly uses the frog punch on his foes. At one point, he does the frog punch on Dio's zombies, and giant fists rain down upon them. The grenade deflection attack is one of Straizo's signature moves.