Lesser Star

"The glee club's been ignoring Tina all year long. Actually, she kinda got ignored last year too. Actually, Tina's sorta been ignored the whole time and she's been in the New Directions since, like, forever."
— The Glee narrator on Tina.

A character that receives equal billing but is incidental to the point of irrelevance. Commonly found within Real Life within musical fields, particularly rock bands; the rhythm section (i.e. bass, drums, sometimes rhythm guitar) is the foundation upon which everything is built, so while many drummers or bassists may not be prolific songwriters or singers, many singers and guitarists acknowledge that the sound would be nothing without them.

The opposite of this, where a character makes an equal (or at least necessary) contribution, but remains obscure or overlooked, is Stuck in Their Shadow. Compare and contrast with Second Banana, Breakup Breakout, Face of the Band, I Am the Band, My Friends... and Zoidberg and The Pete Best.

In-Universe examples only, please. It is almost always controversial to list any real-life musician here.


Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Tenchi of Tenchi Muyo! gets a bit of this. He's the title character, but the show is really all about the girls; Tenchi himself is primarily relevant as a MacGuffin for them to fight over. Of course, one translation of the title is "No Need For Tenchi". How much of this he has depends on the series, and how far through the series one progresses. In the main OAV series, for example, he ends up being revealed as the reason all known universes were created, not to mention more powerful than the beings responsible for their creation, though he has no memory of any of this.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Despite being Second in command of the SOS-Dan, Itsuki Koizumi is the least developed of the five. As far as purpose goes, Yuki usually gives out most of the 'facts', explaining what's going on, whereas Itsuki usually mused on ideas and philosophy. As the story went on, Itsuki had said about all of value he could say, so only Yuki was left to offer any real exposition. As far as what they bring to individual adventures, Yuki is the most useful as a Reality Warper, Mikuru herself is almost completely useless, but her adult self is the driving force of several plots (almost always those involving time travel), and Itsuki... uh... knows rich people.
  • Sakura Haruno from Naruto was introduced as the third member of the Power Trio, but her plotlines were rarely tied to the main conflict and they diminish in frequency over time. It didn't help that her entire reason for being included in the story was so that it would have a Power Trio instead of just The Hero and The Rival.
  • In Bleach, Ichigo's True Companions became way less prominent as the series started putted more focus on the Soul Society captains and squads.

     Comic Books  

  • There were issues of Cable & Deadpool in which Cable's entire role was basically to appear at the beginning and give Deadpool a mission. And a stretch of issues about Deadpool trying to find Cable in different dimensions. Eventually they literally crossed Cable's name off the cover and replaced it with the name of a random guest star. Some of it was merely due to editorial mandate that allowed Cable to be busy, missing, or even killed off in the X-Men titles, leaving the writers of the book he was nominally headlining little recourse but to work around him, but even when Cable was available it often seemed like they were more interested in writing a Deadpool book that Cable was shoehorned into by, you guessed it, editorial mandate. This despite the fact that Cable had been a major player in the X-titles for quite some time, and Deadpool had originally just been a member of his Rogues Gallery.
  • Similarly, in most Blake and Mortimer stories, the former has a much smaller role than the latter, with some even having him barely show up at all (The Time Trap for example only has him appear on panel in the very last page visiting Mortimer in the hospital). And to add insult to injury, SOS Meteors, one of the few albums where Blake arguably has a bigger role than Mortimer is inexplicably subtitled Mortimer in Paris and Blake does not appear on the cover.

     Film  

  • Turner of Turner & Hooch.
  • Music and Lyrics features an in-universe example: the lead character was part of an 80's pop duo named PoP!, heavily based off Wham!, with him playing the Andrew Ridgeley role.
  • Fanny in Fanny and Alexander. Alexander is the POV character, and Fanny has little to do—in fact, she has hardly any dialogue.
  • Bones becomes this in the J.J. Abrahams Star Trek movies with his role in the Power Trio being played by Uhura.
  • In School of Rock Katie the bass player has minimal lines and is Out of Focus for most of the film. She's the only player to not get a solo in the end credits.

     Live Action TV  

  • Travis Mayweather on Star Trek: Enterprise. Since TNG, Trek has always had a problem with its Cast Calculus. Tradition requires that there always be a Power Trio to mirror Kirk/Spock/Bones. Tradition also requires there always be a helmsman, a security chief, a fanservice character, an engineer, a doctor and ship's counselor on the show. Mayweather represents this contradiction at its apogee.
  • Parodied on That Mitchell and Webb Look with the superhero duo Angel Summoner & BMX Bandit. Angel Summoner is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, while BMX Bandit is good at riding a BMX.
  • Mindy of Mork & Mindy.
  • Greg of Dharma & Greg.
  • In-Universe example, the plot of one Columbo episode involves one member of a writing partnership killing off the other - because he threatened to expose the fact that his partner did not do any of the actual writing.
  • Sometimes happens in Super Sentai and Power Rangers where the Sixth Ranger will be introduced to be as powerful as, or even more powerful, than the hero; but after his introductory arc tends to be increasingly sidelined. This is known in the fandom as "Sixth Ranger Syndrome."
  • Greta on the TV version of How to Marry a Millionaire. When Lori Nelson complained about this, it essentially led to the fall of the series... and the rise of Barbara Eden, another cast member on the show.
  • The Brothers Garcia plays this for drama when Carlos and Lorenna try to join a band. Carlos is the understudy for the drummer, while Lorenna only gets to sing back-up.

     Newspaper Comics  

  • Rat claims he is going to do this to Pig in one edition of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. In commentary in his treasuries, author Stephen Pastis asserts that he was the first person to have used the word "Garfunkel" as a verb, referring to the second member of Simon & Garfunkel who was the former namesake of this trope. (He was wrong, incidentally; Simon himself did it first on one of their tracks.)
  • In Barney Google & Snuffy Smith, Barney Google barely appears anymore. His most recent appearance was in 2012; his second most recent appearance was in 1997. Some newspapers have removed his name from the strip for this reason.

     Pinball  

     Professional Wrestling  

  • Hulk Hogan was often paired with much less popular wrestlers, whether to give them a push or just to have them get mauled by some heel flavor of the month in order to have the Hulkster come and avenge them. Whenever he was paired with a more recognizable wrestler of (relatively) comparable popularity, it was usually to set up a heel turn and the next big main event.
  • Diva Dirt published an article about this drawing comparisons to Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child. Examples include:
    • Vince's Devils - Victoria in comparison to Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle. Despite being easily the best wrestler of them, the other two were very over Ms Fanservices.
    • Pretty Mean Sisters - Ryan Shamrock to Jacqueline and Terri Runnels. While Jacqueline was a brilliant wrestler and multiple champion, and Terri one of the most recognisable managers, Ryan never lasted long enough to do anything much.
    • Wrestling/The Beautiful People - Lacey Von Erich to Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne. While Madison and Velvet were good enough in the ring or at least charismatic enough to be a presence, Lacey was obviously very green and didn't last long in TNA.
  • The 2015 Divas Revolution storyline featured three trios fighting for dominance in the women's division. Each group had one Lesser Star:
    • Team PCB had Paige. Charlotte was the star of the team and the eventual champion, while Becky Lynch was a very over fan-favourite and Morality Pet. Paige took all the losses and eventually got fed up with being outshined, turning on the group.
    • Team Bella had Brie Bella. With Nikki Bella being the current reigning Divas' Champion, she was the clear leader. Alicia Fox meanwhile was presented as a Wild Card who joined the team out of Genre Savvyness. Brie rarely won and served to take pins for her sister's challengers.
    • Team BAD had Tamina Snuka. Sasha Banks was undefeated and the clear star, while Naomi had been pushed as a title contender and got the odd win. Tamina was merely there to fulfil The Worf Effect and would rarely get wins herself.

     Tabletop Games  

     Wiki/TV Tropes  

  • Television Tropes & Idioms- and now officially just tropes.

     Video Games  

  • Despite the name, the Super Mario Bros. games rarely give the two brothers equal billing. In games when Luigi is as important as Mario, both characters are mentioned by name in the title (e.g. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga). And you have all the characters in game who refer to poor Luigi as "that green mustache guy", somewhat verifying the trope in-universe. Super Smash Bros. Brawl references this, having Luigi be a huge wimp who gets knocked out in his first minute onscreen in the campaign. Many of his attacks look dorkier than his brother's, his entrance cry is a depressed "Let's a-go...", Snake's codec on him has the false Colonel mock him for being stuck in Mario's shadow, and his Final Smash is claimed in its trophy to be formed from his dark desire to be greater than his brother. However, Nintendo chose to avert this in 2013, dubbing it "The Year of Luigi" and giving him several new games... only for his trophy in Super Smash Bros for 3DS to claim that all that attention only made him more shy.
  • There were two pack-in games that came with the NES. One was Super Mario Bros., of course. The other? Duck Hunt, which is remembered for only two things: Being the other game that came with the NES, and... the dog. Speaking of the NES accessories in order of well-known-ness: Control Pad, Zapper, Power Pad, Power Glove, NES Advantage, Robotic Operating Buddy. One version of the NES came with a three-game multipack, providing for an even lesser Lesser Star. Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt were the first two on the cartridge. World Class Track Meet was the third, a rereleased version of Stadium Events. Stadium Events is known for being the game that holds the world record for highest price sold for a video game (an eBay auction fetched $41,300 for a factory-sealed copy). World Class Track Meet, more widely released, is known for being "that game you can totally cheat at if you step off the Power Pad and slap the pads with your hands".
  • Same with Bob (blun/by) (the blue bubble dragon) from Bubble Bobble who has not been in as many games and ports as his brother Bub (the green bubble dragon) had. Coincidence?
  • Ratchet & Clank played with this trope in an interesting way: while in the early series Ratchet is undoubtedly the main character and Clank the sidekick, at the start the third game Clank is famous galaxy wide for his "Secret Agent Clank" holovid series while Ratchet (who plays his hapless valet) has faded into obscurity. Since then, they've been getting progressively more equal billing, with Clank getting more substantial solo gameplay portions as well as his own spinoff game... based on the aforementioned secret agent persona.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 with regards to the YRP - when it comes to performing in the Songstress dressphere. Yuna and Rikku excitedly do it, and Yuna especially is a huge celebrity as a result. Paine meanwhile dislikes being a Songstress and never uses it in the plot. She'll even complain if you put her as a Songstress in battle. This is partly justified due to Paine's Dark and Troubled Past - and she defrosts over the course of the game.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Starring Vaan, Penelo, Ashe, Balthier, Basch, and Fran with equal billing as main characters. The story is really about Ashe, Balthier, Basch, and Fran. Vaan is a First-Person Peripheral Narrator that's relevant in relation to the other 4. This leaves Penelo in the dust with nothing to bring to the table in the plot. She does get some level of importance as Larsa's friend but it doesn't come into the story much.
    • Final Fantasy VI was supposed to be made so that all 12 (not counting the other two) playable characters could get some chance to be in the narrative spotlight and, thus, having no real protagonist. In spite of that, you can easily point the most relevant ones to the plot, them being Terra (The events of the game and most of its first half are greatly centered on her), Celes (set up as a character in the first act and completely taking over the spotlight at the beginning of the second act), Locke (gets consistent character development throughout the game) and debatably Edgar (he gets his fair share of importance in both halfs). Interestingly, all these characters are naturally capable of wielding the Lightbringer, the best weapon in the game bar none.
  • Teddy in EarthBoundZero. Is branded as one of the main characters, can be named manually before the game begins, but only joins the party briefly, very late in the game.

     Western Animation  

  • Parodied, of course, in The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Rival". Lisa takes solace in that there's nothing wrong being the second-best at anything, and she then imagines a future in which she, Art Garfunkel, Jim Messina, and John Oates play their #2 song "Born To Be Runners-Up" in a concert is sponsored by (#2 car rental company) Avis. They get booed off the stage, and she wakes up lampshading the Fridge Logic of why people would show up to their concert just to boo them.
    • In "Sideshow Bob Roberts", Bart and Lisa invoke this in their plan to get Sideshow Bob to confess to rigging the mayoral election, by accusing him of playing second-fiddle to Limbaugh expy Birch Barlow.
    Lisa: You were just Barlow's lackey!
    Bart: You were Ronnie to his Nancy!
    Lisa: Sonny to his Cher!
    Bart: Ringo to his rest of The Beatles!
  • Metalocalypse:
    • An in-universe example, the bassist Murderface is definitely considered a main character and major player in the band Dethklok. However, numerous episodes have shown that 1) he sucks at playing bass, 2) all the bass parts are written by lead guitarist Skwisgaar, 3) the bass parts are usually mixed to near-inaudible levels on the albums, if 4) Murderface is even allowed to play on the record at all.
      • Murderface is shown in an episode to contribute to the band with dickish behavior. In the absence of his negativity, Dethklok loses its brutal edge.
      • When Murderface records solo singing parts for Planet Piss, producer Dick Knubler (who describes him as "almost part of Dethklok") can be seen actively brickwalling the sound montage to drown out his voice.
    • Similarly, rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth also has no input into the band's creative process. His parts on the album are written AND performed by Skwisgaar.
  • In the Family Guy episode "The Big Bang Theory", when Stewie's time machine whisks him and Brian out of the space-time continuum, he releases the machine's energy and as it turns out created the universe. When Brian attempts to get some of the credit from Stewie, he tells Brian that he's the "Art Garfunkel" of the universe.
  • Dale Armatre from Moral Orel. When his band, The Crucifolk, break up, its other two members (who happen to be married) leave him out to dry, and reduced to doing middle school plays.
  • Rocky of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series features an alternate reality where Sabrina, Hilda, Zelda and Chloe are a successful Girl Group called the Flavour Babes. Sabrina is the Face of the Band as the singer, Hilda is the drummer and Zelda is the guitarist. Chloe meanwhile plays...the French horn. Sabrina taunts her about this, and Chloe resents the lack of attention she gets. And of course she's the only member of the band not to be in the Spellman family.

Alternative Title(s): The Garfunkel, Garfunkel, The Other Guy, The Other Girl

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LesserStar