A character whose motivations and overall personality essentially revolve around their interaction with another, possibly more interesting, character with whom they really should be on an equal standing. Without this interaction, they would otherwise be pretty bland.
Sometimes a series will remove that "central" person from the equation somehow, and the Satellite Character has to establish their own motives. This is a common way to make a Battle Butler more interesting. On the other hand, a Spin-Off can fail entirely if the star is a Satellite Character whose character can't support their own stories.
Contributing to their poor image in some circles, badly-written Magical Girlfriends become Satellite Characters if not outright Satellite Love Interests with disturbing frequency.
Note that not all satellite characters are friendly, though... Some satellites are the exact opposite, full of all-consuming jealousy, rage, bitterness, vengefulness, or outright hatred, orbiting until the time is right to crash violently into the character they circle. This is EXCEEDINGLY rare, though.
Likely to count if the character is the Fat Girl, Black Best Friend, Pet Homosexual, or Uncool Redhead.
Contrast The Friends Who Never Hang, where a character has developed interaction with a much larger number of characters except for one or two significant exceptions.
Has nothing to do with a story where the character in question is a living Satellite, nor a character that happened to be punched or rocketed into orbit.
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Anime and Manga
Rin from InuYasha is largely defined by her interactions with Sesshomaru.
In Sailor Moon, the original author admitted Michiru was so unlike her she was difficult to write for, a trait carried over to the original anime. While her musical career is well-documented and she does occasionally interact with other people from time to time, the otherwise cryptic girl is largely defined by her interactions with Haruka, whom she usually appears alongside. Even an episode that shows how the two met is told from Haruka's perspective and doesn't explain that much of her life before Haruka meets her. In contrast, the fans liked Haruka's personality enough she got her own mini-arc and Back Story episode. Even so, Haruka only rarely appears in the series without Michiru (despite being better defined as a character) and most fans of one character are by default fans of the other.
Mamoru was always like this in the anime. The writers ran out of anything to do with him once he hit the Relationship Ceiling, and he promptly became The Artifact.
Cromartie High School lampshades this with "You", the toady of the requisite snobby rich guy. Not even his boss knows his name, and the character has made numerous attempts to say it. Of course, all of them are interrupted by myriad events, from spilling juice to a meteor hitting the school.
Asuka in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX grew to serve less and less purpose over the course of the series outside her interest in the protagonist and The Rival's interest in her.
Not to mention Yubel, one of the aforementioned rare villainous examples. She was the Big Bad of the third season whose only defining trait is her obsessive love with Judai and the depraved lengths she is willing to go for the sake of that love. Take away Judai, and you have nothing left.
The standout example from this series would have to be Echo; she has literally no characterization outside her devotion to Amon, to the point that when Amon decides to sacrifice her to release Exodia, she obliges without hesitation.
Aki Izayoi from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is totally devoted to Yusei, a devotion that motivates her and eclipses all of ther other traits.
Michal, Lucia's love rival from Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, revolves almost completely around Kaito until she becomes Michel's mana battery. In fact, she does this intentionally, thinking that being completely devoted to Kaito in every way will help her steal him from Lucia before he gets his memory back, while her brother Rihito worries about her well-being for it.
Gopher from Soul Eater lives to please his master, Noah. He is, however, not very competent and very jealous.
There's also Jacqueline, the weapon partner of the Kim, whose entire character is defined solely by her relationship with her meister and is rarely, if ever, in a scene without her. In the spin off, Soul Eater Not!, she's allowed to flesh out a little bit more outside of being Kim's partner but overall her motivations and interests seem to always revolve around Kim.
Also in Soul Eater Not!, there is Clay Sizemore who is the weapon partner to Akane. Out of all his appearances in the series, he's not with Akane in only one of them, and even then what little is known about him is based entirely on his interactions with his partner.
Naruto, Shizune is this to Tsunade, downplayed in that it's more of an Overshadowed by Awesome thing; while she barely has a back story or much development, at the very least she's enjoyable to watch on her own.
Konan is one as well, as we don't know anything about her other than she uses paper as a weapon, likes to do origami, and that she followed Yahiko and Nagato around, fighting for the same goal as them. It pretty much becomes confirmed around chapter 449 when she calmly tells Naruto that since Nagato believed in him, she'll also believe in him. Without showing any emotion whatsoever towards the person who made her friend kill himself. She's more like a lost puppy trying to find a master than an actual person.
Nagato himself was one to Yahiko in the backstory. For all that he's supposedly prohpecied to change the world, he spends all his time orbiting Yahiko, and tells Jiraiya that all he really wants to do is protect Yahiko and Konan. After they form the Akatsuki, Nagato becomes Yahiko's Lancer and/or Dragon, dedicating himself to ensuring his friend's dream comes true. When Yahiko dies, and Nagato loses a planet around he snaps and becomes Pain...and is still trying to fulfill Yahiko's dream of a peaceful world, not so much because he cares, as because it was Yahiko's. Even after all this time, he's still chasing his friend's ghost.
Yamato was introduced into the series as being the substitute leader after Kakashi went out of commission. He was in the Anbu, was kidnapped and experimented on as an infant by Orochimaru, and is essentially the genetic clone of the most powerful shinobi who ever existed. On paper that sounds like one of the most interesting characters of the series. In actual practice? All Yamato has done in the series is help Kakashi train Naruto and play the straight man to Naruto and Killer B's antics.
Despite being a main character, Sakura qualifies. She starts the series as Sasuke's Fangirl and Naruto's object of desire and the most meaningful moments in her Character Development (her friendship with Ino, asking Tsunade to train her...) are related to the boys.
Out of all the Konoha 12, Tenten has gotten the least amount of development. She has no last name and practically all of the development she ever gets is usually in filler episodes in the anime. It seems as if she is just there to fill in the usual "two boys, one girl" most ninja squads tend to have and also display a cool fighting style.
And Chihiro has even less to call her own than Kaorin, being defined almost entirely as part of a pair with Kaorin herself. Kaorin at least is defined around Sakaki, Chihiro, and Kimura.
Sakura Kakei, the Team Mom of Get Backers, is largely defined by her relationship with Makubex, and rarely appears without him. And he's a minor supporting character himself (a Non-Action Guyunable to exist outside of Mugenjou).
No one knows what's up with Emiri Kimidori from Haruhi Suzumiya. The only things she ever does is have "silent conversations" with Yuki and play the nice girl for other people.
Also Kyon's Other Friend (Kunikida, according to The Other Wiki), at least in the anime series, who is mostly characterized as "That guy who hangs out with Kyon and Taniguchi" (to the point that in the novels he says he mostly hangs out with Taniguchi so he will have some in-universe characterization). Taniguchi is a lesser example, being Kyon's Only Sane Friend.
Rivalz Cardemonde from Code Geass is Lelouch's friend, member of the Ashford Student Council, and not much else beyond that. He doesn't really have a stake in the central conflict, relegating him to the status of background character, if that. Shirley, Milly and Kallen have more plot relevance than he does. Even Nina, who may as well have been invisible for the first eleven (no pun intended) episodes, has a bigger stake in the plot...though saying fan reaction to that has been "less than kind" would be a massive understatement.
Rivalz lampshades his status in the penultimate episode with Milly, lamenting that his friends are out there fighting for the fate of the world while he sits on his duff doing nothing but feeling sorry for himself. He actually is appreciated by some small measure of the fanbase for being quite attuned to his status as one. And several more fans find him cute or fun.
Even though she sets up plot-important gatherings and events at her school, Milly doesn't do much at all after she graduates from Ashford Academy.
A straighter example would be Kanon. We really don't know anything about him besides the fact that he's Schneizel's #2 (or something) and...that's really it. There's nothing else really notable about him and he never really does anything important.
In Chrono Crusade, Mary Magdalene's character mostly revolves around her interactions with Chrono. However, she's a creepier version than what's typical, particularly in the manga version (and in fact seems to have been meant to be slightly disturbing)—She's a seer that is so overwhelmed by the visions she has that she can't remember her own childhood or even her real name. There's only one piece of herself she clings onto—a dream she's had since she was a child of Chrono being the one to take her life. When she meets him, she willingly allows him to take her away from the safety of the religious order that guarded her because she wanted to get to know him before he killed her.
Sette of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, whose entire personality revolved around her loyalty to her older sister Tre. This led to her becoming the only one of the younger Numbers to be imprisoned along with Jail and the older Numbers.
Similar to the Haruhi Suzumiya example, Ayano from Lucky Star is pretty much characterized as "That one girl who hangs out with Kagami and Misao". In fact, she's so non-present, she's the only one of the ten main girls to have a boyfriend!
Matt in Death Note is an orphan from Wammy's House who was stated to have been created for Mello, but all we know about Matt apart from his loyalty to him is that he likes video games and cigarettes, and is gunned down while trying to get away from Takada's bodyguards.
Even the author admitted that Matt was the hardest character to write since he had "no idea what kind of a person he was."
The non-existentTsukihime anime did this to Akiha. She's Shiki's concerned sister, and... uh... Though this is somewhat remedied in the last few episodes, where she's still a borderline non-character, but is at least a borderline non-character with a backstory, an opinion on a couple of the other characters, and the illusion of being relevant to the plot.
In Fairy Tail, Droy and Jet are defined entirely by being Levi's bodyguards/fanboys and probably being very weak. Levi is far from important herself, so her attachments of course fail to garner any real characteristics of note themselves. Some of the less important minion characters like Shou are little different, but at least have their own personalities.
Juvia is an interesting subversion; she is madly in love with Gray, and he was her reason to join Fairy Tail, so for a start, one could easily think she would be Gray's Jet and Droy. And while her role in the story still is best summed up as "Gray's Stalker with a Crush", she gets lots of interesting interactions with other characters, always fights her own battles and in other ways has her own personality. Her crushing on Gray is mostly limited to comical scenes. So essentially, she has a role that one would almost always expect to be occupied by this trope, but she actually manages to not be one.
The fact that Riff from the Cain Saga (sort of a Battle Butler apart from rarely fighting) exists totally to serve his master becomes a plot point eventually. Especially when he turns out to be a brainwashed zombie planted by the lead's evil father to set up trauma when Alexis pushes the switch and Cain is betrayed by the person he trusts most. Of course, their relationship is explored fairly extensively, making Riff a possible subversion.
D.N.Angel has that one guy who is apparently a friend of Daisuke and Saehara, meaning Daisuke will sometimes ignore Saehara's fits to ask him what's happened, instead. A lot of googling will finally reveal his name as Sekimoto Masahiro; finding it mentioned in the manga itself is extremely hard. But he is fairly omnipresent, despite only speaking now and then to bemoan Saehara's antics. There are also the two class representatives; the only thing known about them is their names and relationship - the guy has a crush on the girl, who is oblivious and thus unintentionally cruel to him.
Villain example: Nappa from Dragon Ball Z exists mainly as The Brute to his boss Vegeta, having no real personality or characterization beyond being a mean bastard who likes smashing the Z-warriors into the ground.
Puar is mainly defined by being Yamcha's best friend and having the ability to shape shift. He (or she if you watch the English dub) barely talks to anyone individually outside of Yamcha and, to a lesser extent, Oolong, resulting in having little to no chemistry with the other characters. Due to his decreased screen time and relevance and his shape shifting powers becoming an Informed Ability during the shift from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z, Puar's only defining characteristic left was being Yamcha's friend.
Bleach: Tatsuki, Keigo and Mizuiro are defined by their role in the story as the classmates and friends of the story's main True Companions (Ichigo, Sado and Orihime and, later, Ishida). Tatsuki is additionally the friend of Orihime and Keigo's role expands a little to encompass Ikkaku and Yumichika. However, the interactions are still based on, and therefore revolve around, what is happening in Ichigo's life at that time.
Choujirou Sasakibe, lieutenant of the 1st division (the division of the captain-commander himself). He stays in the background of the story, barely receiving any prominence or dialogue and only ever heading into battle twice, being defeated both times. Justified in universe as it's revealed he made a vow to never become a captain, (he possesses bankai), never fight and to only serve Yamamoto rather than serving the Gotei 13 as a whole. In the end, the most important role he has in the story is to become the first protagonist to die in the Final Arc, thereby cementing both the power and attitude of the villains as well as putting the captain-commander on the backfoot immediately via the emotional fallout of Choujirou's death.
Head Captain Genryusai Yamamoto is also somewhat of a version of this. While it's clear he certainly cares for the Gotei 13 and will defend it dearly, there's not really much backstory or tension for him. Even during Rukia's would be execution , he showed little emotion beyond adherence to the rules.
Chigusa Hanamura from Free!. As a minor character, all that's known about her is that she's a good friend of Gou and Makoto compliments her looks in one episode.
Also, Nitori doesn't really serve any purpose other than to be Rin's roommate, look up to Rin, and worry about Rin. However, the season 1 ending montage that shows him hanging out with the others as well might signify that the next season will change this, and he's fairly popular in his own right even without that.
The various Digimon series occasionally fall into this with the partner Digimon - sometimes (Digimon Tamers) they're well-developed and have actual independent characterization and importance, whereas other times (Digimon Savers) they simply don't. Probably the most extreme example is MailBirdramon of Digimon Xros Wars - he has practically zero characterization and a handful of lines early in the series, and seems to exist solely to be a Mecha Expansion Pack for the much more fleshed-out Greymon, to the point that when they're merged into MetalGreymon/ZekeGreymon, said merger is almost always treated as just Greymon.
Digimon Frontier also brings this in with Kouichi, Kouji's twin brother, who becomes largely defined after his introduction to the series by his relationship with Kouji. Interestingly, the introduction of Kouichi also turns Kouji himself into this, as a large majority of Kouji's character-based scenes for the rest of the series likewise involve his interactions with Kouichi (although this can be overlooked somwehat because it was late in the series and Kouji had already gone through most of his Character Development).
Medaka Box: Despite being the male lead, much of Zenkichi Hitoyoshi's role gets boiled down to being the titular character's loyal childhood friend.
Homura Akemi in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Her entire life revolves around Madoka. She has no past outside of being a Shrinking Violet who devoted her life to saving Madoka, and not a thing is said of her family or life prior to meeting Madoka.
Kyousuke Kamijou is a rare male-to-female example. His only purpose in the story is for Sayaka to wish to heal him in the hopes of winning him over, and his character can be summed up as "sad because disabled in accident" and "good with violin." He takes no actions of his own initiative in the story, and is mostly there as something for Sayaka to covet. He doesn't even make an effort to know her, which ends up factoring into Sayaka's eventual fate. Consequently, he's often considered the least popular character in the series.
Mikasa Ackerman in Attack on Titan. It's noted in-series that she really can't function very well without Eren.
Willow, B'loody Mary Smith, Ron, and Ginny in My Immortal. Willow does little except be Ebony's best friend, B'loody Mary is slightly more developed but her sole purpose is to agree with Ebony's goffikness, and Ron and Ginny have no characters at all, except to be concerned with Ebony. It makes you wonder why the author went to the trouble to concoct new names and backgrounds for them, and then ditch them from the plot. The guys in Tom Satan Bombadil's gang seem to stand out of their own right, though their lives seem to revolve round their band and goffik stuff. To give Tara Gilesbie credit, this is true to life. Teenage girls tend to be satellite to the popular chick more than guys do, even when the popular chick (Ebony) is evidently being a bitch.
Gretchen from Mean Girls, toady in chief to Regina, who is possibly a Deconstruction in that she may actually be a more developed character than Regina herself; despite being beautiful and rich she is such an insecure mess that she is willing to put up with any amount of crap just to follow Regina (seething bitterly all the while). At the end of the film it is revealed that she actually learns Korean just so she can join the new top clique.
Colonel Moran, Professor Moriarty's Watson in The Hound of the D'Urbervilles is essentially this to Professor Moriarty, despite being quite engaging by himself. Two characters, the fake publisher who printed the book which is supposed to Moran's memoirs and Moran himself note that if Moran is remembered (the modern publisher calls him a minor Victorian), it is because of his association with the Professor. This is not strictly, because Moran gets more characterization than Moriarty, but Moriarty, like Holmes is a bigger deal, in and out of universe. Moran actually grows resentful of this over time.
Twilight brings us Bella, who despite being the protagonist, barely manages to stand on her own as character. Then when Edward shows up ... well, you know.
Ignoring Bella, the majority of her human admirers and friends have no characterization, back-story, or purpose outside of being Bella's long-suffering lackeys. Mike's about the only one with some depth, and even he is pushed to the darkest corners of the book when Edward shows up, only popping back out now and then to be jealous of Edward.
Rosalie, Jasper, Emmett, Victoria, Esme, and Laurent were all this in Twilight. Rosalie's sole purpose exists to be the bitchy blonde foil to Bella. Emmett and Jasper serve no purpose but to be husbands to Rosalie and Alice respectively, and Esme is only really there to be Carlisle's wife. Victoria and Laurent, meanwhile, are defined through their interactions with James - Laurent's only purpose is to warn the Cullens how powerful James is, and Victoria acts as James's back-up/mate.
Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, for the first six books, are Draco Malfoy's two dumb cronies. And...that's it. Despite their frequent mentions throughout the series, neither one of them even gets a single line of dialogue until Deathly Hallows, when Crabbe finally gets some characterization — he's not very nice, and he dies within pages of his first line. This all makes sense, though; for the first six books, Crabbe and Goyle were intimidated by Draco (and his father) and were perfectly willing to be little more than Draco's cronies, but when the Malfoy family falls out of favor with the Ministry of Magic, the Death Eaters, and Voldemort himself, Crabbe and Goyle abandon their leader. Under the Carrows, Crabbe and Goyle unleash their sadistic natures. (Yeah, Goyle's still pretty much just Crabbe's sidekick, but at least one of them took the initiative.)
Also, Wormtail. He basically finds the most influential person he has access to and sucks up like nobody's business. He lived as someone's pet for years—literally—just so he could avoid braving the world on his own under the SLIGHT chance that someone might have discovered his incredibly well-concealed Death Eater crimes. One wonders how he got into Gryffindor in the first place.
Similar to Bella, Nora Grey from Hush, Hush is this. The only reason at all she's involved in the plot of the first book is because of her interactions with Patch. Because Patch loves her, Jules and Dabria want to kill her. If he wasn't interested in her, they wouldn't look twice at her. Not even being in a relationship with Patch is her own doing, because they officially hook up after he declares that they should do so, giving her pretty much no say in the matter.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: Had an episode featuring the notorious (and entirely fictional) Utah Johnny Montana, a master duelist and bounty hunter. He was unable to speak due to a bullet wound to the throat, so the man he kept with him at all times said everything for him, fully aware of his intent despite never receiving any cues. When Montana is defeated, he even collapses as though he was the one defeated.
Boston Public: The school coach was billed as a main character in the opening credits, but his entire role seemed to be commenting on other people's plotlines. The Television Without Pity recaps dubbed him "Coach Lamphrey the Plot Parasite."
Oz. Even in spite of him being a werewolf which seems like it would be a potentially interesting backstory it often times barely got glossed over, and felt like the only real time he got to shine was when he was with Willow. This is one of the reasons Seth Green eventually left the show.
Tara played this trope straight for a while until it was subverted. Originally there to just be a love interest to Willow and also someone to help her magic growth, she soon became efficient to the Scoobies. Aside from being Willow's girlfriend, she proved to be the moral center of the Scooby Gang. After Buffy's death at the end of season 5 she and Willow grew to be surrogate parents to Dawn and during the 6th season she was the the only person to know of Spike and Buffy's affair and helped Buffy deal with it. Plus her and Willow's breakup also allowed the character to expand more.
Hazel literally has one character-centric episode (ironically, it was in the first season, before her Promotion to Opening Titles). The episode has to do with her not wanting to embrace her Somali Muslim ethnicity, and is a pretty interesting and topical episode. Other than that, there are only a few other episodes that feature her prominently... interacting with Jimmy, Paige, and others in their far-more interesting problems.
And another more annoying example is Chantay Black, who somehow managed to be introduced in Season 4, do nothing for literally 4 seasons, be put in the title credits, and do a whole lot more of nothing before she begins dating Danny Van Zandt. The producers must feel really bad for the actress or something.
Then of course there's Leia, who does pretty much nothing other than just existing (Coincidentally she also dated Danny Van Zandt). The fact that she just kind of appeared out of nowhere and was instantly shown in the opening credits makes it even more noticeable. Also, her being Asian doesn't help...
In Season 7, Anya and Sav are in the story strictly to further drama between Mia and Holly J. While they have gotten better, they spend a lot more time as support to other plots then they do on their own plot.
Blue was introduced as a love interest for Holly J in season 8, they break up in season 9, he leaves the show before season 10. Given his only interaction outside of Holly J was one episode with Riley and he didn't do much in it. Safe to say, when he leaves, nothing of value was lost.
Zane's not a bad or flat character and actually became a bit of an Ensemble Dark Horse, it's just that all of his storylines revolved around Riley and when they broke up he disappeared until graduation.
The families of Rose, Martha, Donna and Rory become recurring satellite characters of one form or another for as long as they remained on the show (and not one second longer). Averted Trope with Donna's grandfather Wilf, who becomes a companion in his own right, although briefly.
The classic series had all the minor UNIT people who were satellites to the Brigadier.
Then there's Rory, who starts off like this, then dies, gets erased from existence, comes back with his soul in a plastic Auton body, then properly revived and graduated to full companion status.
Ted's children in How I Met Your Mother are only featured listening to their father's story of how he met their mother.
LOST: There's Niki and Paulo. When alone, Paulo stood up better than Niki did. And in season four Charlotte is one who is best when interacting with Daniel.
Merlin: Guinevere has no real Character Arc of her own, at least not one that isn't connected to her relationships with Morgana, Arthur, or Merlin. She does have a father and a brother, but the former was killed off and she barely interacts with the latter. That said, it's also an example of Tropes Are Not Bad, as her relationships with Merlin, Arthur, and Morgana make up a significant part of the show.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Angela, Curtis and Richie are there solely to expand the characters of Zack and Trini. Angela was chucked as soon as Zack finally got the girl, and the other two vanished when Zack and Trini left. Trini herself also has shades of this, making Richie somewhat of a satellite character for a satellite character.
Power Rangers Time Force: Despite being part of the Spotlight-Stealing Squad, all of Jen's development is tied to either Alex or Wes. Her entire motivation of the series is to avenge her fiance's supposed death, and even after she breaks up with him her loyalty does not waver. Pretty much the only part of her character, that is exclusive to her character, is that she loves Frankie Chang movies. Even her leadership was undermined after the Sixth Ranger tried stealing leadership from Wes, leaving her out entirely.
Power Rangers Ninja Storm: Blake was pretty much just Hunter's brother and Tori's potential boyfriend. Even when he gets his own special weapon, the episode just as much focuses on Tori's jealousy of his female instructor.
Power Rangers Mystic Force: Subverted with Madison, whose tendency to go Out of Focus makes her seem like just the responsible sibling to her brash sister or the shy girl pining over the new kid. However, she does in fact have enough personality to stand on her own if you actually pay her enough attention.
Power Rangers Megaforce: Despite having shades of The Ace, Gia's whole personality revolves around being the recipient of Jake's affection and Emma's best friend.
Revolution: Charlie Matheson is supposed to be one of the main characters. After episode 11, she becomes this, revolving around her uncle Miles Matheson.
Robin Hood: David Harewood's Tuck gets some interaction with Guy and the outlaws in his first episode, but from then on out, he barely interacts with anyone except Robin, acting as his P.R. spokesperson.
Stargate SG-1: Although Vala is more than capable of standing on her own feet as a character, she is noticeably much more interesting and funny when she's teasing Daniel. In fact, she often seems more lost and bored without him, and definitely much less manageable.
Zoe Bartlet in The West Wing. Her plotlines are all about either her relationship with Charlie or her father's Papa Wolf tendencies (including the part where she gets kidnapped) to the point where her breakup with Charlie is offscreen and they get back together offscreen. Although we see her at Georgetown U occasionally, we never learn what her major was or what she intends to do with it, unlike her sisters.
In Noob, Decklan and Battos seem to exist only to fill in the Fragile Speedster and The Medic spots in the Roxxor guild main roster. The novels state that they are both the leader of another guild as well as part of the top players, which is a status identical to Roxana who has been seen interacting with enough different people to stand on her own. They are seen pulling out weapons and using healing spells in the fights involving the team they form with Amaras and Roxana, but otherwise get little development other than always acting in accord with them.
Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! is one of, if not the most notable musical example. Although Wham! were always presented as a duo of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, George Michael was the one who wrote the songs and had the most star appeal. This was confirmed when George Michael's solo career became very successful, but Ridgeley's sank without trace.
Exaggerated with Kitty, the family pet in Polly and her Pals. 90 % of Kitty's actions can be summed up as, "follow Pa around and perfectly mirror his mannerisms and expressions". Naturally, this was Played for Laughs.
In FoxTrot, Nicole and Steve pretty much existed only to be the respective friends of Paige and Peter. Morton Goldthwait and Eileen Jacobson also spent most of their time in the strip as little more than antagonists for Paige and Jason, respectively, with little to no interaction with any other character. Morton is also Peter's classmate and, at one time, Jason's camp counselor, but neither of those roles is quite as prominent as his relationship with Paige.
Conversational Troping on The News Quiz back in 1995. During all the rumours that Will Carling was having an affair with Princess Diana, his then wife Julia won Satellite Personality of the Year at some TV awards, and Alan Coren pointed out what a perfect description "satellite personality" was.
W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan are one of theatre's most famous, if not the most famous, examples of mutual satellites. Both were successful in their own day even before they met, but it is unlikely that either would have gained their long-enduring fame without the other. The most important part of Gilbert & Sullivan was neither Gilbert nor Sullivan, it was the ampersand.
Due to limits on how much story time (Developers usually have to spend a lot of time tweaking the gameplay, so if there's a minor character they're just there to take up space) there is to develop characters with, non-RPG video games have far too many examples of this to list, mostly in the form of rivals, love interests, parents, slain mentors and other already-cliched roles.
Angry variant: While Wario's main characteristic is his greed, Waluigi used to be defined primarily by his hatred of Luigi. Later games have given him an trickster and bitter cheater personality, but only once has he featured without Wario (Mario Tennis: Power Tour) and is never not seen competing with Luigi. He has never appeared in his own (official) game. He was created for Mario Tennis and has since only appeared in the multi-player party and sports games. He's had a cameo in the Paper Mario and a loose reference in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but that's about it.
After a while, Waluigi became defined by his crazy and jerkish behaviour and self-pity.
Princess Daisy is mostly defined by being Peach's gal pal and a possible love interest to Luigi. While she did get a more energetic personality and a louder voice to go with during the GameCube games, she still is far from complex. It is still an improvement from her first few playable appearances, where was there was little to differentiate her from Peach. This is less the character's fault but more the consequence of only appearing in multiplayer spinoff games where little to no plot or Character Development occurs.
Luigi himself began as this, serving as Player 2 to Mario's Player 1 with no distinguishing characteristics. He was then given a higher, floatier jump but wasn't shown in the video games to be anything more than Mario's most frequent sidekick and his abilities defined as variants of Mario's until Luigi's Mansion, where he got to be in his own game and was portrayed as cowardly and in need of confidence. Since then, Mario and Luigi have diverged in personalities and abilities. Luigi's behavior was even given a reason in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time as a direct cause of Mario always overshadowing him, making Luigi a Deconstruction of this trope.
In Final Fantasy XII, Penelo's official character description says it all: "Vaan's friend."
Fleshed out in succeeding Ivalice games, thankfully. It's sort of sad to have a satellite character being the satellite to, well... Vaan.
Luxord of Organization XIII's claim to fame is being able to insert the word "game" into any sentence. And that's it for characterization.
Demyx isn't much better, with his only distinctive character traits being ad-libbed by his original Japanese voice actor. However, due to his boss battle (for guys), and his looks, he has actually become an Ensemble Dark Horse of ridiculous proportions.
Or Larxene to Marluxia. Or Lexaus to Zexion. Or... most of the Organization is this, frankly. Luxord lampshades it by saying, "If only the whispers from the top of the ladder carried to the bottom rung."
In Dead Rising 2, Chuck Greene's main motivation aside from clearing his name is to make sure his daughter, Katey, stays safe. In the What If? game Off the Record, Katey dies during the Fortune City outbreak, turning Chuck into an alcoholic psychopath.
Thanks to having 108 characters, Suikoden can be pretty bad about this. Suikoden Tierkreis in particular has satellites to satellites (for instance, Megion's male follower, or the two kids who argue about whether Fredegund should be forgiven).
Several characters in the Soul Series are this, especially as the series becomes more evidently about only a select few characters. These include Setsuka, the Unknown Rival to Mitsurugi, who already has a rival; Amy, the foster Daughter to Raphael who himself has already served his importance to the main plot; and several other characters who were either never important or have concluded their importance.
Quarr, an Imp who serves as a minion to various minor villains, gives us these sagelike words of advice: "The first thing you learn when you're my height is to find someone who's bigger to you and latch your lips firmly on their ass." Subverted in that he can come up with decent schemes on his own, and occasionally summon the odd demon who owes him a favor, but left completely to himself, he's capable of fighting V's bird to a draw and not much else.
Shep in Schlock Mercenary started out as one of Those Two Guys, but as Nick got more and more fleshed out, it started to seem like Shep's only use in the strip was as an occasional foil. Eventually, the author caught on and Shep was Put on a Bus for a while, then got his own arc a couple of years down the line.
Trike Girl in Sinfest doesn't really do anything except show up to do something to oppose The Patriarchy.
Most new characters get their start this way, including Lil' E, all of the devil women, coffee shop lady, and others. Apparently Character Development being included in the benefits package makes entry-level Satellite Character work attractive at the comic.
Yuck Heads parodies this. Wood just forces Pecker to be his satellite character.
Another angry variant: in the Whateley Universe, Tempest is pretty much defined by her massive hatred of Chaka (and by extension, all of Chaka's friends).
Survival of the Fittest has Elizabeth Priestly, who plays the satellite to her twin brother, Lenny. Most of what she does consists of following Lenny around and angsting about his psychotic behavior.
This is spoofed with the character "Star" on Danny Phantom, a preppy blonde who Tucker nicknames "Satellite," because she is "the marginally attractive girl who always orbits around the popular girl". Before this, she'd received a few solo cameos, but ever since the joke, her appearances have almost always been beside Paulina, the popular girl in question.
Hartman got pretty bad at this. In early episodes of The Fairly OddParents, some characters like Trixie and Chester would be hinted as having hidden depths. Less so in later series. Danny Phantom hammers home the "cliques" theme so hard that the characters literally go out of their way to define themselves according to their placement on the social hierarchy—the Popular Kids aren't "like a club," they are a club. The teacher can be summed up as "stealth mentor to Danny," "benefactor to the cool kids," and "Zoidberg" to everyone.
In-universe, Inferno defines himself by his loyalty to Megatron, who he considers "The Royalty". However, this is more of a subversion in that this is because Inferno was somewhat uniquely damaged as a protoform, causing his personality to be heavily influenced by his ant beast mode. In practice, he ends up with a fair amount of personality, being an Ax-Crazy (even by Predacon standards) Pyro Maniac, whose loyalty to Megatron was hilariously over-the-top in contrast to, say, Scorpinok, who was implied to be loyal because he was just too dim to have his own agenda.
Jealous variant: Veronica Star from The Fairly OddParents, is Trixie Tang's satellite. She is in love with Timmy, and wishes that she could be Trixie, because Timmy likes Trixie.
Disney sidekicks by their very nature, whether good or bad characters. Possibly the most glaring (and inexplicable) example is Lefou, Gaston's little stooge in Beauty and the Beast. Lefou spends most of his time running errands for his 'friend', only to be constantly abused and beaten up for his pains. And yet still he insists he thinks Gaston's wonderful. If Lefou was a girl the implications would be very disturbing. The implications are already there.
Stacy and Tiffany from Daria were this in the first season; they essentially filled up the fashion club and served to either converse with Quinn or Sandi, the characters of real importance about matters related to their feelings or the plot. However, season two onwards saw more characterization with respects to Stacy, actually making her highly sympathetic.
Single Minded Friends Katie and Sadie from Total Drama are this for each other. Fanfics try to avert this (usually for shipping reasons), but the show's writers haven't given them a drop of development. Even when Katie's elimination forcibly separated them for five episodes, the best the writers seemed able to think of was demoting Sadie to a silent extra for most of them.
Tyler for Lindsay in the first season. Luckily he receives some development in World Tour.
Cody's only purpose in Island was to be Gwen's creepy Hopeless Suitor, after he does the I Want My Beloved to Be Happy shtick in Island, he gets eliminated. In a very painful way, then in World Tour his only purpose, along with the above, was to be the target of Sierra's affection (whose only purpose was to show how pathetic and nucking futs Cody's real-life Fangirls are)
High Five Ghost and Margaret of Regular Show seem only to exist to stand mostly silently next to Muscle Man and be the object of Mordecai's affections, respectively.
Interestingly enough, characters introduced as satellite characters to Margaret, such her dad Mr. Smith and Eileen, continued to appear after she left and had more character development.
Depending on the episode in Goof Troop, occasionally PJ and Pistol will be little more than extra mouths to agree with Peg or Pete and will be treated as a single entity of "the kids". In most of these episodes, both the Sibling Yin-Yang relationship and Pete's Parental Favoritism apparent in the rest of the series are removed, though there are a few that still hint at them.
In Gravity Falls, the "Cute Biker" is hardly ever seen in any context besides cheering on Manly Dan.
The same goes with Manly Dan's three sons, all they ever do when seen is cheer on their dad when he does something manly and join in on their dad's activities... we don't even know their names!
Karen is usually this to Plankton in SpongeBob SquarePants, despite being a fully mobile computer device, usually working behind the curtains in one of his schemes. Only a few episodes have her come in contact with other main characters, and even then in a very limited manner.
Scootaloo started off this way. Due to the being the only Cutie Mark Crusader not related to one of the main characters, her appearances were limited mostly to those with Applebloom and Sweetie Belle. Newer episodes seem to be subverting this by developing her Hero-Worshipper status towards Rainbow Dash and with an episodecentered around her.
Silver Spoon is mainly one for Diamond Tiara, and Diamond Tiara is arguably an angry variant for the CMCs.
Most of Shining Armor's personality is centered around his relationships with his sister Twilight Sparkle and his wife Cadance, and in the six episodes he's appeared in, he hasn't had a whole lot of development or displayed any particularly notable character flaws. He gets a good bit in his focus comic book, however.
Almost every Disney mom character that is not dead before the plot starts. It's a disturbing trend that the father's role in Disney (and, by extent, Disney wannabe) animated movies is to be the mentor and rolemodel for the hero(ine), while mother serves as a satellite who supports the family. Even in the scenarios where father dies early, it's made sure that he passes his ideals onto their offspring well in advance, while his widow never grows beyond the role of passive family provider.