Status Quo Is God

"Looks like everything's back the way it was! Which is the only way it should ever be."
Marge Simpson, The Simpsons

Within a work, particularly long-running series and franchises, almost nothing changes. If something does change, it's generally reset back to the way it was before very quickly.

This usually happens in a series with no overarching conflict or plot, although it is also the final stage of Exponential Plot Delay, the phenomenon in which the plot of a serial story has totally ground to a halt. In either case, each installment of the series will open under virtually identical circumstances to the installment that came before.

Why create a static situation? The creators want the audience to be familiar with the characters and situation, without having to bother with such things as "what happened last episode". For example, they may use a title sequence that tells us everything we need to know, or, if the series has a serial plot, flashbacks, since Viewers Are Goldfish. Much like Failure Is the Only Option, any changes at all are resolved with a Snap Back or Reset Button. And God forbid anyone change the status quo of the surrounding world. Another reason is that some TV shows will have multiple episodes written and produced simultaneously, and it's easier to keep every episode ending the way it began so one writer doesn't inadvertently contradict another.

This trope is especially true for cartoons, where networks want to be free to broadcast reruns in any convenient order or lack thereof. It's also very common in sitcoms, and as a result, there are plenty of Broken Aesops created by the fact that, although characters have learned their lessons or attempted to improve their predicaments, nothing ever really changes.

While this trope can be used to help avoid Continuity Lockout — where a work becomes inaccessible to casual fans — it also be very difficult to juggle an unchanging status quo without gradually turning off your audience; characters and situations which never change tend to get stale after a while, and audiences can get a bit tired of seeing the Reset Button being pushed every time it looks like something might happen to change things.

Status Quo Is God can easily collide with Happily Ever After. Sometimes, a story simply can't have an ending that is both happy and maintains the status quo—thus, these two powerful tropes are in conflict with each other. When this conflict occurs, it's likely that the status quo will be maintained, and the ending will be less happy than it might have been if not for Status Quo Is God.

Status Quo Is God is usually the justification for a Yo Yo Plot Point or an Ageless Birthday Episode. It has nothing to do with the divinity of a certain rock band, however.

Negative Continuity is what happens when the writers become too aware of the ramifications of Status Quo is God: they freely change anything and everything, knowing that absolutely none of it will ever stick long-term. See also, Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome, in which characters get a glimpse of an alternative universe where things have, in fact, changed.

Related to Just Eat Gilligan and Un-Confession. For the opposite, in which a work changes dramatically over the course of its run, see Nothing Is the Same Anymore.


Sub-tropes:

  • Butt-Monkey: Sometimes, when a character's unchanging status quo is played for laughs.
  • Cardboard Prison: Related to Joker Immunity described below; when not even a long prison sentence will last for a criminal.
  • Cartwright Curse: Relationships that might change a character's romantic status quo don't last.
  • Comic-Book Time: Time stands still in-universe, despite the long progression of time in the real world. Gets extra confusing when real years and events are mentioned.
    • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Characters don't age visibly. Especially noticeable with children not reaching adulthood, or adults not joining the ranks of the elderly.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: When a married couple will not be separated forever.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: No matter how many times the heroes thwart villains and save the world, bystanders will act like it's the heroes' first time, and civilians won't display any admiration for them or give them any special treatment.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: If the success of the character implies a drastic alteration of the status quo of the series and/or the character itself.
  • The Good Guys Always Win: The near-universal rule that the bad guys must always lose. note 
  • Ignored Epiphany: Whenever a character intentionally maintains their status quo.
  • Negative Continuity: Taken to its logical extreme, drastic changes happen but are quickly reverted by next time, without any explanation. Common in surrealistic works.
  • Plot Armor: Main characters (usually main protagonists, but also main antagonists) are deemed too important to die.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Fantastic technology is only used as a plot device, and barely affects the lives of the unnamed masses.
  • Reset Button: The status quo is reinforced by reverting any changes with a handwave.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: When the character's actions are rendered moot at the end.
    • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The same as above but not only actively tragic but rendering any-and-all accomplishments meaningless.
  • Static Character: Anyone who doesn't go through character development.
    • Aesop Amnesia: No one learns from their mistakes or remembers any lessons.
  • Snap Back: Something happens to a character or the story, but it is somehow undone with no explanation.
  • Strictly Formula: When a series rarely (if ever) deviates from a standard plot formula.
  • True Love Is Boring: If the status quo of the character forces him/her to remain single or without a couple.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Competitors will always end with their same results if Continuing Is Painful for the losers. note 

Examples:


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