Cruella De Vil: What kind of sycophant are you?
Frederick: I, uh... what kind of sycophant would you like me to be?A worshipful, perfectly willing slave of the Big Bad. Generally he's of only marginal usefulness, due to his incompetence and/or obsessions — or due to his fear of the boss' ire robbing him of all initiative. An example of Happiness in Slavery; The Igor is a variation of this. If the Big Bad is a vampire and he's "promised" the same fate to his loyal servant, may overlap with Vampire Vannabe and The Renfield. More generally, liable to a Pretender Diss both from those they (hope to) serve and their enemies. See also Dirty Coward (for reasons why someone would become this trope) Contrast with the Battle Butler and Yes-Man. Sometimes overlaps with Crusty Caretaker and Professional Butt-Kisser, though the butt kisser or bootlicker is in it only in order to look out for his own status while the sycophant has a genuine amount of admiration and adoration for his boss. If the character endures endless abuse at the hands of their master, then they're a Bumbling Sidekick. Just about the polar opposite of The Starscream, although it's not uncommon for The Starscream to pretend to be this trope. See also Transhuman Treachery.
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Anime and Manga
- In Part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Vanilla Ice, the Sycophantic Servant of Big Bad Dio, does manage to kill off two of the main cast. Ice was such a sycophant that when Dio asked him if he would kill himself for him, Ice not only IMMEDIATELY did so, but did so by CUTTING OFF HIS OWN HEAD. Dio, averting Bad Boss (somewhat, as he did it because he was amused), rewarded him for his loyalty by turning him into a vampire, which allowed Ice to return to (un)life. His devotion to Dio is so fanatical that merely destroying a statue of Dio sends him into a rage.
- The Chevaliers in Blood+, particularly those belonging to Diva, are unique subversions of this trope. The transformation into a chevalier inspires genuine devotion for the Chevalier's parent chiropteran, but Chevaliers have free will enough to both go against a Chiropteran's commands and/or manipulate a Chiropteran for the Chevalier's own ends. The exceptions to this rule are implied to be insane.
- The Red Shirt scientist Barnes is one of these to Szilard Quates of Baccano!, to the point that he's honored to be assimilated by his master.
- Jeremiah Gottwald to Lelouch from Code Geass, towards the latter half of the second season. Notably, this guy not only joins Lelouch to zealously prove his LOYALTY, he joins after he's become far more badass than ever before. And then he tops himself in the finale. This was all brought on by the fans' love of the character.
- Toad lived down to his name in this manner for Magneto for much of the original 1960s X-Men run. In an alternate future, the Earth's poles shifted, somehow causing Toad and Magneto's powers to be switched. Toad took the opportunity to turn Mags into a slave for his enjoyment as payback for the mountains of abuse he'd suffered at his hand.
- Magneto in his earlier days liked these kinds of bootlickers. He also had Peeper in the second Brotherhood/Mutant Force and Amphibius in the Savage Land Mutates.
- Also, Nightcrawler encountered an alternate self who served this purpose for Belasco. In an alternate future, it's determined Nightcrawler -becomes- Belasco. So, um.
- Mephisto had one of these in his first appearance in Silver Surfer. Ironically, Mephisto was himself forced to be this to Thanos during the The Infinity Gauntlet.
- Ever since his first appearance in the 70s, Ra's Al-Ghul had a completely loyal hulking manservant named Ubu, who worshiped the ground he walked on. After a couple of apparent deaths the character was still around, so it was revealed that there's an entire Ubu clan, and they all serve Ras.
- The Lowlies of Apokolips; Darkseid's reign has produced an entire race of bootlicking slaves, who will 'die for Darkseid' if requested. In 'Secret Six', for example, Scandal Savage employs a nameless Lowlie as a servant. Who gleefully begs for all kinds of abuse, as if torture is as necessary as food for its well-being.
- New Avengers (2015): The Maker has the insect men who make up his organization WHISPER, who pretty much worship him for giving them life. On occasion, they're a little too sycophantic for his tastes, declaring how proud they are to record his enemies on the can for him. That their creation appears to involve the Maker removing peoples' brains might have something to do with this.
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures fanfiction Queen of All Oni, Ozeki has fanatic Undying Loyalty to Jade (to the point even she is a little unnerved), that apparently is meant to mirror the relationship between Megatron and Inferno (though he seems to have a bit of Lugnut as well).
- Earth and Sky has Doctor Insanity and Professor Destiny's Beleaguered Assistant Otto, who sucks up to his bosses constantly until he finally takes too much of their Ax Crazyness and quits.
- Webwork: Jumper, one of the biker girls that Jade forcibly recruits and transforms to serve as her new Quirky Miniboss Squad, immediately latches onto her new leader. Widow, the former leader of the gang, isn't surprised; she describes Jumper as a "chronic ass-kisser", and admits that it makes perfect sense for her to switch loyalties from Widow to Jade like that, since she apparently did the same thing when Widow took over the gang. It gets to the point where even Jade herself is disturbed at the utter devotion, and wishes that Jumper would show a little more independence.
Films — Animated
- In The Black Cauldron, the Sycophantic Servant was the Horned King's goblin sidekick, Creeper. Note that in the book, this character did not exist.
- Gaston's sidekick, LeFou, in Beauty and the Beast is constantly sucking up and telling Gaston how great he is even when Gaston make a habit of throwing him around.
- Being a send-up of the traditional Disney model, Enchanted naturally has one of these in Nathaniel, who eventually wises up to the fact that his boss doesn't care about him in the slightest and decides to become his own person.
Films — Live-Action
- Probably the most famous portrayal of the character is Dwight Frye in Dracula (1931). Indeed, Frye's Renfield is more in keeping with the trope than the character's depiction in the original novel.
- Beni from The Mummy, although it's more fear and greed that are holding him, not genuine devotion. Baltus Hafez from the sequel is a straighter example.
- The Blade Trilogy similarly gave vampires human minions/spies ("familiars"), branded with vampire tattoos and derisively termed 'suck-puppies' by the protagonist and his mentor.
- The only character to come out of Manos- The Hands of Fate with any pop cultural significance at all is Torgo, the villain's acid-crazed satyr janitor of marginal loyalty.
- Peter MacNichol has played two Sycophantic Servants: Janosz in Ghostbusters II as a straight example, and Renfield himself in Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
- Another parody-Renfield is played by Arte Johnson in Love at First Bite.
- In Let the Right One In, Eli's 'guardian' seems to love her, despite her usually treating him callously. Depending on your interpretation, young Oskar may have taken over his role by the end of the movie. In the book on which the film was based, his motivation was a paedophile's lust for and fascination with an unchanging child; the author of the book, in the course of writing the screenplay, dropped this sub-plot as being one too many and far too squicky.
- Fright Night (1985): Billy Cole from seems like a more competent version of this trope, at least until he gets back up after being shot in the head, revealing he's as inhuman as his boss.
- In Fright Night Part 2 it is Bocworth who is Regina Dandridge's bug-eating bodyguard.
- The Battle Butler Igor in Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. He serves the former and it's also revealed that he was Monamis's previous lover.
- Hugo the roadie from Suck helps Jen (and then, the rest of the band) get rid of the bodies, but keeps whining about getting no respect and doesn't seem to be too bright.
- Eric the Hunchback serves as Renfield for Dracula in Santo y Blue Demon contra Drácula y el Hombre Lobo. Though he plays the usual role of a loyal servant who can move around and do things that a vampire can't, there's an interesting twist to this: It turns out that, even though Eric is mortal, he has become so evil that he is not immune to the film's Achilles' Heel for vampires, the Dagger of Boidros: it can destroy him as well.
- In the 1996 live-action 101 Dalmatians, Cruella De Vil had a fair number of people loyal to her, but her PA Frederick took the cake with the page quote.
- Renfield in Dracula, who could actually be something of a subversion in that, while he certainly seems willing to become Dracula's slave, being locked in at Dr. Seward's sanatorium rather limits his options and the Count seems to more or less ignore him throughout. (Until he finally visits him in his cell and kills him.)
The original is a clear-cut subversion, and his death was also a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Renfield at one point demands that he be moved so that Dracula will not compel him to let him into the house to attack Mina. When this fails, the second time Dracula enters, he grabs Dracula and tries to kill him with his bare hands, while the Count is in mist form. And he would have succeeded, too, if Dracula hadn't used his Hypnotic Eyes.
- In The Dresden Files:
- Black Court vampires can exert mental domination on humans to create permanent mindslaves. They are actually referred to as "Renfields" because Bram Stoker "wrote the book" on slaying Black Court vampires. These Renfields are more competent than most examples of the trope, and more tragic. Or at least, they are competent within narrow fields: they make great cannon-fodder Mooks, and they might be useful for similarly mindless tasks, but they aren't so good at complex thought, given that their minds have been forcibly ripped away and replaced by unthinking obedience.
- The White Court’s thralls (emotionally drained human husks) might also count as this. Red Court vampires can do something similar because their saliva is an addictive narcotic.
- This is a semi-official rank in vampire society in Nancy A. Collins's Sonja Blue Trilogy. Humans with some telepathic ability and a psychological disposition to submission are often enslaved by master vampires (via Mind Rape, which an ideal candidate for the job will actually enjoy) and used as personal assistants. The position is referred to as "renfield" (in lower case), but the master of such a servant dehumanizes him/her by addressing him/her only as "Renfield" (upper case).
- Vampires in the Anita Blake series call the humans who serve them, those who have been bitten a few times and are thus somewhat in thrall to the vampire, Renfields. When asked "What did you call them before Stoker's book came out?", the answer was simply "slaves."
- In Stephen King's vampire novel 'Salem's Lot, Mr. Straker serves in this role, but subverts it in that he is quite capable as the vampire's daytime operative.
- The vampires in Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson novels have "sheep" - people who are kept on hand as walking meals - whose Sycophantic Servant-ness varies depending on how the vampire treats them. They all become increasingly subservient to and dependent on the vampire after repeated feedings. If there are enough sheep to keep the feedings infrequent, then the people can stay healthy indefinitely, and there are some benefits (such as cancers being kept in remission), which logically explains why some of them are quite happy with their lot. Stefan, the most sympathetic vampire, does this on purpose, seeking out potential sheep who need a safe haven or medical help. Eventually, the vampire may decide to "turn" a sheep, but this isn't always possible.
- Krishna of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is referred to as a Renfield in-story. Unusually for this trope, he begins with self-righteous intentions as a wannabe monster-hunter, but both his sadism and his toadyism are readily apparent early on, and he readily sides with an undead fiend who's blatantly the most evil character in the book.
- Damane in The Wheel of Time are forced to become this after some hard core Mind Rape from the Seanchan. There's a scene in the first book where they appear when Nynaeve frees one out of pity, and the damane without missing a beat starts screaming, begging her slaver to put back on her leash. It's a little creepy.
- In Charlie Huston's Already Dead and its sequels, the vampires of New York classify humans who know about them based on characters from Stoker's novel. Renfields are willing servants, Van Helsings are enemies, Lucys are wannabees and Minas refrain from judging vampires solely by their nature.
- Wormtail in the Harry Potter series, first he latched onto James and his friends because they were some of the most popular boys in school, and later he sought out Voldemort because he was likewise powerful. Unfortunately the only skill Wormtail has the make him at all valuable is his ability to take abuse.
- In the Sword of Truth universe, this is essentially what happens to anyone who gets confessed — they are made completely, unconditionally loyal to their Confessor, to the point where they no longer have any sense of self.
- In Whitley Strieber's Wolfen, the non-magical (but highly intelligent) werewolves persuade outcasts from human society to lure other humans into reach. This in exchange for a share of the kill. These cannibalistic familiars, came to be known through legends as vampires.
- Sour Billy Tipton in Fevre Dream serves as a competent version to Damon Julian. He's been told that he'll be transformed into a vampire one day, which is impossible.
- Doctor Who: When the Sixth Doctor encounters the alien Sil for the second time, it is on his home planet where he also meets Sil's superior, Lord Kiv. The slimy obsequiousness that Sil demonstrates at every opportunity becomes too much even for Kiv at one point.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Sent up in fifth-season episode, "Buffy Vs. Dracula", in which Xander becomes Dracula's bug-eating Butt-Monkey. It took some brainwashing, though. In a bit of a reversal, Dracula in the comics has become obsessed with Xander, to the point where he feels dead without him. Though he does sometimes force Xander to wear a special outfit and act as his servant.
- The Big Bad Glory evidently has an entire species of Sycophantic Servant demons enthralled.
- True to the original, the Sycophantic Servant in Dark Shadows - Willie Loomis - was also an unwilling servant who couldn't quite overcome his master's unnatural charisma.
- The Sycophantic Servant in Young Dracula is actually named Renfield. His grandfather is brought back from the dead in one episode, very angry about not being transformed into a vampire as was promised, meaning that the Draculas have managed to keep multiple generations serving them with this promise they have no intention of fulfilling.
- The Weasel-like Tim Stamper from House of Cards is Francis Urquhart's Sycophantic Servant. Subverted in that in the sequel To Play the King he attempts to double-cross his boss after feeling his efforts aren't appreciated. Sadly for Tim, Francis is far and away the more Magnificent Bastard of the two.
- Colonel Klink of Hogan's Heroes does this to pretty much every officer that walks in the door, General Burkhalter especially. To a man, they find it annoying.
- In the fifth season, Meg of Supernatural is presented as one to Lucifer. Of course, he's planning to kill her, along with every other demon in existence, once he's done with humanity.
- The Vorta of Deep Space Nine were genetically altered to regard the Founders of the Dominion as living gods. They are well aware of this, and take it in stride. "What's the point of being a god if there's no one to worship you?"
- Knox is a follower of the ancient demon Illyria before he resurrects her and even more of a slavish follower after her resurrection. Having been dead to that point Illyria had no direct contact with him before her return.
- Also Harmony, who lampshades her efforts when describing herself as "extremely sycophantic" when introduced as Angel`s new secretary.
- Chip to Cassandra in the Doctor Who episode, "New Earth," to the point where he willingly lets her possess his body, even though doing so facilitates his death.
- Another example who's actually named Renfield is Turnbull from Due South. However, neither Turnbull nor his boss are villains, although Thatcher is, appropriately, quite intimidating, and Turnbull himself is highly eccentric.
- Every villain of the week on Leverage seems to have one. Averted in the episode "The Miracle Job" where the servant's conscience gets to him and he betrays the bad guy.
- Loyal student servant Frank Lemmer is this to Ms. Russo in Parker Lewis Can't Lose, helps that he seems to have a crush on her and he's implied to be not totally human.
- Pat Patterson and Gerald Briscoe to 'Mr. MacMahon'. What makes them different to most of the other people working closely with Vince was Pat and Gerald legitimately thought Vince was the light of their lives and never aligned themselves with him out of greed, power or fame. Even Vince's own kids back-stabbed him on occasions, but not the stooges.
- Wheeler from Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia is the short and stumpy Yes-Man to Altru Inc.'s president, Blake Hall. While the others in his circle often utilize high-power Pokemon, Wheeler always attacks with...Bidoof.
- Kael'thas has become this to Kil'Jaeden in World of Warcraft due to a mix of Fel Magic taint and his own hunger for power. His blind, zealous and borderline loving devotion to the Legion Lord is very creepy. Though it might have something to do with the fact that he was brought back from near-death by Kil'jaeden's demons. Before that he seemed quite sane.
- Ishida Mitsunari from the third game of Sengoku Basara is implied to have been one of these to Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the prequel manga. Unfortunately for anyone who shows the slightest sign of wanting to oppose Hideyoshi, Mitsunari is terrifyingly good at his job.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, Yes-Man was this to Benny. He can also be the Courier's after you deal with Benny, as being generally agreeable is in his programming.
- Chaos cultists in Dawn of War have some use in combat as invisible detectors, but their all around weakness, annoying voices, and persistent lickspittling make them this trope.
- In The Elder Scrolls series, this tends to be a trait of the members of the Dark Brotherhood, an illegal organization of assassins whose membership mostly takes a sadistic glee in killing and who practice a Religion of Evil dedicated to Sithis, the embodiment of the primeval force of chaos. They are led by the Night Mother, an unholy matron said to be the "wife" of Sithis who communicates targets for assassination to the Listener. In Skyrim, Cicero, is the Keeper of the Night Mother to whom he is slavishly devoted. He constantly begs to hear her voice call to him, something that only happens to the Listener (in this case, the Dragonborn). Also, if you decide to spare him, he returns in the end of the questline and becomes this to you.
- The Jedi Knight from Star Wars: The Old Republic deals with a cult of fanatical Emperor-worshipping Imperials. They're fully onboard with the Emperor's plan to destroy Belsavis and the rest of the galaxy, even though they're not meant to survive it, because he's promised to bring them back afterwards.
- All Imperial characters get the droid 2V-R8 as as a servant on their ship and as a companion (thought not an especially useful one). Anytime you walk by it will start singing your praises and talking about how great you are.
- Half Affectionate Parody, half Nightmare Fuel ... Sonny the Cuckoo Bird in Breakfast of the Gods, here.
- Fortiscue in Commander Kitty. Before Zenith was even given a name, all we had were his assorted titles for her. Then it turned out he's the one who made her.
- In one of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device's Q&A sessions, one of the letters asks whether the author could become one of those for the Emperor, who upon hearing this orders a restraint order to be put on the man.
- On the animated series Visionaries, Mordred played the Sycophantic Servant role to Darkstorm, leader of the show's villains.
- In The Simpsons, Smithers fulfills this role. In the Dracula Halloween episode, he was even dressed literally as Renfield (played by Tom Waits!) in Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula movie.
- DC Animated Universe:
- Batman: The Animated Series: Harley Quinn's obsession with The Joker is so bad, that in an episode wherein he was perfectly willing to leave her in the city while he nuked it, she was about to quit. In one line he gets her back. This is completely in character.
- Mercy Graves is similar toward Lex Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series, although it's somewhat implied that she's in love with him too, her loyalty comes from the fact that he took her out of the streets and that's why she's devoted to him. It's not mutual as the series shows that Luthor doesn't care for her at all.
- Transformers Animated:
I WILL NOT HIDE! I WILL STAND PROUDLY AND SHOUT MEGATRON'S NAME TO THE HEAVENS!
- Lugnut is a borderline case, though it's more fanaticism than slavishness: in some episodes he seems to practically worship Megatron... and in others, there's no "practically" about it. He's also more badass than most Sycophantic Servant, ever ready to use his hundreds of missiles, his warhammer, and The Punch of Kill Everything to level Autobots (and the entire city block they happen to be in) in the name of the grand and glorious MEGATRON!
- Starscream is stated to have put on a sycophantic act prior to betraying Megatron, later one of his clones (who each represent different aspect of his character), Sunstorm, embodies that, being both outwardly sycophantic but not-so-secretly untrustworthy.
- In G1 Transformers,
- Cyclonus is Galvatron's Sycophantic Servant. His exact level of competence is plot-reliant, but generally he's described as quite powerful and skilled—he could even lead the Decepticons if he weren't so devoted to Galvatron.
- Ditto for Shockwave's relationship to Megatron, before The Movie (of course this is somewhat in contrast to his role in the comics).
- Smeck, Lucifer's incompetent minor demon sidekick in God, the Devil and Bob.
- Scratch and Grounder to Dr Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (Coconuts is even more devoted to Robotnik, though the latter usually disregards him in favour of the other two).
- Snively ironically started off as one in early Sonic Sat Am and its comic book adaption, before evolving into a vengeful Starscream. The comics also had Crabmeat, who played this trope straight until Snively replaced him.
- In another Transformers example, there's Inferno from Beast Wars, who could probably give Lugnut a run for his money in the obsession department. Perhaps a semi-subversion, as his competence level varies throughout the series (due to being an Ax-Crazy pyromaniac who thinks he's an actual fire ant), but his loyalty never does. Inferno doesn't seem to have a choice in the matter either. It's implied that his ant mode's instincts overpower his programming, leading to his delusion of thinking he's an actual fire ant and his absolute loyalty to Megatron as Queen of the colony.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, all of Lucius' Minotaurs are like this, to the point where they willingly sacrifice themselves to use as bait so Lucius can fish.
- Toadie from Adventures of the Gummi Bears, true to his name he tried to make up for being tiny for a troll by continually sucking up to his boss the Duke despite the Duke constantly taking his anger out on the little guy. Justified in the sense that while the Duke is a pain, at least associating with him gives him some semblance of authority over the regular ogres who casually abuse him out of fun.
- In The Emperor's New School (the television spin-off of The Emperor's New Groove), Guaca qualifies as this though Kuzco is the main character and not a villain.
- In SilverHawks Big Bad Mon*Star has this in Yes Man, a Snake man who has a combo Verbal Tic and Sssssnake Talk of always muttering "yesss yessss".
- Subverted with Owen on Gargoyles, as it is revealed that Owen is the magical being Puck, who served Xanatos with absolute loyalty mainly because being a part of his schemes amused him.
- Green Lantern: The Animated Series: Zox is this to Atrocitus, his capabilities as a Red Lantern tend to vary on episodes.
- Zim of Invader Zim. Everything he does is for the Tallest, and he goes to ridiculous lengths to try to impress them. It never works, since they originally sent him out in space so he would die and never return to Planet Irk, which he's oblivious to, for the better.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Inspiration Manifestation, the Inspiration Manifestation spell only works so long as Spike acts as this for Rarity.
- Looney Tunes has Chester who was very much a fawning, drooling lackey to Spike despite being used as a punching-bag by him. He encouraged his hero to beat up a cat to cheer him up. By the end, things get to be a little different... The fact that Spike pays for his bullying ways by getting the snot beaten out of him by an escaped panther and ends up a Nervous Wreck and sucking up to Chester the same way that Chester was a sycophant who was abused by Spike makes for some hilariously ironic Laser-Guided Karma.
- Igor in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!, Dr. Gangreen’s assistant, although is possible that his loyalty to Gangreen is out of stupidity and also because he wants to be a news reporter and only if Gangreen’s conquest the world he will.
- Shecky the Jester in The Biskitts treats King Max well… like a King, but his loyalty and dependence on Max makes no sense as the kingdom is empty and other than the guardian dogs he’s the only subject.
- Toad in Drak Pack the loyal lackey of Big Bad Dr. Dredd and the classical suck-up, albeit completely useless and his screw ups cause many of Dredd’s plans to fail.
- Smee in Peter Pan & the Pirates although Smee is like this in all version. His loyalty is probably the reason why he is second in command (with no other merits on his own).
- Dudley the hammerhead shark to the Sea Witch Hedwig in Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid follows his mistress loyally even though (as most examples of this trope) is victim of constant abuse.
- The Pigs in The Raccoons are devoted to Cyril Sneer. A key difference though is that they are formally his employees, but their faithfulness and how they ignore his mistreatments go beyond any normal or health boss-employee relationship.
- Basil to Rataxes in Babar: he is extremely loyal and faithful, to the point of acknowledgin that his job is making Rataxes feel good about himself, he let Rataxes take the credit when he does something heroic (like saving Babar's daughter from drowning) and helps Rataxes in all his schemes without questioning. Nevertheless he does have some fun at the expenses of his boss sometimes and Rataxes shows to be extremely depending of him (and he knows it).
- Gems loyal to Homeworld in Steven Universe are all created with the express purpose of serving the Diamonds, or at least the Diamond they were created for. When in their presence, they have habit of showering them with compliments and praise. While they endure it every time, it is pretty clear that Blue and Yellow Diamond have heard it all before.
Holly Blue Agate: My Diamond. My gracious, wondrous, luminous, lustrous, Diamond [Holly Blue Agate notices that Yellow Diamond is there too]...s! Ah! Oh my! It's truly an honor to bask in your radiance…s.
Yellow Diamond: Get to the point, Agate.