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Burns: Are you saying my money is all gone? Assistants: Mmm-hmm... Burns: But I made all the right moves, didn't I? Assistants: Yes, sir. Smithers: Every move a right one! Burns: ...I see it all now. You are just a bunch of yes-men. I was making the wrong moves, and you were too gutless to tell me! Isn't that right? Assistants: Yes, sir.
A great assistant provides their boss with the things they need to do their job. This can mean an organized schedule, up-to-date research, fielding calls, or taking on the small tasks.
For some assistants, however, it means kowtowing, flattering, and generally blowing smoke up the posterior areas of their superiors. This is the domain of the Yes Man.
For them, their boss is the be-all and end-all of their world. If the boss says "Jump!", the good Yes Man says "How high?" The great Yes Man already knows, and follows up by apologizing that his leap was not worthy. The boss may not need or desire this, of course... but if they're a Control Freak, a Neidermeyer, or a Pointy-Haired Boss, you can be sure they'll have or want a Yes Man. Sometimes, they'll have a team of them, led by the Alpha Yes Man.
The reasons for this blind loyalty can be anything from unshakable love, to spineless fear, to a desire to borrow the power and status of the boss by association. The last type is often the one most likely to act like a mini-tyrant to others when the boss isn't around.
The Yes Man is often not very good at his job, though this is not always the case. Sometimes, most notably when the boss's actual ability is lacking, they can be frighteningly efficient. Go far enough to the extreme in this, and you get the Battle Butler.
The Dragon is sometimes the Yes Man, though just as often goes to the opposite extreme. The Professional Butt-Kisser is almost indistinguishable from the Yes Man, except their devotion is to the position rather than the boss, so they'll treat anyone who gets, steals, or kills for the job the same as their old boss.
Of course, even exceptionally devoted Yes Men can be pushed too far, especially by an over-demanding or bullying boss... and if they are, then the boss had better be careful; The Dog Bites Back.
Not to be confused with the guerilla activist/comedy hoaxters, The Yes Men. For the Jim Carrey film, click here.
Compare Sycophantic Servant, Opinion Flipflop. Contrast Commander Contrarian and Honest Advisor. Compare and contrast Servile Snarker and Hypercompetent Sidekick, who usually let their boss think they're one of these.
Koizumi from Haruhi Suzumiya happily agrees with everything Haruhi says, even things like shooting photos of Mikuru in embarrasing poses and outfits (much to Mikuru's dismay) and kisses her ass like a pro to boot. He will however, try to convince Haruhi of other possibilities, if the situation gets too serious. Because of Haruhi's Genre Savvy, he compares it to other fictional happenings, but it doesn't always work out good for him.
The electro-sprites that came with Chisame 'Chiu' Hasegawa's Artifact in Mahou Sensei Negima! are a group of Yes Mice. "Chiu-sama is truly kind!" "Hooray for Chiu-sama!" Naturally, Chisame is more annoyed by them than anything.
Matt: He's always prissy, sitting at his desk like, 'I'm the king of you' to everyone and then Kira prances in and ol' Miki's literally throwing himself on the ground all, 'Take me up the arse, oh mighty one.' Bloody eejit.
In Getting Back on Your Hooves, Checker Monarch's assistant Helping Hoof is a deconstruction. A large amount of his dialog DOES consist of 'Yes Miss Monarch' to the point he has trouble when she wanted him to say no for once. The deconstruction comes from the fact that Helping Hoof is like this because he's completely terrified of his Sociopathic boss and trapped in a Deal with the Devil by her rather than being a suck up.
Chi Fu from the movie Mulan behaves like an Obstructive Bureaucrat most of the time, probably because he's separated from the real authority, but in the presence of anyone of real power (the General or the Emperor), he turns into one of these, trying to anticipate his superior's words and actions and act accordingly. This is played for comedy at the closing of the film-when the Emperor bows to Mulan, it takes him a quarter of a second to go from oily yes-man fully supporting the execution of the heroine to prostrate on the ground before her.
In the Lilo & Stitch films and series, Mertle is always surrounded by her chorus of Yes girls; "Yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhh!"
Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me... You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals! Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals! Brian: You're all different! Crowd: Yes! We're all different! Man: I'm not. Crowd: Shhh!
From the 1996 live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians, this dialogue between Cruella De Vil and her assistant Frederick:
Frederick: I thought we liked stripes this year. Cruella: What kind of sycophant are you? Frederick: Uh... what kind of sycophant would you like me to be?
At one point in Memory, Miles Vorkosigan briefly tries being a rather literal version of this with Emperor Gregor. It's a good thing for Miles that Gregor is both Miles-Savvy (the two grew up as, effectively, foster-brothers) and very fond of Miles, as Gregor really dislikes yes-mennote Which is easily explained by the fact that one a yes-man from his youth actually conspired to kill him, because Miles' attempt consists entirely of repeating "Yes, Sire" after everything Gregor says, until Gregor tells him to stop it.
Miles felt constrained to the "Yes, Sire" responses in this situation because Gregor is ostensibly seeking his political opinion, but is in fact just wanting someone - anyone - to tell him to go ahead and marry the girl he loves.
Miles later observes that his job as Imperial Auditor can be summed up as, "Whatever you say, Gregor."
Heavily discouraged by The Prince. Machiavelli warned that any Prince would be surrounded by flatterers, but in order to encourage the image of the Prince as infallible, he should have advisors whom he trusts to tell him the truth, but only when asked, and only in private. The best form of advisor is one who only thinks of the Prince's interests, rather than his own.
Kevan Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire at first appears one to his older brother, Lord Tywin. He turns out to be a subversion, as he actually does think for himself and only agrees with Tywin so often because Tywin usually is doing the best thing for their House. By contrast, after Tywin dies, new Regent Cersei expects her uncle to become her Yes Man and in shocked when he refuses. The council she ends up appointing is indeed composed entirely of those people who most successfully appeal to her vanity and paranoia (or whose appointment would most annoy her rivals), and she sees any disagreement from them as rebellion.
In P. G. Wodehouse's short story "The Nodder" (one from the Mr.Mulliner cycle), the fictional hierarchy of the studio-era Hollywood Yes-Men and related professions is explained in ridiculous detail - apparently one distant relative of Mr. Mulliner was a humble Hollywood Nodder:
"The chief executive throws out some statement of opinion, and looks about him expectantly. This is the cue for the senior Yes-Man to say yes. He is followed, in order of precedence, by the second Yes-Man – or Vice-Yesser, as he is sometimes called – and the junior Yes-Man. Only when all the Yes-Men have yessed, do the Nodders begin to function. They nod."
And apparently there also exists an underclass known as Nodders' assistants - but it's too complicated.
In later seasons, the Scranton, PA and Stamford, CT branches merge. Andy, the Yes Man for the other branch, comes along and forms a rivalry with Dwight.
On No, Honestly one character was promoted at work to be a "Nod" man: after all the "yes" men said Yes, it was his job to nod. He would need another promotion to become a full on "yes" man.
Al Borland of Home Improvement acts like this around superiors. In one episode, he spoke to the president of their company more like one would the President of the United States, prompting Tim Allen's character to ask "Why don't you just glue your lips to his butt?" Later in that same episode, Tim brought Al along to discuss an agreement they both had with that very president on the logic that "if a suck up like you complains he has to take it seriously."
My guest tonight has been called 'the father of Intelligent Design'. I hope he's ready for five minutes of me nodding approvingly.
Colonel Klink on Hogan's Heroes became a Yes Man whenever a general, any general, showed up. He practically licked the boots of Field Marshals.
Ryuunosuke towards Takeru in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. His bootlicking of the team's leader is taken to comic proportions. He's been training for this all his life, and will not let himself look bad at all.
Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster manages to be this while not only being one of the most frighteningly efficient men in the show and being the only who really runs the show for his (rather moronic) boss, but also is the one to get said boss out of numerous sticky situations. Although "Yes, sir" became stock dialogue from him, if his facial expression showed the slightest sign of disapproval, viewers knew he was going to get his own way in the end.
In Smash, the very awesome song "Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking" is about a producer's relationship with his yes-men.
Painfully subverted in the infamous "Amy's Baking Company" episode of Kitchen Nightmares. It becomes obvious early on that the only reason Gordon Ramsay was even brought in was so owners Amy and Samy could be vindicated from the "internet bullies". Instead, Ramsay easily calls their bluff and the viewers see how horrible their store is.
In 1776, Judge James Wilson is the Yes Man to his fellow Pennsylvania delegate, John Dickinson, who is staunchly against American independence. But when the Second Continental Congress favors independence, Wilson breaks away from Dickinson for the very same reason he initially embraced this trope: he doesn't want to be remembered.
In The Miser, Valère, working as Harpagon's steward, acts this way in hopes of gaining his trust and marrying Harpagon's daughter.
Fallout: New Vegas has Yes Man, a consistently happy robot programmed to help whoever orders him around (due to the fact that his owner either couldn't make him work only for him or didn't fix it as some sort of contingency). He agrees with whatever you say, tells you what you want to hear, and gives you tips on where his owner went, and on how to take over Vegas, his previous owners plan.
This is best shown if the player does something detrimental to his plans (not properly dealing with certain factions or deciding to destroy your own Trump Card). He'll just say that it mustmake sense somehow since you must know what you're doing and goes along with it even though he's very aware that you just made things worse. The most he can do is point out how you've just made things more... Challenging.
In The Sims 3, one of the lower-level job titles in the Political career track is Yes Man.
In Assassins Creed II, Silvio Barbarigo mocks fellow conspirator, Carlo Grimaldi's, attempts of winning the trust of the Doge of Venice by telling him that he has become a Yes Man instead.
In Toontown Online, there is an enemy known literally as a "Yes Man"
Simmons from Red vs. Blue fits the trope in the Red Team as he is smarter and more willing to work then the others (Grif is extremely defiant to the point of desiring to pull a Heel-Face Turn on Sarge and is Too Weak To Live due to his poor physique and the Donut is just plain gay). He is "The Dragon" for the fact he is second in command and willing to find a better alternative to the Red Team's generally dumb ideas. However he still kisses Sarge's ass a lot.
Ysengrin from Gunnerkrigg Court is perpetually kissing up to Coyote. Word of Tom confirms that this is because he loves Coyote very much—though Ysengrin isn't blind to his boss's shortcomings.
GS Talbert and Flaming Tofu Square to Magnum of Encyclopedia Dramatica, but most likely Demongoat fits this trope.
One episode of The Simpsons parodied the concept by giving Burns a team of Yes Men, with Smithers as alpha. On discovering he's suddenly become poor, Burns denounces them all as the yes men they are. They, of course, reply, "Yes, sir!"
In another episode, Burns is outraged by the shocking decline in the quality and quantity of Smithers' toadying, and demands that he fall into line. When Smithers refuses, Burns fires him on the spot.
Subverted by the fact that Smithers will sometimes oppose Burns if he feels he needs to, such as trying to talk Burns out of blocking the sun over Springfield (as it "crossed the line from everyday villainy to cartoonish super-villainy"), or in going behind his back to reveal Sideshow Bob's electoral fraud to Bart and Lisa, fearing the consequences for his "choice of lifestyle" if the Republican Bob takes power.
Yes Man (The character's actual billing!) from Kappa Mikey. His main role seems to be getting excited so that Ozu can remain the stone-faced picture of calm. The poor dude sleeps in a drawer under Ozu's bed.
Also reversed. When Ozu's brother Brozu visits, Brozu brings with him his own personal "No Man." Whenever someone has something bad happen to him, it's his job to turn chibi and scream "Oh NO!" in an over-the-top manner.
Company Suck Up: Morning, Mr. Griffin! Nice Day! Peter Griffin: Ehhh, It's a little cloudy. Company Suck Up: It's absolutely cloudy! One of the worst days I've seen in years! So, good news about the Yankees! Peter Griffin: I hate the Yankees. Company Suck Up: Pack of cheaters! That's what they are! I Love your tie! Peter Griffin: I hate this tie. Company Suck Up: It's awful, it's gawdy, it's gotta go. Peter Griffin: [pauses] And I hate myself. Company Suck Up: I hate you, too! You make me sick, you fat sack o' crap! Peter Griffin: But I'm the President. Company Suck Up: The best there is! Peter Griffin: But you just said you hated me! Company Suck Up: [Begins to jiggle] But. Not. You. The President. That you. Said hated you. Who loved. Hate Yankees. Clouds. [Head explodes, sending gadgets and wires everywhere]
Parking Director: I'll have that fixed for you tomorrow, sir.
Owen, Xanatos's second, on Gargoyles is an example of a slightly-more-free-willed Yes Man, who is also something of a Battle Butler. However, regardless of his competence, he is actually bound by magic to serve Xanatos for his lifetime. So while he can raise objections and suggestions, when Xanatos finalizes his decision he must carry it out. This could be troublesome, as Xanatos seeks immortality, and Owen, as Puck, is already immortal.
Owen's actually something of a subversion. He on Xanatos' side, but he's never afraid to criticize him, and Xanatos deeply respects his opinion. The reason he's bound by magic is that Xanatos chose that binding over Puck's offer of one catch-free wish.
In fact, Xanatos said he'd fire Owen if he ever let him win at Judo, rather than going all out. Clearly X doesn't like yes-men.
Transformers Armada's Demolishor normally functions as one, though he has been known to occasionally have doubts.
Speaking of Transformers... Lugnut from Transformers Animated. One has to wonder how well Megatron knew his troops when he wonders if Lugnut is loyal. (He is. Loudly. With lots of "for the glory of Megatron!" and "whatever the great and glorious Megatron commands!" So much so that it eventually starts to get on Megatron's nerves)
Lugnut: STASIS LOCK ITSELF COULD NOT DETER ME FROM YOUR GRAND AND GLORIOUS PLAN, OH WISE AND NOBLE MEGATRON!
Megatron: (left optic twitches) Just.....go....
Lugnut: YES, MY LIEGE!
Also, Inferno, being an insect-bot, to Megatron from Beast Wars. "Yes, my Queen!"
The Jellyspotters from Spongebob Squarepants are a team of yes men. Until SpongeBob proves more worthy than their leader, then they become his yes men.
Bob himself has become a yes man to his boss Mr. Krabs at times over the years.
Camp Lazlo gives us Slinkman as Lumpas's Yes Man and Chip and Skip as Edward's.
Dethklok would probably get their albums done quicker on Metalocalypse if their producer Dick Knubbler exercised a stronger hand, but unfortunately he's more than happy to go along with whatever the band wants that day (which usually is not making music).
The Bushwoolies from My Little Pony. In The Movie, one of them claims "Bushwoolies agree with everything, all the time!"
The Daria episode "Mart of Darkness" mostly takes place at a Costco-like discount warehouse, where the various characters interact with one of the clerks giving out free samples of deep-fried cheese logs. Whatever they want the cheese logs to be, she assures them that it's exactly what they are, be it healthy or unhealthy. She even contradicts herself: she assures the Fashion Club that they are calorie-free, right after telling Mr. DiMartino that they are 1,000 calories apiece and therefore enough to constitute an entire meal.
Jane: Do these contain mercury?
Saleslady: Do you want them to contain mercury?
From Thomas the Tank Engine, Percy is this to The Fat Controller in the earlier seasons, often saying the word "sir" more than once whenever spoken to by him.
If at noon the Shah tells you that it is midnight, raise your gaze and admire the stars.
An old joke:
The President (of a country or corporation) begins to worry if his advisers are just appeasing him.
President: I must ask you this - are you yes-men or not?
Advisers(all in unison): Noooooooo...
Alternatively: Our president doesn't need a bunch of yes-men beside him. When he says "no", we all say "no"!
This is a huge problem for all people with power, from politicians to businesspeople over media stars to pop stars. At a certain point they surround themselves only with people who tell them what they want to hear, which causes them to live inside an isolated cocoon, out of touch with reality.
Dictators usually causes their own downfall because none of their supporters dare to inform them that their strategies are unrealistic or that the people actually hate them and might rise against them if they keep continuing their reign of terror.
In the field of artists and businessmen George Lucas is a good example. As soon as he became powerful enough to control every aspect of the Star Wars franchise his work suffered from it, because nobody dared to question or challenge his often mind boggling bad ideas. As a result the new Star Wars films are full of plot holes, continuity errors, uninspired dialogues, heavy suspension of disbelief moments and failed attemps to please both adults and children at the same time. Most of them could have been prevented if somebody had actually done some rewrites and edits of Lucas' unaltered script.
From 1970 to 1982, the President of Mexico had so much authority that an urban legend says that the president Luis Echeverria once asked "What time is it?", and one of his assistants said "Any time you want, Mr. President".
They said the same thing with Louis XIV of France: "Whatever time Your Majesty desires".
Real Life example: While Benito Mussoliniinitially appointed competent and free-thinking individuals to important government positions, he eventually bought into his own hype so much that he would only tolerate yes men, and quickly surrounded himself with them. Needless to say, this was to have disastrous consequences.
The Genre SavvyRoman Republic knew about this tendency, and had every triumphant general assigned a slave with only one job; to stand behind him while he's being hailed by the people and tell him "Remember; someday you will die". The message didn't really seem to take hold in the last century or so of the Republic.
General Keitel was this to Adolf Hitler. He knowingly approved pretty much every single immoral and outright illegal order Hitler gave, always claiming he was Just Following Orders.
His nickname among some of the other generals around Hitler was 'the nodding ass.'
Similarly, Joachim von Ribbentrop's epithet amongst the Nazi high command was "Ambassador Rubberstamp".
Subverted with Marc Antony, who supposedly didn't like these, being Genre Savvy enough that Yes Men aren't really a great help. Double Subverted by the Alexandrians who learned this and from then on mixed in a bit of honesty when sucking up to him, so he'd think them brave men who dared to tell him the truth.
Modern celebrity often falls victim to Yes Men as well. Kevin Smith recollected his experiences with Prince. He had surrounded himself with Yes Men who would give into his eccentricities for so long, that he couldn't fathom being told "no." One of his assistants told Smith that if Prince asked for a camel at three in the morning in Vegas, she had better find a camel. If she tried to explain the impossibility of that, he would stare at her blankly.