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Character Action Title

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The title of a work describes a character performing an action

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
jeez on Jan 14th 2018 at 3:04:57 AM
Last Edited By:
jeez on Jan 20th 2018 at 3:51:18 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

A frequent stylistic Title Trope which essentially delivers the premise of the story before it even starts rolling, and therefore often is synonymous with a show's High Concept.

The character in question must be a person, in one sense or another. Whether he, she or it is featured in the story, or is just related to it in one way or another - be it only metaphorically (like, say, the Devil) - isn't important. Objects only count if they are anthropomorphised properly in-story.

The action taken, on the other hand, can be anything under the sun. What counts is that it is an action thats being described ("Bob Eats Bread" or "Bob Eats"), rather than, say, merely (and explicitly - see below) describing a state or condition ("Bob Is A Breadophile" or "Bob Has A Bread-Fancy") or describing the character in a relative clause ("The Bob Who Ate Bread"). Tense, aspect, mood and voice all make no difference for the purposes of this trope, so it can just as easily be "Bob Ate Bread" "Bob Will Eat Bread", "Bob Is Eating Bread", "Bob Would Eat Bread" or even "Bob Was Eaten". The idea is that the title is a complete sentence (subject + verb) is more or less a given. The 'action' can even be an idiom or metaphor for something completely different, even a state or condition ("Bob Eats The Bread That Is Jesus" or "Bob Has Eaten His Last Slice of Bread").

This includes explicit actions such as "to do," "to meet someone," or "to go somewhere," and it also includes intransitive verbs such as "to return," "to begin," or "to die."

This otherwise very simplistic naming convention tends to follow some particular trends:

  • It's used in children's programmes (to spark the young audience's interest in the upcoming subject matter without making things too complicated).
  • It's used in titles meant to reproduce the brevity of news messages and headlines, often (ironically) about otherwise important and momentous events.
  • For Crossovers, the title formula "Character from Franchise A does something to Character from Franchise B" can be used, "Meets" being the most common variant.
  • Particularly variations like "Returns", "Rides Again" and "Strikes Back" are popular with sequel movies, as they bring across the message and deliver a little emotional velocity and creativity into the title at the same time. The "Strikes Back" title in particular also heavily overlaps with Revenge of the Sequel.
  • It's used in humorous works, where any of the above is Played for Laughs. Examples of the "Goes To X" variation, for one, often riff on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

The most frequent variations involve the character doing something new and/or exciting, such as going to a place or being thrown into an unlikely situation.

Very often part of Idiosyncratic Episode Naming within series.

Compare Role Called, Job Title, Adjective Noun Fred, In Which a Trope Is Described and The Noun Who Verbed. Also compare Versus Title, which is also common for Crossovers but lacks the action verb. Not to be confused with X Meets Y, which is a Just for Fun page for describing works as combinations of other works.


    open/close all folders 

    The Character Goes Somewhere 
Film - Animated

Film - Live Action

Live-Action TV

  • Blackadder Goes Forth
  • In Monk, a good portion of episodes follow this convention, such Mr Monk Goes To The Asylum.

Music

Web Original

Western Animation

    The Character Returns 

    The Character Meets Someone or Something 
Comic Books

Film - Animated

Film - Live Action

Music

  • Duke Ellington had a collaboration with Coleman Hawkins titled Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins, and a collaboration with Count Basie titled First Time! The Count Meets The Duke.
  • Bags Meets Wes—referring to the nicknames of the two primary musicians, Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery.

Video Games

Western Animation

    The Character Rides Again 

    The Character Saves Something or Someone 
Film

Live-Action TV

Video Games

Web Original

    The Character 'Does' Something or Someone 
Film
  • Beavis And Butthead Do America
  • The infamous porn film Debbie Does Dallas in which the girl next door earns a spot in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad, but doesn't have money to travel from her home town to Cowboy stadium. She improvises.

Web Original

    The Character Takes Something 

    The Character Strikes Back 
Film - Live Action

Video Games

    The Character Kills Someone or Something 
Comic Books

Film - Live Action

Live-Action TV

  • Mary Kills People

    The Character Performs Other or Multiple Actions 
Comic Books

Fan Works

Film - Animated

Film - Live Action

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • The German crime series Graf Yoster gibt sich die Ehre (Loosely translated as Count Yoster has the Honour, but more literally as, Count Yoster Gives Himself The Honour)

Music

  • Back to Back: Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues.
  • The Danish soft rock band Michael Learns to Rock
  • She Loves Me Not (either the Papa Roach song or the t.A.T.u. song)
  • Though the official title is just Illinois, the front cover stylizes it as Sufjan Stevens Invites You to: Come On Feel the Illinoise!

Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic provides a small wealth of examples too, such as Rarity Investigates and Fluttershy Leans In
  • Of course, The Simpsons did it, with such episode titles like "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts" and "Marge Gets a Job".

Feedback: 78 replies

Jan 14th 2018 at 4:10:25 AM

Youtube Poop videos often use this format (Captain Hook Wins the Lottery, Simba and Nala go to White Castle, etc.) which usually has little to do with the YTP's plot (if there even is one).

Jan 14th 2018 at 5:16:40 AM

The Danish soft rock band "Michael Learns to Rock"

Jan 14th 2018 at 6:34:25 AM

The infamous porn film Debbie Does Dallas in which the girl next door earns a spot in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad but doesn’t have money to travel from her home town to Cowboy stadium. She improvises.

Jan 14th 2018 at 6:53:50 AM

Web original:

Jan 14th 2018 at 8:46:49 AM

Jan 14th 2018 at 1:16:08 PM

The name should more explicitly indicate that this is a title pattern rather than a regular trope.

Jan 14th 2018 at 2:22:32 PM

I just repaired some formatting and grammar errors. However, I'd also like to point out that the title needs work. First of all, the Alice and Bob naming meme has been dead for a long time as being trite and boring, so people may not quite get the "Bob Does A Thing" idea. Second, I think this should follow the naming scheme of other title tropes, so maybe Name Verb Title or — to be a bit more clever — Predicate Title (since the title has a predicate in it).

Also, for the example list, you don't have to list every episode when the show consistently uses this pattern. Just give us the context in the head bullet. So, Monk should look more like

  • A good portion of episodes follow this convention in Monk, such as ...

Jan 14th 2018 at 3:04:13 PM

Predicate Title is awful. No one will understand what that means.

Jan 14th 2018 at 7:37:20 PM

I'm not much of a linguist, but I think Predicate Title is okay.

Jan 16th 2018 at 4:56:25 AM

If I saw the title Predicate Title for the first time, I would not realize it was about "title of a work describes a character performing an action". In fact, I would have no idea what it was about.

Still Needs A Better Name, preferably something closer to the Laconic.

Character Action Title?

Jan 15th 2018 at 4:01:39 AM

The Force Awakens and The Magic School Bus Rides Again are not examples since "The Force" and "The Magic School Bus" aren't characters.

Jan 15th 2018 at 5:39:19 AM

If I saw the title Predicate Title for the first time, I would not think it was about "title of a work describes a character performing an action". I would in fact have no idea what it was about.

Yup. Character Action Title is a lot better.

Jan 15th 2018 at 6:00:15 AM

I think that damn schoolbus might actually count as a character, seeing how it's sentient.

As for the force awakens... you're right.

Jan 15th 2018 at 6:17:46 AM

Character Action Title is the clearest title suggested, so it gets my vote.

And more examples:

Does The Devil Wears Prada count? "The Devil" in the title can metaphorically refer to the main antagonist, Miranda Priestly, but it's not explicit.

Jan 15th 2018 at 6:50:46 AM

Okay, let's count:

Character Action Title holds the majority at the moment.

Any other votes?

Jan 15th 2018 at 6:45:50 AM

Character Action Title for me, predicate is a little unclear as a word.

"Character Meets Another Character/X Meets Y" is seemingly covered by Versus Title, according to the description.

Jan 15th 2018 at 6:59:26 AM

Yes, there might be an overlap, but even the Versus Title page only holds four titles that actually feature the word "Meets".

The rest are all actual "Versus" titles, which do not fall under this trope as they aren't predicates.

Our page, on the other hand, already features nine "Meets" up to this point.

Jan 15th 2018 at 7:25:07 AM

Compare Versus Title. There can be an overlap between the two if the title is "X character does something to Y character" (most often "X character meets Y character").

EDIT: I did not see the previous comments, discussing the same issue, when writing this one.

Jan 15th 2018 at 1:41:19 PM

While I don't agree with how others disagreed with the previous title (at least the obnoxious comment), I do agree that Character Action Title is better.

I wonder if a portion of the description should be dedicated to the "character returns" title. It usually implies that this is the sequel, but it also can be used in reboots to denote that both the character in-universe and the work itself are "returning."

Also, I think the numbered list should be just regular bullets. It implies that there are example types or that there's a particular ordering to these "types" from most common to least common. Except it's just meant to list some possibilities.

Jan 15th 2018 at 4:40:54 PM

  • Leningrad Cowboys Go America, a Finnish movie that started the career of the band Leningrad Cowboys.

Jan 16th 2018 at 5:35:15 AM

Agree with Water Blap: The list should instead be introduced with something like:

Some of the more common ways this trope is used, are:

  • Bulleted Example [Not numbered example]

Jan 16th 2018 at 6:19:29 AM

So... linking this sucker on all the work pages is going to be a hell of an assignment.

I'm counting on you guys.

Jan 16th 2018 at 6:45:27 AM

^^ - Well, tomorrow this can be launched and then you don't have to start the crosswicking... Does anyone have any objections to an immediate launch?

Jan 16th 2018 at 6:54:10 AM

I do. I have three objections.

  1. As I said above, we don't need to list every episode, or five episodes, of a work when there's an episode title pattern. Just put that information in one bullet, explaining the example. Moreover, the crosswicking for such works should go in the main work page, not the various recap pages. Otherwise, it would artificially inflate the wick count for no reason.
  2. As I also said above, there should be some information in the description on specific verbs if they are used often, such as "returns." There could eventually be a subtrope that we're not seeing at this point.
  3. If you aren't willing to crosswick, then don't launch. Do the work or don't. There's no excuse for cutting corners or doing a half-assed job.

Jan 16th 2018 at 9:14:12 AM

Maybe the Description should mention that "Returns", "Rides Again" and "Strikes Back" are popular for sequels.

Jan 16th 2018 at 9:29:17 AM

Water Blap, if you have an idea on how to describe some of the often-used verbs, you are free to post a suggestion for everyone's consideration.

By and large, I would appreciate a different tone from you.

As you might have noticed, Tv Tropes is a wiki, and thusly, a community effort, not a personal essay workshop. While I was obviously going begin the crosswicking process post-launch, I don't think it is frowned upon to ask for help in crosswicking to - as well as adding descriptions on - the work pages (particularly the ones unknown to me personally).

Edit: Thanks Snicka, much obliged!

Jan 16th 2018 at 9:47:59 AM

There's the 1995 British film titled The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain, which also has the distinction of being among the worst film titles ever.

Jan 16th 2018 at 10:25:26 AM

Actually, as beautiful as that title is, I'm afraid this might not exactly fit in with this trope...

That relative clause ("...who...") kind of makes the title more about the character than about the action, grammatically speaking, while the usual structure is a complete predicate sentence in which character and action stand on the same level of importance ("The terrorist buys cereals" rather than "The terrorist who buys cereals").

What do you guys think?

Jan 16th 2018 at 3:45:45 PM

@ jeez: I did describe it and you could have used that or adapted it. In fact, I wrote my comment in such a way that you could have copied and pasted that portion of what I was saying. But for some reason, you ignored it.

Considering my tone, you don't need to tone police me. I made a number of suggestions and was ignored. I had every reason to believe my politeness was causing me to be ignored, so I got more abrasive about it. If you don't like it, don't ignore people just because you don't want to hear it.

You forget that just because this is a wiki doesn't mean you get to do a half-assed job. It happens all the time in Ask The Tropers where someone reports an issue and expects other people to act on it. You launch it, you crosswick it; you bring it up, you fix it (unless it needs a mod to do so). It's a wiki, comprised of volunteers, not a team comprised of employees.

In the case of crosswicking at launch, everyone else will assume you did the whole job of launching. Moreover, it's a serious problem to not crosswick it. One could make a reasonable argument in the crash rescue thread to unlaunch it for being mislaunched (though not in every case would it be unlaunched, obviously).

Also, I agree that The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill but Came Down a Mountain shouldn't count for this.

Jan 16th 2018 at 2:18:56 PM

  • Mary Kills People (a TV series that I have't yet seen with its own page)

Jan 16th 2018 at 2:39:37 PM

^^ - Well... sticking it immediately on Pages Needing An Entry Pimp to note its un-crosswicked-ness, and to track it until finished or something?

Jan 16th 2018 at 2:47:03 PM

Please add to the description (feel free to rephrase it):

  • For Crossovers, the title formula "Character from Franchise A does something to Character from Franchise B" can be used, "Meets" being the most common variant. Compare Versus Title, which is also common for Crossovers but lacks the action verb. Not to be confused with X Meets Y, which is a Just For Fun page for describing works as combinations of other works.

Jan 16th 2018 at 3:28:44 PM

Does King Kong Lives qualify? "Lives" is a verb, but not really an action.

Jan 16th 2018 at 3:44:56 PM

^^^ I'd say that's also bad unless people are actively working to crosswick this.

^ It's probably flexible enough to count that.

Jan 16th 2018 at 11:20:26 PM

The "three reasons" are no longer three but five.

Jan 16th 2018 at 11:26:18 PM

Jan 17th 2018 at 12:05:17 AM

  • Leviathan Wakes, the first book in The Expanse series.

Jan 17th 2018 at 3:05:34 AM

^ Does "Leviathan" refer to any particular character? Otherwise it doesn't fit for the same reason as The Force Awakens.

Jan 17th 2018 at 3:08:25 AM

^ Actually, I think it counts, since Leviathan is a character in the The Bible.

Well... at least no less a character than, say, Godzilla.

Jan 17th 2018 at 6:38:02 AM

So long as it's a character in the work, I'd agree that it counts. I could see it as either a character named that, a characterized monster named that, or a reference to that or to Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (it could happen).

Also, I didn't quite notice before, but I think the description should include the requirement of the grammatical subject being a character. I thought someone said that earlier (and it is in the name), but to avoid confusion down the road (after launch), I think the description should include that explicitly.

There's also some other information that was in the discussion that hasn't been added yet. Here's my suggestion that you can edit to your heart's content (for and after the first paragraph):

A frequent stylistic Title Trope which essentially delivers the premise of the story before it even starts rolling, and therefore often is synonymous with a show's High Concept. This trope applies whenever the title consists solely of a character (or group thereof) who is actually present in the work and who is described as doing something. This includes explicit actions such as "to do," "to meet someone," or "to go somewhere," and it also includes intransitive verbs such as "to return," "to begin," or "to die."

Tense, voice, aspect, and mood make no difference for the purposes of this trope, so it doesn't matter if the title is "John Meets Sally," "John Met Sally," "John Is Met," "John Is Meeting Sally," or "John Would Meet Sally." The idea is that the title is a complete sentence (subject + verb) so any of those hypothetical titles would count. A title like "The Man Who Met Sally" would not count, however, because it isn't a complete sentence. The "who-clause" as it may be called makes the title just a phrase. Think of it as a phrase explaining the subject rather than a sentence.

Jan 17th 2018 at 7:04:24 AM

Just saw your description now. I'll work it in.

Jan 17th 2018 at 7:47:59 AM

Also, I removed Rosenkranz And Guildenstern Are Dead again for being not quite inkeeping with the "action" part of the trope.

Jan 17th 2018 at 12:11:59 PM

"Meets" examples:

Music:

  • Duke Ellington had a collaboration with Coleman Hawkins titled Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins, and a collaboration with Count Basie titled First Time! The Count Meets The Duke.
  • Bags Meets Wes—referring to the nicknames of the two primary musicians, Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery.

Other examples

Music:

  • Back to Back: Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues.
  • Though the official title is just Illinois, the front cover stylizes it as Sufjan Stevens Invites You to: Come On Feel the Illinoise!

Jan 18th 2018 at 3:57:23 AM

Some examples that are missing:

Also, there's at least a handful of episode titles from The Simpsons that fall here (e.g. "Homer Goes to College", "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts", "Marge Gets a Job", "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington").

Jan 18th 2018 at 3:57:23 AM

Some examples that are missing:

Also, there's at least a handful of episode titles from The Simpsons that fall here (e.g. "Homer Goes to College", "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts", "Marge Gets a Job", "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington").

Jan 18th 2018 at 6:23:20 AM

I have some grammar and style corrections/concerns. In the description, it says "or passively describing the character himself ('The Bob Who Ate Bread')," but that makes it sound like the passive voice is being conflated with relative clauses. I suggest changing it to "or describing the character in a relative clause ('The Bob Who Ate Bread')." Also, in the final sentence in the third paragraph, I think parallelism ought to be utilized. So the example of "Bob Will Eat Bread" (which is the second hypothetical example for verb tense) should be replaced imo with "Bob Was Eaten" (which is an example of voice, in this case passive voice). Or to move "voice" to the end of the list. Whichever, really. Also, the emphasis for "Bob Is Eating Bread" should be "Bob Is Eating Bread" or "Bob Is Eating Bread" since the progressive aspect is the -ing ending whereas the auxiliary verb tells us the tense.

Another concern is that the example list needs to have "Film — Live Action" and "Film — Animated" sections. We don't typically clump them together on the wiki proper.

Another another concern is colloquial usage versus describing actions. So if the title is actually "Character Goes Australian" versus "Character Goes to Australia", I think the former wouldn't apply due to being a state or condition, rather than being an action. That said, something like "Character Goes to Hell" could count as being another way of saying "Character Dies" or "Character Gets Screwed Over."

Should "to destroy," "to massacre," and "to kill" be lumped in the same folder? It conveys basically the same idea.

Yet another thing to consider is context of the examples. I think idioms and colloquial use that counts for describing an action should be explained for those tropers and readers who don't know English very well. So under the example of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, the context might be "Jason, who is the unstoppable killer in this series, finally dies and literally goes to Hell... after his spirit kills even more people." Other phrases include: "goes to town" or "hit the road." The same could be useful for puns like Teen Titans Go To The Movies.

My Little Pony: FIM is listed multiple times (I think twice), but it should be in that last section for "multiple actions."

I didn't mention this before because I wasn't aware of how many there might be, but if there are a bunch of tropes named in this fashion, then maybe we should make a separate index for them and take them off the trope page.

Considering the "is a person" (or I guess "is a character") and the "is an action" aspects of this trope, should the following examples not count?

  • All Dogs Go To Heaven (note that this is in the wrong namespace in the draft; it should be in Western Animation/)
  • Buster and Bubs Go Hawaiian: The verb "go" here is not an action but more a colloquial usage like Going Native
  • He Got Game: The predicate is more a condition, meaning "He is good at X."
  • They Live: Seems so general with the pronoun. Mentioning mostly because it might as well be asked now.

Compare Verbed Title, when the title consists solely of a past perfect verb, and The Noun Who Verbed, when the title consists of a relative clause (none of which is itself a sentence). See also Long Title.

Jan 18th 2018 at 2:17:23 PM

I have to agree with some of these points, but I think All Dogs Go To Heaven, Buster And Bubs Go To Heaven and They Live all count.

In All Dogs Go To Heaven, the dogs are the characters. The "Going To Heaven" part is metaphorical, and should be allowed.

In Buster And Bubs Go Hawaiian the 'Going Native' is depicted as an verb-directed action (As is Going Native, incidentally).

In They Live, "They" are the aliens (at least I think that's who is meant), and they're the antagonists of the story.

Edit: Also, the reason why "Kill", "Massacre" and "Destroy" shouldn't be lumped together is because this page is about recording naming trends not just according the intended theme or meaning ('Character Extinguishes Life') but also the precise diction the the namers chose for the titles ('Character Massacres This', 'Character Destroys That', etc).

Incidentally, how does one begin a new paragraph in the formating? I kinda want to divide up the monstrous 'action' paragraph a little bit. Is it something that involves backslashes ()?

Jan 18th 2018 at 5:39:42 PM

One Busmans Holiday episode of Monk is called "Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation" and an episode about going to New York to track down a lead on Trudy's murder is called "Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan."

Jan 18th 2018 at 10:14:53 PM

A group of characters, admittedly, that qualify for Returning to form:

Film Live Action

Jan 18th 2018 at 11:42:07 PM

But what action do they perform? Backing?

The name merely describes a state - "they are back".

Jan 19th 2018 at 7:23:53 AM

I think it's slang for "returns"? The LT return (to the scene). I could be wrong.

Should The Noun Who Verbed be in the description or did I miss it somewhere?

Jan 19th 2018 at 10:52:37 AM

Looney Tunes Back In Action does not qualify because there is no verb in it, it's just noun + adverb. If it was Looney Tunes Go Back In Action or Looney Tunes Jump Back In Action, it would qualify, but this way it doesn't.

Jan 19th 2018 at 4:25:02 PM

Okay lads, last orders!

The trope's launching within the next 24 hours.

Jan 20th 2018 at 8:00:45 AM

The Noun Who Verbed should be listed among the "Compare" tropes. And maybe also potholed where the description talks about how relative clauses don't qualify for this naming pattern.

Jan 20th 2018 at 9:10:36 AM

Doesn't They Live fall under the same category as King Kong Lives and Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, i.e. the verb indicates a state rather than an action?

Jan 20th 2018 at 10:27:37 AM

"to live" is an intransitive verb like "to be," but it is not a statal verb. "Richard lives" is not equating Richard with anything or applying a condition to him, whereas "Richard is alive" is applying the condition "alive" to Richard.

That said, we should probably pothole to the dictionary's definition of statal somewhere in the description.

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