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Enforced Trope
aka: Enforced

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— The "Enforced" box of the image on Playing with a Trope

Keep in mind that since this is behind the scenes, any In-Universe examples must be about a behind-the-scenes thing, such as Breaking the Fourth Wall or dealing with a Show Within a Show.

Tropes that are there because the writer had to include them, due to outside factors (even if the writer would have preferred to leave them out).

It happens for a number of reasons:

May lead to Writer Revolt in extreme cases, or an attempt at Getting Crap Past the Radar.

Yet be careful about assuming these just from looking at the final work. Many things can happen behind the scenes, and only Word of God, or some other reliable source, can truly tell us if this happens or not. In many cases, the writers did want to include these elements.

Compare Invoked Trope (a character in a story tries to make a trope happen), Justified Trope (when a work states a reason for a trope to happen).

Contrast Subverted Trope (the trope is set up, but doesn't occur), Averted Trope (the trope never appears), Defied Trope (a character actively tries to stop a trope from happening).

Tropes that are often enforced (at least in the circumstances noted):

  • 555: Fictional phone numbers and addresses need to avoid corresponding to ones in Real Life.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Some degree of artistic license must be accepted in fiction, because trying to make everything realistic risks either reducing the audience's entertainment or exceeding the creator's capabilities.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Even if an actor is comfortable with appearing naked onscreen, extended scenes of full-frontal nudity pretty much guarantee a film an "R" rating, which makes it much harder to market—often leading filmmakers to omit scenes of full-frontal nudity to make it easier for an adaptation to reach a general audience. This is especially mandatory if a character is underaged; while putting naked underaged characters in a novel or comic book might fly, it most definitely doesn't in a movie or television series, where (with a few exceptions) they have to be played by real underaged actors.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Tweaking a work's marketing (or, in more extreme circumstances, presentation) to make it more suited for a region's preferences.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Became a de facto requirement in many kids' shows from The '80s and The '90s, when networks were required to make a certain percentage of children's programming "educational." Tacking on a moral at the end counted.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating. It's presumed that any work that can be seen without moral qualms by anyone, regardless of age, is not worth seeing by adults ("children will watch anything"). Since this would cut into profits by scaring off parts of the potential audience, it needs to be avoided.
  • Bland-Name Product: Featuring trademarked brands and products in a movie or TV show can lead to legal trouble if it's done without the manufacturer's permission, especially if they don't approve of the manner in which their products are portrayed—meaning that it's often safer to feature fictional products instead. Notable examples include the films of Quentin Tarantino (where characters always smoke "Red Apple" cigarettes and eat fast food from "Big Kahuna Burger"), and Kevin Smith (where characters always chew "Chewley's Gum" and eat fast food from "Mooby's").
  • Bowdlerise: The enforcers could be Moral Guardians, government requirements, Values Dissonance for different countries, etc.
  • The Coconut Effect, because Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • Coconut Superpowers, because of budgetary problems during production.
  • Dawson Casting can sometimes be necessary for legal reasons. A very common example is to avoid Union regulations and/or actual laws in regards to youth actors.
  • Enforced Plug: The enforced variation of Product Placement.
  • Epileptic-Friendly Filter: Naturally higher ups don't want to inadvertently trigger photosensitive epilepsy.
  • Filler: Anime works adapted from manga (like Dragon Ball and One Piece) often include "filler arcs" when they reach the most recent chapters of a still-ongoing manga before the creators can release new material—forcing the showrunners to stall for time by writing original material that can serve as fodder for new episodes without affecting the ongoing story.
  • Flynning:
  • Great Offscreen War: Depicting a full-scale war is incredibly expensive in visual media, so budgetary concerns often necessitate keeping things offscreen (save for one or two important battles), or just setting the story in the aftermath. Notable examples include the Great Time War in Doctor Who, the War of the Five Kings in Game of Thrones, the Roman Civil War in Rome, The War of Wrath in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and the Earth-Romulan War in Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Any work that exists to promote or sell a product (such as a line of toys) will be constrained by product availability, turnover, popularity and gimmicks. Transformers is probably the most successful example.
  • Nephewism: To avoid the implications that certain characters (especially family-friendly ones, i.e. from the Classic Disney Shorts) had sex for those children to come to existence.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Legal disclaimers are necessary to stave off litigation.
  • Post-Script Season: If a show is renewed, it'll get written for, but the writers then have to work their way out of the constraints of the original story.
  • Precision F-Strike: In many movies whose producers had to fight for "PG-13" ratings, since the MPAA's rules on profanity mean that a movie arbitrarily receives an "R" rating if it uses the word "fuck" more than once.
  • Product Placement is often the result of Executive Meddling, while some are done with the agreement of the filmmakers. Whatever reason, this trope brings more money to the production, which often covers the costs of filming.
  • "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc: Hollywood films produced between 1934-54 were expressly forbidden by The Hays Code from depicting criminals getting away with their crimes, so any gangster film made in the period was legally obliged to show the Villain Protagonist getting his comeuppance by the end of the film.
  • Rose-Tinted Narrative: When fiction deals with the history of some region, it may sometimes need this to get mainstream success in that region. In worse cases, Rose Tinted Narrative will be required for publication.
    • The Deep South in the first several decades of film got a lot of rose-tinting.
    • Also happens with other works that require the authorization of their subjects—authorized biographies, for instance.
    • Under The Hays Code, priests, ministers, and other religious authorities had to be portrayed respectfully without exception. Fittingly, one of the co-authors of the Code's actual text was a Jesuit Catholic priest—and while he acknowledged that not all "ministers of religion" were worthy of respect, mockery of any one of them would (supposedly) encourage sacrilegious attitudes.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: When a legal dispute renders a true adaptation impossible. Many of the films of George Lucas are famous for this; supposedly, he made the original Star Wars because he couldn't get the rights to Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark because he had always wanted to produce a James Bond movie, and Willow because he couldn't get the rights to The Hobbit.
  • Spiritual Successor: When a legal dispute renders a true sequel impossible.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: When a work turns out to be particularly successful, executives often demand two or more followups to cash in on the success of the original, which necessitates writing one story that can be stretched over multiple installments.
    • Other times when a writer gets an idea for a multi-part story, they usually can't get the later installments greenlit unless the first one turns out to be successful, which necessitates writing a first installment that can stand on its own.
  • What Were They Selling Again?: Products which sell themselves based on unproven medical claims aren't allowed to use those unproven claims in their advertising, forcing them to settle for such tactics as telling you to "apply directly to the forehead" and hoping you'll figure out on your own that this is intended to cure headaches.
  • White Male Lead: Because the entertainment industry feels (rightly or wrongly) that white people won't relate to someone from an ethnic minority group.
  • The Wildcats: Most distinctive-sounding names for athletic teams are trademarked by actual professional athletic teams, forcing fiction writers to use generic names that are in the public domain.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: If a work is designed not be to be planned out in advance, but have the story changes be decided by things like random chance, or letting the audience vote on outcomes.
    • Vinesauce Tomodachi Life leaves many events and outcomes to the Random Number God, any number of plot twists and character traits are established with no real foreshadowing (for the most part). Since Vinny is livestreaming the game and can't save scum his way out of certain events, he ends up being just as surprised as the viewers are by them. Essentially, the series writes itself on the fly.
    • Others using random numbers include Il castello dei destini incrociati and Inglip.

Works that enforced a specific trope:

    Comic Books 
  • The titular character of Shang-Chi is a Chinese Bruce Lee Clone and the son of Fu Manchu and an unnamed white woman. The original plan was to make him fully Chinese, but editorial mandate by Roy Thomas enforced But Not Too Foreign and made him half-white. The character's creator and original writer Steve Englehart assumed it was to not alienate white audiences ("there were parts of the south that would not carry Luke Cage), while artist Jim Starlin added that he wasn't great at drawing Asian faces. This was retconned in the 2020s, when Gene Luen Yang introduced the Chinese woman Jiang Li as his mother.

    Film - Animated 

    Film - Live Action 
  • In the Star Wars universe, Yoda remains an example of Inexplicably Awesome because George Lucas explicitly forbade Expanded Universe writers from exploring his backstory, or revealing anything major about his (still unnamed) species.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are Enforced examples of Those Two Guys, as are Donald Duck and Daffy Duck. When the production staff at Touchstone Pictures (an alternate label for Disney) went to Warner Bros. for permission to use Looney Tunes characters in their film, Warner Brothers only agreed to let them use the A-listers Bugs and Daffy on the condition that they both receive exactly as much screentime as Mickey and Donald, respectively. The surefire way to honor that agreement was to have both characters share every scene with their Alternate Company Equivalents, with neither character appearing without the other. note 
  • Jaws used Monster Delay - and by extension Nothing Is Scarier - to prevent the audience from noticing the Special Effect Failures associated with the shark animatronics. During production, they consistently suffered mechanical issues, making it difficult to film them for any extended duration of time, and Steven Spielberg expressed his lack of confidence in their convincibility. To work around these issues, early death scenes were shot and edited so that the audience would only see the impact of the shark attacks, rather than the shark itself.

  • Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart is an Arthurian Legend story from the 1100s, and — given how information about a work's production gets lost over the centuries — it's as clear an example as you'll find of an enforced trope from that period. The Knight of the Cart is the earliest text to include an affair between Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, and it gives them a Sympathetic Adulterer portrayal. Their relationship is sexy and romantic, no one finds out, and it does not cause the downfall of Camelot (as it would in later adaptations). The text is almost completely silent on the fact that this is adultery. Guinevere and Lancelot never talk or think about it, they're not guilty or conflicted about it. Discussion of adultery is bizarrely absent from a story that has adultery as its main plot. This was almost certainly enforced. The Knight of the Cart was written by Chrétien de Troyes under the patronage of Countess Marie de Champagne, and it begins with a forward where Chrétien credits Marie for the basic plot.
    Forward: I will say, however, that her command has more to do with this work than any thought or pains that I may expend upon it. Here Chretien begins his book about the Knight of the Cart. The material and the treatment of it are given and furnished to him by the Countess, and he is simply trying to carry out her concern and intention.
This is to clarify this is an Enforced Trope and not Author Appeal, lest anyone think it was Chrétien who was into adultery. It's thought that Marie (a noblewoman) was into the idea of a noblewoman having an affair with her knight and nobody suffering any consequences from it. She is also associated with the text The Art of Courtly Love, which is also about romanticized adultery. Chrétien, in contrast, is theorized to have been uncomfortable with this topic. His other works (Erec and Enide and Yvain, the Knight of the Lion) are pro-marriage. He didn't even complete The Knight of the Cart and had his clerk, Godefroi de Leigni, finish it instead. The text's baffling silence on what's seemingly its central topic begins to makes sense if Chrétien didn't know how to justify adultery, or have them feel conflicted about it but still go ahead and have the affair despite that, so he just omitted that.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The second edition of Dungeons & Dragons was written during and after the Satanic Panic attacks on the game. Accordingly, editorial policy at TSR ensured No Campaign for the Wicked. In all canon material, PCs were to be presented as heroes doing good things, and support for Anti-Hero and villain PCs was dropped as completely as possible, with the removal of such elements as the assassin class and half-orc race. They also had to rename demons and devils - demons being renamed tanar’ri and the devils being called baatezu.

  • "Fairy dust" wasn't originally part of the Peter Pan mythos, but was written into later performances as a necessary component for achieving flight. This was done as a response to children injuring themselves trying to replicate the stunts on the show, and to discourage any future children from following suit.
  • Secondary Character Title shows up in many plays written around the time of William Shakespeare, specifically those that deal with historical monarchs and rulers. Because of the Elizabethan era's rigid social hierarchy, characters of higher social status had to set themselves apart from the commoners by speaking in verse, and plays always had to be named for the character of the highest social ranking—even if they weren't actually the protagonist. For example:
    • In Julius Caesar, the protagonist is Brutus.
    • In Cymbeline, the protagonist is Cymbeline's daughter Imogen.
    • In Henry IV, the protagonist is the young Prince Hal (who is later the protagonist in Henry V).
    • In Henry VI, Part 1 is really about John Talbot's conflict with Joan of Arc, while the remaining two parts are really about the various nobles vying for power around King Henry VI.
    • Hamlet, though fictional, might have had to follow that convention had Claudius not been clearly a murderer, and thus not a rightful king.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: In the Atlas Arc, Dramatic Irony between what the audience and characters know is deliberately enforced by the writers to set the groundwork for what happens in Volume 9. Both Blake and Yang's affection for each other and Ruby's deteriorating mental health are teased to the audience; at the same time, characters increasingly notice Blake and Yang's behaviour while becoming increasingly divorced from Ruby's. The characters therefore act as an Audience Surrogate for Blake and Yang while knowing less than the audience about Ruby. The audience is left unsurprised by both Blake and Yang's Big Damn Kiss and Ruby's mental breakdown in Volume 9, but the characters lampshade how long they've waited for Bumblebee and how caught off-guard they are by the scale of Ruby's mental health crisis. The writers confirmed using the characters as an Audience Surrogate for the long awaited Blake/Yang romance while deliberately distracting them from being allowed to investigate Ruby too closely; the audience being far more aware of Ruby's state of mind than her companions contributes to Ruby's breakdown.

    Western Animation 

In-Universe Examples

    Anime & Manga 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Boys (2019): After superheroine Maeve is outed as having a girlfriend, the corporate highers-up play up her status as an LGBT+ member of the team and enforce Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple onto her and her girlfriend. Elena is forced to don menswear, because:
    Vought: Research has shown that two feminine women in a relationship sends a problematic message. Americans are more accepting of gays when they’re in a clear cut gender role relationship.

  • SrGrafo: The hero of comic #22 has Never Say "Die" enforced onto him. He faces off against the villain who took his home and family from him. Sword in hand, he begins to declare, "I WILL KI—", only to be reminded that he is in a kids movie and reluctantly switch to "destroy you."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Enforced


"She's naked [on the cover]!"

"Little Girl Lost". Castle and Beckett get into it about the just-released cover art for Castle's first Nikki Heat murder mystery novel, Heat Wave, which features an expy of Beckett herself as the main character... and has her nude silhouette on the cover art. ABC published ten real-life Nikki Heat novels as tie-ins to the show, which, in keeping with this scene, almost all show the protagonist's nude silhouette on the cover.

How well does it match the trope?

4.56 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / SexyPackaging

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