Max: Well at least I fucking tried!
Alvaro: [Sarcastic Clapping] Well done with your effort. The whole city is grateful, the Great American Saviour of the Poor.
Max: That's right!
However, there is one thing you can almost always count on: at least one main character will be from the author's homeland.
- Is there a US Crime Caper about outfoxing a human trafficking ring in Ruritania and saving the poor locals from their corrupt grip? Expect the Action Genre Hero Guy making it happen to be an ex-FBI agent from Los Angeles, who came here on vacation but has now resolved to enforce some freedom and hot dogs.
- Is there a Japanese Space Opera show about some Earthlings on an adventurous romp through the galaxy? You can bet that The Leader of the crew is gonna be a hotshot from Yokohama, alongside his senior officers from Tokyo, with maybe a few token non-Japanese lower officers thrown in for some spice.
- Is there a British Based on a True Story war drama about an obscure Asian civil war? At best, you can expect at least one British freelance reporter to mournfully narrate it all from the sidelines —at worst, the entire story will focus on an aid worker from Essex getting tangled up in the struggle.
- Is there a Russian comedy about a Fish out of Temporal Water sent back in time to Ming Dynasty China? Almost certainly the time traveler's going to be a lazy modern-day St Petersburg schoolkid who ends up 'bettering' the highly advanced civilisation with his marginal knowledge of recent Russian pop culture and a quick lesson in some modern Russian values, usually to either great positive or very negative effect.
- Is there a South African mystery novel set amid the Cyprus dispute and the detective is actually Cypriot? Well, guess who just fell in love with a tourist from Cape Town...
In short, these kinds of works always feature some important character who represents the work's domestic country or culture, even if there is no particular in-story reason for them to be there. Whether said character is a Fish out of Water Vanilla Protagonist following the Call to Adventure or just a mauve-shirted Right Man in the Wrong Place - the principle is identical.
The reason for this trope is so there'll be someone that the author - or the intended Target Audience - can quickly relate to and navigate by. Or, more cynically, the producers think the audience won't care about a cast full of foreigners. Alternately, this could be an effect of budget restraints - finding decent actor foreigners of a specific ethnicity can be long and expensive in some countries' entertainment industries.
This trope very often intersects with others of the same bent, such as the White Male Lead, the Token White, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the Vanilla Protagonist, the Standardized Leader, Lead You Can Relate To, Exotic Backdrop Setting, America Won World War II and America Saves the Day, and But Not Too Foreign. (Whew!)
Mighty Whitey, Strange Cop in a Strange Land, and Foreign Correspondent cover aspects of this trope but are ultimately subtropes to the Homegrown Hero. Audience Surrogate and Write What You Know, in return, are Supertropes.
It should be noted that this often not only applies to the work's country of origin, but that of the primary expected audience, either because they are from that country/culture, or because it happens to be very popular with them.
Examples of this trope:
- Double-subverted in Gate, where - when an inter-dimensional portal leading to a fantasy world appears in Ginza - the Japanese state goes out of their way to keep the world's other nations (including allies such as the US) out.
- In Monster, the main character Dr Tenma is a Japanese neurosurgeon living and working in Düsseldorf, North-Rhine Westphalia. This is mildly justified by the fact that Japan's medical science is very much influenced by Germany in Real Life (as well as the fact that Japan is a noticeably big exporter of neurosurgeons).
- In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, the protagonist lawyer is German-Swiss... And since the author himself is German, it's not difficult to see why that is.
- The Final Sword: The author is reportedly from Denmark, and the OC heroine who is touted as the only true savior of the Citadel and consistently outshines canon swords has very heavy European fantasy influences to her, even though the story is set in Japan and the fic's canon is exclusively about Japanese swords and Japanese history.
- A Kid in King Arthur's Court: The eponymous kid happens to be American, getting sent back to pre-medieval England.
- In Beer Fest, an American Ragtag Bunch of Misfits come to Germany to participate in an underground beer-drinking competition. They proceed to literally beat the Germans at their own game.
- Big Game: It's a story about a president whose plane gets shot down over Lapland. Which president? The US President, of course.
- Blood Diamond is about a Rhodesian and a Sierra Leonese surviving the Sierra Leone Civil War... with the obligatory bystander/love interest being an American journalist.
- Casablanca: Set in the titular Moroccan city during World War II, where refugees from all of Europe gather to escape Those Wacky Nazis - and the main character is the American expatriate who runs the local nightclub.
- The bread and butter of EuroTrip, where a group of American tourists explore a landscape of European stereotypes.
- The Ghost and the Darkness is Very Loosely Based on a True Story about an Irish colonialist building a railway bridge in British East Africa when the site gets attacked by two ravenous lions... but then he is joined by a completely fictional secondary character, an American big-game hunter played by (first-billed) Michael Douglas.
- James Bond usually departs on entirely international adventures and would not grow even a bit less British through any of it.
- The Man with the Golden Gun gives it a double whammy by including an American comic relief character from the previous film, Sheriff JW Pepper, as a tourist in Thailand.
- The Darkest Hour, where aliens attack and level Moscow. The leads are a bunch of American tourists (and a Swede who quickly dies being stupid).
- Fast Five, which is set entirely in Brazil, is almost exclusively a clash of American gangsters and American cops - both sides have exactly one important non-American character in their midst.
- A Good Day to Die Hard: Both protagonists are Americans battling The Mafiya in Moscow.
- In The Great Escape, a good portion of the leads are American, whereas in Real Life, there weren't even any American POWs in the camp at the time of the escape. It makes the July 4th celebration scene a lot more cringeworthy to watch.
- The Kingdom: There is a series of terror attacks in Saudi Arabia - and we follow a group of investigating US agents.
- In Hotel Rwanda, two of the most prominent characters are a Canadian UN officer and an American reporter, both of whom were at least semi-fictional.
- The Last King of Scotland: It's a movie based on the reign of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin - as told by a Scottish doctor.
- The Last Samurai is another prime example, where said last samurai happens to be joined by a disgraced US military man. This is Very Loosely Based on a True Story, namely that of Frenchman Jules Brunet.
- The Mummy (1999) and its sequels mostly take place in 1920s Egypt, which at the time was British-aligned. Though plenty of Egyptians and Britons figure in the story, the protagonist - a former French Foreign Legion soldier - is American.
- In The Ninth Gate, an American bookseller travels around Europe to discover a Lucifer-raising cult.
- Severance (2006): A group of maddened, blood-thirsty ex-mercenaries roam the woods of Hungary... and the first victims to cross their path are office drones from an Anglo-American PMC on a company outing.
- Taken is about a certain someone taking on a Parisian sex slave ring - that someone is Liam Neeson as a retired CIA agent.
- Team America: World Police plays this for laughs, with Americans doing their part to stop a North Korean/Arabian conspiracy from Paris to Egypt.
- Zig-zagged in The Third Man where the American protagonist being out of luck in post-war Vienna is very much a deconstruction of this trope. With the British deuteragonist, however, not nearly so much.
- Vantage Point: The US President is blown up during a visit to Salamanca, Spain Well, his body double does.. The other leads are an American bodyguard, an American newscaster, an American tourist, and some Spanish cop who is the only one to die.
- Gojira had an all-Japanese cast. When it was dubbed and reedited as Godzilla: King of the Monsters! for American audiences, a subplot was added about an American journalist reporting on Godzilla's rampage.
- The later Showa-era Gamera films had token American children shoehorned into stories set in Japan. Daiei did this specifically because their film distributor assured them the movies would be better received in the US if there were Americans in the cast.
- In the Mexican film Santa Claus (1959), Santa allegedly delivers gifts to all the children of the world, but we only see a few stops in Mexico City. Santa also has children from every country helping at his workshop, and naturally one of the Mexican kids is Santa's right-hand helper and gets more screen time than the others.
- The Thing (2011): In a polar research station filled to the brim with Norwegians, of course the Americans are the heroes.
- In The Bridge on the River Kwai, the secondary protagonist (who is the only one to escape and return to destroy the titular bridge) happens to be the only American soldier in the otherwise British-dominated POW camp. Needless to say, he used to be British in the original book.
- In Edge of Tomorrow, time-traveling aliens invade and occupy central Europe. As an international coalition readies to beat them back, a US Army officer leading an American mecha platoon and a British Action Girl more or less single-handedly beat them at their own game.
- Leningrad: It's a story about the Siege of Leningrad (with 3 Million dead generally considered the deadliest siege in recorded history), and the protagonist is a (fictional) trapped Anglo-American reporter.
- The Great Wall is about the Song-era Imperial Chinese army battling an alien menace at their eponymous great wall, and the protagonists are an English and a Spanish sellsword that somehow wound up in China.
- This is a staple of most Steven Seagal films, being the result of almost all recent Seagal movies getting shot on location in Eastern Europe (like Romania and the Czech Republic) and all over the developing world (ie South Africa) for tax (and political) reasons, as well as Seagal's own auto-Typecasting as a hard-boiled American badass.
- 1632: An American coal mining community gets transported back in time and plunged into Thirty Years War-era Thuringia, inadvertently injecting the war-stricken Europe with some modern American values.
- Dan Brown's Robert Langdon Series can be summed up as 'an American scholar runs around Europe and uncovers Ancient Conspiracies left and right'.
- In Fatherland, an SS officer from an Alternate Timeline 1960s Germany discovers the hush-up of the Holocaust. But ultimately it's up to an American journalist to make the awful truth public.
- Gorky Park is about a Soviet cop investigating the death of an American and his friends in the heart of Moscow - and promptly receives unasked aid from the victim's brother, an NYPD detective.
- Michael Strogoff: Although the book is set in the Russian Empire, and the titular character is a Russian courier who must travel across a war torn region to deliver an important message, one of the main characters is French journalist Alcide Jolivet, who shares nationality with the author.
- Patriot Games: A CIA agent goes to the UK in his spare time, saves Prince Charles' life, and subsequently gets himself into a lot of Troubles with the IRA.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: A man from 19th-century Connecticut ends up in King Arthur's court.
- The War That Came Early: World War II breaks out over the Sudeten Crisis in 1938. Viewpoints include an American socialite in a Czechoslovak resort, an American volunteer for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and an American soldier at the Shanghai International Settlement.
- In Babylon 5, practically all the human representatives are from the US or have US connections:
- Captain Sheridan is definitively American, a Midwesterner whose father (a diplomat) retired to a farm somewhere in corn country, and is apparently a descendant of the Civil War general Philip Sheridan.
- Dr. Franklin's origin and ancestry are never made clear, but it's strongly suggested he's African American, and he speaks like an American.
- Garibaldi is basically American—he was born in New York and his grandmother was a cop in Boston—but he considers Mars his home.
- Ivanova is Russian but appears to have gone to school in the US.
- Despite his American accent, Commander Sinclair is a subversion: he is from Mars and actually considers himself ethnically British (his ancestors were RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain).
- The major aversion is Marcus Cole, who speaks with a British accent and is apparently from a British space colony.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor sure seems to have a thing for British assistants on their galaxy-saving travels. Then again, the aliens love Cardiff too.
- Farscape: the main character is an astronaut from the US, blasted to a faraway region of space.
- Outsourced: A Work Com set in India... and the protagonist is American.
- Stargate Atlantis is one heavy offender, where six out of the ten regular cast in the "Multinational Team" are Americans.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Original Series is a classic example: a multi-planetary Fictional United Nations ship is being commanded by the American Captain Kirk. His chief medical officer is also American.
- Of the other four captains, only Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation wasn't American. This is particularly notable for Sisko, an American from Louisiana who turns out to be the chosen emissary of the Prophets and thus the messiah figure of the Bajoran religion.
- The overrepresentation of Americans in the main cast of Star Trek: Enterprise is a common fan complaint about the series.
- The ARMA series regularly casts you as an American soldier in NATO intervention and/or peacekeeping operations in fictional countries. Sometimes it's actually closely based on Real Life (like in II's Yugoslavia-esque Chernarus and Afghanistan-esque Takistan) and thus downplayed, but other times (as with Sahrani in I or Altis and Stratis in III) not so much. The creators themselves are Czech (and even made a DLC for the second game adding the Czech armed forces), but the intended target market audience was obvious.
- The Assassin's Creed series plays with this as, while the historical protagonists are Arab/Italian/British/Iroquois/French, the descendant characters of the Framing Device are always American/North American.
- Dual Blades and Slashers: The Power Battle: In these Turkish made Fighting games that can be described as an Alternate Company Equivalent of Samurai Shodown set in Europe and the Middle-east, the character on the roster who gets top billing of sorts is the Ottoman warrior Efe.
- This trope is a staple of the Far Cry series, as the vast majority of the protagonists are American citizens abroad. Some games have handled this differently, though: Far Cry 2 allows a wide selection of protagonists, only one or two of which are Americans and the rest come from all over the world. Far Cry 4's protagonist was actually born in the country it takes place in, moving away to America when very young and only coming back on his mother's dying wish. Far Cry Primal takes place long before there even was a United States, while Far Cry 5 takes place entirely in America. The film adaptation of the first game also does this, as protagonist Jack Carver is Race Lifted from American to German, as per the nationality of its director and the actor playing Carver.
- Taken to a new extreme in Half-Life 2 in which, despite taking place in post-apocalyptic Bulgaria where any semblance of nationstates has been destroyed, 99% of the surviving humans still seem to be American (including Gordon Freeman himself, naturally). Though given how the Combine constantly relocates people across the world, it's not improbable for some Americans, including Gordon's old colleagues, to have found themselves in Eastern Europe, and Word of God has stated that if not for tech limitations there would have been more ethnic diversity implied by way of Citizens who spoke in languages besides English (or whichever localization the player used).
- Max Payne 3 is about everyone's favourite New York cop moving his 'practices' to São Paulo, Brazil.
- Men Of War: Vietnam's leads of the South and North Vietnamese sides are American and Russian respectively.
- Subverted in the Modern Warfare trilogy. Despite "Common Knowledge" about the trilogy being a jingoistic America Saves the Day power fantasy, only a few of several playable characters are American, and one of them is responsible for the incident that helped trigger World War III, and another's missions revolve entirely around defending American soil during said war. The two most recurring playable characters, meanwhile, are British SAS agents.
- Resident Evil 4 lampshades the trope: The US President's daughter is kidnapped to a Spanish-speaking Ruritania and Leon Kennedy (now a secret service agent) is sent to rescue her. The villains enjoy taunting him over how things won't turn out "like your American action movies".
- In the Resistance series, Russia, continental Europe and the British Isles are attacked by a deadly mutant virus - and you play, of course, as a soldier of an American intervention force, even before it reaches North America.
- Siren: Blood Curse does this as a Shout-Out towards this tendency in American remakes of Japanese horror films; most of the new cast consists of American composites of the original all-Japanese cast.
- Sleeping Dogs (2012) is a Hong Kong crime drama... and the protagonist is an undercover San Francisco PD Sino-American.
- Subverted in Spec Ops: The Line. The protagonist, an American spec-ops soldier, heads into a post-sandstorm Dubai expecting to play this trope straight, but his attempts to help out end up making things worse for the locals.
- XCOM 2: Although you lead the global resistance against Vichy Earth, 2/3 of your senior officers are American, and the pre-conquest XCOM project was also headquartered in America.
...And even though TVTropes is allegedly an international site, this trope just happens to be American.