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"The glee club's been ignoring Tina all year long. Actually, she kinda got ignored last year too. Actually, Tina's sorta been ignored the whole time and she's been in the New Directions since, like, forever."
— The Glee narrator on Tina

A character that receives equal billing but is incidental to the point of irrelevance. Commonly found within Real Life within musical fields, particularly rock bands; the rhythm section (i.e. bass, drums, sometimes rhythm guitar) is the foundation upon which everything is built, so while many drummers or bassists may not be prolific songwriters or singers, many singers and guitarists acknowledge that the sound would be nothing without them.

The opposite of this, where a character makes an equal (or at least necessary) contribution, but remains obscure or overlooked, is Stuck in Their Shadow. Compare and contrast with And Starring, Breakup Breakout, I Am the Band, My Friends... and Zoidberg, and The Pete Best.

Does not relate to stars in the cosmic sense, like Red Dwarves.

In-Universe examples only, please. It is almost always controversial to list any real-life musician here.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tenchi of Tenchi Muyo! gets a bit of this. He's the title character, but the show is really all about the girls; Tenchi himself is primarily relevant as a MacGuffin for them to fight over. Of course, one translation of the title is "No Need For Tenchi". How much of this he has depends on the series, and how far through the series one progresses. In the main OAV series, for example, he ends up being revealed as the reason all known universes were created, not to mention more powerful than the beings responsible for their creation, though he has no memory of any of this.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Despite being Second in command of the SOS-Dan, Itsuki Koizumi is the least developed of the five. As far as purpose goes, Yuki usually gives out most of the 'facts', explaining what's going on, whereas Itsuki usually mused on ideas and philosophy. As the story went on, Itsuki had said about all of value he could say, so only Yuki was left to offer any real exposition. As far as what they bring to individual adventures, Yuki is the most useful as a Reality Warper, Mikuru herself is almost completely useless, but her adult self is the driving force of several plots (almost always those involving time travel), and Itsuki... uh... knows rich people.
  • Sakura Haruno from Naruto was introduced as the third member of the Power Trio, but her plotlines were rarely tied to the main conflict and they diminish in frequency over time. It didn't help that her entire reason for being included in the story was so that it would have a Power Trio instead of just The Hero and The Rival.
  • In Bleach, Ichigo's True Companions became way less prominent as the series started putting more focus on the Soul Society captains and squads.

    Comic Books 
  • There were issues of Cable & Deadpool in which Cable's entire role was basically to appear at the beginning and give Deadpool a mission. And a stretch of issues about Deadpool trying to find Cable in different dimensions. Eventually, they literally crossed Cable's name off the cover and replaced it with the name of a random guest star. Some of it was merely due to editorial mandate that allowed Cable to be busy, missing, or even killed off in the X-Men titles, leaving the writers of the book he was nominally headlining little recourse but to work around him, but even when Cable was available it often seemed like they were more interested in writing a Deadpool book that Cable was shoehorned into by, you guessed it, editorial mandate. This despite the fact that Cable had been a major player in the X-titles for quite some time, and Deadpool had originally just been a member of his Rogues Gallery.
  • Similarly, in most Blake and Mortimer stories, the former has a much smaller role than the latter, with some even having him barely show up at all (The Time Trap for example only has him appear on panel in the very last page visiting Mortimer in the hospital). And to add insult to injury, SOS Meteors, one of the few albums where Blake arguably has a bigger role than Mortimer is inexplicably subtitled Mortimer in Paris and Blake does not appear on the cover.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage): Leonardo was the leader, nerdy Donatello was Peter Laird's favorite turtle, hot-headed Raphael was Kevin Eastman's favorite... and Michelangelo ended up being the least-featured and least-developed of the Turtles, often irrelevant for plot progression or fight ability. Once the first cartoon played up Mikey's fun-loving and carefree tendencies, it resulted in the show's overall Breakout Character.
  • Robin Dubois is a Franco-Belgian parody of Robin Hood. While the series is named after him, Robin isn't the main character, the Sheriff of Nottingham is. Here, he is named Fritz Alwill and is the constant victim of the series' gags.

    Comic Strips 
  • Rat claims he is going to do this to Pig in one edition of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. In commentary in his treasuries, author Stephen Pastis asserts that he was the first person to have used the word "Garfunkel" as a verb, referring to the second member of Simon & Garfunkel who was the former namesake of this trope. (He was wrong, incidentally; Simon himself did it first on one of their tracks.)
  • In Barney Google & Snuffy Smith, this was true of Barney Google for many years. Until recently, his most recent appearance was in 2012; his second most recent appearance was in 1997. Some newspapers have removed his name from the strip for this reason. His appearances have been far more recent since circa 2017, however.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Music and Lyrics, the lead character was part of an '80s pop duo named PoP! heavily based off Wham!, with him playing the Andrew Ridgeley role.
  • Fanny in Fanny and Alexander. Alexander is the POV character, and Fanny has little to do — in fact, she has hardly any dialogue.
  • Despite his importance in the "prime" (that is, the original) continuity, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy (a.k.a.: "Bones") has ended up becoming this in the J. J. Abrams Star Trek movies with his role in the Power Trio being played by Uhura.note 
  • In School of Rock Katie the bass player has minimal lines and is Out of Focus for most of the film. She's the only player to not get a solo in the end credits.
  • The Runaways features a band member called Robin - who gets hardly any lines or focus. This is because her real-life counterpart Jackie Fox refused to let her life story be adapted. Sandy West also becomes Out of Focus from the middle of the second act.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The plot of one Columbo episode involves one member of a writing partnership killing off the other - because he threatened to expose the fact that his partner did not do any of the actual writing.
  • Sometimes happens in Super Sentai and Power Rangers where the Sixth Ranger will be introduced to be as powerful as, or even more powerful, than the hero; but after his introductory arc tends to be increasingly sidelined. This is known in the fandom as "Sixth Ranger Syndrome." Also, sometimes, the Red Ranger is given so much plot focus, Mid Season Upgrades, and screentime that you get a Kamen Rider series that has five other characters standing around just because it's a habit. Rangers has an s, and sentai means "squad" or "task force," but in Mystic Force and Samurai/Shinkenger, it's as if nobody told that to the Powers That Be and everyone gets Sixth Ranger Syndrome, getting the spotlight in an early Filler episode or two but never being relevant again.
  • Lampshaded in one episode of Power Rangers RPM, which at one point essentially summarizes each Ranger's role in the team. Scott is The Leader, Dillon is the "brooding bad boy", Ziggy is the clown, Summer is the girl, and Flynn... is Scottish.
  • Greta on the TV version of How to Marry a Millionaire. When Lori Nelson complained about this, it essentially led to the fall of the series... and the rise of Barbara Eden, another cast member on the show.
  • The Brothers García plays this for drama when Carlos and Lorena try to join a band. Carlos is the understudy for the drummer, while Lorenna only gets to sing back-up.
  • In Riverdale within Josie and the Pussycats, Josie is the face of the band, Valerie is a love interest for Archie and Mel...well she occasionally gets a line.
  • In the TV version of Count Arthur Strong, the title character's backstory is that he was half of a double act, Baker & Strong — and although he's in denial about it, the way other characters treat him makes it clear he was the lesser star of the partnership. note 


    Pro Wrestling 
  • Hulk Hogan was often paired with much less popular wrestlers, whether to give them a push or just to have them get mauled by some heel flavor of the month in order to have the Hulkster come and avenge them. Whenever he was paired with a more recognizable wrestler of (relatively) comparable popularity, it was usually to set up a heel turn and the next big main event.
  • Diva Dirt published an article about this drawing comparisons to Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child. Examples include:
    • Vince's Devils - Victoria in comparison to Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle. Despite being easily the best wrestler of them, the other two were very over Ms Fanservices. Notably when the break-up happened, the feud was between Torrie and Candice - while Victoria's alliance with them quietly disappeared.
    • Pretty Mean Sisters - Ryan Shamrock to Jacqueline and Terri Runnels. While Jacqueline was a brilliant wrestler and multiple champion, and Terri one of the most recognisable managers, Ryan never lasted long enough to do anything much.
    • The Beautiful People - Lacey Von Erich to Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne. While Madison and Velvet were good enough in the ring or at least charismatic enough to be a presence, Lacey was obviously very green and didn't last long in TNA.
  • The 2015 Divas Revolution storyline featured three trios fighting for dominance in the women's division. Each group had one Lesser Star:
    • Team PCB had Paige. Charlotte was the star of the team and the eventual champion, while Becky Lynch was a very over fan-favourite and Morality Pet. Paige took all the losses and eventually got fed up with being outshined, turning on the group.
    • Team Bella had Brie Bella. With Nikki Bella being the current reigning Divas' Champion, she was the clear leader. Alicia Fox meanwhile was presented as a Wild Card who joined the team out of Genre Savvyness. Brie rarely won and served to take pins for her sister's challengers.
    • Team BAD had Tamina Snuka. Sasha Banks was undefeated and the clear star, while Naomi had been pushed as a title contender and got the odd win. Tamina was merely there to fulfill The Worf Effect and would rarely get wins herself.
  • LayCool initially presented Layla this way. Michelle McCool was the Women's Champion, while Layla was her Beta Bitch. And when the team had Vickie Guerrero with them - she had some status as the Official Consultant of Smackdown. Then Layla won the Women's Championship, and so overcame this.
  • In CHIKARA, Rorschach was the Lesser Star to Wrestling in the tag team The Conundrum. The team ended with Jigsaw turning face and Rorschach allying himself with Jigsaw's enemy Larry Sweeney. Rorschach would eventually disappear uneventfully while Jigsaw became a CHIKARA mainstay for most of the 2000s.

    Video Games 
  • Despite the name, the Super Mario Bros. games rarely give the two brothers equal billing. In games when Luigi is as important as Mario, both characters are mentioned by name in the title (e.g. The Mario & Luigi series). And you have all the characters in-game who refer to poor Luigi as "that green mustache guy", somewhat verifying the trope in-universe. Super Smash Bros. Brawl references this, having Luigi be a huge wimp who gets knocked out in his first minute onscreen in the campaign. Many of his attacks look dorkier than his brother's, his entrance cry is a depressed "Let's a-go...", Snake's codec on him has the false Colonel mock him for being stuck in Mario's shadow, and his Final Smash is claimed in its trophy to be formed from his dark desire to be greater than his brother. However, Nintendo chose to avert this in 2013, dubbing it "The Year of Luigi" and giving him several new games... only for his trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS to claim that all that attention only made him shyer.
  • Same with Bob (blun/by) (the blue bubble dragon) from Bubble Bobble who has not been in as many games and ports as his brother Bub (the green bubble dragon) had. Coincidence?
  • Ratchet & Clank played with this trope in an interesting way: while in the early series Ratchet is undoubtedly the main character and Clank the sidekick, at the start the third game Clank is famous galaxy-wide for his "Secret Agent Clank" holovid series while Ratchet (who plays his hapless valet) has faded into obscurity. Since then, they've been getting progressively more equal billing, with Clank getting more substantial solo gameplay portions as well as his own spinoff game... based on the aforementioned secret agent persona.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI was supposed to be made so that all 12 (not counting the other two) playable characters could get some chance to be in the narrative spotlight and, thus, having no real protagonist. In spite of that, you can easily point the most relevant ones to the plot, them being Terra (The events of the game and most of its first half are greatly centered on her), Celes (set up as a character in the first act and completely taking over the spotlight at the beginning of the second act), Locke (gets consistent character development throughout the game) and debatably Edgar (he gets his fair share of importance in both halves). Interestingly, all these characters are naturally capable of wielding the Lightbringer, the best weapon in the game bar none.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 with regards to the YRP - when it comes to performing in the Songstress dressphere. Yuna and Rikku excitedly do it, and Yuna especially is a huge celebrity as a result. Paine meanwhile dislikes being a Songstress and never uses it in the plot. She'll even complain if you put her as a Songstress in battle. This is partly justified due to Paine's Dark and Troubled Past - and she defrosts over the course of the game.
    • Final Fantasy XII: Starring Vaan, Penelo, Ashe, Balthier, Basch, and Fran with equal billing as main characters. The story is really about Ashe, Balthier, Basch, and Fran. Vaan is a First-Person Peripheral Narrator that's relevant in relation to the other 4. This leaves Penelo in the dust with nothing to bring to the table in the plot. She does get some level of importance as Larsa's friend but it doesn't come into the story much.
  • Teddy in EarthBound Beginnings is branded as one of the main characters, can be named manually before the game begins, but only joins the party briefly, very late in the game. Eventually, he gets injured and sits out for the rest of the adventure, leaving Ninten, Lloyd, and Ana to battle Giygas... or in this game, Giegue.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem Gaiden has Alm and Celica getting relatively equal billing and both receive their own stories, but Alm's story is far more closely connected to the game's larger plot. In the original game, he was also able to promote and had multiple personalized weapons, which Celica didn't get.
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade seems to consider Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector to be of equal importance, tagging them all as Lords (and therefore their death causes a game over) and giving them special promotions and classes. In practice, though, Eliwood ends up being the actual main character of the story, getting the most character focus, having his father and Implied Love Interest be major players, and making most of the important decisions even on other routes. Hector is a pretty major player for most of the main story, but even his own route ends up being mostly about Eliwood but from Hector's perspective. Lyn is the main character during the tutorial chapters (which deal with a brief, mostly self-contained conflict a year before the actual main plot), but after that point, her relevance falls off hard, to the point that her role in most cutscenes is essentially just to respond to whatever Eliwood and Hector are saying. She's also the only one of the three who never gets a true legendary weapon (with her equivalent being essentially pulled from nowhere and being much worse statwise). Ironically, within the fanbase, this order is mostly reversed, with Lyn being more popular than Hector and Hector being more popular than Eliwood.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied, of course, in episode "Lisa's Rival". Lisa takes solace in that there's nothing wrong being the second-best at anything, and she then imagines a future in which she, Art Garfunkel, Jim Messina, and John Oates play their #2 song "Born To Runner-Up" in a concert sponsored by Avis (the #2 car rental company). They get booed off the stage, and she wakes up lampshading the Fridge Logic of why people would show up to their concert just to boo them.
    • In "Sideshow Bob Roberts", Bart and Lisa invoke this in their plan to get Sideshow Bob to confess to rigging the mayoral election, by accusing him of playing second-fiddle to Limbaugh expy Birch Barlow.
      Lisa: You were just Barlow's lackey!
      Bart: You were Ronnie to his Nancy!
      Lisa: Sonny to his Cher!
      Bart: Ringo to his rest of The Beatles!
  • Metalocalypse:
    • The bassist Murderface is definitely considered a main character and major player in the band Dethklok. However, numerous episodes have shown that 1) he sucks at playing bass, 2) all the bass parts are written by lead guitarist Skwisgaar, 3) the bass parts are usually mixed to near-inaudible levels on the albums, if 4) Murderface is even allowed to play on the record at all. Murderface is shown in an episode to contribute to the band with dickish behavior. In the absence of his negativity, Dethklok loses its brutal edge. When Murderface records solo singing parts for "Planet Piss", producer Dick Knubler (who describes him as "almost part of Dethklok") can be seen actively brickwalling the sound montage to drown out his voice.
    • Similarly, rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth also has no input into the band's creative process. His parts on the album are written AND performed by Skwisgaar. Toki's function in the band is to keep Skwisgaar on his toes and ensure that he maintains the practice regimen he needs to stay better than Toki.
  • Family Guy:
    • The show occasionally makes jokes about being this to The Simpsons, such as in "You Can't Handle the Booth", where Lois expresses annoyance at Fox's hold music being the theme song to The Simpsons. And American Dad! has joked about being this to Family Guy.
    • The episode "The Big Bang Theory", when Stewie's time machine whisks him and Brian out of the space-time continuum, he releases the machine's energy and as it turns out created the universe. When Brian attempts to get some of the credit from Stewie, he tells Brian that he's the "Art Garfunkel" of the universe.
  • Daffy Duck is often this to Bugs Bunny in the Looney Tunes shorts, particularly in Show Biz Bugs, where Bugs gets all the cheers, much to Daffy's dismay.
  • Dale Armatre from Moral Orel. When his band, The Crucifolk, break up, its other two members (who happen to be married) leave him out to dry and reduced to doing middle school plays.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series features an alternate reality where Sabrina, Hilda, Zelda, and Chloe are a successful Girl Group called the Flavour Babes. Sabrina is the face of the band as the singer, Hilda is the drummer and Zelda is the guitarist. Chloe, meanwhile, plays the French horn. Sabrina taunts her about this, and Chloe resents the lack of attention she gets. And of course, she's the only member of the band not to be in the Spellman family.

Alternative Title(s): The Garfunkel, Garfunkel, The Other Guy, The Other Girl