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Protagonist Title Fallacy

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Barney: The Karate Kid's a great movie. It's the story of a hopeful young karate enthusiast whose dreams and moxie take him all the way to the All Valley Karate Championship. Of course, sadly he loses in the final round to that nerd kid. But, he learns an important lesson about gracefully accepting defeat.
Lily: Wait, when you watch The Karate Kid you actually root for that mean blonde boy?
Barney: [sarcastically] No, I root for the scrawny loser from New Jersey who barely even knows karate. [seriously] When I watch The Karate Kid, I root for the karate kid, Johnny Lawrence from the Cobra Kai dojo!

This is a Common Fan Fallacy associated with Character Titles. It works as follows:

The work is titled X; therefore, X is the protagonist.

As common as Protagonist Title is, this is simply not always the case.

This is a Sister Trope of I Am Not Shazam. The difference is that, in these cases, the confusion arises from the title of the work referring to someone other than the protagonist, such as a secondary character or antagonist. Viewers know who the person is but incorrectly assume said person is the protagonist.

  • I Am Not Shazam: People correctly know which character is the protagonist but think the title refers to that protagonist's name.
  • Protagonist Title Fallacy: People correctly know to whom or what the title refers but wrongly assume that the eponymous character is the protagonist because their name is the title.

When done with a Secondary Character Title, this can lead to the hero being Demoted to Extra, making the adaptation an unintentional Perspective Flip.

When done with an Antagonist Title, this guarantees Draco in Leather Pants, as the reader or viewer assumes the villain is actually the one they're supposed to root for. Ron the Death Eater easily follows for the true protagonist(s). If this is done intentionally, it's not an error but deliberate invocation of Evil Is Cool.

Compare other forms of Title Confusion. Contrast Protagonist Title, which is when the work's name really is the protagonist. When someone in media doing a report on a fictional work commits this fallacy, it crosses with Cowboy BeBop at His Computer. When protagonists gradually switched over time, this crosses with Artifact Title.

May be a result of Wolverine Publicity and/or P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl, especially among those new to Comic Books and Anime/Manga/Light Novels. See also Fandom-Enraging Misconception, which this (along with I Am Not Shazam) is likely to become.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AKIRA. The main characters are actually TETSUO! And KANEDA!! For most of the story the titular Akira is barely even a character and more of a Living MacGuffin whose importance is related to the past events of the series rather than the present.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma is the protagonist, not Index (who is still the second most important character). Index's importance fades so much after the first volume that there's a common rumor that the author had originally intended to change which character's name was in the title with each volume, but the editors shot down the idea for the sake of title recognition. Mikoto "Railgun" Misaka is the protagonist of the spin-off A Certain Scientific Railgun, however. Accelerator is likewise the Anti-Hero/Villain Protagonist of A Certain Scientific Accelerator.
  • Betterman: While the being known as Betterman (Lamia) plays an important role in the show (and constantly saves the day), the main character is resident Non-Action Guy Keita Aono.
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto introduces The Watson Angelo much earlier than the titular Cesare Borgia, and spends more time with him throughout — Cesare himself is only in about 15% of the last two books, and we see his father's election from Angelo's point of view, as Angelo enters the conclave as Giovanni's assistant. The Musical puts the focus back on Cesare, giving him more songs than Angelo, Rodrigo, and Miguel put together. It covers parts of the story from before he and Angelo part ways.
  • Some fans argue that, being the name of the series, Soul Eater Evans must therefore be the main character and so worthy of the most attention. Yet it is not he, but his meister Maka Albarn who gets the most page-time of the two. To make matters more confounding, those who haven't read this interview with Atsushi Ohkubo (on a French site, no less) wouldn't know that the title doesn't refer to the character named Soul Eater at all, but rather the general concept of a "Soul Eater", namely Kishin Asura, the heroes' ultimate, soul-eating enemy.
  • Quite famously, Cowboy Bebop at his computer. To elaborate, the Bebop is the name of the ship the protagonists- Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed- use in their work as bounty hunters(sometimes referred to as "cowboys" in-universe).
  • Doraemon is a Secondary Character Title. The main character is actually Nobita, whom Doraemon is supposed to help. The mini-arcs and movies at least are titled "Nobita and [X]" or "Nobita's [X]" to fight against this misconception.
  • Samurai Champloo is another arguable example. The title, chanpuru refers to an Okinawan dish that is a fusion of various things. Since Mugen is also from Okinawa and incorporates a "Chanpuru" sword style, people assume he is the protagonist. (It doesn't help that Mugen is a quasi-expy of Spike, the protagonist of Cowboy Bebop.) Actually, Fuu fits a bit better. It is her motivation of finding "the sunflower samurai" that drives the plot.
  • Kagome is the protagonist and POV character of the show Inuyasha. Although Inu-Yasha is the other half of the Battle Couple and gets about the same amount of screen time.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers has stopped focusing on the Axis or Italy long ago.
  • The Lyrical Nanoha franchise was almost never about the title character. Much more, each installment is the story of the "villains" whom Nanoha (and the previous seasons' villains) is to befriend to smithereens in it and, to a lesser degree, of younger heroes she serves to inspire. It's quite telling that the franchise first really kicked off when Fate Testarossa was introduced almost half-way through The Original Series. Still, each installment faithfully keeps her name in their titles, even ones that hardly feature her at all. The only exception is ViVid Strike!, in which Nanoha's daughter Vivio is a supporting character and Nanoha herself is only mentioned once (and not even by name).
  • Medaka Box: Despite being the title character and The Hero, more often than not she seems to be more of a plot device to be observed by people, especially Supporting Protagonist Zenkichi than the actual protagonist of the series.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny is an unusual examplenote ; the pilot of the Destiny Gundam (Shinn Asuka) was the protagonist, but shortly before he upgraded to the Destiny his spotlight was stolen by Kira Yamato, protagonist of the previous series, and Shinn ended up becoming a Hero Antagonist.
    • The case can be made for the title referring to the Destiny Plan rather than the mecha.
  • The middle segment of Robotech is often referred to as Robotech Masters which is the name that the Comico comic book series used for those issues. The Masters were the antagonists. The story actually centered on the adventures of Dana Sterling and the 15th Tactical Armored Squad. Sometimes, fandom will refer to that segment of the series as the Southern Cross segment, being that the Army of the Southern Cross was the Earth Defense Organization (as well as a reference to the original anime's title: Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross).
  • Yatterman Night: Unlike every other installment of Yatterman (which is a Team Title similar to Sentai team naming), it's an Antagonist Title referring to the Yatterman Army. The heroes are the next generation Doronbo Gang.

    Comic Books 
  • The first Gwenpool Holiday Special was a general Marvel Universe holiday special that Gwen happened to be in. The second, Gwenpool: Merry Mix-Up, acknowledges this by having the subtitle The Gwenpool Holiday Special For Real This Time.

    Comic Strips 
  • Blondie is the name of Dagwood Bumstead's wife. This is confusing to some kids who read the comics, which mostly (but not always) follow Dagwood, and assume that "Blondie" is a Gender-Blender Name in this case. This has elements of Artifact Title in that, although Blondie is still a character (and thus this is a Secondary Character Title), in the very beginning Blondie was the protagonist.
  • Funky Winkerbean is a Secondary Character Title. The strip was originally an ensemble comic with no single protagonist (Funky being one of the teenage characters), but since then the title of protagonist has settled on Funky's best friend, Les Moore.
  • Keeping Up with the Joneses was a popular strip in the early 20th century, and its title remains a common vernacular phrase to this day. But the strip's main characters were the McGinises; the eponymous Joneses were their (never-seen) neighbors.
  • The original protagonist of Judge Parker was Judge Alan Parker. Soon after the strip started, though, the character of Sam Driver was introduced, and nowadays he and his wife are the main characters.
  • Barney Google and Snuffy Smith can go for years without featuring the first title character — so much so that some local newspapers now just refer to the strip as Snuffy Smith, period.
  • There's no "Herman" in Herman. The name "Herman" is more indicative of the sort of character and theme presented by creator Jim Unger.
  • The London Evening Standard used to run a cartoon strip called Clive about the mishaps of a teenage boy. As time went on, the strip far more often focused on Clive's ten year old sister Augusta. In the last few years of its run, the strip was renamed Augusta.

    Films — Animation 
  • Princess Mononoke is the nickname for San, the human girl raised by wolf gods. However, the main character is Ashitaka.
  • Finding Nemo:
    • While the eponymous character does gain development, it's fairly clear his father Marlin is the protagonist.
    • Averted with the sequel Finding Dory. Dory the forgetful blue tang takes the lead role as she goes on a Quest for Identity.
  • Disney's Sleeping Beauty: The actual protagonists are the three fairies, or arguably the prince — a Perspective Flip of which the merchandising is still unaware.
  • Coco: The main character, Miguel, is actually the great-grandson of the titular Coco. Despite that, Coco does prove her importance as a character in the latter half of the film.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Thin Man, the title refers to the person whom detective Nick Charles (who is out of shape in the book) is seeking. In the later sequel movies, it refers to Charles.
  • Dr. Strangelove: The title character is more of a Dr. Exposition than anything else.
  • Ichi the Killer: The main character is named Kakihara (Ichi is an assassin hired to kill him), but many people make the mistaken assumption that Kakihara is Ichi since his face is on the posters and home video covers rather than Ichi's.
  • Beetlejuice: Antagonist Title; the main protagonists are actually the Maitlands (Adam and Barbara). The eponymous character actually only appears for about 11 minutes of the film.
  • While Rocky is a major character in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, he's not the protagonist, nor the antagonist. That honor goes to Brad and Janet, and to Dr. Frank-N-Furter, respectively.
  • The protagonist of the Oliver Stone film JFK is not President John F. Kennedy, so if you were expecting a biopic like the audiences on opening weekend were you should look elsewhere. Kennedy is a Posthumous Character, only appearing in camera footage and in a doctor's flashback as a corpse. It's a conspiracy thriller, basically the "Who Shot JFK?" conspiracy in movie form; the actual protagonist of the story is Jim Garrison, the DA investigating JFK's assassination (who does bear a few similarities to the real Jim Garrison, though not many).
  • In The Third Man, the title character does not appear on camera until the second half of the film, and even then it's only for about ten minutes' screentime. The protagonist is Holly Martins, played by Joseph Cotten. The confusion is cemented further by the fact that said title character is now one of the most iconic film villains of all time, verging on a One-Scene Wonder (especially as it's one scene in particular that everyone remembers).
  • Charlie is still the protagonist of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), an adaptation of the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory whose straight up Protagonist Title was changed for marketing reasons without changing the focus or the main character. The next adaptation Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) kept the book's title but, oddly enough, focused more strongly on Willy Wonka, making that film the Secondary Character Title. The result is false assumptions about who's the main character in both movies.
  • In Rachel Getting Married, the protagonist is Kym, Rachel's sister.
  • The Last Samurai refers to all those who fought in the Satsuma Rebellion, not Tom Cruise. Part of the confusion is that Samurai can refer both to a single warrior and to a group, in this case it was the latter. You could say it refers to Katsumoto, who is the main Samurai character and dies a minute or so after the others, but that's a stretch. A fact completely lost on the translators of many countries:
    • In Sweden, they named the movie Den siste samurajen (the explicitly singular form); the plural form would be De sista samurajerna.
    • In Russia, Posledniy samuray, instead of Poslednie samurai.
    • In Italy, L'ultimo samurai, instead of Gli ultimi samurai.
    • In Spain and all the Spanish-speaking American countries, El Último Samurai instead of Los Últimos Samurais.
  • Similarly, the protagonist of The Last of the Mohicans is not actually the character the title refers to. Although he is the adopted son of the chief of the Mohicans, the titular phrase is used by the chief to refer to himself after his biological son has been killed.
  • TRON is a Secondary Character Title. The main character is Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges).
  • TRON: Legacy is an even stranger example, with Tron himself spending most of the film as a masked, brainwashed flunky of the Big Bad. A rare example of Antagonist Title where the titular character is a secondary villain (and not truly villainous).
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance: Wolverine PublicityWill Smith gets top billing and his God in Human Form character is in the title, but he plays guru and caddy to the protagonist, Rannulph Junuh.
  • The Big Lebowski complicates this by having two characters who both have the same name (Jeffery Lebowski), one of whom is the protagonist, and the other the antagonist. The protagonist prefers to be called "The Dude," and "the Big Lebowski" is what the Dude and his friends call the antagonist to avoid confusion, which also makes this an Antagonist Title.
  • Gunga Din is named after the water boy who accompanies the main characters (his character is fourth-billed in the movie). The confusion is understandable, especially since the film is very loosely adapted from the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name. However, Din does successfully warn The Cavalry of the Thuggees' impending ambush, thus ensuring a British victory in the battle that follows. And while he is shot down and killed by the Thuggees almost immediately afterward, he (at last!) moves to center stage in the film's final scene, where he is posthumously inducted into the army.
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer has Josh Waitzkin as the main character. Bobby Fischer isn't a character - who appeared after the movie stating that he had not "received one thin dime for the totally exploitative Paramount Pictures 'rip-off' full-length feature film".
  • In The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob, the protagonists are Victor Pivert and Mohammed Larbi Slimane. You could say that Rabbi Jacob is just a minor character, except that Pivert (Louis de Funès) impersonates him for most of the movie, hence some confusion.
  • In Oscar, the title character is repeatedly mentioned but goes completely unseen until near the end, where the story has gotten so ludicrous that by the time he appears, nobody cares about him any more.
  • Likewise, in Jo the eponymous "Monsieur Jo" is The Ghost for the whole movie — he's not even the corpse that is causing so much problems, despite Antoine Brisebard believing it for a while.
  • The Lone Ranger (2013) is a Secondary Character Title, as much of the film is actually focused around his sidekick Tonto.
  • Freddy Got Fingered. The main character is called Gord Brody. The title stems from a plot point in the film in which Gord accuses his dad of fingering his mentally disabled brother, Freddy.
  • Inverted with Demolition Man. It is indeed the protagonist John Spartan's Red Baron, but many viewers believe Phoenix is the Demolition Man, going so far as to call any blond-haired black guy a "Demolition Man" in homage.
  • Kangaroo Jack: Despite the focus on the titular 'roo, the protagonist is Charlie Carbone, the step son of the Big Bad mafioso. Also, despite the commercial hype, the 'roo doesn't spend the whole movie talking and rapping—that's only in a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment that Charlie dreams up, a combination of heatstroke and a concussion.
  • Rebecca: The protagonists are Rebecca's widower and his second wife. Rebecca died before the events of the movie, and is never seen.
  • Waiting for Guffman is not about Guffman, and the character they think is Guffman is Not Guffman. As with Searching for Bobby Fischer, though, the film is about the people who are waiting for Guffman, so the title is still indicative, despite the complete absence of the title character from the movie.
  • All About Eve: Eve is actually the film's antagonist (although it's a while before she's revealed as such), and the lead characters are Margo Channing and Karen Richardson.
  • Jennifer's Body: Jennifer Check is the antagonist the protagonist Needy is in a toxic friendship with. Needy is actually the narrator and POV character.
  • Avengers: Infinity War: While the titular Avengers are unquestionably the heroes of the film, the protagonist is Thanos. The story centers on Thanos's desire to obtain and use the Infinity Stones, and every other plot thread occurs in the orbit of this goal. Additionally, Thanos has by far the most screen time of any character in the movie, and the credits end with a message stating "Thanos will return."

  • In Dear Mr. Henshaw, Leigh Botts is the protagonist, with Mr. Henshaw being more of a device to move the plot along than anything.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel: Secondary Character Title; the Scarlet Pimpernel's wife Marguerite is the protagonist.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: Antagonist Title; Christine is the protagonist of the original novel, though it's told chiefly through Raoul's point of view.
  • Quincas Borba by Machado de Assis: The main character is a young man who is a disciple of the titular philosopher.
  • Barnaby Rudge: Secondary Character Title. The novel doesn't have a real central protagonist, but Barnaby plays second fiddle to the Chester and Haredale families.
  • The Ugly American: While there are "ugly Americans" in The Ugly American, particularly Joe Bing, the character known as "the Ugly American" in the book is actually quite clever and culturally sensitive.
  • Charlotte's Web: The title spider is more the mentor to the protagonist, Wilbur.
  • Dracula: Antagonist Title; Jonathan and Mina Harker are the main protagonists.
  • Land of Oz:
    • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is actually the protagonist.
    • This gets worse in some of the sequels, such as Tik-Tok of Oz and The Scarecrow of Oz, where the title character is actually rather minor in the overall narrative and doesn't show up until most of the way through the book.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The original French title, "Our Lady of Paris", averted this, naming the book after both the cathedral and Esmeralda, whom one could make a good claim for being the protagonist. But since the name of the cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, is left untranslated in other languages, the pun was lost. Looking for a new title, an early English translator chose "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", naming the book after an interesting, but fairly minor character - a deaf, insane henchman of the antagonist. As a result, Quasimodo is the main character in nearly every movie adaptation.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Antagonist Title; Frodo is the protagonist, and is at one point called the Lord of the Rings, but then is told that the only Lord of the Rings is Sauron.
  • The Three Musketeers: Secondary Character Title. Their friend D'Artagnan, the "fourth musketeer", is the protagonist.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the strangest example of all, as it is a Protagonist Title that often gets mistaken for a Secondary Character Title. Charlie is the protagonist of the book and the first film adaptation Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which became a legitimate Secondary Character Title, but many audiences interpreted it the opposite way and assumed Wonka should be seen as the main character of the film and that he must be the main character of the book, as well.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: Secondary Character Title. The skeleton detective is secondary to Valkyrie Cain, who acts as the reader's main POV character.
  • The protagonist in the FUDGE series is not Fudge; it's his older brother Peter who narrates the books. The first book in the series doesn’t have either in the title, but the “fourth-grade nothing” is in fact Peter.
  • Stephen King's Christine. The protagonists are two boys called Dennis and Artie. Christine is actually the name of the haunted car.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Tin Man: Secondary Character Title; Cain is simply the focus of a secondary character arc. He was the protagonist in an early draft, but they changed their minds to a more Science Fantasy retelling of The Wizard of Oz and just kept it as an Artifact Title.
  • Abigail's Party. Abigail doesn't appear, nor do we see her party. The actual party is one thrown by her neighbours, which her mother attends.
  • Life with Derek: The protagonist is Casey, and the title refers to her new life with her stepbrother.
  • How I Met Your Mother. The series itself is an example. Except for her ankle for a brief moment in one episode, we don't actually get to see the Mother until the last scene of season eight and she does not become a proper character in the show till season nine. And as Ted's kids point out at the end of the finale, the Mother is barely a character in the story at all; the story really demonstrates Ted's love for Robin.
  • Gossip Girl. Although for a few episodes in season five Serena was Gossip Girl.
  • Good Luck Charlie. The protagonist is named Teddy.
  • Inverted by The Joy of Painting, which is often assumed to be titled "Bob Ross" even though Ross's name isn't even in the actual title. Not helping matters is that Netflix has a collection of episodes called "Chill with Bob Ross".

  • Jethro Tull was a 17th century agriculturist; Ian Anderson is the lead singer of a band with the same name.
  • The J. Geils band was named after its guitarist, not its lead singer. Some people mistakenly assume Peter Wolf is J. Geils.
  • The Dave Clark Five is named after the group's drummer; Mike Smith was the lead singer.
  • Van Halen is named after the band's guitarist, Eddie Van Halen (and both his brother Alex and his son Wolfgang have played in the band). The lead singers have been David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar and (briefly) Gary Cherone. In their early days, club owners thought "Van Halen" was a person (like Van Morrison) and that Dave was said person, so they would regularly address him as "Van".
  • Many people thought that Britpop band Travis is named after its singer. Actually they called it after Harry Dean Stanton's character Travis Henderson from the film Paris, Texas.
  • Although Debbie Harry is blonde, she is not nicknamed "Blondie", except (to her annoyance) by fans confusing her with her band.
  • The lead vocalist of Echo & the Bunnymen is Ian McCulloch. There is no member called Echo (although some fans think it is name of the drum machine). The name supposedly came from a mate of Ian's who was continually tossing out strange suggestions for band names, like The Daz Men or Glisserol and the Fan Extractors.
  • The lead singer of the Eli Young Band is not Eli Young, but rather Mike Eli. He and James Young started as a duo, then added two more member to become a band.
  • Lampshaded in the Pink Floyd song "Have a Cigar," sung from the perspective of a money-hungry music producer, with the line "Oh, by the way, which one's Pink?" No member of the band is named Pink Floyd.
  • Manfred Mann were named after the the group's keyboard player: the lead singer was Paul Jones, then Mike D'Abo.
  • The Spencer Davis Group were named after the the group's guitarist: the lead singer was Steve Winwood.
  • Marshall Tucker was not a member of the Marshall Tucker Band (led by brothers Toy and Tommy Caldwell). According to The Other Wiki, the band was discussing possible names in an old warehouse they had rented for rehearsal space, and noticed the warehouse's door key had the name "Marshall Tucker" on it, not realizing it referred to an actual person. The real Tucker was a blind piano tuner who had rented the space previously.
  • Hootie and the Blowfish got their name from a couple of guys the bandleaders (Darius Rucker and Mark Bryan) knew in college. This led to people referring to Rucker as "Hootie", much to his dismay.

  • Antigone is the title character and heroic, but Creon is arguably closer to the protagonist, especially in a tragedy, especially in a Greek one. Tragic Greek protagonists were in a high position, not usually nice, and because of a Tragic Flaw they stoop lower than they'd ever been. Antigone is the orphaned daughter/sister of an incestuous marriage who lost her two brothers and her efforts to bury the traitorous one are painted as honorable. After Antigone hangs herself before Creon can bury her alive, his son and wife kill themselves from grief. His insistence on executing his son's fiance was motivated by his belief that honoring state law and reputation is above any cost, but Antigone's popularity soured his reign over Thebes.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan:
    • Trial by Jury, the jury acts as a (heavily biased) Greek Chorus to an ensemble cast; the beleaguered Edwin may almost stand as a protagonist.
    • The Pirates of Penzance are not protagonists, although a former one of their number is.
    • Patience and its subtitle Bunthorne's Bride is a twofold example, as Patience isn't the main character and Bunthorne is the only guy who Did Not Get the Girl.
    • Iolanthe, the character of Iolanthe actually doesn't do too many important things.
    • The Mikado, the eponymous character doesn't appear until well into the second act.
  • From William Shakespeare:
    • Julius Caesar. While Caesar's assassination and the repercussions is the focus of the plot, Caesar himself is in only three scenes. The protagonist with the character arc associated with a Shakespearean Tragic Hero is Brutus.
    • Henry IV parts 1 and 2 are mainly about Henry's son Prince Hal (later Henry V) and his relationship with his friends, including the legendary Falstaff.
    • In Cymbeline, the protagonist is Cymbeline's daughter, Imogen.
    • Othello. The plot revolves around Villain Protagonist Iago, and the ruinous effects of his schemes on the title character.
  • Bye Bye Birdie: "We love you, Conrad," but you're not the protagonist of this show. That would be Albert (though Ann-Margret as Kim steals the spotlight in the movie version). Birdie himself is portrayed in the movie by obscure character actor Jesse Pearson, who gets secondary billing.
  • Fiddler on the Roof: Main character Teyve is not the fiddler on the roof. The fiddler represents the inhabitants of Anatevka, trying to play a pleasant old tune in perilous circumstances.
  • Waiting for Godot: The two main characters - named Estragon and Vladimir - are, ahem, waiting for the arrival of the eponymous Godot. Godot never arrives.

    Video Games 
  • Lufia: Secondary Character Title, and technically she's only in the first game (her character situation is... complicated)Explanation(Spoilers) , so in sequels it becomes an Artifact Title. The series is known as Estopolis in Japan, named after a key location in the series.
  • Traysia, a JRPG for the Sega Genesis, has a similar situation, being named after the main character's childhood sweetheart (who spends most of the game off-screen back at his home village).
  • Applies to the first two games of the Atelier Iris subseries. The protagonists are Klein Kiesling in Eternal Mana and Felt and Viese in The Azoth of Destiny. Only in Grand Phantasm is the titular character a protagonist.
  • Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja was released as Dragon Ninja in Japan and Europe.
  • The titular Big Karnak refers to the location in Ancient Egypt where the game is set. Your character is unnamed the entire game.
  • Krut: The Mythic Wings: The Kruts are a race of eagle-headed Bird People warriors, with the protagonist being named Veera, a lone Krut. It doesn't stop online reviews from calling him "Krut" however.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The protagonist is Link. Zelda herself doesn't even appear in some games in the series, even if she frequently is the Deuteragonist whenever she does.
  • Metroid is not titled after its protagonist, who is named Samus Aran, but after a species of Life Drinkers whom the protagonist is tasked with exterminating. This is somewhat complicated by two things. The first being that the series' lore notes that the word "Metroid" is derived from a Chozo word meaning "ultimate warrior," which could apply to their ward Samus, but this is never made a plot point. The second being that, after the events of Metroid Fusion, Samus is not only part-Metroid, but the only being in the universe with Metroid DNA. Eventually defied entirely in Metroid Dread, where it's revealed that Samus has been mutating into a Metroid since Fusion, gaining the Metroid's signature skill of draining energy and later having her Power Suit resemble a humanoid Metroid. The villainous Chozo, Raven Beak, even dubs her as the "Ultimate Metroid" and plans to use her DNA to create an army of Metroids in Samus' likeness.

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary is very much an ensemble comic, and if any one character can be said to be the protagonist, it's Captain Tagon, not Sergeant Schlock. May overlap with Artifact Title, as Schlock was a central character in the early years, when they had a smaller cast and he was the crew's only genuine alien with very novel abilities and habits. The Narrator even joked at one point that if Schlock left, they'd have to rename the strip.
  • Rusty and Co.: Rusty the rust monster is the adorable mascot of the comic, but as far as the stories go, Mimic is the main protagonist.
  • The titular character of Tonja Steele started as a main character but drifted into the background as the comic continued. This was actually depicted as preferrable to her, as the supporting cast got saddled with serious, emotional storylines and wangsting, while Tonja and her daughter had lighthearted madcap

    Western Animation 

In-Universe Examples:

    Live-Action TV 
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson combines this with Misaimed Fandom, making bizarre and often disturbing justifications for how a film's actual villain is supposedly the title character and why he roots for him. Specifically, he roots for Hans Gruber in Die Hard ("Charming international bandit. In the end he dies hard. He's the title character."), Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid (he describes Daniel as a scrawny loser who barely even knows karate, hence Johnny is the real Karate Kid), and the Terminator (who is, after all, the title character). Strangely, he does not apply this to The Breakfast Club, and only roots for Vernon because he wears a suit.
  • An episode of Community features a theater director who produces an adaptation of The Karate Kid under the notion that the titular Karate Kid is not Daniel, but Mr. Miyagi.
  • In an episode of That '70s Show, Jackie claims to be a fan of Led Zeppelin, and remarks that "Led is hot."