Within a work, particularly long-running series and franchises, almost nothing changes. If something does change, it's generally reset back to the way it was before very quickly.
This usually happens in a series with no overarching conflict or plot, although it is also the final stage of Exponential Plot Delay, the phenomenon in which the plot of a serial story has totally ground to a halt. In either case, each installment of the series will open under virtually identical circumstances to the installment that came before.
Why create a static situation? We can answer that! The creators want the audience to be familiar with the characters and situation, without having to bother with such things as "what happened last episode".
This trope is especially true for cartoons, where networks want to be free to broadcast reruns in any convenient order or lack thereof. It's also very common in sitcoms, and as a result, there are plenty of Broken Aesops created by the fact that, although characters have learned their lessons or attempted to improve their predicaments, nothing ever really changes.
While this trope can be used to help avoid Continuity Lockout, it also can be very difficult to juggle an unchanging status quo without gradually turning off your audience; characters and situations which never change tend to get stale after a while, and audiences can get a bit tired of seeing the Reset Button being pushed every time it looks like something might happen to change things.
Status Quo Is God can easily collide with Happily Ever After. Sometimes, a story simply can't have an ending that is both happy and maintains the status quo—thus, these two powerful tropes are in conflict with each other. When this conflict occurs, it's likely that the status quo will be maintained, and the ending will be less happy than it might have been if not for Status Quo Is God.
Negative Continuity is what happens when this trope is take Up to Eleven- not only does nothing ever change, it doesn't even require an explanation In-Universe, the world just resets at the end of every episode. See also, Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome, in which characters get a glimpse of an alternative universe where things have, in fact, changed.
- Aesop Amnesia: No one learns from their mistakes or remembers any lessons.
- Ageless Birthday Episode: A character has a birthday, but his or her age doesn't change.
- Butt-Monkey: Sometimes, when a character's unchanging status quo makes them unlucky.
- Cardboard Prison: Related to Joker Immunity described below; when not even a long prison sentence will last for a criminal.
- Cartwright Curse: Relationships that might change a character's romantic status quo don't last.
- Comic-Book Time: Time stands still in-universe, despite the long progression of time in the real world. Gets extra confusing when real years and events are mentioned.
- Contractual Immortality: When the actor's contract is still in effect.
- Convenient Miscarriage: If the reason it's convenient is because the baby would change the status quo.
- Death Is Cheap: When mortality can easily be reversed.
- Did Not Get the Girl: No matter what they do or how hard they try, the character will never get the girl/boy.
- Disney Death: Fake deaths are used in place of real deaths.
- Divorce Is Temporary: When a married couple will not be separated forever.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: No matter how many times the heroes thwart villains and save the world, bystanders will act like it's the heroes' first time, and civilians won't display any admiration for them or give them any special treatment.
- Failure Is the Only Option: If the success of the character implies a drastic alteration of the status quo of the series and/or the character itself.
- The Good Guys Always Win: The near-universal rule that the bad guys must always lose. note
- Ignored Epiphany: Whenever a character intentionally maintains their status quo.
- Joker Immunity: When villains have the privilege of immunity from death as well.
- Like You Would Really Do It: When the viewer can easily predict that someone won't die due to their importance to the story.
- Negative Continuity: Taken to its logical extreme, drastic changes happen but are quickly reverted by next time, without any explanation. Common in surrealistic works.
- No Ontological Inertia: For some reason, destroying the source of something (like magic) will instantly negate any changes it made.
- Plot Armor: Main characters (usually main protagonists, but also main antagonists) are deemed too important to die.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Fantastic technology is only used as a plot device, and barely affects the lives of the unnamed masses.
- Reset Button: The status quo is reinforced by reverting any changes with a handwave.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: When the character's actions are rendered moot at the end.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The same as above but not only actively tragic but rendering any-and-all accomplishments meaningless.
- Snap Back: Something happens to the character or the story, but it is somehow undone by the next episode without any explanation.
- Static Character: Anyone who doesn't go through character development.
- Status Quo Game Show: Sometimes winning a game show might affect the character's status quo.
- Strictly Formula: When a series rarely (if ever) deviates from a standard plot formula.
- They Killed Kenny Again: A comedic sub-trope of "Death is Cheap" and "Negative Continuity".
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Because the heroes refuse to permanently eliminate them.
- True Love Is Boring: If the status quo of the character forces him/her to remain single or without a couple.
- Unstable Equilibrium: Competitors will always end with their same results if Continuing Is Painful for the losers. note
- Vegetarian for a Day: The diet of a character changes due to an event however they'll always go back by the next episode.
- Villainous Plan Inertia: You've defeated the villain, and expect No Ontological Inertia to take care of his plan/missiles/evil empire... But wait! Everything's still proceeding... um... according to plan! Oh, well. This just means the heroes are still on the clock for a little bit longer....
- We Want Our Jerk Back: A mean character becomes nicer but goes back to normal because the other characters wanted it.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Sometimes, the reason for an unlucky character's luck disappearing is because having it stick around would shake up the status quo.
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