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Status Quo Is God

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"Looks like everything's back the way it was! Which is the only way it should ever be..."
Marge Simpson, The Simpsons

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? 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 is a lot of Aesop Amnesia created. 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. For example, if a main character gains a significant other at the beginning of the episode, it is almost certain that they will break up by the end, for one reason or another. (On the other hand, if the entire series is due to end and the creators feel confident that they'll never do a sequel, they may decide to break this trope with a Grand Finale that permanently fixes everything.)

Status Quo Is God is usually the justification for a Yo Yo Plot Point or an Ageless Birthday Episode. It has nothing to do with the divinity of a certain rock band, however.

Negative Continuity is what happens when this trope is exaggerated—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.

Related to Just Eat Gilligan and Un-Confession. Unlikely Spare may also be used to this effect. For the opposite, in which a work changes dramatically over the course of its run, see Nothing Is the Same Anymore.


  • Aesop Amnesia: No one learns from their mistakes or remembers any lessons.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: A character has a birthday, but their age doesn't change.
  • Anti-School Uniforms Plot: Sudden School Uniforms is made the rule for one episode before being abolished.
  • Broken-System Dogmatist: A system is broken and corrupt beyond redemption, but this person wants to keep it in place regardless.
  • 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 so their character's presumed death gets refused.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: No matter what they do or how hard they try, the character will never get the girl/boy.
  • 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.
  • It's Always Spring: Perpetual sunshine and blue skies, because anything else would be inconvenient.
  • Joker Immunity: When villains have the privilege of immunity from death as well.
  • Keeping the Handicap: A disabled character decides against "fixing" the disability because it makes them what they are.
  • 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.
  • 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, And That's Terrible.
  • Strictly Formula: When a series rarely (if ever) deviates from a standard plot formula.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Because the heroes refuse to permanently eliminate them.
  • Too Good for Exploiters: We're not scrapping the old system for a new one because we're too happy exploiting the old system to our benefit!
  • True Love Is Boring: If the status quo of the character forces them to remain single or without a couple.
  • Unprocessed Resignation: A character quits their job, but manages to get it back by the end of the episode due to the boss refusing to process the necessary paperwork.
  • 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! Looks like the heroes are still on the clock for a little bit longer....
  • We Want Our Idiot Back!: An idiotic character becomes smarter, but goes back to their old intelligence level because other character want them to remain that way.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: A mean character becomes nicer but goes back to normal because the other characters wanted it.

Not quite a sub-trope but often overlaps with it:

  • Bait the Dog: Sometimes, when a bad character showing its likeable side would modify the status quo, the writers would make that disappear, but not always.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sometimes, when a character's unchanging status quo makes them unlucky, however, this is not the only reason for a character to be unlucky.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: If the reason it's convenient is because the baby would change the status quo, but not an example if it's convenient to the characters.
  • Death Is Cheap: When mortality can easily be reversed. This is not always because of this rule, however, and may be played for other reasons.
  • Disney Death: Fake deaths are used in place of real deaths. Not always a sub-trope because this is only one of many reasons for a fake death.
  • Fission Mailed: When losing a game sometimes modifies the status quo, it would subvert it into the game being continued, though it's not always the case.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: A character suddenly comes into wealth and it is quickly lost, spent, or stolen, especially if the character is established as always hard-up for money.
  • Iron Butt Monkey: A Butt-Monkey is exposed to extreme physical abuse, yet it never dies or gets hurt at all. Very common in Slapstick comedies.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: When the story suggests that a jerkass might have a nicer side but then doesn’t because of the status quo.
  • May It Never Happen Again: If the reason the effort is made not to repeat the story is because repeating the story would change the status quo. On the other hand, this is sometimes an inversion of Status Quo is God, since other times, people try to change the status quo by ensuring the conflict doesn't repeat.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: A story's buildup has no payoff.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: A new character joins the main cast but is then promptly written out. However, this is often due to the negative reception of the character.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: A comedic sub-trope of Death Is Cheap and Negative Continuity. Sometimes done to maintain the status quo but other times it's played purely for Black Comedy.
  • Unsuccessful Pet Adoption: Someone adopts a pet, but it runs away or has to go. Maintaining the status quo is one of the reasons to play this trope, but not the only one.
  • Villains Act, Heroes React: If the hero were the one with a plan to change the world, a happy ending would involve the status quo changing. So instead, the villain is the one who wants to change the world, and the hero stops him to make sure nothing has to change.
  • 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, but not always.



Video Example(s):


Be yourself.....or not.

As Todd in the Shadows points out in his review of Hannah Montana: The Movie, the ending contradicts the "be yourself" Aesop by having Miley reveal her true identity to the people of Crowley Corners, and even sings a heartfelt song about having learned said Aesop, only to have the people of Crowley Corners all agree to keep her identity a secret and let Miley continue her dual life, thus hitting the reset button on the series. So much for "be yourself".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / BrokenAesop

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