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 boyfriend/girlfriend 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.)
Negative Continuity is what happens when this trope is taken 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.
- Anti-School Uniforms Plot: Sudden School Uniforms is made the rule for one episode before being abolished.
- 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; see Origins March On below.
- 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.
- Do They Know It's Christmas Time?: A character learns to be nicer on Christmas, but turns mean again once Christmas is over so as not to disturb the status quo.
- 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.
- 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.
- True Love Is Boring: If the status quo of the character forces him/her 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! Oh, well. This just means 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: When the character's actions are rendered moot at the end. Sometimes done to maintain the status quo, but other times it's just played for drama or as a joke.
- 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.
- 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.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Comic Strips
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Other Media