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Stuck in Their Shadow

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"Shadows are in reality, when the sun is shining, the most conspicuous thing in a landscape, next to the highest lights."

This is when one creator or character is pushed out of the spotlight and another member of the team gets all the credit.

Distinct from Lesser Star, where equal credit is given for unequal work. This trope is about equal work that results in unequal credit. Compare with Breakup Breakout.

Compare Overshadowed by Awesome and Always Second Best, where the person in the spotlight really is better than the person in the shadows.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger serves as an example in Tiger & Bunny's Show Within a Show, HeroTV. While they do about the same amount of work as a hero team, it's Barnaby Brooks Jr. that gets all the publicity, interviews, photoshoots, fans, and credit. This is taken to its logical conclusion in the thirteenth episode when Kotetsu pulls a Batman Gambit that allows Barnaby to take down Ouroboros terrorist Jake Martinez, and the public completely ignores his contribution to the fight. He's naturally a bit annoyed by this.
  • In-universe example in Berserk: despite being instrumental in many battles throughout the hundred-year-war, most of the public do not know Guts' name, or indeed that of anyone in the Band of the Hawk outside their leader, Griffith. Everyone that meets him, friend or foe, is merely pulled along by his charisma and into the currents of his own mighty dream. This eventually causes Guts to leave the group entirely, as he feels he can never truly discover himself as long as he is within Griffith's shadow. This has catastrophic consequences as it's the catalyst for the series of events leading to the Eclipse and Griffith's transformation into Femto.
  • In the Turning Red spinoff 4★Town 4★Real, Aaron Z. feels this way about Robaire with respect to their success as musical artists. There is even a panel where Aaron Z. imagines himself walking in Robaire's shadow.

  • Marx Brothers: Groucho and Harpo Marx have always been the most prominent names in the group. If you're lucky, they may remember Chico too. The one that everyone forgets is Zeppo; granted he only appeared in their movies until Duck Soup (1933) and was usually the straight man. Gummo, who quit around World War I, is more like The Pete Best.
  • Wayne's World is named after Wayne, however, Garth is no less important in the scheme of things, gets about equal screen time, and provides just as many memorable lines.
  • An in-movie example occurs as a running gag in Monsters, Inc.. Whenever Mike appears in the media he is always covered up by something, like the barcode of a magazine or the company logo in a commercial, or in the prequel where his student ID photo cut off at his forehead. (Meanwhile, Sulley is always front and center.) Whenever this happens, Mike initially appears shocked but then talks excitedly about being in print/on TV/being a college student, never even noticing the unfortunate circumstances.
  • Modern-day fans of The Three Stooges tend to view Shemp in this manner (and the less said about Joe Besser the better), in comparison to the massively popular Curly. Ironically, back when the shorts were filmed, Shemp was the only Stooge who had a singles career but agreed to join the act after Curly got sick so Moe and Larry wouldn't be out on the street.
  • In both the book and film versions of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the story focuses less on Roger and more on the human detective, Eddie Valiant. In the book, Roger was Eddie's shifty client, and although he was pivotal to the story, the focus was clearly on Eddie and his investigations. In the movie, Roger gets the plot rolling, but after that, his job consists mostly of hanging around with Eddie and acting goofy. Even in his cartoons in-universe, Roger gets second billing behind Baby Herman, even though (like Wile E.) he gets the lion's share of the laughs. Never more blatant than when he saves Eddie's life (if only momentarily) at the Gag Factory, then drops right back down to "goofy" again without so much as a thank-you on Eddie's part - although his wife, Jessica, whom he also saved, at least gives him some of the respect he's desperately been trying to earn.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Ask most people to name all the members of Monty Python and you're bound to hear John Cleese first, then Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and maybe Terry Gilliam, but Graham Chapman and to a lesser extent Terry Jones are only known primarily by Python fans. There is a bit of historical irony here because John Cleese (who formed one of the writer teams with Graham Chapman) felt that he was doing all the work and Chapman was getting all the attention.
  • Once Upon a Time focuses just as much on both Emma and Regina's stories, with them both being presented as necessary for the other's story. However, most of the attention of fans is put on Regina's redemption arc rather then Emma's journey to be a hero. This is mainly because most found Regina's story to be more interesting. While Emma is still popular in the fandom, she remains overshadowed by Regina even to this day in the eyes of both the fans and general public.

  • Richard Carpenter was mainly responsible for writing, producing and arranging the music of The Carpenters, but his sister Karen, the vocalist and drummer, has gotten much more attention and popular acclaim as the duo's music has undergone a critical re-evaluation. The circumstances of her tragic death arguably made Karen an even more sympathetic and compelling character.
  • Dave Stewart is acclaimed for his writing and producing, but his Music/Eurythmics partner, vocalist Annie Lennox, is much better known to the general public.
  • Most people seem to think Macklemore is a solo artist and not part of a duo. Ryan Lewis is the producer, but most people aren't sure what he does, and few people aside from Macklemore's biggest fans really know anything about him other than his name. The fact that Macklemore is the face of most of the music videos, often the only one present (if Lewis is present, he's mainly in the background), further proves this. The cover for the "Downtown" single even puts Macklemore's front and center; Lewis is crammed in with the many credited guest artists.
  • The Three Tenors have sometimes been referred to as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and "the other guy". Especially on Seinfeld.
  • John Deacon of Queen is usually thought of as "the other one" compared to the more outgoing, Large Ham members of the band. Actually, in almost any other band he would have been Lead Bassist (Type A), but as it happened he worked with people who just wouldn't be outdone. Still, he penned several of their big hits, and contributed enormously to the songs he didn't write: Brian May says that after his retirement, Queen lacks a kind of magic that Deacon used to bring.
  • John Entwistle of The Who, regarded by many as the greatest bass player of all time, is certainly a lot better-known than the bassists of most famous bands, but still nowhere near as famous as Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey or Keith Moon.
  • John McVie, the bassist for Fleetwood Mac, is probably the least known member of the group in spite of being half of its namesake and one of only two members who have been in the band since it started, especially compared to singer-songwriters Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, original bandleader Peter Green and co-group namer Mick Fleetwood.
  • Ask any person about who was in Nirvana and they will pretty much forget Krist Novoselic. While Kurt Cobain is easily the band's most famous member (Dead Artists Are Better may have had something to do with it), Dave Grohl formed Foo Fighters and escaped what would have otherwise been a fade into obscurity.
  • John Paul Jones, the bassist (noticing a theme?) of Led Zeppelin. Though he did like being able to walk around cities without being recognized while the rest of the band couldn't leave their hotel room without being mobbed by fans since most people didn't know what he looked like.
    • This is also a general philosophy of many bass players, that you should play in such a way that it provides a framework for the guitarist, singer, and keyboardist to do their stuff without distracting the audience. Essentially if you're doing your job well no one knows you're there until you flub, disconnect from the mix, what have you, and then your absence is immediately noted. See this video of Franz Ferdinand.
  • Blue Cheer is considered one of the pioneering Heavy Metal bands alongside Black Sabbath. However, outside the metal community (and even within) they're almost completely unheard of compared to Sabbath. This is despite the fact that they're the first American band to play metal.
  • Of "The Jackson Five", Michael Jackson was obviously the most famous. Ask who the other four members are, and most could get Jermaine, Tito, and Marlon. Poor Jackie Jackson. Then there's Sixth Ranger Randy Jackson (not the one from American Idol).
    • Of the female Jackson children, Janet is the most well-known and is the second most famous Jackson after Michael. Most people have at least heard of LaToya. Rebbie, the oldest of all the Jackson children, is also the most obscure.
  • The only Osmonds that most people are familiar with are Donny And Marie.
  • Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert of New Order. Not as well known as front-man Bernard Sumner or Bassist Peter Hook, they even called their spin-off band "The Other Two."
  • On a more macro level, there are entire swaths of musicians that aren't talked about. Who plays the instruments during a Backstreet Boys concert? Who wrote Céline Dion's hits? Who records, mixes, engineers Katy Perry? What is a Record Producer? These people provide contributions to the music industry that are absolutely vital, but it's an easy bet that the average troper reading this entry hasn't once spared them a thought.
    • Electronic producers like David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Avicii, and Zedd have largely averted this by being credited on all of their hits. Avicii in particular has avoided high profile guest vocalists, to the point of not even crediting the vocalists he does work with.
    • "Weird Al" Yankovic's band is a case where some might know, if only because it's the same since the 80s.
  • Guitarist Andy Summers and, to a lesser extent, drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police were largely overshadowed by bassist/singer/songwriter Sting, who also became the group's Breakup Breakout as a solo artist. Oddly enough, whilst they didn't receive the same individual credit, the band as a whole was far more popular than Sting's solo career.
  • Operatic librettists. Traditionally, operas were written in two stages: a librettist would write the libretto (Italian: little book) containing the script and lyrics, and then basically hawk it out to a composer, who would set the whole thing to music. Also traditionally, the composer would be listed as the creator of the work, with the librettist listed as a secondary figure, and usually known only to opera buffs. There are only two well-known exceptions to this: W. S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan, and Richard Wagner, who wrote his own librettos.
  • Aerosmith is divided by fans into the Toxic Twins (frontman Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry) and the Less Interesting Three or LI3 (rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer).
  • Art Garfunkel of Simon & Garfunkel, to the point of being the former Trope Namer for Lesser Star. It was renamed to keep Real Life examples off the page, but it's just as well because Garfunkel wasn't actually an example of that trope, but rather this one—and, even then, mostly by virtue of Paul Simon's Breakup Breakout.
  • Alex Lifeson of Rush is as talented at Neil Peart and Geddy Lee but still gets this. A rare example of the lead guitarist being less memorable than the drummer and bassist.
  • Nearly everyone who's performed with Eric Clapton. Ginger Baker of Cream has somewhat escaped this, and Steve Winwood and Duane Allman are famous for other projects as well, but most of the others are mostly known for performing with Clapton, despite often being quite talented in their own right. (Ironically, Jack Bruce of Cream was better known than Clapton during the band's initial period of activity, but Clapton had a massive Breakup Breakout).
  • To an extent, Pantera bassist Rex Brown is often forgotten among his former band-mates, becoming especially obscure after the break-up of Pantera, as he did not side with either Phil Anselmo nor Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul in their feud.
  • Rage Against the Machine has an excellent, almost jazzy rhythm section in Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk; however, they are both largely overshadowed by Zack de la Rocha, who in turn is overshadowed by Tom Morello, primarily due to Morello's incredibly innovative guitar playing style and remaining in the spotlight through Audioslave whereas de la Rocha faded into obscurity.
  • Jermaine Jackson and Kelly Rowland both found success as solo artists following the dissolution of their respective groups only to be completely overshadowed by a fellow ex-bandmate. In fact, while Michael and Beyoncé are more recognized for their solo work than as part of a group, Jermaine and Rowland are famous in the exact opposite way.
  • Nu Metal was often seen as the most commercially profitable genre of metal during its prime, with numerous acts gaining massive commercial success. In reality, this only applied to a handful of bands. Namely Korn, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Disturbed, Godsmack, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, and Evanescence (and System of a Down, if you consider them nu metal). Sevendust, Trapt, Saliva, P.O.D., and Drowning Pool also had success, but not to the same extent. Compare this to the glut of acts who failed to have that same success such as Coal Chamber, 36 Crazyfists, Alien Ant Farm, Martyr AD, Guano Apes, Crazy Town, Stereomud, Ultraspank, Spineshank, Systematic, Injected, Skrape, Primer 55, Unloco, Orgy, Presence, Hot Action Cop, Demon Hunter, Nonpoint, Mushroomhead, Shuvel, Twisted Method, Skindred, Static-X, Flaw, Cold, Dry Kill Logic, Kittie, Machine Head, hed (p.e.), Ra, Lifer, Otep...
  • The 2010s saw a massive revival of teen heartthrobs and boy bands in the pop music world. Dozens and dozens have aimed for commercial success, but only two have actually become worldwide megastars: Canadian pop-R&B singer Justin Bieber and British-Irish boy band quintet One Direction. The only other acts to have had achieved success, though not to the same extent, during the decade were Australian pop-punk group 5 Seconds of Summer and Canadian singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes (who later broke into the mainstream by reorienting himself as an adult act). Compare that to the glut of acts who have fallen flat on their face in their attempts to break through, such as JLS, Mindless Behavior, Cody Simpson, Greyson Chance, Jacob Latimore, Union J, District 3, Emblem3, Midnight Red, IM 5, Austin Mahone, Conor Maynard, Jake Miller, The Vamps, Rixton, Troye Sivan, and perhaps most embarrassingly, Big Time Rush and The Wanted, who were being pushed especially hard. All of these acts, with the exception of the American ones who couldn't even make it there, had their popularity limited to their home country.
  • A similar scenario happened with girl groups: American Fifth Harmony and British Little Mix have overshadowed all the other 2010s girl groups in their respective home countries. The less-popular of the two in each country is the only other one to really have a major following there. While both of them are easily bigger than anyone in the aforementioned "failure" group of males (at least in their home countries), but far below Bieber/1D levels, they're really not that far off from where 5SOS and Mendes are.
  • Linkin Park to many people is lead vocalist/metal screamer Chester Bennington, rapper/multi-instrumentalist Mike Shinoda, and four other guys. Guitarist Brad Delson may get recognition, if only for the afro (despite the fact that he co-founded the band), while turntablist Joe "Mr." Hahn was pretty well-known in their earlier days for his DJ scratches but today is just in the background. As for drummer Rob Bourdon and bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell? Not so much.
  • Haim is a pop-rock girl band centered around sisters Alana, Danielle, and Este Haim. But who's that one guy you see drumming in the background at their concerts? That's Dash Hutton, their unrelated friend. Despite being an official member, he's rarely seen in promotional material.
  • Sleigh Bells has Derek E. Miller who plays all the instruments, produces the albums, writes the songs, and basically does all the heavy lifting, but is completely overshadowed by Alexis Krauss, who only sings. This is a bit odd since the band is well-known for the amazing instrumentation used to create all sorts of wild sounds. Given that a female lead singer of a band (especially a Ms. Fanservice) almost always overshadows the rest of the group unless there are other girls in it or there's a male that also sings, this is obvious.
  • Mark Ronson is a very successful producer in the UK, but never had a hit in the US until 2014/15 with "Uptown Funk!". Unfortunately, outside the UK he was completely stuck in the shadow of its featured vocalist, global pop superstar Bruno Mars, and it's almost universally seen as Mars' song rather than Ronson's. His name is literally a footnote, and even the music video put all attention on Mars with Ronson only making cameos. As a result, Ronson himself had so little momentum coming out of the song that it failed to translate into any sales for its parent album Uptown Special outside the UK and, aside from a credit on an A$AP Rocky song that scraped the bottom of the charts for one week, Ronson never set foot on a non-British singles chart again. (A similar situation has happened with the Amy Winehouse-sung "Valerie", although it was nowhere near as bad as with "Uptown Funk!")
  • Nickelodeon's Victorious was meant to be a vehicle that would launch the music career of its star Victoria Justice. It certainly launched a music career alright, just not hers. Instead, supporting actress Ariana Grande started a massively successful career as a pop sensation, producing numerous hits and platinum albums. Her meteoric rise to fame has completely eclipsed Justice (and the other five cast members), and her whole Nickelodeon roots for that matter. In fact, she's easily the biggest celebrity Nickelodeon has ever produced in its entire existencenote .
  • 2015 saw a trend of completely unknown rappers scoring surprise hits thanks to exposure through Vine. Specifically, they were Fetty Wap ("Trap Queen"), T-Wayne ("Nasty Freestyle"), Silento ("Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)"), and iHeartMemphis/iLoveMemphis ("Hit the Quan"). Of the four, however, only Fetty Wap has had any success afterwards, becoming a rap superstar. None of the latter three rappers ever had another hit. And of the other three songs, only "Watch Me" is still well-remembered to this day.
  • A similar case to "Uptown Funk!" happened with "The Hanging Tree" by James Newton Howard featuring Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Despite being the lead artist, Howard was completely overshadowed by Lawrence, to the point that even Billboard's articles on the song's chart run used titles such as "Jennifer Lawrence Debuts on Hot 100" and barely made Howard a footnote. Since Lawrence is an A-list celebrity actress and Howard is a movie composer almost completely unknown to the general public and not even as known to film fanatics as the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer, this was inevitable.
  • The other bloke out of Wham, who at the start had equal billing in a two-boy Boy Band with a then-starting-out George Michael. George's career went stellar. The other bloke's note  didn't.
  • Power Metal/Speed Metal band DragonForce has guitarist Herman Li, who is well-known for his insanely technical guitar solos and has reached a level of Memetic Badass within the community. For some, it might be easy to forget that they have another guitarist with Sam Totman, who's been around since the beginning alongside Li, as the band had been started based around their dual-shred guitars. Despite being just as skilled at his instrument, engaging in similarly technical solos, and (unlike Li), taking a big part in the main songwriting process, he is nowhere near as well-known as Li. Being a Token Minority in metal alongside having a very distinct appearance can definitely help with sticking out from the rest.
  • Tim Yeung, when he joined Morbid Angel. There's not much debate whether or not he is a skilled or famous drummer, but the guy he was filling the shoes for? Pete Sandoval, who is the Trope Codifier for Death Metal drumming. Unfortunately for Yeung, he was destined for Replacement Scrappy status from the word go.
  • Lacuna Coil tried to avert the standard "female lead singer overshadows male backup band" stigma by pairing Cristina Scabbia with male singer Andrea Ferro. Unfortunately, that didn't stop the latter from ultimately languishing in the former's shadow.
  • Japan has a wide variety of rock and metal bands that are popular back home and have a worldwide cult following. However, the only Japanese bands that have made an impression on the mainstream American markets are heavy metal groups Loudness and BABYMETAL.
  • Future Classic, an independent label from Australia, has a wide variety of acts who have their own followings such as Chet Faker, Classixx, Flight Facilities, Panana, Jagwar Ma, and Ta-ku. However, none of them have achieved anywhere near as much success or recognition as a single artist they share the label with — Flume.
  • For many people outside of the fans, the Pet Shop Boys are Neil Tennant and... that guy who wears the sunglasses and stands at the back playing the synths (a.k.a Chris Lowe). Though this one is in part intentional, since Lowe is also apparently rather shy and introverted, and prefers maintaining a low public profile.
  • K-Pop is huge back home in South Korea and has quite a big following with the Asian diaspora. But, for a long time, only one artist from the genre was widely-known around the world to the public at large: PSY. Ironically, back in Korea PSY is seen as a B-lister at best, his only real standout quality there being "the guy who had that worldwide megahit a few years back". Nowadays there is only one K-pop who has achieved global megastardom — BTS, easily the most popular boy band of the 2010s not named One Direction. Although other groups (BLACKPINK et al.) have been getting more Western exposure in their own rights over the course of The New '20s, BTS is still by far the most recognizable one to the general public.
  • Rapper Machine Gun Kelly, or MGK, was always been seen as a third-rate Eminem clone who has long been stuck in the shadows of other white rappers, like Macklemore, Mac Miller, G-Eazy, and, of course, Eminem himself. He only had one real hit, with “Bad Things”, and that was solely because Camila Cabello sang the chorus. His second hit “Rap Devil” got attention solely for being a diss track against Eminem, and he ended up shifting to rock music afterwards. He is also known nowadays for his relationships with model Sommer Ray and especially Megan Fox
  • Andy Gibb had several hit singles in the US but was always an afterthought compared to his three older brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice aka The Bee Gees. This affected him personally as it seemed to have left him being very insecure since he was mostly considered to just be "the baby brother of the Bee Gees". This probably played a part in him developing the drug addiction that led to his death aged just 30.
  • Mandy Moore began her early singing career in pop music in the 1999, with hits like "Candy", "Walk Me Home" and "I Wanna Be With You", joining a bevy of female solo teenage stars such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson that would be popular at around the same 1998-1999 time period. Moore would later mention that she felt she would always "be number four" when being mentioned in lists of pop female stars of that time period after Spears, Aguilera, and Simpson, never really standing out in that crowd, which might be another factor in Mandy switching to her more recent folk-pop singer-songwriter direction by the mid-2000s.
  • The Vitamin String Quartet is well-known for its classical covers of just about any song to touch the charts. Sadly, the similar Vitamin Piano Series and Vitamin Baroque could never live up to the glory of their labelmate, and neither has released anything in about a decade (the latter only made four albums, now almost a hundredth of VSQ's.)
  • Due to his extreme popularity and ability, Eminem's groups suffer this problem.
    • D12 struggled for hits and to sell seats at their tours when Slim Shady couldn't be there, despite Eminem's desperate attempts to give the group its own identity without him. Their biggest hit, "My Band", is a parody of this dynamic, presenting Slim as an egomaniacal Boy Band heartthrob soaking up attention from girls, while the other members of the group are ignored by the media and squabble about their resentment of the star. At the end of the song, Bizarre punches Slim out on stage and reveals himself to be the real talent.
    • Despite Royce da 5'9" being a respected underground rapper who Eminem has been crediting as a major influence on him since the 90s, Bad Meets Evil (a group consisting of Royce and Eminem) failed to make him a household name. BME had decent-sized Pop Rap crossover hits in The New '10s with "Lighters" and "Fast Lane" in which Royce more than pulled his weight, yet Royce is still largely unknown or considered a footnote to Marshall. (Eminem's self-declared Arch-Nemesis Benzino even dissed Royce for this, accusing him of being Marshall's Black slave — Royce retorted by telling Benzino to log off and look after his daughter.)

  • Sodom and Gomorrha were in for it together for evilness, and a miffed God nuked them from orbit. Thus, "sodomy" entered our language...but have you ever been accused of gomorrhy? note 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pedro Morales is one of the biggest stars of his era and the first Latin American to win a "recognized" World title. Unfortunately, Bruno Sammartino was also in his era and Morales was never truly accepted as a worthy successor by the World Wrestling Federation fans. This wasn't such a big deal at the time, but as the WWF systematically destroyed every other territory it could, it retroactively made Pedro being in Bruno's shadow in one territory have more impact on his image.
  • Marty Jannetty: Following the breakup of the Rockers, Shawn Michaels would go on to become a future WWE Hall of Famer, win multiple championships, and be considered one of the greatest wrestlers ever to lace up the boots, while Janetty would fade into obscurity. Shawn's shadow is/was so vast, the former name for Breakup Breakout was "The Jannetty".
  • Tarzan Goto is considered one of the founding fathers of FMW but was simply unable to draw without Atsushi Onita's help, leading him to job in attempts to build credibility in younger wrestlers, giving them a chance to draw whenever Onita wasn't around. Goto would go on to run his own "Shin" FMW shows in an attempt to become a top draw himself. Even when Onita was gone from FMW Goto wound up in the shadow of Megumi Kudo, leading to Japan's first mixed tag team match when Goto brought his wife along to do something about it and Kudo brought in Riki Fuji to handle him.
  • As a singles wrestler, Kyle O'Reilly's Ring of Honor career has often been derisively compared to his former Tag Team partners Davey Richards and Adam Cole. As a Tag Team wrestler, however, he's found much more success with Bobby Fish as reDRagon than he ever did riding either of their coattails. In 2015, O'Reilly started to find more success as a singles wrestler only to be thwarted in every title match he earned by Adam Cole, who wanted to keep O'Reilly in his shadow. Kyle finally broke out after beating Cole, who was in his second reign as ROH Champion, at the 2016 Final Battle, finally starting his first singles title run...only for Cole to be given a rematch by New Japan's officials at Wrestle Kingdom 11 and win the belt back, becoming ROH's first three-time world champion, before ROH itself could even book O'Reilly any title matches.
  • Ted DiBiase Jr.: Was initially labeled the breakout star of Legacy but instead Cody Rhodes would go on to become one of the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champions as well as one of the WWE's top heels for a time and would go on to even greater success in organizations like Ring of Honor and (especially) All Elite Wrestling. DiBiase, on the other hand, was relegated to WWE Superstars territory and basically retired in 2013 after choosing to not renew his contract. If Cody's shadow wasn't enough, there was an even bigger shadow hanging over him: his father.
  • The first luchador CMLL gave the Místico gimmick to became the undisputed top draw in not only the promotion but the entire nation, with strong arguments that he was the breakout star of the planet. That argument fell apart when his success in Latin America and Asia was followed up by the disastrous Sin Cara gimmick in WWE, which coincided with CMLL trying again by giving the Místico gimmick to Dragon Lee, who merely drew decent critical response and financial gain. The Dragon Lee gimmick in turn went to a rookie luchador who took everyone by surprise and became one of CMLL's foremost stars, leaving their first Dragon Lee stuck in two shadows.
  • The only member of the Spirit Squad who is still well-known today is Nick "Nicky" Nemeth, now better known as Dolph Ziggler.
  • Stu Hart had twelve children, all of whom were involved in the wrestling business, but only two of them are particularly well-known: Bret and Owen.
  • The best-known members of the Guerrero family are easily Eddie and Vickie. The only other member most people will be able to name is Chavo Jr. Unless you're in Mexico, where Gori, Mando, Hector, and Chavo Sr are also well known. Chavo Sr was fairly popular in the NWA territorial system, it's just that WWF systematically destroyed that.
  • Lanny Poffo, brother of Randy Savage, is often considered the prime example for a wrestler being stuck in his sibling's shadow. Their father, Angelo Poffo, has also been overshadowed by Randy.
  • Tag team Harlem Heat consisted of Booker T and Stevie Ray. Booker went on to have a highly successful singles career, while Stevie Ray floundered and eventually retired.
  • The Knight wrestling family: Britani Knight, a.k.a WWE's Paige is by far its most famous member, with the only other well-known one, at least in America, being her mother, Saraya Knight.
  • Ric Flair has four children, the best known of which is his younger daughter, Charlotte. While not nearly as well known, his two sons David and Reid have their own notoriety: the former for his infamous flop of a career and memetic entrance video, the latter for dying tragically at the age of 25 and for his death being tastelessly referenced by WWE in a Paige/Charlotte angle. His older daughter, Megan, on the other hand, is virtually unknown, even being overshadowed by her current husband Conrad Thompson, a well-known wrestling podcaster.
  • Matt Hardy is far from unknown, but still not nearly as recognized as his younger brother Jeff. However, his "Broken" TNA run in 2016 helped remedy a degree.
  • Many people recognize The Dudley Boys as Bubba Ray and D-Von. The other Dudleys from ECW are mostly forgotten, with the possible exception of Spike.
  • Julio Dinero was one of four members of the TNA stable the Gathering. Unfortunately for him, the other three members are all much better known than him: Raven, Mickie James, and CM Punk.
  • After the Steiner Brothers split up in 1998, Scott became the genetic freak "Big Poppa Pump" while Rick has more or less faded into obscurity, which is ironic since Rick was more popular with the fans than Scott was prior to the split.


    Video Games 
  • Donkey Kong Country
    • Diddy Kong from the original Donkey Kong Country. He can do everything Donkey Kong can do, with the exception of defeating a specific kind of enemy (Krusha), and is even far superior in some aspects such as running faster, swimming more precisely, and making long jumps better. You could beat the entire game playing as Diddy alone and probably have an easier time of it. However, canonically, he's Donkey Kong's "wannabe sidekick" and didn't get his chance to shine until the sequel Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, where he was in turn overshadowed by his newbie companion...
    • Dixie Kong in Diddy's Kong Quest may be a little slower than her boyfriend, but other than that barely-noticeable detail, she surpasses him in every way. Not only is she a more precise jumper and swimmer, but she can also do the famous ponytail twirl, wherein she hovers to the ground slowly by using her long ponytail as a propeller. This game is a little fairer because it makes it crucial to play as either one character or the other at specific times, but it may also be worth mentioning that in her own game Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, she was not surpassed by Kiddy Kong.
  • Banjo-Kazooie is a little weird about this. Ask anyone who the star is, and most will say it's Banjo, even though the titles of three out of five games also include his partner Kazooie. The second game, Banjo-Tooie, opts for a silly title pun instead of recognizing the second lead's name (it's even lampshaded by Kazooie herself at the end of the first game), and Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge has her name in it as well, although she isn't in it for the first few worlds. Indeed, in the first two games, Kazooie's the one doing the majority of attacking and acrobatics when the two are teamed up, with Banjo mostly just doing the walking around and (in the first game) the Claw Swipe and Roll (the second game replaced the Claw Swipe with a pecking attack by Kazooie and had Kazooie assist with the Roll). This holds true even in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; many people refer to the fighter officially known as "Banjo & Kazooie" as "Banjo", even though more than half of the duo's moveset involves Kazooie (among other things, Kazooie provides the aerial jumps and dash for the duo, and she also is an active participant in all of their smash attacks and special moves).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: This is kind of inevitable when you have an entire franchise named after the titlur character, but some of Sonic's most-well known supporting characters suffer from this problem.
    • This is one of the biggest internal conflicts of Tails' character. Tails has always looked up to and admired Sonic as a mentor and parental figure, but this has resulted in the Hedgehog becoming his Living Emotional Crutch to an extent, and tends to struggle to act without Sonic's guidance. Despite being highly intelligent and skilled in his own right, Tails simply lacks the confidence and self-esteem to truly breakout on his own and is content just being the Kid Sidekick. This gets addressed with Sonic Frontiers where Tails expresses frustration with himself over this and sees himself as a burden to Sonic. Sonic reassures him that it's perfectly fine if he makes mistakes and doesn't see him as a burden at all and with his blessing, Tails resolves to become a hero in his own right and strike out on his own as a hero.
    • To a lesser extent, Knuckles too. While he doesn't have anywhere near as much of a hang up about it as Tails, a large source of Sonic and Knuckles' rivalry is built on the fact the latter is jealous of the former's lifestyle, being able to Walk the Earth and go where he pleases, whereas Knuckles is stuck guarding the Master Emerald on Angel Island all of the time. Also Knuckles is something of a Butt-Monkey at times whereas Sonic is Loved by All.
  • Being stuck in the shadow of his father Cao Cao has been Cao Pi's story path since his debut in Dynasty Warriors 5; he doesn't get a break even in the crossover game, as the warriors of Wei are still more loyal to Cao Cao (who is outright presumed dead until near the end of the plot) than to him in the first game, and he has to share an uneasy spotlight with his father in the sequel (though in the final battle Cao Cao does officially hand the baton over). By the fourth Orochi game he finally has a more prominent role than his father. Unfortunately it's as a lieutenant to a secondary villain.
  • Luigi has incorporated this into his character. Initially a Palette Swap of Mario, even after he underwent Divergent Character Evolution he failed to get a starring role in anything except the Luigi's Mansion series and the poorly received Mario Is Missing!. The canon now portrays him to be just competent as his brother (albeit significantly more cowardly), but perpetually ignored for his contributions.
  • Thanks to Dissidia Final Fantasy, Xande has become this in favor of Cloud of Darkness. This is despite Xande was the Big Bad for most of the game, while Cloud of Darkness was a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere that didn't appear to have much involvement until the very end.
  • Bandai Namco Entertainment has two important fighting game franchises: Tekken and Soulcalibur. However, despite having a large fanbase, the latter tends to get overshadowed by the former by Namco. Especially in later years, where Soulcalibur V was rushed out the door in less than a year with cut funding and staff, while Tekken was treated as a masterpiece that gets all the love and attention.
  • Similar to Bandai Namco, Arc System Works has two important fighting game franchises: Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. However, despite the latter having a large fanbase and being a mainstay for the company since the late 2000s due to licensing issues relating to the former, once Guilty Gear returned with Xrd, BlazBlue would soon be overshadowed by its reunited counterpart. Especially by the end of the 2010s, where Cross Tag Battle suffered a very controversial launch with its DLCs due to it being rushed out the door for Evo, and Alternative: Dark War suffered a Troubled Production and when it finally came out it underperformed and shut down barely a year after launch. Meanwhile Guilty Gear would go on to be heralded as the company's masterpiece that gets all the love and attention, with -STRIVE- going on to sell nearly a million copies almost a year after launch.
  • The Abandonware game Lion is objectively better than Wolf (DOS) in terms of gameplay, graphics, and overall implementation, with wolf's only advantages being a possibly more popular animal choice and coming out first, but Lion is strongly overshadowed by the latter on Abandonware websites (it's never even gotten a page on here!) Though, Overly Narrow Superlative is in effect here for Wolf (DOS), as both games are very, very old and very obscure outside of their tiny Abandonware niche.
  • Played for laughs and comically exaggerated by the Midnight Riders in Left 4 Dead 2. Riggs Donner, the bass player and keyboardist, was on the initial lineup of the group for a few years and one official album before getting run over by a truck (and was reportedly such a drunken mess that they had to get a roadie to play most of his parts). He was then replaced by "provisional temporary band member" Jake Thorne, who has remained with the group for twenty-four years, has writing credits on many of their songs, and wrote and performed their only number-one hit. And he still has to give half his paycheck with Riggs's widow, because he has some big shoes to fill.

    Web Original 
  • The FreddieW videos are made by both Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch, though Brandon's less heard of because Freddie's name is on the channel and stars in most of the videos.

    Western Animation 
  • The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Road Runner cartoons have an incredibly blatant example. It's all about Wile E. Coyote and his ridiculous plans for catching and eating the bird. He probably gets three times as much screen time as the Road Runner in every cartoon.
  • In-universe examples from Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Despite being the eldest child and heir to the throne, Zuko is constantly overlooked by his father in favor of his obscenely talented younger sister, Azula. This becomes one of the main driving forces of his personality within the show.
    • As the series enters Season 3, we discover through Character Development that Azula thinks she's stuck in Zuko's shadow when it comes to their mother's love. It's the driving force behind Azula's negative actions towards her brother and the reason why she has a mental breakdown in the end.
  • An in-universe example in Courage the Cowardly Dog: part of the reason Eustace is such a mean person is that he was always mocked and belittled by his parents and his brother Horst, the latter being his parents' favorite and who they were always derisively comparing him to. Even after Horst died at some point, his abusive mother never let up and her first appearance in the series is pretty much entirely her making fun of him while doting on Courage, to Eustace's chagrin. This isn't a single-episode thing, either: it's a major part of Eustace's characterization and his relationship with Horst comes up several times over the series, including a flashback which shows Horst was just as mean as their parents, calling Eustace "Useless" instead when all he wanted to do was spend time with his brother.

    Real Life 
  • Frank James, Jesse James's brother, has become relatively obscure in modern culture and exists largely in Jesse's shadow, even though the two were equally infamous in the old West and committed their criminal acts as a pair. It turns out an alliterative name counts for a lot.
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels penned The Communist Manifesto together, but Marx is the only one directly associated with it (with Marxism being another name for communism), while Engels is unknown to many who don't study Marxism.
    • Engels is somewhat better known in the UK for his seminal work On The Condition Of The Working Classes In England, which was the first serious academic survey of urban living conditions in the age of industrialization. It took forty years for anyone to get around to an English translation, but it was still relevant enough to influence a lot of British political and economic reformists well into the 1920s.
  • After one of the authors of Off-White became a real-life example of this trope, they tried to avert this by doing things like alternately posting pages on both their deviantart accounts.
  • Many kids with older siblings tend to feel this way, sometimes into adulthood.
  • Ever heard of Christian Friedrich Henrici (aka Picander, his pseudonym), the lyricist for Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas? Chances are even those who are into Bach's music haven't heard of him. Picander (as he is known on The Other Wiki) wrote the lyrics for many of Bach's religious and secular cantatas, yet he is obscure to all but the most learned Bach scholars. Part of the reason why he is so unknown is that it is general practice to attribute a classical work to the one who has composed the music; hence, Picander is unknown while Bach is always in the spotlight.
    • Bach also had composers create the melody line for each cantata movement; Bach would then create the actual music for the movement based on that melody. Such melody composers remain even more obscure than Picander.
  • Most fans of American Football agree that this happened with Peyton and Eli Manning, two brothers who played quarterback for different teams in the NFL. It's just a question of who was stuck in whose shadow that tends to start a few arguments. Peyton was clearly the better of the two players, having had to carry multiple teams by himself in a few big games, but he had a reputation as a choke artist in the playoffs, making it to the Super Bowl four times and only winning twice. On the other hand, Eli was far less accurate in throwing and had multiple losing seasons, yet showed flashes of real brilliance, winning the Super Bowl both times he appeared, including against the at-the-time undefeated New England Patriots. It comes down to a debate over whether "consistently good" or "subpar with occasional streaks of excellence" is better.
  • Everyone who is familiar with Dungeons & Dragons (and many who aren't) knows who Gary Gygax is. You'd have to look harder to find someone familiar with Dave Arneson, despite him being more influential in creating the tabletop RPG (he was the one who had the idea in the first place and wrote the original rules set; Gygaxnote  helped develop the rules, did most of the work necessary for publishing the game, and knew someone (Brian Blume) who could fund the venture). It seems to have gotten a bit better after Arneson's death, though and was never overly severe. Almost everyone who's actually knowledgeable about the game knows who he is even if he didn't have the same mainstream familiarity as Gygax, and he remains the second person credited in the Players Handbook.
  • Lauren Faust gets way more credit from fans of The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends than her husband Craig McCracken, and he made the shows; she just worked on them. This might have something to do with her being the mind behind My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
  • The 2012 United States Olympic Women's Gymnastics team. Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, and Kyla Ross did not gain nearly as much publicity as Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney (the former for her actual gymnastic accomplishments and the latter because of an internet meme.)
    • Same deal with the 2008 team. Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin pretty badly overshadowed the rest of the squad. Alicia Sacramone remains a gymternet favorite, but Chellsie Memmel, Samantha Peszek, and Bridget Sloan are almost entirely forgotten by all but the hardcore fans.
    • Find someone who isn't a lifelong gym fan and ask them to name all members of Atlanta's Magnificent Seven. Their response will probably be, "Dominique Moceanu, Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, that one girl who hurt her ankle (Kerri Strug), and.... uh...." Poor, poor Amanda Borden, Jaycie Phelps, and Amy Chow.
    • Mary Lou Retton. Does anyone really remember any of her teammates in the '84 Olympics? Maybe Julianne McNamara, but that's it.
    • In 2016, it's Douglas and Simone Biles taking all the media attention. Raisman got her fair share of further recognition for being "the other returnee".
      • The tables have turned slightly: two silver medals and a team gold later, Raisman got a lot more media attention (alongside Biles) than Douglas this time around. Douglas's only medal has been the team gold. Aside from being replaced by Biles, Douglas only got attention for not placing her hand on her heart during the medal ceremony.
    • For 2020, Biles was not only unquestionably the face of the U.S. Gymnastics team, but with Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt retired, arguably the face of the entire 2020 Olympics.
  • The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was won by Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, but, given the fame she already had, it was the former who got all the media attention as the latter was ignored.
  • Male American professional soccer players are hit by this hard. On the home front, they're almost completely overshadowed by the women, especially following their victory in the 2015 World Cup. When it's strictly men's soccer being discussed, the American players are barely a blip on the radar compared to some of the South American and European superstars like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi. In fact, while most people, American or not, who aren't die-hard soccer fans will be hard-pressed to name even one male soccer star from the States, there are inversely little-to-no well known U.S.-known international soccer stars on the female side.note  This lack of American male success is probably why soccer is generally considered to be "hated" in America.
  • After Ronda Rousey took UFC by storm in 2015, she has all but overshadowed the entire industry of mixed martial arts in the eyes of non-fans. Very few people outside the UFC fan base (or at least target demographic) will likely be able to name any other MMA fighter — with the only one coming close being Holly Holm, for being the one to end her streak. With Rousey's MMA career over, Irish phenomenon Conor McGregor has replaced her as the face of the sport.
  • Jack Butler, the original writer, editor, and promulgator of the Evil Overlord List is said to have been damned surprised to find that his list had been copied, copyrighted, and "made famous" by Peter Anspach. Butler has — by way of a successful lawsuit — regained control over his creation, but the damage is pretty much done. If people attach a creator credit to the Evil Overlord List, they invariably think of the man who copyrighted it, not the man who actually created the thing.
  • In The '60s three men created titles that were the foundation for Marvel Universe and Marvel Comics as we know and love - Stan Lee with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. However, while Lee had a much lesser role than many believe, often providing just general plot outline or the idea and writing dialogue on the already finished pages, he also had a much greater media presence and popularity among the fans, overshadowing the latter two even in the mainstream eyes. This, combined with their increasing mistreatment ended with both of them leaving the company, a move that for many was the beginning of The Bronze Age of Comic Books.
  • In general, if a Senator of Representative is more outspoken on a national level, chances are that they'll command more name recognition:
    • Ed Markey is the junior Senator from Massachusetts. Good luck finding anyone outside of Massachusetts who could tell you that, though, because the senior Senator from Massachusetts happens to be a populist firebrand named Elizabeth Warren, who eats national attention for breakfast.
    • John Cornyn of Texas is nominally the second most powerful Republican senator in the U.S. (until 2019), but he's barely a blip on the national radar compared to his home state's other senator: Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz.
    • There are 27 congressmen in New Yorknote . Can you name any of them besides Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Maybe Elise Stefanik due to her prominent role in the Trump impeachment hearings.
    • Roy Blunt of Missouri is well known for being one of few Republicans to hold leadership roles in both the House and Senate chambers. Despite that, he is far less known nationally that his state's highly controversial junior senator, Josh Hawley.
    • Ever since Daniel Inouye died in 2012, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy became the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate. He'd be a sure-fire standout for the second-smallest state in the country — except for the fact that he's virtually unheard of compared to Vermont's other, nationally-recognized senator: Bernie Sanders.
    • Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, despite his long career, was largely unknown even in his home state, gaining virtually no national attention compared to his state’s other senator, the nationally-recognized Marco Rubio. This has been averted once he was ousted from the Senate by Rick Scott, as he was the state’s popular incumbent governor. A sitting senator losing re-election in a swing state during an election cycle favoring his party is an insurmountable task, but Nelson’s anonymity compared to Scott allowed the latter to pull off the upset. Scott is still not nearly as well-known nationally as Rubio is, but he’s definitely more famous than Nelson was.
  • An interesting case in 2011, when two giants of the computing industry died within a week of each other. First was Steve Jobs, who was instrumental in bringing personal computers and various other devices to the masses. The other was Dennis Ritchie, creator of the C programming language (from which nearly all modern languages are descended) and thus indirectly responsible for every bit of software running on those devices. Ritchie's death was barely a footnote in all the media hype surrounding Jobs.


Video Example(s):


My Band

Slim Shady explains his resentment for his "bandmates" for trying to steal the limelight from him, while actually hogging the attention himself.

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Example of:

Main / StuckInTheirShadow

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