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The Permanent Record

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Alice and Bob are misbehaving at school. A faculty member tells them that because of their misbehavior, it will go on their permanent record. This is a horrible thing to have to happen — since after all, that's permanent and it will follow you through life. This is a real set of Paranoia Fuel after all — your actions as a child will have long-lasting effects.

Sometimes, there may be an Imagine Spot in which our characters are adults and are denied opportunities or a job due to something on their permanent record. This is quite common in children's media due to a mixture of children's tendency to not fully know how the world works, as well as a lot of shows targeted at the demographic are set in some form of school.

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The idea of a permanent record may act as a plot device in which the characters change their behavior in order to risk receiving a mark on their permanent record. Or it may be a physical object in the work's world, where the faculty either access a student's record or where the student attempts to obtain the records themselves for whatever reason.

Or it may simply be Played for Laughs — such as a character who has a massive file filled with records of their various misdeeds in school. Or where an actual adult somehow has something discovered on their permanent record count against them.

Another way this trope manifests (especially in works created and set after the Turn of the Millennium) is when the threat is brought up but the troublemaker is undeterred. The troublemaker then dismisses it as either not being a real thing, and/or asks if anyone still takes this concept seriously anymore.

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On occasion, the concept of a "Permanent Record" may be referenced outside the context of a school such as by adults.

In real life, the closest there is to a "Permanent Record" on you in schools is a transcript which only includes your academic records. Because of this, a "Permanent Record" is somewhat of a Discredited Trope since very few people actually take this threat seriously, and the threat is almost never used in Real Life.


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Examples:

Anime And Manga

Comic Strips

  • While not outright named, the idea of a "Thick permanent record" is used as a punchline in a strip of Calvin and Hobbes. The Principal shows Susie a massive file filled with papers and says that they have quite a file on Calvin.

Literature

  • When the Inquisitorial Brigade in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix hold down the main characters and Neville, Snape mentions to Crabbe that he should stop choking Neville because if he (Neville) died, he would have to put it on Crabbe's permanent record for future employers.
  • In The Last Catholic In America all the children attending a parochial school are repeatedly told throughout their time there that every action they take is put into their permanent record. On the last day of school, they're reminded again that everything they have done is in their permanent record. The next day, after all the students have left, the records for the eighth-grade students (who are moving on to high school and won't be returning) are taken by the nuns and lay teachers to the basement furnace, into which they are unceremoniously tossed.
  • In the Soviet novel The Republic of ShKID, the headmaster of the titular school presents the book in which he will record their misdeeds. According to him, the notes will remain there forever, so, for example, a certain student will one day become a famous writer sitting among his fans, and then this book will appear and everyone will be able to see he tried to steal school property.

Film — Live-Action

  • In Welcome to the Dollhouse, Dawn is told during a hearing with the principal that behavior incidents like her shooting a spitball at a teacher (she had been aiming at classmates who were throwing objects at her, but missed) would go into her permanent record; this is Played for Laughs, and shows the principal as out of touch and clueless (for example, he's completely oblivious to the students who have been bullying Dawn standing outside the office window, taunting Dawn).

Live-Action TV

  • Discussed in the first book of The Cornersville Trace Mythos. After Leon gets in trouble at school, one of his teachers brings up the permanent record as a means to scare him into behaving, but he's undeterred, as he's convinced permanent records don't actually exist.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Principal Wood tells two students who tagged a wall that they either repaint it, or he suspends them and marks it on their permanent record. They don't particularly care, and he admits he was bluffing and that "the permanent record thing is such a myth." He also says rather than deal with phone calls and paperwork to suspend them, it would be MUCH easier to just call the police. The taggers quickly volunteer to repaint the wall.
  • An example of a "Bulky physical permanent record" appears in an episode Malcolm in the Middle. Wherein Commandant Spangler calls Francis into his office to yell at, and punish, him for something he did, Francis responds that whatever happened, he didn't mean to do it. So, as a response, Spangler holds up a file as thick as a textbook and refers to it as "Francis' 'I didn't mean it file'."
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Guide to: Records", Ned learns that his record of being a big troublemaker will follow him into High School, and he spends the episodes doing good deeds to try and erase the record. In the end, Crubbs explains to him that he can't erase what's on the record, but that his good deeds do get to go on there as well... moments before the record accidentally falls into the paper shredder.
  • In the That '70s Show episode "Halloween," the gang sneak into their old elementary school, which burned down years before, for some Halloween hi-jinks, but decide to leave when they don't have any fun. Just as they're about to go, Jackie and Donna come into the burned out classroom where the others are, and show off some file folders from the principal's office containing their permanent records. When they read a note from Hyde's second grade teacher that he's a born trouble maker after he smashed another student's project, Hyde says he didn't do it, and when Eric admits to smashing the project, Hyde then gets angry at Eric and blames him for getting yelled at in front of the class, and Eric's the reason he's been treated like a criminal ever since. They also learn from Jackie's file that her middle name is Beulah, and finally they turn on Kelso for lying about his age, he got held back, and was now 18, and could have legally bought them beer, but didn't bring it up at all (the rest of the gang are 17, and the legal drinking age in Wisconsin at the time was 18). They then decide to forget the night's events and bury the records since they figured they couldn't be burned.
  • The Wonder Years: In "The Walkout", the students plan to do a walkout for a peaceful protest of the Vietnam War. The Vice-Principal finds out about it and threatens to put this on their permanent records if they attempt it. After some debating, Kevin almost doesn't go through with it but inadvertently kick-started it anyway when he left to go to the restroom without notifying the teacher, the rest of the school follows and sing "Give Peace A Chance" on the football field. His adult self reveals the vice-principal followed through on the threat but it didn't have as much of a negative impact into his future prospects as he thought it would and felt good standing up for what he believed in.

Web Animation

  • Red vs. Blue: In Season 5, one of the life pointers Tucker tells Junior is that there's no such thing as a permanent record.

Western Animation

  • Taken to absurdly extreme levels in the American Dad! episode "Permanent Record Wrecker." Permanent Records aren't just for school age children. Everyone gets one and everything is on it, from being fired to not picking up dog poop. When Stan is fired from the CIA for a cheaper "simpleton" employee, he discovers his work at the CIA is omitted as Top Secret, making him officially jobless for twenty years. Forced to work as Steve's subordinate at Red State Grocery, Stan feigns incompetence to get his own child fired. Then he discovers the termination will be on his son's Permanent Record. Stan and Steve are forced to break into CIA headquarters to rectify the black mark.
  • Mr. Bone in Doug routinely threatens misbehaving students with how their actions will go on their permanent record, to the point in which this is considered a Catchphrase for him.
  • In the The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius episode, "Beach Party Mummy", Miss Fowl has her students watch an extremely boring film about Egypt that ends up making most of her students fall asleep. Jimmy uses this opportunity to sneak out of school and discover a real ancient Egyptian pyramid, but Carl objects and tells Jimmy that he's worried this will go on their permanent records. Sheen tells Carl that permanent records are just a myth, like the Loch Ness Monster and North Dakota.
  • In The Fairly OddParents episode, "The Big Scoop!", a P.O.V. Sequel to "A Wish Too Far" that focuses on Chester and A.J., Chester and A.J. decide to do a story on why Timmy suddenly became popular for their school newspaper, so they demand to see Timmy's permanent record. When Principal Waxelplax denies them access to the file cabinet, they hire Elmer to distract her with a tuna fish sandwich while they break-in. When they look over Timmy's permanent record, they see Cosmo and Wanda disguised as Timmy's real parents and believe that Timmy killed off his real parents and used the life insurance money to buy replacement parents and the new stuff that made him popular. At the end of the episode, Principal Waxelplax puts Chester and A.J. in detention for breaking into the file cabinet, having found out due to the newspaper article they wrote about it.
  • The threat of having something added to a permanent record was the source of conflict in an episode of Hey Arnold!. Arnold witnesses Harold, Stinky, and Sid moon Mr. Wartz, who sees Arnold as the three make their escape. When Arnold refuses to tell because "he is not a rat", Wartz is about to add "Failure to cooperate" to Arnold's permanent record before the guilt causes the three culprits to confess. The dialogue between them at the end of the episode implies that their prank was then added to their permanent records.
  • Implied in an episode of Rugrats in which Charlotte mentions Angelica not sharing in preschool won't look good on the application to Harvard, implying that the notes being sent from her teacher of "Failure to share" will be somehow mentioned when applying for Harvard.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: On "Sandy's Rocket", Spongebob and Patrick go around capturing their friends thinking they're aliens on the moon. When they capture Mrs. Puff, Spongebob's boating school teacher, she warns that whatever he's doing "It's going on your permanent record!" in a deep threatening voice.
  • Appears several times in The Simpsons:
    • When Bart discovers Skinner and Krabapple's secret love, they agree to bribe him into silence by swapping Milhouse's name onto his permanent record.
    • In another episode, "Homer vs. Patty and Selma," his permanent record is brought up when he requests an extension. The Bank teller informs him not only was Homer denied for every credit card, but that he also picked up a dog and pushed it around like a vacuum cleaner. When Homer points out this happened in third grade, the teller just informs him that it all goes on his permanent record.
    • Lisa Simpson has an Imagine Spot in which her permanent record is presumably seen when she failed gym class in third grade, causing her to be deemed not worthy of being president.
    • In Skinner's Sense of Snow, the students are snowed in the school and run rampant, eventually breaking into a locked room and discovering their permanent records. Bart is disappointed that he does not reflect just how bad his behavior is, while Lisa is shocked to discover she is described as leaning towards 'know-it-all-ism'. Milhouse then suggests they just destroy their records, tearing a page out of Lisa's.
    • Judge Constance Harm once mentioned that Bart doesn't have a permanent record— he has an entire wing in juvie hall filled with filing cabinets kept under lock and key by a traumatized guard who took a peek at what Bart's done.
  • An episode of King of the Hill has Peggy and a coworker moving old school documents, and out of curiosity, they decide to take a peek into Hank's permanent record. They discover that his absence from school (Which he claimed was a back injury) was actually due to Mono, setting off the conflict of the episode when Peggy is angry that he lied to her all those years ago.

Real Life

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