Cheerleader: No, I'm more a cheerleader in the way I dress, and in the way I treat other girls.
They don't pillage. They don't plunder. They don't invade Port Towns, kidnap beautiful maidens, battle the Royal Navy on the high seas, broadcast without a license, or swap files on the intertubes... and they've never been to Boston in the fall. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, in fact, seem to mostly just drift aimlessly on the high seas, drinking rum and possibly singing sea shanties. If you ask them, they'll say that they like the way it looks on their resume. Or maybe they'll just tell you, "We don't do anything."
In general, members of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything are any characters who, despite having a certain canonical (and not necessarily disreputable at all) job, are rarely, if ever, seen engaging in that job. They might indeed be pirates who rarely go out and steal treasure and raid ships — but they might just as easily be mobsters who don't steal or smuggle, students who don't go to class, office workers who never seem to do more than hang out in bars, or ninjas who just didn't get the memo about that whole "stealthy assassin" thing.
This may be because writers and fans are in love with the romanticism implied in a life of adventure and crime, but don't want to actually show the characters doing any of the myriad things that make thieves, assassins, mercenaries, bounty hunters, and other unsavory types pariahs in Real Life. Perhaps the work is aimed at children... or just people who don't understand the difference between pirates and sailors. This can result in a strange dissonance where the friendly, messianic nature of the characters is at odds with the openly predatory nature of the professions they claim to engage in. May bring A Million Is a Statistic into play. Tropes Are Tools first and foremost however and there are better reasons for this to apply. They may, for one, use a different, looser definition of the word pirate than the typical one, one that allows for as much cordiality as the characters feel like.
It could also be a bit of an attempt to dodge the tedium of portraying someone working a day-to-day job if there isn't there anything significant to the story, especially if the writer doesn't know how that job really works. This wouldn't really pass in a Slice of Life type work, however (unless, of course, the character is chronically unemployed, is retired, or is suffering from a long-term illness and can't go to work).
The Cowboy and Tuxedo and Martini spy are almost subtropes in their own right, given that the former is almost never shown actually herding cattle and the later is almost never shown actually spying on anyone.
A subtrope of Informed Attribute. See also One-Hour Work Week and Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation. Contrast Royals Who Actually Do Something, The Main Characters Do Everything (where characters actually go implausibly far beyond what is required or indeed allowed by their job description) and Ruthless Modern Pirates (actual pirates who actually do things). A Transplanted Character Fic usually turns the cast into these.
Friendly Pirate is related but distinct; those pirates do some piratical activities but avoid the disreputable parts of the job.
Compare and contrast Villainy-Free Villain, who similarly doesn't commit the villainous crimes you'd expect, but still manages to be unlikable by virtue of being a Jerkass. Not to be confused with Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything.
The trope name comes from one of the "Silly Songs with Larry" from VeggieTales (later covered by Relient K) which is about — well, pirates who don't do anything. It later provided the title and theme music for The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie.
- This was the focus of the long-running series of ads featuring the Maytag Repairman, who has to find all sorts of ways to keep busy because Maytag appliances never need his services.
- The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: After becoming one of Rentarou's soulmates, Hahari buys his school and makes herself chairwoman in order to have an excuse to stay by his side. Despite this, we never actually see her engaged in any chairwoman activity.
- Bleach: The manga only shows us a few examples of Shinigami hunting Hollows or cleansing souls because that work mostly occurs in the human world and tends to be done by low ranking Shinigami. The story focuses on the highest seated Shinigami who don't do that sort of work.
- Among the seated officers, Yachiru is a lieutenant who doesn't even do lieutenant duties (fighting/administration) most of the time. She usually prefers to play, eat sweets and watch Kenpachi fight to the exclusion of all else. Her division has two proxy lieutenants in the form of the third and fifth seats.
- Possibly intentional, as one of them major conflicts involves the Shinigami going up against an entire army whose soldiers are amalgamations of hundreds if not thousands of Hollows.
- Space Pirate Captain Harlock. He once robbed a ship and threw the valuables into space. He has claimed that pirates who steal are dishonoring the name of pirates. Lampshaded in Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey, when Tadashi Daiba lambasts the good Captain for his reluctance to give orders and keep discipline onboard the Arcadia. Cosmo Warrior Zero, however, does portray him as a legitimate and somewhat bloodthirsty villain — who is still opposing a Vichy Earth. This is the only show that portrays him as such, though: most of the other shows, especially My Youth in Arcadia imply that Powers That Be labeled him a pirate, because they were afraid that he would inspire them to rise up against the Vichy Earth.
- City Hunter's hero Ryo Saeba is supposed to be a hitman, and a good enough one to terrorize most criminals he is involved with. However, although he is certainly badass enough to be feared, he rarely actually takes assassination jobs. Justified by the definition of "sweeper" being "private detective/bodyguard who is illegal due using a gun in the most gun-phobic country of the world, with assassinations on the side" and only accepting to assassinate someone if the aspiring employer's reasons to have him murder someone touch his heart (Ryo himself states this in an early story arc. Near the end of the manga we also see him refusing one such job because the aspiring employer was a Corrupt Corporate Executive that wanted him to kill a nosy journalist).
- Umibozu too. He's initially introduced as a hitman, but the first time he tries he lets himself get bribed into failing the job (an actress had hired him to kill herself, but he happened to be a fan of hers and Ryo, who had been hired by the producer to protect her, knew it and got his help into giving her back her will to live), and when we see him in action he's usually helping Ryo for some reason or the other. In fact, the only time he's seriously trying to assassinate someone is an anime-only two parter, where a politician hires him to retrieve his disappeared daughter and kill the guy who had either kidnapped her or was her lover, and even then he ultimately ditched the assassination part of the job due the circumstances (the guy he was supposed to kill appeared to be Ryo, who was trying to find out why the girl was treating him as his lover for no apparent reason. Once it turned out she was on the run from terrorists and was using Ryo to defend her, the need for assassination disappeared).
- The titular Cromartie High School is populated almost entirely by rough and tough delinquents who spend a lot of time talking about how tough they are and how many people they've beaten up, but rarely actually get into any fights and instead just hang out and have Seinfeldian Conversations. Cromartie is also allegedly a high school but there's not a single teacher or faculty member to be seen anywhere.
- One of the viewpoint characters of Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School: Despair is a spy whose day job is teaching. Naturally, we never see her actually doing much teaching, especially since her class already got plenty of screentime in the previous installment.
- In Dragon Ball, we have the hierarchy of the Gods, who oversee the various worlds and galaxies. With a few exceptionsnote , absolutely none of them have ever been shown doing anything important, from the God of Earth all the way up to the Kaiōshin, who oversees the entire universe. It becomes something of a running joke that all they do is sit around observing the worlds below them and either making casual comments or fretting about how bad things are going, with any intervention on their part deemed "disrupting the order of things" and leaving it up to the mortals to sort it out. Which raises the question why they are even there in the first place...
- ...Something Zamasu also wondered, and ultimately became his reason for killing all the other Kaiōshins. Well, that and to prevent them from interfering with the Zero Mortals Plan.
- It doesn't help that Dragon Ball's Sorting Algorithm of Evil meaning that newer threats must necessarily be stronger than old ones, and the need to keep only Son Goku and his close allies strong enough to be relevant to the plot, means that benevolent deities are only ever introduced in order to be shown to have been too weak to deal with whichever monster is introduced in the same arc. In other words, higher levels of gods are only ever introduced when they're already too weak to be plot-relevant, leading to them appearing very ineffectual as guardians. The Kaiōshin suffers from this the most. He is introduced as a mysterious being who freaks out most of the heroes merely by his presence, yet within a couple of episodes he is reduced to standing in stunned awe as the three main characters prove to be far, far stronger than himself.
- Dragon Ball Super demonstrates a number of other universes, each with its own Kaiōshin and a God of Destruction. Those universes whose deities take their responsibilities seriously and actually do interfere for the greater good have far more orderly and safe universes than the one we're used to; on the contrary, a few universes are so abysmally managed that they're borderline hellscapes.
- Super also establishes that part of the Kaiōshins' duties is creating planets. Which we still don't see them doing much of, but it does explain their ability to create other things (like clothes).
- A common occupation for one-off movie villains is "Space Pirate" (Turles, Lord Slug, and Bojack are all labeled as such in some source). Despite this, we basically never see them doing much space piracy (that is to say, raiding spaceships and taking their stuff), and they seem to be typical Galactic Conqueror types.
- The "Space Pirate" theme is roughly deconstructed in Eureka Seven. Renton, a teenager with longing for adventure and to get out of his boring town, is accepted to the famous battleship that fights against the government and has its own media franchise telling the world how cool they are and "exposing the truth". He expects all kind of cool things there, but discovered most of the crew is lazy and have no qualms in taunting and using a teenager to do all their work without thanking him, the ship is almost naked on the inside and they have little money and have to do odd jobs (usually amoral at best) to keep things going. To top it off, the captain is an Abusive Parent figure who turned slacker and scaredy-cat (to feelings at least) himself.
- The thieves of Mount Reikaku in Fushigi Yuugi make a few nominal stabs at banditry when they first appear, but mostly seem to hang out, drink and squabble. Tasuki himself, despite having been appointed their leader, is almost never seen actually stealing things or even expressing a particular desire to do so. In fact, he's one of the more gullible characters in the series.
- Great Teacher Onizuka spends very little time doing any proper teaching, though he does go out of his way to teach his students many important life lessons not found in a typical school curriculum. The manga shows a few of his classes and even a couple of his lesson plans, and all of them serve to demonstrate that he has absolutely no idea what he's doing. One class involves his dressing up as Devilman to teach a lesson about sociology, only to give up halfway through and show the kids how to shoot bottle rockets out of their homeroom window instead.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: Though it happens occasionally, it's pretty rare to see the SOS Brigade actually hunt down any supernatural entities. Justified in that it's the leader of the SOS Brigade that is keeping them away from real entities. Her common sense gets in the way most of the time. At least according to either Itsuki or Yuki, the point of nearly every member of the SOS Brigade is to either keep her away from these entities, or to just observe her.
- Nozomu from I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying is said to be a boxer on top of his job at a convenience store. The only time this comes up is in an Eye Catch that referenced Hajime no Ippo.
- We're told that the major camps in Ikki Tousen are all schools, and indeed the characters are all of the age where they certainly ought to be in school. However, all any of them do all day is fight, indulge their perversities and generally engage in mobster-like behaviour. The whole 'school' thing may as well just be a decorative theme; not once is a teacher so much as seen at all, never mind seen teaching.
- The Akina Speed Stars of Initial D. Partly because they know that Takumi is the only person there who has any real driving skill and really didn't want to lose him, since if he leaves they can't defend their home turf from any decent racers. This was a big part of the first season, when Takumi didn't want to drive but his friends in the Akina Speed Stars convinced him. Koichiro is the only actual member who had any kind of race whatsoever. The first nearly wrecked his car, and he was completely left in the dust in the second.
- Conversed in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. Chapter 75 has Iino getting the group to do some actual onscreen work after noticing the trend of them not performing their duties while in the council room. They actually do work, but Shirogane points out that she's never around when they work.
- Kochikame revolves around police officers who are rarely seen doing any police work.
- The Cultural Research Club in Kokoro Connect doesn't do much. Their advisor notices this and makes them do a project for a School Festival, but the rest of the time they just hang out in the clubroom.
- In K-On!, despite all of the main characters being part of the light music club, they don't really play much and spend most of their time hanging out in the clubroom and eating cake. When Azusa joins the band, she's put off by how laid-back the band's members are due to taking musicianship more seriously. As far as the show is concerned, the lack of concerts and practicing is a Running Gag; it's more of an Iyashikei than a full-fledged music anime.
- In Love Hina, Kitsune claims to be a freelance writer; there's exactly zero evidence to support this. Though it's more socially acceptable to list "writer" instead of "Con Artist" as your occupation.
- Akira Kogami from Lucky Star is supposedly an Idol Singer and talks quite a bit about her career, but she's never actually seen doing any idol work. She doesn't even get to actually perform onscreen aside from singing karaoke in episode 16, which was all the staff of Lucky Channel could afford. In the last episode she finally gets a chance to perform in the main show, only for Shiraishi to cut her off since it was just a "mic check".
- Apart from the pilots, Yurika (captain), and Ruri (chief science officer) the rest of the crew of the Nadesico in Martian Successor Nadesico seem to spend very little time running a spaceship. Specific examples are Jun Aoi (vice captain), Minato Haruka (helmswoman), Goat Hoary, and Munetake (admiral) who never seem to do anything related to their profession.
- Misaki from Misaki Number One also is never seen teaching anything else but life lessons to her students.
- The Crossbone Vanguard in Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam are typically called space pirates despite being a guerilla warfare group trying to take down the Jupiter Empire. That said, they do play up the image of being pirates, since it makes a nice cover for their real activities. They do engage in raiding Imperial supply ships, but that's about the only "piratey" thing they do: they release any prisoners they capture unharmed, they don't attack civilians, and they spend their time sabotaging the Jupiter Empire's military rather than looting and plundering.
- My Bride is a Mermaid: The Seto Group is a yakuza family, but the most illicit thing we see them do is heckle Nagasumi under their boss's orders (and possibly the mermaid equivalent of human trafficking with the yakuza-run goldfish game.)
- Naruto: Ninjas were covert agents and mercenaries, who engaged in such things as espionage and assassination and so on and so forth (or at least, that's what pop culture agrees they were, but the difference is semantic). While early arcs did make some attempt to play up these things, at no point did any of the good guys actually do any of it, despite being trained for it. Later in the series this is outright abandoned as the cast begins pursuing personal vendettas and fighting the bad guys using lasers and giant animals. It's less ninja vs. ninja and more super martial artists vs. super warlords.
- Kakashi (before the series) and other former ANBU Black Ops ninja do this, and Jiraiya (despite being a Highly Visible Ninja) went on intelligence-gathering missions frequently (though some of those times were also an excuse to conduct "research" for his next book). The reason we don't see it much is probably because most episodes are told through Naruto's POV, and he would never be able to be stealthy and patient enough for that.note
- Another thing to remember is that the ninja in Naruto are different than real world ninja; they are the military force of their respective nations, who are sometimes hired by nations without ninja villages or by individuals, so their duties would be different.
- In Noragami, an interesting version of this occurs. Most Gods in this story can be seen engaging in the activity which they are the God of, or at the very least engaged in the trappings of such. Tenjin, the God of Academics, looks and acts like a scholar. Bishamonten, the God of war, runs around in a stripperiffic officer's uniform atop a lion. Even Yato, a former God of war, is acknowledged to be handy with a blade, and not a stranger to killing. Kofuku however, is portrayed as a sweet, kind girl who never bothers anyone, and is friendly to all who meet her. She could almost be the sweetheart in a harem anime, if it weren't for her true title: the God of poverty. We never see her intentionally or malevolently make anyone poor onscreen. The incident where she does make someone poor seems to be an accident, and something she didn't really intend. The only real hint we get of how dangerous Kofuku is, and why she is a Pirate who doesn't do anything, is one scene where she threatens Bishamonten, who is herself a badass. Bishamonten is visibly frightened by her threat, which doesn't make much sense, until you do some checking and see who has the bigger body count. note
- One Piece has become more and more of this as time has gone on. There do exist pirates who do things like kill, pillage, steal, and plunder (mostly the more villainous pirate groups, from Buggy right at the beginning), but most of the main pirates have very little interest in treasure (with some notable exceptions like Nami). Pirates often tend to be more about absolute freedom than anything else, or achieving a particular life dream. Even Luffy's goal, to find the 'ultimate treasure' One Piece, is only because the title of Pirate King means that he has more freedom than anyone on the seas.
- Occasionally subverted; as noted, plenty of the main characters are fundamentally kindhearted, to the point that it's easy to forget that they are pirates at all. When any pirate who is not explicitly an antagonist does anything vaguely villainous, they will occasionally say 'well, we are pirates, after all'.
- Outside of one flashback in an anime filler episode, "Pirate Hunter Zoro" has never been seen actually performing any bounty hunting, since the first time he's seen he's been captured, and he joins Luffy soon after. Even years after he's given up the bounty hunting business and gained more notoriety as Luffy's right-hand man than he ever did as a Bounty Hunter, his moniker is still the same.
- Not terribly surprising, as the Straw Hat Pirates do seem to take down a whole lot of other Pirates. If they hadn't explicitly identified themselves as pirates they would probably be some of the most respected bounty hunters on the seas, well except for the fights with Marines. Most of which early on could have been avoided if they hadn't called themselves pirates.
- The only time the Straw Hats did something that could be called piracy was when they "stole" some gold from Sky Island. However, the inhabitants would have given them even more gold if they had asked, as said inhabitants were very happy that Luffy took down "God" Eneru (the local ruler and arc villain) and had no desire or use for the gold. In fact, they were more interested in and excited about Usopp's rubber bands (which they don't have on Sky Island) than the gold.
- After the Time Skip, generally all of the "good" crews are this, while "bad" crews like the Donquixote Family, Kid Pirates, and Big Mom Pirates are shown to do more typical pirate things. And even then, some of their criminal activities tend to differ a little from what an actual pirate would do; the Donquixote family is more preoccupied with ruling an island and trafficking artificial Devil Fruits, and the Four Emperors are less pirates, and more really successful warlords at best, what with having actual empires they rule and even tax in some cases. It does appear in many cases that "pirate" ends up being either an Artifact Title, or just an indication that whatever the person is doing is extremely illegal and sort of on the sea.
- Lampshaded when a third party intervenes during a one-on-one fight, and Luffy's opponent (the beneficiary) apologizes for it not being fair and tries to compensate. Luffy points out that being fair isn't really a pirate thing to begin with and had no qualms with the disadvantage.
- It certainly helps that One Piece takes place in a world that is almost entirely covered in ocean, and it's ruled by an extremely strict world government that is quick to judge anything they deem a threat. In other words, a "pirate" in the world of One Piece is essentially anyone who has earned the ire of said government.
- This is further justified by the fact that some real-life sailors who are remembered as "pirates" didn't rob or pillage either, but were labeled as pirates because they'd upset some powerful government, and accusing them of piracy was an easy way to justify hunting them down. Given that One Piece's author is known for doing lots of research on real-life piracy, he's likely aware of this.
- Earlier drafts acknowledged this by having two specifically named types of Pirates. The more traditional rape, pillage, and plunder type "Morganeer" pirates; and the pirates described by this trope dubbed "Peace Main" who mainly pirated other pirates. This distinction has so far been left out of the main series.
- Pokémon has some in-universe examples:
- Misty's stated quest is to become a Water-type master, largely in spite of her sisters who are implied to have been driven aground into this Trope themselves, note but aside from some water-themed captures early on, she doesn't advance in this goal, save for half of the Whirl-Islands filler arc, where she (and Ash) participate in a water-themed tournament, exchanging such progress for being Togepi's nanny.
- In addition to being a Gym Leader himself, though he's on official leave from that, Brock was introduced as wanting to be a Pokemon Breeder. Yet, like Misty, that plot point was essentially dropped early on (in this case, in favor of hitting on the ladies ad nauseum). When he finally gets written out of the show, he's actually switched goals to wanting to be a Pokémon doctor.
- Ash Ketchum himself is another example. Early on in his quest, he boasts that he will catch tons of Pokémon. He has yet to back up this goal — he has not caught that many species of Pokémon.
- Prétear: In the manga storyline, Natsue is the CEO of a cosmetics company but this fact is rarely stated and the only time she's ever seen doing something related to that is during a flashback from when she asked her butler to test one product. One of the other few times her job is mentioned has Himeno comment that "at least she's supposed to be".
- Despite being sent to school in the second episode, as well as numerous arcs that center around school characters or are set in the school, the students of Ranma ½ don't seem to be doing that much... schoolwork. Sure they are shown sitting down in class and standing outside in the hallway, but it seems they spend way more time with extracurricular activities (like sports) and martial arts than they actually do learning which is common of most stories involving schools.
- Speaking of school, how about that Tendo "dojo"? 36 volumes, 0 students.
- The Vongola family from Reborn! (2004) have yet to do anything terribly illegal despite being The Mafia. Even Reborn, the teeny-tiny assassin, never manages to kill anyone with his array of magic bullets. This is mainly due to Tsuna being a pacifist, who doesn't want anyone to die. In the past the Vongola were known to be fiercer and much more violent.
- Later in the series, by the end the Future Arc, it's revealed that this trope is the real reason why Tsuna is chosen as the 10th boss. Why? Because that's how the Vongola Family was supposed to be since the very first incarnation, which is to say, more of a vigilante group of friends than the full-fledged criminal ring that it became.
- Rebuild World: Discussed. Colbert gets mocked by his former Private Military Contractor squad mates for being a hunter in name only thanks to his reliance upon underworld schemes like policing a Boxed Crook or being the Cleanup Crew. This is because Colbert is a Shell-Shocked Veteran after having had his arms devoured by a monster gave him a Trauma Button. Eventually he ends up Facing Your Fears and returning to normal hunting.
- The student council in Revolutionary Girl Utena spends all their time in scheming on behalf of The End Of The World, dueling, or doing things for their school clubs. Juri is the only member shown spending time doing normal student council activities like helping to organize school events, and even that is only in one scene across a thirty-nine episode anime.
- The Sands of Destruction anime turns the World Destruction Committee into one lonely teenage girl who talks about ending the world, but never actually seems to get around to making any progress on that front (her body count is a flat zero by the end of the series, and even her number of attempts can be counted on one's hand). Perhaps justified, since it's actually just a name the Ferals made up to make her sound more imposing (after all, admitting that your biggest problem is a teenager with a bad case of PMS doesn't exactly make you look like the most competent superior species). The Sands of Destruction manga, on the other hand, actually does make her a dangerous threat, and she's shown bombing a town into oblivion in the prologue, then complaining that it's not entirely annihilated because the outlines of foundations are still visible in the rubble. She does it again several chapters in, which prompts Kyrie to leave her. The World Destruction Committee is also back to being a team of people as it was in the game, though as in the game, you won't see any members besides Morte and the leader.
- The only thing Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei's Nozomu Itoshiki ever actually taught his class was that potato starch turns purple if you add iodine. No, rants on society don't count...
- In Sherlock Hound, Professor Moriarty spends a lot of time doing things related to his self-assigned title as a criminal mastermind, but does absolutely nothing to justify him calling himself a professor, as the only time he's seen anywhere near a school in the entire series is if he's trying to rob it. Of course if his backstory is the same as in the original stories, he's a disgraced former professor only keeps the title as a courtesy.
- For most of Tail of the Moon, Usagi falls squarely into the aforementioned category of "ninja in name only", though after the destruction of Iga and Hanzo's disappearance, she gets better.
- The four protagonists of Teekyuu are the four members of their school's tennis club...except they very rarely actually play tennis; when approached for an interview they'll instead break out a Famicom and play Pong, or re-enact it.
- Kuryugumi's Sandaime in Tokyo Crazy Paradise forbids the Yakuza to take part in drug trafficking, human trafficking or underground fights. What they do take part in is never made clear.
- Kyouko in Wagnaria!! never really does her job as restaurant manager other than eating, and other characters notice this.
- We never see the yakuza in The Way of the Househusband do any illegal activity, even the ones who aren't retired like Tatsu is. One mob boss is more obsessed with his cute little dog's birthday than anything else, while a queenpin mostly appears at the local cat cafe.
- Reina and her flunkies in Yandere Kanojo consider themselves to be delinquents, but, outside of liking fighting and being somewhat foul-mouthed, they don't really do much to would support this claim; they attend class, they don't smoke, drink or do drugs, and, though Reina and the school's principal don't really get along, she never skips out on any punishments he hands out.
- YuYu Hakusho: For someone who was appointed Spirit Detective, Yusuke does next to nothing that has anything to do with finding clues and solving crimes. A title better suited to what he actually does would be Spirit Enforcer, since the main thing he does is beat up supernatural criminals that Koenma's people have already identified. Much of his crime solving happens in the early chapters(many of which were never adapted to the anime), which were noticeably different from the rest of the series.
- It's not all that clear what the intended purpose of the Yuyushiki's "Data Processing Club" is, but it probably isn't "lounge around and goof off on the internet."
- Zettai BL ni Naru Sekai VS Zettai BL ni Naritakunai Otoko: The main character notices that there's a big ammount of delinquents in the city he lives in, even though the city is really peaceful. He notes that they don't do anything, and are just in the manga for the aesthetics of the delinquent, so there can be a Bad Boy romance in the world. The only delinquent to receive a focus is described as being pure-hearted and immediately falls in love for an honor's student.
- A fairly literal example in Asterix, where the resident gang of pirates seems to exist for the sole purpose of having their ship wrecked whenever the Gauls run onto them. It's not that they don't try to do actual pirating, they just never seem to get an opportunity to before they get sunk again and need to swim to shore and find a new ship.
- David X and his Empire of Zen Crime from Casanova are described thusly:
It's like crime, only there're no victims, and really, no crimes. It really just spreads a general sense of unrest.
- Gaston Lagaffe: Gaston is supposed to help his colleagues out with the creation of each new magazine by answering fans' mails, but most of the time he is a Lazy Bum who's sleeping at his job, performing one of his hobbies, inventing stuff or causing accidents and other disasters that just make the working possibilities for others impossible.
- Lampshaded in the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in the "Pirate's Conference" chapter of the Travellers Almanack, it's noted by Captain Clegg (actually the former identity of later League member Dr Syn/The Scarecrow) that one of the attendants of the meeting, Captain Pugwash, is far too jovial and inoffensive to possibly make a proper pirate.note Especially compared to the other attendants, such as Hook and Captain Blood.
- Lucky Luke: Morris created Lucky Luke in 1946, as a cowboy who took time off for adventure. Since Goscinny took over the writing in the 1950s, Luke has been in very few cattle drives, which either end when the story is about to begin or are the cause that he gets dragged in another adventure. If he had a job description, it would have been more accurate to be called a bodyguard hired by the government or just a vigilante rather than a cowboy.
- Nero: Another literal example of this trope is the character Abraham Tuizentfloot, a dwarf who claims to be a pirate and dresses like one too, despite not owning a ship and even being unable to swim!
- Spirou and Fantasio: Spirou is a hotel bellboy/piccolo, but we never see him perform this job in the albums. He just wears the suit all the time!
- Tintin: Tintin's job as a "reporter" is sometimes used as a plot device to get an adventure moving, but once it begins he almost never actually winds up reporting on anything. For example, in The Shooting Star, he is chosen as a member of a scientific ocean voyage as the on-board reporter. Not only does he do zero reporting during the adventure, several times other journalists report on his activities. Every story he's featured in is apparently supposed to be his report of the events, but this isn't made explicitly clear — and he certainly never seems particularly slowed down by any questions of journalistic ethics as he runs around recovering treasure, fighting bad guys, etc. In Tintin and the Black Gold however we do see him interview the head of a large company at the start of the story, again without taking notes or recording anything. The only time Tintin ever wrote a press report was in his first story Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, an album considered non-canon.
- Swerve from The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye is a metallurgist by training, but he rarely uses his skills during the quest and instead spends most of his time running the ships bar. This comes back to bite him in the Season 1 finale; he tries to use his metallurgical skills to get assigned to an important mission, and Rodimus angrily points out that hes been serving drinks for the last year before telling him to piss off.
- On a larger scale, the fact that the Lost Light crew spend little time on the actual quest theyre supposedly on (finding Cyberutopia) and keep getting distracted by Wacky Wayside Tribes is a bit of a Running Gag. It also ends up leading to a mutiny. Getaway uses it to convince much of the crew that Rodimus is an incompetent loser whos never going to get them to Cyberutopia and that their best bet is to kick him off the ship and let Getaway take command.
- Viz used to have a strip called "Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ" about a pirate who sails around playing songs on his Hammond organ — and not much else. This is part of the reason why the character was eventually scrapped (along with threatened legal action from the copyright holders of some of the music.)
- Arcade from the X-Men is supposedly a badass ace assassin. The problem? He never manages to kill any superhuman targets. He kills his reputation by consistently punching above his weight class by going after super-heroes. Avengers Arena lampshades this by establishing that Arcade is considered a complete joke by the rest of the supervillain community, because he has no powers and fails to kill anyone other than muggles . . . his primary motivation for creating the Arena is to prove them wrong. Unfortunately, by mainly targeting teens and young adults, be becomes the super-villain equivalent of a pedophile, and by televising his attempts, he becomes a liability to the other villains, who fear the heroes will treat them more harshly because of his actions.
- X-Men: The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters does remarkably little teaching and quite a bit of political sabotage and supervillain-fighting, and the only classes appear to be combat training. This is because initially the school really was just a cover. This presents a scenario in the High School A.U. of X-Men: Evolution where the students live at a school only to attend another school during the day. The movies did change this somewhat, and in modern times Xavier's does appear to be accredited.
- Not helping is that, between 1970 and the early 00s, the "school" usually only had one (1) teenager on campus (first, Kitty Pryde, then later Jubilee), and everyone else was an adult, fully satisfied with the level of education they had.
- More modern stories show most of the students as children, with the actual X-Men either adults or late teenagers. These days they are the school staff. In the spirit of the trope, they're generally never seen teaching or doing anything school-related.
- Also, in spite of many of these characters having been continuously published for decades, none had ever been seen going to college to get the degrees necessary to be on staff at an accredited school, save one, and that's Iceman, the team prankster (economics, by the way). Compare that to Spider-Man where the difficulties of being a superhero, holding a job, and being a student were a big part of the character.
- Beetle Bailey and his fellow soldiers have been in the Army during three major foreign wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan/Iraq), plus numerous small-scale interventions (Grenada, Somalia, Panama, Lebanon, Kuwait), yet they never actually seem to deploy out of Camp Swampy. As The Comic Strip Doctor put it, "He is a soldier who never kills, in an army which never fights, for a country which never calls on him." The general consensus seems to be that Camp Swampy is one of the Army's dumping grounds for its failures. Given the general level of competence displayed up and down the chain of command, that theory appears to be very sound. This also might explain why they're still wearing and using 1950s-era equipment.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS), ostensibly a He-Man Woman Haters club, is rarely seen doing anything against Calvin's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Susie Derkins (or any other girl) after its initial Story Arc, being largely consumed by internal power struggles in later strips. This is likely because Hobbes, the only other member besides Calvin, is not so secretly fond of Susie.
- Wally from Dilbert does absolutely nothing at his office, to the point of being referred to as "the Wally" by those outside the organization. He claims he only comes to work because he doesn't know how to make coffee (and doesn't want to pay for Internet access, according to the animated series). The character of Wally started out as a plot (Based on a True Story) about a competent worker who was deliberately trying to get himself fired by acting lazy and abusive because the severance package was so good. However, he's long since been flanderized into being lazy and incompetent. A few strips have shown that he has made so much money by investing in the competition whenever the company enters a new market that his net worth is higher than that of the company itself.
- Andy from Foxtrot is employed as a newspaper writer, but she's not seen as doing much actual writing — granted this is mostly in the mid-recent years of the comic strip. In the early years, she's seen writing columns and a couple stories have been centered around her writing or trying to get around to writing columns.
- Jon Arbuckle from Garfield is a cartoonist, but aside from the very first strip, he is very rarely seen at his cartooning desk. He went away to a cartoonist's convention in 1984, then twenty-six years later in 2010, Liz informs her parents over the phone about Jon's cartoonist job; he's finally seen at work again in a 2015 strip. He is more frequently seen working in the Garfield and Friends and The Garfield Show animated series, though. Parodied in Square Root of Minus Garfield and averted in the fan comic Jon, which depicts him showing off his studio to Liz's friends and having a Dealers' Den booth at a convention.
- Though it varies from year to year, Hägar the Horrible is a Viking who hardly ever, well, Viks. Granted this is arguably Truth in Television, as real Northmen didn't raid all the time either, but many early strips did in fact show Hagar actively attacking and looting castles (indeed, his wife Helga was a girl he carried off in one such raid).
- Der Inspektor from The Katzenjammer Kids, arguably the world's first comic strip. Although he was known only by his title as School Inspector, he never really did that job. This might by partly because he was initially representing Imperial Prussia, a power which no longer exists, and partly because he realized that getting Hans and Fritz (i.e. the Katzenjammer kids) to stay in school is next to impossible.
- Chip Dunham's Overboard is quite literally about a group of these.
- The Anti-SOS Brigade doesn't really spend much time plotting to transfer Haruhi's power to Sasaki all that much in You Got HaruhiRolled!, where they are mostly comic relief. For added irony, in the arc which is a parody of pirate movies, the Anti-SOS Brigade aren't villains at all, but in the British Royal Navy. After they and the SOS Brigade (who are a literal example of this trope in this arc) team up to defeat a crew of Ruthless Modern Pirates, the Antis even go so far as to join the SOS Brigade themselves. Of course, this arc is an Alternate Universe, which we never see again after it finishes.
- Zig-zagged in The Butcher Bird, much like in its origin franchise One Piece. While the Nightmares, and later the Wild Hunt don't go out of their way to attack civilians and are generally peaceful when not contracted out to fight, they do act somewhat like real-life privateers and mercenaries, and are still called pirates. In addition, there's a large number of more 'traditional' pirate crews, and the entry for One Piece still largely applies.
- In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, the Citadel Council slides into this since their characterization revolved around being inane bureaucrats who couldn't see a threat if it hit them in the face. Once their galaxy falls, there's really not much for them to do anymore.
- Discussed in Incarnation of Legends. As a child, Bell had more than one Imagine Spot about being a pirate sailing the high seas with his crew, discovering new lands, new people, and new animals... but not actually doing any piracy the way a "bad" pirate would.
- A Thing of Vikings confirms that Berk's Vikings didn't bother doing any raiding when they had to deal with the regular threat of the dragons, and even after they start training dragons they don't use them on similar raids against innocent villages (apart from an early attempted raid by Snotlout), although they are willing to go on raids to rescue thralls if they have sufficient evidence that said thralls are mistreated. Their anti-raid stance is for the dual reason that Hiccup doesn't approve of going on raids, and his practical concerns that the dragons may start feeling like they 'need' to go on raids for the Vikings in the same way as they needed to feed the Red Death.
- What About Witch Queen?: Kai, an Original Character, is supposedly an Army major, but does scarcely any soldiering. Justified in that he's General Berg's aide and practically his secretary, so most of his job involves filling in for the quartermaster and doing paperwork.
- How I Became Yours has a case of The Royals Who Don't Do Anything. Nearly all the protagonists have some sort of exalted title (Sokka and Katara are prince and princess of the combined Water Tribes, Zuko is Fire Lord, Aang is the Avatar, Toph is an Earth Kingdom noble who supposedly runs a quarter of the kingdom), and none of them seem to have any royal duties whatsoever. Katara and Sokka spend most of the story lounging around on one of Toph's estates, and Zuko and Aang soon join them. The only times we see a protagonist do something related to their jobs is when the main characters attend a ball in Katara's honor and when Zuko is Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee for abandoning the Fire Nation to be with Katara.
- Zig-zagged in Stallion of the Line. The Straw Hat pirates still don't attack civilians but they steal plenty from bounty hunters, marines, and other pirates. Besides looting Whiskey Peak, their first ship was Buggy's and their second (which they stole because Buggy's was too big for less than twenty people to man outside of calm waters) was Smoker's. Lastly, when Robin joins the crew early, Luffy offers that if King Cobra won't allow her to read Alabasta's poneglyph as a reward for saving his country, they'll simply have to "convince" him to let her read it.
- The Order of the Phoenix in Princess of the Blacks does very little to actually fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters. During a series of attacks, only a dozen members actually help the Ministry and none of that was on Dumbledore's orders.
- It's rather a Running Gag that the Protection Committee in Big Human on Campus don't actually do any of their actual duties. While they were a bunch of corrupt Knight Templars in canon, in this story they're so bad about it that Kuyo needs a dictionary to look up the meaning of 'investigation' and 'integrity'.
- Invoked in Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse; for all their faults, Ranma Saotome and his motley crew don't view themselves as bad people, and they have no general interest in robbing or killing anybody. But they have no problems with beating up anybody stupid enough to pick a fight with them, or with mocking an authority they view as corrupt and draconian, or with looting anybody they beat. So they actively seek out rival pirates and even Marines to fight and steal from, whilst leaving the innocent alone.
- Audrey in Atlantis: The Lost Empire is touted by everyone for her engineering expertise despite being only a teenager, but she's never actually seen repairing anything mechanical on-screen (the most technical work she is shown doing is turning a valve and tightening a nut, tasks anyone with a pair of functioning hands and a wrench can accomplish, and the one time her set of skills is directly needed, Milo ends up doing the job instead).
- In How to Train Your Dragon, the human characters are all Vikings. No raiding of other societies is mentioned — in fact, the Vikings are the ones getting raided, by dragons. Given the events of the movie, it's possible that the dragon raids are so disruptive that they're focusing most of their time on getting rid of that issue; however, in the sequel, there is still no indication that they're doing any raiding.
- Colonel Hathi in The Jungle Book. He calls his herd a "company" and their migrations "marches/drills". Although he agrees to help Bagheera find a missing Mowgli, it's unclear in what capacity he is, in fact, a military commander. He implies he was a war elephant in the colonial army in the past, so it may simply be that he's mimicking human customs. A line in the elephant marching song hints the herd know full well what they're doing is pointless but they're doing it anyway.
- Megamind. After taking over the city, Megamind gives himself the title "Evil Overlord", but takes almost no action associated with that trope. This is likely because he is a Harmless Villain whose villainy was just a large-scale game he was playing with his lifelong rival.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:
- Used in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls and its sequel My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks. The students have plenty of time for high-school extracurriculars, like soccer, band practice and setting up for a school dance, but they're not seen going to class all that much. For how much time they spend doing non-academic things, Canterlot High School must have an incredibly easy curriculum.
- And as far as the non-academic things go, Human Rainbow Dash is said to be the captain of nearly every sports team at the school, yet is almost never seen playing sports in any formal capacity (having, so far, merely kicked a few soccer balls at Twilight and rode a motorcycle during the Friendship Games, if you want to consider the latter a sport at all) let alone something as time-consuming as managing several teams.
- The crew of the Jolly Roger (Captain Hook's ship) in Disney's Peter Pan seem to be this at first, as we never see them do anything other than "roaming over the sea" (as one of the pirates sings while playing his concertina) and trying to kill Peter Pan and his allies. In the song "The Elegant Captain Hook", they sing that Hook is "the world's most famous crook" — without telling us what he did to deserve that fame. However, this is explained: they were traditional pirates in the past, up until Captain Hook lost his hand to Peter Pan and became singlemindedly obsessed with getting revenge. By the time Peter brings the Darlings to Neverland the crew are sick and tired of their captain's personal vendetta, and want to get back to "the business of looting ships".
- In Hollywood, this was an Enforced Trope while The Hays Code was in effect. One of its stipulations was that films could not show how criminals committed crime or "subversives" did their deeds. As a result, audiences were often asked to Take Our Word for It that villains had done the unspeakable.
- In the opening scenes of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea we see 3 ships sunk or crippled on-screen by the Nautilus, and it's clear that several other ships have met similar fates. But once the main characters come on board, Nemo and his men only attack one ship on-screen over the course of many months — and dialogue supports that this is the only ship attacked in that time period, so we know he didn't go after any other ships during any time skips.
- Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski of The Big Lebowski is famously depicted as an avid bowler. He spends several scenes hanging out in a bowling alley with his friends, and he keeps a bowling ball prominently displayed in his house. But despite this, he's never actually seen bowling at any point in the movie. note Seriously: in its entire 117-minute runtime, he never even touches a bowling ball.
- Even Captain Blood, regarded as one of the greatest pirate movies of all time, suffers from this. Blood is the greatest pirate in the world, but the only people he ever kills on screen are members of foreign armies and one perverted French captain. He's also never shown stealing or sinking other ships unless it's against enemies of England (Which would make sense if they'd said that he was a privateer sailing under a British letter of marque rather than a genuine pirate), and the other members of his crew are all rough, rougish, and jovial rather than a bunch of cutthroats. Even when the main villain, who abused them as slaves, is in their grasp, they happily just comically throw him overboard rather than kill him. The movie only barely glosses over his life as a pirate and thief, and it comes off as rather jarring when the love interest refuses to be with him because he's committed crimes we've never seen.
- In The Chronicles of Riddick, the Necromongers were on an unholy crusade to end all life in the universe, and from much of the movie's background exposition it sounds like they had made significant progress toward this goal. In Riddick, after the title character has become the Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, they don't seem to do anything but skulk about menacingly and try to assassinate Riddick for not actually converting to the faith. The final shot of the film shows that they are literally parked above the gates to their version of Heaven, but are not doing anything to actually get there!
- In Dracula Untold, the Elder Vampire, despite his big talk about conquering the world, only attacks people who come to his cave. When he's released to the world he does absolutely nothing for more than 500 years. Or at least, nothing that we see — though his dialogue in the final scene suggests that he's been waiting for five hundred years, quite possibly just to screw with Vlad.
- Justified (weakly) in 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag. The protagonist of the film claims that his fiancee is a race-car driver, and shows another character a photo of her sitting in a racer to prove his point. But we never see her do anything remotely connected to racing (which, yes, makes her something of a Faux Action Girl as well). We do see her in a fast-moving van toward the end of the movie, but she's not the one doing the driving (she and her family have been taken hostage by a mobster). It is easily explained by the context of the movie, since the young woman is on a vacation in Mexico almost the entire time. But if his fiancee's job wasn't going to be pertinent to the story, why did the hero bother telling us about it?
- From Hell: While the rest of the prostitutes of Whitechapel go about the oldest profession right onscreen, Abberline's love interest Mary Kelly just seems to hang out, looking vulnerable and doomed.
- The Reese Witherspoon film How Do You Know has a professional softball player as the heroine; but five minutes into the movie, she is dropped from Team USA and never so much as picks up a bat again.
- For being a movie about a man's rise to power in a mafia-like organization, there is little crime shown being done by anybody in Johnny Dangerously, even by the various villains. Johnny is aiming for a kinder, gentler sort of criminal family, after all (the movie is a spoof).
- Taken literally in the old kung-fu movie, The Pirate (1973), which is an actionized biopic based on the real-life 19th century pirate Cheung Po-tsai. Despite being described as "the pirate lord of South China" and having a massive bounty on his head, Cheung in the film isn't shown looting, raiding or killing, preferring to seek more diplomatic methods in conquering his targets. He even befriends the General sent to arrest him, where the film ends with their kung-fu duel which leads to neither of them killing each other.
- The various pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean are mostly seen attacking navy ships, each other or supernatural creatures. Apart from collecting all of the cursed Aztec gold, we rarely see them actually stealing anything from merchant ships or ports. At least in the first movie, this was something of an intentional joke. Part of the writer's concept of the script was to do a pirate movie in reverse: a band of murderous rogues sailing about and collecting treasure so that it can be returned to its rightful owners. The first film averts it however. The opening has a merchantman discovered destroyed after a run-in with the Black Pearl and we do see Port Royal attacked and several innocents murdered by Black Pearl's explicitly villainous crew early in the first movie. In the second film, the crew of the Pearl complains that it's been a while since they've done any "honest piratin'." After that, however, the series basically just gives up and mostly portrays the pirates as some kind of a romantic La Résistance. This is mainly achieved by portraying everyone else as even worse than the pirates. Most notably, the portrayal of the Royal Navy shifts from a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist in the first movie to Lawful Evil from the second movie onwards.
- The Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. We only see him after he's retired from piracy. He also admits that the Dread Pirate Roberts' fearsome reputation for taking no prisoners tricks everyone into handing over their loot without a fight, so presumably Wesley never had to commit murder during his tenure.
- There's a montage in Real Genius of how, over the course of a school term, fewer and fewer students stick around to attend one of Mitch's lecture classes, leaving tape recorders running there instead. By the end of term, Mitch is the only student still sitting in the classroom, and even the instructor has left a running tape player in his place to lecture for him.note
- The Room:
- The film informs us that Johnny is ostensibly a banker in spite of his vampire-like appearance and limited English, yet we never see him doing anything resembling what a banker's job is outside of apparently dressing like one (most of the time; on one memorable occasion, he sports an ill-fitting blazer, a tank top and cargo pants.) At one point, he says that another bank would not cash his check because it's from an out-of-state bank, which if he were a banker, he'd know this is untrue.
- Lisa does something with computers, and it's considered a rather competitive field, but she spends the film just sitting around the apartment either waiting for Johnny or cheating on him.
- In Serenity, where Inara's profession is so glossed over that you wouldn't have any idea that she's basically a courtesan/escort for hire unless you're familiar with the series. Only one easily missed line about seeing clients "in this very bed" gives a hint.
- In the Spy Kids universe, the definition of the word "spy" seems to be "person who dresses sharp, has cool gadgets and kicks butt". Actual espionage never seems to be depicted. Not even the martini-flavored kind.
- Suspiria (1977): For a movie taking place at a ballet studio, we see almost no dancing. There's only a single scene where some of the background extras do basic drills while our protagonist is too ill to dance properly and collapses. After that, nothing. Obviously, this is because the two main actresses are not ballet dancers.
- In Things Change is all about gangsters. While a murder trial is the catalyst for the plot, we see almost nothing criminal occur. The film seems to suggest a world where gangsters do nothing but play cards, cook food, drink liquor in stately drawing rooms, and own casinos.
- The Viking: A title card introduces Helga as "living the life of a Viking sea rover under the protection of the famous Leif Ericsson"; this implies that Leif and his crew are "sea rovers", a term which usually means "pirates". However Leif and his crew are never seen committing piracy, do not talk about having done so in the past, and Leif's characterization as "famed for his justice" seems to be at odds with a piratical past. Even though they are apparently financially well-off, it remains unclear how they support themselves, or what is the purpose of their company.
- Violet & Daisy: It turns out Daisy has been using blanks because she doesn't actually want to kill anyone, even though that's her profession. However, she actually does kill The Guy in the end-though at his request.
- The protagonist of the B-Movie Werewolf identifies himself as a news writer, but we don't see him writing at all. This did not go unmocked when the film appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000:
Crow: So I guess our hero will get back to his writing now...
Servo: [scoffs] J. D. Salinger writes more than this guy.
- Tom and Joe decide to become this type of pirate in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, because stealing is a sin. Huck isn't troubled, since he calls it "borrowing."
- In the Bigtime series, Captain Freebeard and his Saucy Wenches are technically pirates, but they only rob the occasional passing cruise ship, and all they ever take is food and booze so they can throw wild parties. Between the fact that the passengers of the cruise ships invariably get invited to said parties and the fact that they are almost as good at helping endangered mariners as the local Coast Guard detachment, nobody in the area considers them important enough to hunt. The cruise lines even consider them to be a tourist attraction.
- The Thieves' Guild in Jennifer Fallon's Demon Child and Hythrun Chronicles series is practically an official branch of the government, with high-ranking officials — even sympathetic ones — constantly looking the other way regarding their activities and frequently enlisting their help. Mostly justified, as the God of Thieves, Dacendaren, is a recurring character who enjoys taking an active hand in human affairs, and the Hythrun people quite reasonably want to avoid annoying him.
- In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, nobody's entirely sure what Cambridge University's Regius Professor Chronotis actually teaches. The students who've taken his course discover that he avoids actually giving lectures by giving them a reading list of long out-of-print books, and then flying into a rage when they fail to find them. The Lemony Narrator calls this the "time honoured technique" of lecturers who don't want to lecture. He also avoids faculty advisor duties through Obfuscating Insanity. His chair was apparently established by an endowment from King George III after he went mad but before people figured this out and established the Regency to answer certain specific academic questions that have long since been resolved, so the holders of said chair have been treating it as retirement with full pay for decades.
- The Compleat Discworld Atlas introduces the faraway country of the Neverlands. This is a twofer: its backstory is that it may once have been a pleasant land where over millennia the people reclaimed land from the sea and built huge earth dikes to hold back the ocean from spilling into the reclaimed farmland. Which worked just fine until the dikes broke, leaving only a chain of disconnected islands. These became a haven for pirates. Who over another few hundred years or so got lazy and devised a whole new way of separating people from money: the Neverlands now hosts the Pirate Experience Theme Park, promising exciting holidays by the sea in resorts staffed by authentic Pirates. The main location is called Barry Island — another twofer...
- Despite the Unseen University being a university, the Wizards are never seen actually holding lectures, or indeed doing anything related to what their jobs and titles are supposed to be (except the Librarian and Archchancellor Ridicully, who has a highly specialized idea of what his job entails which generally boils down to "shout at everyone else"). In fact, at any point the idea of them actually teaching students at all is met with horror and revulsion. This is, however, an intended function of the University; for the wizards of old (and the impulse still exists), doing "something" would mean trying to kill each other and laying waste to the land in the process, so the many distractions of overly-civilized life in UU are a safety precaution.
- Rincewind is the only one for whom this is deliberately invoked by his fellow pirates. He's made Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography with the provision he will not hold lectures, try to teach students, publish any article of research, or act like he has any sort of authority whatsoever either within or without the university. The most he can look forward to is being allowed to sit at university dinners. If he's quiet. Of course, since Rincewind didn't want the title in the first place, he's perfectly fine with this.
- In Pyramids, Pteppic is a trained assassin who is very uncomfortable with killing anyone and never does it — although he does end up killing a pyramid and, in a way and indirectly, his country's whole godly pantheon. He's accompanied by Ptraci, a concubine whose extensive carnal knowledge is implied to be entirely theoretical.
- At the beginning of the Dragonriders of Pern series, most of Pern feels this way about the dragonriders. Since Thread hasn't fallen for four hundred years, most believe that the threat of Threadfall has ended and the dragons aren't needed anymore. At one point in the first novel, the Lord Holders and their armies actually march against Benden Weyr to bring it down. Unfortunately for Pern, the only reason Threadfall hasn't happened in four hundred years was because it was a Long Interval... which lasts only four hundred years. It turns out Threadfall has been going on for weeks by that point, but since winter was unusually harsh that year, it fell as harmless black dust. Even more unfortunately, the casualties they suffered after their first real fight against Threadfall makes it painfully clear to the dragonriders that one drastically understaffed Weyr cannot protect everyone on Pern on its own.
- In the young adult novel Dreamland Lake by Richard Peck, the narrator mentions that he used to be in a neighbourhood gang called the Oakthorpe Avengers. Since there were no rival gangs anywhere nearby, though, the Avengers never actually had to defend their territory or anything.
Like all gangs, it was organized boredom.
- In Alethea Kontis's Enchanted, "far-to-go" Thursday ran off and married a pirate. However, her only role in the story is to send significant gifts. In the sequel, it's a different story.
- Fifty Shades of Grey:
- We pretty much never see Christian actually being at his office managing his many businesses. The few times we do see him working, he's off doing something that's unrelated to his work, and giving orders to a subordinate over his phone.
- Despite the text telling us repeatedly that Ana is the most brilliant of commissioning editors who even worked on her honeymoon (something that never showed up in any of the honeymoon scenes) and that she had a knack for editing even when she was Jack Hyde's personal assistant (where the only things she did were filing and typing up one letter poorly), her "job" appears to consist of letting her personal assistant Hannah make plans and set up meetings for her, going to one meeting with her colleagues and bosses, talking about meeting in person with an author, and looking at the file of a manuscript for two seconds. At no point does she do anything that a commissioning editor would normally do in the course of business.
- A Justified Trope in The Forty First Wink as the pirate crew assisting Marty is composed of a bunch of stuffed pirate toys from his childhood.
- The Godfather novel never explicitly describes any collection of protection fees by the Corleones. Income from gambling and prostitution is mentioned briefly and indirectly in the book and the film. The only attempted protection racket happens in a flashback to the 1920s (shown in film in The Godfather, part II), where Don Fanucci tries to blackmail the young Vito Corleone who realizes that Fanucci is unprotected himself, murders him, and becomes the new Don. Possibly justified since the Don and other senior members of the family would not do the dirty work themselves, leaving that to lower-ranking "soldiers." The book also states that this is partially done for reasons of security — because there are at least two layers of cutouts between The Don giving the order and the gangster committing the actual crime, even if the mafiosi is caught red-handed, the police can't tie the crime to a Corleone in a way that would stand up in court without breaking him, his boss, and his boss' boss.
- Good Omens: Carmine Zubiger is a war reporter for a trashy newspaper, envied by her peers for her ability to always be where the action is (actually, she usually gets there just before it starts)... but apparently her writing is total crap. Not that this matters much, since her bosses never print any of it anyway. All she seems to do is spend her time going to places and cashing her increasingly ludicrous traveller's cheques. This is because she's actually War, killing time before Armageddon kicks in.
- Most of the professors are like this, particularly the headmaster, Bellgrove. They spend most of their time in their nasty private chambers, and sleep their way through classes they're supposed to be teaching.
- This trope is somewhat lampshaded by the idiot sisters, Cora and Clarice, the highest ranking Groans after Sepulchrave, who do absolutely nothing at all except spend their time plotting revenge for losing "power" that they never actually had. When they are essentially kidnapped by Steerpike, nobody notices.
- In The Grace of Kings, Lovable Rogue Kuni Garu is described as being a "gangster" as a young man, and while he's definitely a n'er-do-well and mooch at this point, he never actually does anything gangstery (i.e. extortion, violence, etc.). The closest he gets is one scene where a bar owner presses him about paying his tab and Kuni responds in a threatening manner- but rather than offering "protection" as a gangster would be expected to do, he instead points out that the liveliness of he and his friends helps bring in and keep customers, and their presence dissuades troublemakers from causing trouble. Later on, Kuni does become an actual bandit, but still a friendly one who aims to completely avoid deaths and injuries — and most of his ideas of what banditry involves come from fictional books about noble bandits he read in school.
- In the whole Harry Potter series, Hagrid is supposed to be Hogwarts' gamekeeper and in charge of watching over the Forbidden Forest, but he spends most of his time in his hut or immediately around trying to breed strange creatures that will inevitably bring him trouble. Granted, he does know the Forbidden Forest and his denizens well, but you sometimes wonder why and how, since every time Harry, Ron and Hermione turn up, he's at his home and available to have a friendly chat around a cup of tea. However, considering the books are focused on Harry's viewpoint at school its understandable that Hagrid's Gamekeeper role is largely offscreen since Harry's often busy with classes and homework. Averted when he becomes the teacher for Care of Magical Creatures, since he's shown teaching.
- At the end of Hush, Hush, Patch becomes Nora's guardian angel. In Crescendo, this means he spends his time...following her around and making out with her. Which he did anyway. Actual fighting of evil is pretty absent, however.
- In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Britain is host to a number of societies of magicians who never cast spells and, in fact, consider the suggestion they might do so quite ungentlemanly. Magic faded centuries ago, so modern-day magicians have become more like magical historians rather than attempting magic they think is no longer possible.
- The Tribulation Force in the Left Behind series is supposed to be the Resistance to Carpathia's One World Government. Their track record after seven years is precisely one assassination attempt, not counting Hattie and Chaim. Buck and Rayford's roles as TheMoles in Carpathia's organization serve only a narrative function as witnesses for the audience to the global events of the tribulation rather than any particular kind of functional espionage. Plus, Buck supposedly a great investigative reporter never does any investigating, except at the very beginning of the first book, and damn all reporting. Even the one time he does investigate he takes a bribe to cover up the conspiracy he uncovered rather than reveal it (it's how he gets his insider job with Carpathia, which he also never seems to do).
- In Joan Hess's Maggody mysteries, the ladies' Missionary Society claim to be a charitable organization working to promote Christian values by sending Bibles abroad. In practice, their most typical achievements are to hold local potlucks and stroke Mrs. Jim Bob's ego.
- The Marvellous Land of Snergs: Despite being referred to and identifying herself as a witch, Mother Meldrum is hardly seen engaging in actual witchcraft.
- Old Kingdom: In the prequel Clariel, Belatiel is very frustrated that his great-uncle, Abhorsen Tyriel, does virtually nothing required of his post, instead spending most of his time hunting. In fact, Tyriel's two immediate predecessors as Abhorsen also spent most of their time hunting. Bel also suspects his cousin Yannael, Tyriel's daughter and the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, of never having read The Book of the Dead or walked in Death, both vital to the Abhorsen's job. When Tyriel dies in a riding accident, Bel discovers that Yannael was never the Abhorsen-in-Waiting at all. He was.
- The pirates in Peter Pan don't get up to any actual piracy within the story; they just seem to spend all their time trying to kill the Lost Boys and the Indians. Justified in-universe as Neverland is formed from the collective imaginations of children, so the pirates (and Indians) are only a manifestation of children's playground games.
- The pirates in Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series. In An Adventure With Whaling, they actually realize this — one of the money-making activities they try is "actual pirating". Alas, they find it's just not in character for them.
- The Riftwar Cycle has Helbinor the Abstainer, the god who doesn't do anything. It's enough to drive a theologian to drink.
- The Tigers of Mompracem stopped raiding commerce sometime between The Pirates of Malaysia and The Two Tigers, resuming in The King of the Sea only because the Royal Navy decided to kick them out of Mompracem. After The King of the Sea they don't do the pirate job anymore save for a single boarding in Return to Mompracem.
- Sandokan is implied to be a Dayak, but never cut a single head.
- The title character of Sebastian by Anne Bishop is an incubus. Apparently. He does apparently have incubus powers, and is called a demon multiple times, but the way he's written, he's a normal guy.
- In Sherlock Holmes, Watson's portrayal as a doctor is usually limited to giving him an office, having him know a throwaway character in a hospital, and the like. He does save a client from poisoning once, but all in all, when Doyle inflicts him with the overriding compulsion to go to the bedside of a person he's never met while he's in the middle of something important, it rings false.
- Of course, Doyle himself was a medical doctor who spent almost all his time doing non-medical things, in his case writing.
- Professor James Moriarty is an interesting example. He was a respected professor but got booted for a scandal leaving him to make a public living as an army coach while runing his criminal empire, making his title more of a courtesy than fact.
- The omnipresent, prestigious and numerous Swordbearer Caste in the Spaceforce books are highly trained warriors — but the Taysan Empire has been at peace for centuries, if not millennium within its own borders, and apart from a bit of royal bodyguarding, it's not clear what the Taysan swordbearers actually do.
- In Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, fairy godmother Madame Bella notices that the supposed evil sorceress Arachnia seems more interested in wearing a lot of black and swanning dramatically around her spooky castle than in actually, you know, being evil, and recruits her to the side of good. Arachnia then invokes this trope; by acting outwardly mean and going hard on the aesthetic, she can hold down the narrative spot marked "evil sorceress" in any ongoing Tale, but without the danger a real villain would bring.
- The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. The main characters are Musketeers who only go to war once, and it's a brief interlude in the story. Even in that sequence, they spend much of it trying to have a picnic on the battlefield rather than fight. The rest of the time, they're off getting into adventures and brawling with their rivals on the Cardinal's guard. Ironically, this means that they hardly ever actually use the muskets that they're named for.
- Throne of Glass: At least in the first book, master assassin Celaena Sardothien doesn't do much actual assassination. Having been in prison for a year may have had something to do with that.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love features Single-Minded Twins Lapis Lazuli Long and Lorelei Lee Long, who are Opposite Sex Clones of the story's protagonist Lazarus Long. As they are unrepentant hellions and true inheritors of their brother's roguish nature, they decide at one point to grow up to become Space Pirates. In the quasi-sequel The Number of the Beast, they are introduced in that capacity and share a rotating captaincy of their vessel, with summary authority over "mutineers". However, at no point are they shown to perform any actual piracy, and happily defer to Lazarus in matters of his authority. Toward the end of that novel and into The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, they meet up with a second set of redheaded twins, male, who join them and reputedly do inspire them to embark on actual piracy, but again, this takes place entirely offpage and Lazarus appears more or less resigned to whatever fate they bestow upon themselves.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Downplayed example with the titular Ravenor. He's as diligent and productive as any other competent Inquisitor, but as a member of the Ordo Xenos, he should be focused on protecting the Imperium from aliens. Instead, he spends the entire trilogy hunting down human criminals and Chaos-worshippers, a job more suited to the Ordo Hereticus.
- Ravenor's mentor Eisenhorn is little better in this regard. Most of the villains in his trilogy are human heretics, but at least the first book had its villains making a deal with Chaos-worshipping xenos to further their goals.
- In the few first books of the Wild Cards series, the New York Mafia is depicted as a bunch of affable Italian gentlemen in dark suits who are more concerned about running Italian restaurants, holding family reunions, playing snooker with The Consigliere and having fun with call girls than, you know, being scary gangsters running a criminal empire.
- Willie Tanner in ALF is supposed to be a social worker. We almost never see him doing anything of the sort. This is lampshaded when another character arrives and has no idea that Willie is a social worker.
- The title character of Angel claims to be a private detective/in private security. When actual detective work is required, he has at least once hired a real private detective to do it for him. It's not like he has any interest in being a detective, he just tells people that because it's easier to explain than "I go around protecting people from monsters", which he does quite successfully. His actual job description is in Angel Investigations' tagline: We Help the Helpless.
- In theory, The A-Team are a band of mercenaries who lease their skills out for cash so they can stay on the run. However, they never seem to ever participate in a job that's even slightly shady and they rarely seem to get paid for whatever they do.
- The crew in Blake's 7 is supposed to be a notorious band of interstellar terrorists (or freedom fighters, depending on who you ask). They don't commit any memorable acts of terrorism that go anywhere. Real terrorists conduct hijackings, kidnap people, and bomb public places, hurting innocent civilians. They did none of these things and the only innocent people who got killed were those who were stupid enough to actually get involved with them. Their most memorable genuine terrorist scheme turned out to be a setup by Servalan and Travis, and they're never actually seen fighting for anyone's freedom. Mostly, they run into people who are perfectly capable of fighting for themselves. Under Avon, they spend all their time either on the run or participating in mostly get-rich-quick schemes that fail because they're always getting had. They are actually seen more as a nuisance than as an actual threat to the Federation and in the final season, even the Federation felt for the most part that they had bigger fish to fry. And even when they were involved, it turned out to be yet another setup, this time by a nobody officer that turned out to be a mole in Blake's non-organization, this time it caused a misunderstanding between Blake and Avon that got them all killed. Justified in that at the start only Blake and Cally were actually career terrorist/freedom fighters. Everyone else was convicted of crimes such as homicide, smuggling, theft, and white collar embezzlement. In the series itself they are on the run. So unsurprisingly, they mostly just commit more crimes of that type, making them simply ordinary petty crooks.
- Apart from cooking (which isn't really a maid's job) and occasionally flicking a feather duster at a piece of already spotless furniture Alice on The Brady Bunch doesn't work like a real-life maid, especially one who would have to clean a kitchen and a bathroom that was used by nine people, six of whom are kids.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Giles often fell into this — he was the school librarian and in charge of a very large and nice-looking library that nobody ever seemed to use for non-occult reasons. Lampshaded when the occasional clueless kid wanders in looking for something decidedly library-related, and the Scooby Gang stares in shock and confusion. And when Xander points out it's fortunate no one ever wanted to check out the occult books the gang relies on for anti-demon research.
- In "Hush", Willow tries to join a Wiccan coven who are more interested in holding bake sales and throwing bacchanals, talking about woman power and lunar cycles, and generally enjoying being "witches" than they are in doing actual magic or any meaningful religious practices related to those things. When Willow asks about casting spells, which is something even real-life Wiccans do in fact do, she's laughed at.
- In "The Killer in Me", the aforementioned Wicca group turn out to have wised up a bit and gotten into White Magic such as the cleansing of auras. Possibly the attack of the Gentlemen in the same episode where they were introduced, or any of the subsequent disasters to hit Sunnydale, gave them a dose of reality. They're still naive enough to fall for Wicked Witch Amy's 'reformed' act, though.
- On Cheers, one of Carla's issues with Diane comes from the fact she seldom seems to do any real work around the bar.
Janet Eldridge: (to Diane) Excuse me, miss. Do you work here?
Carla: How come no one ever seems to know that?
- Later on, Carla takes a similar axe against Rebecca, especially after Season 9, where Rebecca's function at Cheers supposedly is to be the bar's manager, and yet most of the time she's hardly ever seen doing any actual managing, and in the last two seasons is mention to barely do anything at all. However, Sam only took her on again as manager out of pity. We do see her idea of gaining revenue at one point, and rather than peddling drinks, it's selling lottery tickets.
Sam: (after witnessing the latest Rebecca breakdown) Looks like I'm not gonna get any work out of her today.
Carla: She doesn't do anything anyway! And she's doesn't start that until noon.
- Later on, Carla takes a similar axe against Rebecca, especially after Season 9, where Rebecca's function at Cheers supposedly is to be the bar's manager, and yet most of the time she's hardly ever seen doing any actual managing, and in the last two seasons is mention to barely do anything at all. However, Sam only took her on again as manager out of pity. We do see her idea of gaining revenue at one point, and rather than peddling drinks, it's selling lottery tickets.
- Karen and Davis from Corner Gas are cops who rarely do police work unless either Oscar or the Mayor tell them to, and they're usually reluctant to.
- Daredevil (2015): In Season 1, one gets the impression that the three employees of Nelson & Murdock, Attorneys At Law spend a lot of time around their office instead of practicing law. This is justified, given that they're a fledgling startup law firm struggling to find clients. And their first two clients both turn out to be cases that are tied to Wilson Fisk. All of its employees are fully aware of this. Season 2 deconstructs this: the first episode shows Karen attending to a waiting room swamped with working-class clients from Hell's Kitchen who cannot pay for legal fees steeper than pastries and strawberry rhubarb pie. Once Matt pushes them into defending Frank Castle, Reyes starts trying to shut them down, and their perceived bungling of the case (or the fact that they took it at all) drives all remaining clients from their door. The firm is left in tatters by the Season 2 finale.
- Susan Meyer from Desperate Housewives is meant to be a children's book illustrator. Five seasons in, the episodes actually featuring her on the job are still in the single digits.
- Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor was elected President of Gallifrey halfway through his run. And then he almost immediately scarpered off and went back to wandering the space-time continuum, only ever returning to Gallifrey if he needed to use his rank to get something he needed for his current adventure. Nine seasons and two Doctors later, it was revealed that he'd eventually been impeached and removed from office in absentia because he never actually performed any of the responsibilities of his office unless given no other choice, but he hadn't stuck around long enough on any of his previous visits for anyone to tell him.
- In Edgemont, a show based around teenagers in high school, the students are never shown actually in class (and rarely studying or doing homework). Of course, showing a scene in class would clash with the fact that There Are No Adults.
- Henry, Eureka's auto mechanic (and resident Omnidisciplinary Scientist), never seems to work on an actual car, after the first episode. Carter lampshades this at one point; Henry says he does, occasionally, "when it gets slow".
- In Father Ted, Fathers Dougal and Jack are, respectively, an idiotic manchild and a lazy, violent alcoholic, both of whom are completely incapable of doing any work that might reasonably be expected of a priest. Ted himself seems to have a One-Hour Work Week. Justified in the case of Jack, who seems to be retired and being
nursedsupplied with alcohol by the other two priests. As for Dougal, the one time he attempts to perform his priestly duties at a funeral, they somehow end up with more corpses than they started with. You'd make sure he didn't do anything either. Additional justification may be that the Craggy Island parish is something of a dumping ground for the church's immoral and incompetent priests.
- Daphne on Frasier is ostensibly Martin's full-time, live-in physical therapist, but at most her only real duties seem to entail leading Martin through brief exercise sessions once in a while. As the series progresses, she begins to perform some maid-like duties for the Cranes as well, though is often shown resenting this, weirdly, since she was hardly over-worked with her "real" job.
- Daphne's vacation time comes up now and then, and is often portrayed fairly straight as something quite important to her. This can seem a bit jarring to the viewer, considering it's hardly obvious what Daphne would do on vacation time that she doesn't already do with all the free time she already has.
- It was established in the pilot that Martin doesn't need full time therapy; her employment was initially a mistake by the agency. But the Crane men all like her so much, they keep her around.
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Vivian averts this for the first season because she is a teacher and is signed on to teach Will and Carlton's black history class; however her job is at best almost never mentioned after the first season. The second season episode "Hi-Ho Silver" confirms that she quit her job to spend more time at home.
- Lampshaded on an episode of Friends where the four characters with regular jobs talk about their bosses not liking them. Joey, who is normally an out of work actor points out that maybe it's because they are all hanging out at a coffee shop at 11:30am on a Wednesday.
- Will from Glee is a Spanish teacher who seems to spend very little time teaching Spanish (also, the few times he is seen speaking Spanish, his accent is very poor). It becomes kind of ridiculous in the first episode of Season 3, when Sue announces her intention of making sure all the high school arts programs are removed. Will becomes very upset, not only because he believes it's a mistake to take away the arts from the kids, but because his livelihood is at stake... conveniently forgetting that coaching the glee club is something he volunteered to do, and that he is first and foremost a Spanish teacher. Lampshaded in Season 3, Episode 12, titled "The Spanish Teacher." Will admits that he doesn't know much about Spanish and takes a night class in Spanish, taught by someone much more qualified at Spanish. He ends up becoming a History teacher and the other character becomes the new Spanish teacher. Not that we see Will teaching History very often either.
- Green Wing deliberately uses this: though set in a hospital, there are no medical storylines. Guy, Caroline and Mac do perform surgery from time to time but, naturally, the whole thing is played for laughs. On one occasion Dr. Statham burst in, had an argument with Mac about a parking space and attempted to eat the patient's gall bladder.
- In Grimm, Monroe is a clock-maker. Despite this, he only ever has anything to do with clocks in one episode.
- Robbie Ray Stewart is, as much of the dialogue suggests, the main in-universe writer of Hannah Montana's string of gold hits, but with few exceptions, such as the occasional special song, or something that carries the plot of the episode or a joke or resolve, you rarely saw or heard him in action.
- Nathan Petrelli of Heroes is appointed to the U.S. Senate in Season 3. He is never shown voting on any motions, amendments, or bills, attending any committee meetings, meeting with any constituents, or doing anything else that a U.S. Senator's job entails. He is instead able to focus all his time and efforts on running his own personal Government Conspiracy.
- The Honeymooners:
- Ralph Kramden is a bus driver, but is never actually shown driving.
- We never got to see Norton working either, but then, he works in the sewer, so who'd want to?
- Derek, Burger and Ash from I'm in the Band are in Iron Weasel. But in most episodes, they usually slack off in Tripp's apartment and don't do much, despite Tripp suggesting them do some rehearsing. Tripp puts emphasis on this in the Season 2 opener "I'm Out of the Band".
- The IT Crowd: Outside asking "have you tried turning it off and on again?", the main cast don't do much work, and when they do, they're usually faking. In one episode they're shown to have developed a machine that picks up the phone, delivers the lines and leaves them with even less work. Reynholm Industries itself just has "a lot of sexy people not doing much work and having affairs". How is this company still running?
- The Royal Family on The Kingdom Of Paramithi do little other than reward citizens, read stories and watch plays.
- According to the "You Are a Pirate" song from the "Rottenbeard" episode of LazyTown, nothing much is required of being a pirate. "Do what you want, 'cause a pirate is free... If you love to sail the sea, you are a pirate!"
- Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: The titular Gokaigers are this for the most part, since they're more interested in adventure and finding the Greatest Treasure in the universe than doing any actual piracy. In fact, early on the Space Police reveals that all charges of piracy were made up by the Zangyack Empire just because they've been opposing them for a long time.
- This is the basic plot of Maid Marian and Her Merry Men; Marian wants to believe that she's the leader of La Résistance, but she's more like den mother to a group of overgrown kids who spend their time inventing bizarre games and, in Robin's case, designing uniforms.
- Noser from The Middleman spends an awful lot of time not playing the guitar. He also has an incidental sideline in not riding a motorcycle, and an entire episode built around his not being a ventriloquist.
- This is the entire point of the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch Non-Illegal Robbery. The head of the gang draws up plans that at first glance look like they're going to rob a bank and a jewelry store, when in truth they're withdrawing money from a savings account and buying something. Then he panics and orders his henchmen to flee the country when he realizes that they didn't put enough money in the parking meter and their getaway vehicle is in danger of being ticketed.
- While the students in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide do in fact go to class, Gordy The Janitor never seems to do any janitor-related. Like everything in this show, this gets lampshaded.
"I'll get the night guy to do it!"
- Matthew on NewsRadio is a reporter, and on early episodes is actually seen doing his job, but for most of the show's run he's hardly ever seen doing anything but hang around the office and be The Ditz. In one episode he explicitly does nothing but play computer Solitaire.
- The Office (US) plays this as a plot point. Michael is constantly interrupting everyone's work with his various self-indulgent obsessions, causing employees to occasionally protest that they have too much work to be fooling around. Jim also seems to spend most of his time in the office planning and performing pranks because he's bored with his career. In spite of all this, work is getting done. We're frequently told that the Scranton branch is the highest-performing branch in the company, some episodes do show the cast hard at work. The implication is that the "documentary" simply doesn't show us the parts where nothing is happening except work.
- Our Miss Brooks: We almost never see (or in the radio version, hear) Miss Brooks actually teaching English, although she's said to be quite good at it. The rare glimpses seen of Miss Brooks actually teaching are usually played for laughs, such as her tutoring of Stretch Snodgrass in "The Yodar Kritch Award". The same goes for Mr. Boynton, whose canonical biology lectures consist of one about the skeletal structure of frogs in "Mr. Conklin's Wake Up Plan".
- Piet Piraat is a Belgian children's show about a good-natured pirate crew, which could be seen as an example of this trope.
- Power Rangers Turbo has Divatox and her crew. They're space pirates but we rarely see them loot or plunder anything (outside of the episode that debuted the Phantom Ranger). Divatox wants to conquer planets and that's WAY beyond her profession. Somewhat justified in that she does declare at the start of the series that their main goal from that point on will be to destroy the Power Rangers, in revenge for their destroying her intended groom Maligore.
- Completely averted in Profit where the plot revolves almost entirely around the eponymous character doing his job, albeit in a rather creative fashion.
- In Roots, slaves seem to have an awful lot of free time. Much is made of major outrages (rape, children being sold away, mutilation of runaways) but little emphasis on the horror of performing agricultural work 70 hours a week for no pay from age six till death.
- Sarah Jane Smith of The Sarah Jane Adventures is supposedly a reporter, but we never see her doing any actual reporting. She spends most of her time battling evil aliens, something she has explicitly vowed to not report on. Lampshaded in that Sarah's standard excuse when she dashes off somewhere is "I have to go file a story!" This is never what she's actually going to do. However it's actually averted in the final episode when it's revealed that she is known as one of the country's top reporters-presumably, she has been working off-screen.
- On Saturday Night Live, one of the recurring "Weekend Update" characters is their resident political comedian, Nicholas Fehn (played by Fred Armisen). Despite bearing the title "political comedian," he never actually does any comedy; he reads newspaper headlines and responds, "No wayyyy! No! Can't do that!", and spouts out a series of unformed thoughts and unfinished sentences till Seth interrupts him, telling him he's not really saying anything. Then Nicholas accuses Seth of not wanting to think or use his brain.
- From the early days and done occasionally when he'd guest host, Bill Murray would be Weekend Update's movie reviewer and make Oscar picks, but had never seen any of the nominated films.
- The Janitor in Scrubs rarely, if ever, does his job. Normally, he only cleans if he really doesn't have anything better to do.
- This is an acknowledged fact in-universe:
Janitor: I'm sorry, Carla, I can't help you, I have work to do.
(entire room bursts out laughing)
Janitor: Ah, that one always kills.
- At one stage, he bets JD that he can't memorize everyone's name. If JD loses, he'll do the Janitor's job for one day. If the Janitor loses, he'll do his own job for one day.
JD: Do you remember how?
Janitor: It's been a while.
- This is an acknowledged fact in-universe:
- George's job as Assistant to the Traveling Secretary of the New York Yankees for several seasons of Seinfeld. "The Summer of George" provides a nice postmortem:
Jerry: Ah, you had a good run. Took 'em to the World Series.George: ...I gotta give the players most of the credit for that.Jerry: Don't sell yourself short. You made all those flight arrangements, hotels, busses...George: Nah, I don't know who was doing that.Jerry: So when you actually did work, what is it that you did?George: (Beat) ...I'll tell ya, they had a pastry cart you wouldn't believe.
- Worf's status as a Klingon in Star Trek: The Next Generation. His warlike, belligerent attitude was so at odds with the requirements of his superior officers (as this video shows) and the peaceful Federation, that one could suspect that if he ever acted the way he was written then he'd end up on a penal colony instead of the bridge of the flagship. Incidents when he actually has a chance to act Klingon frequently ended in The Worf Effect. Oddly enough, the opposite occurred when he joined Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His Klingon side got defined more clearly, yet his new Starfleet duties did not. He was purportedly the first officer of the USS Defiant, and yet more often than not, Jadzia Dax or Major Kira would fill the role of commanding officer during Captain Sisko's absences, not him. JustifiedTrope, though, since Worf is an orphan raised by human parents in a non-Klingon culture.
- Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is officially the station's chief science officer, but a vast number of her mentioned or onscreen jobs/contributions seem more fit for an engineer like Chief O'Brien, specialists like Dr. Bashir and Ezri, or command officers like Captain Sisko (i.e., repairing replicators, being the Defiant's helmsman, commanding the Defiant repeatedly when Sisko was out-of-action, and sometimes working as an equal with Bashir in medical affairs). In any given episode, she's very likely to be doing at least one task that normally wouldn't be performed by a general science officer, and instead assigned to a different crew member.
- Jackie Chen in Sze U Tonight. He has a role in the show's production team but rarely turns up to work, and yet somehow has the backing of TVB's executive chairman.
- Aside from the first few episodes, the kids from Twin Peaks are too busy solving mysteries to bother attending school. This only serves to emphasise the show's pervasive Dawson Casting.
- Played intentionally in Unhappily Ever After — Jack is firmly established as a used car salesman who frequently skips work and rarely sells a car when he does come in. In the finale, he finally starts taking the job seriously and makes enough commission in a week to fund Tiffany's entire Harvard tuition — then he goes back to being a slacker to save Mr. Floppy's life.
- Notably averted in Veronica Mars; Weevil and his PCH bike club actively engage in biker gang activities, although they aren't as violent as real life gangs.
- In The Weird Al Show, Val Brentwood, Gal Spy doesn't actually perform any espionage or anything spy-like. Given the number of episodes where actual spy work would be useful to Al or his friends, it's surprising that she pretty much doesn't do anything but hang around at Al's house.
- Invoked in Weird Science when the guys want to become vampires to be cool but not actually suck blood. Lisa grants the wish, albeit replacing the lust for blood with lust for the chocolate beverage Yoo-hoo. So aside from the Yoo-hoo thing, being a vampire for them basically consists of being admitted to a night club that they were too nerdy for before.
- Once on The West Wing, the president is bedridden and watches a daytime soap opera. He asks, "Do any of these people have jobs?" His bodyguard answers, "One of them's a surgeon... I... think." Within the show itself, we see a lot of the staff doing their jobs. The President himself seems to mostly though be doing the PR side of his job and reacting to military situations that develop. We never really hear what his legislative priorities are or what kind of legacy he wants to leave. When Bartlett list his accomplishments late in the series (and well into his second term) he mentions a Supreme Court justice he appointed and Economic Growth... and thats it.
- Captain Feathersword, Sixth Ranger of The Wiggles, sings pirate songs and causes mischief with his crew but doesn't actually do anything very piratey. Which is just as well, what with his... feather sword.
- According to Sax and Violins, the band Talking Heads are "criminals that never broke no laws".
- Anytime a wrestler takes a Gimmick from the Wrestling Doesn't Pay playbook, as it is unlikely that they have ever worked in their Kayfabe vocation. Note that there are some aversions, such as Paul Bearer actually working in a funeral home or Ray Traylor (Big Boss Man) being a former corrections officer.
- The Minnesota/International Home Wrecking Crew generate a lot of heat by bragging about how skilled or tough they are after cheating in matches or lobbying to get out of matches altogether. They all display man hating tendencies, and Lacey's even hinted at homophobia despite acting like a girly girl lesbian with Rain in SHIMMER. They beat up weaker and or outnumbered baby faces for no reason and have been part of movements to subvert entire promotions for various reasons. They like to trick unsuspecting rookies into doing manual labor for them, they are not good people. Lacey and Rain have even implicitly slept with multiple partners, for minute sums of money in Rain's case, to please her boyfriend Jimmy Jacobs in Lacey's, but they haven't been implied to do any much in the way of home wrecking. This was especially obvious in Women's Extreme Wrestling, where an actual home wrecker, Shelly Martinez, stole the husband of Mercedes. It's just a reference to the Ole\Arn Anderson Minnesota Wrecking Crew that became a Snow Clone when they made a friend who wasn't from the State.
- Melina Perez, Johnny Nitro, and Joey Mercury ("MNM") entered WWE in 2005 claiming to be Hollywood stars, but even in Kayfabe none of the movies or TV shows they'd supposedly appeared in were ever mentioned. (It was later explained that MNM weren't actors themselves, but hobnobbed with actors in their quest to become "famous.")
- Former Tag Team partners Paul Burchill and William Regal entered a feud after a UPN representative implied the two were bland and suggested they get gimmicks. While Regal was trying to explain his case Burchill blurted out that he had just discovered one of his distant ancestors was Blackbeard's first mate's deckhand and he was going to dress like a 15th century pirate to honor the family legacy. Regal ended up losing the feud and being forced to dress like a pirate too.
- Despite protesting Hudson Envy's accusation of being a "Fake Ass Pirate" Kairi Hojo hasn't done much in the way of plundering. She's better than most examples in that she at least sails.
- Older Than Feudalism: In a lot of ancient Greek plays, the Greek Chorus usually was supposed to represent the townspeople or the household help or whatever a crowd in the play's given setting would naturally tend to be. While these people do help the audience understand what's going on with their songs (thus doing their job as a chorus), there's nothing in the script to suggest that they actually do anything related to the trades of the bit characters they supposedly represent.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Invoked by Cyrano's improvised poem The bold Cadets of Gascony at Act II Scene VII. Cyrano describes the life of a Gascon Cadet as nothing more than brawling, swaggering, hiding they are poor, getting badass sobriquets, chasing married women and intimidating their husbands. Of course, then comes Act IV and this trope is dangerously inverted because the cadets starve, kill and confront a Last Stand.
- According to the introductory song of The Gondoliers, the eponymous characters spend all day serenading their loves rather than ferrying people around Venice in gondolas, which is the basic job description of a gondolier.
- Lord Mountararat explains in Iolanthe that the House of Lords did nothing when Britain was winning her proudest days in Good Queen Bess's time, that they did nothing while Wellington was thrashing Bonaparte, and that the more they keep from meddling in things they don't understand, the better for the whole country.
- Ko-Ko in The Mikado is appointed Lord High Executioner precisely in the expectation that he'll be this trope, since as the first person in line to be executed (for flirting) he would have to cut his own head off first.
- The eponymous Pirates of Penzance speak oft and loud about how they are rough men (rough!) and lead a rough life (rough, rough!), and how they live by strife, and so on... but every time they do, it's to point out that they'll make an exception just this time. They drink sherry, refuse to separate Frederic from his beloved girl (okay, there's other reason for that), and sing a hymn to Poetry, yet never rob anyone. It is eventually revealed that the pirates are members of the peerage gone to the bad — which means that they weren't doing anything related to that position either.
- They do try their hand at piracy, it is just that their particular combination of extreme soft-heartedness and blind gullibility makes them hilariously bad at it. Why?
- Twelfth Night:
- Antonio is supposedly a pirate, and gets in trouble for crimes he's committed in the past, but onstage we don't see him do anything but be nice to Sebastian.
- Viola, who got her job with Orsino with the intention of becoming part of his musical entertainment (she can sing). Lots of music gets played for Orsino, and Feste (who doesn't even work for Orsino) sings for him, but Viola seems to prefer sitting by Orsino's side while they both comment on how pretty the music is.
- The bandits in Two Gentlemen of Verona don't ever actually succeed at banditry. The closest they come is on their meet main character Valentine, when it takes about a minute for them to go from "Give us all your money!" to "We like the look of your face. Be our leader!"
- None of the sets in the LEGO Vikings line have the eponymous Vikings raiding villages or fighting any human opponents. Instead they are cast in the role of defenders and treasure hunters, with dragons and other monsters as the attackers.
- AdventureQuest: There's vampires who never drink blood, rogues who never do anything particularly rogue-like, a treasure hunter that's almost never seen hunting treasure, a water elf who spends disturbing amounts of time on dry land well away from water, and a farmer who'd rather be a dread necromancer... among other things.
- Most of the pirates in Alundra 2, only time we see proper pirates is in the protagonist's flashback. Protagonist himself, a pirate hunter, doesn't really do any pirate hunting.
- Arknights: While Rhodes Island is referred to as a pharmaceutical corporation, they only engage in medical work in Operator Records, with most of the plot having them work as Private Military Contractors. They don't even make medicine in-game to sell for cash, instead using factories to make gold. The later chapters eventually offer a reason for this — Rhodes Island is the successor to Tower of Babel, created by the Sarkaz Queen Theresa to aid her during the Kazdel Civil War. The heavily militarized nature of the organization is likely because they were originally a military force.
- American McGee's Alice and its sequel are Grimmifications of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, so of course the Mad Hatter will appear. Except he doesn't make hats, he's a Mad Scientist specializing in cybernetics and machines.
- Assassin's Creed:
- Assassin's Creed II features "thieves" who can be hired by the player. When they are, they act as quick and agile fighters. The rest of the time, they are just hanging around on rooftops and other hidden areas and looking "stealthy". Either way, they never seem to do any thieving at all. And then there are the prostitutes (called courtesans). Their job is to distract guards, which they are remarkably good at considering that they never actually put out. This is handled better with the Romani dancers in Revelations, who are actually meant to be a distraction.
- Averted with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag which takes place during The Golden Age of Piracy; everyone who calls himself/herself a pirate, player character Edward included, participate heartily in proper piracy. Funnily enough, it seems to have inverted the trope somewhat in-series as although there's plenty of piracy and Edward is fully capable of assassination, the actual nature of being an assassin is downplayed and Edward doesn't even join the cause formally until the last leg of his journey, this did not escape the notice of many longtime fans of the series.
- The Baldur's Gate series at least tries to justify the latter as much as it can manage (mostly that said adventurers have come into a situation they couldn't handle alone and need a group to help them with), but still lets in a few Fridge Logic NPCs here and there. Subverted in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. You find some adventurers in a dungeon, and they ARE actually on an adventure. They start pestering you to give them a quest, but you are so far above their level that you give them busywork to get them out of your hair.
- In Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle, the trope is discussed by the titular character. She's initially surprised that her father wants to take on cargo, thinking it's the wrong job for pirates, although is mollified somewhat when he says he means dangerous, maybe-illicit cargo. Also, she notes that Razzo probably needs to work on his piratical instincts. ("Isn't this stealing?")
- The "great adventurer" Toma in Chrono Trigger spends pretty much the entire game drinking in a bar and talking big... which does, at least, get acknowledged in-game. In the game's present day, you learn that he did find what he was looking for, at least.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Adam Jensen is supposed to be the chief of security to Sarif Industries, but after the opening scenes he doesn't spend two minutes doing his actual job, instead being turned into a spy/hitman/all around problem solver for his boss. The job description of a security chief should rarely involve crawling around ventilation ducts and disposing terrorists personally.
- Somewhat lampshaded if your gaming instincts take over and you start looting your coworkers' offices: eventually you'll get emails asking Jensen to investigate a series of petty thefts in his capacity as chief of security.
- The original plan for the opening level/tutorial averted this: it was going to feature Jensen breaking in to a secure facility, only to have it revealed at the end that the facility belongs to Sarif and it was all part of a demonstration of security vulnerabilities.
- The previous idea is somewhat referenced the actual game: if Jensen infiltrates the terrorist occupied Sarif plant via the vent on the roof, he informs Prichard that he will mention the vent on his next security report, presumably with the intent of getting that liability resolved.
- Dr Z in Dinosaur King (the DS version) wants to realise his dream of riding on the backs of dinosaurs. He does nothing (aside from his initial act of acquiring a Dinoshot to summon dinosaurs) towards that aim during the entire game, instead getting his minions to go around, menace the local populations, and infest areas with robots.
- In Dishonored, the player character Corvo Attano is the Royal Protector, which means he is supposed to be the Empress' personal bodyguard and to protect her from threats at all times. So why does she send him far, far away for months on a quest to find a cure for the plague which is decimating her city? It turns out there's actually a reason for this: she did so on the recommendation of the Royal Spymaster, who's trying to assassinate the Empress and wants a few months without Corvo so he can hire some untraceable assassins that can bump her off without interference.
- In the extension Knife of Dunwall, you play the master assassin Daud. Daud is not a nice guy and killing people is supposed to be his job, but you can play in a completely non-lethal way if you want. If you do so, this is lampshaded by your lieutenant, who points out that you're not yourself these days and that not killing people is not your habit. (This is more or less justified by the fact that Daud is questioning himself and feeling guilty for murdering the Empress.) However, if you go out of your way to murder everyone and leave a pile of bodies at your wake, your lieutenant will think that you're slipping since as a master assassin you really shouldn't be killing that many people.
- Dungeons & Dragons-based video games (such as Neverwinter Nights or Stormreach) tend to feature an inordinate number of career adventurers sitting around in taverns or campsites, practically begging you to delve into loot-filled dungeons in their stead, as well as a bunch of adventurers who are just waiting for someone with actual work ethic to turn up and talk them into seeking fortune and glory (i.e. the main character).
- The Elder Scrolls:
- In general throughout the series, the player can become the head of several guilds and factions. Fortunately, nobody expects you to do things like run the organizations, participate in politics, debate religious doctrine, etc. After all, that would interfere with your actual job of delving into caves and fighting bandits and monsters. There are a few exceptions, however. To note:
- Downplayed in Daggerfall, in that it is established that you aren't actually head of the various guilds (not even of the regional guild, as in Morrowind), just amongst the most high-ranking members.
- Averted with the Imperial Cult. You can only advance so far due to not being a full time priest, even after the local leadership has noticed you have met several of their gods.
- Great House Telvanni plays with it — their outlook on things means it actually makes sense that most of the actual running or details are left to someone else once you become a Master or the Archmagister. It is, instead, the mid-level ranks where the player doesn't have to do any of the stuff that is supposed to come with the ranknote .
- Most people recognize that the protagonist is sufficiently badass that their time is better spent battling world-threatening events than doing paperwork. For instance, far enough into the main quest, you end up appointed "Hortator" by the three Great Houses, supposedly making you a joint warchief. Rather than being put in charge of any armies, though, you are officially recognized as a one-person army. They even tell you that your new duty is to venture into dark and dangerous places where no one else would dare to enter. In addition, many organisations have established procedures with middle-management people running things smoothly (and possibly dipping into the till) without the important people at the top having to bother.
- None of the named members of the Thieves' Guild or Dark Brotherhood are ever shown actually doing their jobs (unless they are specifically accompanying the Dragonborn). They much prefer sitting around the clubhouse, swapping stories of their past exploits, and cajoling the Dragonborn into doing their missions for them.
- Downplayed by the Companions, who you may run into in random encounters in the wilderness hunting sabrecats and mammoths and such. If you are observant on your way to Whiterun for the first time, you may see a group of them killing a giant who was harassing a farm when you come to Whiterun.
- Also Downplayed with the College of Winterhold, but it's very easy to miss. Every day at around 2 PM, lectures on magic will be held in the college, so it is carrying out some educational practices.
- Minor guild the Bard's College generally averts this — the members are seen brushing up on lore, practicing musical instruments, singing, all of the usual bardic stuff. You are the one they allow in to explicitly handle outside jobs.
- The Pirate storyline in Escape Velocity Nova really doesn't make the player character into much of a pirate — it is about resurrecting and then leading the Association of Free Traders, who are more smugglers than pirates (they're a group of semi-legal free traders banded together to protect themselves from piratical predations and the Federation's blatantly Mega-Corp-slanted trade laws). The only plundering going on is aimed at actual pirates, and consequently tends to be ignored by the legal authorities.
- The MMORPG EverQuest features gnome pirates who have to constantly remind each other to talk "piratey." They're bad at following through on the details, but they like the idea of being pirates.
- The player character in Fallout 3 never does any marriage counselling or pedicuring or whatever the GOAT selected for them. Justified in that it was supposed to be your job in the Vault... which you end up having to flee from the very day you turn of age. Averted by Butch DeLoria, who was assigned "hairdresser", and later admits to being a barber.
- Like the above Elder Scrolls examples, Fallout 4 can have the player become the General of the Minutemen and the Head of the Institute within relatively short order of meeting both. As the heads of such, you don't seem to do much battle planning for the Minutemen (unless "walk in with Power Armor and a mini gun and kill everything in sight" counts as planning), and you don't do much actual scientific research for the Institute (hell, you can become the leader of the greatest post-war scientific institution with a comically low Intelligence score of 1).
- Officially, Bambi "Buck" Hughes is supposed to be a former soldier turned mercenary who kills people for Hoyt Volker on the Rook Islands in Far Cry 3. In the actual game, all we see him do is hang around bars for beer like a stereotypical crass Aussie, and coerce Jason Brody into going on a Fetch Quest for him while he lies around in the sunlight. The closest he comes to actual combat is when Jason finds out he's keeping his friend Keith as a Sex Slave and engages him in a Knife Fight, and even then, the fight doesn't go in Buck's favor. At all.
- In Final Fantasy XII Vaan wants to escape the poverty and oppression of Archadian occupation to become a sky pirate. Fran and Balthier are notorious sky pirates. And Reddas is a former sky pirate who runs a whole smuggler's port full of sky pirates. Don't expect to see any actual piracy in the skies though (or on the high seas or anywhere else for that matter), or even an explanation of what sky pirates actually do with the massive amount of free time they seem to have.
- It's mentioned in-game that the moniker "sky pirate" has drifted from "person who robs airships" to a generalized sort of adventurer-type who probably spends more time hunting monsters and raiding ruins.
- We do get to see plenty of sky pirates in action in Revenant Wings. Aside from the player characters it seems to involve theft, murder, slavery, and the odd bit of genocide. The player characters prefer to beat up other sky pirates and take their money, which is only somewhat less reprehensible.
- Duodecim lampshades this, as the name for the mannikin version of Vaan is "Idle Sky Pirate."
- Final Fantasy V has a band of pirates stuck in an inland sea, where there is little to no sea travel, because of the Torna Canal being closed. Pillaging seems to be beyond their understanding; if you do sail into town, they'll just head for the inn and get drunk, forcing you to actually pay the undefended townsfolk for any goods you need.
- Averted by their leader Faris, whose first reaction to finding out she has a princess in her custody is to hold said princess for ransom, and then subverted again when she discovers that said princess has the same Orphan's Plot Trinket as she does and realizes that they are long lost siblings.
- In Final Fantasy VII, we have the Turks (Reno, Rude, Elena and Tseng mostly), who are supposed to be high ranking officials of the intelligence and security division of the Shinra Electric Company. Instead of doing any administrative or security work, they spend most of the game trying to abduct Aeris.
- Lampshaded by Elena, the Rookie. When you meet them in Wutai Rude and Reno are too drunk to stand and she tries to get them to fight you. Rude replies that they are in Wutai on vacation.
- The Mayor of Midgar is an Authority in Name Only whose only real purpose is to be officially in charge so Shinra can pretend that the city isn't a Company Town. In truth, he does almost nothing in regards to running the city (or at all), and when Avalanche raids Shinra HQ, he helps them out of sheer boredom.
- In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the Dead Dunes are populated by a large gang of supposed bandits. They are never shown attacking or robbing anyone and there really isn't anyone else in the area for them to prey on even if they wanted to. It could be argued that they are plundering the local ruins but since the premise of the game is that the world is going to end in a few days it is doubtful that anyone would care.
- Similar to other Pirate examples; the pirate crew in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade doesn't seem to be, well, that piratey. They seem to be more Mercenaries/hirable ferry. However; they are a bit of an aversion of the pirate tropes — Lyn is very distrustful of them merely because pirates actually do pillage and plunder because her parents and the rest of her tribesmates WERE killed by bandits...
- In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Garreg Mach is called a monastery, but in practice it's just ye olde military base. The population mostly consists of soldiers, groundskeepers, merchants, combat teachers, and students. Nobody lives there for purposes of spiritual contemplation/isolation from secular life/tending to pilgrims/copying manuscripts, as in real life monasteries. If not for the optional choir practice and two rooms that contain religious iconography, it would be a bog-standard fortress.
- Captain Falcon from F-Zero falls into a similar rut, although the focus of his series is mainly on his side-business, racing. All of his Bounty Hunting (other than an aside mention in GX's Story Mode about him chasing a bounty through Samurai Goroh's territory and getting caught up in a race with him) is literally All There in the Manual.
- Johnny from Guilty Gear is ostensibly a pirate captain, but all we really see him doing is flying around on his airship and hitting on the various female cast members. He also seems to be friends with Ky, who is head of the world police force.
- Half-Life series:
- Gordon Freeman is a scientist who is never really seen doing any science. Even in the beginning of Half-Life, briefly depicting him working with the other Anomalous Materials Team members, his contribution to the experiment is pressing a button and pushing a cart. General consensus is that all the other scientists were better qualified (at least had seniority), given they all had access past biometric scanners where Freeman did not. On the other hand, Barney's comment ("Looks like you're in the barrel today") suggests Gordon just drew the short straw for this particular anomalous materials assignment, and would otherwise be reading gauges and writing equations on chalkboards with the other labcoats.
- Lampshaded in Half-Life 2, after Gordon has thrown a switch as part of a lab experiment:
Barney: Good job Gordon, throwing that switch and all. I can see your MIT education really pays for itself.
- Perhaps also referenced in Gordon's meetings with the G-Man, who alternately refers to Gordon as "Mister Freeman" and "Doctor Freeman", with audible sarcasm quotes around the latter.
- Less obvious is that he is stated to be a theoretical physicist. In reality, theoretical physicist don't really conduct many experiments, they basically sit around and think about really complicated math problems. The name was probably chosen to indicate Black Mesa research is getting at technology we can only imagine in real life, but if they're using it, it shouldn't be considered theoretical for them.
- The Mayor of Hidden City is almost never seen doing anything remotely mayorly. The other characters just do whatever they want with or without his authorization, and most of the cases involving him deal with his personal issues rather than his role and responsibility as the purported leader of the City.
- Kingdom of Loathing has a burgeoning pirate population, all of whom seemingly just wander around their cove and/or play drinking games. They make you clean their ship because they're too "busy" to do it, or anything else, themselves. Their ship never even leaves port unless you pretend to be the captain and guide them somewhere. The only time they do anything significant is in the special secret ending to the hippy/frat war, where the pirates launch a barrage of cannonballs and bomber airships to destroy most of the island. And that still isn't really pirating, because they don't bother with stealing things or capturing hapless maidens; they just blow stuff up.
- Averted in League of Legends: the actual pirate champion, Captain Gangplank, used to be treated as one of the comic relief characters, with his stereotypical pirate slang and his cannonballs and his ability to eat oranges to "cure his scurvy" and break out of curses and stuns in the process. He is, however, the only champion who was willing to shoot his own men to give others a "morale boost" (now removed for balance reasons). As more lore was released, it became clear that behind the child-friendly model is one of the worst bastards in the League.
- Miss Fortune isn't much better. While she does have a better reputation than Gangplank, this is by Bilgewater's standards, and it's made clear there's a reason she's also a wanted criminal. The main difference is she doesn't treat her crew as completely disposable.
- In one flashback sequence in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd, it is shown that Lechter Arundel was this back when he was student council president at Jenis Academy. The primary duty of the rest of the council was to track him down and force him to do his work. He stops appearing as this once he graduates and starts doing his real job (Erebonian Spy) full time.
- The Legend of Zelda series:
- Though the "pirates" from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker love to boast about being the terror of the seas, they mostly just act as roughneck ferrymen for Link and the many people he rescues or works with over the course of the game. They're even ruled by a little girl whose mother was the previous pirate leader. They do eventually engage in about one and a half acts of actual piracy, but they don't seem particularly cutthroat in either case.
- It gets worse in Phantom Hourglass, where Tetra seems to have gone crusader of the seas and wants to scold the owners of the "Ghost Ship" for kidnapping people. Which should be common business for pirates.
- In Oracle of Seasons, the skeletal pirates eventually stop being stranded and set sail on the open seas, only to immediately become seasick, dock their ship and proceed to stand around on a beach for the rest of the game.
- The Gerudo in The Ocarina of Time. Nabooru is sincerely horrified, to the point of open mutiny, by Ganondorf's conduct: "Though we're both thieves, I'm completely different from Ganondorf. With his followers, he stole from women and children, and he even killed people!" The Gerudo have pretty high standards for a race of desert bandits. More to the point, no Gerudo besides Ganondorf ever steals anything; if they catch Link trespassing, they'll throw him in prison without bothering to confiscate his items, allowing him to hookshot his way to freedom. By the time of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the Gerudo have disavowed Ganondorf's actions and formed thriving civilizations. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask subverts this however, as there's a group of Gerudo pirates who murdered a Zora and kidnapped his children.
- Depending on the game, Princess Zelda is shown doing very little by way of actual ruling. This tends to be justified by her being blocked by her disbelieving father (we have yet to see a competent King of Hyrule), being taken prisoner by the Big Bad, being placed in an enchanted sleep, etc. In most cases, the best she can do is contact Link and send him to save her and Hyrule. In the case for Twilight Princess her non royal duties are somewhat explained in promo-materials because Hyrule was invaded before her coronation.
- Seth and Sed of Lost Odyssey are both pirates, but we never actually see them participating in piracy, despite Sed, having a ship (though no crew).
- MapleStory assassins seem to follow this trope. None of that 'professional murder' business in this child-friendly MMO. Even if they are supposed to be ninjas instead (orange Naruto gear ahoy), they don't fare terribly well at this either, being in no way stealth-driven and generally picked by the most look-at-me showoffish players in the game. Pirates fare no better, since any running away from these so-called ravening hordes is generally down to the reputation pirate players tend to have on MapleStory forums, rather than any notion of actual piracy.
- Kelly Chambers your Bridge Bunny in Mass Effect 2 is supposed to be a psychological analyst, providing insights into the crew, and informing you if they are overly stressed. She actually does none of that, acting more like a secretary who informs you of incoming messages and tells you when a crew member asks to speak to you. And she feeds your fish, if you flirt with her. The only "insights" she provides are when a newly recruited squad mate just reports aboard, and all she gives you are platitudes that you've already figured out for yourself. Jacob Taylor is the one who actually has a better handle on crew morale. Materials found in Mass Effect 3 incidate that she was intended as a Honey Trap to spy on Shepard and ensure they followed Cerberus' plans, but ultimately had a case of Becoming the Mask and chose to prioritize Shepard over her mission.
- The Mongols in Medieval II: Total War. They might take one or two fortifications or throw an army at your capital every once and so often, but overall they just tend to sit there looking menacing, even on higher difficulties. Guess the Khan just felt like taking a holiday in Europe rather than conquering it.
- Samus Aran from Metroid is repeatedly called a Bounty Hunter, except all of her jobs are given to her by the government, and involve a cross between reconnaissance and being a One-Woman Army, with very little to suggest she does any independent contract work (other than the singular vendetta against Metroids). As it turns out, this may ultimately be the result of a translation issue: Retro Studios planned on introducing actual bounty-hunting in Metroid Prime 3 (namely sidequests of catching criminals dead or alive in exchange for upgrades), but this horrified the Japan-based officials of Nintendo, revealing they had massively out-of-sync ideas of what Samus actually is (they effectively assumed her to be a general "space adventurer with a heart of gold", unflattered by the idea of her pursuing murder-for-hire). The guys at Retro jokingly referred to her as a "pro-bono hunter" instead.
- Not to mention her nemeses the Space Pirates, who seemingly exist only to antagonize her. Then again, Samus keeps breaking into their bases. The Prime subseries manages to deal with this in a decent way — the Pirate Logs throughout the games establish that the Space Pirates do have a life and plans outside of trying to kill "the Hunter" (their little nickname for her gives you a guess what Samus does during her down time) and were active for a fair amount of time before Samus came onto the scene, thus the bounty on the lot of them.
- In a few issues of Nintendo Power there was a tie-in comic series to Super Metroid. A new character — a male bounty hunter — was added in as a sort of rival and irritant to Samus. While she continued blasting her way through the underground tunnels, he would stop to pick up the space pirates' "ears" or claws or whatever alien body part they were. After he started going on about how rich he was going to be after turning these body parts in for the bounties, Samus actually expressed disgust at his mercenary ways.
- Notably, at the start of Super Metroid, with the last Metroid captured and the Space Pirates seemingly blasted to smithereens, Samus does mention searching for a new bounty to hunt. Then, of course, the game happens, and Samus is half doing it for revenge, and half doing it because the previous bounty from the first Metroid clearly still hasn't been fully honored.
- Metroid Dread finally suggested a halfway point between interpretations of her job: at the start of the game, she's chastized by ADAM for pursuing a mission whose bounty is too low for how high of a risk it is. This suggests she does occasionally pursue bounties for the cash, but she's often more inclined to work based on personal motivations (in this instance, benevolence).
- Villagers in Minecraft all have "professions" (except for the rare Nitwit type), but this mostly just determines the type of items they offer in trades; most of them never appear to do anything besides wander around their town. Farmers will plant crops, but fishers don't go near water or catch any fish, smiths don't construct weapons or armor, etc.
- Faith of Mirror's Edge is a Runner, carrying important data across one of the few remaining unmonitored channels left in the City. Or at least, that's what we're told. She only actually gets one message to deliver, and passes it off to Celeste before the end of the first chapter. Later events reveal it probably never got there. There are some Kent Brockman News reports paranoid about those employing the Runners suggesting a good portion of the population has hired one before, but there isn't much reason to actually believe them. Most of the other Runners seem to be more interested in political assassination or selling out friends. Justified, since Faith spends the rest of the game being hunted by the government after they interrupted her first delivery of the game.
- This is also a case of What Could Have Been: unlockable content reveals that the bags played a larger role in early drafts of the plot, which seems to have been recycled into Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, which makes much more of an effort to show the Runners in action: they're hired as couriers, thieves, and occasionally saboteurs by everyone from ordinary citizens, to crime lords, and even, it's implied, the Conglomerate themselves on occasion. La Résistance is explicitly a separate group from the Runners (though some Runners do work for them). The early main story missions and the side missions are all about standard day-to-day Runner activities, before Faith sticks her nose into matters that get the State Sec on her tail.
- In Monkey Island, pirates who actually do anything pirate-related are about as frequent as chicken's teeth. Even the protagonist, self-proclaimed "mighty pirate" that he is, never does anything more nefarious than your average Kleptomaniac Hero. The first game lampoons the idea with Guybrush's crew (who he has travelled all over Melee Island to find) flat out refusing to help him and instead sunbathing on the deck, treating the journey to Monkey Island like it's a cruise holiday. He does get the opportunity to sink the ship later in the game, instead travelling back with the Island's hermit, Herman Toothrot, who has his own ship. It turns out in the fourth game that this is canon and his former crew are pissed off with him because they had to find their way back to Melee without a ship (i.e., had to make some effort).
- Justified in The Secret of Monkey Island (in which the pirates are afraid to sail because there's an evil ghost ship on the loose) and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (in which the Largo Embargo does not allow them to sail). Also lampshaded all the time by the responses Guybrush gets when he claims he's a mighty pirate ("You look more like a flooring inspector!").
- This gets tossed out the window in The Curse of Monkey Island. You even get defenseless tourists to prey on if you want. In the same game, Guybrush calls his crew out on this trope when it seems they'd rather sing than sail.
You say you're nasty pirates,
Scheming, thieving bad bushwhackers;
From what I've seen, I tell you
you're not pirates, you're just slackers!
- Out of the first two games full of pirates who don't do anything, the Men of Low Moral Fiber do by far the most nothing. They're slack enough in the original, but they spend pretty much the entire sequel dozing on a ledge. They have a lot of excuses for why they're up there.
Man of Low Moral Fiber: No, it's the opposite of acrophobia...
Guybrush: Sounds more like WORKAPHOBIA to me.
- Escape from Monkey Island ramps this trope up to 11, to the extent that it lessens the blow of the pirates getting overrun by tourists. For instance, compare the SCUMM Bar from the first game, where pirates are downing grog, swinging on chandeliers and passing out on tables, to the one in the fourth game, which has about two or three people sitting around and playing darts.
- The rather dynamic opening of Tales of Monkey Island's first episode is one large callback to series traditions. Guybrush faces LeChuck once more, complete with mystical voodoo artifact — assembled through yet another long-winded quest — a ship, lots of alleged treasure and a lazy crew sleeping in the hold.
- Then you finally see some proper pirates besides LeChuck in The Siege of Spinner Cay (the second chapter of Tales). You do not fuck with McGillicutty.
- In the fourth episode of Tales of Monkey Island, it's revealed that the Pox of LeChuck that's been driving the conflict only affects real pirates, proving that while Guybrush may not be much of a pirate, he is a pirate.
- Zigzagged with Mortal Kombat character Kurtis Stryker. While from the beginning, he is described as and seen doing the duties of a police officer, his Mortal Kombat: Armageddon bio card says he is also a former member of the United States Marine Corps. and had served in the Gulf War. Unlike with Sonya and Jax, who are members of the U.S. Army Special Forces and wear their military identification necklaces, no evidence before or since has ever been seen of him being in the service.
- Mother 3 has Wess and Duster, practitioners of the Thief Arts. One of the conversations with the townsfolk involves a girl calling you "a thief that doesn't steal anything." They do sneaky things, yes, but not in a criminal way. They are considered to be somewhat odd by the other villagers, though.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2, you become a squire... which explicitly, as your knight tells you, doesn't require you to clean his stables and polish his armor, or really do anything at all expected of a squire. You don't even see him again and are perfectly free to continue adventuring with your own Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. This is justified, though, in that the sole reason for your promotion to squire was a legal technicality to let you face your court trial in Neverwinter rather than the Kangaroo Court of Luskan.
- The shepherd in Oedipus in my Inventory never does any actual shepherding, and seems to spend all his life being summoned by kings and queens to do things.
- The town of Rogueport in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a parody of the Grand Theft Auto Vice City-style setting, and as such has several examples of rogues, bandits, and roughnecks who are rarely, if ever, seen stealing or doing other unsavory things. Goombella even remarks of one character: "At least he's supposed to be a thief, but I've never seen him steal anything."
- There are a few subversions. While having a conversation with Toadsworth, the player can see two members of the Pianta Syndicate beating up members of the rival Robbo Gang. At one point, a bandit robs Mario of some coins, forcing the player to track said bandit down (the trope is zigzagged when the bandit returns the coins without a fuss, upon being caught). Also, one side quest has Mario track down a bandit that conned a Goomba. When the bandit is caught, the Goomba carts him off for, it's heavily implied, some less than savory retribution.
- The explorer in Flipside in Super Paper Mario never actually goes out and explores anything, but he might say a few things about places Mario and company have already been to as the game progresses.
- In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness, there's an exploration team composed of a Slakoth and a Slowpoke who call themselves "Team Slackers, the zero-motivation exploration team". Each time they appear, they point out the fact that they don't really do anything besides just laying around, and they wonder why they even formed an exploration team in the first place.
- The titular Professor Layton is noted for being an exceptional archaeologist and teacher, but is very often seen solving puzzles or deducting mysteries instead. His total canon appearances of him at his job? One. It wasn't even in one of the games!
- The only time we ever see any member of the World Annihilation Front actually trying to destroy much of anything is the very start of Sands of Destruction, where Morte tries to bomb Viteaux (she mostly just succeeds in scaring people, not actually causing damage — and one city is by no means the whole world). She's technically the leader of your group, but never manages to talk anybody into trying to actually, y'know, destroy the world (she does at least mention the idea, but everyone else just kind of chalks it up to Morte being nuts and goes on with their business; you actually end up helping more people than you hurt. There are other members of the Front, too, but you never see them or hear of their exploits. Perhaps justified in the end, since the Front's leader actually wants to remake the world with himself as its supreme ruler, rather than just raze the place to the ground.
- Blue Rogues in Skies of Arcadia are more in the nature of random do-gooders and adventurers, and look down on pirates who actually engage in, y'know, piracy. Some exposition reveals that Blue Rogues are in it for the challenge; any ship that can defend itself is technically a valid target. Vyse's little group still kill people and take their stuff, as per the genre standard... they're just very selective of who they do the "killing" part to. As they do spend a lot of time messing up the navy of the not-Spanish-really Empire, one could think of them as English privateers without an actual England to endorse them, at least until the end of the game when they essentially start their own England.
- Similarly, early on in the game, you might find you're getting less money than you could be for discoveries because a treasure hunter is discovering them first. You'll eventually meet him, in a restaurant run by a pirate you trounced earlier. He'll join you if you've discovered thirty discoveries, but if not he'll just hang around in the restaurant, not hunting much of anything, until you have.
- The nominally "mercenary" Star Fox team aren't very mercenary-ish in their business plans. Despite turning General Pepper's offer to join the army down cold in Star Fox 64, Peppy replaces him and leads the army in Star Fox Command. The ending to Star Fox 64 shows that Pepper paid the team quite a bit (depending on the score). They also were paid for Sauria and the Aparoid business. Star Fox Adventures actually begins with the team in a financial crisis from their lack of mercenary activity.
- The rival Star Wolf team seem to get it wrong too, since they are considered criminals. Granted, realistically mercenaries are always a bit shady, but just living out the "whoever pays"-style doesn't warrant bounties.
- The Mario Brothers are allegedly plumbers. However, the only thing they ever seem to do involving plumbing is their habit of traveling via pipe — which real plumbers are not noted to do either, but never mind...
- In the live-action movie and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, they do use their plumbing skills to stop an attempted sabotage/flooding at a dig site and then in a castle basement. Likewise, the animated series would occasionally show them using their plumbing skills and equipment, either for actual plumbing or for dire situations.
- Referenced in Banjo-Tooie, when Loggo the toilet complains of being clogged:
Kazooie: Then call a plumber. I think Mario's free at the moment.
Loggo: I don't think he actually does that kind of work anymore...
- Also referenced in There Will Be Brawl, where Mario claims to have done a lot of things, but denies being a plumber.
- In the original Donkey Kong he was working on a skyscraper as a carpenter.
- The "plumber" thing is from Mario Bros. Thing was, his business wasn't just plumbing even then, but rather unusual sewer pest control (both the pests and the method of control). Which is really not much different from what he's done ever since. His skills are probably a lot more specialized than your average drain unclogger. You wouldn't hire the Ghostbusters to rescue a stray dog, would you?
- In contrast to most of the Mario universe, the Nintendo Comics System's Super Mario Bros. comics from the early 1990s feature a surprising amount of plumber-related content. The brothers built an impromptu network of water pipes to cool down a volcano, and saved the day when Bowser's poorly-thought-out plan to destroy the sewer resulted in a flood. There was also a running gag about Mario's obsession with a comic book series about a plunger-wielding plumber superhero. The shorter comic strips in between the stories included Luigi taking the reader on a tour of a plumbing museum, and Mario and Luigi's childhood trip to plumbing camp.
- In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, the first mission in the Haunted Towers is called "A Job For a Plumber", and indeed, Luigi has to restore the water supply to the mansion to complete the mission. Of course, the way he does it — fighting ghosts, monstrous crows, and Man-Eating Plants — isn't the type of thing you learn for such a profession. Professor E. Gadd's statement after finishing the mission implies he doesn't know that Luigi is actually a plumber by trade either.
- This trend of the Mario Bros. not doing any plumbing is finally (and canonically) averted in Super Mario 3D World's opening cutscene. Mario and Luigi use plumbing tools to fix an actual pipe.
- Nintendo occasionally refers to Mario being a plumber in the past tense, it just being one of the many occupations he's had, alongside things like carpenter, doctor, and, of course, princess-rescuer. One instance of this caused a brief panic among fans until Nintendo reassured them that he's still a plumber, although he's "not limited to that."
- Princess Peach for that matter doesn't do many royal duties either despite being the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom. She usually just stands around and looks pretty whenever she isn't kidnapped or playing games with her friends (and enemies). Sure, Peach does go on adventures herself and protect her kingdom in Super Princess Peach and the various RPG games, but she never does anything involving ruling her kingdom. The royal guards never do their job either, practically handing Peach over to the villains with next to no resistance. Bowser, on the other hand, actively rules his kingdom in many of the games. He commands his army and orders the construction of new settlements, among other things. Considering how much respect Bowser's minions have toward him despite his evil deeds (as seen in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, where they serve him out of admiration instead of fear), Bowser might very well be a better ruler than Peach.
- Daisy would probably count as well. Her home kingdom of Sarasaland was only shown in her debut game, Super Mario Land, where Mario had to save her after she's been kidnapped by aliens, though it's sometimes mentioned in her biographies for the spinoffs where she's often seen with Peach beginning with Mario Tennis except for Super Smash Bros., not counting the trophies and stickers.
- Justified in Tales of Berseria, where Benwick and the other members of Aifread's Pirates happily talk about their past exploits, but don't really do any piracy during the game. That's because the captain has gone missing, and while nobody has any issues taking orders from First Mate Eizen, his priorities are trying to find the captain, then supporting the rest of the party's goals, both made much easier by keeping a low profile. Additionally, since every shipping lane in the world is controlled and protected by the Abbey, most pirate crews have given up on merchant raids and spend their time raiding the pristine-but-uninhabited ruins of the far islands instead.
- For bandits, we really don't see much banditing from Moses Sandor and his band in Tales of Legendia. Even when they move their base into town after being forced to leave their former base, the townspeople come to consider them to be pretty friendly people. Though their former does appear to show that they may have done plenty in past based on Moses room and all the gold they had.
- Downplayed and lampshaded in Tales of Vesperia. Karol, Yuri, and Judith form the guild "Brave Vesperia" at the start of the second act, but they ultimately don't do much guild work outside of sidequests (which are mostly available in the third arc). Considering the Big Bad and what he does, and them having to switch focus to dealing with the giant life eating Eldritch Abomination in the sky they don't have much time for guild work.
- Gameplay-wise, Medics in Team Fortress Classic gradually were used more and more exclusively for flag-capturing rather than as healers.
- Similarly, in Team Fortress 2, a lot of classes can specialize in things other than their job indicates: Demomen that engage in melee combat rather than any demolition, Medics who attack rather than heal, Spies and Scouts who never pass on any information they may have on the other team, Pyros that never set anything on fire, etc.
- Invoked and subverted in TimeShift: the protagonist is ostensibly a scientist, but he never really does any scientific tasks and his skill set seems more like that of a secret agent. Because that's exactly what he is. The "scientist" angle is a cover story. He's actually an undercover agent planted to keep an eye on Dr. Krone, as the government had suspected he was planning something.
- Reimu from the Touhou Project series is a miko in charge of maintaining the Great Hakurei barrier. From what everyone's seen, that consists of drinking tea, sweeping, and more tea.
- Averted in Silent Sinner in Blue. Not only does Reimu spend the early part of the manga practicing to call upon the powers of Sumiyoshi, her opening battle with Yukari Yakumo involves her calling upon Ama no Iwata Wake no Mikoto. So she isn't so lazy that she never practiced channeling deities.
- The official title of Patchouli Knowledge is librarian and tutor of the Scarlet Mansion, however no-one but her actually uses her library (with the exception of Marisa's regular bouts of kleptomania) and it seems unlikely Remilia values a good education. Granted, researching new magics might be what Remilia hired her for, this being an instance of "do what you love doing".
- Reimu's case is lampshaded and deconstructed in Mountain of Faith; none of the humans pay the Hakurei Shrine more than lip service because Reimu doesn't fight the youkai as expected of a miko. So when the Moriya gang arrives, sets up their shrine, and starts actually sending their miko to fight youkai, Hakurei followers quit in favor of the new guys who actually do the job, endangering the Shrine and by extension the Barrier.
- Dupre in Ultima was apparently the mayor of Trinsic in Ultima IV. He joins the Avatar's party in the local tavern, where he's mostly busy drinking. And nobody ever brought his job up in the following parts of the series. But being a mayor was easy in Ultima IV, when characters didn't have daily schedules implemented yet, anyway!
- Remember all those mighty heroes of the first three Warcraft games? Well those who survived long enough to appear in World of Warcraft apparently earned the privilege of sitting around getting Player Characters to do all the heroing for them. Their main excuse is that they need to hold the fort. Partially justified as they are almost all royalty or rulers and can't go putting themselves in harms way.
- Party member Citan Uzuki is supposed to be a doctor (well, as well as a mechanic, engineer, scholar, martial artist, master swordsman, spy for Solaris, ...), but he is never seen actually doing much medicine. He has one in-game ability related to healing, but it is more magical than medical and at least two other characters (who are not doctors) have similar abilities.
- In the beginning of the game we can see that the main character Fei is a quite gifted painter and enjoys making art. During the rest of the game, Fei is arguably busy being the hero and generally being at the center of several multi-millenarian plans which will determine the fate of the world, but we never ever hear anything again about his artistic vocation. It only lasts for a few seconds at the beginning of the game. That said, his painting is still quite relevant to the plot, especially when the protagonists find a centuries old portrait with a similar technique....
- The Photography Club in Yandere Simulator is an In-Universe case of this. Supposedly, it's their job to take photos for the school yearbook, among other things (which is why all students allow you to photograph them if you're in the club). They actually just hang around their clubroom chatting all day. Their leader Fureddo Jonzu will straight up admit to this if you try to join, though he's happy to welcome you into their circle of friends anyway. Unless mysterious disappearances or murders start happening, and they decide that it's their job to go catch the killer...(If the leader's name didn't tip you off, they're expies of Mystery, Inc.)
- For all the effort that Kay Faraday puts into building her entire identity around being a "Great Thief" and a "modern day Robin Hood" in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (going so far as to give herself a motto), she never steals anything more valuable than people's catchphrases, Gumshoe's role as sidekick, Edgeworth's lines, and the contents of Edgeworth's pockets, even when it would be very useful for her to do so. She's also a 'Thief of Truth' whose main goal is to steal and expose evidence of corrupt doings, but she never makes any efforts towards that end either. Even more egregious as Investigations does not use Kleptomaniac Hero, with Edgeworth relying on notes/pictures/etc. In fact, Phoenix Wright's and Apollo Justice's assistants (Maya Fey and Trucy Wright respectively) actually end up doing more thievery than... well, the thief.
- In CLANNAD, Tomoya and Sunohara are considered to be the school's delinquents, but all they do is cut class and show up late.
- Pirates in Love takes place aboard a pirate ship whose crew engages in no actual piracy; the crew of the Sirius are more like seafaring treasure hunters who prefer to search for long-lost hidden valuables rather than pillage those already owned by someone else. In spite of this, for some reason they're still outlaws, with the result that any lawbreaking they do over the course of the game involves escaping from the Navy, whose officers are bent on arresting them for the crime of, apparently, calling themselves pirates.
- Magi in Tsukihime are described as people who research and study magic intently far away from other people all by themselves their entire lives. Then they made the next game, Fate/stay night and based it on magi. And what do you know, not a single character is like that, and the prequel and supplementary materials illustrate quite clearly that it's actually kinda rare for a magus to actually do this, and not always voluntary. Averted in The Garden of Sinners, which was written before Tsukihime, and it involves magi actually doing things. Such as killing and enslaving the residents of entire apartment buildings for the sake of magic experiments.
- GEOWeasel's main characters are a group ostensibly trying to take over the world, but not much is done to further that goal and most of the show is comedy or parody.
- As noted above, the Gordon Freeman of Half-Life is a prime example of this trope. However, the Gordon Freeman of Freeman's Mind manages to simultaneously justify this and avert it. Here, Gordon legitimately knows a great deal about physics, regularly including it as part of his mental dialogue. At the same time, this incarnation of Gordon is utterly bonkers and borderline psychopathic. He's not allowed to do anything related to theoretical physics because he just can't be trusted to do it!
- hololive was originally envisioned by its creator Motoaki "YAGOO" Tanigou as a group of Virtual Idol Singers; however, the number of girls in the group who are primarily singers and adhere to the traditional idol culture image of Contractual Purity can probably be counted on one hand note The vast majority of hololive performers are better known for being Lets Players with extremely quirky personalities who engage in distinctly un-idol-ish behavior like swearing and making crude jokes (but most of them are still talented singers). A common joke among hololive's fandom is that YAGOO wanted AKB48, but instead he got AK-47. Amusingly enough, one of the characters, Marine Houshou, is an actual pirate that doesn't do anything piratical, mostly because she doesn't actually have a ship.
- Homestar Runner:
- Homestar doesn't seem to be much of a "terrific athlete" anymore...
- A more obvious example would be Coach Z. The earliest character page said that he wasn't even a coach and he goes by Coach Z because it sound cooler than just "Z". This fact was later scrapped. He still does just as much janitorial work and rapping as coaching these days, though.
- Despite the fact that Bubs owns several businesses, you can count on one hand the number of sales that he's made. He's given away items for free (or exchanged them for something worthless like play money or pencil shavings) far more often than he's sold them. Nor do we ever see him talking to vendors, taking inventory, counting money, setting prices, etc.
- The King Of Town also counts, being the former trope namer for Authority in Name Only. He lives in a castle and has a crown, but he doesn't seem to rule over anyone except The Poopsmith.
- In the in-site series Cheat Commandos (an Affectionate Parody of G.I. Joe), as an evil organization, Blue Laser naturally has several plans for world domination. However, the toons seen never actually show them carrying out such plans, what plans they do show however are comparatively less evil; nefarious deeds like having a barbecue, or de-grouting their bathroom. The Cheat Commandos themselves seem to have no purpose other than to stop Blue Laser, and frequently aren't even doing that. One toon focused on them getting a new commander who captured Blue Laser in about thirty seconds (he was in their HQ, on the couch, playing videogames) and had them do things like rescuing hostages, airdropping supplies, and taking out insurgents — the troops hated it and asked if they could let Blue Laser out again.
- The eponymous pirates of Lego Pirate Misadventures tend to get mixed up in things that don't really involve being seaborn raiders, to the point of actually getting fired from being pirates at one point. The fact that anytime they do try, they end up bungling it or just wind up empty handed doesn't help.
- Puffin Forest:
- Ben's character in a Dresden Files game was ostensibly a detective with the police force assigned to a dead end department. It turns out the reason Detective "Savage" Rage was assigned to said department is that he has no investigative skills or any intelligence at all; he's a Cowboy Cop only good for punching baddies.
- In a Star Wars campaign Ben played a smuggler who never smuggled any goods or, indeed, committed any crime aside from smoking death sticks. It became a joke among the party that if they were ever captured by the Empire, Ben would be the only one released because he never broke any laws.
- On a meta level, Ben chose the class because he liked Han Solo's hat. Han Solo doesn't have a hat.
- The title character of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has had his job as a physician slowly become like this (to the point where is has been lampshaded — twice.)
- Basic Instructions: The majority of the strip's superheroes rarely do any actual superheroing. Counting just the recurring characters, The Judger and Mr Everywhere literally do nothing apart from stand around making snide remarks, Omnipresent Man does very little actual crimefighting for legal reasons, and Rocket Hat mostly defends himself against the Moon Emperor's schemes (although this occasionally does prevent harm to innocent bystanders). About the only one who actually takes an active role is the Knifeketeer, a thing he laments repeatedly.
Third Person: I can perceive and describe any action, including people's internal thoughts.
Knifeketeer: And you use that power to fight crime!
Third Person: No. I describe crime, engagingly.
Knifeketeer: Great. Another team member who knows everything and does nothing.
Third Person: The Knifeketeer was disappointed by the news, but nobody cared.
- Kickback and Lazorbeak in Insecticomics are technically pirates, but they spend most of their time playing pranks and annoying the rest of the cast. In a broader sense, pretty much the entire cast is this since nobody's really interested in continuing the Autobot/Decepticon war.
- Lampshaded and averted in Irregular Webcomic! here. Even with a link to the page in the annotation! Also parodied by the "Death" theme — most of The Grim Reapers rarely, if ever, reap souls, mainly because most of them only engage with a specific and extremely rare type of death. Most of their comics involve them discussing how uneventful their un-lives are.
- Learning with Manga! FGO has the main character Gudako ostensibly serving as an agent of Chaldea, who ventures into Lostbelts and Singularities to right wrongs, battle the demonic Goetia, and protect humanity, the things the protagonist does in the game it's based on. However, as Gudako is a Comedic Sociopath, she cares about absolutely none of these things and instead mostly treats Chaldea as a playground, leaving the more sensible Servants of her entourage to do her job. This is probably a good thing, mind.
- The male player character Gudao, who has the same stated role as Gudako, is usually trying to sleep with androgynous-looking Servants instead.
- In Men in Hats, this is the most convincing of Beriah's attempts at being a pirate.
- Nebula: For all that the other characters call him a drifter, Pluto stays pretty darn sedentary, just sticking around the edge of the solar system while being too shy to introduce himself.
- Ozy and Millie: Captain Locke zigzags this. In his first appearance, he sails to a convenience store to buy gum. The next time he's seen, he does a Prince and Pauper switch with Millie and tries to raid the principals office. Later he mentions having battled a giant squid and attempts to overthrow the government of Greater Llewellynlland.
- Despite being described as "hardboiled detectives", Pickle Inspector, Ace Dick and the eponymous character of Problem Sleuth never actually do any detective work. They do solve lots of Weird Puzzle Shit and defeat a demonic manifestation of a local mob boss in an epic boss fight though.
- PvP used to be about the staff of a gaming magazine, but the characters were rarely seen working on the magazine. Now it's about a game publishing company, and the characters are rarely seen working on the games.
- The mercenaries in Schlock Mercenary pride themselves on their policy of hurting people and breaking things and only caring about their paycheck. But while they do plenty of mercenary work they usually manage to end up on the right side (or lesser evil side) of a conflict. (The very powerful and benevolent Petey tries at one point to take them out of circulation, peacefully, for the good of society, only for many of them to get bored and look for new missions — which generally put them back on the side of right again.) The times that they didn't was usually in ignorance, preferably when they were actually trying to be the good guys.
Tagon: This isn't moral high ground. This is the artillery range.
- God poses as a temperamental artist. Monique calls for some actual art.
- Baby Blue does plenty of evil in the current day, but her Start of Darkness showed her getting Fs in Loving Kindness, and Ethics, without showing her doing anything unkind or unethical.
- Seem to crop up a lot in Sins Venials. Everyone wants to be a pirate, no one really knows what they do.
- Christian Weston Chandler in Sonichu is supposedly the mayor of CWCville. The number of times he's actually been shown being the mayor or even exercising mayoral authority are nigh-nonexistent compared to his more important duties of loitering at the mall, looking for a girlfriend of the week, and battling poorly characterized supervillains. It got to the point that the character of Allison Amber, supposedly his secretary but more of a mayor in all but name, was created as a Hand Wave to explain how the city functions when the mayor would rather beat up mall cops than enforce the law.
- Schwartz in Space: The Comic may or may not be one. If the sole purpose of a "spaceman" is to live in space, he succeeds with flying colors. Otherwise, not so much.
- Vincent from Spiky-Haired Dragon, Worthless Knight doesn't take arms and fight, even though he's a knight. Justified by that he has a curse that rendered him unable to take up weapons.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Reynir is a sheepherder by trade. One can guess how much sheep herding he gets to do while being the Little Stowaway on an expedition exploring a Plague Zombie ridden area, especially in a setting that includes Raising the Steaks.
- Terror Island has Ned Q. Sorcerer, DDS, who was bathed with "rays of pure dentistry" in his Backstory, but has never been seen to perform the functions of a dentist, preferring instead to give long tedious speeches about "moonitaurs." However, his superpower is that everyone knows he's a dentist. He isn't actually a dentist.
- In TwoKinds, the Magi Brothers are wolf Keidran siblings who tout a fearsome reputation as skilled, lethal assassins. When they get involved in the story, charged with assassinating protagonist Trace, they repeatedly get beaten off in battle, and then separate for different reasons. The younger brother, Natani, gets taken prisoner by Trace, ultimately comes to befriend him, and falls in love with Keith, a Basitin adventuring partner of Trace's. The older brother, Zen, on his own mission, ends up being tricked by two of the more incompetent members of the cast and subsequently captured. Heck, the official cast page actually says that the Magi Brothers' reputation mostly stems from a mixture of dumb luck and bragging, and they're actually not very good at it.
- Icing on the cake? Natani likes to boast that on their first mission, their target, a Black Mage, took one look at them and killed himself. He leaves out the part that he did so by blasting them with a Dangerous Forbidden Technique, the backlash of which killed him, and that he nearly killed Natani with it. And also that, prior to getting hit by that spell, Natani was a girl; he needed to get his brother's soul plastered into the cracks in his own soul to save his life, the side-effect of which left him mentally screwed up and thinking of himself as male.
- Actually lampshaded in comic #970, where Keith teases Natani about just how bad Natani is at actually being an assassin.
- In Counter Monkey, Spoony recounts a Thieves' World tabletop campaign where one of the players was a thief who responded "I'm not that kind of thief" to pretty much every activity you'd expect a thief to do, such as lockpicking and pickpocketing. It seems like the only reason he was a "thief" was to tumble around during combat.
- In Half in the Bag, Mike and Jay are ostensibly VCR repairmen, but they'd much rather sit around, drink beer, watch movies, and generally waste the time and money of Mr. Plinkett, who is their only client. More than a few episodes imply they don't actually know how to fix VCRs, and are occasionally and briefly replaced by more competent workers. It's also frequently joked upon that due to Technology Marches On, VCR repair isn't exactly a job in high demand.
- Sean from Mega64 was initially introduced as someone who delivers Rocko and Derek e-mail from the Big Bad's other Mega64 test subjects, but Rocko and Derek don't answer their e-mail much throughout the series, and Sean spends most of his time instead getting involved with the episode plotlines and plans.
- Untitled Pirate Movie: The ex-pirate indeed doesn't do anything (anything pirate-related, anyhow), but so desperately wants to.
- The Aqua Teen Hunger Force were originally conceived as a group of detectives solving mysteries and the like, but the premise was dropped after a handful of episodes (and supposedly only even existed in the first place because an executive thought it would be too hard to write plots for episodes if they didn't have some sort of job). It's been lampshaded at least twice: in season 2's "Kidney Car", Frylock admits to Carl after his car is totaled (and he says that he can't just call the cops to deal with it because they've long since stopped taking his calls) that they aren't detectives anymore because it didn't make them a whole lot of money; and in season 3's "Robositter", while arguing about how to get money for more food, Shake suggests just doing detective work and has to be reminded that "we haven't 'detected' anything in three years".
- When the main character becomes a "Pirate King" by killing the previous captain, he quickly alienates the crew by turning them into this: not only do they stop going out and raiding people, but the one time they did, they let the fishermen go and didn't take anything because Archer didn't want to doom a working-class sailor to bankruptcy. Combined with his Jerkass personality, a mutiny quickly ensues.
- There's also Pam, before she became a spy. Pam was supposed to be the HR manager, but the only time you ever see her doing any HR work is during the first few episodes, where Archer beats her with her dolphin puppet, and also once creating an employee evaluation questionnaire. Even though dealing with sexual harassment complaints against Archer is supposed to be the body of her work, you never actually see her confronting him, and Mallory does a lot of things that you'd expect the HR person to do. It's probably a good idea writing-wise because it would be annoying if another character (besides Lana) was constantly referencing the unprofessionalism of ISIS and also because Pam is usually doing a lot more interesting things than HR.
- Parodied on Bojack Horseman: Former child star Sara Lynn, who has spent her life in Hollywood, has no idea that jobs don't work like this:
Sara Lynn: I've always wanted to be an architect. But, you know, the type where by night she's a high-end call girl and by day she's an international superspy.
Bojack: So, when is she an architect?
Sara Lynn: I dunno. Frontier times?
- Defied by Oona in Disenchantment when she gets dredged up by some pirates who do nothing more than dress the part and sail around the ocean. She is pissed from recent events, wants to blow off some steam, and is not having any of that. Out of boredom and frustration she convinces them to do some plundering, much to their delight.
Pirate: The captain never gives us any orders.Oona: You are pirates! There's a defenseless ship of wealthy merchants right there!Merchant: Ahoy there, friends!
- Cut to them violently raiding the ship and murdering the merchants.
- Donald Duck wears two variations of a sailor outfit, but we seldom see him doing duties connected to the Navy. Even The Nostalgia Critic lampshaded this in his DuckTales (1987) review stating that Donald's been in the Army, a Boy Scout and even a Nazi but never a sailor. This gets lampshaded in Mickey Mouse (2013) revealing that Daisy bought him his sailor suit and he knows nothing about sailing ships even though Daisy seems convinced that he does for some reason.
- Played for Drama in The Dragon Prince by Rayla, who is part of the Moonshadow Elf assassin team which takes an oath to kill King Harrow and Prince Ezran of the human country of Katolis. She certainly possesses all the skills of an assassin and is considered a teenage prodigy, but she has never killed a person before and falters when its actually time to do it. What sets the whole plot in motion is when she spares the life of a human sentry after seeing the terror on his face, and his report enables their enemies to get defenses ready, which results in all the assassins except Rayla getting killed or captured. Rayla ends up teaming up with Prince Ezran and his stepbrother Prince Callum after they discover that the egg of the Dragon Prince was not destroyed after all, and they can stop the war by bringing it back to the Dragon Queen, but Rayla still identifies as an assassin and struggles with the shame of having failed and deserted her teammates.
- In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "They Call Him Mr. Ed" Eddy becomes interested in big business and creates an ambiguous organisation called Ed Co.. He employs every member of the cul-de-sac to do various jobs, but as the organsation has no goals or purpose, it cannot make a profit, meaning he cannot pay his employees (who instantly quit when this information becomes clear).
- The Emperor's New School: Yzma is Kuzco's advisor but doesn't give him any advice through the series because she's under the impression that, since Kuzco must graduate in order to become Emperor, she doesn't have to do her job until then. She's told otherwise by a board of people in charge of reviewing her work in "Take My Advice".
- Family Guy:
"Alright, listen to me, you long-neck bastard. You give me the scroll and I'll make you head of sanitation services for the entire city. It's a do-nothing job, sweet cake."
- Glenn Quagmire was said to be a pilot in early episodes. It wasn't until "Dammit Janet!" that we see him in his uniform, and in "Airport '07" that we actually got to see him do his job (although he was seen returning from a flight in "The Thin White Line").
- On that note, just how often did you see Cleveland at the deli that he owned? This was lampshaded by Lois in the pilot episode of The Cleveland Show, when the characters learn that Cleveland is leaving Quahog, she asks him who will run "that deli you never work at".
- Peter zigzags with this trope. His first job was part of an assembly line in a toy factory, which averted this trope, as he was shown at that job all the time. After getting fired, he became a fisherman, and since then he has worked for the Pawtucket Patriot beer brewery, neither of which he was ever seen doing much of.
- When was the last time we saw Lois give piano lessons?
- A deliberate example from Mayor West:
- Variation with occasional cameo The Huntsman in Freakazoid!, a superhero (complete with rousing intro) who genuinely wants to act the part. Problem is, for some reason there's never a problem that requires his abilities, and he's invariably reduced to stomping off in a huff and cursing "Darn the luck!". He's more accurately described as a Pirate Who Doesn't Get To Do Anything.
- The Whalers of the Moon, who freely admit there aren't any whales on the moon, and even have a song about it.
- Professor Farnsworth, who is only seen teaching in one episode (he intentionally makes his course titles sound difficult so no one will sign up).
Professor Farnsworth: I don't know how to teach. I'm a professor.
- Likewise, this episode is the only one in which Amy, ostensibly an engineering student, is shown attending class. She's also an intern at Planet Express, but never seen to do actual work there. It's outright stated in the second episode that Professor Farnsworth keeps her around because she has the same blood type as him.
- Planet Express itself never seems to do deliveries anymore. Lampshaded in an episode by Hermes:
Hermes: Didn't we used to be a delivery company?
- Lampshaded and serves as a plot point in "Future Stock" when the company is taken over by the 80s guy Steve Castle. Leela points out that, despite all his peacocking and gloating, the company hasn't made one delivery since he took over. Of course, his only motivation is to make the company look like a rival to Mom's Friendly Delivery Company to raise their stock and sell the company to make a fortune. He doesn't actually need to make deliveries to do that. The same episode has this exchange:
Leela: (after seeing Planet Express's newest ad): That was terrible! People won't even know what we do!Bender: I don't even know what we do! Nah, just kiddin'. Heh. What are we, like a bus or somethin'?
- The reason is given over several episodes that Professor partially founded Planet Express just to send delivery crews to their deaths, and fund his attempts to create atomic monsters.
- Speaking of Bender, his own position at Planet Express is pretty unclear. For most of the first season, he doesn't even have any actual job. Then he becomes the chef, and is dangerously terrible at it. By the time of the revival, he's been bumped up to "assistant manager of sales."
Farnsworth: (talking to a busty young woman, a vacant-looking young man and a robot) You'll be the captain, you'll be the delivery boy, and you'll be the alcoholic, foul-mouthed(Leela, Fry and Bender enter.) Oh God, you're alive!
- In "Law and Oracle," Bender refers to his role as the company chef when Leela tries to get him to make the actual delivery, "delivery boy" Fry having recently quit his job. When Leela responds by asking for something to eat, he stalks out of the room, returns with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and throws it at her.
- Lampshaded yet again in the 100th episode, where the crew celebrate their 100th delivery.
Hermes: That's almost 10 per year!
- Scruffy (the janitor) is never seen doing any actual janitorial work, and almost always just reading dirty magazines, right from the minute we see him.
Bender: Who the hell are you?
Scruffy: I'm Scruffy. The Janitor.
Bender: Well, why aren't you fixing the boiler?
Scruffy: Schedule conflict. (turns page of his magazine)
- Zoidberg is very rarely seen doing any actual medical work. Of course, given he's Zoidberg, this is pretty justified. He states in one episode how the only reason the crew even tolerates him there is because he can cut things. Although, another episode also said he and Farnsworth had a secret deal that Zoidberg would kill him when the symptoms of hypermalaria surfaced so he wouldn't die a gruesome death from it.
- In Hoze Houndz, our titular anthro dogs barely do any fire fighting activites at all despite the title.
- Jake and the Never Land Pirates. They call themselves pirates, but they're just kids who want to have a good time. However, while they may be the page image, this was heavily changed for the program's fourth season, Captain Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which has a much greater focus on action-adventure, including elements such as Jake engaging in actual swordplay and facing off against real dangerous villains. The program's specials also tended to be much more action-adventure oriented, even before the revamp. They still don't engage in any piracy, which the dictionary says is what makes one a pirate, but "Neverland Swashbucklers" admittedly doesn't have the same ring to it.
- In the Justice League episode "And Legends", one of the things that convinces the Justice League that something is wrong about Seaboard City is the way the ice cream man drives around town for hours, waving at everyone he passes, but never once stops his truck to sell any ice cream.
- In King Rollo, the eponymous monarch is never required to perform any royal duties, instead preferring to spend his time climbing trees and playing with his toys.
- In Leapfrog: Numbers Ahoy, the villain is a pirate. What makes him a villain, though, isn't anything resembling or labeled as piracy, but what he does on the side: kidnapping fish and keeping them in the hold of his ship. He's not shown to do anything else, and it's revealed that his fish-napping is part of a hobby separate from his "job" as a pirate.
- If one watches the intro of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack they will get the impression that K'nuckles is the adventurous type who gets Flapjack involved into all sorts of trips and quest, with Bubbie being the voice of caution and believing that the docks are safer. In truth, they spend most of their time there scavenging for candy and he seems to actively avoid doing anything that involves leaving the harbor or performing and when they do go on an adventure, it's usually because of either Flapjack dragging him along or the promise of the sweet paradise of Candied Island tempting him into it.
- Moral Orel: Throughout the series, Clay refers to his "stinking dead-end job" but he is never seen doing it. In fact the audience, and even his own son, doesn't even know what it is until the penultimate episode of the series when Orel goes to talk to the mayor and finds out that it's his dad.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Pinkie works at a local bakery but is only seen baking a handful of times over the course of the series, and more often than not it's for personal reasons rather than business. It might be that she gets all her work done in the fairly early morning, as a bakery well might, before the adventures. It's actually more likely that she works as a party planner, which she is seen doing quite a bit in the show.
- Twilight Sparkle gets promoted to princess at the end of the third season. The first episode of the next season briefly makes the point that this means she's in charge and has responsibility — ponies come to her for orders in the absence of the higher-ranking princesses — but she spends the rest of the season doing almost no princessy duties. The matter is discussed in "Twilight's Kingdom Part 1", Twilight spending much of the episode lamenting that her role as a princess is largely ceremonial.
Rainbow Dash: So what are you supposed to do in the meantime?
Princess Twilight: Nothing. Unless, of course, one of you needs me to smile and wave.
- Even prior to this, she lived in a library and was presumably Ponyville's librarian. The few times anyone actually asked for a book, they asked her less as a librarian and more as a friend. In "Read it and Weep", she does give Rainbow a book... but it's from the hospital's collection, not the library's. When Rainbow wants to read the rest of the series, she borrows from Twilight's personal collection, rather than the library's.
- Part 2 ends with her getting the title "Princess of Friendship", which seems to consist of doing about the same kinds of things she was doing before becoming royalty, except with a palace instead of a library and occasionally going out on specific quests. At least she's doing something — you could say she doesn't do what princesses do, except that it's not like they're actually expected to do anything much. She still doesn't seem to do any ruling.
- This is actually addressed in the Season 8 premiere when Twilight Sparkle decides on a whim to start a school staffed by herself and her friends. Chancellor Neighsay raises the salient point that teaching is a full-time job and asks how Twilight can possibly expect to do it and her royal duties, and Twilight simply shrugs the concern off without even thinking it will be an issue. It becomes exactly that in the finale where she's forced to leave her school practically unguarded to do her royal duties, allowing Cozy Glow to usurp control and come so close to victory that it takes a literal Deus ex Machina to stop her.
- The hero of the cartoon Night Hood. It's ostensibly a 1930s version of Arsène Lupin. He's hunted by police in every country in the world. Other criminals try to pin their crimes on him. Does he ever actually steal anything or commit a crime more serious than lightly taunting police forces? No.
- The so-called "ninjas" in Ninjago don't do much in the way of acting as spies (as ninjas are wont to do), instead taming powerful dragons and battling undead enemies in Humongous Mecha. All while wearing extremely bright clothing.
- Kwazii Cat of The Octonauts constantly talks up his history as a pirate, but while he did spend time sailing on the ocean, the other activities he engaged in appear to consist mostly of telling sea stories and a little bit of treasure hunting.
- In PAW Patrol, when Adventure Bay's Mayor Goodway is seen, she is never in her office, mainly doing official ceremonies for new statues or squares, but at least it's implied she conducted some public services. The real offender here is Mayor Humdinger from neighbouring Foggy Bottom: he seems never to be in his home town, devoting his efforts solely to sabotage Goodway's administration or steal Adventure Bay's attractions.
- The Ant Hill Mob in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop don't seem to be involved in any mob-like activities at all. When they first appeared in Wacky Races they did things that seemed to suggest it, like throwing away their loot from an off-screen heist, but apparently did a complete HeelFace Turn after that.
- Played with in Peter Pan & the Pirates. All of Hook's Pirates are very eager to do some plundering and often talk about heading towards the Spanish main, but Captain Hook refuses to leave Neverland until he has dealt with Peter Pan, resulting in some very eager real Pirates that have nothing to do but act like stereotypical pirates who don't do anything.
- The Pirates of Dark Water: The protagonists aboard the Wraith (Prince Ren, Tula, Ioz, and Niddler the monkeybird) never steal anything, just look for the thirteen magical treasures that'll re-seal the Dark Dweller and save the planet Mer from the ever-encroaching threat of Dark Water. Ioz, at least, used to be an actual pirate before joining up and complains about the lack of piracy. Their antagonists, Captain Bloth and the rest of his crew aboard the Maelstrom, fit the pirate archetype more, but we don't get to see them doing their thing much at all since they're always focused on getting to the treasures before the heroes do.
- Popeye's a sailor man (toot toot), and certainly engaged in lots of high seas adventure in the comics, but famously had very few encounters with ships or even water in his animated cartoons. An average of one Popeye cartoon per year (out of ten to twelve made) showed the sailor actually doing his job. A big exception was during World War II, where quite a few cartoons portrayed him as having (re)joined the navy. But when Famous Studios took over production and the series switched to color, the "sailor" aspect was defined only by Popeye's white Navy suit. Some cartoons even had him with a totally different occupation.
- Ready Jet Go!:
- Auntie Eggplant is said to be a travel writer, but we never see her acting as such.
- In "Mindy's Weather Report", Mr. Peterson claims that he's the self-appointed safety officer of the neighborhood, and even in that episode, we don't really see him acting as such. He's also a scientist, even though we never see him working at the DSA.
- Thanks to limited screen time in the second Rose Petal Place special and the franchise being canceled before dolls and further stories could be released, Cherry Blossom is never seen at her job as an interior decorator, Gladiola is never seen tap-dancing, Fuchsia is never seen designing fashion, and Marigold is never seen planning parties.
- Didi is supposedly a teacher but this rarely gets mentioned beyond the requisite "taking Tommy to work" episode, where Chuckie's imaginary friend seems to remember her grading papers, and another when Stu asks why she's home and she reminds him it's summer.
- Drew lists his occupation as investment banker, but this comes up even less. Likewise Chaz is a bureaucrat, but this is never shown and seldom referred to.
- Samurai Jack's titular character almost never does the sort of work a samurai would do. Most pivotally, the signature trait of a samurai was their devotion to a single feudal lord, which Jack doesn't have, as he spends most of his time Walking the Earth as a lone warrior combatting the forces of the demonic overlord Aku and inspiring rebellion.
- Velma seems to be the only character who actually does anything school-related, even though they're allegedly all meddling kids. And even she's more likely to have a winning display at a science fair than to actually do something as routine as, say, attend a lecture.
- Lampshaded in the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated by Fred's dad, the mayor of Crystal Cove, who we never really see doing anything other than try to mess with the gang's mystery solving, up to this point:
Fred: Dad? What are you doing here?
Mayor Jones: My job as mayor! (Beat) Or at least what I interpret that to be.
- The Simpsons:
- Episodes from the first few seasons often focused on Homer Simpson's job as an (incompetent) tech and safety inspector at the nuclear power plant. In later seasons, he's seldom if ever shown working there (lampshaded in several episodes where Lenny and Carl ask him if he even goes to work anymore when they run into him). Even when we do see him at the plant, it seems to consist solely of lounging around at his workstation or going on break and eating donuts. This one is, admittedly, somewhat justified: Homer is a safety inspector, in a plant riddled with health and safety violations and run by a notoriously corrupt CEO. He'd probably have been fired long ago if he tried to actually do his job (and the one time he did, he put everyone in the plant out of work).
- Similarly Played for Laughs when Homer forms the Hell's Satans, a "motorcycle gang" (note the airquotes). They don't do anything other than just sort of hang out, wear designer jackets and merchandize, and half of their members don't even have motorcycles. Naturally, the other Hell's Satans, a REAL motorcycle gang, aren't too happy about this...
- Sonic Boom: The marching orders of the Five-Man Band note at the heart of the show are to fight off evil and defend their island home, but goofing off is more their cup of tea.
- South Park: Randy Marsh is supposed to be a geologist, but rare is the time we actually see him doing any geological work. Instead, we see him trying to set the world's record for taking the biggest crap, aiming to become a TV chef, giving himself testicular cancer so he can smoke medical marijuana etc.
- Plankton in SpongeBob SquarePants really just exists to act as The Rival to Mr. Krabs and cause drama by trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula; he's practically never seen being a restauranteur, which is ostensibly his job. This appears to be an intentional part of his Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain schtick: he's so obsessed with upstaging the Krusty Krab that he forgets to run his own restaurant, and nobody in Bikini Bottom wants to eat at a "restaurant" that doubles as a Supervillain Lair. Post-movie episodes reveal exactly why Plankton's restaurant never has any customers: because it serves chum. Said chum has been shown to be extremely foul, making people vomit and forcing one guy to get his stomach pumped. In addition, Mr. Krabs is shown to actively sabotage Plankton's business, either out of spite, to monopolize Bikini Bottom's fast food industry, or both.
- The three main pirates from Turtle Island are basically good literal examples, in the sense that there are certain reasons for doing this.
- The title characters of the short-lived Undergrads are not once seen attending class, talking to instructors or even studying. Every university student on the planet wishes post-secondary school offered that much free time. This is lampshaded in the final episode when Brody remarks how it feels like he hasn't set foot in a classroom or opened a textbook even once the entire semester.
- The Trope Namers in VeggieTales are a very self-aware example. Larry's verse implies that he doesn't even know what pirates are supposed to do.
Pa Grape: ...you just don't get it.
- The Venture Bros.:
- Dr. Orpheus is by trade A NECROMANCER!, yet is never seen actually raising anyone from the dead (apart from an attempt at resurrecting Hank and Dean). What he actually does appears to be random magic and protecting the fabric of the universe from the forces of chaos. Lampshaded in Season 4, where 21 tries to get him to actually bring someone back from the dead, and Orpheus explains that he's really just your standard magic user, but he believes that names like "wizard" or "magician" have been tainted by pop culture, while "necromancer" still has a bit of cred left.
- Then there's Billy and Pete. On paper, they run a scientific organization named Conjectural Technologies; in practice, their main revenue stream appears to be mooching off the Ventures. Even within the organization, Billy tends to be the one who tries to organize projects, while Pete sits on the couch and plays videogames.
Billy Whalin: We don't need much room for what we do, and that's why we can't pay you that much. Because we don't do that much.
Pete White: We actually don't do anything.
- An early episode also had literal pirates who were stranded in a forest of sargassum kelp and, aside from using (fake) Ghost Pirate tactics to commandeer passing cargo ships (which there don't seem to be many of in the Bermuda Triangle) they really don't do much of anything at all. This is appended when they foolishly try to hijack Doctor Venture's X-2 hydrofoil, and Brock burns down their ship. The Pirate Captain returns as a recurring character, but as his pirating days are behind him, he now mostly works for various branches of Venture in security. Naturally, everyone still calls him "the Pirate Captain."
- Yogi's Gang: The Envy Brothers are said to be trapezists but they're never seen performing.
- A literal example of this trope: If the following article is to be believed, the Somali pirates are now doing other things to pass the time due to better ship security and international naval patrols.
- The Barbary Pirates. They did get their start with actual piracy by raiding Christian vessels and ports, but then they realized they could make their operation much more profitable by running a protection racket, effectively becoming something akin to the mafia — with seafaring vessels. The entire Mediterranean Sea was their stomping ground, and many countries were all too willing to pay up just to keep the pirates from giving them trouble for defaulting on their protection money, until a certain new country known as the United States decided they'd have none of it and brought in their shiny new navy.
- In summer of 2010, 10 Russian spies were caught in America. However these aren't your badass Cold War Russians, as these spies were hanging around in Hoboken and raising families in suburbia. Though the spies were doing all sorts of James Bondian things, like bag switch offs and burying messages, there isn't any evidence that any of their information was of actual value. Most embarrassing are the photos of the spies. The first of these were posted on Facebook.
- "Do-nothing Congress" is a common phrase in American politics, usually used by Presidents, presidential candidates or the minority party in Congress; the charge was most famously levied by Harry Truman at the 80th Congress in 1948 and by the Democrats against the 109th Congress in 2006. Often it's an empty talking point that means "This Congress has done nothing I asked them to do," but occasionally it's used accurately. When the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives is closely divided between parties (and sometimes even when it's not), it's entirely possible that very few substantial bills will get passed. Likewise, when one political party strongly dominates the presidency and one house of Congress, the remaining house will very rarely get anything done, and even then only grudgingly.
I want to especially thank all the Members (of Congress) who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight. — WHCD 2012My charm offensive has helped me learn some interesting things about whats going on in Congress. It turns out absolutely nothing." — WHCD 2013
- Whether or not Congress does do anything is a contentious issue and "do-nothing" can be a desirable outcome depending on the issues on the table, party affiliation, philosophy (federalist vs. anti-federalist), etc.; moreover, "do-nothing" is usually used only in the context of passing legislation. Congress is technically responsible for overseeing the executive branch and crafting legislation, but as time has gone by representatives have created numerous subcommittees and it's now difficult to tell what Congress isn't responsible for, meaning that individual representatives may be doing quite a bit while the Congress itself does no legislating whatsoever.
- President Obama has joked on several occasions about this subject during White House Correspondent Dinners
- Whether or not Congress does do anything is a contentious issue and "do-nothing" can be a desirable outcome depending on the issues on the table, party affiliation, philosophy (federalist vs. anti-federalist), etc.; moreover, "do-nothing" is usually used only in the context of passing legislation. Congress is technically responsible for overseeing the executive branch and crafting legislation, but as time has gone by representatives have created numerous subcommittees and it's now difficult to tell what Congress isn't responsible for, meaning that individual representatives may be doing quite a bit while the Congress itself does no legislating whatsoever.
- Presidents often receive a similar rap, as in Michael Moore's allegation that George W. Bush spent most of his first term on vacationnote or Republicans' criticism of Barack Obama's golfing, vacations and parties during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis. Dwight D. Eisenhower was similarly portrayed as a golfer-in-chief. 45th President Donald Trump was often accused of spending more time lashing out at people who criticized him via Twitter than doing any presidential activities.note And also golfing.
- According to Stephen Fry, rules at Oxford and Cambridge were so lax thirty years ago that students could (and many did) get away with going to almost no lectures or tutorials their entire four years there. And not just the students, either: professors were at least rumored to get away with this.
- Colleges in Japan are difficult to get into (a fact well-known to any Western anime fan), but are almost equally difficult to be thrown out of, so that many Japanese see their college "student" years as a nice break between the stress of studying for entrance exams and later employment.
- There is a long list of people known as "Celebutante" who have become famous for no real reason (actor, singer, musician, writer, model, etc., although they might dabble in these after the fact). They become famous for any number of reasons (reality shows, marrying a celebrity, sex tapes, churning out babies, etc.) who are able to get by on "appearance fees" for club appearances and the like.
- The MythBusters have drifted into being Pirates Who Don't Do Anything in real life. Jamie Hyneman's actual business is M5 Studios, and he and his crew worked for years as very successful special-effects artists and product modelers. Jamie has since admitted in interviews that M5's activity has been declining since MythBusters hit it big, because companies that would have hired them don't want their products taking a backseat to the show's schedule, which as the show chugs on through ever larger projects is exactly what has happened.
- There was a period from 2009-2012 where a number of NASCAR teams would "start and park" — they would show up at the track and qualify for the race, only to retire after just a handful of laps and collect the prize money for the bottom finishing positions. This practice eventually spread to pretty much any team that wasn't locked into the top 35 in owner points, the line above which teams were given an automatic starting spot regardless of qualifying speed. This may be why, in 2013, NASCAR switched back an older qualifying format that gave spots to the 36 fastest cars plus a handful of spots for owner points, while also reducing the prize money for the bottom finishing positions to the point where the start and park was no longer economically feasible for even small, mostly unsponsored teams. In 2016, NASCAR hit the nail on the head further by reducing the field for Sprint Cup races to 40 drivers from 43, and by replacing the top 35 rule with a new "charter" system, in which 36 teams that have participated full-time for the past three seasons were awarded "charters" that give them automatic qualification for all races.
- The Westboro Baptist Church spend most of their time picketing everything from other churches to soldiers' funerals, and they seem to rarely, if ever, do actual sermons or masses or anything. Some people claim they actually make their money by lawsuits, though the actual evidence is mixed.
- When Isaac Newton was made Warden of the Royal Mint, the position was a pure example of this trope, being a sinecure given to people in the good graces of the government like Newton (to the point that his appointment letter even explicitly said the position "has not too much business to require more attendance than [Newton] can spare"). Much to the surprise of everyone, Newton turned out to be a real aversion, with the great scientist modernizing and rationalizing the operation of the Mint, while developing a network of informants to bring down a criminal mastermind forger. In fact, his work at the Mint is what got Newton a knighthood, not his scientific work.
- A German chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club is at best nominally an "outlaw motorcycle club", as it is more of a crime syndicate that cashed in on the United States-based biker gang's notoriety rather than a typical band of marauding bikers. Mongols MC Bremen members drive around in cars, and in an ironic twist, the gang's former president accidentally killed himself whilst trying to ride a motorcycle.
- The Russian Night Wolves MG is nominally a Motorcycle Gang, which is supposed to mean either a band of marauding bikers or a crime syndicate on wheels. Night Wolves MG is neither. It's hired muscle and a propaganda outlet for the Russian government, derisively nicknamed "Tame Wolves MG".
- The furlough schemes introduced in various countries during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic have meant that millions of people have continued to be officially employed, and earning money, without doing any work.
- You're embodying this trope right now if you're reading this at work.
- "... And we've never been to Boston in the fall!"