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The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
aka: Pirates Who Dont Do Anything

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Sci-fi Greg: Uh, Cheerleader, shouldn't you be out, ehhhhh, leading cheers?
Cheerleader: No, I'm more a cheerleader in the way I dress, and in the way I treat other girls.
Teen Girl Squad, "Four Gregs"

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 as well as What, Exactly, Is His Job?. 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. And no, it doesn't refer to those Pirates, no matter how true it may be.


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    Advertising 
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • In Dino Kid, despite the titular character and his friends being superheroes themselves, they are rarely seen fighting any crime.
  • 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.
  • The Incredible Hulk (1962): Despite being a government scientist at a top-secret research base, Bruce Banner seems to have a lot of free time on his hands, being able to disappear for days on end to go do Hulk stuff. In fact, after getting pelted by the Gamma Bomb, he's never seen doing any work, without even the handwave of recovering. Which might have something to do with why General Ross constantly says he'd fire Banner if he could.
  • 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 & 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 ship’s 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 he’s 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 they’re 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 who’s 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, he 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 AU 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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 (Gale Galligan), 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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'.
  • 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.
  • Compared to its original counterpart Family Guy (see below), Family Guy Fanon does a good job averts this trope with Cleveland's Deli and Peter's job as a fisherman. With multiple episodes now being rewritten to show Cleveland working at his deli, and Peter being a fisherman. Though Peter's job at the Brewery is still not seen much.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Platinum Pirate, Lucas is declared one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea despite not actually being a pirate in any shape or form. He only became a criminal by defying a World Noble and is otherwise happy to work with both pirates and Marines alike if the situation demands 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.
  • Some Things Never Change: Invoked and averted with Mr. Krabs and his original crew during The Golden Age of Piracy, as they were full-fledged cutthroat corsairs who robbed other ships and are outright shown to have caused death and destruction during their pillaging. SpongeBob is shocked to learn this, as he always thought pirates were merely treasure-hunting adventurers sailing the high seas. Played straight with the conquistadors who saved Mr. Krabs after he was kicked off his own ship, as we only ever see them searching for the Fountain of Youth, instead of conquering and exploiting new, uncharted territories (though Krabs himself ends up doing that in his never-ending quest for riches).
  • 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.
  • A Thing of Vikings
    • 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.
    • By chapter 129 Sir Henry the Sinister has a reputation as The Dragonslayer despite having never actually killed a dragon, something William's courtiers lampshade.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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, roguish, 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 books, he has used and ordered violence, but he prefers to use tricks.
  • The Christmas That Almost Wasn't: Mr Whipple claims to be a good lawyer, but his lawyer skills basically have no bearing on the plot or its resolution. He does exactly one lawyer-like thing in the entire movie: delivering an impassioned opening statement... to Santa and his elves. Aside from this — and one occasion when he points out that Mr. Prune still has to pay him and Santa their wages from the department store even if he fires them, which in fairness is something Santa may not have known — he never acts like a lawyer at all. On the one occasion when you might expect his lawyering skills to be deployed, namely to find a loophole in Santa's tenancy agreement during the scene where he first confronts Prune, all he does is goad and insult Prune. He doesn't even bill his clients who owe him money.
    Tom Servo: A lawyer who forgets to send out bills? This movie just became unrealistic.
  • 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).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Tony Stark is the head of a major multinational conglomerate, but beyond the opening of Avengers is never seen attending board meetings, or stockholder meetings, or doing anything related to keeping a hand in his father's company. The first two Iron Man films do establish that Tony's typical attitude towards Stark Industries as is is usually either hands-off while he's doing whatever or "get Pepper to do stuff for me", and in his second film he makes Pepper the CEO, because a) he's secretly dying, and b)that's basically her job anyway.
  • 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 Perfect Weapon (1991): Jeff is a construction worker but is only seen very briefly actually doing his job in the opening scene. Even then, he's barely breaking a sweat, and is ushered over for a water break immediately.
  • 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 (2003):
    • 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.
  • Star Wars as a franchise has this issue with the Jedi Order. They are ostensibly supposed to be a religious order of monks dedicated only to the Force, yet seem to never spend any significant time on religious studies or worship beyond the occasional token meditation and instead operate more like secular samurai or knights — government agents for the Republic who negotiate on behalf of the Senate, tackle with politics, enforce laws, eliminate challenges to the Republic's authority, hunt down and destroy Dark Side users, and even lead Republic armies in times of war… all while still claiming to be politically neutral. Whether or not this is an example of Informed Kindness or a genuine In-Universe flaw for the group that gets acknowledged seems to largely be Depending on the Writer.
  • 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 (1996) 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.

    Music 
  • According to Sax and Violins, the band Talking Heads are "criminals that never broke no laws".

    Pro Wrestling 
  • 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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.
  • In Gettin' Down in Your Town, the Turtles hired Casey Jones to be their roadie (or "toadie" as Leo calls him), but he won't actually do anything they tell him to do, something that's Played for Laughs.
    Raphael: Hey Casey, how bout gettin' us a soft-drink?
    Casey Jones: Eh, shut-up.
    Leonardo: Woah. Casey, how 'bout uh, sharpening my sword?
    Casey Jones: What? Your arms broken, or somethin'?
    Leonardo: Strike two.
    Michelangelo: Yo, Casey, dude, how 'bout ordering a pizza?
    Casey Jones: Yeah, who died and made you boss?
  • 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 reasons 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!"

    Toys 
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.
  • hololive's Marine Houshou is an 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.

    Web Comics 
  • The title character of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has had his job as a physician slowly become like this (to the point where this has been lampshaded — twice.)
  • Axe Cop certainly fights evil a lot, but he never makes arrests or works with the police force, and he's practically antithetical to the law. What he actually does is things like fly out into space to cut off heads. He became a policeman by going to the police station, where there was a free sign-up and nobody else there, and then he sat there and waited for a crime. That's the closest he ever did to normally functioning as an actual cop.
  • 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.
    • A Justified Trope with Scott's workplace, where apart from Scott having to meet with the angry client and occasionally carry out pointless tasks, almost nothing that the characters do could be considered "work", and most of what is done is done badly. The majority of work strips are focused around either Mullet Boss or Jenkins being a Jerkass or a hundred flavours of Seinfeldian Conversation. However, the lack of actual effort does make sense; because Mullet Boss is neither competent nor ethical, working under him inevitably kills motivation and as a result none of the employees care enough to actually put in any effort, and thus spend most of their time at work wasting time.
  • 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 which end up being undone even when they do happen. 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.
  • Sinfest:
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets: The Gelert who runs the hospital is seen in a doctor's uniform, but he never seems to do any actual healing (all the actual healing seems to be done by Marina).

    Web Videos 
  • 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.
  • The VTuber Dokibird's lore is that she is a thief, conman, and cat burglar by trade. However, she has made an agreement with various banks and museums that she can only rob them once a year. As this severely limits her income, she makes an honest living on the side by moonlighting as an artist and a streamer.
  • 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!
  • 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.


"... And we've never been to Boston in the fall!"

Alternative Title(s): Pirates Who Dont Do Anything, Informed Occupation

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Non-Illegal Robbery

The gang of crooks who don't do anything illegal.

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Main / ThePiratesWhoDontDoAnything

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