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Too Important to Remember You

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Paimon: Ah, there is my little, erm... [aside] Which son is this one? There's so fucking many.
Mister Butler: [aside] Stolas, Your Highness.
Paimon: Stolas, yes! Right, right, that's the one.
Helluva Boss, "The Circus"

They say that money and power can alienate you from your peers, but this person takes it to a whole new level. Beyond simply being dismissive of "the little people," they can't even be bothered to remember the name of anyone they feel isn't important enough to be worth remembering. Longtime loyal servants, past friends, children, spouses, lovers, there may be nobody who's deemed sufficiently relevant — unless it's someone who's also significantly powerful. Usually, they have a servant who does all the remembering for them, often whispering the name of whoever they're talking to into their ear as a reminder.

Expect a character who does this to use liberal amounts of "Hey, You!" and Accidental Misnaming in their conversations with their perceived lessers. Both forgetting and misnaming can also be done intentionally, if the character is being snobby about their status or the other's lack of it.

It's most often done by Old Money or Blue Bloods who feel entitled to act like Spoiled Brats toward servants and commoners, especially in period pieces or fantasy settings. In a ruler, it could be a sign of a superiority complex, a Cloudcuckoolander, or the foreboding intersection of the two, The Caligula. In modern settings, it's far more likely to be Played for Laughs when a character gets 15 Minutes of Fame or becomes Nouveau Riche, causing them to instantly develop Acquired Situational Narcissism.

In a corporate setting, forgetting employees' names is a telltale sign of a Bad Boss or Corrupt Corporate Executive, or at the very least a Mean Boss. Doing this to (ex-)spouses is usually a sign of a Royal Harem or a Serial Spouse; doing it to one's children often indicates Parental Neglect, or possibly having a large number of them.

There is some degree of Truth in Television: this trope is a function of Dunbar's Number, the suggested cognitive limit on the number of social relationships an individual can maintain—for most people, this is somewhere around 150. People of high social, political, or military rank tend to have a number of people under their authority far in excess of this. As a result, they form little to no personal bond with the majority of the people working for them.

A subtrope of Privilege Makes You Evil and the inverse of Nice to the Waiter. If it's an event that's too unimportant to the character to remember, see But for Me, It Was Tuesday. Sometimes overlaps with Accidental Misnaming.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: This was a recurring problem for Kaguya back during her Ice Queen days, since — despite having an excellent memory — she never bothered to remember people if she didn't view them as being important. It led to her suffering from no less than three different cases of Forgotten First Meetings. This even gets Played for Drama with Shirogane, as the fact that she doesn't remember any of their earlier interactions left him convinced that she only loved the confident academic he built himself up as rather than his true self.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, part of what makes Impedimenta's wealthier sibling Homopathix so obnoxious is that he barely makes any effort to recall her husband Vitalstatistix's name. This prompts Vitalstatistix to make The Bet that he can cook something that Homopathix has never tasted before: a stew flavored with Julius Caesar's laurel wreath.
  • The Transformers Megaseries: In the Blurr Spotlight, it's shown that back in his glory days on pre-war Cybertron, as the most popular and famous racing sportsmech on the planet, Blurr couldn't be bothered to remember the names of his pit crew. He has a Heel Realization when his career is cut short thanks to the war putting an end to all sporting events, and he happens upon the corpse of one of his crew; to his horror, he realizes that although he can recognize the crew member, he never bothered to remember his name.

    Fan Works 
  • Confessions (Amphibia): A few Newtopian nobles pretend to have completely forgotten Sasha's name as a way of getting under her skin.

    Films — Animated 
  • In the 2007 TMNT, when April introduces Casey to Winters, Winters promptly addresses him as "Kenny" while shaking his hand, showing how little the introduction mattered to him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Psycho:
    • A Running Gag throughout the film is how the cast of fabulously wealthy and fabulously petty Wall Street yuppies constantly mix each other up, not helped by the cookie-cutter getups and lifestyles caused by their endless one-upmanship.
    • Paul Allen confuses Patrick Bateman for Marcus Halbestram, something Bateman exploits to establish an alibi when he murders Allen.
    • Played for Drama in the final scene when Bateman's lawyer Harold Carnes mistakes him for another employee named Davis and thinks that Bateman's confession was a prank. Harold says it's impossible Paul Allen is dead because he met Paul Allen for lunch in London ten days prior. It's left ambiguous as to whether Bateman imagined the murder or Harold mistook another yuppie for Paul Allen.
  • Subverted in The Bucket List:
    • Healthcare industry billionaire Edward Cole has a habit of calling his subordinates whatever name he prefers. However, it's clearly shown that he does know their real names. It doesn't seem to be done out of expressly malicious intent, just apathy.
      Ed: Do you know what a philistine is, Joe?
      Richard: Sir, it's Richard.
      Ed: That's right, Phil. Now, give 'em the spiel.
    • Carter later learns that Ed's done the same thing to his personal valet, Tommy (though Tommy might just be messing with Carter):
      Carter: Can I ask: Is it Tommy, or Thomas?
      Tommy: Actually, it's Matthew, but he finds that too Biblical.
  • The Devil Wears Prada Miranda Priestly doesn't even bother to remember the names of other important people, and she has her assistant tell her everyone's names at the events she's attending.
  • Inglourious Basterds has Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, who simply refers to any of his underlings by the name "Herman."
  • Weaponized by Malcolm Tucker (and some other characters) in In the Loop. Toby's name is not "Foetus Boy", "Ron Weasley", "Twatboy Slim" or "The Baby From Eraserhead", but Malcolm doesn't care. He extends this selective amnesia to practically everyone he encounters, including Baldemort, General Flintstone, Little Bo Cock Jockey, The Leaky fuckin' Minge Box, and J Edgar fuckin' Hoover. General Flintstone — sorry, General Miller — drops a "Go fuck yourself, Frodo" on Toby at one point. More directly, Professional Butt-Kisser Chad fawns over Linton Barwick through the entire movie, clearly desperate for the man to notice him and put him on staff, but Linton hasn't got the faintest clue who he is.
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Mr. Shirley, CEO of the company where Clark Griswold works, does this in spades to Clark and his coworkers. When he first meets Clark (whom he calls "Mark"), he annoyedly glances at Clark's coworker Bill until Clark gets the hint and reminds him of Bill's name. Mr. Shirley promptly refers to Clark as "Bill." He also butchers Clark's surname as "Greaseball" and "Grisbald."
  • In Spider-Man 3, Daily Bugle head editor J. Jonah Jameson can't be bothered to learn the name of Eddie Brock, the photographer whom he just hired, calling him "Bruckner" and later "Bernstein." Eddie corrects him the first time but doesn't bother the second time around.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm has an event that plays with this in various ways. The protagonist, Rozemyne, was basically Adopted into Royalty a few months after becoming head of the local temple's orphanage. A few years later, Cannon Fodder under the orders of hostile nobles kidnaps a handful of gray-robed priests, who are usually commoner orphans all grown up, expecting Rozemyne and her noble retainers to come to their rescue. Once the gray-robed priests are found, an inverted Disguised Hostage Gambit gets discovered because Rozemyne's noble guard knight Damuel, who is a regular visitor of the temple, remembers the face of every single commoner orphan and notices that the people wearing gray robes are complete strangers. It's later assumed that the hostile nobles thought the plan would work because they didn't expect anyone who would be involved in the rescue to be able to tell their disguised subordinates apart from the people who were kidnapped, who incidentally aren't even named characters; by this point of the story, the number of gray-robe priests with a name is easily in the low double digits.
  • A Dance with Dragons:
    • The Great Master Grazdan is embroiled in a lawsuit with his former slave over whether he's entitled to a share of her proceeds, and asks Daenerys to arbitrate. He can't recall whether the slave who trained her was named Elza or Ella, confessing that he's owned so many slaves it's hard to remember. This factor causes Daenerys to decide in the former slave's favor.
    • Daenerys herself later becomes distraught when she can no longer recall the name of a young shepherd girl who was killed by her dragon Drogon while grazing.
  • Doom Valley Prep School: Princess Blood Wing can't remember Petra's name. So she usually calls her "Princess Ella's friend".
  • Intentionally avoided in Robert Heinlein's novel Double Star. Part of what makes Bonfort so successful and popular a politician is the "Farleyfile" he and his staff maintain. It's a database of information about all the people Bonfort meets, such as names, birthdays, pets, children and what they like to drink. It's specifically described as a way for Bonfort to keep track of information he would know if he was a personal acquaintance of the individual in question. The Farleyfile is excellent for the purpose of keeping data on people less politically important then Bonfort, but it's not so helpful when his stand-in, Smythe, has to meet someone more politically important: The Emperor.
  • Inverted in the second Gaunt's Ghosts novel Ghostmaker: Gaunt goes down the lines and greets every trooper by name, mentally noting he'll be damned the day a trooper dies and he can't recall the dead man's face.
  • The first book of Gordon Korman's Island Trilogy has Mr. Radford, first mate aboard the Phoenix, who doesn't bother to learn the names of the children he's looking after, referring to them as either Archie or Veronica. Made all the more amusing when he introduces two of the boys to each other by simply saying "Archie, meet Archie."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • Played for Drama in the episodes "World War Three" and "Aliens of London". A young Parliament staffer is killed by the invading Slitheen, and Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North, frantically asks the other people in the room if any of them knew his name. Everyone — Jones included — realizes that they didn't bother to learn it, which puts them all in a somber mood. When Jones makes other appearances in the series, she's shown to go out of her way to learn the names of her employees, suggesting that she's deliberately trying to avert this trope after the incident.
    • Played for Laughs in "Last Christmas". The Doctor believes that the threat is over and prepares to leave the scene. Within a minute he realizes that the monsters are still out there and rushes back in. However, in that time he had completely deleted the people he was helping from his memory. The Doctor even has to ask whether they are the same people as before, to their utter confusion.
  • Frasier: An early Running Gag in the series was Niles forgetting Roz's name, or even that she worked with Frasier, despite being introduced to her several times. At one point he even brushes off any awkwardness by saying he's "too successful to feel awkward".
  • On the iCarly episode "iRocked the Vote," egocentric British pop star Wade Collins has Gibby act as his assistant and pronounces his name as "Jibbly." He ignores all attempts to correct him, but thankfully Gibby doesn't mind.
    Gibby: He can call me Jibbly.
  • On Roseanne, the Wellman Plastics factory (as well as other businesses in town) are owned by the extremely wealthy Wellman family. Mrs. Wellman constantly gets people's names wrong — to the point where Roseanne deliberately introduces Dan as "Don," because she knows that Mrs. Wellman will only call him by the right name if she's given the wrong one first.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, hotel magnate and Serial Spouse Mr. Tipton doesn't remember which of his children London is until she clarifies she's the daughter of ex-wife number three. Similarly, the one detail he remembers about Mr. Moseby isn't that he's the former manager of Tipton's flagship hotel in Boston or the current manager of his cruise liner, but that he was the best man at Mr. Tipton's fifth wedding.
  • In Trust, J. Paul Getty Sr. had a butler named Bullimore sometime in the distant past, and has taken to calling all of his subsequent butlers "Bullimore" because he doesn't want to be bothered to learn their actual names. While his current butler, Jahangir Khan, puts up with it for the sake of his job, it gradually starts to annoy him, especially when Getty's many hangers-on start calling him "Bullimore," too.
  • Veep: Vice President Selina Meyer constantly has her bag man Gary whispering the names of people she's meeting with in her ear, and she's practically helpless at a social function without him. Somewhat justified in that her job requires her to interact with dozens or hundreds of new people on a regular basis, but she's also shown to sometimes forget the names of people she regularly meets with, or even some of her longtime staffers.
  • The Walking Dead: The original leader of the Hilltop community, Gregory, is so self-absorbed and narcissistic that he can't be bothered to remember anyone's names. For example, he constantly gets Maggie and Rick's names wrong, calling them names like "Margret" or "Reg". He doesn't even bother to remember who lives in his own community since when he first meets Sasha he talks to her as if she is already a member of Hilltop when it was her first time there.
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Even though Guillermo has faithfully served the vampires of Staten Island as a familiar and maintained their mansion for over a decade, vampires Laszlo and Nadja still refer to him as "Gizmo" in spite of his repeated objections.

  • This kind of person is the subject of the song "Cooler Than Me" by Mike Posner:
    And you never say hey, or remember my name
    And it's probably 'cause you think you're cooler than me

  • In the song "I Know Him" from Hamilton, King George III has to rack his brain to remember who incoming American President John Adams is, despite having already met him at least once.

    Web Animation 
  • In Helluva Boss's season 2 premiere, a young Prince Stolas is greeted by his father Paimon, who has to ask his imp butler which of his many sons this one is.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Referenced in "Lights! Camera! Danger!", when Jimmy wins a screenwriting contest and Carl worries if this will happen.
    Carl: Now that you're a big Hollywood screenwriter, you gonna remember us little people?
    Jimmy: And your name is, uh...?
    Carl: (incoherent sobbing)
    Jimmy: Ah, I'm just kidding! (beat) It's Rob, right?
  • Bojack Horseman: Zigzagged for very dark laughs in the episode "Let's Find Out", in which Daniel Radcliffe plays an exaggerated version of himself. Bojack and Daniel play against each other on a game show for charity, and when Bojack sees him, he recalls meeting Radcliffe when he was just starting out in Hollywood. Bojack gave him a pep talk and genuinely good advice, which in turn gave Daniel the confidence to become a famous actor. Unfortunately, Daniel has no recollection of that meeting and repeatedly calls Bojack by increasingly-ridiculous names like "B.J. Novak" and "Jockjam Doorslam." It seems like this trope is in play... until it's revealed that Radcliffe remembers the names and life details of everyone he's ever worked with except Bojack, infuriating the horse. At the end of the game show, Bojack turns the tables when the final question — which would give millions of dollars to charity — is "Who starred in the Harry Potter films?" After a bit of hemming and hawing, Bojack answers "Elijah Wood"; the Black Comedy then kicks in, as all of the charity winnings are promptly burned to ashes onscreen.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Remy Buxaplenty's parents are so consumed by their love of earning money that they only spend two minutes a day with him. They not only don't remember his name (calling him "Liam" at one point) but struggle to even remember that he's their son.
  • The Flintstones: In "The Tycoon", Fred switches places with J. L. Gotrocks, a rich businessman who looks just like him. During their misadventures, Barney mistakenly thinks this trope is at play when he confronts "Fred" over his apparent frivolous spending and mistreatment of his wife.
    Barney: But how about Wilma?
    Gotrocks: Who's Wilma? And for that matter, who are you?
    Barney: Who am I? Why, I'm your best friend, Barney Rubble!
    Gotrocks: Never heard of you.
    Barney: Ho-ho, you're kiddin', Fred.
    Gotrocks: The name's not Fred! Now, why don't you just run along like a good guy?
    Barney: Nothing doing, Fred! You're coming home with me!
  • In the Futurama episode "The Honking", Bender goes to the will reading of his recently deceased rich uncle Vladimir. In the will, Vladimir names his butler as "You There."
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Audrey Bourgeois simply can't be bothered to recall the names of those around her, even those of her own husband and daughter.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Part of "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo" is set in a Bad Future where Doofenshmertz has taken over the world. One of the laws he has passed forced everyone to change their name to Joe so he doesn't have to be bothered remembering anyone's name.
  • It's a running gag in The Simpsons, especially the earlier seasons, that Mr. Burns constantly forgets the name of his employees, especially Homer, and has to be reminded by Smithers. Lampshaded in the episode "Homer the Smithers":
    Mr. Burns: I'm sure your replacement will be able to handle everything. Who is he, anyway?
    Smithers: Uh, Homer Simpson, sir. One of your organ banks from Sector 7G. All the recent events of your life have revolved around him in some way.
    • Krusty the Clown is just as bad when it comes to Bart, and even after the boy had personally saved his show from cancellation and reunited him with his estranged father, upon being greeted by the former he could only muster an impatient "What have you done for me lately?"
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Porous Pockets," SpongeBob becomes a billionaire after discovering a giant pearl. His wealth goes to his head, and he forgets that Patrick is his friend.
  • TaleSpin: The High Marshal of Thembria is constantly abusive to his subordinate, Colonel Ivanod Spigot, frequently referring to him with other plumbing terms like "Nozzle". He attempts to correct the High Marshal once, but receives a Death Glare, so he backpedals with "But I can change it to Nozzle." In his Establishing Character Moment, the High Marshal can't even remember whether he's had Colonel Spigot shot or not.
  • The Weekenders: In the episode "Celebrity", Tish becomes a celebrity after making an appearance on a teen Soap Opera (which had her lines dubbed over because she couldn't form words at the time). One thing she and her friends had intended to do was visit a museum exhibit dedicated to robots, which they tried to get into with Tish's celebrity status. However, by the time they get there, Tish's fame has gone to her head (thanks to Carver's advice on how a celebrity should behave) and she doesn't show up, meaning they don't get in. They try to call her out on this, only for her to simply state she can't remember the little people. Once her fame dries out the next day, she makes some arrangements to get them their own private showing of the exhibit.

    Real Life 
  • During the Chinese Civil War, warlord Zhang Zongchang was nicknamed the "Three Don't Knows," because he never knew the exact size of his army, his treasury, or his harem. He would give his concubines numbers because he couldn't be bothered to remember their names, and allegedly wrote this poem:
    Someone asks me how many women I have
    I really don't know either
    Yesterday a boy called me dad
    I don't know who his mother is


Video Example(s):


King Paimon

Stolas' father, King Paimon of the Ars Goetia is revealed to have been a less than stellar father figure in his life, caring more about passing on his legacy, rather than wants best for his son. He seems incredibly disinterested Stolas, sending him off to the Circus instead of comforting him and not even accompanying him. Instead, having his butler attend while he looks on through a mirror.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / ParentalNeglect

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