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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, S2E1 "The Circus"

They say that money and power can alienate you from your fellow person, 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 that person is 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.

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To some degree this trope is a function of Dunbar's Number, the suggested cognitive limit on the number of social relationships an individual can maintain - somewhere around 150 for most people. People of high social or military rank tend to have a number of people under their authority far in excess of this. As a result they do not form much of any bond to the majority of the people working for them.

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 with a character who gets 15 Minutes of Fame or becomes Nouveau Riche, causing them to suffer from Acquired Situational Narcissism.

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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, and possibly there being a large number of 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.


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Examples:

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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 
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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 suboridnates 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 by dragon Drogon while grazing.
  • 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.

    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 has helping to from his memory. The Doctor even has to ask whether they are the same people as before, to their utter confusion.
  • 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.
  • What We Do in the Shadows (2019): 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.

    Music 
  • 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

    Theatre 
  • In the song "What Comes Next?" 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 Original 
  • 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 
  • 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 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 mistreating 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."
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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

 
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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.

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