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Overshadowed By Awesome / Western Animation

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  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Sokka was frequently overshadowed by the other main characters due to not having any bending powers — particularly during Book One. This is occasionally lampshaded in the show itself, usually through a remark from Toph, and his own insecurity about this served as the driving force for one episode in the final season. Said episode goes a long way in showing how the character subverts the trope, as not only does that episode have him become a more competent fighter, but also reminds the audience that he's a much more capable strategist and tactician than all his friends combined, making him a crucial member of Team Avatar. Later that season, he even uses his knowledge of physics to great effect and ends up causing the death of a major antagonist — with a boomerang!
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    • Zuko is this within his own family. His sister Azula is a firebending prodigy who uses awesome blue fire and lightning when she's only fourteen while his father is the firelord and his uncle is the Dragon of the West and possibly the most powerful firebender in the series, roughly on par with his brother. However, compared to a normal firebender Zuko is still very powerful and while he's never shown generating lightning, he can redirect it and is capable of easily defeating the likes of Zhao. His uncontrolled emotions seem to hold him back more than any lack of talent and when he gets them under control, learns a new firebending form and duels Azula during the finale, he's easily holding his own, though she wasn't in top form at the time either.
    • Katara was rarely able to handle much by herself in the first book, being consistently outdone by Aang at fighting and even instantly picking up moves that had taken her years to learn on her own. However, he noted himself at the time that she had to come up with whatever techniques she had on her own and when she receives proper instruction from a waterbending master quickly becomes much more proficient at it than Aang himself. After book one ends, she becomes his waterbending master as Aang continues his travels.
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    • In The Legend of Korra, this is implied to be the cause of Bataar Jr's resentment towards the rest of his family. His mother is the matriarch of the city of Zaofu, his father an accomplished architect and his brothers are highly skilled metalbenders, fighters and artists. He himself is just a nonbender and assistant to his father.
    • Bolin, also from Legend of Korra, was often overshadowed by the other members of the Krew despite being a badass earthbender himself since he didn't possess any unique additional skills to the team and was mostly used for comic relief (in comparison we have Korra who overshadows everybody, Mako who not only is popular with the ladies, he also possesses Lightning Bending and isn't afraid to use it and Asami whose rich, a genius engineer, and pilot). This eventually changed, however once he gained Lavabending and pretty much became the most destructive non-Avatar member of the cast.
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    • Asami actually fits this trope more than Bolin as while she indeed has those traits, she's always the biggest victim of Spotlight-Stealing Squad including Bolin stealing her spotlight. The infamous Love Triangle in the first two books meant that in Book 1, she was reduced to just silently scowling at Mako in the back while he fawned over Korra instead of the more pressing fact that her father was a major player of the Equalists while her sub-plot in Book 2 of trying to save her company meant not only Mako taking that over, but even Bolin ended up saving the day/her company to regain his self-confidence while Asami just sat in the stands literally spectating in addition to being On the Rebound with Mako and informally dumped again, plus being informally AWOL during a number of episodes. Book 3 had her free from said Love Triangle to be Korra's right-hand woman except even Mako still gets more and better screentime despite being relatively Demoted to Extra. Book 4 gives her the most sub-plots out of the entire team and among the most important of them, but not only does she get even less screentime than before, Varrick, a supporting character, gets more screentime than half the team due to his Heel–Face Turn after creating spirit vine tech and defecting from Kuvira, meaning she's almost as influential in the world as Korra, herself, but you wouldn't know it based on how the show treats her.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! has two: The Wasp is really trying hard to be a Breakout Character and expy of Hawkgirl, but winds up going episodes at a time without meeting even one non-mook enemy who can be affected by her tiny energy blasts (note that she's working with somewhere between one and four Badass Normals at any given time). Even more surprisingly, Iron Man himself tends to lose every fight he gets into, and even gets overshadowed at science things by Henry Pym and Black Panther.
  • This is inverted in Beavis and Butt-Head. In any other show ButtHead would be the dumbest character, but Beavis somehow manages to etch him out. On the other hand ButtHead is a much bigger Jerkass then Beavis making Beavis far more likely to gain sympathetic reactions from other characters.
  • Ben 10:
  • Booster Gold's day in the limelight episode on Justice League Unlimited was something of an insightful subversion of the trope. Although the other Justice League members were engaged in an epic battle, the C-List Fodder had to go and deal with The End of the World as We Know It that everyone else was overlooking.
  • The Danny Phantom episode "What You Want" has Tucker feeling this way regarding Danny, since Danny has ghost powers that are useful even when not using them in combat and is constantly discovering even more powers he has, and Tucker is just a sidekick with no superpowers who watches fights from the sidelines. Unfortunately, Desiree overhears Tucker wishing he had superpowers of his own, kicking off the episode's plot.
  • One episode of Doug has the title character placed into a talent show. He attempts to perform with a ventriloquist act, only for Chalky to come on first with two puppets. Doug is rightfully mortified (though some improvisation by Skeeter manages to make his performance stand out).
  • Rufus and Amberley of The Dreamstone shown occasional Badass Normal qualities, however their strengths were completely eclipsed by both the Wuts and the Dream Maker's near unlimited magical powers (the nearest to the two having a distinctive ability was Rufus' sword, which was used only a couple of brief occasions in Season One and disappeared altogether afterwards). Frequent episodes would involve the Noops trying to stop the Urpneys and get overpowered or captured for the sake of plot suspense, until their peers took over and handily finished the job for them (to the point it came into question why they didn't just do it in the first place). The Noops also suffered characterization wise, since many episodes favored a Villain Protagonist dynamic with the more colorful and slapstick-prone Urpneys, with the heroes lucky to even get a side plot to themselves. The final episodes tried to give Rufus and Amberley more central spotlight, but even then the Urpneys' antics heavily padded stories.
  • In the Gargoyles universe, Brooklyn proved to be this for most of the series. Despite being characterized as the coolest of the young clan, Brooklyn's efforts resulted in him being second in most cases. He doesn't have the book smarts of Lexington or the strength of Broadway. Not to mention the females he fell in love with during the show, choose someone else over him. Maggie chose Derek/Talon because of him being a mutated human like her, and Angela chose Broadway because he's a Gentle Giant. He finally gets his shine in the end, after Goliath chose him as his successor for being the most level headed of the young clan.
  • A plot point in Gravity Falls "Stanchurian Candidate". Grunkle Stan is a Cool Old Guy who at one point managed to punch out a pterodactyl. However, he realizes in the episode that he doesn't compare well with his brother, The Author of the Journals. This is why he decides to run for mayor
    Stan: My dumb brother's research is probably gonna make him famous, and what do I have to show for my life? Do I really want "crooked grifter" on my tombstone? How about "crooked mayor"?
  • Gantu, the main antagonist of Lilo & Stitch and Lilo & Stitch: The Series, was a 20-foot tall bipedal shark with matching incredible superhuman strength. Unfortunately for him, he was massively outclassed by his main opposition, who was basically a walking nuke who could probably turn a platoon of Space Marines into mush. As a result, Gantu rapidly became a Harmless Villain and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain despite being a frickin' 20-foot tall sharkman.
  • The Loud House: The season four episode "Kings of the Con" does this with Lincoln and Clyde as their efforts to stand out in an Ace Savvy convention are thwarted by the fact that Lincoln's sisters, with their varying niches and talents, were able to outshine them in every way. Examples include Lisa out-thinking them in a "guess how many x were in the jar" challenge and Lynn beating them at a strength tester machine.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The backstory of the series, told in the opening minutes of the first episode, is all about this trope. Equestria was ruled by two alicorn princesses: Celestia (who raised the sun each morning to create the day) and Luna (who raised the moon each night). Over time, Luna came to feel overshadowed by her sister, resenting the fact that ponies were active during the day and "shunned" her night, sleeping through it. Eventually, Luna transformed into the malevolent Nightmare Moon and attempted to overthrow Celestia, with the goal of banishing daytime entirely and creating eternal night.
    • In "Green Isn't Your Color," Fluttershy hesitantly agrees to model Rarity's dresses during a photo session with the famous fashion photographer Photo Finish. Rarity hopes that Photo Finish will want to promote her designs and her business, but Photo Finish fixates on Fluttershy instead, choosing to make the entire session all about her. In the days that follow, Photo Finish's promotion of Fluttershy turns her into a popular supermodel, while Rarity is forgotten. This makes both ponies miserable: Fluttershy hates being the center of attention, and Rarity is ashamed of how envious she feels.
    • Trixie's traveling magic show has been successful elsewhere, but in "Boast Busters" she gets struck with this. Trixie's attempted self-promotion includes the (untrue) claim that she has defeated an Ursa Major, which backfires when two young colts lure one (actually an Ursa Minor) into town so they can see her do it again. Trixie is forced to admit she can't actually fight the Ursa, which alone could have been simply embarrassing. Twilight Sparkle's use of actually powerful magic to get the Ursa to stop attacking the town ruins any chances she may have had impressing the ponies with any kind of magic, and Trixie leaves the town, completely humiliated. The irony is, later episodes and Expanded Universe materials imply she's actually got comparable raw potential to Twilight, she just never actually trained to reach it with a proper teacher and one story arc in the comics even implies she could become an Alicorn as well if she actually applied herself enough.
    • Applejack is hit with this rather hard. Being an earth pony, she doesn't have the flight of a pegasus, nor does she have the magic of a unicorn, yet even her fellow earth pony Pinkie Pie has Toon Physics and Pinkie Sense at her beck and call. This is compounded in that even her own family tends to overshadow her in terms of characterization and abilities. Her practical and reserved personality makes her a good foil for others, but not a very interesting lead character. To a lesser extent, Fluttershy and Rarity are fairly average in terms of flight and magic power, but they're overshadowed by the likes of Rainbow Dash, a superb athlete, and Twilight Sparkle, who has prodigious magic skill. However, they make up for it with other talents.
    • The same could be said for earth ponies as a whole when compared to the other pony types. While they do possess magic, it's the passive effect of being in-tune with nature and growing plants, and (allegedly) being physically stronger than the other two kinds. It's invaluable in-universe, but just isn't going to win any "awesome" contests when compared to soaring through the sky or shooting Projectile Spells from the head. Making matters worse is, with magic, using potions, sheer hard work, or being born with it like Fluttershy, the earth pony's traits can apparently be replicated by pegasi and unicorns.
    • One can argue nearly every pony is overshadowed to some degree as a result of Twilight Sparkle's ever increasing Super Power Lottery. Even Rainbow Dash, a Super Speed enhanced flier and Cute Bruiser with weather manipulation powers, looks underwhelmed by Twilight, who can teleport at whim, lift or paralyse subjects or objects of large form without a sweat, fire magical lasers from her horn, use countless other kinds of magic as the plot demands, and now also has the ability to fly following her ascension to princess. It is probably for this reason that all actionized two parters feature Twilight as the main hero, with the other demoted to assistants or bystanders.
    • Both the guards and the Wonderbolts, as compared to the likes of the Mane 6 and the princesses. When the chips are down and a major threat like a season premiere/finale level appears they tend to get their technicolor little butts handed to them in seconds.
    • Speaking of guards, poor Shining Armor. Since he's married to, the brother of, and the father of an alicorn princess, everything that makes him him is done better by an immediate family member. He's a solid Barrier Warrior but his wife can conjure up immensely more powerful shields and barriers, he's an intelligent leader but his far more intelligent sister can lead and plan rings around him, and (as said above) his group of guards will never ever save the day but are instead simply Worfed so the Mane Six can get the victory in the end.
    • The show itself overshadowed every other show on The Hub, to varying degrees. Most people wouldn't be able to name any other shows on the network aside from reruns of already-popular cartoons like Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures. Dan Vs. and Transformers: Prime have a decent following, but other than that, The Hub was basically "that channel with the ponies" (until it became Discovery Family).
    • This trope gets brought up again in "For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils," where Sweetie Belle reveals she's felt like this toward Rarity for a long time. It reaches its peak when Sweetie Belle writes, directs, and stars in a play that she performs for her friends, but nobody in the audience cares about it beyond the wardrobe that Rarity contributed. Sweetie Belle even briefly bonds with Luna about how it feels to be in your sister's shadow.
  • Rick and Morty gives us Rick J19ζ7, known as "Doofus Rick" by all the other Ricks and is well-known as the stupidest Rick there is. Of course, Rick being the smartest human being in existence by a massive margin, the "stupidest" Rick is still worlds more intelligent than any other human. He's also The Citadel's Token Good Teammate who is unbelievably kind, empathic, and understanding, leaving someone to wonder if calling him "the worst Rick of them all" is an insult or a compliment.
  • Pretty much anyone who goes up against Samurai Jack, with one or two exceptions. Take for instance "The Princess and the Bounty Hunters"; the group consists of two telepathic cats armed with chains and explosives, a blowpipe-wielding Aborigine, a hulking Russian brawler, a knife throwing Southern gentleman, and a Powered Armor wearing princess quick enough to strike a water droplet from the air with her sword. All of them are the six greatest bounty hunters in the world, and all of them decide to come together to take down Jack. He destroys them in less time than it takes for a water droplet to fall to the ground, and continues on as if nothing had happened.
    • Ashi is a less extreme example. She's able to put up a fight against Jack, but it's clear she's outmatched. When up against anyone else, she's a literal One-Woman Army.
  • A Meta example: Even though it was Hordak, She-Ra's Arch-Enemy from She-Ra: Princess of Power that kidnapped her as a baby, brainwashed her to be one of his minions and was Skeletor's one-time mentor, many pop culture references to She-Ra (namely Robot Chicken and Funny Or Die) tend to ignore him and substitute Skelly as her main villain instead. This isn't helped by the latter's memetic staying power and being the more interesting and well-written bad guy.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Brother From The Same Planet" from season 4, for show and tell, Bart gets a cool if not completely dangerous weapon called a neural disrupter from his Bigger Brother, Tom, who's an F-14 pilot with the US Navy. What does Milhouse have as a follow-up to this crazy awesomeness? A small, plastic toy horse.
    Milhouse: Uh, I have a horsie. *feeble fake neighing*
    Nelson: Wuss!
    • In a different Simpsons episode with a show and tell segment, Bart didn't have anything for show and tell so Lisa loaned him her geode. Every student on the bus had a geode, and every one of their geodes was bigger than Bart's. Martin Prince's geode was almost the size of a cannonball. So, Bart smuggled his dog Santa's Little Helper into school to be his show and tell. The class and teacher thought he was much more interesting than Martin's geode.
  • Done almost identically in an episode of South Park. Mr. Garrison apparently held a life long grudge towards Kathy Lee Gifford over a school talent show, following up his comedy skit with Mr. Hat with a huge song and dance number, at one point similarly performing with two puppets at once.
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was an odd example in that the title character was overshadowed by his friends. Firestar has a custom made instant change costume and Iceman just ices up. All the bystanders are saved while Peter Parker is still changing his pants. Iceman freezes a pond, Firestar incinerates a meteorite, Spider-Man... needs more web fluid. Iceman even had better lines sometimes. Funny to think how the team would be in the comics where Iceman and Firestar gradually got more powerful.
  • Fry, Futurama's initial main character, has fallen victim to this as Badass Normal Leela and Do-Anything Robot Bender outclass him in practical means, and all the other employees (save for Amy, herself a minor character) have their own individual talents and professions whereas Fry... doesn't. His relationship with Leela, designated Chew Toy status (which is already shared by the more idiosyncratic Zoidberg) and hedonistic tendencies (again, already shared by a more dynamic character: Bender) leading him to Crazy Awesome situations that any of the characters can (and do) partake in are the only things giving him screen time. However, Fry was slowly growing out of this role... emphasis on slowly.
  • Superfriends:
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Casey Jones from the 2003 series straddles the line between Badass Normal and Overshadowed by Awesome depending on the situation. Being an important friend and ally to the Turtles, Casey Jones kicks all sorts of ass when he and his buddies are leaping from roof to roof, beating up Purple Dragons, Foot Soldiers, and your average Mooks. But when it comes down to battling against more powerful enemies such as Karai, Agent Bishop, the Rat King, General Khan, and the Shredder, it's made painfully clear that Casey isn't really in the same league as the Turtles and the bigger, nastier villains. Usually, he gets taken out quite early on while the Turtles are able to battle the Giant Mooks, Dragons, and Big Bads on more even terms.
    • This carries over to the Casey Jones of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) with several episodes focusing on this. In the same series, Fishface/Xever goes through this among the Shredder's henchman after getting mutated. Bradford at least gets super strength and a degree of nigh invulnerability out of the deal. Fishface is mutated into a giant fish that can't survive on dry land until Stockman sets him up with mechanical legs and a breathing apparatus. Then he falls into this again as the Shredder gets more powerful henchman, like Karai and Tiger Claw, and Bradford mutates into a second more powerful form. He ultimately just decides to leave the city towards the beginning of the final season.
  • While Robin may be the leader on Teen Titans (and a veritable Badass Normal), when your teammates have Eye Beams, an Arm Cannon, the ability of Animorphism, and basically any power at all, you might get lost in the shuffle after yelling "Titans Go!". Strongly subverted in an episode where Robin leaves the country to seek out a new martial arts mentor and all of his teammates sneak into his room to put on his spare uniforms and pretend they're as cool as they think he is. Also in the episode where Robin poses as Red X. He may have been using a suit with far more gadgets than he usually has and he tended to go straight for the Achilles' Heel, but he did take on the rest of the Titans at the same time and turned it into a Curb-Stomp Battle… twice. Not surprising considering who his teacher is.
  • Once Megatron repairs himself in Transformers Animated, Starscream falls into this role. Despite being a powerful warrior and villain in his own right, Megatron tends to just turn Starscream's own schemes back on him or steal them for himself. It's only in the first and final episodes that Starscream genuinely gets the better of Megatron.
    • Both Knockout and Starscream of Transformers: Prime are victims of this when Shockwave arrives on Earth and immediately start worrying about their places within Decepticon hierarchy. While Knockout is a skilled medic and scientist, Shockwave is probably the smartest Cybertronian alive. He's also a far more capable warrior and strategist than Starscream.
  • The Venture Bros.: Sergeant Hatred. After taking over as the Ventures' bodyguard he's generally treated as a lackluster and wanting replacement for Brock. This isn't really fair though as he's taking over for, well Brock Sampson. While not the "swiss murder machine" that Brock is known to be, Hatred shows himself as an admirable combatant who uses a Weak, but Skilled approach and keen tactical mind to thwart enemies. He also bothers to train the boys to better handle themselves and actually achieves greater results in that regard than Brock had. One episode had the Monarch's henchmen, who have "expected casualties" in mind whenever they fight Brock, complaining that Hatred was even worse to fight than Brock because of his willingness to use firearms.
  • A source of low self-esteem for Lance in Voltron: Legendary Defender. Lance is brave, clever, observant, a good shot, and a competent pilot. But his lion is the mediocre unit with no special function (aside from playing Aquaman, which is about as useful in deep space as it sounds) and he has no real contribution to make on a team full of geniuses.


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