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Playing With / Obstructive Bureaucrat

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Basic Trope: A bureaucrat who hinders the protagonists with paperwork.

  • Straight: Alice is working for an alien hunting agency. When she needs a weapon, she has to fill out a form and give it to quartermaster Bob first.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Even though there is currently an Eldritch Abomination rampaging in the headquarters, Bob insists that Alice fills out a weapon requisition form before she takes a gun and shoots it.
    • Paperwork is required for every activity and use of resources. Bob stops Alice outside the restroom to ask if she's got the proper papers.
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  • Downplayed: Bob knows better than to stop Alice during an emergency, but still insists she fill out the proper paperwork afterwards.
  • Justified:
    • The organization is very big and its supply of weapons is severely limited. The bureaucracy has to make sure that agents only carry weapons when they have a good reason to do so.
    • People have been stealing/not returning supplies, so they need to keep careful track of where everything is.
    • The reason Bob is so strict about the kind of pencil Alice uses is because the agency computer can't read the form unless it's filled out in #2 Yellow pencil lead. Truth in Television, at least before The New '10s. The computers that read standardized tests literally could not see any marks on the paper unless they were made in #2 pencil lead.
  • Inverted: Bob is frequently bending the rules and uses his influence to make Alice' job easier.
  • Subverted:
    • When Alice explains that she doesn't have time for filling out forms right now, Bob cooperates and gives her a weapon without the paperwork.
    • Bob's work is shown to have a purpose. While annoying to deal with the forms and meticulous tracking along with him spotting and reporting irregularities has resulted in the discovery of three spies and four embezzlers in a year. He isn't quite enough to be a Badass Bureaucrat but he is far from useless.
    • Bob's insistence on it turns out to be Properly Paranoid - as "Alice" turns out to be the escaped shapeshifter Charlie who wouldn't know the information.
  • Double Subverted: But then Bob complains to Alice' boss that Alice took a weapon without permission and demands that she is punished.
  • Parodied:
  • Zig Zagged:
    • Bob will sometimes be pretty lenient and at other times very nitpicking about following proper procedures.
    • When Alice explains that she doesn't have time for filling out forms right now, Bob cooperates and gives her a weapon without the paperwork. But then Bob complains to Alice' boss that Alice took a weapon without permission and demands that she is punished. However, Alice's boss understood that the situation was an emergency, and punishes Bob instead. The boss then makes a change to the official guidelines of the organization to prevent this from happening again, but Betty does it anyway to Alex, using Loophole Abuse to avoid punishment and punish Alex.
  • Averted: The organization avoids wasting the time of their agents with unnecessary paperwork and tries their best to provide them with everything they request without asking questions.
  • Enforced: Due to a restricted special effect budget the writers have to find a way to make the characters use their flashy equipment less often. So they introduce an obstructive bureaucrat who stops them from using it.
  • Lampshaded: Alice complains that Bob's obstructive bureaucracy is a bigger danger for the organization than all the Scary Dogmatic Aliens who try to destroy it. Nobody listens to her.
  • Implied: Productivity remains the same or unchanged during a strike.
  • Invoked:
    • Bob is hired when the organization notices that it needs more stringent management to deal with Alice' abuse of resources.
    • Eager to do his part in taking down the villain's organization, Bob the bureaucrat infiltrates it and makes the villains' lives hell with his obstructiveness.
    "I'll put them through so much red tape, they'll come out looking like Deadpool."
  • Exploited: After the villain broke out of prison he takes his time, because he knows that it will take days before Alice gets the authorization from Bob to pursue him.
  • Defied:
    • Alice quits the organization and works for it as an independent contractor to avoid Bob's bureaucracy.
    • Alice kills or brutalizes anybody who tries to prevent her from saving lives by means of paperwork. People learn to get out of her way... eventually.
  • Discussed: While the organization grows bigger and bigger, Alice fears that she will soon be unable to do her job because of the red tape involved.
  • Conversed: "Geez, Alice could've stopped the aliens years ago if Bob wasn't so strict."
  • Deconstructed:
    • Bob has obsessive compulsive disorder. It causes him severe emotional pain when something isn't in order.
    • The oppressive government requires paperwork for everything to help keep citizens under control.
    • There actually are good reasons for bureaucracy, and Alice allows killers to steal weapons by attempting to bypass the forms.
  • Reconstructed:
    • Bob's obsession is the only thing which holds the extremely disorganized organization together.
    • The government is so dependent on its bureaucrats, they can help subvert the government themselves.
    • This is a necessary risk to fight evil, so bypassing bureaucrats is still a good idea.
  • Played For Drama: Alice is trying to get forms to prove Charlie's innocence and save him from a wrongful execution.
  • Played For Horror: Bob utilizes his expertise of rule-fu to turn Alice's life into a hell fraught with Adult Fear terrors: losing her work, her home, all of her life savings, her family, and maybe even her freedom.

To get back to Obstructive Bureaucrat please fill out forms 65B, 65C and 176D-4 and let your superior officer sign them.

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