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Pinball Protagonist

 Pinball Protagonist
type
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 Pinball Protagonist
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist
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PinballProtagonist
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Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_content_3'); })The protagonist has spent a significant portion of the story bouncing around the tale (figuratively) like a pinball. He provides no plot impetus in and of himself, and has essentially spent the entire story thus far in a reactive state.
Whatever is going on in the world, be it war or intrigue, it just drags him along in its wake.
This is not a Designated Hero. Designated Heroes actually do things. The things they do may not be considered heroic, but they still do things and thus have an impact on the world around them. Eventually they pick up the Plot Ball and move it around. Even the Little Hero in a Big War still has the hero do something important to affect the larger mess around him. The Pinball Protagonist spends a decent amount of time failing to actually have any effect at all. They aren't even lucky enough to be the Plot Ball.
Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_content_2'); })If the writing and tone of the tale all imply that the character is the protagonist, and yet they can be lifted right out of the story and have little to no impact on anything that has or will happen: then they're just a little silver ball in the cosmic pinball game of life.
Why in the hell is this character the protagonist, the reader might be wondering? Perhaps the protagonist is like a vehicle or a touchstone for the reader, a way of exploring some strange new world or meeting interesting characters.
Many characters will have pinball episodes where they are simply overloaded with too many problems in far too short of a time frame to be able to do anything effective. This does not make them a Pinball Protagonist.
Compare The Watson and First-Person Peripheral Narrator. Also compare the The Ingenue archetypal character, defined by the ability to bear up under hardship (an undervalued heroic quality often Flanderized into a passive characterization). This can be seen as Villains Act, Heroes React taken to an extreme. Not to be confused with Useless Protagonist, where the main characters make no attempt to make themselves seem important, although these tropes may overlap over time. Contrast with a Young Conqueror Hero Protagonist, who actually drives the plot and makes the villains react to them.
Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_content_1'); })For a detailed overview on the use of passive heroes who get tossed about between situations with little control over their external destiny, try The Seven Basic Plots, especially the Rags to Riches plot and Voyage and Return; the passive hero is supposed to be undergoing Character Development, of course.
Not to be confused with Bouncing Battler or Be the Ball, where the protagonist fights by acting like a pinball.
Before adding an example: It is too easy to label a hero as a Pinball Protagonist when that is not the intent. The character must be completely (or nearly completely) superfluous all the time. Having an episode or two where s/he accomplishes nothing does not make an example. As mentioned above, a character is a Pinball Protagonist if and only if the character can be completely removed from the entire story, with little to no impact on the actual events or characters.
Also remember that not having agency (i.e. only does things because somebody else told him too) does not mean it's this trait. Even if he did things on other people's instructions, if the hero's actions impact the story, than he's not a Pinball Protagonist.
Similarly, if the hero's actions have different outcomes than he wanted them to have, even making the situation worse, that's not this trope. That is Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!.
Finaly, keep in mind that Tropes Are Not Bad, and the title of pinball protagonist should not be automatically viewed as a bad thing. As mentioned above, it can be a deliberate tool to help explore a world or society, where the character is merely an observation point, or it can be that the character grows through his experiences.
Examples:
 Pinball Protagonist
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NoCountryForOldMen
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Film: '71
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ThePagemaster
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Inkheart
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Literature: The Mirror of Her Dreams
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TheWitcher
 Pinball Protagonist
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Series: Merlin (2008)
 Pinball Protagonist
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Lampshade Hanging
 Pinball Protagonist
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DBTropes
 Pinball Protagonist / int_10e7264f
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Pinball Protagonist
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Wart spends most of The Sword in the Stone being turned into various animals and being dragged around by Merlin. He only comes across the titular sword by chance, and draws it in complete ignorance of the implications of doing so.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_10e7264f
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 The Sword in the Stone / Disney
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Pinball Protagonist / int_10e7264f
 Pinball Protagonist / int_11b7db91
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_11b7db91
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Adventure Time: Most of the episode "Monster" is Finn and Jake tracking down Lumpy Space Princess, listening to her story about her adventures since running away from home, and being there for her when the villagers she was extorting confront her and cause her to have a Jerkass Realization. At the end, when Lumpy Space King and Lumpy Space Queen thank them for returning their daughter, Jake lampshades it by saying "Eh, we really didn't do much."
 Pinball Protagonist / int_11b7db91
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 Adventure Time
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Pinball Protagonist / int_11b7db91
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1745f661
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Batman in The Long Halloween. He spends most of the story chasing around after whatever supervillain is around for each chapter. He doesn't save any of the victims from the Holiday killer, he doesn't save Harvey Dent from becoming Two-Face and he only catches the killer by getting Sal Maroni killed by him.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1745f661
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1.0
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 Batman
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Pinball Protagonist / int_1745f661
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1b7f85df
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1b7f85df
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Shiro from K seems to be this initially, but is eventually subverted later as he starts actively searching for the answers to the mystery surrounding his situation, and then even more when it's revealed that he's actually the Silver King, and thus, essentially the person single-handedly responsible for setting the entire series in motion.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1b7f85df
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 Anime: K
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Pinball Protagonist / int_1b7f85df
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1cc09117
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1cc09117
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Ichigo from Bleach is like this in a way. He does have an impact on the story but only due to reacting to his newfound duty as shinigami or rescuing his friends from the Big Bad. Since he is not under the direct influence of Yamamoto or Aizen, he never really confronts the Big Bad directly until said Big Bad threatens to annihilate his hometown.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1cc09117
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 Bleach (Manga)
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Pinball Protagonist / int_1cc09117
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1ffa9e7
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Shu from Now and Then, Here and There attempts a lot of heroic stuff, but his actions have little to no effect on the series' plot or resolution. Remove him and the same things would have happened.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_1ffa9e7
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 Now and Then, Here and There
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Pinball Protagonist / int_1ffa9e7
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Pinball Protagonist
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In The Damned (1947), a film about a group of Nazis and Nazi collaborators fleeing to South America aboard a U-boat at the end of the war, the protagonist is a French doctor who is kidnapped and forced aboard the sub. He does nothing through the course of the movie and has no influence on events.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_20b9363f
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 The Damned (1947)
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_220c2407
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Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away: While Mia and the Aerialist are seeking each other, they spend most of the film getting caught up in and reacting to the events taking place around them. They rarely affect said events and are offscreen for significant stretches of time.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_220c2407
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 Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
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Pinball Protagonist / int_220c2407
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_230e3bfc
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Rice Boy. The titular Rice Boy is kind and meek, so when he's told that he's fated to fulfill a prophecy and save the world, he has little problem stepping up. But he's ignorant about the larger world and has no idea how he's supposed to do the job, so he spends the majority of the story bouncing from one source of exposition to the next, following their instructions.
No really, he bounces a lot.
At least until he Took a Level in Badass by the end of the story.
Shockingly, it's a subversion: Rice Boy and every potential prophesied one before him are just diversions, and the real hero is TOE, who has been proactive with tough decisions through the entire story.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_230e3bfc
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 Rice Boy (Webcomic)
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Pinball Protagonist / int_230e3bfc
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_23acfdfb
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Played with in The Silver Case, using Akira. Being a former member of Republic that's actually managed to survive an attack by the serial killer Kamui Uehara, he's left in a state of mental shock, unable to say much. As such, he is recruited by the HCU, and his main job is to help them with their investigations. While the player as Akira does most of the grunt work by exploring various locations and gathering up clues, the majority of plot-important actions are actually carried out by the other members of the HCU. Also, it's eventually revealed that Akira never really had free will in the first place, as he was mentally conditioned by the FSO syndicate to become a future iteration of Kamui Uehara. In the end, Kusabi encourages him to choose his own destiny and defy his programming.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_23acfdfb
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 The Silver Case (Video Game)
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_23b65ea6
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In Zone of the Enders, Leo starts out as this as some random kid who finds the all important mech for a resistance movement. However, thanks to Viola, he eventually becomes emotionally involved with the story and becomes a more important character.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_23b65ea6
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1.0
 Pinball Protagonist / int_23b65ea6
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 Zone of the Enders (Video Game)
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Pinball Protagonist / int_23b65ea6
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_23fb64e6
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The protagonists in Studio Key's visual novels are justified in their general pin-ball status in the games, because that's the whole point of the genre. But as these games were turned into Anime series en masse by Kyoto animation, the fact that the boys simply bounce from girl to girl helping them resolve issues can be bothersome.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_23fb64e6
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 Visual Novel: AIR
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Pinball Protagonist / int_23fb64e6
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_27bd0fe7
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The Pooh's Adventures series on YouTube. Pooh doesn't do anything to change the plot of whatever movie he is in, just spouting off random comments. In fact, when it does come time to fight the villain, it's usually someone else who vanquishes the villain.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_27bd0fe7
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1.0
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 Pooh's Adventures (Web Video)
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Pinball Protagonist / int_27bd0fe7
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Pinball Protagonist
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The Big Lebowski: The Dude just wants to bowl and smoke weed when his life is interrupted by a case of mistaken identity, resulting in the ruining of his rug. His attempt to obtain a new rug leads him down a twisted path of mystery and intrigue that he ultimately has no control over. The soundtrack likens him to a "tumbling tumbleweed," passively blown around by exterior forces.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_298a47a9
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1.0
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 The Big Lebowski
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_2a562268
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The titular Steam Boy spent the majority of the movie doing whatever grandpa, Scarlet, father or Mr. Stephenson wanted. To his credit, when circumstances finally did leave him alone for a moment, he quickly came up with a plan of his own, rejected the Bastard Understudy's advice and became the hero of the day.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_2a562268
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1.0
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 Steamboy
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Pinball Protagonist / int_2a562268
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_2a73df68
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The heroine of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is also an example of this trope. The dwarfs, the wicked queen, the huntsman and the prince are the characters who actively drive the plot, while Snow White's role is to inspire their actions and have things happen to her as a result of how the others feel about her. In the original Grimms' fairy-tale, the queen is essentially the Villain Protagonist, who takes the most action and gets the most attention out of all the characters in the text; while Snow White gets more emphasis in the Disney version, she's still mainly important for what happens to her, not for anything she does herself.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_2a73df68
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 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs / Disney
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Pinball Protagonist / int_2a73df68
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Pinball Protagonist
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The Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel Independence Day is noted for having the Doctor spend the whole novel wandering about with a bunch of minor characters, then just as it seems he's about to do something he swallows a toxic worm and spends the climax comatose in a mass grave while a rebellion started by someone else defeats the Evil Overlord.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_2a842e3a
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 Doctor Who – Expanded Universe (Franchise)
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Pinball Protagonist / int_2a842e3a
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_332cb317
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In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)... Sonic himself is this. He has an entire "storyline" to himself being the main character and all, but he doesn't actually affect anything. Some of the side characters (Knuckles and Tails mainly) are even worse so. That, and he's literally a pinball in some games.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_332cb317
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1.0
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 Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (Video Game)
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Pinball Protagonist / int_332cb317
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_33c6ef95
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Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. The player has a few different paths to choose from but the Nazis are almost always one step ahead and they reach Atlantis and its god-making machine regardless of Indy's actions. The machine doesn't actually work so the antagonists would have presumably killed themselves with it or given up even if Indy had never got involved. In fact, the final puzzle is to convince the Big Bad to (fatally) use the machine on himself instead of the player. All Indy really manages to do is rescue Sophia. Unless he doesn't.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_33c6ef95
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1.0
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 Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (Video Game)
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Pinball Protagonist
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The narrator of Waltz with Bashir is a decidedly tragic example. When his commanding officer is killed he doesn't rise to the occasion and completely fails to get any of his squad mates out alive; afterward he bitterly realizes that there was a lot more he could have done but was just a confused kid who got in over his head.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_344d586f
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1.0
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 Animation: Waltz with Bashir
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Pinball Protagonist / int_344d586f
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Pinball Protagonist
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Although they're nominally the main characters of RWBY, Team RWBY tend to have little, if any effect on the plot's progression in the first three seasons. Most of their battles tend to end with the bad guys escaping unharmed, someone else swooping in to beat the bad guys, or the bad guys just winning outright. Only by Season 4 have they actually truly taken steps to confront the bad guys directly, which also coincides with those bad guys taking an interest in them (or at least Ruby), for their special powers that could prove a threat.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_35e05f2a
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1.0
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 RWBY (Web Animation)
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Pinball Protagonist / int_35e05f2a
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pinball Protagonist / int_37a71462
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Cosette in Les Misérables. She mostly exists as a catalyst to inspire other characters to do other things. Her existence is what drives her mother into prostitution to pay her evil foster parents to keep her — and her mother's death spurs Valjean into finding her and rescuing her. When she's all grown up, she then attracts Marius's attention. She doesn't actually do anything herself and she's mostly along for the ride when Valjean flees from the police. And she's one of the few characters to survive the book, presumably because she did so very little. Most commentators agree that she serves more as a symbol of hope, love and goodness than as an actual character.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_37a71462
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 Les Misérables
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Pinball Protagonist
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Samus becomes this in Metroid: Other M. Apart from saving Madeline Bergman from the Metroid Queen and retrieving Adam's Helmet, she doesn't really accomplish a great deal and most major issues or plot points are given to other characters.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_39b7671e
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 Metroid: Other M (Video Game)
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Pinball Protagonist
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Most of the cast of Red vs. Blue falls into this, especially in the first five seasons. Calling the Blood Gulch crew "reactive protagonists" would be stretching for a compliment, honestly. When left to their own devices, the most they'll instigate by themselves is childish bickering.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_404c9387
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Pinball Protagonist
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The Rookie of Halo 3: ODST spends most of his sections just searching for clues on what happened to the rest of his squad. It's only towards the very end that he steps into the main plot and helps the squad accomplish their mission.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_41cc1c3a
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 Halo 3: ODST (Video Game)
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Pinball Protagonist
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Oliver!: Oliver's an orphan, gets passed from orphanage, to a funeral home, then gets kicked out and gets picked up by the thieves guild, then is taken in by a rich old man. It's a musical, and the characters mostly sing around him as well.
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 Oliver! (Theatre)
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Pinball Protagonist
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In Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Ali Baba is the protagonist at first, but he stops being such after he recovers Kasim's body from the lair of the Forty Thieves; at that point, the role is taken over by Morgiana, with Ali Baba now a supporting character.
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 Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
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Pinball Protagonist
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Since the titular world of Halo: Reach is Doomed by Canon, Noble Six borders on this for awhile, but towards the end s/he becomes the reason why the Pillar of Autumn (and thus Master Chief and Cortana) are able to make it to the first Halo.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_438b63e4
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 Halo: Reach (Video Game)
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Pinball Protagonist
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The titular unicorn from The Last Unicorn leaves her forest to find the rest of her kind...and does practically nothing else for the rest of the story. She falls asleep on the side of the road and is captured by a Wicked Witch who knows where the rest are, she is freed by one of the witch's magician assistants — who knows how to get there. He also ends up accidentally changing her into a human so she can reach King Haggard. Though she finally does something in the climax.
However, the Unicorn is not the primary protagonist: according to the author, Schmendrick is. The Unicorn is more of a living "mythic sink". This is more obvious in the novel, in which the mere presence of the Unicorn alters reality around her.
At the end of the animated film, her dying home forest transforms immediately into Spring-time abundance simply by her returning to it.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_443000dd
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1.0
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 The Last Unicorn
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Pinball Protagonist
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Casey Brodsky in Irreconcilable Differences, up until the end of the last flashback when she finally decides to file for emancipation from her parents. Justified, as she is a child who has no say in how she's raised.
 Pinball Protagonist / int_452b3ec2
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 Pinball Protagonist / int_452b3ec2
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 Irreconcilable Differences
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Pinball Protagonist
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Discworld:
Lampshaded inGuards! Guards!. Although Sam Vimes and company play little part in the successful resolution of the novel as the dragon is defeated by Errol the Swamp Dragon, the Patrician specifically states that people need to see there are heroes and so rewards Sam Vimes and the Night Watch accordingly. It is also implied that the Night Watch are heroic, merely because they actually did something to stand up to the dragon, even if unsuccessfully. Vimes did also stop Wonse from killing the best Patrician the city had ever had and looked after the dragon that eventually saved the day.
Vimes ends up thinking this about himself in Night Watch. As the revolution enters into full swing, all he wants to do is keep some well-meaning but foolish comrades from dying unpleasantly; he's staunchly uninterested in any of the so-called changes the rebels think they want. (He knows better.) He is however bitterly aware that everyone else in the narrative thinks he's the hero, and realizes that he assumed Keel — whose role in events he is now occupying — was a genuine rebel, and now he wonders if Keel just wanted the same thing he did.
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The conceit of Final Fantasy VII — that the protagonist himself would decide the villain needed to be killed, and be the active aggressor while the villain acted in self-defence — was an attempt to avoid this, because Villains Act, Heroes React is so omnipresent in eastern RPGs that the staff felt the traditional JRPG hero was a passive doormat who only sought to do what the King told him, and wanted to do something completely opposite. This is so adhered to so strongly that the plot sometimes contorts itself just to ensure that Cloud is the one with the agency. Of course, since the twist is that Cloud is under More Than Mind Control this ends up being less 'the good King told him to do it' and more 'the villain compelled him to do it by taking advantage of his ignored personality problems', which may or may not be an improvement.
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In the Torchwood episode "Small Worlds", the antagonists have supernatural powers which Torchwood have no ability to counter. As a result, throughout the episode Torchwood can do little more than rush to the site of the latest manifestation and helplessly watch events unfold.
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Oliver Twist: Oliver is a helpless orphan boy who is pushed from one set of circumstances to another without any real power. In fact, his inaction is his greatest triumph, as he never gets corrupted by his ill fortunes.
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In Anno Dracula, Charles Beauregard is assigned by the Diogenes Club to investigate the Jack the Ripper killings; however, by his own admission, he makes little progress in his investigation and his presence does nothing to deter the killer from his crimes. It turns out the Club are just setting him up to be the hero of the case so that he will be invited to meet the Royal family, for the sake of his real mission: mercy-killing the Queen to dissolve Dracula's claim to the throne.
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This trope is discussed in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, in which Amy points this out in regards to Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of Sheldon's favorite movies. She argues that Indiana Jones is completely irrelevant to the plot: with or without him, the Nazis would have eventually found the Ark, opened it, and been destroyed. Sheldon can't find any flaw in this logic, which causes a temporary Heroic BSoD; he spends the rest of the episode watching Little House on the Prairie, Amy's favorite TV show, in an attempt to find flaws in it (mostly historical inaccuracies) and get revenge on her. The guys later watch the movie again to see if there is any way around it, and the best they could determine is at least Indy was present to actually recover the Ark (but again point out that it was taken from him to a Secret Government Warehouse, so he couldn't even get it to a museum like he hoped).
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Brad and Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though Janet does get up to do something halfway through the plot — that 'something' being Rocky.
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Aurora of Sleeping Beauty, despite being the titular character. The only thing she does of her own volition is run into Phillip; everything else she does is at someone else's order or suggestion. She has a total of eighteen lines of dialogue in the entire movie. Phillip doesn't do a whole lot, either, as even in the final battle, the fairies are clearly doing most of the work.
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The main character of The Sharing Knife. In terms of plot, almost everything that happens is because of her primary love interest, with her dragged along for the ride. When fighting starts, said love interest is impressive even for a member of the resident Superior Species, whereas she's physically unsuited to combat and tries to stay out of the way. However, as the series progresses she learns more self-confidence. To the point that when her husband is threatened, she defies an entire camp of sorcerers to ride out and rescue him.
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Allegretto from Eternal Sonata is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with little connection to the main plot, yet acts as the player's avatar for most of the game.
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Ichise of Texhnolyze. There doesn't appear to be much consideration of his actions, reacting like a rabid animal when he's not simply following orders.
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The playable duo from Resident Evil 0, Rebecca and Billy don't do a whole lot over the course of the game. The only character interaction that isn't between them or other S.T.A.R.S. members is running into the final boss of the game. Any plot developments happen in cutscenes, involve Wesker and Birkin, and are completely separate from what the protagonists are doing. Though really, this is true of all Resident Evil games until the fourth came along. Typically, the plot involves running around just trying to stay alive amidst odd enemies and even odder puzzles while the plot works independently of you. All those storylines would have had the exact same outcomes had Chris, Jill, Claire, Leon, Carlos, and the rest died within the first 30 seconds.
You can honestly say this about the majority of Survival Horror protagonists, not just the ones from Resident Evil, where the biggest concern for the player characters is usually just staying alive long enough to escape from whatever horrific situation they've gotten into. It's right there in the genre's name, as a matter of fact.
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In several issues of Venom's first limited series, Spider-Man actually got more screen time. The subsequent ones fixed this problem.
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Lampshaded (like everything else) in Freeman's Mind. Gordon mentions at various points that he's "just a rat in a maze...with no cheese", and that he's "caught in the middle of some cosmic politics."
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Case in Neuromancer by William Gibson, it's difficult to name one decision made in the book that's solely his as the real chess game is played by two AIs, mostly offscreen. The adventure video game based on the novel inverts this and concentrates on hacking and finding equipment and software, very much abandoning the tone of the book.
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The 2013 stage version puts its own, smaller twist on the whole business by giving Charlie a highly imaginative, creative streak in addition to his kind nature, which affects the plot in that a certain someone, upon realizing his potential, makes sure that he gets a Golden Ticket — and a chance to prove himself a kindred spirit. Charlie and the audience are kept in the dark about this until the end.
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Natsuru in Kämpfer gets dragged around by other people and he just goes along with them in the end anyway. Much worse in the anime than in the manga and light novels, although it's still pretty bad in the latter two. The main difference is, in the latter, s/he at least tries to make a token effort to undermine the Kampfer War and learn the truth behind it, whereas in the anime, s/he just sorta stands there with a confused expression.
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Big Finish Doctor Who: In "The Holy Terror", the movers in the plot are the TARDIS itself, various characters in the Deadly Decadent Court, and the rules of the intensely ritualistic society that the story is set within. Frobisher is the viewpoint character and creates plot development by total accident, the Doctor is absent from large chunks of the plot and the one-shot companion Eugene is explicitly unable to intervene in events, being as he is a scribe whose job is to write down everything that happens. Frobisher briefly becomes king but is powerless to do anything, especially once the Goo Goo Godlike character shows up and starts killing people. The Doctor's only helpful option is telling Eugene what he has to do to the child at the end. This is all very intentional, as the characters are trapped in a Theory of Narrative Causality-based simulation (intended as an Ironic Hell for one of the characters) and their lack of influence on the plot just emphasises how strong the story is.
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Downplayed in Kara no Kyoukai. Shiki and Mikiya are the central characters of the story, but they do very little to drive its main plot along — mostly because both are dragged into said plot against their will. Within individual chapters, they often do find motivation to get involved, with Mikiya usually drawn to protecting the victims (whom he often knows personally), while Shiki only gets excited when either a really powerful opponent appears for her to fight, or Mikiya is threatened in any way. While both undergo Character Development in the process (Shiki moreso than Mikiya), their story is much more about staying human in the face of an onslaught of supernatural weirdness than about achieving any particular goal.
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The mainline games usually avoid this, as the Master Chief (and the Arbiter) almost always end up saving the galaxy (or at least a planet) in some way or another. However, Halo 5: Guardians falls pretty hard into this; if Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris had stayed home, the titular Guardians would still have been dispersed through the galaxy, hundreds of AIs would have still defected to Cortana, and the Infinity would still be on the run. That said, Osiris are able to make a difference in the war between the Covenant and the Swords of the Sanghelios by killing Jul 'Mdama and saving the Arbiter.
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In "Crucible of God" for Vampire: The Masquerade, the module is up front about this: "The Player Characters become destiny's bitches." The active players are Antediluvians of such power that the PCs cannot affect them, and the player characters alternate between being minions of a more powerful vampire or simply surviving while the Ancients kill each other and ruin the world. The end game involves a blatant Deus ex Machina — the players have to ask God to personally destroy Tzimisce, and convince Him that their unlives had any value. If they don't make a leap of faith on Saulot's word, then the game explicitly states that nothing they do matters.
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In Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn, Beta spends most of the novel either fleeing from or captured by various groups that want to exploit her unique abilities. She tries to be proactive and assert her own agency, but seldom gets the chance, and her escapes are due as much to the intervention of complete strangersnote who also want to exploit her as to anything she does.
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Discussed in The Pinballs, where Carlie's speech about the three protagonists being pinballs evokes a very dark interpretation of this trope. Justified since she's an abused child, also she ultimately renounces her claim.
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Halo:
The mainline games usually avoid this, as the Master Chief (and the Arbiter) almost always end up saving the galaxy (or at least a planet) in some way or another. However, Halo 5: Guardians falls pretty hard into this; if Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris had stayed home, the titular Guardians would still have been dispersed through the galaxy, hundreds of AIs would have still defected to Cortana, and the Infinity would still be on the run. That said, Osiris are able to make a difference in the war between the Covenant and the Swords of the Sanghelios by killing Jul 'Mdama and saving the Arbiter.
The Rookie of Halo 3: ODST spends most of his sections just searching for clues on what happened to the rest of his squad. It's only towards the very end that he steps into the main plot and helps the squad accomplish their mission.
Since the titular world of Halo: Reach is Doomed by Canon, Noble Six borders on this for awhile, but towards the end s/he becomes the reason why the Pillar of Autumn (and thus Master Chief and Cortana) are able to make it to the first Halo.
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The Magic: The Gathering novel Prophecy is largely told through the perspective of an enslaved soldier who has next to no impact on the plot of the book.
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The main character of Hotline Miami goes through the whole game simply following orders from his answering machine (until his Roaring Rampage of Revenge in Part 4,) and consequently both he and the player never learn anything about what's going on behind the scenes. Richard even tells him in Part 4 that nothing he does from that point on will mean anything. The Biker, on the other hand, is much more proactive, with his storyline revolving around figuring out who's pulling the strings.
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The protagonists of Konosuba have no interest in fighting the Demon King's forces. They only do so because circumstances force them to.
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Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956) falls into this, due to the way its protagonist had to be inserted, after the fact, into a pre-existing movie. Raymond Burr's "Steve Martin" spends almost the entire film bouncing from one scene to the next, acting all the while as a Greek Chorus, simply because he cannot interact with the stock footage; the best he can do is, through dubbed dialogue, persuade other characters to take action.
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Renton of Eureka Seven actually spends a great deal of the series completely in the dark and out of control of the events that transpires around him. He doesn't even come face to face with the Big Bad of the series despite being the protagonist.
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In the movie Inferno, the main protagonist Mark does absolutely nothing to defeat the villain. He's not even aware of most of the events going on in the film. The villain was defeated by her own actions and not by anything Mark had done. His only victory is surviving by the end of the film.
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18if: For the most part, Haruto averts this but episode 7 plays it straight with the Girl of the Week solving her personal problem all by herself, with almost no input from Haruto, who spends the duration of the episode as a passive observant.
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The entirety of The Crying of Lot 49 is like this, although that is because it is about a person just exploring a secret organisation, being told to go to another part of the organisation, and then going there — she only begins to take initiative right at the end, with the eponymous auction of the title.
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The characters in Final Fantasy XV get bounced around very efficiently by the villains, and (due to their social position) they can only really continue to collect all of the Plot Coupons required to become the King, on a pilgrimage already laid out for them. Even the eventual victory is part of a "The Chosen One" prophecy and involves the payoffs of plans set in motion by side characters.
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Kate Macer in Sicario. She's told practically nothing about her mission and Matt and Alejandro do pretty much everything of actual importance to the plot. This turns out to be because the CIA is not allowed to operate on American soil except when working with a domestic agency, so literally her only purpose on the team is to be present and allow them to use the loophole.
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Movies based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
Charlie Bucket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Once he gets to the factory, the only notable things he does is to steal a Fizzy Lifting Drink (which disqualifies him from the promised lifetime supply of chocolate) and return the Everlasting Gobstopper to Mr. Wonka rather than give it to a rival competitor (negating the disqualification and becoming the owner of the factory in the process), and so he wins. This is still an improvement on the original book, in which Charlie does almost nothing upon arriving at the factory. His only act of any significance is at the end, when he informs Mr. Wonka that he is the only child left. Mr. Wonka then immediately announces that Charlie has won by default. However, given that Charlie is exceptionally well-mannered, this makes sense given the fates of the other children — he gets it for just being nice.
In the second film version Charlie regularly questions Mr. Wonka, triggering most of his flashbacks, and then outright defies him at the end, forcing him to seek out his estranged father.
The 2013 stage version puts its own, smaller twist on the whole business by giving Charlie a highly imaginative, creative streak in addition to his kind nature, which affects the plot in that a certain someone, upon realizing his potential, makes sure that he gets a Golden Ticket — and a chance to prove himself a kindred spirit. Charlie and the audience are kept in the dark about this until the end.
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This accusation is often thrown against those three classic young heroines of literature: Alice, Wendy and Dorothy. Susan Sto Helit is described as an aversion of this... and then came Thief of Time. Dorothy gradually averts this trope in later Oz books, and all three strongly avert it when featured in the webcomic Cheshire Crossing. A Spear Counterpart is Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; see above under Film for how adaptations handle this issue.
Note that these are classic examples of a protagonist who acts as an audience stand-in so that the audience can explore a strange world that the audience has no context for.
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In Gems of War, the plot is linear, and the protagonist only speaks in the form of short sentences which fit on what is effectively a "continue" button. As such, the player character comes across as very laid back and obliging to whichever character is serving as Quest Giver. ("Can I join you?" "Okay." "Will you help me?" "Sure, why not." "We must attack immediately!" "All right.") There are occasions where the player character attempts to point out the silliness of certain decisions, but he/she almost always gets carried along anyway.
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Alex from Street Fighter III coined the Japanese counterpart of the trope, "main character (lol)." He was meant to be the next hero of the series representing a new generation of fighters. But with no projectile and two command throws, he fit the grappler image better. Which would have been fine except combined with his all-rounder stats, nothing about him really stood out. Worse, Ryu was still where the Player 1 cursor started and Alex's ending had him losing horribly to said previous protagonist. Not fitting the main character mold was one thing but becoming completely overshadowed as well sealed it.
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There was a long period when virtually everyone on Lost was like this. They'd have little fits of trying to do something, only to be completely stymied, and then they'd go "Oh... no..." and sink back into frustrating helplessness. Early on, the show was mostly about introducing the various... erm... pinballs and the Island and there were many pinballs in play. Later on, the show began to conform to this trope less and less.
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When you examine too closely the plots of Goldfinger, you see James Bond is this. Ignoring the Cold Open, he causes the death of two sisters on the way to know the villain's plan — which only occurs after he's captured by the villain, and his attempts to both escape and warn his allies of the scheme fail. The only things Bond do that help foil Operation Grand Slam are seducing Pussy Galore and killing The Dragon. Even when the villain returns, he's killed by accident.
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Nora from Hush, Hush. She spends most of the book going about her daily life, reacting when something or someone tries to kill her, then promptly forgets about it in favor of going back to her daily routines.
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In The Island of Doctor Moreau, Richard Prendick does nothing but get thrown overboard, land on an island and watch more interesting people do experiments.
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It has been noted that in Raiders of the Lost Ark the hero Indiana Jones spends the entire film going head-to-head against the Nazis to find and recover the Ark of the Covenant. The film features the possession of the Ark changing hands repeatedly, to the point Indy was about to destroy it just so they don't have it, but relents because it is not in his nature. The actual climax of the film he is a passive figure as the Ark is opened and all the bad guys are immolated by the wrath of god. Viewing the events of the movie knowing that was going to happen, all of the hero's efforts seem to merely complicate a situation that was going to dispose of the bad guys eventually anywaynote Assuming they would have found Marion (they followed Indy to her) they would have tortured her for the Ra headpiece and who knows what shape she would be in. Barring that, they could have spent more time just excavating the city and find the Ark eventually, which again leads to the wrath of god Deus ex Machina. However, Word of God eventually clarified that Indy's interference didn't make things worse in the long run, as Hitler would not have been stupid enough to look inside the Ark had his goons successfully delivered it.
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Thanos in his backstory comic Thanos Rising spends much of each issue acting on suggestions from Death who is constantly nagging to commit murders. Even when he becomes a space pirate captain it's because he accidentally won a duel with the old captain. He swings a sword with his eyes shut and kills him without meaning to, and so gains authority by sheer accident.
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Jupiter Jones from Jupiter Ascending. The directors have stated that they wanted to have a female protagonist who didn't conform to Real Women Don't Wear Dresses. Unfortunately, Jupiter is merely swept up into a plot she has no idea of and nothing to do with. Other people help her and rescue her, and she's just along for the ride. She displays no special skills or knowledge to contribute anything. The first thing she does for herself is to agree to marry Titus in exchange for pardoning Caine and Stinger — which is over an hour into the film.
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Deltarune has this, in contrast to its more branching precursor, as its central theme. No matter what you do, nothing (except for a few lines of dialog) will change. Strangely, that's how role-playing games usually work.
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Out of all the point of view characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, Sansa Stark stands out as being the most reactive and passive, spending much of her early page time being pushed around by other characters. This is justified — she's a naive preteen girl, and unlike the others, she's in no position to be proactive. Part of her storyline is shedding this trope and gaining her own agency, which ironically starts happening once she's under the guardianship of the biggest manipulator in the series.
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Most fans of Good Omens would describe Aziraphale and Crowley as the protagonists, but the pair only even get focus in the first third of the novel; they're barely in the middle section and accomplish nothing during the climax. The main plot is all about Adam accidentally starting and then preventing the Apocalypse, which Aziraphale and Crowley aren't even around to observe. The only plot-relevant thing either does is at the very beginning, where Crowley is the one to deliver Adam to his adoptive parents. The same could be said for the many side characters, most of whom have interesting personalities but basically just pad out the story.
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In the second film version Charlie regularly questions Mr. Wonka, triggering most of his flashbacks, and then outright defies him at the end, forcing him to seek out his estranged father.
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Beverly King in L.M. Montgomery's The Story Girl is there purely to observe the more interesting characters around him. Then again, they are very interesting characters.
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In Excession, most of the plot is driven by starship AIs and other superpowerful Minds while the protagonist, diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen is sent by his mysterious bosses on a journey to the GSV Sleeper Service to find the one person who may have knowledge of the Excession, but it becomes apparent that she isn't even there, and his whole trip occurred because the Eccentric ship wanted him to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend, which has no impact on the story. And then the Excession leaves with no real explanation.
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The Stand may or may not have this trope, depending on what you see the main plot of the book as being. In terms of rebuilding society in the wake of an apocalyptic event, the Main Characters actually do quite a bit. In terms of fighting Randall Flagg, the Big Bad of the story, though, they accomplish virtually nothing; at best their role is to serve as witnesses to his defeat by the Hand of God (with a little help from the Trashcan Man).
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X got shafted to this role during Mega Man X4 and Mega Man X5, as Zero got all the big plot points and backstory development. This was deliberate on Keiji Inafune's part, as he wanted to set up the Mega Man Zero series and make up for not getting to use Zero's design for X like he originally wanted. Fortunately, X took back the role of lead for Mega Man X6 and, a brief Demoted to Extra stint in Mega Man X7 aside, stayed there.
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Final Fantasy:
The conceit of Final Fantasy VII — that the protagonist himself would decide the villain needed to be killed, and be the active aggressor while the villain acted in self-defence — was an attempt to avoid this, because Villains Act, Heroes React is so omnipresent in eastern RPGs that the staff felt the traditional JRPG hero was a passive doormat who only sought to do what the King told him, and wanted to do something completely opposite. This is so adhered to so strongly that the plot sometimes contorts itself just to ensure that Cloud is the one with the agency. Of course, since the twist is that Cloud is under More Than Mind Control this ends up being less 'the good King told him to do it' and more 'the villain compelled him to do it by taking advantage of his ignored personality problems', which may or may not be an improvement.
Tidus in Final Fantasy X starts off the game as a Fish out of Water and while he can fight (and play blitzball better than anyone else), his ignorance of some of the most fundamental tenets of life on Spira grind rather heavily on his companions (such as his carefree talk of what they'll do after Sin is defeated, as he doesn't learn until a long while that Yuna is going to willingly sacrifice herself, as all Summoners do to keep Sin away).
For roughly three quarters of Final Fantasy XIII, all the party does is try to survive in a world where virtually everybody wants to kill them for being L'Cie, something that was done to them without their consent for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of the remaining quarter is their coming to terms with the fact that as L'Cie, they are little more than pawns in a centuries-spanning scheme that they have virtually no hope of stopping — even dying to spite The Chessmaster will just delay his plans until he can find a new batch of pawns to run through the same situation. The first thing they do that diverges from the Big Bad's plot takes place in the penultimate cutscene.
The characters in Final Fantasy XV get bounced around very efficiently by the villains, and (due to their social position) they can only really continue to collect all of the Plot Coupons required to become the King, on a pilgrimage already laid out for them. Even the eventual victory is part of a "The Chosen One" prophecy and involves the payoffs of plans set in motion by side characters.
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The title character of Barbarella fits this perfectly. The entire movie consists of her repeatedly getting into trouble through her own stupidity, being rescued by some guy, and then having Rescue Sex with her savior. The only reason she managed to find the man she was looking for at all was because Duran Duran accidentally stepped on the device she had been given to track him down (which she had not once even thought of turning on since receiving).
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Thumbelina's titular protagonist. She's found by a fairy prince, who takes her on a ride during which she's spotted by a toad who then steals her. The toads then just leave her on a lily pad, and she spends the rest of the movie bumping into various antagonists. The only proactive thing she does is to get Jacquimo to fly her to the Vale of the Fairies for the climax.
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Averted in the Wing Commander series, as the overall progress of the war depends on your performance in certain key missions; later games in the series give you the opportunity to make decisions and influence the story with dialogue options.
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Fans of the NFL, when discussing which quarterback is better than another, tend to fall into two distinct categories. One school believes that a quarterback's statistical achievement determines his greatness. The second cares less about the stats and more about his leadership—the best quarterbacks are the ones who win games and bring home championships, even if their stats don't always impress. When the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, it was due almost entirely to a defense of almost legendary repute. Their quarterback that year was Trent Dilfer, who bounced around from team to team his entire career and was never any better than strictly average throughout. He 'won' the Super Bowl that year and was unceremoniously dumped by the team soon after. Because of this, Dilfer embodies this trope among NFL fans, and if the topic is ever brought up for any reason, Dilfer's name inevitably follows as an example. Saturday Night Live even drew attention to this, apologizing to TV viewers on the NFL's behalf for the MVP award not going to linebacker Ray Lewis and flat-out stating: "Trent Dilfer sucks."
A variant of this "rings" Explanation for non NFL fans Each member of a championship winning team (including front office and coaches) traditionally gets a ring commemorating the championship, they are usually rather flashy and exaggerated, which is kind of the point vs. "stats" is also at the heart of the debates whether Peyton Manning or Tom Brady was/is the better Quarterback. Manning has the better stats in almost any regard, but he has won "only" two Super Bowls (and lost another two) whereas Brady has won five and taken his team to another three (two of them lost to Peyton's little brother Eli Manning and the Giants). While Peyton's teams did have traits of Every Year They Fizzle Out, it is hardly the fault of the quarterback when he leaves the field with a lead and the defense fails to make a stop and it's also rather hard to blame dropped passes on the throw, rather than the catch.
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Forrest Gump just does whatever he feels like doing at the time. At one point, he becomes sort of a running guru and unintentionally leads a group of literal cross-country runners for months. At one point he stops running ("Listen, he's about to say something!") and he just says "I'm kinda tired. I'm going to go home now," and just walks home (to Alabama, from the Nevada desert!)
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To Love-Ru: If Rito had his way, he'd just have a normal, boring life, pining away after the girl he likes. Of course, we wouldn't have the harem comedy we have right now, so the girls keep pulling him into his antics, whether he likes it or not.
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Kino from Kino's Journey tries to be this type of character; being a Traveller, one is not supposed to pass judgment or meddle in the affairs of the places they visit and is only there to observe objectively. However, various circumstances typically get Kino wrapped up in the affairs of the places she comes to and forces her to act, whether she wants to or not.
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Game of Thrones:
Arya Stark starts Season 2 with the goal of reuniting with her family, but is dragged all over the war-torn Riverlands by one group after another until a series of devastating disappointments lead her to abandon Westeros altogether.
As a valuable piece in the game of thrones, Sansa Stark is deliberately kept powerless, which forces her to always react to events rather than take action herself, until Season Six.
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Raziel, one of two protagonists of the Legacy of Kain series, falls under this trope most of his screen time. He possesses an incredible power few characters in-story can match, but instead of completing his original quest, he tends to be unwillingly dragged in a Gambit Pileup by multiple Chessmasters at once, each of whom tries to use Raziel for their own agenda (while he's supposed to be the only person in Nozgoth to have genuine free will — as a walking paradox, he stands outside of fate's control — there are so many schemes going on that no matter what he does, he ends up inadvertently advancing somebody's plot), so he often ends up being a Sword of Plot Advancement of sorts, rather than actual character. This quote of his sums it perfectly:
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Jack from BioShock is an excellent example — not only does he rarely speak, he also plays a nearly negligible role in the story for most of the game. It turns out to be a deconstruction, however. Jack is literally mind-controlled. And he ends up killing not only Andrew Ryan, but Fontaine as well. And saves the little sisters, or damns them! Pretty good, and the last one is up to the players which.
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This sums up Zoey Redbird from The House of Night. If something isn't directly affecting her right then and there, she'll forget about it. In some cases, she forgets about it right after it happens.
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Theseus from Immortals fails at doing anything even remotely successful throughout the film. He fails to protect his hometown or his mother and he is the reason the Epirus Bow falls into the hands of the Big Bad. The one successful thing he does is kill King Hyperion, but this is after the guy has accomplished everything he set out to do (like releasing The Titans). Yet Athena tells her father Zeus to have faith in Theseus.
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Strange Dawn: Eri and Yuko don't really do much throughout the story, except for just communicating with the other characters. This is one of the main criticisms the anime received from reviewers.
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Jen of The Dark Crystal spends much of the film's first and second acts commenting on how he has no idea where he is going or what he is looking for as various characters comment on prophecy and destiny and the like. In an example of this trope being done well, it serves to show the audience the wonderfully imaginative world of the movie, and the fantastic special effects of Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
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There's a comic book where Sherlock Holmes meets The Phantom of the Opera; it follows the original Leroux book, with Holmes tacked on to watch the show.
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Jack Sparrow falls into this in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Whereas in the previous three movies he had been largely pursuing Will and Elizabeth's agendas, and he still had motivations of his own in the first two, he's supposedly the central figure of these two movies. Yet he's still being dragged along and following someone else's agenda in both cases, and his contribution is largely limited to making jokes or being the butt of them.
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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Superman rarely does anything active in the movie unless he is manipulated by Lex Luthor and/or provoked by Batman, to the point they actually have more dialogue than him.
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Tidus in Final Fantasy X starts off the game as a Fish out of Water and while he can fight (and play blitzball better than anyone else), his ignorance of some of the most fundamental tenets of life on Spira grind rather heavily on his companions (such as his carefree talk of what they'll do after Sin is defeated, as he doesn't learn until a long while that Yuna is going to willingly sacrifice herself, as all Summoners do to keep Sin away).
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It doesn't much matter what the human protagonists do in any of the Jurassic Park movies, because no matter what they do, the dinosaurs are the true stars here.
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Doctor Who: While he is generally a major player in most stories, this has been known to happen with the Doctor on occasion. The companions sometimes get this too, even in A Day in the Limelight:
"The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve" has the Doctor go missing early on, leaving his companion Steven stranded in sixteenth-century Paris. Steven spends the story as main protagonist, but he completely fails to change events in the slightest, and has no real idea what is going on. He only just finds the Doctor in time to escape Paris and avoid the impending atrocity.
"The Celestial Toymaker" involves the crew being trapped in a parallel dimension run by a godlike immortal who just wants to play Deadly Games with them, and demonstrates his power by phasing the Doctor out of existence and forcing him to play "the Trilogic Game". This means that the Doctor spends the whole plot able to do little other than argue with the Toymaker in ADRed lines, and even Steven and Dodo have no real agency except to win the games the Toymaker set out for them until the Toymaker just gives them the TARDIS back.
"The Tenth Planet" plays with this trope in an interesting way. The Doctor has only very few lines in the story because William Hartnell's health was failing, and even spends a whole middle episode asleep (apparently for no reason); and his plan for dealing with the evil planet draining the Earth's energy is incredibly passive — simply to wait for it to die, which he says it will do in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, his expansive apparent knowledge followed by his sudden absence ramps up the paranoia among the humans to a fever pitch, to the point where everyone turns against him and the General even accuses him of killing his son. Even after his prediction turns out to be right and the planet dies, it's a hollow victory, as the Doctor's unconsciousness is revealed to be a Chekhov's Gun foreshadowing a majorly controversial plot decision.
In "The Space Pirates", the Doctor is barely in the first and last episodes. His only action that really affects the plot is increasing the power of the electromagnetism on the satellite segment, with most of the other victories being the payoffs of other cast members with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
The Doctor spends most of "The Horns of Nimon" fighting the Negative Space Wedgie while stuck in the TARDIS while Romana does the stuff the Doctor would normally do. He does help create a device for affecting the gravity problems but it's clearly shown Romana could have done it just as easily on her own and would have done it without his help. He is present while the Anethians get out of the labyrinth but K-9 is the one who actually does all of the work, and the Doctor even argues with K-9's solution and is proven wrong. Even getting Romana and K-9 there in the first place can't be attributed to him, since they all got pulled down there by the gravity device. The only things he does that affect the plot are getting K-9 back from Soldeed and discovering the Nimons' ship. This was likely an intentional attempt to control Tom Baker's level of involvement, as he'd been getting very controlling and unstable at the time.
"Logopolis". The Doctor only does three things in the story that affect events at all, two of which are just landing the TARDIS in the first place (one to fall for the Police Box trap, and the other to go to Logopolis). The third is sending the Charged Vaccuum Emboitment into Cassiopeia.
The Doctor spends almost half of "Kinda" in a jail cell, and subsequently is mostly just there to explain what's going on to Todd while the Kinda solve their own problems. Tegan spends most of the story possessed and Nyssa is completely missing in action. The most proactive character from Team TARDIS is Adric; sure, everything he tries fails, but at least he's doing something.
Infamously in the case of "Revelation of the Daleks", where it takes over half the story for the Doctor to even meet anyone involved in the main plot and, believe it or not, the Daleks save the day by swooping in and carrying Davros off as a prisoner. Orcini completes the job by blowing up Davros' new Dalek army, something he could have done without the Doctor's assistance, and the Doctor's sole contribution is to prevent collateral damage by helping evacuate the area first.
Sylvester McCoy's Doctor was, with some justification, accused of "wandering through a series of encounters in which he plays no essential part"note  specifically, on the BBC's Points of View show. The writers appeared to take this to heart, turning him into The Chessmaster in his later stories.
One criticism levelled at "Planet of the Ood" is the fact that it ends with the Ood thanking the Doctor and Donna for saving them when they've spent most of the episode wandering around doing nothing after blundering into two plans set in motion before their arrival (Ood Sigma dosing Halpen's hair tonic to turn him into an Ood, and Ryder powering down the restraining field around the Ood brain in order to restore their free will). The Doctor does deactivate the explosives Halpen had set up to destroy the Ood brain but he's a very minor player in events.
"Asylum of the Daleks" mostly has Oswin moving the plot along, while the Daleks set up events and the Doctor concludes them. Rory is used as the viewpoint character for much of the episode, and doesn't influence events at all beyond being a prop through which Oswin can interact with the plot. Amy, meanwhile, is only there for some rather contrived Cannot Spit It Out romantic drama, and has even less to do with anything that happens.
"In the Forest of the Night": The Doctor, Clara, Danny and the children have little effect on the overall course of events except for broadcasting a plea (which is ignored) not to defoliate the trees.
"Demons of the Punjab": The Doctor and her companions can't change the course of events because of the Grandfather Paradox, so can only watch helplessly as the tragic events of the episode unfold.
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11/22/63 has this to an extent due to the Time Travel aspect of the story. Jake Epping, a man from 2011 living incognito in the late 50s and early 60s on a mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination, has to study Lee Harvey Oswald's actions to make sure that he is in fact acting alone, but he must also be extremely careful not to alert Oswald to his presence. In other words, Oswald's actions drive the plot of the book for the most part, and Jake just has to follow him around and actively avoid doing anything important until he's positive that killing Oswald will in fact save Kennedy.
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Nick Carraway does absolutely nothing in The Great Gatsby. He is, however, an outside view of rich people screwing up the lives of themselves and everyone around them. He does organise that meeting between Daisy and Gatsby, but that's about it.
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Both Bella in Twilight and Wanderer in The Host tend to fall into this during periods of action (which admittedly are in the minority in the slow, conversation-heavy books.) They're both Extreme Doormats, so it makes sense from an in-story standpoint, but it's one of the reasons Stephenie Meyer's works are so polarizing.
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Tack the Cobbler from The Thief and the Cobbler is a Cute Mute who spends the first two-thirds of the movie largely being dragged around by other characters. He undergoes no notable character development or Hidden Depths, which makes his burst of heroism in the movie's final act come across as an unexpected Ass Pull.
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On the Criminal Minds episode "North Mammon", the team is called in on a case. After chasing various red herrings, the perp, independent from the actions of the team, lets go of some of the victims. Since the victims at this point can simply identify the man who captured them, any policeman could have made the arrest.
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Slevin Kelevra from Lucky Number Slevin is apparently this during the beginning of the film, before the Kansas City Shuffle and Slevin's true intentions are revealed.
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In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, secondary protagonist Edith has all but become one. The story starts with her being dragged by Fighting Fit into an impromptu SAR mission, which leads to her being injured, forcefully reprimanded by Pierre, fired by the UN, recruited by Equestria, sent hunting after a mysterious piece of intel by Golden Dirk, locked in a burning building, and kidnapped by the Changelings.
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The nephalem of Diablo III don't really affect the story all that much, despite being the point-of-view characters for the plot. While they act as The Champion and The Heavy of the good guys, they don't really have much agency and mostly do whatever Tyreal or Deckard Cain tell them to. The bad guys do at least acknowledge that the nephalem have to be stopped, but beyond that, the actual plot is set in motion by the forces of Heaven and Hell and their desire to keep the Eternal Conflict in their favor.
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In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Arthur Dent started out as this. It's made explicitly clear that he's the main character early on, yet it takes awhile for him to take an active role and not just react to events around him.
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The second Mechwarrior game has story sections that are shown between missions. These sections do not change based on which side of the war you play on, giving the impression that the player's actions have no impact on the war whatsoever. As events are playing out by the canon of the tabletop game, any impact the player has is meaningless in the end, causing it to edge into Doomed by Canon territory.
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Charlie Bucket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Once he gets to the factory, the only notable things he does is to steal a Fizzy Lifting Drink (which disqualifies him from the promised lifetime supply of chocolate) and return the Everlasting Gobstopper to Mr. Wonka rather than give it to a rival competitor (negating the disqualification and becoming the owner of the factory in the process), and so he wins. This is still an improvement on the original book, in which Charlie does almost nothing upon arriving at the factory. His only act of any significance is at the end, when he informs Mr. Wonka that he is the only child left. Mr. Wonka then immediately announces that Charlie has won by default. However, given that Charlie is exceptionally well-mannered, this makes sense given the fates of the other children — he gets it for just being nice.
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In Eternal Eden, Noah is a mostly passive character who was forced into the conflict by his best friend's actions. Ultimately subverted since the best friend in question is really a manifestation of himself, created by his subconscious to cover up his own misdeeds.
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In Barry Lyndon, Barry goes through his life simply having things happen to him, such as being robbed, or being press-ganged, or having his child die. Even his initial action, shooting an officer in a duel, turns out to have been a fake duel, planned all along by his friends. Despite his attempts to gain agency over his life, at the end of the movie, he's just as much a victim of fate as he was in the beginning.
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Dragon Age II: Hawke is the main character, but for most of the story is just reacting to the events that occur around him/her, while party members Varric, Isabella, and Anders are the main driving forces in the plot. Even though a major plot point of the game was exploring the Man vs. Fate conflict, many players weren't sold on it and viewed it as a step back from the first game, where they could make world-changing choices. The third game returned to the old formula as a result.
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Carnelian is like this for incredibly long stretches of The Stone Dance of the Chameleon. In the first book, the only instance of him taking matters into his own hands ends in disaster. Only at the very end of the trilogy does he finally step up.
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The Ace Attorney series by its nature falls into this as the games all star criminal defense lawyers and prosecuting attorneys and follows them through their work on individual murder cases. In other words, they have nothing of relevance in the plot until someone drops dead and they get pulled in to defend them/prosecute them and they must rely on other people a good amount of the time to get all the information they need to win their case. That said, while the protagonists often have a reactive nature to the cases themselves, they still have their own individual character plots that play out during the game to ensure they remain a central part of the story. They're not so much irrelevant to the story (no, not even Apollo, who gets played like a puppet in his self-titled entry) as they are required to wait for something to happen so the player will have something to do.
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Subverted in Spec Ops: The Line, where the main character constantly asserts that everything he's doing, no matter how horrible, is because Konrad keeps forcing his hand. Then it turns out Konrad was a hallucination the entire time, and he could've easily stopped at any point.
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The protagonist from the 1966 B-movie The Wild World of Batwoman is a perfect example of this. The protagonist is like Charlie from Charlie's Angels. She does show up from time to time, but she has her batgirls do all the work. An Agony Booth recap can be read here.
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For roughly three quarters of Final Fantasy XIII, all the party does is try to survive in a world where virtually everybody wants to kill them for being L'Cie, something that was done to them without their consent for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of the remaining quarter is their coming to terms with the fact that as L'Cie, they are little more than pawns in a centuries-spanning scheme that they have virtually no hope of stopping — even dying to spite The Chessmaster will just delay his plans until he can find a new batch of pawns to run through the same situation. The first thing they do that diverges from the Big Bad's plot takes place in the penultimate cutscene.
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Tyrone Slothrop of Gravity’s Rainbow, who never solves the mystery he's after, spends his time on various sidequests instead, avoids death only by accident and eventually simply goes mad, gives up and disappears from the story.
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Test pilot Lance Schroeder in the original House on Haunted Hill (1959) doesn't do anything particularly heroic throughout the movie. He's attacked in the dark at one point and thinks he hit his head. (The RiffTrax crew constantly joke about him being trapped in closets and bumping his head.)
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Luke from Tales of the Abyss is this trope for the first part of the game. He's just a sheltered noble who by circumstance ends up kidnapped and dragged halfway around the world and back by others. When he DOES try to take an active role and be a hero, it ends VERY badly. Throw in the resulting dose of Character Development and he becomes much more proactive for the rest of the game.
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Szpilman from The Pianist, who manages to survive the Holocaust only through the goodness of strangers and sheer dumb luck. Of course, this is totally justified considering it's based on a true story, and the real Szpilman's real experiences.
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Hisao, the viewpoint character of Katawa Shoujo, starts out like this thanks to being jaded by losing all his old friends and thoroughly unenthused with the idea of attending Yamaku Academy. Shizune reveals in her route she recognized this and make it a goal to set him straight, and succeeds no matter who he ends up chasing, since at least he's showing an active interest in something.
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Assassin's Creed: Desmond spends most of his time experiencing the memories of his ancestors, who avert this trope and become more active and influential in the narrative. By the time he gets the chance to be agent of volition, he dies. MojoPlays even calls him out on this.
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Brandon Heat all throughout Gungrave is a quiet and obedient henchman. He initiates nothing, suspects nothing, and says almost nothing. Even his undead rampage is less roaring than sedate.
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Omar of Rock & Rule just sits back and look petulant while his sidekicks take the initiative to find Angel. Once he realizes what kind of danger she's in, he turns around and actually comes off as quite heroic.
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 Pinball Protagonist / int_fdbf3a81
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Spider-Man himself tends to turn into this in any multipart story in his own series that has lots of guest stars. He's always been a guy who works best alone, and quickly takes a back seat as part of a team. The biggest example was the Maximum Carnage storyline; the cover of one issue even lampshaded the trope by having Spidey shout, "Hey! Whose mag is this, anyway?!" Fortunately, he was indeed the star at the climax, both defeating Carnage himself and preventing Venom from killing him to show he'd still hold onto his principles, despite all that had happened.
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 Pinball Protagonist / int_ff35db96
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Kyon of Haruhi Suzumiya spends a lot of time mostly just watching things happen and doing whatever people tell him. That isn't to say that he's boring or without personality, however, and his apathy is a source of frustration to other characters, which is amusing.
He becomes a much more active protagonist after the fourth book.
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The following is a list of statements referring to the current page from other pages.

 Pinball Protagonist
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Characters as Device
 Pinball Protagonist
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This Index Has Balls
 Digimon Adventure tri. / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Now and Then, Here and There / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Tekken: Blood Vengeance / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Gold Digger (Comic Book) / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Mary Jane Watson (Comic Book) / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 The Books of Magic (Comic Book) / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 The Transformers: Robots in Disguise (Comic Book) / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Comic Book: Transformers: Robots in Disguise
seeAlso
Pinball Protagonist
 Comicbook: The Simpsons / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Jungle Book / Disney / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Fan Fic: Dark Secrets / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 Fan Fic: Spellbinding Radiance / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Ben Chatham Adventures / Fan Fic / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Story To End All Stories / Fan Fic / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Cartoon Network City (Fanfic) / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Rose And The Crown (Fanfic) / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Fanfic: The Tale of Codrex Magna
seeAlso
Pinball Protagonist
 Avatar / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Barry Lyndon / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Big Trouble in Little China / int_eadc018f
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 Close Encounters of the Third Kind / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Forrest Gump / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Film: Funeral Home
seeAlso
Pinball Protagonist
 Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956) / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Goldfinger / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Hammer Horror / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Help! / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Lucky Number Slevin / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Medium Cool / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Film: My Pet Monster
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 Odd Man Out / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Puma Man / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Solarbabies / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Film: Tekken: Blood Vengeance / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Big Lebowski / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Dark Crystal / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Phantom Menace / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Film: The Saragossa Manuscript / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 Film: Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann / int_900b1092
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 A Tale of Two Cities / int_eadc018f
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 Literature: Annals Of The Western Shore / int_900b1092
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 Caraval / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows / int_eadc018f
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 Literature: Islands in the Net / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 Ivanhoe / int_eadc018f
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 Jim Button / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Literature: Masquerade Cycle
seeAlso
Pinball Protagonist
 Neuromancer / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Oliver Twist / int_eadc018f
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 The Dolphin Ring / int_eadc018f
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 The Great Gatsby / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Literature: The House of Night / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Stone Dance of the Chameleon / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Story Girl / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Sundered / int_eadc018f
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Literature: The Toymaker
seeAlso
Pinball Protagonist
 Harper's Island / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths / int_900b1092
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Mystere / int_900b1092
type
Pinball Protagonist
 Pandora H-M
seeAlso
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 Pinball Tropes
seeAlso
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 make a to do send a pm add to watchlist drop watch go to watchlist Sliding Scale Of Video Game Objectives
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 The Cider House Rules / int_900b1092
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 The Pianist / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Sundered
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 Waverley / int_900b1092
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 Lock, Stock... / int_900b1092
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 Manga: Idol Pretender / int_900b1092
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Pinball Protagonist
 Series: Dragons Wagons And Wax
seeAlso
Pinball Protagonist
 Series: Escape of the Artful Dodger / int_900b1092
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 Harper's Island / int_eadc018f
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 Big Eyes, Small Mouth (Tabletop Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Vampire: The Masquerade (Tabletop Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Mystère (Theatre) / int_eadc018f
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 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Theatre) / int_eadc018f
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 Conker's Bad Fur Day (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Daemon X Machina (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Final Fantasy XIII (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Halo 5: Guardians (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Heroes Rise (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Video Game: Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream / int_900b1092
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 Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 The Walking Dead Season Three (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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 Videogame: Aquanox / int_900b1092
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 Super Robot Wars L (Video Game) / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 Kara no Shoujo (Visual Novel) / int_eadc018f
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 History of Power Rangers (Web Video) / int_eadc018f
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 Mr. Plinkett Reviews (Web Video) / int_eadc018f
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 The Ten Doctors (Web Video) / int_eadc018f
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 Rice Boy (Webcomic) / int_eadc018f
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 Webcomic: Sinful
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Pinball Protagonist
 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Pagemaster / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Point / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 The Thief and the Cobbler / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist
 All-New Ghost Rider (Comic Book) / int_eadc018f
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Pinball Protagonist