Audience Surrogate

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Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale): So, Kristen, there must be something really special about you for Robert Pattinson to take such a liking to you and risk the lives of his entire family. Tell us about yourself.

Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan): Me? Oh, no. I'm just a hollow placeholder for all of the teenage girls in the audience to project their personalities onto. I have none of my own whatsoever.

There are three things that can be referred to as an Audience Surrogate:

  1. The viewpoint character; See Point of View.
  2. A character who asks questions the audience would ask and says things the audience would say.
  3. A character who the audience (or the children in the audience) doesn't just sympathize with, but are supposed to actively see themselves as—by desire, by default, or by author inference.

This trope is about the third one, as the other two have tropes of their own.

Compare Sliding Scale of Viewer Intelligence.

Video Games usually use a variant of this, the Heroic Mime. This Loser Is You is an Audience Surrogate by definition. Super-Trope for Ascended Fanboy, The Everyman, and Unfazed Everyman (See Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions for an explanation of the difference), and related to Escapist Character and Otaku Surrogate. Examples below should not cover these.

Examples of Audience Surrogate include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Kagome Higurashi from Inuyasha.
  • To some extent, Prince Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke.
  • Ryuk, in Death Note, is the character who's in it for the same reason as the audience is: Gambit Pileups are fun to watch.
    • That and the sheer unadulterated joy of watching Light finally crash and burn.
  • Kirie serves this purpose in Uzumaki: asking the necessary questions as well as witnessing all the strange goings on in her cursed town; and her love interest, Suichi, plays the role of Author Avatar, providing many of the answers that would have been difficult to provide otherwise.
  • Saten Ruiko from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun is pretty much the only unambiguously normal person of the main cast.
  • In the fist half of Fist of the North Star, Bat and Lin both seem to exist mainly to have someone for Kenshiro to provide exposition during a sudden plot development.
  • Kyon, the only Ordinary High School Student in Suzumiya Haruhi. This is probably also the second reason why he is the most frequently shipped character in the fandom.
  • Naive Newcomer Rakka serves as the audience surrogate in Haibane Renmei, as the other characters explain how the world of the show works and what the Haibane are to the audience through her.
  • Chris Thorndyke from Sonic X.
  • Armor in the X-Men anime.
  • Medaka Box: Zenkichi Hitoyoshi is quite literally, the Normal of the main cast. He's often left to comment on the absurdity of the cast, but isn't without his own quirks and moments of badassery.
  • One of the Fullmetal Alchemist OVAs used this, "filmed" in the first person from the perspective of an unnamed probationer alchemist who interacts with Fuhrer King Bradley and Roy Mustang before a giant alchemist vs. homonculus battle.


Comic Books[edit | hide]


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • In ToyHammer, this role is passed between Michael, Alice and Vincent.
  • Any reader-insert fanfiction, meaning the main character isn't often given a name and is addressed as "You" in the narrative, and "Your Name" in the dialogue. Amusingly, some of the reader-inserts have more personality than non-reader inserts.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars.
  • Director Bruce Robinson used this trope so literally that the second half of his titular duo in Withnail & I doesn't even get a name. Paul McGann's character (credited as "...& I" in the credits, but revealed to be named "Marwood" in the script) is never named in the course of the film, allowing the audience to more easily identify with his misfortunes.
  • J.K. Simmons as the unnamed CIA director in Burn After Reading.
  • Joe Black in Meet Joe Black, particularly at the beginning (when he serves as the exploratory vehicle within Bill Paxton's estate), and the end, when he tears up watching the party-farewells and acts as the receptacle for Bill's summative reflections - essentially parroting the anticipated reaction of the audience watching the end of the movie.
  • A refreshing example from Inception is Ariadne, who doesn't sit there, ask questions and let others do the work for her. She adapted easily to the dream world and was the one to find out about Cobb's wife infiltrating his mind, afterward actively trying to help Cobb. Then, it was her idea to go into the fourth level after Cobb and Eames had given up. In other words, she is the character who behaves as the audience would if they were in her place.
  • Brad and Janet.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The four hobbits (Merry and Pippin in particular) in The Lord of the Rings.
    • Bilbo in The Hobbit.
    • In his introduction to The Book of Lost Tales, Christopher Tolkien supposes that the reason The Silmarillion was less popular than The Lord of the Rings is that it lacked an Audience Surrogate. In fact, the original draft of The Silmarillion (the Lost Tales) actually did have an Audience Surrogate—a Man named ?fwine of England to whom the tales of the First Age were narrated by the Elves.
  • Bella of Twilight has no personality of her own and the story is told in the first person so the audience can project themselves onto her very easily. Stephenie Meyer has even said on her website that she deliberately avoided describing Bella's physical features so that it would be easier for the readers to picture her as themselves.
  • Firestorm in Less Than Three Comics' Brat Pack. Even though he should be the opposite, what with his family upbringing and all. Sometimes Mr Perfect will take this role.
  • Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, written almost entirely in the second person, is centered around two readers: one as a stand-in for male readers, another for female.
  • Harry Potter. Especially in the earlier books when he's just discovering the wizarding world. Being The Boy Who Lived does not always agree with his deepest wish to settle down with a family and lead a normal (for a wizard) life.
  • Arthur Dent.
  • Richard Mayhew.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Cindel Towani, the little girl in the Ewok TV movies.
  • In Doctor Who, the companions pretty much exist for this role, when they aren't The Watson.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: When Fred Rogers is alone with the camera, he's a parental character. But when he's with a friend, they become the parental figure and Mr. Rogers becomes a child on behalf of the audience.
  • Penny fills this role for non-geeky fans of The Big Bang Theory. Whenever one of the guys makes an obscure reference to something in geek culture, Penny's always there to sarcastically ask what the heck they're talking about, when many viewers were wondering the exact same thing.
    • For everyone else, it's Sheldon, an ambitious nerd without his friends' more overt flaws (Howard's lechery, Rag's gynophobia, and Leonard's generic geekery).
  • Jim's mugging for the camera on The Office often reflects how the audience perceives the ridiculous events on screen.
  • Lost did this a couple times to acknowledge fans' desire for answers. In season 1, Hurley gets frustrated at one point with all the mysterious happenings on the Island, saying that he wants answers. Then, in the epilogue, "The New Man in Charge," Ben comes to visit the guys at the DHARMA packing plant. As he turns to go, one of them says "Wait! You can't just leave without giving us any answers!" which is exactly what the viewers were all thinking at that point.
  • Similar to the Penny example above, Agent Booth on Bones responds to Bones and the other squints just like any non-anthropologist in the audience would, making them explain the more complicated concepts in laymen's terms and sometimes lampshading their Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:

Dr. Hodgins: It's seventy percent amorphous silicon dioxide.
Booth: What's that?
Dr. Hodgins: It's a common domestic container.
Booth: Oh, like a jar. Why can't we just say "a jar"?


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • In The Insect Play, the Tramp (known as the Vagrant in some translations) is the only human character present for most of the play. He mostly serves to draw analogies between human societies and insect societies.


Web Animation[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]

Web Comics[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Ahsoka in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: a child, not having learned yet all she needs in order to survive in the universe, suddenly thrust into a life of excitement and adventure (and, more importantly, authority [at least, in her own mind] over more experienced adults). Isn't that what lots of kids fantasize about (among other things)?
    • Which might explain the outfit.
  • Orko on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was clearly supposed to represent the target demographic viewer.
  • Most of the princes and princesses in the Disney Animated Canon.
  • Spike from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic seems to be a surrogate for the Periphery Demographic, being The One Guy and all. Case in point, the end of the episode "The Ticket Master", where he complains that he's not interested in going to the Grand Galloping Gala, but is secretly delighted about getting an invitation.
    • Later, Big Macintosh takes up the role of representing the Periphery Demographic in "Lesson Zero", where he, despite the most muscular pony on the show at the time, shows genuine interest in owning an old doll meant for girls. Sound familiar?
    • Rainbow Dash in "Read It and Weep". She passes off reading as uncool, until she picks up a book and discovers that she likes it. Several older fans compared this to how they first got into the show.
  • Beast Boy acts as this sometimes in Teen Titans. As the youngest, and the least smart, he sometimes has the science-y stuff explained to him by his more educated teammates (e.g. the Chromaton Detonator in Apprentice: Part One, Xenothium in X).
  • Kid Flash in Young Justice. He is the only member of the team with a remotely normal childhood, as well as the only one who lives in an a two-parent household and attends public school. Rocket takes on this role later in the series, where other character summarize the events of past episodes for her.
  • Yeardley Smith is this for the viewer of The Simpsons Movie. In the commentary, she asks questions about shooting techniques and the like that other commentators refer to.
    • She very often does the same in DVD commentaries of the regular series.
    • Lisa, Yeardley Smith's character, often fills this roll on the series proper (whenever Comic Book Guy isn't around):

Marge: Don't you remember when Maggie shot Mr. Burns?
Homer: I thought Smithers did it.
Lisa (under her breath): That would have made a lot more sense.

    • Frank Grimes in the infamous eighth-season Simpsons episode "Homer's Enemy". The character's sole purpose was to represent a realistic person from our universe—accustomed to toil, pressures and hardship with little, if anything, to show for it—transplanted into a universe that caters to and rewards the lazy and stupid, and how it would understandably drive him/her absolutely insane.
  • Gus in Recess can be considered one, as he seems the most confused about the main six's schemes
  • Fry in the first season of Futurama, although he started to move away from this role once he became more accustomed to life in the 31st century.
  • Several characters from South Park, Stan and Kyle in particular.