Character Shilling

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Sometimes, we hear about a character who doesn't really line up with they way they've been described, whether it be their abilities or their personality. Sometimes, though, this information all comes from a second character who is simply amazed at this character. They sing their praises, gushing their little hearts out. Okay, that's all well and good, Mister Fervent Admirer, but why are you praising them so openly?

This is what is known as Character Shilling. Whether it be an attempt to make us like the character, a way of quickly establishing that someone new is a badass a level above anything we've seen before or whatever the case may be, other people will be extremely impressed with this person and let we the viewers know about it. Whether they actually match up to the hype is optional. Sometimes they really are amazing, and sometimes we have ourselves a case of Informed Ability. Or worse, Creator's Pet.

Remember, it's only really shilling when we don't know why such praise and admiration is being given. If they've already shown they can back it up, it probably doesn't count.

Compare Informed Attribute, Informed Ability and Creator's Pet, the last of which is what happens when this goes wrong and the fans just end up hating the shilled character. May lead to Stop Worshipping Me! if it's to the person's face and they're more modest. A character who shills himself in-universe may be a Fake Ultimate Hero or Miles Gloriosus.

Not to be confused with Character Shill.

Examples of Character Shilling include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Gundam Seed Destiny Heine Westenfluss is set up as an ace pilot like Athrun as well as charming and a really nice guy. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a chance to live up to his extreme reputation since he dies too soon.
  • Early The World God Only Knows shills Haqua as being amazing, but it's actually part of an obvious setup to show that despite how talented she is the only one she's fooling is Elsie. She's been unable to get any results after graduating and is pretty depressed. Eventually, she does end up deserving her reputation.[1]
  • Constantly done with Paul in Pokémon, who acts like a jerk to everyone and abuses his Pokemon in order to make them stronger, outright abandoning the ones who he finds to be a waste of time, and yet he's constantly called a "great trainer", who just clashes with Ash because of "different methods", rather than because, well, he's a jerk. When Ash beats him with one of his abandoned Pokemon he's actually seen apologizing and promising to be good from now on... or at least that's where the story looked like it was heading. What happened instead was Paul pulled a few slight signs of kindness completely out of nowhere with no development at all and then shrugs off his loss to Ash the way he does in his only other two losses of the series. They still acted like he somehow redeemed himself, despite not really changing that much.
  • Inami from Working!! gets this from most of the cast whenever the spotlight is on her (and that's often), with the most coming from Poplar, who won't shut up on how cute Inami is. Though for most people, she's much cuter. Presumably, they're trying to make Takahashi, the guy Inami likes, think better of her, but they still overdo it a little. Even the Romantic False Lead spends more time praising Inami than looking for his Long Lost Sibling.
  • Touma, the main character of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, was fairly bland in the first few chapters, up until it was revealed that he was the adopted little brother of Subaru, a far more popular character. While it's shown how they met, it doesn't quite show how they became so close, and the two don't even interact for a long while. It's basically just to say 'hey, Subaru likes him!' to the reader. It gets more obvious later on, when it's shown that other characters like Nanoha know and like him too, which happened entirely off-screen.
  • Inazuma Eleven actually managed to subvert this one. When the team first set out to find and meet Fubuki, several characters start discussing rumors about what an amazingly strong and talented person he is, some of which are so over the top (such as "Fubuki the bear-killer") that they're likely parodying this trope. Everyone is quite surprised when they actually meet him and he's nothing like what they expected.

Fubuki: Oh, are you disappointed after seeing the real thing?

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Happened with Kyle Rayner when he replaced Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. Having folks like Martian Manhunter and Superman (not to mention Batman and Sandman) say what a terrific guy you are, completely unsolicited, led to much eye-rolling even amongst fans of the character, who felt that such shilling validated many complaints that haters of the character had. Luckily, Rayner managed to survive the shilling and was officially rescued from the scrappy pile.
    • It's been widely joked that Kyle got shilled specifically because DC were pissed off that fans (rightfully) saw how The Death of Superman and Azrael becoming Batman were temporary plotlines. DC were deadset that Kyle would stick, hence the shilling. However, Grant Morrison refused to give Kyle the same treatment in JLA. Yes, most of the team respected him, but he had to work to really be seen as something more than a rookie. And The Flash was open about his initial dislike of Kyle and it took a good amount of character development for them to become friends. As a result, Kyle Rayner grew his own crop of decidedly enthusiastic and loyal fans...
  • Invoked in The Flash comics for Barry Allen after his recent return to life. Writer Geoff Johns acknowledged that people who haven't read any story with Barry in it before (basically anyone who started reading comics after the Crisis, which is to say, anyone under 30), will see him as a Replacement Scrappy for Wally, so his first priority in the Flash: Rebirth miniseries was to sell Barry to newer readers. The first issue of Rebirth is mostly scenes of every single major superhero in the DCU talking about how awesome Barry is, save for Kid Flash, who refuses to accept him because he's not the one he grew up with, essentially making him their Straw Fan.
  • Occurs in regards to the character of Carlie Cooper in the Spider-Man comics. Much is made about how great a person she is, how perfect not only is she for Peter, but how perfect she is in general. Unfortunately, this sort of shilling has done little to endear her character to the general fanbase, as her positive character traits come off more as an informed ability while her more negative character traits are overlooked.
    • Did we mention she resembles the daughter of the guy who pushed One More Day?
    • Miles Morales, the current picture for Affirmative Action Legacy. All the other characters go and praise his actions, which goes completely against being the successor for Peter Parker (a man the universe enjoys tormenting).

Film[edit | hide]

  • Mercilessly parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Sir Robin's Minstrel, who keeps gushing in song about "Brave Sir Robin" (despite repeated commands to shut up) while Sir Robin is trying to avoid picking a fight, and goes on gushing about it even after Sir Robin has fled in abject cowardice.

Minstrel: Brave Sir Robin ran away!
Robin: No!
Minstrel: Bravely ran away, away.
Robin: I didn't!
Minstrel: When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Robin: No!
Minstrel: Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about,
Robin: I didn't!
Minstrel: And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet,
Robin: I never did!
Minstrel: He beat a very brave retreat.
Robin: All lies!
Minstrel: Oh, bravest of the braaave, Sir Robin!
Robin: I never!


Literature[edit | hide]

  • This is, more or less, the only way that the two main characters in the Left Behind series ever interact with non-main characters. It's either Buck and Rayford are thinking about how special they are and what a privilege it is for the rest of their unnamed co-workers and friends to associate with them, or it's these unnamed co-workers and friends gushing about them. This can be seen as the authors ignoring the Show, Don't Tell method of storytelling, merely telling us how earnest, passionate, and sincere their characters are rather than actually showing any of these qualities.
  • Parodied and Played for Laughs in the first two Discworld novels. Rincewind is the most incompetent and cowardly wizard on the Disc, even to the point that he can't spell the word right. His companion Twoflower, however, thinks he's the mightiest magician who ever lived. This really gets on Rincewind's nerves, especially when he's going on about what a mighty warrior he is, and all the wizzard wants to do is run far, far away.
  • Can be pretty much applied to any of the main cast in Twilight. We're told how wonderful Edward and the Cullens are (from Bella's POV anyway), but their actions and behavior throughout the series suggest anything but.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • How I Met Your Mother has begun to do this in season 5 with Don. He was introduced as "the guy Robin would inevitably marry," but his subsequent appearances paint him as annoying and flawed. However, once he started showing romantic interest in Robin, he met the group and suddenly Marshall does not stop gushing about him. We don't see their interactions, but Marshall opens by saying that he is "smart, handsome and funny". This is jarring because two episodes ago we were supposed to hate the guy.
    • At the same time that was going on, Barney was flanderized into a supreme womanizer who scored with every girl he hit on...and the rest of the cast inexplicably became his enthusiastic cheerleaders, even though in earlier seasons they'd only kind of put up with it and even expressed occasional disgust at some of Barney's slimier methods. They rooted for Barney every time he hit on a girl, actively helped him out at one point, and celebrated every time he scored (they did a lot of celebrating). It was as if the writers were desperately telling their viewers, "See? See? See how much better Barney is as an exagerated caricature of himself than when he was paired with Robin?"
  • In one particularly glaring example from a first-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a Sufficiently Advanced Alien known as "The Traveler" stopped-in seemingly for the exclusive purpose of telling the crew how wonderful Wesley was. While Wesley hadn't quite become a Creator's Pet by that point, further treatment along these lines basically ended up as one of the most definitive examples of Creator's Pet.
    • Another TNG example, "The Outrageous Okona", did nothing actually outrageous except taking advantage of his incredibly hyped reputation as a wild maverick man of action to get laid. Popular with the ladies, but not with the fans, who largely consider him a joke.
    • Second only to Wesley is Will Riker. Picard (who seems to be the official "You Will Like This Guy" mouth piece for the show) was constantly touting Riker's leadership abilities and the fact that he'd passed on several Captain's posts of his own to stay with the Enterprise. Other characters would hype Riker's skills at "Activity X" as the plot demanded. But even when he got a Day in The Limelight episode to show those skills, the fans' reaction was a hearty "So what's so special about that?" At least he grew a beard...
  • Babylon 5 had a Lower Deck Episode in its last season, featuring a couple of maintenance workers who end up praising new character Captain Lochley and telling her that she was OK in their book. Apparently, both of the two "little guys" were openly Author Avatars.
  • Increasingly, Glee treats Will and Finn this way—particularly, other characters stand around gushing about how talented, good-hearted, and attractive they both are.
    • One of the complaints about the first half of the Season 2 was that this went on a lot with Kurt Hummel in spite of sometimes treating his friends rather cruelly. This culminated in "Furt" which was basically a whole episode of Kurt-shilling. Thankfully they let off on it after that, but did so by sending Kurt to Dalton.
    • Other characters constantly talk up Blaine as a talented, attractive dreamboat; especially in Season 3.
  • In the sixth season of Bones, for the character of Hannah Burley there is constant reinforcement of her beauty, talent and intelligence. Other popular characters in the show (including Angela) constantly refer to Hannah and Dr Brennan as being "friends", although the scenes depicting their "friendship" seem awkward at best (especially one scene in which Hannah makes Brennan give her her sunglasses). Many fans found it frustrating, and it certainly didn't make the character any more likable.
  • On Degrassi, this happens quite a bit with Mia during Season 8, much to Holly J's (and many fans') annoyance.
    • One particularly Egregious example was in Degrassi Takes Manhattan, when Jay was telling Spinner that Emma wouldn't screw him over like Jane did. Because Emma NEVER cheated on anybody. It's especially perplexing that Jay would talk Emma up like this, because a few years ago, she basically prostituted herself to him. For rubber bracelets.
  • Rob in Survivor. The reunion for Redemption Island was especially terrible, essentially being an hour of "Isn't Rob awesome?" in between talking to Russell and asking if he'd return, or asking if Phillip was that crazy. Many fans cheered just because the worst season of Survivor finally ended, and with the thoughts that Rob would finally go away.
  • Lana from Smallville spent the first several years of the show's run being the girl everyone was in love with; she was Clark's long-term hopeless crush, the object of every villain's twisted affection (so that Clark could rescue her every week or so) and everyone else's bestest friend. All of the praise heaped upon the character couldn't hide the fact that she really wasn't all that amazing, and would often indulge in petty behavior. As the show wore on, her awesomeness caught up with all the shilling of her when she got a dose of superpowers. This made her all the more irritating and she finally left the show in season eight.
  • A lot of characters in The Wire's third season comment on just how bad and cold Marlo Stanfield is, actually saying that he's "for real". As it turns out, he really is.
  • By the latter half of season 2 of Stargate Universe, Scott's line telling Young, "You are a good commander!" was added to every episode intro, apparently in an attempt to convince the audience of just that. He wasn't.
    • Scott himself. He's constantly touted on being a great leader, really gets around and the creators even called him the "Jack O'Neill of ten years ago." Fans countered that the comparison doesn't work because we actually like Jack.
  • NBC's fantasy-police procedural Grimm. The main character Nick Burkhardt is a Grimm (a group of super-powered humans who supposedly police the supernatural world to keep humanity safe and/or maintain balance between humans and supernaturals), but Nick has no obvious talents or abilities other than being able to see non-humans for what they really are. Yet, every time he encounters a new non-human, they are instantly frightened and intimidated by him because he is a Grimm, and they are in awe of the bad-ass things that Grimms supposedly do (although the audience is never shown this through Nick, nor does the audience ever see any other Grimms in action). Furthermore, Nick's supernatural side-kick Monroe constantly talks him up, although there is seemingly no reason for the praise. To his credit, Nick does seem like a decent cop.
    • Actually the reason they're so terrified of him is because Grimms have become The Dreaded of the Supernatural World. In addition to their reputation, Nick does later takes several levels in badass and demonstrate that Grimms do possess super-strength and resilience that puts them on equal footing with most Wessen.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Warhammer 40,000 does this so often it is hardly notable, with every faction update portraying said faction as mighty and unstoppable and everyone else should tremble at their very presence (except for the Eldar, who never escape being the galaxy's Butt Monkey), purposefully to sell more models. However, the Ultramarines receive a ridiculous amount of shilling even by these standards, 5th Edition changing them from the "generic" Space Marine chapter, whose main characteristic was being Lawful Stupid, to the epitome of Imperial virtue and the pinnacle to which all other Space Marine chapters aspire to emulate. Said codex being mostly written by a confessed Ultramarine fanboy might have had something to do with it.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Here's a fun exercise for Horde players in World of Warcraft: While leveling to the cap, keep track of the number of NPCs you encounter who refer to Garrosh Hellscream as a master tactician or military genius. This would probably not be so aggravating if he ever actually displayed any of his supposed skill, but usually we're just told about it and the times we actually see him in action he's incompetent at best (notably, he sends the player character on a Suicide Mission in Borean Tundra, and his attempt to ambush the Alliance in Twilight Highlands backfires spectacularly when Deathwing shows up with a fleet of Twilight dragons and wrecks the now-defenseless Horde fleet).
    • And to add insult to injury you then incite an insurrection against the Dragonmaw by.....talking about how awesome Garrosh is. It doesn't help matters that the horde introduction is much longer and more interesting than the Alliance's which just has you get in a drunken dwarf's plane and pass out.
  • By the time of BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend, Makoto Nanaya has been enjoying quite a bit shilling for someone who's just minding her own business rather than taking part of the plot actively. Hazama considers her a Spanner in the Works, Relius Clover becomes obsessed with her apparent 'strong soul', as he described, and the one moment she met the resident snobby bitch Rachel... the latter wasn't even being snobby and instead praising her like hell. Whether she lived up to the shilling is for the sequel to report.


Visual Novels[edit | hide]

  • Played for dark humor during the fifth and sixth chapter of Umineko no Naku Koro ni where the narration and everyone keep going on about Erika Furudo. The problem is that there's so much gushing because it's Lambdadelta's script and she's also callous and an incredible bitch. She does end up satisfying her reputation. But she's still a bitch.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Owen on Total Drama Island. Most of his accomplishments are either a) based on dumb luck or b) somehow related to eating, yet in some episodes the other characters will praise him excessively. In the first episode of Total Drama Action, for example, he manages to avoid being caught by the monster simply because he's too fat to pick up, then eats a bunch of fake food because he wouldn't just stop and listen to Chris tell him it was fake. But by coincidence he happened to burp out the key they were supposed to find, and immediately the scene cuts to several other characters praising his success.
  • Played for Laughs during the infamous "Poochie" episode of The Simpsons; when pitching the character, Homer talks about putting extra emphasis on the new character by suggesting that, whenever he's not onscreen, other characters should be asking, "Where's Poochie?" When the episode actually airs, Itchy and Scratchy's very few lines center on how awesome Poochie is.
  1. when you take into account that she's basically a low level supervisor who has just graduated high school and is thus about the equivalent of 18