The Artifact

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"Every time the TARDIS materializes in a new location, within the first nanosecond of landing it analyzes its surroundings, calculates a twelve-dimensional data map of everything within a thousand mile radius and determines which outer shell would blend in better with the environment... and then it disguises itself as a police telephone box from 1963."

Sometimes, a character or gimmick seems to no longer fit with the mood or design of a story according to a writer, but is kept because there seems to be no way for the writer to get rid of them without causing some serious disruption (unrelated to Retcons).

Sometimes it's due to being tied in closely to the mythos or that The Artifact has just been around so long that removing it seems like overstepping bounds. And if it's due to pure fan popularity, the producers probably aren't going to push it out in any case for no reason.

The general way to solve this problem is to avoid it, or rather, them. You can bet anyone considered The Artifact is going to be politely skipped over by the writer whenever they can, although this can get shaky if the audience is seasoned to expect them around.

Very common in Web Comics and print comics with a rotating circle of writers. Less common on television given the emphasis on demographics and Ratings, although Filler occasionally trots out old premises.

Occasionally this is caught early enough, though in Long Runners this results in a odd Bleached Underpants situation within a series, usually from Author Appeal tastes.

Compare Grandfather Clause. Contrast Canon Immigrant, Pinball Protagonist, Breakout Character and Creator's Pet. See also Artifact Title. See Network Decay when this happens to an entire channel. On occasion The Artifact (or something the writers think is only an artifact) will be done away with but then missed and brought back in a different form as a Replacement Artifact; if The Artifact is restructured to fit in with current sensibilities, it's Reimagining the Artifact.

This Trope has nothing to do with magical items or similar ancient objects of power; for that, see Ancient Artifact or Artifact of Doom.

Examples of The Artifact include:


  • The good-kind-of-bad Bruce Springsteen wannabe in Bud Light's Real Men of Genius campaign made for a better gag when the ads started out and he was singing about Real American Heroes. It's still a good gag, just minus a little... significance. To be fair, it was changed after 9-11 when anything seen as possibly mocking the heroism of Americans was probably advertising suicide.
  • Erin Esurance was still around for awhile despite the fact that Esurance ads ditched the whole espionage/Action Girl angle in favor of more traditional type spots.
    • Now[when?] she's been reduced to a poster in the halls of the fictional Esurance offices in which the current[when?] campaign takes place.
    • Esurance is now currently[when?] partnered with Allstate, and any references to past advertisements are gone.
  • Magic the Dog in Old Navy's first commercials was a fashion designer, with fashion columnist Carrie Donovan (old lady with glasses) talking about his great work in the field of fashion. After the first few commercials, the idea was dropped, and for several years just featured generic commercials, but still featured Magic (just as a dog) and Carrie Donovan (just as old lady with glasses).
  • Early commercials for Capital One represented credit card debt as rampaging hordes of barbarians, which only a Capital One card could drive away. Now their commercials are about barbarians getting along in the modern world using Capital One cards.
    • It helps that the barbarians have been remade into fun-loving guys after a good time. Usually.
    • Capital One's original selling point was that they charged a lower APR than the competition. When they raised their rates during the late-Oughties credit crunch, they had no choice but to re-tool the characters.
  • A few years ago, Charmin toilet paper ran an animated spot about bears taking the product with them into the woods. The bears have since become the center of their own campaign, but because they also live in houses, there is no connection to the original joke.
  • Geico began a campaign in which Gecko the gecko was complaining to the company about the confusion between the company's name and his (unimaginative) name. Later ads feature Gecko as an employee of Geico (with a different accent).
    • This may have been more of a shift in angle, since the first commercial with Gecko working for Geico said that he basically just threw up his hands and got a job there, since if they were gonna be calling him for Geico, it might as well be somewhat accurate.
  • Duke the talking dog from the Bush's Baked Beans commercials. Originally, the joke was that company spokesman Jay Bush had told the secret family bean recipe to his dog Duke, naturally expecting the animal to keep quiet—but it turned out the dog could actually talk, and wanted to sell the recipe! Nowadays, the commercials inexplicably feature Jay Bush hanging out with this dog that just happens to talk.

Anime and Manga

  • More than a few fans have commented that Sailor Moon's boyfriend, Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask, tends to become useless to the writers outside of major plots in the later seasons of the show; she has plenty of people to emote to, he becomes inexplicably weak, and their relationship doesn't really go anywhere because the Threat of the Arc invariably leaves Mamoru unavailable in some way. In order to fix this, the last season, Sailor Stars had him Put on a Bus until the very end.
    • For the first three seasons, the Monsters-of-the-Day actually did something relevant to the Plot, but in the fourth and fifth seasons, their only purpose was to give the girls something to fight before the end of the episode. It became especially bad in the last season; the targets were supposed to be potential Sailor Senshi (hence why they're attacked very early in the original comic) but no attempt is ever made to target those that show up to every single fight, in costume.
  • Brock from Pokémon became this during "Johto Journeys" and stayed that way for a loooooong time. The writers seemed to have forgotten all about his stated goal of breeding Pokémon, and were probably keeping him around just to avoid the fan backlash that might result from removing him.
    • It seems the writers have taken notice as he finally left the show in Best Wishes/Black and White.
    • Surprisingly Lampshaded in the last three episodes of "Diamond and Pearl" where Brock realizes that while Ash and Dawn are advancing towards their goals he has made no progress with his. It is also in these episodes that he learns he can put the skills he does have to good use by becoming a Pokémon Doctor leading to his departure.
  • Dragonball Z features many characters from the earlier Dragon Ball series (such as Talking Animals Puar the cat and Oolong the pig) that do not mesh well with the less cartoony and more science-fiction style of characters in DBZ.
    • An even better example would be the Dragon Balls themselves. Although they've have some importance in every arc, as soon as it's revealed that Goku and Piccolo are aliens, they take a back seat and they're only used as damage control in the Android/Cell and Buu arcs. They do eventually become more important in Dragon Ball GT.
      • This actually started earlier in the Dragon Ball run. While they were being actively sought through most of Dragon Ball, by the time of the Red Ribbon Saga they were effectively just a MacGuffin and the battles with the bad guys became more prominent. By the King Piccolo Saga, they became little more than a means to how Piccolo gained eternal youth and damage cleanup thereafter, while in the Piccolo Junior Saga they weren't even featured at all. They played a limited role in the Saiyan Saga of Z, while they played a much more prominent role in the Namek/Frieza Saga. The Android/Cell and Buu Sagas all but forgot about them. Basically, the importance of the Dragon Balls themselves started to wane heavily as early as half way through the original Dragon Ball years - in other words, for about 3/4 of whole story they were little more than a slightly justified Deus Ex Machina to hit the Cosmic Reset Button.
  • One of Slayers‍'‍s most famous running jokes is the otherwise overconfident Lina Inverse's sensitivity about her endowment. While it's reasonable in the novels and comic, it seemed a case of Hollywood Homely in animated form only rationalized by her bawdy and ridiculously curvy cohort Naga. As the show usually compensated by enlarging everyone else, one suspects it was Executive Meddling in order to make a heroine a bit more cute to the television audience.
    • Slayers Revolution-R dealt with this a little better than the 90s series (where she was easily a B-Cup going towards C), as her character design in the 2000s series is noticeably pretty flat - not a complete Pettanko, but definitely an A-Cup.
  • Kinkotsuman and Iwao from Kinnikuman, parodies of stereotypical Toku villains introduced when the series was a straight up spoof of Ultraman continued to show up long after the Genre Shift to Pro Wrestling.
  • Main character Ginko from Mushishi wears recognizably modern clothes despite the story's setting suggesting a Pre Meiji Japanese location. The author eventually admitted that Ginko was made during the early design period where the story was supposed to take place in modern times, with him simply being left unchanged.
  • Likewise Chrono's very distinctive outfit in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is back from when he was designed to be a more important lead character—and a villain—rather than a side character. There not being much to compare him to, even Elio's outfit is much less flashy.
  • Although Mobile Suit Gundam was the first Real Robot anime, it still carried a lot of baggage from the Super Robot genre, mainly the design aesthetic for Zeon vehicles and an Aerith and Bob naming scheme for their people that evokes the Alien invaders common to Super Robot antagonists, and a number of gimmicky weapons and accessories for the Gundam like the G-Armor, Beam Javelin, and Gundam Hammer. The latter were quickly retconned out of existence in the Movie adaptations, and later Zeon designs have tried to evoke a image closer to World War II Germany.
    • Played with in the SEED series, where the titular gundams were only called a handful of times (once in the first series, twice in the second) because that's what their OS's acronyms spelled out. The units were almost always refered to by their production names.
  • An in-universe example is brought up in the final episode of Ghost in the Shell:Stand Alone Complex where a few of the protagonists meet in a library. One points out the uselessness of printed media to which another points out that it is just a habit of mankind.
  • The character of Index can't really be dropped from the series A Certain Magical Index but her character and abilities after the initial arc don't really add anything. However, she's fairly popular and, again, her name is in the title. So as the story introduces two more protagonists and something of a rival main heroine, poor Index is largely confined to either comedy scenes or used as a MacGuffin. Some of the less kind fans have taken to calling her a headcrab in response to her perceived uselessness and most common running gag.

Comic Books

  • In his earliest incarnation, Superman held a job at The Daily Planet so he would be the first to hear about misdeeds he could set right. As the character became increasingly more powerful over the decades, the need for him to learn about such things from the Planet was obviated; however, the job is such a central part of the mythos (it's impossible to conceive of his Secret Identity without it) that it has continued into every Continuity Reboot and adaptation to date - and now often sees Clark Kent mysteriously getting all the good Superman stories... In 1971, writer Denny O'Neil actually did do away with the job at the Planet, with Clark taking the more modern job as a news anchor on a national station, with Lana Lang as co-anchor. This was eventually changed back Post-Crisis to tie in with the Superman movies, which featured Clark at the Planet with his classic supporting cast. Also, the idea of Clark as a well-known TV personality who is seen by millions of Americans every day makes his questionable disguise even more unbelievable.
    • Lately this has been re-integrated into the mythos, with Clark having been interested in journalism even before he became Superman; thus, being a reporter is part of his attempt to live a normal life outside his heroics. It's also now a way that how Clark can succeed in a purely intellectual field where his powers give him no real advantage over ordinary people. After all, while his powers can help him uncover secrets and write superfast, ultimately they can't help him win him a Pulitzer Prize which depends on his hard-earned writing skills alone.
    • Superman also had lots of artifacts like Krypto the Superdog, and odd powers like Super-ventriloquism, that disappeared with the reboot of the character in the 1980s. (Superdog's back now, though not used as a part of Supes' evil-fighting. He certainly fit this trope for a while because he didn't exactly fit the mood of Iron Age comics. Nowadays he fits better, what with Kandor coming back and its citizens coming to our world and all.)
  • Storm of the X-Men can be this way under anyone who isn't Chris Claremont. In theory, she's one of the most popular X-Men, and the company likes what she brings to the team, but many writers are at a loss what to do with her, especially when Cyclops is in the mix.
    • Ditto for Nightcrawler and Colossus, who always seemed better suited for the fantasy, supernatural, and outer space adventures the X-Men frequently had in the 70's and 80's. They seem an ill fit for the book's gritty realism in more recent years. Probably why Kurt was killed off in 2010.
    • Happens to almost any major X-Man depending on the current writer. You can find runs where almost any character pretty much exists solely because the writer feels like they can't drop them, but gives them no actual relevance to the plot.
  • The most oddball example has to be Super Duck. He started out as a superhero, as his name suggests, but after three issues, he became a lederhosen-wearing average duck sharing misadventures with his nephew Fauntleroy and girlfirend Uwanna, all while still going by the name "Super Duck". A short-lived revival in The Nineties restored him back to "the Cockeyed Wonder" he was originally intended to be. But when he returned again in 'A Night at the Comic Book Shop', he reverted back to the lederhosen-wearing average duck depiction.
  • Spirou from Spirou and Fantasio wears the costume (or at least nowadays the hat) of a hotel groom/elevator operator. The costume is painfully out of date, but so integral to the character, even when he's wearing more modern attire, pieces of it keep showing up (usually the hat).
    • Spoofed in "Le Petit Spirou", where he wears it as a young boy. So do his mom and dad. It's a family tradition.
  • This started to happen with the Freedom Fighters in Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog series. In fact, for a time, they'd been dropped almost entirely while the comic focused on Sonic and Tails during their World Tour arc. Other characters seemed to fade from prominence and exit the story entirely, but the Freedom Fighters seemed to cling on because they were there from the beginning. However, with Ian Flynn taking over as writer, a lot of the artifact characters are getting repurposed, given expanded roles and more nuance.
    • Another artifact was the series' focus on the rebel war between the Freedom Fighters and Dr. Robotnik. Though Robotnik was defeated in issue #50, 25 issues later, the series hit its inevitable Snap Back with the good doctor's return. Over a hundred issues later? Robotnik's empire is in ruins after a series of numerous defeats. Now he isn't even the master of it anymore, having gone insane and deposed by his nephew Snively and his new gal-pal, the Iron Queen.
  • A lot of things in the Wonder Woman mythos probably count as this at one point or another, but Steve Trevor is probably the biggest one. Notionally he was Diana's love interest, but from the 50s onward nobody could really get much of a read on him; he was killed off at least twice in the Silver and Bronze ages, and revived both times largely because writers assumed he must have some kind of role in the comics. The 1987 reboot aged him and did away with him as Diana's love interest, marrying him to another character; subsequent debate about the character has revolved around whether or not his old position should be restored, but quite a few fans see no reason to.
    • His existence as a boyfriend was also the only thing that kept her explicitly heterosexual when people would assume women from an island of women that hate men and avoid them are all raging lesbians. More recent authors have openly have made nods to the idea Themyscira is full of lesbians, eventually making some background amazons explicit couples. Eventually this got to the point Wonder Woman herself was explicitly stated to be bi-sexual.
  • Reed Richards has the ability to stretch his limbs. However, as time goes on he used this power for actual combat less and less. Why? Because he's The Smart Guy of the Marvel universe, and that's dominated his characterization. If he shows up outside of the book, expect little use of the stretching, and inside the book only occasionally.
    • Often he'll just be randomly stretched for no important reason, just for the purpose of them acknowledging that's his power or else he uses it to grab an item on a counter far away or something. Pretty much never for combat.
    • Some more recent[when?] comics, such as 4, bring his elastic body back into the foreground by showing how useful such a power is when in the hands of the smartest man on the planet. His secondary powers from his plastine skin (such as not needing to sweat, or enhanced heat resistance) come up often too.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes has a group called the Legion of Super-Villains. This sort of Silver Age name would never be used nowadays (since nobody thinks of themselves as villains), but is so closely associated with the group that it can't be changed in the comic. (The cartoon used Light Speed Vanguard.)
  • Orient Men was originally basically a superhero parody, who battled crooks and giant apes and ghosts. Then the comic switched to more eclectic humor and plotline, and though Orient Men still wore his superhero cape and flew around, his "superhero" status became more and more ignored.
  • In the superhero genre, the Secret Identity trope often exists as an artifact, used whether or not it makes sense for the individual hero in question. Many early superheroes had secret identities pretty much because Superman had one, and if he did it, that must be a trope worth copying. Notably, many adaptations and "new" incarnations of superhero characters either dispense with the Secret Identity altogether or use it, but have it known to a large number of friends and family:
    • Reading Wonder Woman's early Golden Age stories, one gets the distinct impression the standard "secret identity protection" tropes are used mostly due to the "Superman does it" school of Executive Meddling. The tropes are there, but usually dealt with in a perfunctory manner, and you can practically sense that writer William Moulton Marston is bored with them and eager to move on to the fun stuff. Notably, apart from sheer physical strength, Diana Prince is almost indistinguishable from Wonder Woman—extremely smart and capable, and recognized as a top counter-intelligence agent in her own right. Most recent incarnations of Wonder Woman have dispensed with the Diana Prince identity altogether or made it openly known as her name while "Wonder Woman" is her title.
    • In Silver Age Iron Man stories, it often seems like keeping his identity a secret causes Tony Stark more problems than it solves. At the very least, it seems like letting his fanatically loyal employees Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts in on the secret would be a good idea. The movies dispensed with any notion of a secret identity by the end of the first one. (This set an overall pattern for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that regard -- a secret identity in the MCU is the oddball exception, not the rule.)
    • Many modern writers have found Thor's "Dr. Donald Blake" secret identity to be dispensable, and it's only used in the 2011 movie as a brief Continuity Nod/Mythology Gag (and because, well, were the scientists supposed to say, "hey, this is a guy who fell from the sky and says he's a depowered god" or "this is my brother Donald"?)
    • The Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle is an example of a more modern approach to the secret identity. He technically has one, but his close friends and immediate family are all in on the secret.
    • For that matter, Captain America. If you read his Golden Age adventures, why the government would spend all the money and resources on an elite special forces symbol of America in the largest war in its history, only to hide him out as a buck private - not only risking getting him killed in combat taking some stupid bridge, but also forcing him to make up some lame excuse every time he needs to slip away for a real mission - is a complete mystery. As with Thor and Iron Man, the 2011 movie dispensed with it altogether.
      • And on that note, Cap's whole origin. Although it probably made sense to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1940 to have one lone scientist (Dr. Erskine) in charge of an entire government program, such that if he got killed, all his research was lost, by the end of World War II and the revelation of the Manhattan Project, during which multiple groups of physicists were working all across the country, often with no knowledge of what others were doing or, indeed, that there were others to begin with, it should have been clear government programs do not work that way. Still, almost all subsequent adaptations and reboots have kept the lone Dr. Erskine around because that's how the story goes.
      • There is also the problem of Bucky, Cap's Kid Sidekick. While Robin gets a pass because of Batman's "eccentricities," Bucky is much harder to justify for a superhero during World War II who is a definite agent of the US Military having an clearly underage partner. As a result, most modern talents tend to fudge about his age to get by, making him a late teenager who lied about his age to join the military early (something common throughout history), and stating the child of the name was nothing more than propaganda (why propaganda would show fake child soldiers is unclear). Again, the MCU dispensed with this by making Bucky a contemporary and friend to Steve.
    • They are even beginning to apply this to Batman, of all people. With Batman (as of mid-2011) franchising out his name, a public awareness that maybe he's more than one guy, and the fact that Wayne has publicly admitted to funding Batman, the response when someone says, "Bruce Wayne is Batman," tends to be, "So?" Not to mention that many of his enemies (including Ra's, the Black Glove, and possibly Joker and Riddler) know his identity, and all of his close friends and family tend to be Badass in their own right, his secret ID is getting pointless.
    • Of course, secret identities make perfect logical sense, for many superheroes, for the simple reason that this is why their parents, kids, spouses, friends, and neighbors are alive. If their enemies knew who they were/are, they'd immediately target the superhero when he was off-guard, as well as his friends and loved ones. Or to put it another way, if his enemies (most of them) knew Peter Parker was Spiderman, Aunt May's life expectancy (even prior to One More Day) would have been... limited. Peter's success in keeping it secret is aided by the idea of his spider sense going off whenever his privacy is threatened, making it very difficult to observe him secretly or sneak up on him.
    • Except most superheroes, including Spider-Man, spend a disproportionate amount of time rescuing their own loved ones. Heck, Peter Parker is known as Spider-Man's photographer so attacking him and his loved ones would be a good way to draw Spider-Man into a trap.
  • Speaking of Batman, Robin is becoming more and more an artifact of the Gold and Silver Age. Teen sidekicks used to be everywhere, but these days it reeks of irresponsible child endangerment (especially with Damian being a pre-teen). Robin is virtually the only one left, because he's integral to the character. (And yet, note his absence from the Christopher Nolan films.)
    • Jim Starlin, who wrote Post-Crisis Jason Todd as Robin, believed the character was an artifact, served no purpose, offered him up to be killed by editorial, and deliberately wrote Jason to be as unlikable as possible. This culminated in the infamous "Call in to decide Robin's fate!" debacle, which did not go over as well as planned and led to the introduction of a third Robin anyway.
    • And in the Tim Drake era, Robin generally only occasionally appears as a regular in Batman's series, appearing more in his own book and in Teen Titans.
  • Spider-Man's Aunt May. Her original purpose was to be an unwitting obstruction in Peter's life for drama's sake: She was very frail so illness could strike at any moment, she didn't have much money so Peter had to get a job to support the family and her constant worrying about Peter not meant sneaking out to be Spider-Man was tricky but kept Peter from telling her his secret (out of fear she'd die of shock). When Peter finally moved out of the house and was on his own he was free from her smothering while May herself was able to sell her house and move in with her friend, meaning she had a nest egg to live off of and had someone to take care of her. After that there wasn't really anything for her to do in the book except die. In-fact on her death bed, pre-retcon, she revealed she knew Peter was Spider-Man.


  • The Lord of the Rings is an interesting example. Arwen wasn't super-prominent in the books, more or less a One-Scene Wonder, but Liv Tyler was high-profile enough that filmmakers felt it would be pragmatic to expand her role. She got third billing too. However, as the films went on, they (rightly) felt they would do well to stick to Tolkien and focus on the main plot, and the films were pretty much successful enough to not bother with pleasing focus research. As a result, Arwen's appearances in Return of the King are essentially cameos.
    • The same principle happened to Cate Blanchett's Galadriel, but to a lesser degree because she is already way more prominent than Arwen. Apart from the Lothlorien chapters (which take up a sizable chunk of Fellowship of the Ring), Galadriel gets mentioned again from time to time, and she shows up at the very end. The appendices give more information about her, including an Offscreen Moment of Awesome where she (and her husband) led an elven army to destroy one of Sauron's main fortresses in the North while the main characters were fighting their own battles to the East. For the films, Blanchett was given more lines and scenes throughout the trilogy.
    • In the books Arwen was a late addition who took Eowyn's place as Aragorn's love interest when Tolkien decided to ship Eowyn with Faramir instead. In the books, she appears in two scenes: a banquet in Rivendell, and then her wedding. She is mentioned on the sly a few times later, but her story is almost exclusively part of Aragorn's backstory, found in the appendices.
  • The writers of Back to The Future II were stuck with the fact they had put Marty's girlfriend in the car with Doc at the end of the first movie, thus forcing them to write her into the Sequel. They said that, if they had actually planned on a Sequel, they never would have put her in there. They did, however, find a way to write her back out again until the very end of BTTF III.
  • Although the Film of Runaway Jury involves gun politics, the original novel was about a tobacco company on trial. Nevertheless, the movie still contains a number of references to the pros and cons of smoking (i.e. The Protagonist telling a neighbor that he should quit), which are a leftover from the source material.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, which are PG, they can't exactly show the Ninja Turtles slicing and dicing their opponents. However, Leonardo's katanas are so iconic to him that he can't have any other weapon. For that reason, he will almost exclusively fight with his bare hands, leaving only Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo to use their weapons, which are significantly less bloody.
  • Jar Jar Binks in episodes 2 and 3 of the Star Wars trilogy (left over from episode 1).
    • However, George Lucas foresaw and deliberately averted this with Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. He was originally going to survive his encounter with Darth Vader on the Death Star, but with crippling injuries, and spend the rest of the film as an invalid, giving advice from the sidelines. Lucas realised that this would just slow the action down and get in the way, and rewrote the script, not that long before the fight sequence was due to be shot.
    • This may be where the "force ghost" concept came from - as an alternative method of dispensing said advice.
    • In the Expanded Universe, C-3PO does this a lot. So does Lando to a lesser extent.
    • Oddly enough, it also applies to C-3PO and R2-D2's appearances in the prequels. Their presence creates a bit of a plot hole, but at the same time it was pretty much impossible to not have them in the movies.
  • There is no real need for Andromeda to appear in the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans given she has lost her role as love interest to Perseus and her city has already done more than enough to anger the gods even without her mother's hubris in proclaiming her beauty. She only seems to have been retained at all because Perseus rescuing Andromeda is such a big part of the original myth.
    • Andromeda is shown handing out food to the poor people in the city. So at least she is useful in-universe.
  • Kevin was arguably the second lead of the film American Pie after Jim, but thanks to the breakout characters of Finch and, particularly, Stifler, by the time the third film (American Wedding) rolled around there was really nothing for him to do, especially since his love interest Tara Reid wasn't even in the movie. But because he was Jim's best friend it would've been strange for him not to be in the wedding party so he was basically just around to stand there and hardly say anything.
  • James Bond using a Walther PPK continues primarily because it's iconic of the character and Walther sponsors the franchise. During the Cold War the PPK was very tiny for a pistol and being produced by Nazi Germany it couldn't be linked to any country's official operations (Leftover German guns were used to arm proxy states all over the world by both sides of the Cold War and many caches left in Africa and the Middle East have supplied third parties). Now the PPK is horribly out of date with guns that are smaller and more powerful while having better ergonomics (the PPK has a reputation for painful recoil despite its tiny cartridge) are common, 7.65 Browning is relatively rare and illicit arms sales are a far better origin cover than an antique from a war that occurred almost 75 years ago. An attempt to replace it with more modern P5 was made in Octopussy, but it failed because the movie never mentions the new gun. A more successful attempt was made in Tomorrow Never Dies to replace it with the new P99, but this was dropped several films latter.


  • To a degree this would seem to apply to Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series (at least in the book version), after he fulfills his self imposed mission. He makes a fairly small appearance in Life, the Universe and Everything and is then completely absent from the final two books, though he is mentioned once or twice. The radio version of the last book, Mostly Harmless (made after Douglas Adams' death) felt compelled to bring him back anyway.
    • Similarly, any visual version of Hitchhiker's Guide suffers from the complication of giving Zaphod a second head and a third arm. Both elements were completely unimportant in the actual books and radio play and just inserted to be weird. Yet if you were to design a one-headed, two-armed Zaphod, you'd have a riot of galactic proportions.
      • The movie compromised this by only giving him a retractable head (which actually becomes a plot point in this version). He does have three arms, but the extra one only shows up a few times, and seems to come out of his chest.
    • The radio version's differing plot for the second season kept Zaphod in a fairly important role, and he was a popular character; so they gave him an expanded role in the adapted series.
      • Zaphod's role is likewise expanded in the book written by Eoin Colfer.
    • Ford Prefect's name. The joke is not only lost entirely on American audiences, but modern British audiences as well, as the Ford Prefect car that was once so popular in Britain has quietly disappeared. (The joke was that Ford, when coming to Earth, had mistaken cars for Earth's dominant life form due to insufficient research.) The German version fixes this by calling the character "Ford Escort", while all other versions keep his name the same. The US film got around the problem by showing Ford and Arthur's first meeting (Ford steps into the street to greet an oncoming car—which is indeed a Ford Prefect, Arthur tackles him just in time) and having Ford tell Arthur what he was doing and why, specifically pointing out his unusual name.
  • In the first Harry Potter book, the House Cup championship was such Serious Business that Harry, Hermione and Neville became the most unpopular kids in school after losing Gryffindor a hundred and fifty points and the awarding of the Cup was important enough to almost be a second climax. Later in the series, no one seems to care much about the House Cup anymore and, from the fourth book onwards, it's not even mentioned which house won the Cup at the end of the year. And yet Snape stubbornly continues to punish our heroes by taking points from Gryffindor.
    • Then again, when it's becoming clearer and clearer that Magical Hitler has returned, the fight over who gets the shiny trophy for another year probably starts to seem silly.
    • Also could be Truth in Television. Something like the House Cup would seem more important to younger kids, but as they get older not-so-much. Plus their first year also happened to be the first time in a while that a house came close to beating Slytherin so even the older students became a bit interested with the opportunity. Also supported in the book itself, when it is pointed out Fred and George lose tons of points and nobody really cares.
  • Adaptations of Agatha Christie novels often change things about a bit, most notably in the Poirot film Appointment with Death. The famous opening sentence of the novel is “You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?” It is kept in the film, but because the rest of the plot is so drastically different from the book, it becomes largely irrelevant.
    • In After the Funeral there is an emphasis on nuns, something that turns out to be a false lead designed by the culprit to redirect suspicion. In the Poirot adaptation, the running thread of the nuns are shifted from the murderer to other suspects, making it more of an obscure Red Herring than an actual clue.

Live-Action TV

  • Ryan Howard on The Office has never been quite important enough to justify his existence as one of the main cast members, but he definitely had a role as The New Guy who would react to all the strangeness of the Office because he wasn't used to it. After the third season he actually started becoming less important than the likes of Angela, Stanley, Kevin, etc. none of whom are in the opening credits. By this point, if Ryan appears in an episode at all it's as little more than a cameo, and yet he's still there in the opening credits.
    • He's in the main credits because the actor who plays him is also one of the producers, not because of the importance of his character.
  • The patient of the week on House has been secondary to the main characters' personal issues since Season 4, whereas the show's original premise was "a medical drama in the style of a cop detective show". The fact that the audience found the characters so engaging is a credit to the writers, but means that more and more frequently the episode will sideline the patient or sometimes not even feature one.
  • Herman's Head went through this in its later seasons. Once the show had used up all the potential in the "see aspects of Herman's brain fight it out" gimmick, and moved on to slightly deeper storylines, the brain-characters were pushed further and further in the background, until eventually they would barely make anything beyond a perfunctory appearance.
  • Same with American Dreams: its original gimmick of American Bandstand performances (and then modern-day stars doing faux-Bandstand performances) seemed more and more awkwardly included, as the show attempted to become refocused as a serious drama that just happened to take place in the 60s.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers ran headlong into this as a result of being adapted from three different Super Sentai shows. The first season was based solely on Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, so things worked just fine. But for the second season, rather than adopting Super Sentai's tradition of making a completely new show and storyline every year, Saban chose to take the monsters and robots from Gosei Sentai Dairanger while retaining the Zyuranger suits for the heroes and keeping the same main villains. The same thing was done for the third season with Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, though in this instance the Kakuranger suits were used for a another team of Rangers. Overall this results in quite a few oddities, since the motifs of the three Sentai teams did not match: while the animal robots and suits in Zyuranger were based on prehistoric beasts, the ones in Dairanger were based on Chinese mythology and the ones in Kakuranger were based on Japanese mythology. The ranger roster and colors also did not match: while all three teams had their respective red, blue and yellow rangers, Dairanger had a "regular" green ranger instead of black and a white sixth (which resulted in the Black Ranger piloting a green-colored lion robot and Tommy being forced to switch suits and powers in the middle of Season 2), while Kakuranger had a female white ranger instead of pink and no sixth (forcing the White and Pink Rangers to share the same Shogunzord). This also holds true for the villains, as the character of Rita Repulsa and her minions stayed on the show for a total of six seasons despite the fact that their Sentai counterparts (Bandora the Witch and her gang) were sealed away at the end of Zyuranger. The most stand-out case is Finster, who was the villains' monster-maker and Mad Scientist, but had his role greatly reduced in the second and third seasons when new Big Bads with the power to make their own monsters were introduced.
    • After the death of Zordon the word Zord itself was an artifact of a previous era of Power Rangers history.
    • The lightning-bolt in the logo was (and is) put there for Rule of Cool. However, the original seasons tried to justify it, by having the teens teleport in a bolt of lightning of their color. Since abandoning them, it now has even less purpose.
      • The presence of the Astro Megaship and Alpha 6 in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy is another example, basically causing the season to be a bit of a "transitional" period between the Zordon Era and the later, more stand-alone seasons.
  • Hikari Sentai Maskman was supposed to be called "The Fiveman", hence why the number "5" served as the emblem on their suits and why their first giant robot was called Great Five. Once it got retitled, the "5" is only there for the Rule of Cool.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun. Classic, very Egregious example. It was only to be expected that no matter how stupid or naive the aliens were they would eventually become conversant with Earth culture after living there for years. It was also to be expected that you can only do really ridiculous science-fiction-esque gags involving the "home planet" for so long before it gets old. Still, watch a later-season episode and see if you can find any clue at all that the main characters are extraterrestrials rather than just a family of weird, quirky people - any clue other than the increasingly incongruous sci-fi-themed opening credit sequence, of course. This is occasionally Lampshaded by having the aliens wonder if they'd become "too human".
    • Similar to the "Ford Prefect" example from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, non-Americans and young Americans will probably not get the joke about the Big Giant Head calling himself "Stone Phillips".
  • On Six Feet Under, the show opened every episode with an onscreen death. Early in the show, the dead character would often play a major role in the story, sometimes even having conversations with the undertakers (in their imaginations). As the show went on, many of these death scenes were related to extremely minor plot points, and the trope seemingly continued only out of habit.
  • MacGyver shifted its focus over time from his role as a troubleshooter for the government (and, later, the humanitarian/scientific/mercenary/whatever Phoenix Foundation) to being more of a glorified social worker with the Challenger's Club as his base of operations. As such, many things ended up becoming artifacts. The Phoenix Foundation played a vestigial role in most of the later episodes, Pete became little more than an incidental sidekick instead of a vital character, and even MacGyver's trademark improvisational inventions started requiring special attention to incorporate into the stories. If the series had continued on, it probably would have eventually written out all of those elements.
    • In the case of Pete part of the problem was that the vision issue the character developed was one that the actor developed. He kind of had to be written out because the actor was forced to scale back and then stop his acting.
  • Potsie of Happy Days suffered from this in the show's later seasons. The show started off centering around Richie and Potsie getting involved in unwise schemes and pranks. Then, after Fonzie became the star and Richie left the series, Potsie no longer served any purpose, but that didn't stop him from making awkward token appearances in the later years.
  • This was the fate of Giles and Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Giles was such a key part of the good old days of the show that getting rid of him would have caused an outcry; he left and came back several times, even if he didn't seem to contribute anything much. (Don't even start on his weird behaviour in Season 7.) It could be said he was pointless as early as Season 3, when he was no longer Buffy's Watcher, though he still kept doing the job after the Council fired him and it wasn't until Season 4 that his role really lessened in importance. Xander's lack of anything to do from Season 4 was even more obvious. Nicholas Brendon was allegedly told by Joss Whedon that his story had come to an end but since he was one of the original four, he couldn't go. Even the show itself dealt with Xander complaining about his own uselessness a few times.
    • This might be why Xander ended up taking a level in carpenter - so he could fix the damage the house would suffer Once an Episode in later seasons.
    • Ironically, the season 8 comics decide to give him something to do by basically having him replace Giles as watcher. But since the Slayers are a giant international organization now, he has much more work to do than Giles did.
    • In the later seasons of Angel, Gun dealt with the same internal issues of being no good for anything but fighting. Wolfram & Hart solves the issue on purpose after Angel and crew convince him to stay with them, by shooting his brain full of lawyer training.
  • The motorcycles in the Kamen Rider series. Initially, the hero's character designs were based loosely upon bikers. However as each newer season moved thematically further and further away from this, the bikes are kept in, just to make sense of the "Rider" in the title. They'll sometimes be introduced and never seen again. This gave rise to the fan criticism, "It's caled 'Kamen Rider', not 'Kamen Walk-All-Over-the-F@$king-place'!"
    • More recent series, particularly Kamen Rider Double and Kamen Rider OOO have tried to avert this by using the bikes much more prominently; Double's bike can convert into a watercraft or jet and is used to fight giant monsters, while his Second Rider Accel turns into a motorcycle.
  • 30 Rock seems to currently[when?] be making a transition to more-or-less abandoning its Show Within a Show premise and instead focusing on the personal lives of the lead characters, leaving much of the supporting cast with very little to do.
    • Some critics have especially noted actor Scott Adsit, arguing his character's role as a producer on the sketch show, and Liz's best friend, was initially to counterpoint Alec Baldwin's executive character, Jack. Jack was initially to be a recurring, villainous executive - kind of like Will Arnett's role on the show - who would meddle with the sketch show. Instead, he became a main character, and evolved into Liz's confidante, support system, and (usually) the voice of reason, thus robbing Adsit's character of its entire purpose. The writers have yet to come up with much alternative work for Adsit, not that they haven't tried.
  • Ashley Jensen's character Christina McKinney on Ugly Betty. In the early days, Christina was Betty's only friend at MODE with its catty fashionistas. As the show went on, said fashionistas gradually warmed up to Betty, making Christina's role rather pointless. Jensen left the series towards the end of its run.
  • Prison Break had this problem a lot; understandable, when the series shifted from focusing on characters in one location to following characters who'd scattered across America. During season 2, some awkward attempts were made to fold Artifact characters into the series' Myth Arc (though there were some successful attempts too), while others, like Magnificent Bastard T-Bag, ended up getting huge chunks of solo screentime that ultimately contributed nothing to the main arc of the series. The third and fourth seasons did a much better job of giving everyone a role.
    • The show also had a problem with the map of the prison the main character had tattooed on his arms in the early seasons. Once he got out, the map was no longer necessary ... but they forgot to write a scene where he gets the tattoo removed. So, he spends the next two seasons in a tropical prison constantly wearing long-sleeved shirts no matter how hot and humid it got.
  • Originally, The Price Is Right was all about the replication of an auction: trying to get a good deal on something through multiple rounds of bidding as close to the actual price, without going over. Which contestant returned each week was based around who got the best "deals" through their bidding; big prizes such as houses, shares of stock, and small business franchises weren't unheard of. With the new version, the "pricing games" are really the central concept of the show, with the biggest prizes, and the auctioneering aspects of the show are more formalities than anything.
  • The Fast Forward on The Amazing Race. For the first four seasons, there was one on every leg, giving each team one free pass per season. However, for budgetary reasons (as it was not cost-effective to set up all these single use tasks, especially when half of them never got used, and therefore never made it onto the show), starting with Season 5, the Fast Forward was cut back to only one or two per season, although the "one per team" rule still applied. With all the strategy drained out of it, the Fast Forward has mostly become a cheap and/or easy win for a team that was already in the lead, as no team outside of the lead pack would dare risk it, as to not get it would mean certain elimination (as happened to Terence & Sarah on Season 13).
  • Both Holly and Cat became Artifact characters by the fifth series of Red Dwarf: Cat still got a decent number of lines and such but had lost a lot of his feline personality and mannerisms, while Holly's role had decreased significantly (mostly due to Kryten taking on most of the exposition) to the point where she was lucky to get one decent scene per episode. The solution taken in Series VI was to write Holly out of the show and expand Cat's role in a new way (thus he became the main pilot of Starbug and was given his superior "smelling" skills). Holly eventually came back in Series 8, at the cost of reverting much of Kryten's character growth.
  • Teal'c's personal arc in Stargate SG-1 was basically over after the defeat of the Goa'uld in season 8, but he stayed anyway for the two Post Script Seasons—and was often left with nothing to do except, being The Big Guy, shoot at things.
    • They actually created plots involving him and the Jaffa political situation, but those plots just made it worse by reminding viewers how nonsensical it was for Teal'c to stay with SG-1 when he was so frustrated by the incompetent Jaffa leaders.
    • Another Artifact is Teal'c staff weapon. When Teal'c was first introduced, it made sense for him to favor and keep using a staff weapon—he had no experience with Earth weapons. Over the years, Teal'c was shown more and more at ease with using normal guns, but his default weapon when leaving on a mission remained a staff weapon despite the fact that guns are deadlier and that his strength let him go Guns Akimbo. After the loss of his symbiote and the growth of hair, the staff and the gold marking was essentially all that remained of Teal'c's early "alien" days.
    • The Stargate itself, especially on later seasons of SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. In early seasons, episode revealing a malfunction or quirk of the gate were common, and the gate featured prominently in several episodes. As later seasons came and spaceships became common, with the heroes acquiring and later building their own, the gate took to the background, to the point where several episodes do not feature a Stargate in them at all. Stargate Universe's gate is pretty much a prop to remind you that, no, really, it is a Stargate series.
      • So much so that what was meant as the finale of the various arcs along with the intended grand finale (prior to the two Post Script Seasons) were deliberately written to feature the Stargate heavily in their resolutions. In the former, it is used to save the galaxy. In the later, it's the MacGuffin driving much of the time travel plot. It was decided that if the show was to end there, then the gate should take part in the plot. Then the show was renewed, and well, so much for that.
  • Little John, Allan-a-Dale and Much were pretty much pointless throughout all of season three of Robin Hood, and kept on simply because they were the famous characters of legend (though they fared better than Will Scarlett, who was Put on a Bus at the end of season two and never seen again). A typical B-plot had Much, Allan and John merely walking across the countryside in the search for water during a drought, and the crisis only ending thanks to Robin's activities in the A-plot. Eventually actor Joe Armstrong (who had a huge role in season two, and was the show's Breakout Character) asked the writers to kill off Allan, simply because he was bored with playing a character that no longer did anything. The writers gave him a Red Shirt death, which speaks volumes about how unimportant he was at that stage.
  • Mr Lucas on Are You Being Served? was presented as the young, straight, white, male This Loser Is You in the series's black and white pilot. The series soon progressed into typical British farce and he was demoted into a Deadpan Snarker.
    • That's because the show was originally designed as a "youth" vehicle and Trevor Bannister and Wendy Richard were to play the main characters. The producers' mistake was in assembling a stellar and highly professional cast in the shape of Frank Thornton, Mollie Sugden, John Inman and Arthur Brough, who outshone the "stars" of the piece. Eventually Trevor Bannister left, because he had been promised a starring role and he kept getting upstaged by a bunch of old pantomime and "Carry-On" left-overs.
  • Degrassi the Next Generation was originally a drama about teenagers and a parallel one about twenty-somethings (now-adult former students of The Eighties' Degrassi High), in near-equal parts. The older cast was de-emphasized until most of them left at the end of season 5 leaving only Snake / Mr. Simpson, and even the parts of his personal life outside school were phased out.
  • Psych has Shawn's psychic pretense as something of an artifact. While it's occasionally important, most of the time they don't even bother with him hiding how he figured everything out.
    • Shawn's psychic ability is also an in-universe artifact, as the only reason he's allowed to work with the police in the first place is how powerful his "psychic" abilities are. Of course, years later, his track record is pretty much proven and he could probably drop it and still work on his merits. The case in question much have already been settled by now.
  • In The Vampire Diaries the fact that most of the characters are high school students has turned into this, as the focus of the show moved away from teen drama (with vampires) towards supernatural power struggle. Even scenes of the characters talking in the halls have become rare, and the usual mechanic for getting the cast in one place is an all-ages town event. Once the need for it passed Stefan simply dropped out, but since the rest of them are real teenagers they don't have the option.
    • The title itself is somewhat of an artifact, ever since the show grew the beard and dropped the Narmy "reading of the diaries" at the beginning and end of each episode.
  • Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune. In 1997, the show traded out its mechanical puzzle board for a set of video monitors, thus making Vanna's job redundant (she touches the letters now instead of turning them, but the board could easily run automatically). However, she's so inextricably part of game show history in general that removing her would cause an outcry.
    • Even with the original setup, the letters could've just as easily been turned from behind by a stagehand.
  • In The 700 Club's case, the fact that it still airs on Teen Drama-heavy ABC Family makes it The Artifact for the channel Pat Robertson built, sold off, but for which he wrote a permanent timeslot and Protection From Editors into the contract.
    • This does say something for his lawyers as the clause for including the word "Family" in the title and giving 700 a time slot, along with a lengthy Telethon on the last Sunday in January is required to be reproduced in every sale of the station. Not even Disney could worm out of it.
  • The Artifact (Yes, that is its name) from Eureka is an example of this; it had its own arc ending with an ominous declaration that one character, Nathan Stark, would eventually figure out what it is, but then the show got more episodic, Stark was disintegrated and The Artifact was further forgotten about after the series' Cosmic Retcon.
  • Mike and Tina on Glee. In Season 1, Tina had a fake stutter and was dating Artie. Mike danced with his friend Matt. Between seasons one and two, Tina dumped Artie for Mike, and Mike got a bigger role, Tina's dropped dramatically, and Artie became a fan favorite. Now Mike exists to do cool dance routines and Tina exists to cry while she sings.
    • Many consider Sue Sylvester to be an Artifact from when Glee was more of a satirical, dark comedy. She has mostly given up her vendetta against Will Schuester and the Glee Club, and the writers have been scrambling to give her a purpose ever since.
  • On Boy Meets World, Topanga's name was one. Her character was given that name to emphasize her Granola Girl personality and overall weirdness (the name comes from Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, where a lot of hippies reside), but after her character was retooled in season two and those aspects of her character were dropped, she just became a normal girl with a weird name. In light of this, there were several jokes about her name throughout the series.
  • Saturday Night Live's catchphrase "Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!", came about because when it first premiered, there was already a television program called Saturday Night Live that aired on ABC, so the show was called NBC's Saturday Night during its first season.
  • Depending on who you ask, Yeoman Rand's slow fade from Star Trek: The Original Series during the first season was an example of this. She was originally supposed to be Kirk's love interest on ship, but it was soon decided that it would be better if he didn't have one, and without anything for her to do they phased her out to the point that she only appears in the background of one scene, without any lines, in "The Conscience of the King".
    • This decision may have been helped along by the severe drug and alcohol addiction Grace Lee Whitney had at the time, which William Shatner and others claim was the main reason Rand was dropped. However, Grace Lee Whitney has said that she only developed the drug problem after she was fired.
  • Originally, Zoe, Demetri's fiancée on FlashForward, was supposed to have an increased role later in the series due to Demetri dying as he had originally learned he would. When the producers decided to keep him alive since John Cho had gained some popularity following the Star Trek reboot and the show's ratings needed all the help they could get, they left Zoe with no real role otherwise, and her appearances were reduced shortly before she broke up with Demetri before the first season finale, which also turned out to be the series finale.
  • The Movie of Thomas the Tank Engine introduced the engine Lady as a sort of MacGuffin Girl keeping the magical bond between the Engines' world and the real world alive, but this magical bond is not only never mentioned in any other version, but Shining Time Station and the Messrs. Conductor have since been phased out entirely. Nevertheless, Lady continued to appear in a few stories released shortly after the film, despite having lost the one thing that made her special and interesting. She disappeared after she'd appeared in enough stories to justify the toys to kids who didn't see the movie.
  • When Sex and the City began, almost every episode had a Montage of extras speaking directly to the camera in various settings, all supposedly answering Carrie's questions for her column and related to the episode's theme. As the characters began to develop and evolve to the point that they could carry the plot well enough by themselves, this narrative was no longer necessary to keep the audience's attention, and they were phased out slowly over the course of the second season.
  • When Oliver Queen in Smallville dressed up as Green Arrow, his costume included a computerized voice modifier that lowered his voice, helping to preserve his secret identity. Early in Season 10, Queen revealed his dual identity at a press conference. Yet anytime he became Green Arrow after that, he still had the voice modifier on even though it's no longer necessary.
  • Lucy Ewing becomes an artifact character on Dallas around the fourth or fifth season once she grows up and stops being a wild teenager. The writers gave her a drug problem, got her off of it and had her chase different short-term male guest stars (she almost married one until J.R. found out he was gay). Her appearances on the show notably dwindle from the sixth season; finally they Put Her On a Bus to Atlanta to marry one of the previously-mentioned males, brought her back after the divorce, sent her to Italy, brought her back again, and finally sort of lampshaded the whole thing by excluding her from the series finale episode and adding a line that in a world without J.R., she'd never have been born.
  • On So Random, the performers still go by the character names from when it was a Show Within a Show on Sonny With a Chance.


  • Many bands who have an early hit but then change their sound usually still have to play their early hit because that's what the casual crowd wants. Thus it often becomes an artifact.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away" was a hit, and so has been played live every gig since its introduction, regardless of whether it fits with the setlist or not (it's dirty funk and their recent[when?] music has been more in an alternative rock/ballad vein).
    • "Under The Bridge" and "Otherside" were written during different bad times in Anthony Kiedis' life, but were hit singles, so they have to play them live even if they aren't representative of those time periods. The album One Hot Minute was written during bad times in the band member's lives, but oddly, the one track they still occasionally play from it is the most negative song of the whole album, Flea's solo song Pea.
    • "Right On Time" and "Throw Away Your Television" were present in almost every setlist from when they were introduced until being only occasionally played this tour. They were artifacts because they were album tracks from the albums that were being promoted at the time (Californication and By The Way).
      • Arguably the funk orientated bassist Flea and the hard rock drummer Chad Smith seem out of place in the band's alternative rock period which has mostly been written by Anthony Kiedis and John Frusciante (since replaced by Josh Klinghoffer). The band have reintroduced a lot of older tracks in their setlist since, so that might be changing.
  • In contrast, especially until Genesis had enough hits to throw away a lot of their earlier epics, progressive pieces such as "Supper's Ready", "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight", "Squonk", "Dance On A Volcano" and "The Cinema Show", which were still played even as late as 1986, often clashed considerably with the new sound, style and line-up changes of the band in The Eighties, to the point where they could be seen as artifacts in the setlist.
    • A similar effect happened with the Trevor Rabin-era lineup of Yes, who had to share catchy, post-modern, commercial, MTV-approved 80's pop hits like "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" in their setlists with early progressive epics like "Heart Of The Sunrise" and "Your Move/All Good People" from The Seventies.

Newspaper Comics

  • Lampshaded repeatedly in Dilbert: If Bob The Dinosaur ever shows up, it's pretty much just to point out that he no longer had a purpose, once the comic shifted to office humor. But then, this applies to just about all its non-work characters, including Phil (who only makes an appearance once in a blue moon anyway), Ratbert, and even Dogbert.
    • Dogbert still appears frequently, having made the transition to office humor quite well because he is the personification of how Scott Adams would like to act if he could get away with it. However, the fact that he is a dog and Dilbert's pet is almost entirely inconsequential.
    • In a broader sense, as the focus of the strip moved from puns, outlandish stories and character-based humor and more toward office observational comedy, removing characters was probably necessary to simplify things to the "incompetent boss/long-suffering, snarky employees" formula. Adams has been filling the void partially with one-off gag characters for some time now, however. Also, some new regular characters were created after the switch to office humor, including Asok, Carol, and Tina.
    • Bob had a place in the office during the runup to Y2K: he was a COBOL programmer brought back from retirement to upgrade older computer systems in the company from two- to four-digit year fields so that all hell wouldn't break loose when they went from "99" to "00".
  • Dick Tracy had a Dork Age in the 1960s involving space travel, wherein Junior married Moon Maid and they had a daughter, Honey Moon. Moon Maid later got Killed Off for Real, but Honey is still around. It's simply never mentioned anymore that her cute little pigtails are there to hide the antennae she inherited from Mom.
  • Lyman was removed from the comic strip Garfield because the title character usurped Lyman's role of giving Jon someone to talk to.
  • Shermy, Patty and Violet in Peanuts. Schulz intended for them all to have been foils for Charlie Brown in different ways, but as other characters developed and Lucy became his primary foil they became increasingly unnecessary.
    • Shermy, who spoke the first line in the strip, was the first to suffer. His original role was to be better than Charlie Brown at everything Charlie Brown loved to do; as early as the late 1950s his appearances become rare and he has only one line in A Charlie Brown Christmas. He last appeared in 1969 and was last mentioned in 1977. Schulz didn't mind getting rid of him as he said he was basically down to using Shermy when he needed a character with almost no personality. And he didn't like Shermy's haircut, either.
    • Patty, originally the mother hen and Alpha Bitch, diminished as Lucy took over most of her role. She last appeared in a speaking part in 1976, with occasional cameos thereafter. When You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was revived on Broadway in late 1990s, her role was rewritten to be Sally instead, as most modern audiences would not have been familiar with the character.
    • Violet held out the longest, until 1984. By that time not only had Lucy become the strip's dominant female character, Peppermint Patty and Marcy had also arrived and established themselves.

Professional Wrestling

  • The Undertaker was born during the tail end of the WWF's Rock n Wrestling Era, when Made of Iron Invincible Heroes were at the peak of popularity, and the beginning of the New Generation, where cartoony gimmicks and second jobs were the order of the day. Accordingly, he was a wrestling grave digger-slash-zombie-slash-dark Superhero-slash-Anthropomorphic Personification of death, and it worked pretty well, as Taker quickly became one of the most popular wrestlers on the card. With the coming of the Attitude Era, and the change in tone to a Darker and Edgier, grittier and more realistic presentation, Taker no longer quite fit in. They tried numerous tweaks to make him fit better (giving him a family history, making him over into a cult leader, etc), but eventually, they just said, "Screw it," and completely scrapped the old gimmick, re-inventing him as a biker thug. After a few years, by popular demand, Taker returned to his old "Deadman" character; it seems that WWE has simply accepted that Undertaker's portion of the show is just the little corner of their universe where reality no longer applies.
    • One weird contradiction is the fact that The Undertaker has accepted the rise of MMA with more grace than almost any other wrestler and has incorporated a large number of the moves into his arsenal, and wears MMA-style gloves to the ring. So you have the most anachronistic character following up his "old-school" ropewalk with a very realistic looking triangle choke.
      • And the Hells Gate, as ludicrous as it looks is an actual submission hold
      • The Undertaker is often excused by the Grandfather Clause, when a character can get away with it simply because he's been doing it for so long. No one else could possibly come into the WWE and play up his angle straight-faced, but because The Undertaker has been doing it since the Reagan era, he can slide. Since he's still popular and well-received, the writers treated him like The Artifact, but the fans were willing to grandfather him in.
        • Occasionally, the writers will have a fit of brilliance: a wrestler or even the commentators will talk about the raw psychology of The Undertaker's entire persona from a Kayfabe perspective. Think about it: you're in the ring, pumping yourself up. Funeral bells toll, the lights go out, and this 6'9 zombie/grimreaper starts a slow walk down the aisle; bigger arenas and PPV's tend to have this walk take OVER A MINUTE. Somewhere along the line it hits you, "Hey, don't worry, this guy's freaking 40-something, and I'm at my prime, this is going to be a snap!" Then the bell rings and this 40-something zombie guy suddenly shows you that he's still the best striker in the business and just won't stay down. Completely and totally realistic... Until he waves a hand and lightning hits something for some reason.
  • Triple H's original gimmick was "Hunter Hearst-Helmsley", a snobby blue-blood, hence his finisher being called the 'Pedigree'. Despite mostly dropping the character in 1997, the move still retains its name. Still, wrestlers who want to get his attention address him as "Hunter", he once offered Kayfabe financial support to a bankrupt Shawn Michaels and he referenced a match from his blueblood days where he got squashed by The Ultimate Warrior in the buildup to his Wrestlemania 26 bout. His last name of "Helmsley" is often mentioned a lot as well, especially during his time as the leader of the "McMahon-Helmsley Era" for obvious reasons.
  • Despite his theme song, Shawn Michaels hasn't had a "sexy boy" gimmick for a long time.
  • The "Bradshaw" in John Bradshaw Layfield comes from his early days in the WWF as Justin Hawk Bradshaw and later when he was just Bradshaw in the Acolytes. Likewise his finishing move the Clothesline From Hell, comes from his day in the satanic themed Ministry of Darkness. The move has been renamed to "...from Texas" or "...from Wall Street" occasionally but reverts back to the original name shortly thereafter.
  • You could make an argument that Professional Wrestling itself is an Artifact. In spite of every smartass douche who will yell out "FAKE!", wrestling fans are well aware that the show is staged and are still willing to suspend their disbelief.
  • When Steve Austin was in WCW, he wrestled as a pretty boy named "'Stunning' Steve Austin", and used a finisher alternately called the "Stun Gun" or the "Stunner". When he entered the then-WWF, he abandoned both the nickname and the move. A few months later, he adopted his more famous "Stone Cold" persona, and started using a different finisher called the "Stone Cold Stunner". Could be just a coincidence, but it's also possible it was named by somebody who was used to calling Austin's finishing move a "Stunner", which would make it an indirect reference to his old gimmick.
  • Kane has been this for several years already. Although he's fairly popular with the fans and a solid, reliable big man worker for the company to use, he rarely gets any angles, and the few he does always seem to stick out as somewhat out of place. Not only that, as he usually never ends up in a main event title feud anymore, Kane is sort of just...there. The problem is that he's stuck in a place between solid mid-carder (like William Regal) and main event wrestler, and due to his popularity, the writers just don't know what to do with him at times.
  • Artifacts are fairly common within the actual wrestling itself, as well. For example, in Japan in the past, matches often started with an extended feeling-out period of ringwork, gradually proceeding to the main body of the match with lots of high spots, "fighting spirit" spots, and near-falls. To this day, wrestlers with experience in Japan will often do a token wrestling sequence to start the match off, which is really out of place when the rest of the match is a wild brawl.
    • Actually, that's may be a deliberate attempt to build up to those points in a match, starting out slow to add to the drama and to keep the match well paced. In that context, it seems about as out of place as the less exciting parts of any beginning of any movie.
  • Teddy Long still uses Rodney Mack's entrance song, which starts with the line "You know it's the Mack militant", despite not having managed Mack since the summer of 2003.
  • The Charlie Brown From Outta Town trope. During the US territorial days, masks were very common up and down the card (do you want your neighbors to know you're losing to the promoter's kid this week?). Nowadays, with merchandising concerns and possible movie deals, no one wants to hide their face anymore, so any "masked" wrestler really stands out much more. Of course, Masks are still the biggest deal in Lucha Libre wrestling, and transplants like Rey Mistirio Jr. would lose much of their identity without them (as proved by his unmasking in WCW. Many who otherwise consider de-masking Serious Business are willing to go along with "Rey Mysterio" being a separate masked entity from "Rey Misterio Jr." simply because of how poorly the whole thing was handled.)
  • Before his run in ROH, Colt Cabana worked in the defunct Wrestling Society X with the hilarious gimmick of Matt Classic, a faux artifact so to speak, who was supposedly a wrestler who woke up from a decades long coma and used the same techniques that made him champion in the early days of pro wrestling. His move list included the airplane spin, a slam from the first rope, and the abdominal stretch.
  • But perhaps the greatest example going today[when?] is John Cena. He continues to use his famous rap anthem "The Time Is Now" (off of his 2005 album You Can't See Me) as his entrance theme and to wear baggy shorts, even though he hasn't otherwise played up the rap stereotype since about 2006.
    • Cena's spinner WWE Championship belt could also count as an artifact. It was originally part of his rap gimmick in 2005. By the end of 2007, the center plate no longer spun. By 2008, John Cena was not even on the same show where that particular belt was typically defended, and he even challenged for (and won) the World Heavyweight Championship. From 2009 to the present, Cena has challenged for the belt, but it still no longer spins. The belt's center plate has in 2011 spun only for The Miz to spin the "W" symbol upside down into an "M". The belt hasn't served its original purpose for a long time, but is kept around mainly due to its merchandising success.
  • Edge's "You think you know me?" motif was from his original loner gimmick way back in 1998, yet has been inserted into all of his entrance themes, even after becoming a 15-time tag team champion and being apart of several stables, teams, and alliances.
  • Cheerleader Melissa hasn't been a cheerleader since maybe 2004. While she was still training to be a full-fledged wrestler, she debuted as a cheerleader-valet for a tag team with a hockey gimmick called the Ballard Brothers. After a stint in Japan she stopped valeting. She's tried renaming herself "The Future Legend" Melissa, and just plain Melissa, but it never seems to stick.
  • Matt Hardy's signature hand gesture has all but the ring finger and thumb extended, spelling V 1, a reference to a gimmick he used in 2003-2005 where he was Matt Hardy, Version 1. Though he no longer uses the Version 1 name or the accompanying Windows Media Player-like entrance, Hardy and the fans will still use the hand signal.

Theme Parks

  • The Disney World version of Fantasmic has an elaborate sequence based on Pocahontas, which seems rather dated, seeing as the film was not a big hit. The Disneyland version, which uses Peter Pan, has aged much better.
  • A lot of things in Disney Theme Parks exist because they were based on tropes that were popular in 1955, when Disneyland was built. Over time, they have become "the way Disneyland is", and therefore new international parks get the same lands and attractions.
    • Main Street, USA was built on the Lost and Greatest Generations' (and, especially, Walt Disney's personal) nostalgia for the 1890s/1900s.
    • Adventureland and exotica/Tiki culture, as well as nature documentaries (including Disney's own True-Life Adventures series).
    • Frontierland and westerns.
    • Fantasyland and Disney's animated films.
    • Tomorrowland and the atomic/space age.
  • Six Flags is the name of a string of theme parks from California to Massachusetts. The six flags are the "six flags of Texas," which have flown over it at various times in its history; the original park is near Dallas. The flags are the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan (from its time as an independent nation), American, and Confederate. Now that the franchise is in other states, the six flags are simply shown in silhouette, as a brand logo.
    • Technically, under American law, the Confederate flag isn't the flag of a nation; the secession that undergirds the Confederacy is considered, de jure, to have never been possible and therefore never taken place, and naturally the Union never recognized the Confederacy (nor did any other country). Perhaps "Six Flags" just focus-grouped better than "Five Flags."
  • Originally, each of the tracks at Dueling Dragons, a dual roller coaster at Islands of Adventure, was designed to mirror the other so that there would be several near-miss encounters between the two coasters; the ride was even programmed to make certain calculations to ensure optimal timing. However, after a few recent[when?] accidents (possibly involving objects flying from people's pockets and hitting others), Universal made the decision to permanently end the practice of launching the coasters simultaneously, thus getting rid of the near-miss encounters that used to be the ride's main selling point, and thus rendering the design aspect of it completely without purpose (Also, the ride changed its name to Dragon Challenge after it was co-opted into Harry Potter, thus averting an Artifact Title).

Tabletop Games

  • Exalted was originally written as a pre-history for the Old World of Darkness; strong hints of this remained all throughout 1st edition, until that train of thought was pretty much abandoned for 2nd edition. This is why the 1st edition Lunars took more than a few elements from the Garou (much to the displeasure of fans), Sidereals occasionally had to deal with Paradox, and the Underworld was ruled by Deathlords and the Neverborn, who were paradoxically called "Malfeans" as well when Malfeas was a Yozi instead.
  • In the switch from third edition to fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, ability scores ceased to matter much beyond the ability bonus. Yet we still have the old ability scores from 3-18 where the limits can be broken and the players never have one below 8. In some ways, this is an artifact because if it were ever removed, it would only increase the litany of cries that "4E is WoW" from 3rd edition grognards.
    • It's been The Artifact since the switch to Third. In Second, an ability check was made by rolling a D20 and trying to roll less than your ability score. In addition, there were mechanical differences which made all ability scores different rather than having breaks at every even number. In Third, the ability scores could have been replaced almost entirely with ability modifiers, transforming a stat line into something like: Str +2, Dx +1, etc. (True20 and Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition, based on d20 Open Content, did just that.) Almost no mechanics would be changed, and most of those would be simplified, and modifying creatures or changing sizes would be a cinch. This sort of statline is quite common in other games.
    • Alignment flirts with this. Many players have felt it was irrelevant for years before, especially during the days of Advanced D&D. At the time, other games were coming out which ignored alignment altogether or grossly redesigned it, and they weren't suffering for a lack of moral categories to put characters into. Alignment also was easily abused by some players, with some game masters putting paladins or other "must be good" characters into situations where one aspect of their vows must be broken and then punishing them. ("You helped the slaves escape; that's not lawful, so it's a chaotic violation of your paladinhood and...why are you leaving?") Players, too, would abuse the heck out of it, often by being blatant jerkasses to everyone at the table and saying it was just playing their alignment. Then Third went and added in a lot of mechanics which depended on alignment, many of them doing little more than giving min-maxers an excuse to write "true neutral" down and then do whatever they were going to do anyway.
      • The Smite Alignment mechanics got really bad about this with many of the people you could or could not Smite not making any sense at all. For example, a Holy Liberator should rarely, if ever, fight a Paladin, but a Holy Liberator can smite them. However, if a malevolent despot, the type of person a Holy Liberator is made to fight, happens to be Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil (both of which are entirely possible), their Smite no longer works. The simplification of the system led to characters not equipped to fight things they were supposed to be specialized against if they worked based on alignment. Good/Evil targeting abilities tended to be more consistent then Lawful/Chaotic/Neutral targeting ones though.
      • Fifth Edition Paladins can be any alignment, even Evil. The description still assumes a traditional Good aligned Paladin being described as "A paladin swears to uphold justice and righteousness, to stand with the good things of the world against the encroaching darkness, and to hunt the forces of evil wherever they lurk." and even if you choose an evil option for Sacred Oath, your smite still deals bonus damage to Fiend and Undead typed monsters because Sacred Oath's are chosen a level after you gain smite.
    • Fireball and Lightning Ball are third level spells, while Cone of Cold does the same damage, in roughly the same area, and should form a Fire, Ice, Lightning trio, but is a 5th level spell. The idea was that Cone of Cold was much safer to use, since it didn't carry serious risk of backfire in close quarters or have a chance of destroying loot like the other two. This never really lived on past the era where Killer Game Master was encouraged, and for many editions neither Lightning Bolt or Fireball have really had these problems anymore, but Cone of Cold remains higher level and unbuffed for no particular reason beyond history.
  • In the Forgotten Realms setting, the drow city of Menzoberranzan uses a giant rock called Narbondel to measure time by heating it and letting it cool; this was added to the story when the drow saw via infravision, allowing them to see heat signatures. However, infravision was removed from the game years ago, and replaced with darkvision, that allowed people to see in perfect darkness, only in greyscale. Narbondel remains and continues to function as a clock tower, even though it's not exactly clear how the drow see it heat and cool.
  • The back of Magic: The Gathering cards. The "Deckmaster" on the back of the cards was originally used to denote that Magic was the first of a series of games with that title (two others carried the "Deckmaster" theme: Vampire The Eternal Struggle and Net Runner); it no longer has any real relevance, but is kept to prevent people from being able to easily tell information about the card from just the back. Likewise, the word "Magic" remains blue on the card back despite it having been changed to yellow everywhere else.
    • Also, the blue slash over the "TER" in "DECKMASTER" is a simple pen mark that no one noticed on the master until it was too late. Technically, the millions of MtG cards printed over nearly 20 years are all misprints.
    • The removal of Mana Burn[1] removed the flavor (an ever increasing fire you'll eventually lose control of) and downside (eventually you're going to wide up with more mana than you can spend, eating mana burn) of "Braid of Fire" as well as making "Spectral Searchlight"'s ability to give mana to other players useless outside of games with more than 2 players (though it's still good there and for giving yourself mana).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! card game:
    • The term "Tribute Summon" and "Tribute" ("Sacrifice Summon" and "Sacrifice" in the OCG) was more appropriate in the manga and early days of the game due to the general atmosphere. Sure enough, as the dawn of the futuristic 5D's era drew near, the OCG retired the old terms and renamed them "Advance Summon" and "Release" respectively to better fit with the "fresher, more futuristic" direction of the game going forward. Still played straight with the TCG, who still used the old terms as of 2021, more than a decade after the OCG moved on from them.
    • Almost all official cards in the game have an 8-digit passcode on the bottom of their frames. Back then, they can be inputted as passwords into the various Yu-Gi-Oh! video games to obtain/rent the cards in-game (depending on the game). However, despite the newer games not having this feature, all cards printed as of 2021 still have these passcodes, most likely as a convenient identifier of each card, since all codes are unique.They seem to have realized this with the Rush Duel sister product, as none of the cards produced for it have similar features on them.
  • Star Wars based RPGs (and most, but not all, expanded universe works do as well) use the metric system for most things. The versions based on Dungeons and Dragons's 3rd edition do this even though that system is built around 5 feet increments. This is obfuscated by giving measurements in "squares", which are shown on premade maps to be equal to 1.5 meters (4.92... feet).
    • The rules for Living Force stated characters that reached level 13 were retired and couldn't be played. Even if a character played every module and got perfect experience from each (a significant amount was reserved for arbitrary roleplaying bonuses) there simply wasn't enough experience points in the entire campaign to reach that level, and that's ignoring how a character could be too high a level to even play some later modules in the first place. This was a leftover from previous RPGA campaigns where there were a lot more of them, some special modules could be replayed and the campaign lasted significantly longer (8 years instead of 5), but it remained even in the final year when this should have been obvious.

Video Games

  • A common occurrence in many a MMORPG, as new content, released via patches or expansion packs, frequently leaves older content of less importance. Some examples include:
    • World of Warcraft's pre-expansion content had hints of this. Quest design was much more varied and interesting in Northrend, Outlands, or even the Bloodelf and Draenei starting areas. Blizzard attempted to fix this with the Cataclysm expansion pack, which changed the pre-expansion content (even for players who didn't purchase the expansion pack) to clear up any remaining artifacts and grant the older continents some of the smoother gameplay aspects developed in the expansion worlds.
      • Cataclysm itself has caused an entire expansion pack to practically define the term The Artifact. When originally released, Burning Crusades content and mechanics were seen as an improvement upon Vanilla's. With Cataclysm modifying 'Old World' content to modern specifications,[2] Burning Crusade's content is now the chronologically oldest content in the game, and it shows. Burning Crusade's content is filled with Fetch Quests, group quests, and Plot Coupons that few players will bother using because there's better, easier-to-get stuff in later expansion content.
    • Pre-issue 6 content in City of Heroes is in many ways quite lacking in comparison to what came afterwards. While the content that was added afterwards (including all of City of Villains) showed many of the lessons that the development team learned, especially in terms of writing and avoidance of Fake Longevity, they have done little to go back and fix the old content. As of 2010 only one zone, Faultline, has been revamped and brought up to the post-issue 6 standard back in issue 9. The main issues that the old content has are:
      • Sloppy, contrived writing.
      • Old contacts that require you to run to a mission, often several zones away, and back to them to get the next mission as much as ten times before giving you their cell phone number. Contacts added since issue 6 give their cell number by the 2nd mission at the latest.
      • Old contacts sending the player all over the city while newer contacts focus their missions inside the zone that they operate from.
      • Old story arcs being much, much longer than they need to be with redundant missions and overkill objectives (you only need to question the gang leader but still are required to defeat every gangmember, even if you stealthed past them all).
      • Old contacts sharing identical missions and story arcs rather than having unique content. That guy in Independence Port is likely to give you the exact same missions as that girl over in Talos Island, and chances are many of the missions will end up being over in Talos Island anyway.
    • This is very prominent in EverQuest. As the expansion packs mount up, old world content is increasingly useless - it's now possible to get armor dropped from random monsters better than the stuff you had to go through extensive questing to get back in the old days. Many zones, especially dungeons, lie abandoned for various reasons. Sometimes Sony reworks a dungeon to increase the level (this was notably done to Splitpaw and Cazic-Thule). However, since Everquest isn't designed well for solo play, people all hunt in the same few zones since all the other players are there, rendering most of the game an artifact.
      • EverQuest 2 doesn't have it quite as bad. For one thing, there are fewer outdoor zones, and thus nothing to be "reliced". Also, Sony frequently "de-heroics" zones - a "heroic" zone being geared for groups, while a non-heroic zone can be handled by a solo player. Still, some formerly high end dungeons like Solusek's Eye now have little point to them. Also, leveling is so easy now that the low end dungeons just aren't necessary anymore, as a player could gain five levels in less time than it would take him to find a group.
    • RuneScape has been fixing this one: they eventually removed an ancient quest based on Romeo and Juliet and replaced it with a quest that, while not entirely original, at least is more than Romeo & Juliet via Fetch Quest.
    • Final Fantasy XI has managed to avert this for the most part. The original series of missions, despite technically being the easiest, is still arguably the most important lore wise. Many of the missions intended to be difficult are level capped low enough that you cannot out level them. Some of them can be soloed by some classes, but it isn't substantially easier for a high level player to do so then a character actually at the level cap.
  • Fighting games do use this trope every now and then. The King of Fighters is one of the bigger offenders in this in which as for any character that's from series' such as Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting that weren't Demoted to Extra got this. Terry Bogard, despite his iconic reputation in SNK, has been accused of being "just there" lately over the years just to appease older fans. (In which some think that's the real reason why the Ship Tease with him and Blue Mary isn't done so much anymore.) There is also Mai Shiranui whom nowadays they just use her eternally unrequited love for Andy Bogard as an excuse for her to even be there due to her popularity.
    • The inclusion of Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting characters was made as something extra for them since they were still in their own respective series as The King of Fighters is an Alternate Continuity to those games. However over the course of the 2000's due to certain issues such as their financial status SNK pretty much focused on this series (with an occasional Samurai Shodown or crossover fighting game. Which ended up being a reason why some of these characters were starting to feel more like Artifacts lately.
      • Cervantes was the Big Bad in Soul Edge; in the Soul Calibur series he's just kind of there. Voldo also is there to be the game's resident weird character - he hasn't contributed much to the story in a long time.
    • Characters whom originated in the series were not always excluded, though after the NES Ts saga for a while Kyo and Iori were in danger of becoming this. Fortunately SNK averted it by giving them bigger roles again.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog fans don't like to admit it, but this has happened to Knuckles in the games. His Backstory got completely fleshed out in Sonic Adventure, and since then, Angel Island and the Master Emerald's relevance has decreased dramatically, with Knuckles himself having been replaced by Shadow as The Rival. Now, Knuckles only appears because people expect him to. At least Tails gets to serve as the local Gadgeteer Genius, though even he seems to teeter on this and is in most games Out of Focus. However, Knuckles did get some focus in Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. Dark Brotherhood was actually very good at giving nearly all of its playable characters equal screen time.
  • Flying medusa heads in the Castlevania series are somewhat an example. In the first game, Medusa herself was a giant severed head, and was fought in the stage that introduced the heads. Since then, Medusa has almost always appeared with a body, and is even absent in most games - but the flying heads remain.
  • The eponymous Metal Gear tanks were somewhat unimportant to the Plot of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, aside from one boss battle where the player controls Metal Gear Rex in order to destroy Metal Gear Ray. The closest thing to a new Metal Gear model in MGS4 were the AI-controlled Gekko mechs, which are not officially considered to be Metal Gear tanks.
  • Though the Metroid series' doors serve the purpose of disguising load times, the fact that they are opened via gunshot doesn't make a whole lot of sense even with the in-universe Hand Wave (why would the protective force fields need to be deactivated by being shot? And why would the pirates install doors that only Samus can open?). Nevertheless, they were in the first game, so they're in all the games.
    • The Metroids themselves have fallen by the wayside. It got to the point where the Metroid Prime games feature severely weakened Metroids in the Pirate bases even though it might have made more sense in terms of plot if they had been absent. Other M reverses this trend.
  • Trauma Center refuses to maintain artifacts! Refuses, I tell you! Miss bar: Gone in the remake - even though it was Tetarti's only possible means of beating you. Timer: Only in First Response mode in Trauma Team and otherwise gone. Item usages are out too, even though they were the games' favourite means of artificially frustrating you. Despite this, they still use a point-based structure, probably because points and ranks account for most of the replay value once you're done with the story.
  • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, one of the 10 phone numbers you can have at a time is Bill's, which is useful as he tells you how many spaces are left in your current Pokémon storage box. He also calls you to tell you when your current box is full, which is very useful because if both the box currently being used and your party are full you can't catch anything. However, in the third generation the box system was fixed so that a full box simply meant the captured Pokémon went to the next box, making registering Bill's number in the fourth generation remakes of those games largely pointless (he instead tells you the number of spaces left in all of your boxes in total, in which case you are SOL if you manage to fill all of them). On the other hand, you can register all the numbers you want in the remakes, so he's not hampering you, either.
  • Valve's Source Engine is a heavy/complete modification of the licensed Quake engine, to the point of having none of the original's code. Most of the console commands, however, remain the same as the various id Tech engines. Same for Call of Duty's IW Engine, built from the Quake III Arena engine used in the first game.
  • The Turok games take their name, and a few other aspects, from a series of comic books about a Native American who finds a Lost World valley of dinosaurs. In the games, the main storyline has to do with the job of an ancient warrior trying to keep The Omniverse from collapsing; using his ancient wisdom to survive in a dark, alien land. They could just have easily have come up with some pretty strange creatures for the Lost Lands; but no, there are Bio-mechanical Dinosaurs.
  • A small handful of perks in Fallout: New Vegas suffer from being this.
    • Tag! is one of the more obvious examples. A tagged skill in Fallout and Fallout 2 leveled up twice as fast as a normal skill. This skill also became available around the same point in the game where Energy Weapons and Big Guns started to legitimately be useful weapons. Instead of the ignorable +15 skill points, the old version was +20 skill points and it now progressed twice as fast as normal like the other tagged skills. On top of that, it worked retroactively with skill points already spent in the skill. Taking this skill could basically turn a skill too low to be useful to being essentially mastered.
    • Swift Learner used to make at least some sense to take. You didn't normally hit the level cap in the old games unless you intentionally farmed random encounters for experience for a long time. In the newer games, hitting the level cap is easy, which makes taking this perk completely useless.
    • Life Giver was a much better perk in the older games. Even enemy mooks could potentially one hit kill you, so extra health was a legitimately useful thing to have. Even with enemies in Fallout New Vegas being more dangerous than Fallout 3, extra health just isn't that useful. Any enemy capable of killing you usually has no trouble going through the extra 30 health given by the perk.
    • Fast Shot used to be an amazing trait. You gave up the Aimed Shot skill, which is mostly useless (by the time you can reliably hit specific body parts, you should have little trouble just killing enemies), to reduce the AP needed per shot by 1. This usually translated into getting at least one extra shot per round. Depending on your weapon and Agility, this could very well mean you were shooting twice per round rather than once, meaning it doubled your damage output. The new version (due to the lack of the Aimed Shot skill) reduces accuracy for a minor AP reduction.
    • Skilled, meanwhile, is something of an inversion. In the first two games, it gave you a rather negligible boost to your skills in exchange for only getting perks every four levels instead of three like normal. Come New Vegas (or rather, the Old World Blues DLC), you get a +5 boost to all skills for a small reduction in exp gain (which can easily be negated by taking Swift Learner, if you feel so inclined), with skill points being harder to come by in this game than the first two. For added fun, you can abuse a Good Bad Bug in character creation to get the bonus twice, or get the bonus but "lose" the penalty.
  • Persona 4 has a couple of minor details carried over from its predecessor. First, some enemies on the map look like the "Maya" enemies from 3 (the game makes it clear that shadows transform when you get into a fight with them). Second, maxing out a social link triggers a note that you have forged an unbreakable bond. This was an important point in 3, where social links that weren't maxed would break after a certain amount of time. Now it's just congratulatory.
  • In the Super Mario Bros. series, lives have been more or less completely pointless since Super Mario 64, since it and every game after it allow you to save after every level. Not to mention how the series seems to have become increasingly obsessed with giving you dozens and dozens of the damned things. Most likely, the only reason they're still around is because without lives, coins and 1-Up Mushrooms would become useless, dramatically altering the gameplay of the series.
    • The first Super Mario Advance game included remakes of both Super Mario Bros. 2 and Mario Bros.. To tie the games together, a few of Mario's abilities from SMB2 were included in the Mario Bros. game, such as the charged crouch jump and the ability to pick up and throw POW blocks. Later Mario games released on the GBA also include the same Mario Bros. game, including the SMB2 abilities, even though Mario plays differently in the other games included on the cartridge.
  • The Final Fantasy characters in the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Initially, Kingdom Hearts was marketed on the basis of being crossover of Disney and Final Fantasy, but with each new games, Final Fantasy's roles get smaller and smaller. In fact, in the last game released in the series (Birth By Sleep), Zack was the only character featured from a Final Fantasy game. At this point, these characters are only included as a Fan Service.
    • That said, the Disney elements have also taken ever more of a back seat to Kingdom Hearts' own (very Final Fantasy-esque) mythology and plotlines. By this point, Disney villains are almost never more than Minibosses, who understand the metaplot even less than the heroes, and exist only to be manipulated by the real bad guys.
  • Cursed equipment in the Dragon Quest series. In the early games, you had to be careful what equipment you put on. If you equipped something cursed, you'd suffer from ill effects and had to go to a church to remove it. However, later games have descriptions of items available in the menu, and all cursed equipment include not very subtle warnings that they're evil. No player will ever accidentally equip something cursed anymore, making their inclusion as traps pointless. Also related is the ability to examine items in the menu. It no longer appears in newer games, but remakes of older games will still include it even though it won't give you any information that isn't already in the item's description.
  • The Soul Series has been accumulating these as a Long Runner, although with V's timeskip, they're starting to get around to phasing them out. The most egregious examples are probably Voldo, Mitsurugi, and Cervantes; Voldo's basically been stuck in a rut of trying and failing to collect Soul Edge for his dead master since the series started, to the point the only development of any significance he's had in the last five games was finally going (more) insane and becoming a willing slave of Soul Edge. Mitsurugi was the protagonist of the first game, and initially one of those interested in finding Soul Edge to gain the power to defeat the gun; as the games wore on, Mitsurugi discovered he didn't need supernatural powers to do that and promptly lost interest in the struggle to possess or destroy the swords, mostly staying involved in the European chaos because warriors like Nightmare were the only ones that challenged him anymore. Cervantes, meanwhile, was the Big Bad of the first game, but he was also killed by Sophitia and Taki and replaced by Nightmare at the end; since then, his character has simply been a zombie trying to regain his lost power and mostly served as a motive for his daughter, Ivy, to fight on. Interestingly, Cervantes recently came back to life and lost interest in Soul Edge as well; some fans suspect that all three might be Put on a Bus next game like previous veterans like Taki and Sophitia.
  • Limited lives on PC or console games, period. The reason games had limited lives in the first place was because they were originally developed for arcade machines, and making players pay up to keep playing meant more profits for arcade owners, whereas you don't pay to keep playing games on your personal gaming systems.

Web Original

  • P. Monkey, the purple monkey puppet Companion Cube from Lonelygirl15, appeared frequently in early episodes, but appeared less and less as the series became darker and more plot driven. By the last series, she appeared occasionally, probably because fans like her, but had no effect on the overall plot.
  • Pom Pom in Homestar Runner was meant to be Homestar's sidekick when the cartoon was still primarily sports-based, easily the number two character in early cartoons, behind Homestar himself. As the cartoon shifted away from sports and more toward Strong Bad, Pom Pom became more and more superfluous, now being one of the rarest of the twelve central characters. Probably doesn't help that he's the straight man with few quirks or flaws in a cartoon where much quirkier characters Strong Bad, Strong Sad, Marzipan, Bubs, and occasionally even Homestar himself can all play the straight man role as necessary, nor that he can't talk in anything besides bubble sounds.

Web Comics

  • Occasionally mentioned by the Penny Arcade creators who, while enjoying the character DIV, admit that the DIVX format's failure condemns the character's basis to increasing obscurity.
  • The robots in Questionable Content have taken a smaller and smaller role since almost the beginning; even their Plucky Comic Relief appearances are coming fewer and farther between.
    • This may have been true years ago, but starting around strip 1780 the comic has introduced a lot of exposition on AnthroPCs in general, and featured the ones in the cast (particularly Momo) more often. One might say that they are an aversion of The Artifact and of Shoo Out the Clowns, in that they started out as weird elements nobody commented on, and then turned into an integral part of the "post-singularity" Science-Fiction setting.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the author has been quoted to no longer enjoy several of the earlier gags, especially the hammers. Hammers were sacrificed for good, in exchange for a handful of Character Development, setting development and Plot points.
    • The level of Fan Service has also dropped off significantly since the author started expressing guilt over objectifying women in the earlier strips. Tedd and Ellen still have their transformation rays, but they almost never see use.
  • Once the central premise of the comic, the constant parodies of the Dungeons & Dragons rules have essentially vanished from The Order of the Stick, only being occasionally dragged back in to keep longtime fans happy. The author has stated in his commentaries to one of his books that he basically has nothing else to say about the rules and is concentrating on telling a good story now.
  • Even though Fred finds ways to keep him important to the plot, pretty much anything involving Largo from Megatokyo has felt like this ever since Rodney Caston was forced out of the creative partnership.
  • Choo-Choo Bear has faded into the shadows of Something*Positive; right now almost all of his appearances are as the snooty Q&A cat. (Randy Milholland was always determined to limit his appearances for fear overusing him, though.) He did become more active for a time as a result of an extended crossover with Girls with Slingshots, which seems to have run its course.
  • Spark from Dominic Deegan dates back to the strip's early Gag Per Day days. He has adapted better than most artifacts do, but he still feels out of place in the post-Cerebus Syndrome Deeganverse.
  • Homestuck has a lot of these, mainly due to how quickly the narrative evolves. Sylladices once played a major role in the story (the first third or so of Act One consisted entirely of John messing around with his sylladex), but are now rarely ever given much thought, the exception being the late-Act Five subplot with Liv Tyler and the Courtyard Droll handling John's Wallet Modus and its contents. A similar fate has befallen punch card alchemy; the process became significantly more streamlined when Dave figured out how to upgrade the equipment, so much of the messing-around John needed to do with it early on promptly became irrelevant. Act 6 seems to be bringing these things back into play, at least for a time.
  • In Least I Could Do, the character Jon originally served as Rayne's foil, being the Only Sane Man who reined in Rayne's zanier impulses. The character fell out of use as the author found himself growing distant from Jon's inspiration, and a new character (Noel) took over the role of Rayne's wingman. Eventually Sohmer acknowledged this by writing a story arc where Rayne and Jon patch up their friendship, and with Noel's marriage and child Jon has started coming back into the forefront.
    • Thankfully Noel hasn't really ever suffered from Replacement Scrappy Syndrome, in that he's notably different from Jon - Jon is the Only Sane Man who may or may not suffer ulcers from dealing with Rayne; Noel is a Deadpan Snarker who's more than happy to accompany Rayne on his adventures, and only stops Rayne before he's going to do something too stupid.

Western Animation

  • Classic animation example: Mickey Mouse's ears. No matter how he turns his head, they stay in the same position, in direct violation of the rules of perspective. This is a relic of the time Mickey was created, when designs were simple and crude, but as the animators improved their drawing skills and the style became more elaborate, Mickey's design began to look archaic by comparison. His immense popularity made a complete redesign impossible, so only small, judicious changes were made over time. There was a time in the early 1940s when the ears were altered to look more like real mouse ears, as well as giving them dimension, but that change was short-lived and the round ears returned. Nowadays it's accepted as a crucial element in Mickey's design (even CG versions of the character have special adjustments to keep the ears the same from every angle), and is even Lampshaded on occasion.
    • Except Kingdom Hearts II. His ears don't adjust with the angle, ever, so we actually see the sides of his ears. The 3D ending to the original Chain of Memories Reverse/Rebirth mode also didn't do this.
      • In Kingdom Hearts, however, we virtually only see Mickey from the side, and his ears are in their odd position. During an early cutscene, Minnie Mouse turns around and her ears adjust their position; possibly an intentional nod to this.
  • Kenny's deaths on South Park were a written-in-stone Running Gag until the creators decided that in one episode that he was Killed Off for Real. "They Changed It, Now It Sucks" reactions caused them to put him back on the show. Now he only occasionally dies.
    • Add in the fact that all his lines are unintelligible. Very few episodes feature Kenny doing much of anything but basically just standing to one side. Lampshaded in the "Mr. Jefferson" episode. When Kenny, for once unmuffled, complains about taking Blanket's place, Stan tells him to stop complaining, at least he gets to do something for once.
      • And nobody called him by his name so the audience didn't get the joke that it was Kenny until he died.
    • Also Lampshaded in "Lice Capades," Where Kyle, Stan, and Cartman point out to each other that they're doing exactly what they would do if they had head lice, and Cartman adds, "And this is exactly what Kenny would do: stand here and say nothing."
  • Meg Griffin on Family Guy seems to have been designed and included for one narrative purpose (high school angst-driven stories); as the show has become joke-driven, structurally looser and, arguably, narratively weaker, Meg's continued existence is little more than a vestige of the Plot-driven early seasons of the show. Couple this with the show's increasing reliance on the Seth McFarlane-voiced characters and the audience's dislike of the Meg character (lampshaded frequently on the show through the rest of the family's increasingly pronounced and occasionally violent antipathy toward her) and there's really little left of the character beyond the awareness of her Artifact status.
    • Unexpectedly, the disproportionate in-universe hate towards her has shoved her through The Woobie Wall for many members of the audience; giving her an actual purpose in the show. It also makes the scene in the episode "Dial Meg for Murder" where she beats the living crap out of Peter after being in prison a few months a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    • Ironically, the diminishment of Meg's character began at about the same time as her original (and uncredited) voice actor Lacey Chabert was replaced by Mila Kunis. In contrast to Chabert's rather mundane characterization, Kunis brought a sharper, more distinctive quality to the character (along with a much greater appreciation for the show's type of humor than Chabert had, which is what caused her to leave the show and be uncredited). Kunis' performance allows the out-of-proportion attacks on Meg to be funny, whereas had Chabert remained, it likely would have just come off as mean-spirited.
  • Klaus, the East German athlete in a goldfish's body in American Dad seems to serve no purpose in later episodes. Originally he may have been a foil to Roger, but with Roger's Character Development that's pretty much fallen by the wayside. Also, Hayley was originally designed as a counterpart to Stan's extreme conservatism. As the show has largely lost its political aspects, Hayley's had less to do.
    • Lampshaded by Klaus and Hayley in a recent[when?] episode. Klaus pops up on the screen out of nowhere exclaiming, "Ha! I made it into the episode! Pay me, bitches!" Then Hayley pops up saying, "Ha! Me too!" Otherwise both characters are entirely absent from the episode.
    • In some later episodes, Klaus' lack of purpose is lampshaded through Klaus bemoaning his situation, or the other characters making fun of him. One particularly cruel example is "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls", where the rest of the family is fighting for their lives against Santa Claus and his elves with machine guns and hatchets, and Francine mentions "What's his name?" during a conversation with Hayley; it then cuts to Klaus floating in his bowl with no background noise, and he dispassionately says "My name is Klaus Heissler." Klaus wasn't seen again the entire episode, before or since that scene.
    • The show's entire premise fell under this trope, since politics were almost completely abandoned, and Stan hardly outs himself as a conservative nor display hate for liberals anymore.
  • This actually happened to Optimus Prime of all characters during the final Transformers season. They'd brought him back because of Fan Backlash over his removal so they couldn't very well have him leave again. But because of the Loads and Loads of Characters that had to be written in due to the toyline all older characters such as Blaster and Perceptor had been written off in favor of the new characters with gimmicks (such as being a Head or Target Master or part of a combination team) except for Prime. As a result he looks notably out of place with his 80s era Mack Truck form and lack of gimmicky weapons when surrounded by futuristic cars and jets and all the Masters. Notably, in the Japanese continuity which splits off right after he's brought back to life, he's killed off again almost immediately, replaced by a series of newer, more visually and technologically impressive leaders.
    • In the third season, this also happened to some extent with many of the first and second season characters who survived the movie, although some of them did get important roles in an episode or two (Blaster and Soundwave in "Carnage in C-Minor", Perceptor in "The Face of the Nijika", etc.).
  • In the Disney Sing Along Songs VHS series, Professor Owl from the Adventures in Music Duology was originally the host, with Jimminy Cricket and and Professor Ludwig Von Drake occasionally taking over. In later entries, Professor Owl only appears to say "And now is your host, [Jimminy Cricket / Professor Ludwig Von Drake]!", and in a completely different voice from the intro and earlier videos, at that. The most likely reason is that the between-song segments were composed entirely of Stock Footage of old cartoons, and Cricket and Von Drake — particularly the latter, who by the end was the only one hosting — had a good deal more material to draw from.
  • Hack and Slash in ReBoot fell into this during season 3. While the series got Darker and Edgier, they didn't. For the most part they were ignored unless some comic relief was needed.
  • Total Drama Island started with twenty-two contestants in the first season, but while the second and third still had most of the cast competing, a few characters were stuck watching from the sidelines. With such a large main cast, some pairs of characters were Not So Different from one another, which made a few like Eva, Katie and Sadie redundant as Courtney, Lindsay and Beth respectively took on their defining traits. The three only competed in the first season as a result, and have been Out of Focus ever since.
  • The Phineas and Ferb theme-song has the titular boys saying that they want to "Drive their sister insane!" However, Characterization Marches On, and now the boys are incredibly nice, and want to help their sister out — she's just too amped up to realise. However, because it rhymes and is so intrinsic, the line stays.
    • Then again, you could take the line to mean that the things they do are going to drive her insane as a side effect, even if it's not what they intend to do.
    • Sort of subtly Lampshaded in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension — Phineas is singing part of the show's theme song, but gets distracted before he can finish the line "driving our sister insane" (around 1:15). He doesn't try to drive her insane or even seem to realize that he's doing it, so it wouldn't make any sense for him to say that.

Real Life


  • The criminal law of Finland still starts with the words (roughly translated) "We, Alexander the Third, with the grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of Russia, Tzar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc. etc. etc. decree that..." and so on and so forth, even though Finland has not been under Russian rule since 1917, and a quite significant portion of the law has changed since.
  • Since the Constitution of the United States cannot be changed, only amended, the 18th amendment still establishes the prohibition of alcohol (repealed by the 21st amendment). In theory an amendment can be declared to have never passed (these have actually reached the Supreme Court with cases like Dillion v. Gloss, Leser v. Garnett and Coleman v. Miller, while is currently claimed of the 16th amendment by a small number of people) or be deemed unconstitutional (the 17th Amendment is argued to deprive states of equal representation in the Senate, the one thing an amendment can't do. Support for this claim is relatively common but is still small) and suffer Ret-Gone, but this has never happened and lacks widespread support.


  • Though the only unhealthy thing about fat per se is that it has nine calories per gram as opposed to four with protein and carbohydrate (though fat is actually essential for vital functions, and is more filling than carbohydrate), women's magazines and health magazines regularly list both calories and fat.


  • The Los Angeles Lakers, an American basketball team, originally played in Minnesota, which actually has, you know, lakes. The name makes absolutely no sense in Los Angeles, but has been around so long that it's not changing.
  • The Utah Jazz, also an NBA team. This team originated in New Orleans, the home of jazz music. Utah? Not so much.
    • Ironically, after the Jazz left the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans, keeping the Hornets name (earned from Charlotte's nickname, "Hornet's Nest"). The name isn't completely out of place like some of the others, but it's still humorous that New Orleans is on the giving and receiving end of this trope.
      • To turn it around straight again, their team colors are still UNC baby blue and white.
  • In an example of one of these ultimately being changed, in the NFL, when the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee they kept the Oilers name for a bit, but finally changed to Titans, a name that doesn't scream Tennessee, but at least isn't a nonsensical reference to another region like the Oilers.
  • American football has a scoring play known as the drop kick, in which a player can, during play, bounce the ball off the ground and then kick it between the goalposts for a field goal or an extra point. Drop kicks have been obsolete for decades due to changes in play style and the football being made more pointed in shape to accommodate the passing game, but were never actually removed from the rule book. Cue a Miami Dolphins/New England Patriots game and consternation when Patriots backup quarterback Doug Flutie scored the first drop kick in over 60 years (it was a thank-you to coach Bill Belichick). Most NFL fans were unaware that the drop kick even existed.
    • Likewise, the free kick. A ridiculously rare and obscure play that's only been used a handful of times in the past several decades. It takes place when a team receives a punt or kickoff and signals for a fair catch or otherwise does not return it. From the spot of the ball, rather than run a regular offensive series, the possessing team can attempt a free kick, so called because the opposing team cannot attempt to block it. The kicker and the ball spotter are the only two players involved in the play, with the kicker being allowed to take his sweet time in lining up his kick. In effect, the free kick plays like a normal kickoff, only with a spotter holding the ball rather then it being kicked from a tee. The kicker is aiming the ball for the uprights and if successful, his team receives three points like a field goal. Naturally, because even horrible punts and kickoffs are likely to push the ball well into the receiving team's territory, the circumstances where a free kick would be viable are rare in the extreme. A vast majority of recorded attempts took place in the final seconds of the half; since the opposing team can field the kick if it misses (and they almost always do), this leaves them no opportunity to run their own plays before time expires. Thus, the free kick serves mostly as a fun and arcane way to run out the clock with a somewhat safer result than throwing up a Hail Mary and risking an interception return they aren't prepared to guard against.
  • Ice Hockey, being somewhat of a lesser-tier professional sport in most places, tends to maintain a lot of Artifacts that people either hold up as proof that hockey is the best game ever, or people hold up as proof that the sport is backward compared to other, more popular sports:
    • The NHL instituted one point for an overtime loss starting in the 1999-2000 season, with the intention being that teams would play for a win in overtime for the extra point, instead of previous seasons where teams played defensively to keep the point they'd get in the event of a tie. After the 2004-2005 lockout, regular season games ended in a shootout if overtime kept the game tied, abolishing tie games, making the overtime loss point useless and recreating the same problem that the overtime loss point tried to fix: now teams that are tied at the end of the third period will play defensively in order to force a shootout, which they perceive to be easier to win.


  • Adult Swim was so named because it referred to the period where kids are ordered out of public pools so that only seniors can swim in it, and when it first launched in 2001, it even featured bumpers of kids being told to get out of the pool along with seniors enjoying their time. Sometime around 2003, these were replaced with the "white text on black" style bumpers seen today, though the name hasn't lost all meaning — it still trades in child-unfriendly shows.
  • Changes in analog to digital formats has left many artifacts in language. For example, with digital video modern flicks don't flicker, the length of footage isn't measured in footage, and the film isn't on film.
  1. A rule where players took damage equal to unused mana when their turn was advanced without spending it. Removed because there were so few times it would come up, and most of the times it did come up the effect was negligible and rarely changed the outcome of duels.
  2. And Wrath of the Lich King's content being close to 'modern' for this discussion