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Man, you should see all the stuff Godot does in this thing.

It's common for a series to be named after one or more of its main characters. Either the series title and the star's name are one and the same (as in Jane Eyre and Indiana Jones) or the names of more than one protagonist will appear in the title (as in Romeo and Juliet and Tom and Jerry). Occasionally, though, the title comes from the name of a character who is not the main protagonist, which may cause some confusion about who's who. However, this is usually justified, because the character whose name appears in the title is often pivotal to the storyline. It still can cause confusion, especially when the actor playing the protagonist is billed directly above the title.

Compare Villain Based Franchise, Antagonist Title, Supporting Protagonist. This trope sometimes leads to I Am Not Shazam. When the eponymous secondary character is mistaken for the protagonist, someone had committed the Protagonist Title Fallacy.

Examples of Secondary Character Title include:

Anime and Manga

  • Akira
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a prime example. Even though everything revolves around Haruhi, the series follows Kyon more closely than anyone, as he is the narrator and main protagonist.
  • The title character of To Aru Majutsu no Index is only the second most important character in the series; the main character is Touma.
  • Not only is the main protagonist of Princess Mononoke not the character referred to by the title (it's Ashitaka), the name "Princess Mononoke" itself is only used once in the film to refer to San, as it's a nickname given to her by the residents of Irontown.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vi Vid and Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, the two fourth season manga of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, still keeps Nanoha's name in the title even though her main character status has been taken by Vivio and Tohma respecively. This is especially noticable in Nanoha Vivid, where multiple volumes could pass with Nanoha barely appearing on page.
  • Pokémon. Ash, first and foremost, is the main character of the series rather than the titular creatures, with Pikachu as his sidekick. In fact, as with the Transformers example below, the Mons in general take a backseat to the humans. This is somewhat true of the game series as well, but to a lesser extent due to how much the gameplay itself revolves around the titular Mons.
  • Sanka Rea: The plot mainly follows Chihiro Furuya, although Rea Sanka is pretty much the central character to the plot.
  • Dororo, as Hyakkimaru is really the main protagonist.

Comic Books

  • Most comic book series starring DC's Captain Marvel are named Shazam, after Captain Marvel's wizard mentor, or, more specifically, the often conflated word Billy Batson says to transform. This is actually due to an agreement with Marvel Comics over the use of the name "Captain Marvel" - it can't be used in the title of a book.
  • Gear. The title character doesn't show up until the second-to-last issue. The word "gear" isn't even mentioned by name until then. The main characters are actually Waffle, Gordon, and Mr. Black.

Fan Fiction

  • Naruto Veangance Revelaitons. Naruto shows up, but is killed off after six chapters, then appears again, is killed off yet again after a few chapters, then comes back yet again and is finally Killed Off for Real less than halfway through.
  • For that matter, any fic based on a work named after the main character that includes the work's title in the fic's title, but focuses on another character.


  • Roger Rabbit is not actually the main character of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. He's just the one who solicits the services of the story's actual protagonist, human detective Eddie Valiant. Roger steals every scene he's in and is pivotal to the case, though.
  • Beetlejuice has less screentime in his own movie than any of the other characters. This is not the case in the animated series that followed, though, where he is undoubtedly the star.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Extra points for sounding like a Word Salad Title, rather than anything to do with the characters at all, to people who aren't very familiar with the plot.
  • Carol Reed's The Third Man refers to Harry Lime, the villain of the piece, and not its hero, Holly Martins.
  • The title character from 1991 film Oscar doesn't actually show up until the last minute or two of the movie.
  • The protagonist of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the young son of a Nazi officer who becomes acquainted with the boy of the title, who's a prisoner in a concentration camp. Some people were annoyed about this.
  • The Big Lebowski refers to Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire. The Dude is The Dude, so that's what you call him, you know. That or His Dudeness or Duder or, you know, El Dudereno, if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
  • Tron: Legacy is centered around the Flynn family; Alan Bradley is a secondary character and his avatar TRON is a brainwashed baddie in The Grid.
    • While not as extreme a case, TRON was also a supporting character to Flynn in the original movie.
  • Arguably, the real protagonist of Inglourious Basterds is Shosanna Dreyfus, not the Basterds.
  • In all three Re-Animator movies, the main character is Herbert West's protege, not Dr. West himself.
  • The live action Transformers movies. The fact that the Transformers are secondary characters in the movies named after them is a frequent subject of mockery, due to the fact that they were the main characters in other incarnations of the franchise.
  • The Last Samurai does not, as many people seemed to think, refer to the main character Nathan Algren, but to the deuteroganist Katsumoto. [1]
  • John Tucker is not the main character in John Tucker Must Die. Kate is.
  • Chasing Amy: Amy is only mentioned off-screen as the ex-girlfriend of another secondary character.
  • Rachel Getting Married: The protagonist is Rachel's younger sister.
  • My Week with Marilyn: The movie is told from Colin Clark's perspective.
  • Horrible Bosses: The protagonists are their respective employees.
  • Paul: The titular character is a CGI alien. The protagonist are the Graeme/Clive duo.
  • Little Fockers: The Focker juniors have neither much lines nor screentime.
  • I Love You Phillip Morris: the protagonist is Steven Russell.
  • Meet the Robinsons: None of the Robinsons is the main character here. But they do welcome the actual orphaned protagonist - Lewis - into their family, though.
  • Rebecca: Though the plot has very much to do with her, Rebecca was already dead before the movie even began and is only mentioned to.
  • The 4th entry in The Bourne Series - The Bourne Legacy. Bourne will only be mentioned off-screen as the movie leaves the main character's seat to (who else?) his legacy.


  • Moby Dick is really about Ishmael and Captain Ahab.
  • The Three Musketeers is about D'Artagnan, the fourth musketeer.
  • Alexander Pushkin's Captain's Daughter is named after the main character's love interest.
  • The Giver is about the boy who's been selected to replace the Giver.
  • The Indian in the Cupboard is about the kid whose cupboard the Indian is in.
  • Flowers for Algernon refers to the protagonist's fellow test subject - a white rat.
    • Averted in the film adaptation Charly.
  • The protagonist of Daisy Miller is Frederick Winterbourne, who falls in love with Daisy.
  • The protagonist and narrator of The Great Gatsby is actually Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby's neighbor. Gatsby himself does not get a proper introduction until chapter three.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel: The protagonist is the eponymous hero's wife Marguerite.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe pulls a trifecta by being titled after a secondary character, the villain, and a gateway to another dimension which has no lines whatsoever.
  • The protagonist of Rebecca is the second Mrs. de Winter (whose first name is never given). Rebecca herself is a Posthumous Character.
  • The protagonist (and narrator) of Lorna Doone is her love interest John Ridd.
  • The third of The Lord of the Rings volumes, The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King, is a double example, referring to the villain and the Supporting Leader but not the actual protagonist. Of course, the impact upon events by small and usually forgotten people is one of the book's major themes.
    • The titular Lord of the Rings - Sauron - is mostly referred to and doesn't actually take actions as much as other characters
  • The protagonist of Aimee is not Aimee but her best friend who is accused of killing her. In fact, the protagonist isn't named until the end of the book. Her name is Zoe.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was never the protagonist, but he is an important character who helps actual protagonist Dorothy get home (just not in the way Dorothy expected). He becomes a very minor character in later books in the series.
  • Looking for Alaska. Whilst Alaska is a main character, the focus is more on Pudge.
  • In Saving Zoe, Zoe is the main character Echo's late sister, who was murdered. The book revolves around Echo finding Zoe's diary and reading it.
  • The Thin Man is not detective Nick Charles, but Clyde Wynant, the man he is looking for. The confusion was not helped by the fact that the movie version spawned a series of sequels, all of which included "the Thin Man" in their title.
  • The unfinished epic Titurel by medieval poet Wolfram von Eschenbach was named by scholars after the first name mentioned in the surviving text. Titurel does not actually appear in the story, he is merely one of the protagonist's ancestors.
  • Constance Greene's young adult novels in the "Alexandra" series (such as Al(exandra) the Great) are all named after the narrator's best friend. The narrating character is never even given a name.
  • George Macdonald Fraser's McAuslan series has Lt. MacNeill as the protagonist, and there are stories where McAuslan plays only a minor role at best.
  • The Skulduggery Pleasant books are mostly told from the point of view of his protegee, Valkyrie Cain.
  • Common in crime fiction where the detective is the protagonist. Where there is a title character, they may well be Dead to Begin With.
  • The young adult novel "Amandine" by Adele Griffon is named after the protagonist's eccentric (and later somewhat antagonistic) friend.
  • The Millennium Trilogy: Regardless of the title of each installments, the protagonist of the series has always been Mikael Blomkvist.

Live Action TV

Newspaper Comics

  • Polly and Her Pals ultimately became this. Initially, Polly was the main character, until Cliff Sterrett (the artist) decided that her father, Paw Perkins had more comedic potential and made him the star of the strip.
  • In a similar vein, Funky Winkerbean really did once star the title character, but as time went on, he was Demoted to Extra.
  • Blondie is the wife of the main character, Dagwood, though (similarly to the above example) she was the lead during the strip's start.


  • Othello, a.k.a. 'Iago'. Despite ostensibly being the main character Othello has less than half the lines and stage-time of his 'friend' and subordinate.
  • Waiting for Godot
  • Bye Bye Birdie: The title refers to rock star Conrad Birdie, who plays a major role, but Conrad's manager, Albert, and his secretary are the main characters.
  • Gypsy refers to Gypsy Rose Lee, the stage name Louise acquires halfway through the second act. Her mother is the principal character.
  • Several Shakespearean examples: Cymbeline (the main character is Imogen), Henry IV parts 1 and 2 (the main characters are Prince Hal and Falstaff), Julius Caesar (Caesar dies less than halfway through; the main character is Brutus) and The Merchant of Venice (who is the protagonist here, Bassanio? Portia? Shylock? - in any case, it probably isn't the eponymous merchant, Antonio.)
  • Marvin's Room. Marvin has absolutely no lines (he's senile and bedridden, you see), and the story is about his two daughters and one of his grandsons.

Video Games

  • The Legend of Zelda: the protagonist is Link.
    • Links Awakening and Majoras Mask don't even feature her (besides a flashback in the latter).
    • Subverted with Twilight Princess. Not quite obvious in the beginning, but as the plot starts to unravel, this becomes increasingly clear. The game's main character actually is the titular Twilight Princess, aka Midna..
  • The Immortal
  • Lufia. Even worse in the sequels, where Lufia isn't even in the game.
  • Metroid is named after the species the villains are using as biological weapons.

Web Animation

  • Homestar Runner: Regardless of what the creators might say, Strong Bad has pretty much taken over as the main character.

Web Comics

  • Schlock Mercenary: The main character is arguably Tagon, or possibly Kevyn for a few arcs. Schlock is disproportionately important for his lower rank, but he still has little influence on the plot or the decision-making of the company.
  • Ms. Paint doesn't even appear in her own adventures until page three thousand, seven hundred and nineteen!
  1. And likely Katsumoto's men as well; Japanese doesn't mark for plurals, so it could either be referring to one samurai or the whole group.