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TV Tropes Monday: The Five Man Band


Tweet of the Day: Advice to the Reader: Genre is Dead

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What happens when you have more than three heroes on the page/screen?

You end up with the Five Man Band.

And yes, I know that 4 comes after three. This is a trope people! Flexibility is the key (most of the time).

It’s:

… a group of characters whose members fall into archetypes which all complement one another. They are a very specific team with skills that contribute to the group in a unique way.

Who:

These are examples of teams that fit at least four of the character tropes. Remember that they form a team dynamic; it’s always tempting to match two of the characters in a show, then try to convince yourself and others that the other characters can be squeezed/wedged/stuffed into the description of the other character types, but that’s not the point of the Five-Man Band trope. The individual character types exist outside of the band. The Five-Man Band only occurs when the team as a whole fits, not just a few characters.

Got it? Good.

In essence it is a quick way to create a series of relationships within a small heroic group. After all, unless the hero is a Lone Wolf Übermensch he will have/need some back up, which is where the rest of the band comes in. Popular in fantasy settings (post Hobbit/LotR) some comic book action teams and anywhere else where the help is more than Mauve Shirts. They all brings something to the table, from being a foil to the Hero to comedy relief and (not so surprising) twist.

They tend to appear thus:

  • The Hero(lead singer) The leader of the group. Can be clean-cut and upstanding, bold and charismatic, serious and driven, or some combination of the three.
  • The Lancer(lead guitar) The second-in-command, usually a contrast to The Hero. If the Hero is clean-cut and/or uptight, the Lancer is a grizzled Anti-Hero or Deadpan Snarker; if the Hero is driven and somewhat amoral, the Lancer is more relaxed and level-headed.
  • The Smart Guy(keyboardist) The physically weak, but intelligent or clever member. Often nerdy and awkward played for comic relief. Sometimes unconventionally young (early- to mid-teens). Sometimes a trickster and a buddy of the Big Guy. May be the one with all the “street” connections.
  • The Big Guy(drummer) The strongman of the team. May be dumb. Or mute.
  • The Chick(vocal effects, tambourine) A peacekeeping role to balance out the other members’ aggression, bringing them to a nice or at least manageable medium. The Chick is often considered the heart of the group. Not always female, but the role is usually taken by the Token Girl (hence the name). Sometimes referred to as “the useless girl”.

As quoted above, the exact number varies between four to seven, with the extra slots reserved for the likes of the Tagalong Kid and the Team Pet. Duos and trios have their own set of tropes to deal with. Mind you that the Five Man Band can include a core trio or duo or may be a true ensemble and like most tropes, none of these roles are set in stone and multiple characters can shift between roles or if you have an even larger cast, multiple characters can have the same role but different approaches. The key to this trope is the relationship between characters more so that the characteristics of each individual.

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3 comments on “TV Tropes Monday: The Five Man Band

  1. I’m actually working on a YA Quest Fantasy with a five man band. The Hero is a werewolf, The Lancer is a Dragon rider, The Smart Guy is a boy wizard (natch), The Big Guy is a Viking berserker who was cursed and now is a Troll, and The Chick is a newly made vampire.

  2. Yeah, lately I’ve reduced commenting, or posting on forum threads. I guess I’m a lurker and reader by nature, but also I’m trying to be less ‘interwebby’ and more writerwritey. Not as easy as you’d think.

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