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A Franchise Original Sin is the flaw which, in earlier, good installments was under control and didn't seriously detract from it, but in later, bad installments is completely out of control and bringing the franchise down.
It's possible to Jump the Shark without having an Original Sin; take, for example, Moonlighting, which couldn't keep up the Will They or Won't They? any longer, and the point at which They Did was the moment all dramatic tension deflated from the series. There was no Original Sin there, besides the Will They or Won't They?, which was part of what made the series work, so it doesn't qualify here.
Rule of thumb: if you can imagine a reboot without the element in question, then it qualifies. If you can't, then it isn't a Franchise Original Sin. Secondary rule of thumb: If it wasn't visible in previous good episodes, it's an Ass Pull or a Retool gone bad, not a Franchise Original Sin.
Anime and Manga
- In Naruto, even in early episodes you could already see that Sasuke was going to be really important and tips about how the Uchiha clan's Myth Arc is key were dropped. Then Sasuke became really important, and the Uchiha clan's Myth Arc swallowed the plot, to the complaints of many.
- Many of the things that would cause Bleach to be criticized during the Arrancar saga first showed in the Soul Society arc. The decreased focus on Ichigo and his friends (Much of the arc revolves around the intrigue among the Shinigami, as opposed to Ichigo's mission to rescue Rukia, Chad is taken out easily by Captain Kyoraku, and Ishida and Orihime disappear for a large part of the story) the feeling of Arc Fatigue, and Aizen's hard-to-shallow level of planning and his ability to easily take out anyone in his way are all things that would become much worse in later arcs.
- The comic maxi-series Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, although published by DC Comics, was originally a self-contained fantasy series about a suburban teenage girl named Amy Winston, who lives a double life. On another world, the Gemworld, she is Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. It was a wonderful twelve-issue maxi-series, with a well-thought out fantasy world filled with drama, rivalrous nobility, and fascinating characters. It was so successful it spawned an ongoing series. Unfortunately, in order to attract more readers to the series, the writer Dan Mishkin had Amethyst team with Superman in the team-up title DC Comics Presents, therefore establishing that Amethyst was part of the DC universe. This could have easily been ignored—except that when Mishkin left the ongoing series and was replaced, the new creative team decided to further tie her world into the existing DC universe with a series of retcons tying Gemworld in to Dr. Fate's Lords of Order and the Sorcerer's World of the Legion of Super-Heroes. In the process, the Amethyst series lost the epic fantasy feel, and became just another mystical superhero title. It was cancelled soon afterward. Some can easily imagine the series being rebooted with the story of the original twelve-issue maxiseries intact, but the Superman teamup (which occured outside the maxiseries) retconned out. That teamup was Amethyst's Franchise Original Sin.
- Crisis on Infinite Earths. While cleaning up the Continuity Snarl that was the multiverse was a good idea, bringing Retcon to whole new levels and unleashing the horror that was the Dark Age of comics did not help things.
- And you can't accuse Crisis on Infinite Earths without also pointing the finger at the fateful "Flash of Two Worlds" story from 1961, establishing the idea of Golden and Silver Age versions of the same heroes coexisting in separate universes and traveling between them. If the Crisis was Original Sin, "Flash of Two Worlds" was its corresponding Fall of Lucifer.
- A lot of the current problems with X-Men started with Chris Claremont doing too many things on the fly and not often planning ahead. But at least he didn't force those Running the Asylum now to take his older plots as canon gospel. That is their own fault.
- The X-Books arguably have another big problem. Originally, the handling of the concept of mutants and the theme of racism was edgy and interesting. But over time, the presence of these topics has increased more and more. At this point, the franchise has turned almost entirely inwards: most stories revolve around the "mutant problem", anti-mutant attacks and sentiments - and since House of M - the survival of mutants and the reactivation of the X-gene. The X-Men don't even seem like superheroes anymore. Certainly, they don't fight much crime anymore, and spend most of their time reacting to the various attacks and agendas of others.
- Batman and Robin was merely the fruition of everything that went wrong in Batman Forever (no Michael Keaton, the bat-nipples, the Lighter and Softer angle, the return to Adam West-era Camp). Forever, while silly, still felt Batmanish, so it wasn't as bad; B&R had no such redeeming elements.
- This started way back in the 1989 film, although not as obviously. The first film was pretty much "Batman: starring Jack Nicholson." The sequel was similar—its two villains combined have more screen time than Batman. Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer both left the series because they felt that the movies were more about the bad guys than Batman. This led the way for the sequels to become overcrowded with villains and the same "Villain shows up, teams up with other villain, they fight Batman, Batman wins" plot repeated in every sequel.
- The two biggest flaws present in all four of the Burton/Schumacher Bat-films were the semi-obligatory casting of A-list actors as the main villains (whether they were any good in the role or not) and the Bizarrchitecture (which was reasonably subtle and effective in the first film, but by the fourth film had become an obscene distraction). You'll notice that the Nolan films have been inverting the first trope by casting their biggest guest stars in relatively small parts and completely averting the second by shooting all their outdoor scenes on actual locations rather than soundstages.
- Another complaint leveled at Batman and Robin is how incredibly campy it is, but there was a certain level of camp present in Batman that only increased with every new installment.
- Superman also suffered from this with Superman II noticeably adding more campiness and more New Powers as the Plot Demands, the third one just made it worse, and then the 4th one.... happened.
- All the problems with the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond movies—the over-the-top gadgets, the bad puns, the overly elaborate villain plans and death traps—are visible in Goldfinger, where they were still reasonably in check.
- That these elements were not necessary to the franchise is demonstrated by Casino Royale. Of course, the reboot—particularly the sequel to Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace—has led to the criticism that Daniel Craig's Bond isn't actually Bond, but just a reskinning of Bourne with all of the Bond names.
- As much fun as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is, some things left ominous signs for what would happen in the prequels and the sequel trilogy. The Ewoks were actually the least of these (they were going to be Wookiees until Lucas decided to make Chewbacca a main character).
"...as fun (though certainly not ageless) as the first two Star Wars entries remain, what the Lucas-logic wrought (franchise-think, privileging technological Spectacle over storytelling, characters as stand-ins for cross-promotional merchandise) set foot for the worst habits of big studio filmmaking to come."
- That was but one of countless hit pieces. Those were appearing in droves between the Prequel Trilogy and acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney (at which point the press involved coincidentally all "independently" decided to turn about and berate everyone who dares to not adore Disney Star Wars and pay money for it). If you want something less forgettable and more boldly "out of it", check “Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists (but no call for guillotines… yet) by David Brin in Salon.com — "Red Shirts? I didn't hear of no red shirts".
- In the sequel trilogy, some criticised the casting of black actress Lupita Nyong'o as Little Orange Woman Maz Kanata, as she is one of the few women of colour in the franchise and they used a Motion Capture technique to portray the character. However, black women have usually been cast in the role of aliens in the Star Wars Franchise, beginning with Femi Taylor as Twi'lek Dancer Oola in Return of the Jedi. This continued in the prequels which featured Gin Clarke and Lily Nyamwasa as Tholothians Adi Gallia and Stass Allie, as well as Mary Oyaya as Luminara Unduli. But these alien characters in the older films were much more minor non-speaking characters, and were also portrayed by actresses in prosthetics and makeup rather than in CGI. Maz is just the first main character to be an alien portrayed by a black woman.
- Many of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg's trademark writing traits (Shallow Parody, Narrow Parody parodies depending more on references and audience recognition than actually making fun of the target, regardless of how well the reference works with the movie itself) are fully visible in their earlier, funnier movies, Spy Hard (which was barely saved by some of its clever bits, including its theme song by "Weird Al" Yankovic) and Scary Movie (which was saved by having four other writers). Then, the duo dived head-first into directing their own movies, with every problem that plagued the last two movies amped Up to Eleven and creating some delicious Snark Bait in the process.
- The Transformers film series had all of the problems with the later movies evident in the first one, including the crude sex jokes and too much focus on the humans instead of the robots.
- Applied to genres rather than franchises: in his Intermission editorial "Consequences", Moviebob names four great movies that he feels started some of the more annoying and/or problematic trends in various film genres, and in the medium as a whole.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s revolutionary use of digital color correction technology to create its old-fashioned sepia tones, which would later be abused to create the Orange-Blue Contrast that is now omnipresent in nearly every major studio release.
- Star Wars' sanitization of the Space Opera, which removed most of the female presence in science-fiction outside of familial figures. Of course, this one was quickly corrected.
- The Dark Knight Saga threatening to send comic book adaptations, and summer blockbusters in general, down the same Darker and Edgier road that comics themselves took in The Nineties. So far, the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its embrace of the more fantastic elements of superhero comics, seems to have put a ceiling on this trend with comic book properties, though it's still present elsewhere (Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li is cited as an example of this not working).
- The Evil Dead series, particularly the sequels, popularizing the idea of "horror as comedy", leading to a succession of horror films that became more about slapstick humor and FX gags than about scaring the audience. In turn, this made it harder to take horror movies seriously, creating a generation of moviegoers that laughs during legitimately scary films/moments because they think they're supposed to.
- The two most recent novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, succumb to the sprawling, complex nature of the storyline that had previously been a selling point. The series has always been about gradual plot development and long term pay-offs, with a lot of detail put into exploring the backdrop of the action and the world in general - but this was all complemented by significant happenings. Though some POV characters had less to do than others, each book had dramatic arc to it. Feast and Dance, meanwhile, are criticized for (among other things) essentially very little happening because the focus is drawn so wide, with so much time spent describing characters and places that don't really matter.
- Wheel of Time is a similar case. The first book already had many POV characters and a rather slow pacing with lengthy descriptions of what everyone was wearing and what everything looked like. Later the number of new POVs would slow down the plot to the point that there would be things like 100+ page prologues detailing how everyone reacted to end of the previous book and make the pacing positively glacial. Much-hated overused character quirks like Nynaeve's braid tugging and skirt-smoothing were there in the first book too, as well as male and female characters going on about how they don't understand the opposite sex.
- The Jack Ryan books by Tom Clancy have their original sin as far back as Executive Orders. While a good book, it has issues with repeating certain plot points ad nauseum and reliance on the villains carrying the Idiot Ball that would only grow worse in later books.
Live Action TV
- The original Jump the Shark moment was merely the point at which Happy Days completely Flanderized Fonzie, and lost track of its Fifties motif, both trends that had been present for a long time by that point.
- Most of the things Trekkies hate about Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise were already very present in the much-lauded middle seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and some can even be found in the Original Series; things like the anomaly of the week, the malfunctioning holodeck, the evil versions of regular characters, the shuttle crash plots, and the B-plots that feel like a soap opera. But it wasn't until later in the franchise that they really started to grate on viewers, since it finally started to seem like the same thing over and over again.
- Xena: Warrior Princess probably would have been better off in the long run if they hadn't had Xena and Gabrielle run into a family of monotheists in an episode clearly inspired by the Abraham and Isaac story. It was an isolated episode and could have been ignored. So was the later 'Giant Killer' episode where Xena helps David kill Goliath. But then comes the opener of the fifth season, where Xena and Gabrielle find themselves meeting angels in a war between Heaven and Hell (as opposed to just journeying through the previously established Greek mythology afterlife featuring the Elysian Fields and Tartarus). And then comes the whole 'Twilight of the Gods' arc in which Xena is basically manipulated by 'the one God' to kill every Greek God who appears on-screen, except for Ares and Aphrodite. The fact that the Gods, previously shown to be very competent and powerful, end up carrying the Idiot Ball and literally can't kill a Badass Normal like Xena if their lives depended on it, didn't help. And neither did the whole 'Xena and Gabrielle awake 25 years later' thing. In this case, the original sin would be the Abraham and Isaac episode, done back in the series' otherwise better days.
- The original sin in the BBC's Robin Hood was the moment that the writers became more interested in Guy of Gisborne (and specifically, his volatile relationship with Maid Marian) than with every single other character on the show. This lead to more and more screen-time being devoted to Guy and Marian as a potential couple, until the point where the writers (presumably) realized that they'd gone too far with it, and needed to derail it pronto. Their solution was for Guy to stab Marian to death in a jealous rage at the end of Season Two. There are plenty of reasons why Season Three is considered terrible, but it's mainly because that without Marian, the story had absolutely no emotional centre. There was simply nothing left to care about, or to look forward to.
- Marian's death also left a place open for the introduction of the despised Kate, but that's a whole other can of worms...
- Mega Man 5 was the first game to not make any substantial change to the series formula (Mega Man 2 had items and eight bosses, Mega Man 3 had Rush and sliding, and Mega Man 4 had the charged buster shot and the Disc One Final Dungeon). The series became notorious for repetition not long after.
- It was also the first game to repeat the "twist reveal" that the Big Bad was Dr. Wily all along and make it completely unsurprising. 4 had the element of Wily supposedly dying in the previous game while introducing a completely new antagonist in Dr. Cossack, making the twist somewhat surprising. For 5 to suggest that Proto Man had suddenly undergone a complete Face Heel Turn for no real reason, most gamers could easily guess how it was going to turn out.
- Star Wars Galaxies committed many grave sins against its franchise, including having overt Jedi running around the galaxy, Rebel troops patrolling Core World cities...and protagonist heroes making regular visits to players.
- It's said that the Sonic Adventure games, while worthy installments in their own right, started a number of annoying trends exacerbated in the later 3-D Sonic games.
- Some consider the introduction of Tails in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Knuckles in Sonic 3, and ESPECIALLY Amy Rose and Metal Sonic in Sonic CD, while well-liked additions to the series overall, to be the beginning of the Sonic franchise's (at times overexaggerated) troubles with Loads and Loads of Characters and juggling different styles of gameplay.
- Some others thought Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island foreshadowed the problems with the 3D games. Gameplay is slowed-down and running controls are loose and slippery, while the "get to the end as fast as possible" goal was replaced with "find all of the birds and guide them to the exit". This possibly led to experimental gameplay mechanics like Big the Cat's stages in the Adventure games that deviated too much from the Sonic formula.
- Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s: a poorly received Mission Pack Sequel to the excellent Guitar Hero II. Two years later, with Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, Guitar Hero: Metallica, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, Guitar Hero: On Tour - Decades, Guitar Hero: On Tour - Modern Hits and Band Hero, there's a definite feeling that the series is drowning in a flood of Mission Pack Sequels.
- A little backstory here: Rocks the 80s was made by Harmonix (also the makers of the first two games) under contract after Activision bought the Guitar Hero series. Neversoft (under Activision) made Guitar Hero III and onward. So Rocks the 80s might have shown signs of problems to come, but it wasn't made by the same company that made the later games.
- On the Rock Band side, Harmonix have continued this trend on their own with Rock Band Track Packs (bare-bones game discs with songs taken from the game's vast DLC library, for players stuck on consoles with no DLC or who want to get the songs for slightly cheaper) and band-specific sequels with artists like The Beatles and Green Day.
- Mortal Kombat only completely entered its Dork Age when it smashed into the Polygon Ceiling, but the third game shows at least some of the weaknesses of later installments: overreliance on dial-a-kombo, unmemorable and often easy-to-hate new characters, the complete shattering of the Eastern-ish theme (which resulted in people realizing how ridiculous some of the characters looked), and the bosses suddenly getting cheaper. Yet there's still a lot of fans and defenders of this one.
- Arguably the case with World of Warcraft, with its creeping layers upon layers of retcons, the Horde/Alliance Conflict Ball, and the increasingly immersion-breaking self-aware humor. You could say that the worst excesses of Wrath of the Lich King existed in embryonic form in The Burning Crusade, and likewise, the worst excesses of Cataclysm can be found in a weaker form in Wrath of the Lich King.
- Most of the above was present when WoW launched. The real Original Sin came in Warcraft III, where Blizzard first began to rely on massive retcons in lieu of moving the story forward in a logical fashion.
- Pokémon is a gameplay example. Type effectiveness and general balance have always been a crapshoot in competitive play when you don't know what kind of Pokémon your opponent is going to send out, but they were mostly manageable. Then the fourth generation introduced Stealth Rock, and the entire metagame was flattened into a thin pancake. This was pretty much rectified with the fifth generation wherein Stealth Rock is no longer widely available and has thus falling drastically in use in the metagame, though it's still entirely usable by way of transferring over Mons who know the move from the fourth.
- Weather effects have been around since Gen II, but at the time of their introduction Weather-based teams were not very popular because they didn't last very long and the effects were rarely worth the time spent setting up. Gen III introduced abilities, among which were several weather-related ones: Drought/Drizzle/Sandstorm, which caused weather effects that would last indefinitely until another move or ability was used to cancel them out; along with other abilities like Swift Swim that doubled certain stats in certain weather conditions. However, Drought/Drizzle were exclusive to two Legendary Pokemon that could not be used in most forms of competitive play, and sandstorm was (at the time) weaker and harder to use than the other two, so this wasn't a huge issue. Gens IV and V, however, have since added even more weather-based abilities, moves and items, including giving Drought/Drizzle to non-banned Pokemon and introducing strong sandstorm users such as Garchomp, Excadrill and Landorus. The result is the Gen V metagame is so dominated by weather teams a few of the larger Pokemon communities have had to place bans on certain Pokemon and combinations, and have even discussed banning weather (or at least weather-inducing abilities) outright.
- American Wasteland may have marked the exact moment when the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series' franchise zombification became irreversible, but the things that sent it and later games off the rails can be seen as far back as Underground (and even, arguably, Pro Skater 4), when the series was still on top of the world. By adding the ability to walk around on foot and drive around in vehicles, Underground started the series' trend towards over-reliance on gimmicks like the "Nail the Trick" feature and Ride's use of an expensive skateboard peripheral, and became less about the actual skateboarding -- something that was made readily apparent when Skate came out without any of these gimmicks and proved that they were unnecessary.
- Everything that some fans hate about the modern incarnations of the Final Fantasy series, the focus on graphics and special effects to the detriment of gameplay, unlikeable characters made of angst and hair gel, extremely linear "walk here, fight bad guy, watch cutscene" gameplay, the excessively long summons, etc, was very much present in Final Fantasy VII too.
- Resident Evil:
- The fifth installment, Resident Evil 5, marked the shift of its series from the Survival Horror genre that it had pioneered to the Third-Person Shooter genre, a shift that was met with a relatively lukewarm reception by fans and critics, who felt that the series was me-tooing Gears of War at the expense of its roots. All of the complaints that people had with the game -- the focus on nearly non-stop action at the expense of scares, the abundant ammunition supplies that made ammo conservation a much more minor concern (and thus reducing tension), the over-the-top Action Hero protagonists -- appeared in embryonic form in the previous game, the much-better-received Resident Evil 4. That game introduced upgradeable weapons and had downed enemies dropping ammo and other loot for the first time, as well as featuring such scenes as Leon suplexing enemies and leaping through a laser grid in a manner that would make Keanu Reeves proud. While these changes were controversial even then, RE4 was still scary enough that longtime fans could ignore them and appreciate the much-needed improvements to gameplay that it made.
- Another, and earlier, likely Original Sin may have been the film adaptation, which was, at the time, one of the most action-packed zombie movies ever made, and certainly more action-heavy than the games that preceded it. Its sequels only further amped up these elements, to the point where the RE movies are now described strictly as action films with zombies in them. The success of the film series likely colored people's expectations of the games, leading to later installments of the latter, such as RE4, incorporating more of the former's stylistic elements.
- Metroid, after eight years in rest since Super Metroid, was revived with two well-received games, one of them being Metroid Fusion. Despite the positive reception, a point of criticism from fans was its stronger focus on a story, it was even the first time Samus interacted with another character. This was seen as a turning point for the entire series to shift towards more plot-driven games, which may not have affected too much games like Metroid Prime 3, but by the time of Other M, it has become an important concern for the fanbase (particularly due to how the latter characterized Samus Aran).
- Mass Effect suffered from this greatly, a problem which stemmed from Mass Effect 2. While Mass Effect 1 ended with Commander Shepard looking for a way to stop the impending Reaper invasion, Mass Effect 2 advanced absolutely nothing about this. Instead, it chooses to kill Commander Shepard, scatter his allies and undo almost everything Shepard fought to accomplish, something that's not productive at all in terms of overall plotting. Mass Effect 2 even ends with Shepard stating that they'll find a way to stop the Reapers, that is to say, the same exact thing they were going to do when Mass Effect 1 ended. All of this went unnoticed, however, because of truly excellent character writing and dialog, alongside very memorable moments and relationships. The problem takes the spotlight with Mass Effect 3, a game that has to contend with a prequel which didn't bother to develop much of the main plot, leaving barely a skeleton of a plot left. Seamus Young has a novel-sized analysis on why this happened.
- In philosophy and religion, some view evil itself as something similar to this. Basically, every evil in the world (e.g. rape) could not have existed without the good of which it is a corruption (love/sex).
- Some hardcore social conservatives (technically referred to as status quo ante conservatives) fervently believe that everything's been going down the tubes for the past 100 years (or 50 years, or 25 years) all because back then they tolerated that one naughty trend that snowballed into all the other "bad" stuff. Discordant, violent, anarchic, Satanic Heavy Metal music? Oh, it's all Elvis Presley' fault! Thong-bikini bathing suits? Hmph, they never should have let those swimmers bare their legs.
- The constant expansion of federal authority within the US that is frequently criticized by libertarians arguably began more than two hundred years ago with the Louisiana Purchase under Thomas Jefferson. After all, does the government have the right under the Constitution to expand the borders that had been established for it in 1783? Even at the time, some people felt that Jefferson, who espoused a strict interpretation of the Constitution, was being hypocritical.
- There exist some people who believe that the Constitution itself is responsible for permitting government to get as big as it did, and that it would never have happened had America stayed under the Articles of Confederation.
- i.e. if it's not explicitly written in there that the government has the right to do something, then the government doesn't have that right. This is in contrast to a loose interpretation, which maintains that the Constitution only prohibits the federal government from doing things that are explicitly specified as being prohibited in the print of the document.