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"Nothing will remain of you: not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed."
1984, George Orwell

When some group systematically removes evidence of a character's existence, either through mundane conspiracy, or a little bit of Applied Phlebotinum (such as brainwashing). The purposes for doing so vary. This is more commonly done in enclosed or isolated areas, where it's easier to track evidence. This can lead to characters tracking the shreds of evidence the hiders left behind. Often any shred of evidence they find will disappear when they show someone.

In Real Life, this practice is called Damnatio Memoriae, which is Latin for "damning someone's memory. It often relies on the fact that History is Written by the Winners, and of course, the winners would always like to remove evidence of opposition against their otherwise tyrannical rule as a warning for others and and to perpetuate their power. It is also done for other purposes, such as literally condemning questionable acts done by the person in his lifetime to deter possible future offenders.

Compare Ret-Gone, where the affected person is literally erased from existence. See also Expendable Clone, where clones aren't given person status (or it's revoked upon discovery they're a clone). See also I Was Never Here. Not to be confused with a UN person. Contrast Invented Individual

Examples of Unperson include:


Anime & Manga

  • In Code Geass: Lelouch Of The Rebellion R2, the Emperor erases all knowledge of Nunnally Lamperouge from Ashford Academy, replacing her with Rolo Lamperouge.
  • In the end of the Clow Card arc of Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura is threatened with something like this should she fail: no one will actually be gone except Yukito in the anime, who disappears with Kero, Yue, and the Cards, but everyone will forget that their most beloved person ever meant anything to them.
  • This is the whole plot/premise of Madlax.
  • Suou has this happen to her in the second season of Darker Than Black, as her family is killed/forced on the run, her house is wiped off the map, and all of her friends (excepting the also fugitive Nika) have had their minds wiped of her existence.
  • Johan from Monster is notable since the one who is removing the evidence of his existence is himself. He also did the same to General Wolf. All because the poor sap at one point asked him "how he felt".
  • In Shakugan no Shana, a large amount of people have had their power of existence consumed and turned into torches. When a torch's flame dies out, they disappear completely, and no-one ever remembers they existed.
  • In One Piece, the prison Impel Down has six levels. The sixth level of the prison--reserved for those who are most dangerous (whether to society or simply the World Government)--does not officially exist; the same could be presumed of its inhabitants. Which is why several of them escaping was covered up.
  • Tiger and Bunny has a variation on it: neither Wild Tiger nor Kotetsu T. Kaburagi were stricken from record and memory, but any indication that they're the same person was. Thus, it becomes much easier for Maverick to frame Kotetsu for the murder of Samantha Taylor and have him hunted down by all of his former friends.
  • In Bleach, when Rukia is sent back to the Soul Society, everyone whom she interacted with has their memories of her existence erased. The ones with spiritual energy such as Ichigo and Orihime are the only ones who retained those memories.
    • In the movie Fade To Black Rukia gets attacked by a hollow whose power is to not only remove her memories but also memories of her from everybody who knew her effectively erasing her from existence. (physical evidence, however isn't effected) The hollow also does the same to Mayuri but nobody looses their memories of him because he'd made backup copies of his own.
  • The characters in Another adopt this as a survival tactic. A curse regularly kills a particular class's students year after year. The one common trend is that there always seems to be an extra person each year and Laser-Guided Amnesia / Fake Memories prevents anyone from identifying who it is. One response, is to choose one student and make them an Un-Person in the hopes that will make the curse think everything is correct. It has about a 50% success rate.
  • Suicide Island: Any attempted suicide patient who consents to being put on the titular island will be considered this by the Japanese government. The island is apparently isolated, and there seems to be little chance of getting off it in the first place, even if the characters wanted to. Furthermore, the characters find themselves handling a number of issues coming from both themselves and the island to even worry about the outside world!
  • In Gundam AGE, this is The Reveal about the Unknown Enemy: they are the descendents of an attempt to colonize Mars that failed when the planet's properties started killing people. Instead of evacuating them, the Federation erases all records of it so that they don't have to admit to such an enormous blunder. It backfires. Ohhh, does it ever.
  • A minor case occurs in Eyeshield 21 when a character returned to America to find the real Eyeshield 21, everyone seemingly didn't recognize the name or refused to speak about said person. It turns out that Mr Don filed charges against Yamato that didn't exist and had him expelled from Notre Dame.
  • Friday Monday from Madlax seems to be able to do this to people, such as one poor detective who got too close to the truth. Eventually even he forgot who he was as well as everyone who once knew him.


Comic Books

  • Max Lord did this to himself with his Psychic Powers. Anybody sees a photo of him? They see someone else. They are asked about anything from his past? Whatever it was, they don't remember him. When confronted with what the man did? They blame someone else. The reformed JLI has been shoved into confrontations with the biggest guns of the DCU as a direct result of this, and they still couldn't prove anything... until Batman came back, and he wasn't around at the moment of the mindwipe...
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen universe makes use of this trope extensively, outright stating that an incredible number of "fictional characters" are in fact Unpersons, including Sherlock Holmes, Captain Nemo, and Fu Manchu. The third book increases their ranks a great deal, going so far as to imply Lovecraftian horrors are Unpersons.
    • Lovecraftian Horrors were involved in the supplementary material for volume 1.
  • In ~300~, Xerxes threatens to do this to Leonidas and Sparta when Leonidas refuses to bow to him in subjugation. Obviously, it didn't quite work out.
  • Batman becomes (or always was?) this in Batman: Year 100 as James Gordon III tries to find any information about him. Arkham Asylum and the Bat's vaudevillians all exist and are widely-known... but Lieutenant Gordon can only find 3 witness reports from wildly different periods of a strange cloaked figure who was once famous enough to attend charity functions He later burns all the evidence after reading his grandfather's secret laptop, proving the Gordons are ALWAYS hardcore about protecting Bruce Wayne... whatever he is after over a century of crime fighting.
  • A Daredevil Villain called the Mauler was an accountant who wanted revenge on the CEO who'd kept him from receiving his pension due to an accidental erasure of his work record. He tracked the guy down in a suit of Powered Armor and, instead of killing him as Daredevil had expected, destroyed all proof of his legal identity. Then corporate security shot him down.
  • A real-world cross-media example originating in comics: Live-action and animated adaptations of Alan Moore's comic book work routinely include no credit for him, at his insistence. He regards adaptations with horror. Of course, he only made such an insistence because Hollywood burned him over an earlier adaptation deal.


Films -- Live-Action

  • It's a Wonderful Life: In the "alternate reality" scenes, nobody knows who George Bailey is – after all, he wished he was never born, so Clarence decides to make him (temporarily) an "unperson." Combined with Ret-Gone, George sees what the result of his being an "unperson" would be: Nothing but bad for Bedford Falls ... ah, er, Pottersville.
  • In Power Rangers: The Movie, Ivan Ooze plans to do this to Zordon after he wins:

 "It will be as if Zordon of Eltare never existed!"

  • Flight Plan: A woman's daughter disappears, and the other passengers and crew claim that the woman boarded the plane alone. To be fair, most just aren't that attentive, rather than actively malicious. Keyword being "most".
  • Capricorn One has the bad guys try to remove all traces of NASA technician Elliot Whittier. They move someone else into his apartment and she pulls out rent receipts to "prove" she has lived there for years. However, they are unable to change every phone book in the city, so the astute reporter finds Whittier still listed as living there.
  • In Men in Black, new secret agents have all records of their prior lives destroyed.
    • Until retirement/resignation/dismissal, where they're promptly neuralyzed and given their old life and previous history back with a bizarre tabloid Hand Wave that they just came out of a long coma.
    • Although in the series it's shown they don't erase people's memories of them; on two separate occasions an old acquaintance of J's recognized him as James Edwards.
  • In 300, Xerxes threatens to do this to all of Sparta if Leonidas doesn't bow down to the King of Kings.
  • Quoth the Big Bad Amon Göth in ~Schindler's List~:

 "Six hundred years ago when elsewhere they were footing the blame for the Black Death, Casimir the Great - so called - told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came. They trundled their belongings into the city. They settled. They took hold. They prospered in business, science, education, the arts. With nothing they came and with nothing they flourished. For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. By this evening those six centuries are a rumor. They never happened."

  • This is the premise of Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, which deals with the experiences of a young woman who receives a knock on the head boarding a train and subsequently passes out. When she comes to and looks for the kind lady who tended to her in her injury, she finds that no one on the train remembers the woman existing. When she insists that the woman was real and searches for her, things begin to take a sinister turn.
  • In Eraser, the participants in the Witness Protection Program acquired a new identity and had all the fixings of their old one destroyed.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I, Hermione does this to herself in order to protect her parents from Voldemort's forces coming after her. It's a real Tear Jerker moment when you see her cast the spell, holding back tears, and her parents are acting like nothing's wrong as their only child is erased from their minds and all of their family photos.
  • In the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, after it became known that Krueger grows more powerful based on how much he is feared and by how many people know of him, the town of Springwood tried to erase all knowledge of his existence and his murder spree to spare their children. But anyone who already came in contact with Freddy was put in Westin Hills Asylum and kept on Hypnocil permanently. There's even a ward for those who were put in comas from overdoses of the medication.

Folklore

  • A classic urban legend (occasionally couched as a lateral-thinking puzzle) relates the story of a mother and daughter, on holiday in Europe, who checked into a hotel late one night and booked separate rooms. The next morning, the daughter complained of not feeling well and told the mother to go out and enjoy her vacation. When she returned, the daughter's hotel room had a different occupant and the hotel owner and staff refused to acknowledge the existence of the daughter, telling the mother that she had checked in alone and even bringing out the hotel registry (where guests signed in) to demonstrate that only one signature existed. The mother eventually discovered that the daughter had come down with a fast-acting disease and had died, and the hotelier had covered up her stay entirely because he feared that having an illness and death under his roof would cause travelers to stay elsewhere (whether the mother or anyone else got sick afterward is left to the reader's imagination).


Literature

  • The page quote comes from 1984, which also used (and popularized) the trope name.
  • The Forgotten Realms Finder's Stone Trilogy of novels features the Nameless Bard, made an Unperson by the Harpers as punishment for the accidental death of an apprentice caused by his hubris.
  • "Negation of Being" in The Assassins of Tamurin, the third most severe punishment for a crime, after mutilation and execution.
  • In the Lois Lowry novel The Giver, the story's dystopian society has removed Rosemary, the previous Receiver of Memory and the Giver's daughter from the public memory, going as far as that her name cannot be used for a new child ever again, after the memories she received dissipated out into the community when she applied for release (assisted suicide, and she knew what it was) and the members of the community had to feel emotion and pain for the first time.
    • There's a variant that is almost kinder: A young child dies, his parents are given a new child, same gender, and the same name, in order to "replace" the child that died. Because everyone's emotions are so dulled, this is an effective emotional replacement, rendering the original child meaningless.
  • Another Star Trek: The Next Generation example, this one non-canonical: in one of the early novels, Peter David's Strike Zone, the worst punishment in Klingon society is to be stripped of one's name. This actually matches pretty well with how the Klingons were eventually portrayed on the show -- after Worf accepts "discommendation", he's essentially an Unperson (this happens to him twice).
    • Peter David did this again in Star Trek: New Frontier: When the New Thallonian Protectorate is attacked, Si Cwan finds that one Thallonian was away from his post at the time (actually, he was killed by the doppelganger impersonating Si Cwan's sister), and decides to Unperson him as punishment.
  • In Tigana, the residents of the titular country put up so much resistance to invading sorcerer-king Brandin of Ygrath (especially in killing his only son), that when he wins he casts a spell that erases Tigana almost completely. It disappears from all written record and living memory -- except the memories of the few surviving Tiganans themselves. They are magically prevented from speaking or writing of it and thus forced to live with the knowledge that when they've died, it will be as if they and their home never existed.
  • In Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence novels, the alien Qax attempt to do this to the entire history of humankind, in a project know as the extirpation, in order to make them better slaves.
  • Jason Taverner in Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said is a genetically engineered singer and TV star who goes from global celebrity to Un-person literally overnight.
  • In Northern Lights Iofur Raknison vows to do this to Iorek Byrnison by making speaking his name a capital offense and writing him, and his idea of what a Panserbjorne should be, out of history... Just as soon as he defeats Iorek in their ritual one-on-one combat that Iorek cannot possibly win...
  • The hero and narrator of My Name is Legion did this to himself. As one of the few people with a trapdoor into the global identification database, he could at will input specifics for a new identity and then erase it when he no longer needed it. The people in his 'Verse were awfully trusting about information they got from their computers...
  • Cleverly handled by Brian Stableford in Rhapsody In Black. The subterranean theocracy of God's Nine Splinters has no place to actually banish offenders... so they are simply declared nonexistent. Both loyal and criminals live in the same dismal environment, but nobody will acknowledge that the criminals are there.
    • This is circumvented on occasion when guards decide to do target practice by shooting at the space which "just happened to be occupied by us nonexistent people", and when Grainger tells a captive he can pass the time by talking to his "imaginary" guard.
  • In a few Choose Your Own Adventure books, this was the worst, and most disturbing, fate.
  • In Thief of Time, all evidence that Lobsang Ludd was ever at the Thieves' Guild is removed from history when he joins the History Monks.
  • In The Wheel of Time the Seachan strike the names of all damane from the records upon discovery.
  • Happens in the Alex Rider novel, Crocodile Tears. A journalist investigating the titular spy has this done to him by MI 6, before it is reversed. This just makes him more bitter.
  • A threat by King Haggard in The Last Unicorn, made all the scarier by the vagueness of just how Haggard would accomplish it.

 "You are losing my interest," the rustling voice interrupted him again, "and that is very dangerous. In a moment I will have forgotten you quite entirely, and will never be able to remember just what I did with you. What I forget not only ceases to exist, but never really existed in the first place."

  • This was considered to be the ultimate punishment in Heralds of Valdemar's Eastern Empire. It was enacted on Grand Duke Tremain, for his forging of the Imperial Seal and using fake documents marked with that seal to loot a military supply depot (which he had needed to do in order to get critical supplies his troops needed to survive after being cut off from the Empire by the Mage Storms). Since Tremain had no intention of ever going back home after looting that depot, and ended up getting made king of the nation he was supposed to conquer for the Empire, it sort of fell flat as a punishment. In fact, due to his being totally out of contact from the Empire, he never even found out about it.
  • This is the harshest form of punishment the dawrves of The Inheritance Cycle can bestow.
  • In Seven Sorcerers by Caro King, Bogeymen have this as a power. They force people who knew a child to forget him/her, and any document/photo with them is altered. Then they make all things belonging to the child disappear. And then they kidnap the child, and nobody is going to miss him/her!
  • In Tale of the Troika by Strugatsky Brothers, the titular Troika possesses the Big Round Seal, which is capable of fulfilling any bureucratic order. So if one uses it on an order "delete all records about XXX", then all records about XXX disappear, and will disappear again if somebody makes them. In story this is used only on a lake, but the possibility to use it on a person exists.
  • As noted in the Film section above, Hermione does this to herself in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, forcing her parents to forget that she exists. It's not as much of a Tear Jerker in the book as it is in the film, however, because it only gets mentioned several weeks after the event has taken place, when Harry asks Hermione if her parents will be okay. She explains that she not only wiped her own existence from their minds, but also gave them false identities and an overwhelming desire to move to Australia, which is where they remain for the entirety of the book. (Word of God has promised us that after Voldemort is defeated, Hermione gets her parents back.)
  • The purpose of the Oblivion War in the Dresden Files is to render certain paranormal nasties into unpeople, as they can only interact with this plane if people know about them.


Live-Action TV

  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome is a television example of making someone an "unperson" – a character that has some importance to the show's main premise will be dropped, with no proper farewell or explanation, and are not referred to again. Even "dated" photographs will have the ex-family member cropped out. This "unperson" trope was named for a Happy Days character who was Richie Cunningham's older brother, Chuck. Chuck ended up being a superfluous character who usually appeared only in transitional scenes, was never given any meaningful dialogue, and was eventually written out without explanation. In fact, in the series' 1984 finale ("Passages," where Joanie and Chachi are married), Cunningham patriarch Howard toasts his family and mentions that his two children have married well ... leading longtime fans of the show, who were aware that originally there were three children, to scratch their heads and wonder "Where's Chuck?" (In a blooper reel, Tom Bosley indeed asks that question after the final cut.) Numerous other "unperson" examples of the Chuck Cunningham Syndrome exist; see that page for more details.
  • The Brady Bunch: Temporarily, in the 1972 episode "Jan, the Only Child." Here, Jan feels insecure about her place as the middle daughter of a six-child blended family. When she is unable to get along with her siblings – almost always, these arguments are over privacy, courtesy and personal space issues – and declares she wants to become an only child, her sibilings (who tried to accomodate her) are SO offended that they declare her invisible ... ignoring her and staying out of her way. It isn't long before a tearful Jan declares she wants to become a person again in her siblings' eyes.
  • Step by Step: Young Brendan is shunned (unfairly) by his older siblings and stepsiblings in "Back to Basics." Why? For the "send him to hell" crime of having a months-overdue video that was found under his bed. Carol had found it, declared it the last straw in a series of increasingly irresponsible behavior by her children/step-children, and imposed a crackdown on privileges. Brendan is immediately targeted and is yelled at and/or shunned ... then becomes an "unperson" when Carol stiffens the punishment for their abusive behavior. Brendan eventually has enough and runs away to the only place where he's considered a person ... Cody's van! Carol and Frank eventually realize they were being too harsh on Brendan and help him to become a person again -- by making the others apologize.
  • Alice: The 1983 episode "Sweet, Erasable Mel" humorously plays with the "unperson" concept when Vera accidentally erases all of Mel's financial records on his new computer. Naturally, Mel panics and believes he's been virtually erased from existence, but when he and Alice go to the bank to recover the information, the computers there go haywire, and it appears everything there is lost, too. (Of course, everything works out in the end.)
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Coy and Vance, who were "unpersons" before their arrival in Hazzard in 1982 – to replace Bo and Luke, after John Schneider and Tom Wopat sat out most of Season 5 as part of a dispute – and became "unpersons" after Bo and Luke returned. Indeed, the two "fake Dukes" are never spoken of again (in first-run episodes, anyway; their legacy remains in reruns) ... and it is as though they never existed.
  • The Price Is Right: Bob Barker's ill-will toward the classic Barker's Beauties – Janice Pennington, Dian Parkinson, Holly Hallstrom and Kathleen Bradley – has grown to the point where he refuses to talk about them in interviews, and in his autobiography doesn't even acknowledge they were even on the show; their work has gone completely unacknowledged by Barker, in essence making them, in his view, "unpersons." For instance, in commentary about the pricing game Cliff Hangers, he remarks simply that "one of the models" – giving no indication that the model in question was Pennington – ran off the set crying after that game's first playing when nighttime host Dennis James unwittingly and unknowingly referred to the "mountain climber" as Fritz. (Pennington's husband – Friedrich "Fritz" Stammberger – had disappeared in Afghanistan while mountain climbing a year earlier). Barker's dislike for Hallstrom in particular has led to speculation that he refuses to allow reruns of shows featuring Hallstrom as a model.
  • Jeopardy!: Any contestant who finishes Double Jeopardy! with $0 or a negative score is disqualified from the game's final round, Final Jeopardy! Not only are they not behind their lectern, they aren't even shown with the other players chatting with host Alex Trebek during the closing credits sequence.
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor gives Mickey Smith a disc that contains a virus that will erase all existence of the Doctor from the internet, as if he never existed.
    • Expanded Universe gives us Faction Paradox, an especially vicious Cult where Step One in your initiation ceremony is to hop into a timeship and go kill Grandpa. Before Daddy was ever born. This has the effect of erasing your existence in its entirety, making you a living paradox and making you extremely hard to destroy.
    • Companion of the eleventh doctor Rory Williams fell into a crack in the universe and was eradicated from all time and space.
    • The Big Finish audio "Neverland" introduces us to a world of Neverpeople, Gallifreyans who were thrown into the Oubliette of Eternity for crimes of "treason" (they knew too much) and erased from Time.
  • Nowhere Man: Tom Veil's identity is scrubbed from all records by the conspiracy, and his family, relatives and friends no longer recognise him. Over the series, he meets a number of other people who have suffered this too - even a whole town of them.
    • Subverted when it's revealed in the final episode that Tom Veil never existed in the first place; it was simply a false memory given to the protagonist and presumably the other unpersons he'd encountered in the series.
  • In Prison Break, all evidence of Paul Kellerman's involvement with the president was erased after he fell from the Company's favor.
  • In the last season of Blakes Seven a character mentions that Servalan is now considered an unperson by the Terran Federation.
  • Lex Luthor threatens to do this to a corrupt journalist in an episode of Smallville.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "The Card," a mercilessly efficient credit card company will repossess parts of a person's life if they overdraft, including the protagonist's children. It's left unclear as to how they do this: at the beginning of the episode it appears that they merely take people, reprogram them to believe that they are someone else, and change all records, but, as it goes on, it appears that it may be something much more sinister.`
    • The original series episode "Person or Persons unknown" concerned an average man who wakes up one morning and finds that no one recognizes or has any memory of him. Not his wife, his boss and coworkers or the bartender he sees once a week. He knows all of Them and the facts are unchanged but no memory of him (Pictures with his wife have him standing alone) exists. The episode ends with an Inversion: The man wakes from his nightmare only to find that he doesn't recognize his wife.
  • In "To See The Invisible Man," an episode of the '80s revival of The Twilight Zone, a man is sentenced to a year of Unperson status as a punishment for "coldness." The authorities affix a mark to his forehead so everyone else will know to shun him.
  • A very localized version occurs in an episode of Monk, where Monk meets a stranger at an inn. The man disappears, and then the next day everyone acts like the guy never existed, prompting Monk to worry that he might have hallucinated him (he was under the influence of alcohol at the time). Tthe man really did exist; the other guests found him dead then covered it up so they could steal his money.
  • The Syndicate in The X-Files is fond of this to cover its tracks with people who give Mulder too much information or people who are no longer of use.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of The IT Crowd, where Roy removes his ex-girlfriend from photos of the two of them together. Moss says it's "like breaking up with Stalin".
  • Even TV shows can be unpersons: Mystery Science Theater is this in the eyes of Comedy Central; this was most blatantly on display during a 13th Anniversary special the network had. Not only was the show utterly ignored, but what was the network's first major hit was ignored in favor of "Politically Incorrect" (the network's second major hit), which was declared the network's first big hit.
  • In an episode of CSI: cyber the team deals with a hacker who operated as a virtual assassin by hacking into digital records and altering a victims status to deceased, effectively making them unable to do things like get loans, jobs or get married and causing one victim to get arrested for stealing his own identity.


Music

  • Machinae Supremacy's The Wired is entirely about this, due to being inspired by the ending of Serial Experiments Lain.
  • This is commonplace in bands and music ensembles when members who were with the band before they hit it big, leave or are kicked out prior to the group becoming famous.
  • One particularly infamous example is the 2002 "remasters" of Ozzy Osbourne's first two albums. In an effort to avoid paying royalties to Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake (the original bassist and drummer), the rhythm tracks were rerecorded by Ozzy's current bassist and drummer, Daisley and Kerslake's names were removed from the songwriting credits, and they were completely removed from the photos in the liner notes, all without any indication that the albums were anything but straight reissues. The move caused massive backlash, and the subsequent Bark at the Moon reissue contained Daisley's original bass track (Kerslake had left the band by that point).
  • Ever since Dave Holland's arrest for having sex with a minor, Judas Priest prefer to pretend he was never in the band, including editing him out of band photos from that era.


Professional Wrestling

  • The WWE tried, and did a pretty good job of this, after Chris Benoit's murder of his family and suicide. You can find examples of this in WWE.com's title history section where articles on Benoit's championship reigns have been deleted - Benoit is still listed in the title histories, but you can no longer see the summary of the title win. As far as archive footage goes, the WWE will no longer show Benoit matches or segments, unless Benoit's just a background figure, and will mute any audio referring to him. On DVD, if the match features Benoit but needs to be highlighted (Such as the first 'Money in the Bank' ladder match on an Edge DVD) will be cut down to highlights & either completely edit Benoit out of the match, or at least acknowledge that he was in the match, even if they don't show his in-ring performance.
  • Vince McMahon tried to invoke this with CM Punk after he left the company after winning at the Money in the Bank PPV, and taking the WWE Championship with him. Off course this only lasted one or two weeks as he came back after they had held a tournament to crown a new winner.


Tabletop Games

  • Alluding to this trope, when the Tabletop RPG Paranoia Fifth Edition was thrown to Canon Dis Continuity, it was officially declared an un-product.
    • In the second edition's post-MegaWhoops period, there were still information terminals hooked up to The Computer's old personnel database, but due to data corruption, a few clones weren't recognized (the terminals would glitch and cough up random unrelated data instead, both a blessing and a curse).
  • This happens from time to time with people the Inquisition of Warhammer 40000 sweeps under the rug, depending on how dangerous they were and how much harm could come of other people learning of them. It doesn't always work, however. In some stories, a certain Warmaster is routinely referenced as a bogeyman ("Horus take the hindmost") while in others, his name and very existence are forbidden lore. This may be either because GW has relatively low standards on Canon or because the Imperium of Mankind is a pretty large place with information often being non-digitalized, but written down and stored in huge datacrypts. Finding and eliminating every trace of a man that has affected multiple planets with a few trillion inhabitants isn't exactly easy.
    • GW's actions regarding the Squats are eerily similar to this trope. The official stance is that the Squats never existed and to reinforce this the publishers have removed all mentions of the Squats from publications and even ceased distributing any works where the Squats played a significant role.
      • While it was still active, the mentioning of Squats on the GW forums would get your account banned and the thread shut down and subsequently deleted. Asking questions about Squats at GW-sanctioned events would have security remove you from the event. GW really, really did not like the Squats.
    • The two most significant Unpersons in the Imperium are the "Lost Legions"; the 2nd and Eleventh Legions of Space Marines and their Primarches. Whilst the Horus Heresy novels drop hints as to some great tragedy or accident (or even that they were the very first Space Marines to ever be corrupted by Chaos), absolutely nothing is known about them.
      • Chapters from the Cursed 21st Founding have been given this treatment as well, due to the bad luck and horrific mutations that plague them -- the Black Dragons have blades of razor-sharp bones growing from their bodies, the Flame Falcons are covered in living flame, the Sons of Antaeus have metal bones.
  • The "Zeroed" advantage in GURPS, available to secret government operatives, The Men in Black and the like.
  • Vampire: The Requiem: Back during the days of Rome, it turned out an entire clan was suspected of working with the strix. The clan was wiped out down to a man, and all references to their name stricken -- they are only known as the Traditores (or "traitors").
  • Magic: The Gathering gives us Revoke Existence, which does this to artifacts (machinery) and enchantments (long-lasting effects). Even the flavor text fits this.
    • Let's not forget the card Door to Nothingness; "All memory of your existence will be wiped from reality. You will die, and no one will mourn."
  • In the Points of Light D&D setting, Asmodeus erased the name of the god that he rebelled against from history. Very few people know the god existed, those who do know him only as He Who Was. This is because Asmodeus feared what would happen if someone said the slain god's name even once.


Video Games

  • Mass Effect 2: Tali states that if her father were found guilty of bringing live geth to the fleet, he'd be written off all records and become a bogeyman used to scare children.
    • ex-C-Sec agent Harkin had taken up a job where he makes people 'disappear' under the apt pseudonym of 'Fade'.
  • In Quest for Glory III, being deemed "Without Honor" in Tarna does this: No one will trade, or even talk with you. The hero catches a thief at the beginning of the game. Said capture leads the thief to being declared honorless. The hero showing kindness to the thief and giving him food leads to said thief becoming an ally at a crucial moment.
  • Freelancer has the forced disappearance and the deletion of all the records of anyone that had something to do with alien artifacts. Juni finding this out is the moment that kickstarts the Conspiracy Theory plot.
  • The first story arc involving Crey Industries in City of Heroes involves the attempted assassination and unpersoning of a woman (and her sister, when she becomes suspicious and gets involved), all because she had convinced her husband to quit his job with Crey.
  • Featured in Sharin no Kuni in the form of The Maximum Penalty, the worst punishment an individual can receive. Basically, you're virtually isolated from society; no one can befriend you, no one can speak to you, no one can touch you, no one can even look at you. No jobs, no fun, nothing. The only person allowed to interact with you is your assigned Special High Class Individual, and only for strictly monitoring purposes. Everyone subject to this punishment has a strange spiral-like mark tattooed in its skin and sewn in its clothes, so everyone can know its punishment.
    Ririko, being the daughter of Saburou Higuchi (the one that started the uprising years ago), receives this punishment, and Houzuki is the Special High Class Individual in charge of her. He uses her to put pressure on Kenichi (actually Ken, Ririko's brother) to become a Special High Class Individual, promising him that once he does, he'll let him take care of Ririko.
  • In Arcanum there is this disturbing quest involving a Government Conspiracy, which among other things standard for this sort of story, also includes the man-disappears-and-is-replaced motif.
  • Rin Satsuki has barely made any appearance in any game, and has left traces of her existence behind. She was supposed to be one of the new playable characters for the then-new Windows series, even with proof of what the source code left Dummied Out. Fans have even made wide Epileptic Trees about whether or not Keine did it due to Keine's power being this trope. There is also speculation that the PC-98 might have been hidden by Keine for similar reasons.
  • In Red Alert 2, Yuri brands general Vladimir a traitor and a "non-person" after setting him up for Romanov's murder. Having known Stalin personally, he probably picked up the habit from the man himself.
  • In Dragon Age Origins, in the Dwarf Noble origin, the player character's record is "deleted from the memories", so, for Dwarven society, he never existed.
    • The Casteless were never written into the Memories to begin with, and thus actually start out having never existed, as far as greater Dwarven society is concerned. Czibor even outright tells the Dwarven Commoner Warden that their ever having been to Orzammar at all are "delusions," and that s/he does not exist.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, you can get yourself declared "in damnatio memoraie" by Caesar's Legion, like the Real Life instance of the trope below. Not that you'd care what they'd think of you if you got to that point...
    • This also applies to Joshua Graham, who is just the Burned Man to the Legion, due to leading the Legion to their first major military defeat at the First Battle of Hoover Dam.
  • This happened in the backstory of Dark Souls to Gwyn's firstborn, the God of War after his foolishness allowed the destruction of annals of ancient history, with his deity stripped from him, his name stricken from history, and his altars destroyed.
  • This was actually one of the devices used by the Five Gods in Guild Wars to imprison their fallen brother, Abaddon. His followers and any literature, art, or structure associated with Abaddon was banished into the Realm of Torment. Even long after his defeat, souls touched by Abaddon's power were taken to the Realm to be cleansed. Unfortunately, enough escaped their efforts to guide new followers in bringing about Nightfall.
    • In the case of Abaddon, it was actually very important this happen. He was the God of Secrets, so a mortal simply possessing knowledge of his existence was enough to give him a connection to Tyria.
  • In The Captive Curse, it's implied that tales of "the Monster" had their roots in the case of a medieval criminal who'd been declared an Unperson after he escaped from the castle dungeon. As no one was allowed to speak his name, rumors about this fugitive eventually re-cast him as an anonymous inhuman freak.
  • In the Mega Man Zero series, Dr. Weil is said to have been so heinous (having kicked off a war that wiped out 60% of mankind and 90% of reploidkind ) that all records of him have been suppressed by Neo-Arcadia, to the extent that libraries containing records of his actions have been flooded and anyone who finds out about him is declared a Maverick. Of course, this is intended to prevent anyone from doing what he did again.


Webcomics

  • In It's Walky, it is revealed midway through the story that the Government Conspiracy that employs the main characters is frequently infiltrated by an even shadowier conspiracy who edit their records and memories and then vanish again. If anyone has to be killed: "Well, they never existed."
  • The Eastern Gods and the First World of Order of the Stick were completely destroyed by the Snarl. The surviving gods don't tell anyone about them lest they get the bright idea to try and harness its power. Similarly, the Paladins of Azure City traveled the world to purge all mention of the Rifts. Given Girard's bitter comment to Soon regarding Kraagor, there is a hint that their dead friend would be part of this purge.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, the founders of the Court attempted to erase all evidence of Jeanne's existence, to hide their guilt in killing her, and the fact that it was her ghost stalking the banks of the Annan. They succeeded, with one exception: Diego kept a record of her in secret.
    • It later turns out that they actually killed Jeanne's forest elf boyfriend, who is also written out of existence by the Court. Even Diego's secret record mostly ignores that "detail," probably because Diego was jealous of him. Jeanne herself died of grief.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, Earth is part of the Nemesite Empire but is a nature preserve, and the Nemesites regard humans as "wildlife". Jean takes offense at this, and Voluptua points out that, considering what citizenship in the Empire would entail, their unpersonhood is actually a blessing.
  • The hyenas of Digger use this as their ultimate punishment, even worse than 'mere' death. One's name is eaten and one is cast from the tribe and forgotten...in theory.
  • In the backstory of Homestuck, on planet Alternia, a troll known only as The Signless or The Sufferer led a revolution much more subversive than any the war-torn planet had seen. When the Sufferer was killed, all record of him was stricken from history, and it was made illegal to speak or write of him, even in private journals. However, his movement went underground and secretly kept his memory alive.
  • Goblins has psion Minmax devoting the endless maze to oblivion. Any one or anything that falls into one of these holes never existed, and nobody remembers the person or thing.
  • Camelorum Adventures as Carly Rancine, the "Maddening Rod." To secure her release from prison, where she's kept in "indeterminate containment," Stan Woudean has to both help her find a way to control her Reality Warper abilities and locate her family. Just one problem: the evil Xiboruty has murdered her father, mostly erased her memory, mostly erased her mother's memory, erased her memory of how she got her abilities from him, and sent his minions on a mad quest to erase as many clues as they can get their hands on to her having ever existed at all. Her birth certificate, first baby hair samples, medical records, school records, former classmate memories, former teacher memories, former church associates' memories, photos, etc...all systematically thoroughly erased or vandalized. All government records on her also conveniently go missing.
  • In Volkonir, Terrence Hoshijo and Hiktomoph do what they can to cover up what happened to Lucy Tarington, and make it like she was never born. Thus, they attempt to make Kayla out to look crazy when insisting that Hoshijo killed her daughter.

Web Original

  • In season 2 of The Guild Bladezz deletes Tink's online gaming character Tinkerballa, removing permanently from existence her gold, reputation and "two years of [her] life". She even phrases it as "I don't exist anymore."
  • The careful and systematic removal of That Aussie Guy from the website, wiki, and all other things related to That Guy With The Glasses turned him into this. This was apparently done for legal reasons after he went his own way, but while he was a founding member of Channel Awesome, his only surviving contribution to the site is his appearance in the first anniversary Brawl. (This can be rather confusing to someone who didn't become a fan until after his departure, who then watches the Brawl and wonders who the guy with the boomerang is.)
  • In Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, the Red Team "deletes" the Blue Team from the Command database, allowing them to achieve "victory". While this doesn't directly affect most of the Blues, it prevents Church from proving his identity when it comes into question.

 Church: Alright, great, that's fantastic. Now I can't prove him wrong, and I don't get a paycheck.

    • This also prevented the Epsilon unit from being detected by the UNSC, as Caboose was the last one to have it, and because the Red Team "deleted" the blues, the UNSC had no knowledge of them.


Western Animation

  • An episode of Batman: The Animated Series series has the Riddler erasing all of the records of his existence as Edward Nygma, including birth certificates, drivers licenses, employment records and so on.
  • An episode of Beast Machines has Megatron destroying statues of Cybertronian historical figures and wiping the archives, turning all of the planet's history up to that point into "nothing more than a rumor". The reason this isn't listed as a Propaganda Machine is because there was no one left to be told anything at that point.
  • In one promo for Cartoon Network, Yogi Bear arrives at the studio for work, but forgets his ID card. Much to his confusion and frustration, everyone, including Booboo and Ranger Smith, acts like they have no clue who he is.
  • In the Double Dragon cartoon, the Shadow Master intends to destroy the Dragon Dojo (the Dragon Warriors have been banished to the Shadow Mural, and the Lees are in another dimension), saying that once it occurs, "it will be as though (the Double Dragons) never existed."
  • Happened to Ron in one Kim Possible episode after he angered a hammy supervillain called the Mathter (yes, really). It was relatively easy for Wade to fix, however.


Real Life

  • Adobe PhotoShop (and other computer photo editing/manipulation software programs): Professional photographers sometimes are requested to remove undesirable people from professional (and sometimes, other) photographs. Using the different cropping and cutting features, the "unperson"-ee is seamlessly removed from the photograph, and the background or another person's features are restored. The end result is a photograph that appears exactly as it might had the "unperson" never been in the original photograph. Usually, someone will request such photos be altered only in extreme cases – for instance, a professional photo of single mother, her children and her boyfriend ... but then the couple has a big falling out, and it is obvious the man will never have any contact with anyone in the family again. Yet, the photo – with or without him – is perfectly good to display (as opposed to disposing of them in a burn barrel), and the woman wants to do just that ... only she doesn't want anything with the jerk (the now "unperson") hanging on her walls.
    • In addition, some people remove unwanted people from other types of photos, such as a high school sports team photo where several members are no longer part of a team. It can be a hassle to have a new picture taken, and rather than use other techniques (such as simple cropping or using blocks to cover up the ex-teammates), the photographer simply PhotoShops the ex-players out of existence ... as far as that picture is concerned. Usually, this will be done only if the player(s) are kicked off a team for severe offenses, such as drinking or serious crimes; if one simply leaves the team, even if on not the best terms, the original team photo will be left intact.
  • Most restaurants have policies where the waitstaff can refuse service to a particular individual for any reason, sometimes by refusing to acknowledge them (and thus, fitting the trope). Usually, this is done to customers who have been particularly rude or obnoxious, drunk or acted "creepy" toward waitresses in the past.
  • The Romans did this and they called it damnatio memoriae or "damnation of memory".
    • This also happened in ancient Egypt to perceived traitors (most notably, the heretical Pharaoh Akhenaten, who had tried to Unperson the entire Egyptian Pantheon). These disgraced people had their carved images, monuments, etc. either effaced or obliterated, wiping out not only their images but also their names. Given the Egyptian focus on the afterlife, and the need for a perpetual image and name to ensure that afterlife, this was a very serious punishment.
      • The 1956 version of The Ten Commandments has Moses killing a high-ranking Egyptian to rescue a Hebrew slave and then being declared an Unperson by his foster father Seti, after the crime is discovered.
      • Ironically, because of this modern scholars often have a better idea of the lineage of pharaohs than they themselves did, because we have access to records that were sealed in tombs and thus not altered to erase someone the way the records they would have access to were.
      • The latest to receive this punishment are Hosni Mubarak and his wife.
  • The Soviet Union did this often; 1984's use of it is a direct allusion.
    • Josef Stalin was the biggest practitioner of this as alluded to in the main article, manipulating historical accounts and photographs to remove certain people, or, more rarely, insert people (usually himself). Leon Trotsky, former head of the Red Army, is probably the most famous case of this.
      • This continued even after the tirant's death: Cosmonauts were edited out of pictures. It is believed by some that there was a conspiracy: Yuri Gagarin was not the first man in space... He was the first man in space to live to tell his tale. The others may have died while returning to earth via burning in the athmosphere or froze when their poorly-built shuttles decreased in temperature, leaving them floating in space. It is probable these cosmonauts were edited out of pictures because of their deaths in the Soviet space program.
    • Soviet actions frequently utilized this in Warsaw Pact countries, usually when leaders in nations such as Hungary dared to propose a more efficient form of communism that dealt with problems through means other than repression.
    • Soviet relocation policies attempted to dilute the many different ethnic groups within its borders by bringing in large numbers of Russians in hopes. 20 years after the collapse, this proves to be a difficult situation in many former soviet republics with large Russian minorities.
    • Everyone who did not agree with collectivization policies, along with anyone associated with a suspected rebel was subject to relocation to the Gulag. This led to huge numbers of people in the western regions of the Soviet Union (the Baltic states and western Ukraine in particular) falling to this.
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was burned down in 356 BC by a guy named Herostratus. He had done this specifically to get his name in the history books, and the Ephesian authorities, in an attempt to deny him this goal, executed him, erased his name from all their records, and made it a crime to mention his name on penalty of death. As you can well imagine, it didn't work that well, as people needed to know what the name was in order to know which one not to say on pain of death. Thanatos Gambit much?
  • After the end of Conan O'Brien's run on The Tonight Show, NBC proceeded to remove every single trace of his career at the network from their website and video sites across the internet. With the exception of an episode of Saturday Night Live he hosted and a first season episode of 30 Rock in which he and his show play an integral part in the plot, no other Conan footage appears on Hulu or NBC.com.
  • Archie Comics did this to Dan DeCarlo after he attempted to sue them over ownership rights to Josie and the Pussy Cats. They refused to even refer to him in the company's history, even though he contributed much and was someone artists were previously instructed to imitate. Years after he died, they reversed their stance and started openly referring to him in compilations and Best Ofs, and even individual Digest stories (historically almost completely without notice of the original writers and artists) now often carry his name under the title.
    • As we can see at this link, DeCarlo: There were two panels of two editions of a comic where Bety was visiting a museum with the gang and she is asked about his favorite writer: In the first panel she said "Dan DeCarlo, because, where would we be without him?". In the second, (maybe from a compilation) she said "Archie comic’s staff, because, where would we be without them?"
  • The band The Spring Standards used to be called Old Springs Pike and had a forth member, actor John Gallagher Jr, who very suddenly quit the band a while back. Looking at anything official related to the band now, you wouldn't think they ever even knew him.
  • One of Amnesty International's primary mandates is finding and, when possible, freeing "disappeared" persons - individuals who have been secretly imprisoned, deported or executed by governments, militia groups, etc. You would be shocked not just by how often this happens, but where.
  • This is essentially being done to both Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo by the University of Southern California. Both were found to have illegally taken money from agents while they were playing at USC, and as a result of NCAA sanctions, USC cannot recognize either of them in any way. Their names cannot appear in any school record books (not so bad for Mayo, as he only played one season of basketball before moving onto the NBA and probably didn't even want to be there in the first place; however a much bigger deal for Bush, up until then one of the best college football players of all time), the university cannot display any images of them or hang their jerseys anywhere, nor can Bush or Mayo assist in recruiting or be in any way involved with USC. In addition, they were forced to vacate any victories while Bush and Mayo were playing for their respective teams. In Bush's case, this even included the 2004 National Championship.
    • The NCAA effectively did this to Morehouse's men's soccer program for 2004 and 2005; not even the athletic department knew a soccer program even existed for a time due to the severity of the "death penalty", now rarely used due to the fallout from the only football team (SMU) to be slapped with the death penalty back in 1987, including the disbanding of the Southwest Conference. The NCAA has imposed the death penalty five times, according to The Other Wiki, but only once on a D-I football squad (in the aforementioned SMUgate); however, there are currently talks about slapping the death penalty on Miami (due to a Ponzi scheme run by booster Nevin Shapiro) and Penn State (due to a possible cover-up of Jerry Sandusky's crimes; see below for his own entry here that resulted from the scandal), and in 2002 they stopped short of slapping the death penalty on Alabama for using a booster to reel in a Memphis player after receiving a tip from Alabama rival Tennessee's then-coach, Phillip Fullmer.
  • In recent ABBA documentaries the importance of manager Stig Anderson - who wrote most of the band's lyrics up to 1979, used his business savvy to promote and market the band worldwide, and was generally considered the "fifth member" of the group - has been downplayed to the point that he is rarely mentioned at all. Depending on who you believe, this is either because of Stig's falling out with the band before his death or it's part of Benny and Bjorn's sinister plot to take over the world.
  • There are professional people in this world who will do this for you for a price if you happen to be on the run from any number of horrors like a Psycho Ex, the mafia, etc. They will help you to disappear, change your identity and remove all records of your previous existence.
  • Psychologist and founder of the self-esteem movement Nathaniel Branden had this happen to him after the collapse of his affair with Ayn Rand. Rand removed the dedication to him on the title page for Atlas Shrugged and his voice was edited out of taped lectures by her.
  • Shunning is used as a severe punishment in many religions, including Christianity and the Church of Happyology, among others.
    • It's an especially strong punishment in Amish communities, since individual Amish often have no social connections outside the Amish community. Enough to drive the individual in question to suicide in severe cases.
    • In the same way, exile could be a very severe punishment in tribal societies, not much better than execution.
  • After Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that Fr. Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, was really a pederast that sexually abused numerous underage seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women, created a "system of power" built on silence and obedience that enabled him to lead an "immoral" double life "devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment" and allowed him to abuse young boys for decades unchecked, the Legionaries of Christ, an economically and politically powerful Catholic organization have divulged new norms regarding their founder: They will not display any photo of him in their installations, they will not sell any of his writings nor cite him as the author when giving a sermon, they will not celebrate his birthday or the anniversary of his death, they will not build a mausoleum in his tomb.
  • The government of the late Argentine President Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) sought to discredit all former military rulers of Argentina by removing any official reference to their "presidencies" from government records and history, including the removal of several portraits from halls of presidents around the nation.
    • Speaking of Argentina, the Perons were this for 16 years after the military junta that led to Juan Peron's exile. Eva's embalmed body was moved by the military to a tomb in Italy. The body was later returned to Argentina after the junta rule ended, and Juan Peron himself made a political comeback with a third election in 1973 (though he died just nine months into it), with Peronism still going strong today, even surviving a second military junta in the late '70s/early '80s.
  • Following allegations of child sexual abuse against Jerry Sandusky, Penn State is going to great lengths when it comes to obliterating him completely: not only has his image been removed from the school's mural, an ice cream named after him was also pulled by the university's ice cream parlor.
    • Even Joe Paterno himself, the coach on whose victories Penn State enjoys its reputation, is being purged. The Penn State administration even debated pulling down a statue of him. Given his death not long after the allegations came to light, however, and the public outpouring of grief, this may wind up being a subversion of this trope.
  • After Goelitz purchased the rights to Jelly Belly, they removed any mention of the candy's inventor, David Klein, despite Klein having numerous television and magazine appearances in the 1970s as "Mr. Jelly Belly." Klein's son made the documentary Candyman to set the record straight.
  • This is culturally mandatory in Japan, especially in corporate ambients for face-saving reasons, and we can tell about many cases about this:
    • Noriko Sakai and her drug-abuse scandal caused her albums to be recalled, all her records about her career deleted by her agency and causing that her most known anime theme song Active Heart (used as the OP theme) can't be used in any Japanese-made product, especialy in Super Robot Wars.
  • After Stalin died the Soviet Union did this to Stalin (to a limited extent) after they remembered how much they should hate him. For example say stalin had inserted himself into a movie with himself playing a historical role he never did using the actor Aleksei Dikiy as himself. The de-stalinized version would have the Aleksei Dikiy edited out, perhaps in one scene being covered up by a new unnamed extra.
  • During the Pinochet regime in Chile from 1973 to 1990 people would randomly disappear; so much so that the verb "disappear" became transitive, as in "He was disappeared". Most simply never returned and their homes/possessions were taken by the government but in a few cases some of those who were disappeared would also lead to their family and anyone who spoke of them to disappear as well effectively removing a persons existence. Official estimates are around 3,000 people but some believe as many as 5-10,000 people had gone missing.
  • Benjamin Cardozo (1870-1938) was a New York judge appointed to the Supreme Court by President Herbert Hoover in 1932. He and his family were Sephardic Jews, making him not only the second Jew to serve as a Supreme Court justice, but also the first Hispanic justice. But since the term "Hispanic" was not used to refer to people during Cardozo's lifetime, and since Cardozo was Portuguese (as opposed to Spanish) and white, he does not fit current perceptions of what a Hispanic-American is. As such, when President Barack Obama named a Puerto Rican woman, Sonia Sotomayor, to the Court in 2009, she was acknowledged the first Hispanic justice, effectively erasing Cardozo's existence, at least as a Hispanic-American.
  • TV Tropes has applied this treatment to both All The Tropes and the Tropes Mirror Wiki. Both sites are considered troll sites when they are brought up at all, and any mention of them is deleted by the moderators.
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