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Sun, Apr 17, 2022 12:06 AM

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Main character is not necessarily the protoganist

I just noticed this today and it's incorrect. I'm guessing this is one of the keyword merges but it is absolutely wrong.

  • 'death-of-main-character' has been replaced with 'death-of-protagonist' in accordance with IMDb rules.

In a TV series, there is more than one main character and that main character is not always the protagonist of the show.

Can we get these keywords unmerged as this doesn't necessarily make any sense.

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You're correct that this merger comes from a mass-merger. It was from my list #12:

main-character-dies (546 titles)  --->  death-of-main-character (311 titles)   --->  death-of-lead-character (7 titles)   --->   death-of-protagonist (882 titles)

I honestly had never thought about this before, but I looked into it and your title for your post is correct: the main character is not always the same as the protagonist. In the vast majority of creative works, these two are one and the same. But in rare situations, they can be two different characters.

However, the reason has nothing to do with whether there is more than one main character, and also this is not limited to TV series.

There can definitely be more than one protagonist. I'll trust you there can also be more than one main character (despite the use of the word "main"). However, whether there can be more than one of either of these types of characters is irrelevant to the question at hand: whether "main-character" and "protagonist" always have 100% overlap in any given title.

These two links explain quite well the differences between main characters and protagonists. The example that clicked the most for me is the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, in which Scout is the main character while Atticus is the protagonist. 

Protagonist and Main Character— Same Person? The Answer May Transform Your Story!

Protagonist Vs Main Character: Is There A Difference?

Another example that comes to mind is the novel One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest, in which the Chief is the main character while Randle McMurphy is the protagonist

I imagine that contributors on IMDb have been largely using these keywords interchangeably, especially because in most titles the protagonist and main character will indeed overlap, and also given the lack of awareness of the subtle differences between these terms.

With that said, I support your request to reverse the auto-conversions. (It is not possible to undo mass mergers, but it is possible to undo auto-conversions.)

The auto-conversions should be redone like this:

main-character-dies  --->  death-of-main-character 

and neither of those keywords should auto-convert to "death-of-protagonist."

On a related note, what do you think about the use of "lead-character" and "lead-actor" in keywords?

Does the term "lead character" refer to a main character or a protagonist? Or does a "lead character" have its own definition that doesn't always overlap 100% with those other two types of characters?

This post seems to argue that "lead character" is closer to "protagonist" than "main character," but even that is not entirely clear:

Is the protagonist the same as the main character?

Similar question for "lead actor": should the character played by the "lead actor" be regarded as the main character, the protagonist, or neither?

And what do you think about these mergers and auto-conversions (which have also already been done)?  Should any of these auto-conversions be undone as well?

villain-played-by-lead-actor (404 titles)  -->  villian-played-by-lead-actor (2 titles)  -->  protagonist-villain (14 titles)  -->  villain-protagonist (12 titles) --> villain-as-protagonist (46 titles)


villainess-played-by-lead-actress (125 titles)  --> female-villain-as-protagonist (6 titles) -->  villainess-as-protagonist (7 titles)

female-lead-character (54 titles) -->  female-lead-role (24 titles) -->  female-protagonist (7419 titles)

gay-lead-character (841 titles) -->  gay-main-character (85 titles) -->  gay-lead-role (30 titles)  -->  gay-protagonist (498 titles)

It seems I may have caused a mess by suggesting the mass mergers of these keywords. On the other hand, they were pretty messy to begin with. How do you suggest we sort it out? Essentially, do "protagonist," "main character," "lead character," "lead actor/actress," and "lead role" each mean different things?

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In television, I consider any of the main cast to be "main characters". I don't think that is an uncommon interpretation. I would say for most TV shows, there isn't a singular "main character" nor is there always a "protagonist" and sometimes character switch between roles as protagonist and antagonist. So, there were two keywords I used for deaths in TV series: "death-of-main-character" meaning the death of one of the characters that is always credited in the show and "death-of-recurring-character" for guest roles.

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@adrian​ Although I take your point that TV can often be different from other types of creative works, this is not always the case. It matters, of course, what the exact plot is within a TV series. The example you gave where there are multiple main characters yet no protagonist is often called an "ensemble cast" TV series. (I assume you are referring specifically to TV series, and not to miniseries.) Also, the types of characters can change over the life of a TV series.  

Some examples may illustrate the point. In Orange is the New Black, Piper Chapman is both the sole main character and the sole protagonist for the first season. After the first season, there are a bunch of main characters yet no protagonist.

It's similar with The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes is both the sole main character and the sole protagonist for much of the series, until he isn't around any more. Then there is no longer a protagonist, while there are a bunch of main characters. 

In most soap operas, there is no main character and no protagonist.

In the A-Team, there are four main characters and four protagonists (all the same people).

In at least the first season of Stranger Things, there are arguably three protagonists (Mike, Will, and Eleven), and arguably a few more main characters (your definition of main cast). 

I do take your point that "main" characters are not always the same as the protagonists. And for that reason, it does make sense to decouple these sets of keywords. 

What about my questions about "lead" characters and "lead" actors/actresses? Are the "leads" always the protagonists, always the "main" characters, or not always either of these?  Was it appropriate to merge "villain-played-by-lead-actor" into "villain-as-protagonist" and "gay-lead-character" into "gay-protagonist," and so on?

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@adrian​ What in your opinion should be done about the "lead" keywords that I have raised in this thread?

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@keyword_expert​ Just skimming but you are factually wrong on a few points. Rick Grimes was never the sole lead character. He was one of a group of ever changing lead characters which also includes Darryl, Carol and Maggie. Literally, I can't think of a TV series that has a single lead. Literally, lead character for any TV series represents a whole range of characters, which I usually take as the credited cast (such as Friends where all 6 friends are the main cast).

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@adrian​ I guess we can just agree to disagree about Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead, and whether any absolute rules can be applied to TV series generally (unless we're talking about "ensemble cast" TV series). 

But that wasn't what I was asking you about. I would really appreciate your response to this question, which I will copy and paste below. My question involves numerous variations of "lead" keywords (lead actors, lead actresses, and lead characters).

And what do you think about these mergers and auto-conversions (which have also already been done)?  Should any of these auto-conversions be undone as well?

villain-played-by-lead-actor (404 titles)  -->  villian-played-by-lead-actor (2 titles)  -->  protagonist-villain (14 titles)  -->  villain-protagonist (12 titles) --> villain-as-protagonist (46 titles)


villainess-played-by-lead-actress (125 titles)  --> female-villain-as-protagonist (6 titles) -->  villainess-as-protagonist (7 titles)

female-lead-character (54 titles) -->  female-lead-role (24 titles) -->  female-protagonist (7419 titles)

gay-lead-character (841 titles) -->  gay-main-character (85 titles) -->  gay-lead-role (30 titles)  -->  gay-protagonist (498 titles)

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@adrian​ And keep in mind some of the dictionary definitions of the word "lead":

most important; principal; leading; first:

 Theat.
 a. the principal part in a play.
 b. the person who plays it.

And in turn, "principal" is defined as follows:

first or highest in rank, importance, value, etc.; chief; foremost.

a person who takes a leading part in any activity, as a play; chief actor or doer.

the first player of a division of instruments in an orchestra (excepting the leader of the first violins).

Finally, you said you can't think of any TV series with only one lead/main/protagonist. Some good examples that readily came to mind for me are TV series about detectives, such as the following examples:

Murder, She Wrote

Columbo

Cannon

All of those shows were undeniably carried by single characters, regardless of how anyone interprets the words "lead," "main," and "protagonist." 

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@adrian 

I'm not seeing any action by staff to undo these auto-conversions. 

I recently noticed this keyword:

death-of-major-character (73 titles)

It seems like, at least for now, that keyword would be a better fit for your intended purpose: titles with multiple major characters (e.g., tv series with ensemble casts).

Although both "major" and "main" have several different meanings, the term "major character" more clearly connotes more than one character than the term "main character."

(edited)

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@adrian 

It does sound like we at least agree (although probably for different reasons) that the following mergers involving these "main" keywords should be undone:

main-character-dies  --->  death-of-main-character  --->  death-of-protagonist 

gay-main-character -->   gay-protagonist 

Before I ask staff to undo those auto-conversions, can you please share your thoughts on my previous questions about the "lead" keywords? Should those auto-conversions be undone as well?

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@keyword_expert​ 

I'm indifferent on lead keywords. I believe the era of a single lead character is over with ensemble casts making up all the shows I watch (and I watch a ton). Even MacGyver had another lead that appeared in almost every episode. It's been so long since I watched Murder She Wrote that I don't know if other characters appear in most episodes.

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@adrian

Now that "death-of-main-character" has been decoupled from "death-of-protagonist," I recommend going back through your prior submissions to see if you used the "death-of-main-character" for any titles where the death was not of a protagonist. Keep in mind that all prior submissions were merged into "death-of-protagonist," so this may require deleting some keywords where "death-of-protagonist" was not intended.

Going forward, I recommend using "death-of-major-character" instead of "death-of-main-character."

"death-of-major-character" is a better keyword in my opinion for indicating a character who is not the protagonist nor a protagonist of the title, but is still an important character. I think this keyword fits for situations like you've described, involving TV shows with ensemble casts where an important character dies.

However, if you or anyone else wants to use "death-of-main-character," by all means please do so. That's why I asked for this keyword to be decoupled from "death-of-protagonist" -- so that people will have the option of using it if they wish.

For my part, I am going to go through the death-of-protagonist keyword for titles I have watched, and I will probably change a few of the instances of this keyword to "death-of-major-character."

Thanks for helping me realize that "main-character" and "protagonist" are not true synonyms.