The Designated Sycophant is a very common character type found in badfic, and the victim of severe OOC. While their behavior may take many forms, and their actions may vary wildly, they all exist to blindly support or enable the Sue/Stu's/Possessed canon's actions, the Suethor's viewpoints, or anything the Suethor wishes to glorify. They are called 'Sycophants' because their behavior is often the only reason why the Sue/Stu keeps them around in the story: they act as unwitting henchmen that parrot his/her ideas and spread his/her influence around the story.
Designated Sycophants are bad because they are characters that are not allowed to judge the Sue/Stu as individuals, and instead accept or enable a Sue/Stu because they're 'supposed to,' or because 'they're the good guys,' or because 'the Sue/Stu likes them, so therefore they must like him/her back.' They often function as extra mouthpieces for the Suethor's ideas, instead of letting the reader interpret the story for themselves. Characters with more dramatic Sycophant traits can be some of the most corrosively OOC characters in all of fanfiction: trivializing heavy issues simply as an excuse for the Sue to be right... at the cost of the canon's integrity.
Canon characters as well as original characters can be Designated Sycophants. Original Character Sycophants are made as mindless cheerleaders for the Sue/Stu or warped canon characters: they may take the guise of the Sue/Stu's best friends that happen to be cardboard cutouts, or as previously-unknown-yet-very-important characters that support the Sue/Stu and may even qualify the Sue/Stu to hang out with the canon characters. A Canon Character warped into a Sycophant loses most or all of his/her characterization in favor of supporting the Sue. Ironically, canon characters that become Sycophants are often the character that the Suethor likes the most: and so the things the Suethor values the most also becomes the things he/she destroys the most thoroughly.
Designated Sycophants appearing in a fic constitutes a charge, as it is a major warping of characterization, and more severe than a charge for simple OOC-ness. Designated Sycophants usually are Character Replacements or Possessed. Characters with OOC Resistance almost never become Designated Sycophants, as many of them are too disliked, or too oft-ignored (See: Dwarves, Ron Weasley, anybody not considered 'hott') for a Sue to want their support. Characters with OOC Immunity that are portrayed as Designated Sycophants are always Character Replacements and must be killed.
The Designated Sycophant's opposite number is the Designated Bastard.
The Sycophant's Role
The Designated Sycophant's methods may vary by individual, but all of them exist to empower the Sue/Stu in a story. Whether intentionally or not, the Sycophant exists to be 'right' within the narrow definition of the Sue/Stu's approval. It is important to note that, as the 'designated' title suggests, this character's viewpoint is only right because the Sue/Stu says so. Trivial preferences may be tied to larger behaviors and ideas: suddenly, the people the Sue finds pretty share her taste in clothes and display morally superior actions, where people who do not act like, dress like, or even just like her around her suddenly become puppy-kicking bastards.
Interestingly, unlike the Designated Bastard, the OOC of the Sycophant may not be entirely intentional: in order for some canon characters to accept or support a Sue/Stu without significant character development or evidence of her worth, they may be cast as Sycophants by an impatient or negligent author. On the other side of things, the Sycophant may be very intentional: characters 'converted' to the Sue/Stu's viewpoint might become her unwitting worshipers.
Sues/Stus may actually ignore Sycophants, because they take the praise and automatic acceptance for granted. Characters that are not yet part of the Sue/Stu's cheerleading squad may become targets of the Sue/Stu, and are sometimes a source of artificial conflict. Sycophants are usually portrayed as beautiful (with a few exceptions), on the 'right' side, and being one is sometimes the only way to gain the acceptance of the Sue herself.
Common Types of Designated Sycophant
Designated Sycophant Classic
This character exists or has been warped to be a support to the Sue. They will ignore basic human needs in order to show how nice, right, special, and/or good the Sue/Stu is. They differ from a character rupture, a mundane possession or replacement, and a simple high OOC reading because their characterization now revolves around doing things that make the Sue look good, or things that make the Sue more accepted.
Designated Hang-on Sycophant
These Sycophants are often original characters, and are often friends of the main Sue/Stu. They are the one to three friends who accompany the Sue/Stu on his/her adventures, yet never are as useful, beautiful, wise, or good as the main Sue/Stu. In short, they exist to be flat in order to make the Sue/Stu look better as the 'special' one of the group. They may have gimmicks: one might be 'the loud one', another might be 'the boy-crazy one', and so on. They appear most often in self-insert fanfiction: When a group of friends falls into Arda (and for some reason, seems to be more common in Tolkienverse fanfic, though that might be sample bias on the part of PPC records), some of the group may be DH-OS, functioning as wingmen to the Sue/Stu(s). This is actually a rather tragic thing to see in a self-insert fic, because it means that real friends of the self-insert are being reduced to personality-less blobs and then written off as cheerleaders or less important than the star of the show.
Designated Enemy Sycophant
It should be impossible for somebody who wants to kill or fight a Sue/Stu to worship the ground that the Sue/Stu walks on, but it's not. DES usually appear when the Sue desires an antagonist as a love interest. The DES may at once take the Sue/Stu/Possessed character as fascinating or an obsession, when in canon they might have other interests than just obsessing over, hunting down, or capturing the Mary Sue. After 'climactic' events in the story, he may be 'redeemed' by the Sue/Stu, and the obsession and enemy-worship will turn into Twu Wuv. Canon villains are often turned into DESes in order to be paired up with a possessed canon character, neatly enabling a shipping pairing that would otherwise take a lot of time and real character development to be believable.
Designated PC Sycophant
Not quite the antonym of the Designated Misogynistic Bastard, the DPCS exists to include and empower the Sue/Stu regardless of how appropriate it would or would not be. This is the character that, despite his cultural upbringing, adores Mary Sue for being so clever with a sword when he's never even seen a woman use one before. This is the character that immediately thinks it's just wonderful that Gary Stu is an accomplished professional hitman at the age of 12. DPCS do not follow the conventions of their setting, or even common sense when it comes to considering a Sue/Stu for a job or a role in the story. Instead, he/she blindly respects them as much as more sensibly qualified characters.
This type of character does not promote feminism, equality between age groups, or real racial equality because the characters involved are still not being judged equally. Characters involved are instead given more weight and consideration for an unlikely qualifier instead of being judged by their real merits as people.
Designated Tolerant Sycophant
Designated Tolerant Sycophants (also known as Unrealistically Tolerant Pillocks) are characters with presumably normal sex lives for their cultural norms, typically featured within bad slashfic, who respond to revelation of the ship with improbable, uncharacteristic, or simply stupid levels of glee.
Not all romantically tolerant individuals are DTS. For certain characters, passing out pins and stickers is in character. However, for a significant portion of available historical continua, some relationships have been frowned upon, shunned, or even made illegal in ways that could get a person chemically (or physically) castrated or killed. This means that in addition to DTS breaking characterization, removing potential interesting and IC conflict, and lobotomizing characters, they may well be forgetting to mention legal advice that could save the shipped character's life, liberty, and/or genitals.
Not all Unrealistically Tolerant Pillocks are limited to tolerance regarding slash. As any typical teenager will react with squick when any discussion of non-platonic relationship between parents, close relatives, or much older individuals comes up, so a teenager who has no issue being confronted with such can be charged. incest also often fits into this category, both in bad slash and in bad het, although some continua may vary.
Not all characters who seem to support an uncanoncial lead are Designated Sycophants. Some good (or at least not as bad) reasons for praising a newcomer:
- The character did something that would mean a lot to the character in question. Of course, this is still bad if they did this under power of their speshulness. But if they really and truly did something to make a canon character feasibly like them, it's more respectful of canon to just let them rather than invent reasons why the OC can't be accepted.
- The character is some sort of celebrity or hero, and would be well known (if not relevant in the canonical story) to the canon characters to elicit some special treatment.
- The character has some sort of mind-altering super power or magic that causes complacency and acceptance in their presence, and it's part of the story and not an artifact of the writing.
- A character praises them for in-character reasons. A manipulative person, for instance, may try and get on the good side of a powerful newcomer.
- The story somehow pulled a small miracle and gets you to respect the decisions of the characters without sufficient context. This is highly unlikely, to say the least.
- The character displays sycophant-ish behavior but is not included in the Sue/Stu's circle of friends, displays the behavior only mildly through negligence, or displays the behavior yet is not valued by the Sue. This character is probably simply OOC rather than a full-blown worshipful zealot.
- The character, while they may not have a particularly tolerant personality, is rational and will hear people out before condemning them. This may show itself in a character who is initially doubtful, but becomes supportive after some thought or conversation.
- The character, though raised in an intolerant environment, tends toward questioning the norms of their culture--or is outright rebellious. For them, this is an opportunity to question or rebel further.