This page provides examples of what antagonist fussing would look like in the real world.
Changing your mind
For the people that can't make up their minds about what kind of antagonist a character is, if you had a chance to show them how many times they changed it and asked them to give a reason for the changes, the conversation might go something like this:
"Well, last week, I thought he was a primary antagonist, but then the next day, I thought he was the secondary antagonist. A couple of days later, I decided he was the main antagonist, but then just a couple of minutes later, I decided to change that to say main villain, but that still wasn't right, so I changed it say leading antagonist. Today, I think he's the tertiary antagonist. Tomorrow, I'll probably think of him as the primary antagonist again, and the day after that, he'll be the quaternary antagonist."
While watching a movie
Imagine you and your friends are watching a movie at home. You get together every week to watch one and discuss the movie while it's playing.
Here's what antagonist fussing would be like in this setting:
That's a really bad guy. He's oviously the primary antagonist. His henchman isn't as bad, so I'll call him the secondary antagonist. Oh, wait. This third guy is even more of an antagonist than the second one but not as much as the first, so I'll make the third guy the secondary antagonist and move the second guy to the tertiary antagonist. Now this fourth guy, he's not much of an antagonist at all, so I'll call him the quadragonist.
That's not right. The third guy is less of an antagonist than the second, so the second guy is the secondary antagonist and this guy is the tertiary antagonist. But I agree that that fourth guy is weak, so he can stay where he is.
You're both wrong. Guy number two is really in charge, so he should be the main antagonist, and number four is more of an antagonist than the third guy.
No, I'm right. It's guy number one, then three, then two, then four.
No, you're not. Can't you see that guy number two is the one who is making things happen? Guy number one is just the ideas man. Number two takes those ideas and makes them work. He's the primary antagonist.
Now, let's take that a step further. Let's say that the three of you decide to watch that movie again the following week and discuss it again while it's playing.
That first guy is still really bad, so he's the main villain.
You called him a primary antagonist last week.
Same thing. I think the henchman's doing a better job than I did before, so I'll bump him up to the secondary antagonist, which means guy number three is the tertiary antagonist. Guy number four looks like he's having second thoughts about what side he's on, so that must mean he's going to help out the main protagonist and so he's the quadragonist-turned-supporting-protagonist.
No, he's not having second thoughts. He doesn't like what's happening at the moment, but that doesn't mean he's going to defect. He's the tertiary antagonist because he's worse than the third guy.
You're blind. See him closing his eyes when the primary antagonist berates him? That's obviously second thoughts. He's going to go join the good guys.
Friend #2 is right. He isn't going to defect. But he's not a tertiary antagonist. He's the teratagonist.
What's a teratagonist?
You know, an antagonist who is a fourth-level antagonist.
Isn't that quadragonist?
Those are completely different things.
Darth Vader is an antagonist
Another example involving movies could be the character of Darth Vader from Star Wars. You've seen the movies in the order they were released. Now you decide to watch them in the order they are numbered so you can watch the rise, fall and redemption of Darth Vader.
You watch the movies over the weekend and find a lot in there you didn't see before. So you decide to tell your friend at work during lunch about it...
You: You know, when you watch the Star Wars movies this way, Anakin has a really tragic life.
Friend: Yeah, he's a great antagonist.
You: Take the first movie, Phantom Menace.
Friend: He was the tertiary protagonist in that one.
You: Think about it. Born without a father. Mechanical genius. He's got the weight of a prophecy on his shoulders. Then in Attack of the Clones...
Friend: He was the secondary antagonist in that one.
You: Uh, yeah. He's a young adult, now learning more about what it takes to be a Jedi. Not to mention a skilled fighter who is starting to seriously fall in love with a childhood crush.
Then you get to Revenge of the Sith and he's officially breaking the rules of being a Jedi by marrying Padme. Starts having nightmares about her being killed after his mother was killed. Then he becomes so desperate to find a way to keep her alive that he betrays everything he stands for. He fights his teacher, Obi-Wan, and ends up being the one that kills Padme.
Friend: Which makes him the major protagonist-turned-secondary antagonist.
You: Sure.... And after what happened in that movie, he's stuck inside a life support suit as a cyborg. Now, fast forward about two decades and he's a big part of the Empire.
Friend: And the primary antagonist of that movie.
You: Give it a rest with the antagonist jazz. Anyway, he's leading the fight against the rebels and holds more authority than the guy running the Death Star. When the rebels attack it, he goes out to fight them personally.
A couple of years later, he's willing to hire bounty hunters to capture the rebel leaders, uses Han, Chewie and Leia as bait to get Luke, then when Luke shows up, tells Luke he's his father. Plus, he wants to recruit Luke after discussing it with the Emperor, but Luke refuses and Vader cuts off his hand.
Friend: So in that movie, Vader is the co-main antagonist along with the Emperor.
You: Would you knock it off? In the last movie, he and the Emperor are really working to destroy the rebels and to up the ante to make Luke change his mind and join them. And it almost works until Luke figures it out and rejects it. So then Vader has to watch as the Emperor tries killing Luke, and when he sees how much his boss is enjoying it and realizes he'd lose his son, he has a change of heart and dies saving Luke.
Friend: And he becomes the former main antagonist-turned-reformed supporting protagonist.
You: Have you heard anything I've said? He's not just an antagonist. He's one of the main characters and is central to the entire storyline.
Friend: Right. The central antagonist.
You: Hello? Born without a father? Creator of C3PO? Blows up a space station pretty much by accident? Uses a droid to torture Leia for information, and later learns she's his daughter? Kills children? Is any of this getting through to you?
Friend: Yeah, he's the main antagonist.
You: Are you seriously going to sit there and ignore everything I said, everything Vader does in the movies, just so you can keep parroting that he's an antagonist?
Friend: No, of course not.
You: Oh, well that's a relief.
Friend: Darth Vader is a great antagonist.
Who talks this way?
These examples sound ridiculous when said like this, right? You don't talk to people like this in real life. But that's what antagonist fussing on a wiki is: people having disagreements and arguments and edit wars about tiny and unimportant details that they wouldn't do in real life.
They ignore what happens in the movie or TV show because they are so determined to pin a specific, rigid label on a character that they can't see anything else.
And this is one of the reasons why it has become necessary to create a policy against antagonist fussing.