1

In Phineas and Ferb, the joke is that humans think platypuses don't do anything, and yet Perry is actually a secret agent. Even though "Perry doesn't do anything," they love him and he's important to them.

Years earlier, Phil Foglio introduced a The Winslow, a platypus-like indestructible reptile who's important to "everyone," but doesn't do anything.

This is the earliest example of this trope that I have found. Is anyone aware of an earlier example?

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    Uhhh... much as I'm a fan of Foglio, I'd need a lot more than two examples to say he started a trope. – Radhil Apr 16 '18 at 16:40
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    @Radhil That’s a good point. Can you think of another example? – Llewella Forgie Apr 16 '18 at 16:41
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    The Winslow is an alligator, though, not a platypus. – Adamant Apr 16 '18 at 17:36
  • Platypodes aren't reptiles. – user14111 Apr 16 '18 at 18:26
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    I'm not really sure that Phineas and Ferb think that Perry doesn't do anything specifically because he is a platypus. Any animal could be substituted in as the family pet, with little need to change anything. The show uses a trope of "pets and/or animals are secretly at least as intelligent as humans and have their own hidden (often highly advanced) society". – Michael Richardson Apr 16 '18 at 20:10
13

I very much doubt that "Platypuses don't to anything" is popular enough to be a trope, but if it is then it certainly predates Phil Foglio. If there is a trope, and if it has a start point then it is probably the poem "The Diplomatic Platypus", published in Punch magazine in the thirties. While too old to be well-known now, it was extremely popular in its time and for several decades afterwards.

In the poem a platypus is appointed to the British diplomatic service, and proves to be extremely successful, precisely because he doesn't do anything, and therefore never does anything wrong.

The wisdom of the choice, it soon appeared, was undeniable;

There never was a diplomat more thoroughly reliable.

He never made rash statements his enemies might hold him to,

He never stated anything, for no one ever told him to,

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