Created By: dogwolfman on May 24, 2012 Last Edited By: dragonslip on August 2, 2012
Troped

Heroism Equals Job Qualification

You know, that thing where some body gets rewarded with a job they're not qualified for after doing something heroic?

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Trope
One common plot element is a low level worker who rises to the top of the command structure in his organization through hard work, persistence and skill. This trope is when a low level worker is suddenly raised to a high position simply because they acted in a heroic manner and saved the day during a dangerous situation, regardless of their actual qualifications.

Consider Bob, a worker on a starship who would like to be captain, but is too young and inexperienced. One day there's a disaster aboard ship and Bob saves everyone by bravely risking his life to shut down the ship's main reactor before it explodes and kills everyone. The ship's captain was killed in the accident and Bob is unanimously chosen as the new captain, even though he's completely unqualified to captain a space ship.

Compare:
  • You Are in Command Now: Bob becomes captain because everyone higher in his chain of command is dead.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Bob becomes captain of the starship because he's the only person on board with space experience.
  • Falling into the Cockpit: Bob becomes captain of the starship because he happens to be on the bridge when all of the other bridge personnel are killed.
  • Expose the Villain, Get His Job: Bob becomes captain because he found out that the previous captain was the villain and put a stop to his Evil Plan.
  • Cincinnatus: where Bob is given the power but resolutely refuses to keep it.


Examples

Film
  • In Star Trek (2009) James Kirk gets promoted to captain of the USS Enterprise after saving the Earth from Nero despite the fact he graduated from the academy less then a week earlier and already didn't have a spotless discipline record.
  • In Angels and Demons, before it turns out he was the man responsibly for it being there the first place the cardinals seriously consider making father Patrick McKenna the new Pope for saving the Vatican city from an Antimatter bomb by flying it away to a safe distance in a helicopter.
  • In the live action Thunderbirds movie Alan Tracy gets made a full member of the team after saving the day.... despite the fact he's only FOURTEEN YEARS OLD!!
  • Working Girl. After Tess proves that Katherine stole her idea, Katherine is fired and Tess gets an "entry level" executive job that is functionally equivalent to Katherine's.
  • In the Medals for Everyone ending of Evolution, Wayne is made a firefighter despite having failed his exam at the beginning of the film. He actually shows that he is qualified throughout the film (by driving a fire truck, operating the hose, and being generally heroic), but not in a way that the authority figures would be aware of it.
  • The Last Starfighter. During the movie the entire Starfighter corps was wiped out, leaving only Alex Rogan to fight the Ko-Dan Armada. He succeeds in destroying it, and at the end of the movie, the leader of the Star League asks him to rebuild the Starfighter corps. There's just one problem: although Alex is the best Starfighter pilot alive (mainly because he's the only Starfighter pilot alive), he has no particular organizational/military skills or experience, which would be required to perform such a task.
  • In The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks goes straight from being banished to being a general after helping the Nabooan humans and the Gungans get along. One wonders why they didn't make him an ambassador (or at least some kind of diplomat) instead.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers starts out as a fresh private who becomes Captain America for propaganda purposes, but is made an official Captain after his rescue of imprisoned troops and capture of HYDRA weaponry.


LiveActionTV
  • In Star Trek:Deep Space Nine episode Valiant Tim Watters is promoted to captain of the USS Valiant on these grounds and ends up destroying the ship as a result of poor judgement
    • a war hero from the Bajoran resistance to the Cardassian occupation, gets a new title dedicated to him, Navarch, as well as becoming the Bajoran liaison to Deep Space Nine. He felt qualified for neither
  • This has tragic consequences in Third Watch. "Doc" is a highly competent and heroic paramedic who regularly declines promotions to supervisor because it is a desk job. He is finally guilted into taking the promotion after nine-eleven but it soon becomes apparent that he cannot handle the job. When he is fired he has a nervous breakdown and ends up taking the fire station hostage.
  • Merlin gets his job as Arthur's manservant as a 'reward' from Uther for saving Arthur's life.


Anime
  • In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the title character is Kicked Upstairs after accidently(!) resolving a hostage situtation to command of the Soyokaze. The strategy to sideline him backfires dramatically.
  • subversion: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: After the first arc ends, the heroes who defeated the Evil Overlord are all in charge of some government department or other. Unfortunately, it turns out Hot-Blooded-ness works well for piloting mecha that run on enthusiasm, but not so much for politics.


Literature
  • One of Ciaphas Cain's earlier adventures recounts that the men who were with him during the desperate defense of the local Arbites (police) station against invading genestealers were all promoted in the end. They were there in the first place because they'd gotten drunk and rowdy in the local bars and brothels, he was just there to get them out of custody. One Guardsman even notes that his new officer stripes just don't feel right, but Cain makes him a lot happier by remarking that a man of his discipline record won't keep them long.


Community Feedback Replies: 56
  • May 25, 2012
    Arivne
    Heroism Equals Job Qualificiation?

    The current description is an Example As Thesis. A suggested new description:

    One common plot element is a low level worker who rises to the top of the command structure in his organization through hard work, persistence and skill. This trope is when a low level worker is suddenly raised to a high position simply because they acted in a heroic manner and saved the day during a dangerous situation, regardless of their actual qualifications.

    Consider Bob, a worker on a starship who would like to be captain, but is too young and inexperienced. One day there's a disaster aboard ship and Bob saves everyone by bravely risking his life to shut down the ship's main reactor before it explodes and kills everyone. The ship's captain was killed in the accident and Bob is unanimously chosen as the new captain, even though he's completely unqualified to captain a space ship.

    Compare:
    • You Are In Command Now: Bob becomes captain because everyone higher in his chain of command is dead.
    • Closest Thing We Got: Bob becomes captain of the starship because he's the only person on board with space experience.
    • Falling Into The Cockpit: Bob becomes captain of the starship because he happens to be on the bridge when all of the other bridge personnel are killed.
  • May 25, 2012
    Bisected8
    Also;

  • May 25, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Working Girl: After Tess proves that Katherine stole her idea, Katherine is fired and Tess gets and "entry level" executive job that is functionally equivalent to Katherine's.
  • May 25, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    A possible origin of this idea is stories set in Feudal societies, when tales about commoner heroes being granted a minor title of nobility as a reward for saving the life or interests of royalty were sort of common. Since the nobles were part of the military caste, they were essentially captains or generals of the king or duke's army. Therefore, a modern version is a hero completing some great deed and having the king or emperor or what have you make him a general in his army. Of course, whether destroying a space station gives you the experience and knowledge to lead men in battle is up for debate...
  • May 26, 2012
    dogwolfman
    could someone who knows more about this site then me please fix the example section so it looks right?
  • May 26, 2012
    Arivne
    Folders don't work in YKTTW. I'll change it to Big Caps.
  • May 26, 2012
    TheEvenPrime
    Everytime someone receives the Princess and Half the Kingdom. No one ever bothers to check if the would-be-future-ruler is even sane.
  • May 27, 2012
    aurora369
    Truth In Television in countries with unstable regimes, when a display of loyalty can mean more than all qualification in the world. The most recent example is Russia in 2012, when a middle manager of a manufacturing plant made his workers rally for Putin, and Putin made this guy his representative in a large region.
  • May 27, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^Also where a well-known leader of the resistance will become the head of the post-war government. Like Lech Walesa in Poland (from head of the Solidarity labor union to President of the country) and Nelson Mandela in South Africa (political prisoner to President)
  • May 28, 2012
    wanderlustwarrior
  • May 28, 2012
    MorganWick
    I'd make a comment about American military heroes who run for president... but that might be a sign we'd end up sticking a No Real Life Examples Please on it.
  • May 28, 2012
    Generality
    • In the Medals For Everyone ending of Evolution, Wayne is made a firefighter despite having failed his exam at the beginning of the film. He actually shows that he is qualified throughout the film (by driving a fire truck, operating the hose, and being generally heroic), but not in a way that the authority figures would be aware of it.
  • May 28, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: After the first arc ends, the heroes who defeated the Evil Overlord are all in charge of some government department or other. Unfortunately, it turns out Hot Blooded-ness works well for piloting mecha that run on enthusiasm, but not so much for politics.
    • One of Ciaphas Cain's earlier adventures recounts that the men who were with him during the desperate defense of the local Arbites (police) station against invading genestealers were all promoted in the end. They were there in the first place because they'd gotten drunk and rowdy in the local bars and brothels, he was just there to get them out of custody. One Guardsman even notes that his new officer stripes just don't feel right, but Cain makes him a lot happier by remarking that a man of his discipline record won't keep them long.

    Compare Cincinnatus, where the guy is given the power but resolutely refuses to keep it.
  • May 28, 2012
    nielas
    • This has tragic consequences in Third Watch. "Doc" is a highly competent and heroic paramedic who regularly declines promotions to supervisor because it is a desk job. He is finally guilted into taking the promotion after 9/11 but it soon becomes apparent that he cannot handle the job. When he is fired he has a nervous breakdown and ends up taking the fire station hostage.
  • May 28, 2012
    Jordan
    RE the Medieval societies comment, thinking about it, this is played pretty straight in A Song Of Ice And Fire with Davos and Jon Snow. While Davos is actually a good adviser and Jon has good leadership skills, they definitely got into the running for a position of power by acts of heroism (respectively bringing food to besieged troops and killing a zombie).
  • May 28, 2012
    aurora369
    2 Morgan Wick: no, this is not an example. The "qualification" for being a President is exactly approval from voters, which is what all Presidents-elect have.
  • May 29, 2012
    Alvin
    How about Film: Mr Smith Goes To Washington , where, somewhat cynically, a politician makes his replacement a Scoutmaster who has become a minor hero (it's been a while)?
  • May 29, 2012
    Omeganian
    Sam in Transformers Dark Of The Moon seems to complain quite a bit that the trope doesn't work for him.
  • June 4, 2012
    Tiiba
    I think that the Bards' College quest in Skyrim fits just fine. I mean, you go and kill some undead, find a lost book, and your reward is the title of Bard. No matter that you're tone-deaf.
  • June 4, 2012
    McKathlin
    Standard Hero Reward is a subtrope.
  • June 14, 2012
    Topazan
    Would Ulysses S. Grant becoming president after the American Civil War count? Someone with more knowledge of history should make the call, but I seem to remember that he wasn't considered a good president.
  • June 14, 2012
    Zeromaru
    All of the subversions seem more like deconstructions, unless the trope is supposed to be that the work treats it as if their heroism makes them more qualified rather than just the characters who decide to give them the position.
  • June 14, 2012
    NimmerStill
    How is the Star Trek Deep Space Nine case a subversion? Anyway, another straight example from Star Trek Deep Space Nine is Li Nalas, a war hero from the Bajoran resistance to the Cardassian occupation, who gets a new title dedicated to him, Navarch, as well as becoming the Bajoran liaison to Deep Space Nine. He felt qualified for neither.
  • June 14, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Would this count:

    Anime and Manga:
  • June 16, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Last Starfighter. During the movie the entire Starfighter corps was wiped out, leaving only Alex Rogan to fight the Ko-Dan Armada. He succeeds in destroying it, and at the end of the movie, the leader of the Star League asks him to rebuild the Starfighter corps. There's just one problem: although Alex is the best Starfighter pilot alive (mainly because he's the only Starfighter pilot alive), he has no particular organizational/military skills or experience, which would be required to perform such a task.
  • July 2, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^^^Correct; based on the description, none of the things claimed to be subversions actually are. They are just played straight; the description says "regardless of their actual qualifications", so as long as heroism was the only reason they had in mind for promoting the person, it's played straight.

    A true subversion would be where a character does something heroic, and as her superior is praising her, the superior says "We are all grateful for what you've done. And as a result, we think you'd be perfect for... cleaning toilets! Bam!"
  • July 3, 2012
    ElCheViva
    Word Of God states that Harry Potter was made an auror after the events of Deathly Hallows, despite not having finished the requisite qualifications.
  • July 3, 2012
    planswalker
    people need to learn what a subversion is and what it *isn't*
  • July 25, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    @ Topazan I'd give you Grant. Despite his military success, he was unable to prevent his administration from being beset by corruption, and since this was in the era of the spoils system (i.e. before a merit-based civil service), that's saying something. Many historians don't rank his presidency very highly on that basis.
  • July 25, 2012
    Bisected8
    Sorry to nitpick, but the defintion of Falling Into The Cockpit should be;

    • Falling Into The Cockpit: Bob becomes the pilot after getting locked in the control room and piloting the ship because there was no other choice.
  • July 25, 2012
    moriwen
    Averted in the Ender's Game series. Ender is made an officer (forget what rank exactly, but high) after saving the world, but is told "you will have a rank consummate with your achievements and duties consummate with your abilities." His abilities aren't so useful now.
  • July 25, 2012
    Waterlily
    "Word Of God states that Harry Potter was made an auror after the events of Deathly Hallows, despite not having finished the requisite qualifications."

    I always figured that he went back and finished his qualifications after defeating Voldemort. Did she specifically state that he didn't?

    Mulan is offered a position as the Emperor's advisor after saving his life. I'm not sure exactly what the qualifications are but I can't imagine that Mulan was qualified.
  • July 26, 2012
    dragonslip
    @Nimmer Still

    feel free to change it
  • July 26, 2012
    spellraiser
    Parodied in Space Quest II. At the end of Space Quest I, janitor Roger Wilco saves his home planet from complete annihilation and is hailed as a hero in a public ceremony. In Space Quest II, we find that he has been promoted - to Head Janitor. To add insult to injury, he is the sole member of the janitorial staff at his workplace, rendering his title absolutely meaningless.
  • July 26, 2012
    TompaDompa
    In The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks goes straight from being banished to being a general after helping the Nabooan humans and the Gungans get along. One wonders why they didn't make him an ambassador (or at least some kind of diplomat) instead.
  • July 26, 2012
    isk2837
    Merlin gets his job as Arthur's manservant as a 'reward' from Uther for saving Arthur's life.
  • July 26, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    In Captain America The First Avenger, Steve Rogers starts out as a fresh private who becomes Captain America for propaganda purposes, but is made an official Captain after his rescue of imprisoned troops and capture of HYDRA weaponry.
  • July 26, 2012
    DennisDunjinman
    For the finale of Danny Phantom, Tucker Foley manages to get elected Mayor of Amity Park at the age of 14, which ironically makes him too young to vote. However, he didn't do all that much of the world-saving anyway other than just making a short film about Danny's plan.
  • July 26, 2012
    a1s
    Averted in Naruto: Tsunade has lasped into a comma and Naruto, who saves the village from Pain (Big Bad) is still a Genin and is not promoted to acting Hokage (village chief). Danzo Shimura, leader the strongest faction of village's special forces, a wise old man with strength rivalling the Third Hokage, hypnotizing powers and powerful connections becomes acting Hokage instead. Then after Danzo is killed by Sasuke. Kakashi becomes acting Hokage since Naruto does not have the proper rank.
  • July 26, 2012
    a1s
    @ Tompa Dompa Wasn't Binks his people's (can't remember their name) representative in the Galactic Senate?
  • July 26, 2012
    Freud
    "Word Of God states that Harry Potter was made an auror after the events of Deathly Hallows, despite not having finished the requisite qualifications."

    Arguably, this example isn't straight, because while Harry is not technically qualified as an Auror, he has the skills necessary for the job. Would that be an inversion of this trope?
  • July 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Goldie Hawn film Protocol she's a cocktail waitress who stops an assassination attempt on a Middle-Eastern ambassador and is therefore hired by the US government as a top level State Department protocol official.
  • July 27, 2012
    dragonslip
    who removed a hat?
  • July 27, 2012
    dragonslip
    oh it's back
  • July 29, 2012
    TompaDompa
    @als I honestly don't remember, but probably, if you say so. Point is, his diplomatic proficiency gets him a military position, and that does not make a whole lot of sense.
  • July 29, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The Last Starfighter is listed twice with identical descriptions.
  • July 30, 2012
    Arivne
    Deleted the 2nd The Last Starfighter example from the OP example list.
  • July 31, 2012
    Chabal2
    Warhammer: The extremely feudal land of Bretonnia occasionally has soldiers of the peasant armies distinguish themselves, and are quickly granted knighthood and all that goes with it. Whether or not they're fit for the job is irrelevant, as the new knight often suffers an unfortunate accident, as the nobility resents peasants being elevated to their ranks.
  • August 2, 2012
    dragonslip
    I want another hat
  • August 2, 2012
    Avurai
    Irresponsible Captain Tylor is used twice up there.
  • August 2, 2012
    dragonslip
    thanks
  • August 2, 2012
    NimmerStill
    If you put in my additional STDS9 example I'll give you a hat.
  • August 2, 2012
    dragonslip
  • August 2, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Added a hat, but it may have already been at maximum.
  • August 2, 2012
    dragonslip
    ^how do you get one of these made into a real trope then?
  • August 2, 2012
    NimmerStill
    The "launch" button I believe.
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