Created By: callsignecho on December 2, 2011 Last Edited By: LondonKdS on August 2, 2016

Propaganda Hero

When the government creates a hero\'s legend through (and for) propaganda.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Trying out a new title. Previously known as Government Sponsored Hero.

The people need a hero. The war is not going well, and the troops are running out of food, ammo and steam. The propaganda department is about to fall on its collective sword when in walks a vision: a square-jawed, broad-shouldered, clear-eyed, clean-limbed HERO...to deliver the mail.

Immediately, he is snatched up, given a shave, a haircut, a heroic backstory and put on display. His story might even be true, but that's less important to the Powers That Be than his affect on morale.

Inevitably, our Made Hero will grow into his legend, and eventually even exceed it.

Related to Famed In-Story.


Examples

Anime

  • One Piece: The Shichibukai/Seven Warlords of the Sea are pirates sanctioned by the (generally opposed to piracy) World Government. This is to maintain the appearance of a balance of power with the strongest pirates, to show that pirates still fall under the control of the government, and emergency allies in case of war. The Warlords get something in return for their compliance, as well as fame.

Comics
  • The comic book miniseries The American Way is about a government-sponsored superhero team; the government also sponsors the supervillain team which the superhero team fights. It's all propaganda.
  • The Boys: The superheroes are all created by a serum that is dispensed by a Mega Corp. that desperately wants to turn said superheroes into human weapons so they can get all the money and power that comes from being a part of US defense spending. Having failed to do that so far, they settle for peddling lame, Silver Age style stories that people eat up and make them imagine the heroes are saving the world on a daily basis. Of particular note is the Captain America Captain Ersatz, who is a Dirty Coward whose WWII heroism was faked and pure propaganda (which is incredibly meta, considering Captain America also appears in this list).
  • Strikeforce: Morituri has in-universe propaganda comics about the characters, which are played sometimes for comedy and sometimes grim irony.

Film

Literature

  • The Hunger Games: Katniss' formidable fighting skill is entirely overshadowed by the sympathy she draws from the populace. Both sides try to exaggerate and embellish her reputation—inventing star-crossed romances and so forth—and both meet with mixed results due to her bitter, taciturn, rebellious, survivalist-but-self-sacrificing nature...which is why the people truly love her.
  • Ciaphas Cain's reputation is at least in part built on this (as well as on his extremely impressive—if accidental—actual heroism).


Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • December 2, 2011
    wanderlustwarrior
    In One Piece, the Shichibukai/Seven Warlords of the Sea are pirates sanctioned by the (generally opposed to piracy) World Government. This is to maintain the appearance of a balance of power with the strongest pirates, to show that pirates still fall under the control of the government, and emergency allies in case of war. The Warlords get something in return for their compliance, as well as fame.
  • December 2, 2011
    dalek955
    • Ciaphas Cain's reputation is at least in part built on this (as well as on his extremely impressive if accidental actual heroism).
  • December 2, 2011
    zarpaulus
    Ciaphas Cain, much to his dismay.

    Also Spess Mahreens.
  • December 2, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The comic book miniseries The American Way is about a government-sponsored superhero team; the government also sponsors the supervillain team which the superhero team fights. It's all propaganda.
  • December 6, 2011
    SeanMurrayI
  • December 6, 2011
    Rytex
    Fullmetal Alchemist. Central spreads teh story about the youngest person ever to become a State Alchemist. Hell, just teh fact that mentioning he's a State Alchemist would do the job, regardless of age. State Alchemists are the most powerful people on the planet (in the eyes of the people) and are almost as revered as gods. That, or almost as hated as the Ishvaals.
  • December 6, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    Spoofed in Robocop with the propaganda-cartoon hero "Johnny Rehab", the friendly face of ethnic cleansing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fprEdlSn9Tc

    Also from Robocop, Commander Cash. Bringing the credit crisis to a super-fight near you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=OddnvlQgH9w
  • December 6, 2011
    TheWanderer
    Basically, all Super Heroes in the comic The Boys are this. They're all created by a serum that is dispensed by a Mega Corp that desperately wants to turn said superheroes into human weapons so they can get all the money and power that comes from being a part of US defense spending. Having failed to do that so far, they settle for peddling lame, Silver Age style stories that people eat up and make them imagine the heroes are saving the world on a daily basis. Of particular note is the Captain America Captain Ersatz, who is a Dirty Coward whose WWII heroism was faked and pure propaganda.
  • December 6, 2011
    Duncan
    Would the film version of The Running Man count, for the gladiators who chase down the criminals? And inverted, of course, with Arnold himself.
  • December 9, 2011
    Noaqiyeum
    The page quote absolutely must be from Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri:

    • Richard Baxton piloted his Recon Rover into a fungal vortex and held off four waves of mind worms, saving an entire colony. We immediately purchased his identity manifests and repackaged him into the Recon Rover Rick character with a multi-tiered media campaign: televids, touchbooks, holos, psi-tours-- the works. People need heroes. They don't need to know how he died clawing his eyes out, screaming for mercy. The real story would just hurt sales, and dampen the spirits of our customers.
      • Morgan Stellartots Keynote Speech, "Mythology for Profit"
  • December 9, 2011
    kuyanJ
    Memetic Badass is an audience reaction- about how a character is portrayed outside of canon. This is about the attitudes of in-universe people, so "Government Sponsored False Hero" would, in my opinion, be a better title.
  • January 5, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Dr Manhattan: at least the government tried to get the apathetic superman to play along with this.
  • January 5, 2012
    nitrokitty
    Government Sponsored Hero just sounds like a hero who works for the government, maybe Propaganda Hero?
  • January 18, 2012
    AP
  • January 19, 2012
    CrypticMirror
  • January 19, 2012
    Lyendith
    Real Life:
    • This is what happened to Aleksei Stakhanov in Stalin's USSR. After winning a coal extracting competition, he was presented as an insanely productive miner, to serve as an example to other workers, with the purpose of making them work beyond their production quotas and show the world how performant the "New Man" was. He made a comfortable career for the regime thanks to that. Of course, decades later, his alleged exploits were proven greatly exagerated, but a city is still named after him. In some countries like France, someone who works beyond reason is called a "stakhanovist".
  • January 19, 2012
    ScanVisor
    Ah man, I get all the good stuff!

    Trope Codifier: * Big Boss from Metal Gear.
  • January 19, 2012
    sliz225
    A humourous, mild variant in {{Ranger's Apprentice}}. Halt builds up Horace as a hero of legend, but Humble Hero Horace is a little confused by instructions like "look enigmatic," "stare off into the distance," and "stand framed by the setting sun."
  • January 19, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Supreme Power (the Marvel MAX version of Squadron Supreme) the Superman analogue Hyperion is brought up by the government in an artificially-created All American nuclear family. His "parents" are operatives who'd never met before this assignment, and after they're "killed" they part ways hoping to never see each other again. The plan is for the Government to use him as a Sponsored Hero but it doesn't go as planned.
  • January 19, 2012
    TBeholder
    @ nitrokitty: aye.

    Or The Hero Of Propaganda.

    @CrypticMirror we're still stuck on the name

  • January 20, 2012
    Nndaia
    Ps238 features Patriot Act and American Eagle, two children superheroes sponsored by the two major American political parties.
  • January 20, 2012
    SonofRojBlake

    Arguably Superman in The Dark Knight Returns.

  • January 22, 2012
    PaulA
    ^ The government didn't create Superman or his reputation, they're just taking advantage of it.
  • January 22, 2012
    ginsengaddict2
    Feng Shui: The Buro has two: Dan Dammer, the Jammer Slammer and Desdemona Deathangel. Dan is a celebrity policeman with his own Cops-style TV show. Desdemona is drop-dead gorgeous model on the outside, man-eating abomination on the inside. Both are good for PR.
  • January 23, 2012
    Unknown Troper
    This is the plot of Lieutenant Kije - a Russian film best known for its score and accompanying orchestral suite by Prokofiev. Several army officers invent the heroic, decorated life of (a non-existent) Lt. Kije to impress visiting dignitaries.
  • January 24, 2012
    Synchronicity
    • Inverted, then subverted, or something in {{1984}}. It has the legend of Emmanuel Goldstein, an ex-party leader, Defector From Decadence, and the supposed leader of the Brotherhood, an organization planning to dispose of the government. The government declares him an enemy of the state in order to harness the anger of the people. It's played with in the sense that Goldstein's supposed ambitions are portrayed as "good" and "idealistic" with today's set of morals, and the government is really, really, really fucked up.
  • January 24, 2012
    Chabal2
    Also from comics, Dr. Manhattan (at least at first) is shown destroying Vietnamese troops while being the size of a building, with a voiceover saying "God exists, and he's American".
  • January 24, 2012
    Lyendith
    • 1984 plays alll the more with it that whether this Brotherhood exists and whether Goldstein is alive are left deliberately unclear.
  • February 29, 2012
    callsignecho
  • February 29, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^ Still Needs A Better Title. Maybe we should put up a crowner, but I support Propaganda Hero of The Hero Of Propaganda.
  • August 5, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Small edit to the The American Way example: "...about a US government-sponsored superhero team; the US government also secretly sponsors the supervillain team ..." (Emphasis unneeded in article, it's just for the sake of pointing out the edit.)
  • September 14, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    Does it count if the person in question has powers, but is elevated to the status of superhero by a corporation versus just living as a "not-so-average Joe"?

    I was thinking of Rising Stars, which has Jason Miller, a.k.a. Patriot, a.k.a. Flagg. He's one of the 113 "Specials" born with some sort of superpower, himself getting flight and strength specifically, and is turned into an official sponsored superhero image-wise by NexusCorp.

    Also I second Noaqiyeum's suggestion for the page quote up above.

    Still needs a better title and a few more examples, though, IMHO.
  • September 14, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^ We have a trope for that, its Corporate Sponsored Superhero.
  • September 15, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ ...isn't this the same trope, then?
  • September 16, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Isn't Ciaphas Cain this? (haven't read a single page so i don't know)
  • September 16, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^^ It's not, which is why we're trying to change the name.

    • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: This is Commander Badass's backstory, it turns out that in the future, wars are fought for public opinion, so soldiers are made to appear badass for the purposes of propaganda.
  • September 17, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Another example from Nineteen Eighty Four, in which the "hero" is totally fictitious: Winston makes up an obituary for a soldier called Ogilvy, to replace a newspaper article about a discredited party member who has become an unperson. The chapter ends with him musing that Comrade Ogilvy now "exists" on the same evidence as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.
  • September 17, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^^ How is it not? Both tropes are about the exact same thing--someone sponsoring a hero into being a big deal.
  • September 17, 2012
    foxley
    Captain Atom in The DCU. Created when an experiment gone wrong pushed through time from the 1960s to the (then present-day) 1980s. Seeing the opportunity to have its own superhero, the government created a complete fake heroic past to feed to the public to get them to accept the new superhero.
  • September 17, 2012
    LOAD
    ^^This one seems to be based around the propaganda aspect. I say it's different enough to deserve a trope.
  • August 7, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Advertising
    • Smokey the Bear became a spokesbear for the Forestry Service after news of an orphan bear cub rescued from a wildfire reached the ears of Madison Avenue. "Only you can prevent forest fires" became Smokey's catchphrase, and the Department of the Interior greenlit the PSA campaign. Though the rescued cub was dubbed "Smokey" at the time, he didn't wear a ranger's uniform, nor did he speak English.
  • August 7, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Film Live Action
    • In Wag The Dog, Brean and Motss turn an army convict named William Schumann into the war hero "Old Shoe" as part of their efforts to sell the public on the fake war in Albania. Of course, it later turns out that Schumann is a convicted rapist, creating the potential for a PR nightmare.
  • August 8, 2015
    Chabal2
    Happens in reverse order to Tintin in "The Broken Ear": having been sentenced to death by the Tapioca loyalists and drunk off his ass on aguardiante, he ends up joining in the general cheering when Alcazar's forces liberate the prison, leading to him being presented to the general as a true patriot who yelled "Long live Alcazar!" as the firing squad was taking aim.
  • August 8, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^^^Smokey Bear, not Smokey the bear.
  • August 10, 2015
    Snicka
    Does this count? Here the character is already a superhero, but gets recruited by the government for propaganda purposes.
    • In Iron Man 3, James Rhodes gets a new armor from Tony Stark, financed by the government, called the Iron Patriot. It is a modified version of his older War Machine armor, painted in the national colours of the USA.
  • August 10, 2015
    Ominae
    The Metal Gear example needs to be added.
  • August 1, 2016
    DAN004
  • August 1, 2016
    Basara-kun
    Comic Books:
    • Various of Superman incarnations are this:
      • Superman Red Son is the first Propaganda Hero in Superman history. After converted into the Superman of Soviet Russia, he soonly converted himself into a living propaganda for the URSS, even having the "hammer and sickle" icon in his chest instead the classic S and is described "... as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.".
      • High Concilior Superman from Injustice Gods Among Us (the video game AND comic book), who becomes himself as the "president of the Earth" and so he stated himself as this.
      • One of the alternate universes' Superman from Final Crisis is "Uberman", a Nazi version of him based on Nietzsche, is also a Propaganda Hero for his world. And from the same Crossover Crisis, there's President Superman, the Barack Obama version of Superman (which is also president of the USA), which is one of the protagonists of The Multiversity.
  • August 1, 2016
    ErikModi
    • Captain America in The Ultimates (the Ultimate Marvel version of The Avengers). America had been trying to have a "symbol soldier" for some time, but they all kept getting killed, which was unacceptable. It was pointed out these men kept dying because they were only human, and so research began to create a super-soldier who would rally US forces.

    • In Robocop 2014, the whole point behind Omni Corp rebuilding Alex Murphy as Robocop is to get public opinion on their side for the use of automated drones in American police work, which a bill in Congress is attempting to prevent.
  • August 1, 2016
    StarSword
    Supertrope of Fake Ultimate Hero, when the propaganda is the entirety of the character's heroism.
  • August 1, 2016
    DAN004
    • Done discreetly in Blaz Blue: Jin's position as "Hero of Ikaruga" for stopping the Ikaruga Civil War is partially Hazama's mechanizations, in that he needs a "figurehead" that he can manipulate for his own purposes. During the war, Hazama specific ally uses the Zero Squadron (the Military Police) to make sure only Jin is available for stopping the war.
      • in the events of the game, after Jin rebelled against the army, Hazama has to make another figurehead; he then uses Tsubaki (Jin's close friend) for that role, by forging a claim that Tsubaki stopped the criminal Ragna's rampage in the city of Kagutsuchi and then promote her to Major.
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