Created By: Koveras on December 15, 2011 Last Edited By: Koveras on January 16, 2012
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Unfit For Greatness

A well-meaning character does more harm than good with power because he lacks the virtue to direct it.

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A fundamentally good and well-meaning character who attains (either by chance or through his own effort) a position of great prestige, power, and responsibility--only to cause more harm than good because he doesn't have enough willpower, foresight, and general virtue to handle them right. Despite trying to make life better for others with his power, he ends up wasting it on petty things or unwittingly pushing them into ruin. The tragedy of this character is that he often realizes that he screwed it all up but doesn't know how to fix it.

Such character may be contrasted by the one who is better suited for greatness but doesn't receive any recognition (at first). Both of them may want the same thing but by a twist of fate, the one who has the power is not the one who can pull it off.

Contrast Reluctant Ruler and Cincinnatus. See also Drunk with Power and Well-Intentioned Extremist. Reality Warping Is Not a Toy is a common fantastic variation.

Examples:

  • Magog, the Anti-Hero Substitute of Superman in Kingdom Come, turns out to be one of more well-meaning anti-heroes. He really only wanted to Make A Better World by killing The Joker and the like and before he realized he was wrong, he was filling in Supes' shoes, which eventually culminated in the Kansas disaster.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Jacob's disappeared father actually crash-landed with his crew on a planet whose environment began destroying their cognitive functions. At first, he rationed the uncontaminated food for the scientists working to get them all off the planet. Then, however, he gave in to temptation and turned the camp and mindless crewmates into his personal kingdom.
  • In Labyrinths of Echo, Chief of the police General Bubuta Bokh. He earned his rank and more for exploits during the war, remains loyal, not malicious (only noisy), his abuses of power are limited to petty embezzlement and nepotism. He's also completely unfit for this job, except the part when he scares arrested folk. Note that he doesn't actually screw anything up (yet)--if only thanks to the work of much more competent lieutenants working under him.
  • The one-shot JLA: Superpower is structured around this trope, in the person of Mark Antaeus.
  • Irredeemable is a giant extended exploration of this trope.
  • Robert Baratheon from A Song of Ice and Fire fights valiantly in a just war to dethrone a mad king, but when he takes the throne himself, he proves himself incompetent in dealing with matters of state, spends lavish amounts of money on feasts and tournaments, and his inattentiveness to his own family sows seeds of disaster.

Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • December 16, 2011
    dalek955
  • December 16, 2011
    TBeholder
    • In Labyrinths Of Echo, Chief of the police General Bubuta Bokh. He earned his rank and more for exploits during the war, remains loyal, not malicious (only noisy), his abuses of power are limited to petty embezzlement and nepotism. He's also completely unfit for this job, except the part when he scares arrested folk. The previous chief managed to keep the city up and running during a magical civil war, but got moved to a more important service... and then tried to visit police offices as rarely as possible, to avoid seeing how it degraded without him.
  • December 29, 2011
    Koveras
  • December 29, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Reality Warping Is Not A Toy for when great power really gets out of hand
  • December 29, 2011
    Jhimmibhob
    • Irredeemable is a giant extended exploration of this trope.
  • December 29, 2011
    Jhimmibhob
    • The one-shot JLA: Superpower is structured around this trope, in the person of Mark Antaeus.
  • January 10, 2012
    Koveras
    So, does this one have any potential to be good enough for launch at some point?
  • January 14, 2012
    Koveras
    Well, I do have five examples and a write-up.
  • January 14, 2012
    SilverDoe
  • January 14, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Can you elaborate?
  • January 15, 2012
    Desertopa
    Robert fought valiantly in a just war to dethrone a mad king, but when he took the throne himself, he was incompetent in dealing with matters of state, spent lavish amounts of money on feasts and tournaments, and his inattentiveness to his own family sowed seeds of disaster.
  • January 16, 2012
    Koveras
    Thank you, that's perfect.
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