Some bureaucrats are a bother
. Others are overworked
. Still others are dishonest
. However this one is a lord or lady of the office, and even the most powerful kneel before them. This is a character no one on the outside knows about. Others get the glory, but they get the job done and well enough to earn praise from their fellows. They are living paper shredders who cut through red tape like a buzz saw, and are usually very good with being The Scrounger
When female, she's likely to be young and attractive and very much a Plucky Office Girl
, but with a streak of an Iron Lady
as well. Often this is a female intelligence analyst who is something of an indirect Lady of War
. Sometimes her Love Interest
will be one of her field agents. Their general behavior is rather like an Apron Matron
in their dedication and their hidden but intimidating air of authority, except this character brings these traits to work.
Regardless of gender, they are something like The Consigliere
but tend to work farther in the background. If circumstances call upon them to go into peril openly, they will, of course, take a level
and be more straightforward in their badassery. But for now they are just a Badass Bureaucrat
Often found in combination with an Almighty Janitor
and/or Silk Hiding Steel
. Also see Pen-Pushing President
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- In both versions of Fullmetal Alchemist, Maes Hughes is certifiably badass as he uncovers a lot of The Conspiracy through sheer investigation and intelligence not to mention that he takes out both Envy and Lust single handed; too bad they are both immortal.
- In X/1999, Yuuto Kigai and Kanoe work in the Japanese government (he's an office worker in a Tokyo ward, she's the Sexy Secretary to the Prime Minister). Kanoe leads the Dragons of Earth and Yuuto is her right hand man.
- Descendants of Darkness gives us the Right-Hand Hottie to Chief Konoe, Seiichirou Tatsumi. Very handsome, very smart, and has the power to manipulate shadows.
- Mobile Suit Gundam's sidestory The Plot To Assassinate Gihren has an evil example in Gihren's secretary, Cecilia Irene, who is also an example of the dark type of Obstructive Bureaucrat. A coldly efficent young woman who acts like The Baroness, she is feared/respected by the top brass, pushes Gihren's special projects through the red tape, and acts as his keeper of the keys, handling all the black operations that the rest of the General Staff doesn't want to think about.
- Saiunkoku Monogatari's heroine wants to become a civil servant in an ancient China-esque country; the show focuses much with the internal workings of the State, and most main characters are Badass Bureaucrats of some sorts.
- Henry Gyrich of Marvel Comics has his moments, despite usually being at best an Anti-Villain. See his epic victory over the Man-Ape in Black Panther's eponymous series, using nothing but his encyclopedic knowledge of the law.
- Meowth in Symbiosis, who games Team Rocket's system for Jessie and James's sake.
- Pam, in The Man Who Never Was, and most of the other main characters.
- Lawrence starts off as this in Lawrence of Arabia
- The middle-aged professionals in Old School are noted for being really good at filing paperwork.
- Mallory from Skyfall at first seemed like a Obstructive Bureaucrat but is later shown to be a Reasonable Authority Figure and even takes the bullet for M from Silva and was able to kill two of his Mooks before becoming the new M at the death of Judi Dench's character.
Live Action TV
- Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones.
- Hetty from NCIS: Los Angeles. She is both a bureaucrat and a former agent who once wrecked a Ferrari in Monte Carlo and is proficient in numerous exotic weapons. She is nicknamed "The Duchess of Deception"
- Radar from Mash.
- Klinger later manages to grow into the role after Radar gets sent back to the States.
- Bunpei Shiratori, a local government bureaucrat from Inba, Japan, is an All-Star competitor on Ninja Warrior. A particularly memorable competition had him recovering from heat exhaustion to advance all the way to the third stage.
- Esther Drummond in Torchwood: Miracle Day. She's not very good at gathering intelligence, or being professional and seperating her work from her personal life, or coping with high risk situations, but give her a pile of data, and she's sure to advance the plot.
- Joan from Mad Men. Pretty much everyone in the office acknowledges that she really runs the place and is one of the only people who knows how the office bureaucracy and logistics truly works.
- Mycroft Holmes claims to have a minor position within the British government. It is heavily implied that Mycroft Holmes is the British government. He does, after all, control all the CCTV cameras in London. And is possibly the head of MI6.
- Donna from Doctor Who is a variation: although she never made it past temp note , she can pretty much single-handedly run an office, work out complex calender systems, type 100 words a minute and do a Sherlock Scan of office file systems. She saves the day a few times over with those skills.
- Pretty much the entire main cast on The West Wing. They're always cutting deals, manipulating other departments and offices, and getting none of the glory outside of the office.
- James Lester in Primeval. His main concerns are typically bureaucratic in nature. But it's quickly revealed that he cares much more than he'd like to admit. When someone points this out, he coldly threatens to sue them for libel. In the latest season, when the wealthy industrialist financing the ARC is demanding that all the prehistoric creatures be put down (after one nearly causes his death), Lester threatens to leak information about this to the press, even though he himself has often complained about the animals (except for the mammoth, which saved his life earlier).
- Richard Woolsey in Stargate Verse. He starts off as an Obstructive Bureaucrat, but through character development becomes this when he is put in charge of the Atlantis Expedition.
- Jack Ryan starts off as this in The Hunt for Red October. If anyone wants to know something, talk to him.
- There is also a secretary referred to who, while directors come and go, she "really" runs the CIA.
- Anyone and everyone working for Her Royal Majesty's Laundry Service who is not an Obstructive Bureaucrat or snivelling incompetent is revealed to have elements of this trope.
- Jorj X. Mc Kie and probably everyone at the Bureau of Sabotage in ConSentiency.
- Several of Lord Vetinari's "dark clerks" in the Discworld are Assassin's Guild-trained. How much actual clerical work they do seems to depend on the assignment...
- Inigo Skimmer in The Fifth Elephant is one of them, a small man with a way of nervously clearing his throat and an expert on Überwald politics, who, left alone with a group of bandits, killed seven before the rest fled.
- A.E. Pessimal from Thud!! deserves at least honorary mention, notable for attacking a troll (which are made of rock) with his teeth.
- Even the regular clerks get a touch of this at the end of Going Postal, where the description of the clerks auditing Reacher Gilt's finances makes forensic accountancy sound like an inexorable, inescapable force of Truth.
- On the other hand (or at least the hand that pays him more) is Mr. Slant, zombie attorney and president of the Guild of Lawyers, whose death only made him work through lunch breaks. He can quiet a roomful of attorneys with a glance, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of case and precedent because he was there and helped write it.
- And don't forget Mr. Bent, from Making Money, who runs the bank accountants with an iron fist... but as it turns out is very well-thought of because tough as he is, he's also the sole reason why the bank of Ankh-Morpork has worked at all, and he's been a tireless crusader for improving work conditions for the bankers. Plus, he took out assassins with long-forgotten, probably genetic clowning techniques!
- Vinny Duto in John Wells series, Hero of Another Story. While his days in the field has passed now, he remains legendary in the CIA for his fearlessness. He has once shrugged off a two-month abduction by Colombian rebels with two week trips in Caribbean.
- The Vogon Constant Mown from And Another Thing... seems well on his way to become this at the end of the book — in a race of Obstructive Bureaucrats he figures out how to use laws and loopholes in laws to help people while at the same time making it appear that he's being as ruthless as other Vogons. (He does have some luck on his side, when some of his genuinely concerned remarks are mistaken for and lauded as very sophisticated sarcasms.)
- Rogue Squadron is an elite special forces unit in the X-Wing Series, whose members were recruited not only for their experience and expertise as starfighter pilots, but also for a wide range of additional skills that could come in handy during covert infiltration mission behind enemy lines. One of the most important members is Nawara Ven, who is a former lawyer and whose legal expertise is frequently used to trick imperial bureaucrats and occasionally exploit legal loopholes against their superiors.
- In the New Jedi Order, General (and later Supreme Commander) Sien Sovv is characterized by his thoughtfulness, efficiency, thoroughness, and not a lot of combat experience. While he suffers some ignominious defeats, due mostly to his bosses, the Senate or to the enemy's sheer numbers, he matures into exactly the sort of commander the Galactic Alliance military needs: a shrewd politician but unconcerned with his own power, capable of keeping morale up and riding herd on his more impetuous junior officers while managing the interstellar infrastructure needed to keep new troops and ships pouring in. Over the course of Destiny's Way, he transforms the allied fleet from a crippled, scattered, demoralized Red Shirt Army into a well-equipped, fully replenished force of seasoned veterans capable of carrying out Admiral Ackbar's ambitious plans to take the war back to the Vong.
- While most Administratum drones are of theObstructiveBureaucrat variety (that oft-repeated quote about losing entire planets to rounding errors? Yeah, that's them), Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) meets a Badass Bureaucrat refugee during his trek through the deserts of Perlia. Not only does the guy survive months of desert warfare enduring countless ork attacks, he even plans out the column's rationing for food, fuel and water, without which they'd all have died in the desert.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast we have his Excellency the Right Honorable Henry Gladston Kiku, M.A. (Oxon.) Litt. D. honoris causa (Capetown), O.B.E., Permanent Undersecretary for Spatial Affairs. Mr. Kiku can read at over 2,000 words per minute, useful since he needed to go through a dozen memos and other documents per working hour, making the occasional notation and referral to subordinate for action. Most were for information but he needed to be kept informed. During the climactic confrontation with the Hroshii on the tarmac of a spaceship landing field and with the threat that they could destroy the Earth with their one ship, he stood there and cursed mildly when the wind nearly blew his hat off.
- Savatage's song "Chance" is about Chiune Sugihara and the turmoil he must have felt as he destroyed his career to do the right thing, see the Real Life section below.
- "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" by CAKE is about the narrator's love for a female badass bureaucrat. She "uses a machete to cut through red tape."
- The few notable Vilani commanders in the Intersteller Wars era of Traveller tended to be this. Vilani bureaucracy is so convoluted that only a Badass can survive it. But several do and do so quite well.
- The alien race of the Bwaps has this as it's hat.
- In Exalted the number of things that can be accomplished by members of the Celestial Bureaucracy with the mere stroke of a pen can be staggering. Some of the most noteworthy are the Sidereal Exalted who are at the forefront of the Bureau of Destiny. The most powerful Sidereal, Chejop Kejak, hasn't been using his powers much in the past several centuries, but maintains incredible power in Heaven through the number of commitees he chairs or has membership in (which amounts to virtually all of them), and in Creation through his status as advisor to the Scarlet Empress, tutor to her children, and secretary of the head of the most powerful religion in the world.
- In the First Age, we have Salina. To recap, Salina is (in)famous for a Working that literally rewrote the laws of reality. The only thing exceeding this achievement is the amount of bureaucratic wrangling she managed to pull off to secure the official support and logistics required to implement it.
- This is one of the key talents of Eclipse Caste Solars. Give an Eclipse ten minutes, a piece of parchment, and a pen, and he will snare your entire government in pits of bureaucratic madness that nobody can escape, then take advantage of the chaos to go and punch a deathknight through a wall or three.
- The Seneschal player class in the Warhammer 40k RPG Rogue Trader is characterized in this way. A typical seneschal is a financier, quartermaster, and/or business manager to one of the eponymous Rogue Traders and is an expert in matters of commerce, intelligence — oh, yes, and personal combat as need be. Like all Rogue Trader characters, they are expected to hold down both shipboard posts and participate in highly dangerous adventures.
- In earlier versions of Dwarf Fortress, raising any skill would increase all your stats, regardless of the skill; raising it to godlike levels would make you godlike. And the Bookkeeping skill was incredibly easy to raise by assigning a dwarf as your bookkeeper. As a result, Dwarf Fortress bookkeepers would rapidly become practically demigods.
- In Mass Effect 3, you intercept this transcript from a human colony world about to be overrun by the Reapers:
Secretary Phillips: The emergency fund's gone, sir. We don't have the credits to hire enough ships to evacuate the colony before the Reapers get here. Not with the prices their captains are asking for.
Councilor Gujir: What about the military?
Phillips: The left an hour ago. They said... they said it's too much of a risk to come back.
Gujir: Did they.
Phillips: Yes, sir.
Phillips: This... is this a passkey, sir? And an inventory?
Gujir: Phillips, I am authorizing you on behalf of this city's Senate to seize any and all eezo stockpiles in our treasury, in order to secure safe passage for our citizens on any available ships.
Phillips: These look like private stockpiles. Senate members' stockpiles.
Gujir: I'm forgoing re-election. Now get us those ships.
Phillips: Yes, sir!
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has Senator Steven Armstrong, who is not only the true mastermind behind the plot, but is also capable of physically overpowering Raiden with his bare hands due to nanomachines that grant him Nigh-Invulnerability and Super Strength. At first, Raiden stands no chance against him. It's only after Raiden obtains Sam's High Frequency Blade that he is able to do any significant damage to Armstrong.
- Chancellor Jarjuna of the human nation of Vasgol in The Water Phoenix King has yet to appear in person, other than one brief glimpse in a flashback to the war as a "kid in goofy armor", but he gained his position by leading the rebellion despite being only a commoner and killing a god with his own sword — and he's held onto that job for the decade since despite ongoing attacks from outside forces and fractious nobles trying to grab, or grab back the power they had before the empire was shattered. So pretty badass, despite being dismissed as a mere bureaucrat by the old nobility, and it's hinted pretty good as well — he seems to be trying, and at least partially succeeding, to be a good ruler, at least.
- Lars Sturtz from Dominic Deegan. Most of the events in the Battle for Barthis were to either delay or distract Brakkis, the Lawful Evil Corrupt Corporate Executive, so that Lars could navigate the legal system to rescind the unsubstantiated declaration of corruption on the town, grant the citizens disaster relief, circumvent Gregory's "debts", organize a benefit concert, and expedite the rebuilding protocols.
- Girl Genius:
- Vanamonde von Mekkahn looks like a young loafer who does nothing but laze around and drink coffee all day. In reality, Vanamonde secretly runs the town of Mechanicsburg from his seat in the coffee shop, can rally the people of the town into highly effective guerrilla fighters against the Wulfenbach army in a matter of hours, and will utterly mess you up if you dare threaten a member of the Heterodyne family.
- By necessity, Baron Wulfenbach had to become this. With the world falling apart, and everyone and their army ready to tear it further apart, Klaus did the only thing he could do; take over the world and force people to stop fighting by basically saying "Do NOT make me come over there." And It Worked. And he's miserable for it, because now he lives out his days playing the much-hated game of bureaucracy.
- Boris Dolokhov serves as the Baron's personal secretary and administrative second-in-command. He personally organised the forces of the empire in the face of continent-wide rebellions while the Baron is incapacitated, and when faced with the mutiny of the Jagers he beats the location of the generals out of their messenger so that he can discuss the matter with them.
- Bob "Mr. Incredible" Parr, from Pixar's The Incredibles, was this during his brief stint as an insurance claims agent, much to the chagrin of his Obstructive Bureaucrat boss Mr. Huph.
- Roz from Monsters, Inc., also the CDA Administrator incognito.
- Hermes Conrad from Futurama once organized a forced labor camp he was imprisoned at so efficiently that all the work could be done by one Australian man.
- He also used his organization skills to lead a fleet in a battle to retake Earth in Bender's Big Score.
- He also at one point managed to clear his department's entire backlog in 4 minutes.
- Betty Carp, an attractive immigrant filled this position at the OSS and earned praises from various formidable spymasters.
- Felix Vasquez your typical salaryman, a Housing Authority Supervisor for the city of New York to be exact, who received a call that one of the buildings that he oversaw was on fire. After calling the fire department, he then ran to the burning apartment building, beating emergency services, and saw a woman who was waving her baby out of a window. When he told her not to throw the baby, the woman misunderstood and threw her baby out of the window. Having only seconds to spare, Felix hopped a freaking fence and caught the baby, saving its life. What's even more badass is that the baby wasn't breathing when he caught it, so he gave it CPR. If that's not badass, nothing is.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower. Stuck in a training post for World War One, he never saw action leading men in combat and did not hold an indepedent command higher than a battalion before the World War II. His appointment as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force was considered a maverick act. He turned out to be one of the most able general officers the United States has ever sent to war, at least partially because the sheer size of the Allied Expeditionary Force required someone whose skills were not those of your typical combat general.
- Eisenhower's boss, George C. Marshall. Marshall more than any other man was the architect and builder of the United States Army that fought World War II, and as such its ultimate success in Europe and the Pacific was largely his doing. Winston Churchill called him the "organizer of victory". After the war he moved into diplomacy, where he was responsible for the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe in the late 40s and early 50s.
- Joseph Stalin. Whatever else you might think of him, he was a bank robber and a revolutionary, and a far more charismatic and intelligent one than his most famous sources portray him as. He used bureaucracy as a springboard to establishing a personal dictatorship and in turn to annexing most of Eastern Europe and turned Russia from the least of the Great Powers into one of Earth's only two superpowers.
- There are a number of stories of diplomats and consular officials who saved Jews from the Holocaust due to determined applications of bureaucracy. Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, saved
dozens thousands by filling out visas that allowed Jews to evacuate to Japan. He was recalled in disgrace, but he continued to fill out visas as fast as he could until the very last minute, even flinging them out of the window at the crowd as the train pulled away.
- Similarly, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved numerous Jews by falsifying paperwork permitting them to enter Sweden, then bought up apartment buildings, filled them with Jewish families, declared them Swedish sovereign territory (much like an embassy or consulate in a foreign country) and pretty much dared the Nazis to stop him. They didn't.
- John Rabe, on the other side of the world, was a diabetic Siemens employee who managed to get a section of Nanjing turned into a safe zone for Chinese civilians during the Japanese occupation with no authority, no government backing, and no military force.
- Sugihara was a vice-consul, which means in the (highly stratified) Japanese diplomacy he did not have the authority to decide on visas. He gave them out in direct violation of his orders from Tokyo, during the time when powerful Japanese generals had to step carefully to avoid disgrace, execution or assassination. This is an even more Badass act.
- Samuel Pepys almost founded the Royal Navy on his own during the Stuart monarchs.
- Frank J. Wilson, agent of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Internal Revenue (and later Chief of the United States Secret Service). It was his meticulous scrutiny of Al Capone's finances which allowed the criminal's arrest and conviction for tax evasion. You might be able to bribe the right elements of law enforcement to stay free, but God help you if the IRS comes after you...
- J. Edgar Hoover singlehandedly built the FBI, arguably one of the largest and most powerful law enforcement agencies in the world. Not only that, but as director of the FBI, Hoover was effectively the most powerful person in the US, outlasting 5 presidents and largely being untouchable, due to him having dirt on everybody. Nobody dared try to remove him from office and he only gave up the position due to his death from a heart attack.