Is it a crime to start each day
With a laugh and a smile and a song?
And is it a crime to end each day
With a laugh and a smile and a song?
Is it wrong?
A blithe spirit is a free-spirited Fish out of Water
who goes to strait-laced land and shakes things up there despite the insistence of everyone else that the way things are can't possibly be changed
Common variants of this character include:
Not to be confused with the Noel Coward play
or the classic film of the same name (both of whose titles derive from Shelley's 'Hail to thee, blithe spirit'). Interestingly, there's a famous quote by Matthew Arnold about Shelley's hopeless attempts to be a blithe spirit to the world himself: a "beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain"
The Complainer Is Always Wrong
is an inverse of this trope. Manic Pixie Dream Girl
is a subtrope that serves as a shaker-upper of one particular person. Contrast Fisher Kingdom
, which tends to eat these people and turn them into cogs (not usually literally).
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Anime and Manga
- Haruhi Suzumiya tries really, really hard to be one of these, hence the whole SOS Brigade thing, explicitly created to "fill the world with fun!". Actually a subversion, as should the world be shaken up as she would want it to be, it could very well be the end of reality as we know it. Again. The Fish out of Temporal Water does a better job of this, as The Woobie.
- However it's The Snark Knight who moves against the consensus that she should only be observed from afar.
- The landlady Taeko's mother, Kimi, in Otaku No Musume San. This is a point of contention between mother and daughter as Kimi left Tae to be raised by others throughout her life.
- Rosette from Chrono Crusade has a tendency to rush into people's lives and change them for the better. This is lampshaded at the end of the manga when Azmaria, looking back at things from when she was a kid, says "It was a time that Rosette ran her way through all too quickly. But the course her life took wasn't all sad. Rosette was always filled with a powerful light. That light was so strong...it lit up an era blackened by the darkness of night.
- In Simoun, Aer/Ael/That blond girl with the Odango Hair and the music box is this, to an insane degree. Coupled with her endless enthusiasm and her total lack of tact, she causes no end of frustration (or, in some cases, bringing up terrible memories) to the more straight-laced Sybilla, particularly Paraietta and Neviril/Neville/that pink-haired girl who doesn't smile.
- Sometimes averted and sometimes played straight in Irresponsible Captain Tylor: Tylor is made skipper of a starship, despite no training, no military or space experience, and a penchant for nonsensical and irresponsible schemes. On the other hand, he is given command of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, half of whom are on the verge of mutiny anyway. Still, near the series' conclusion, one of Tylor's Obstructive Bureaucrat antagonists admits Tylor's adherence to this trope is the likely factor of his success.
- This is the very reason not-so-evil Oni-baba of Hinamizawa agreed to sell land to Keiichi's family; she figured that the time for prejudice against the Houjou family had passed, and thought that new blood would shake things up enough to help that process along. Rika also comments that the few worlds where Keiichi never moved to Hinamizawa were the saddest of all. Keiichi acts this way most prominently in the first half of Minagoroshi-hen.
- Notably averted in So Bad, It's Good American Shaolin - it looks like the protagonist will shake things up in the monastery... but he ends up shaken up by staying there - humbler, wiser, not to mention about 5 points up on the badass scale and getting a girl to boot.
- Jungle 2 Jungle (1997) features a character who was raised in the Amazonian jungle and comes to New York to shake up his stockbroker father's stodgy yuppie lifestyle.
- Pete's Dragon (1977) has Pete and his Dragon acting as Blithe spirits for the town they visit, but the Dragon also acts as one for Pete.
- Subverted with Holly Martins in The Third Man. He's a brash American who comes to Vienna and thinks he's going to prove everyone wrong about his dead friend Harry Lime, only to end up in over his head and screwing everything up.
- Cold Comfort Farm: Flora is a sort of inversion. She comes to the wild countryside to impose order and modern ideals, and do away with 'mess,' but she's still a fish out of water who solves everyone's problems, and her attitude about the more gothic elements of the setting is extremely blithe.
- John the Savage of Brave New World is this entirely. He protests against the loss of art, truth, and passion, despite the fact that for everyone else, it works.
- Daisy in Henry James' story Daisy Miller is also just like this, the quirky American girl trying to shake things up in Europe. Except the European aristocrats don't lighten up, and things end tragically, to say the least, for Daisy.
- Pippa in the poem Pippa Passes by Robert Browning - a young girl in Asolo, Italy who strolls through the town (on her single annual day off from the factory) singing a song which influences the lives of all who hear her for the better.
- The main character of Pippi Longstocking stirs up just about any situation, and is quite popular in the town for it, with some exceptions who prefer that people behave in a more orderly fashion.
- A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones - the women who survive the trip to Arth start trying to deliberately upset 'the balance'. Except a few of them are quite mean-spirited about it - the people of Arth have been essentially robbing earth for centuries.
- Abby from The Baby-Sitters Club is noticeably sassier and more irreverent than the other girls, particularly where (post-Flanderization) Kristy's rules and bossiness are concerned.
- While Jenny from The Truth of Rock and Roll has lived in the same town her whole life, she may still count as Johnny never really got to know her before the beginning of the story. She certainly has this effect on his life.
- Subverted in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which initially makes the title character seem like the typical kooky free spirit who teaches the kids to break out of their shells to find happiness, but soon reveals that she refuses to accept any idea about what that happiness should consist of other than her own. Eventually many of the children meet tragic fates due to her meddling in their lives. She's also a fascist, though fascism was considered "cool" and "cutting-edge" by quite a few intellectuals in the 1930s, just as communism was. It was democracy (or constitutional monarchy) that was viewed as old-fashioned and repressive.
- In the Sword of Truth novel Faith of the Fallen, Richard is this to the city of Altur'Rang. Nicci kidnaps him and drags him down there, intending to "educate" him about the superiority of the Imperial Order. Instead, Richard arrives, sees how drab and suppressed the population is, and immediately sets about making his corner of the world a better place by helping with repairs to keep up the apartment building, essentially starting a black market trade for goods (particularly food) the citizens are deprived of by the government for "the greater good," and creating artwork that shows man as beautiful and not a twisted and wicked creature inferior to the Creator. His actions lead to a city-wide revolt against the Order when they force him to demolish his artwork prior to his execution, and triggers Nicci's Heel-Face Turn.
- A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthurs Court: Hank Morgan, a 19th century Yankee, goes back to the Middle Ages and industrializes King Arthur's court.
Live Action TV
- In LazyTown, Stephanie is theoretically responsible for helping to get everyone exercising again (at least, according to the theme). That she's just as likely to have the lazy ball in a given episode is apparently irrelevant.
- Also, Sportacus is new to the town at the beginning of the show and wants to inspire the kids to eat healthy and become fit.
- Accounting Prof. Whitman on Community thinks he's Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.
- Subverted on an episode of Frasier, in which the eponymous psychiatrist is hired to testify on behalf of an elderly philanthropist whose son is trying to have him declared mentally incompetent. After meeting with him, Frasier becomes convinced that the man is just a blithe spirit trying to enrich the lives of those around him...and is humiliated when he has a complete breakdown in the middle of Frasier's testimony.
- Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother thinks he's this trope, gracing his friends with his presence to guide them through life and make them "awesome" like him. He refuses to acknowledge the fact that his friends all actually consider him a walking, batshit insane, Your Approval Fills Me with Shame generator, and only indulge his ridiculous shenanigans out of loyalty to him (and on occasion, amusement).
- To his companions, The Doctor can be this. One day this crazy man just falls out of the sky to whisk you away on an adventure and show you the wonders (and dangers) of the universe. Those who survive find themselves forever changed by the experience, and many have gone on to becomes heroes in their own right. Davros mocks this as one meaning of his name: "The man who makes people better".
- In Bells Are Ringing, Ella Peterson has a talent for making friends in strange places like the New York Subway. She brings out the happiest qualities in many New Yorkers who at first are aloof, depressed or downright freakish.
- The Lady From The Sea has the mysterious Sailor, a male variation of the trope, who turns up, completely ignoring the social rules, to claim his former girlfriend, in spite of the fact that she is married to someone else.
- Lona Hessel is this in The Pillars Of Society (also by Henrik Ibsen). She is Genre Savvy and overrules the ruling class to a point where the main character has to listen to her.
- In Final Fantasy X, Tidus fills this role in the world of Spira, questioning the current way of dealing with Sin and generally being an over anxious Fish out of Water.
- Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters, who spends his non-fighting days going from one temporary job to another and travelling through the world without settling down anywhere, save for coming back to South Town regularly. In XIII he turns down offers from a prestigious Taekwondo dojo run by his friend Kim and from the Ikari Warriors group, explicitely telling them that he hates being tied down to a regular schedule.
- In Flipside, this describes Maytag perfectly. In a fantasy setting with fairly standard levels of prejudice and bigotry, she's a free spirit who believes in loving widely and unconditionally, complete freedom of expression, and total acceptance of herself and the people around her. In fact, she's so good at this that she is almost completely immune to torture, due to accepting her pain rather than fighting it; and is uncommonly resistant to magical compulsion, due to seeing the world so clearly. She also loves to help repressed people find themselves.
- In Sluggy Freelance Torg plays this role when he's transported to the Dimension of Lame, being the only person there who doesn't epitomize Pure Is Not Good. When Demonic Invaders show up and starting eating people, the average Dimension of Lame citizen considers throwing food at them a monstrous overreaction. Then Torg shows up to organize a resistance movement and start hacking demons to pieces with his magic, talking sword.
- Many Westerners who go to China immediately find themselves in this position. This is especially true with educated Chinese expatriates who speak Mandarin well, as they can communicate with more of the natives but usually have a mindset that is completely different. This usually manifests as the foreigner seeming to have an enormously expansive personality that both intimidates and fascinates those around them, coupled with a directness that seems comically rude. The result can be very funny to watch.
- And also Japan. While it's certainly not universal, the average Westerner does a lot better at thinking outside of the box than most Japanese are encouraged to.
- The above statement is actually true for pretty much every Western tourist in Asia. Heck, sometimes the natives can speak English just fine and the Blithe Spirit effect goes boomerang. Speaking of boomerangs, it's not just in the East that this holds true. Australians (and other Westerners) often have the same reaction to Americans.
- This can depend on the nationality. Italians, Spanish and Frenchmen, for example, are perceived as more laid back than the ultra-serious Germans. Russians have the whole "depressed vodka-swigging Russkie" stereotype, and Canadians are seen as more mellow and polite. Depending on how the Americans are perceived and the nationality they clash with, there can be different results.
- African-Americans who go to Africa. It's an interesting conversation to have when a native is explaining to you that you are a white man, too.
- Socrates. He described himself as a gadfly stinging Athens into life.
- The most infamous student of Socrates' ideas, Diogenes of Sinope, later Diogenes the Cynic [a word meaning 'dog-like'] after being exiled for "debasement of the currency" (his father was a coinminter), was probably the greatest "Performance Philosopher" of all time, considering how many possibly apocryphal stories there are of his countless "one-man-riots". From his unimpressed, sunlight catching conversation with Alexander the Great, to the discourses he ended by defactaing, or masturbating, etc, showing how much he valued rhetoric, to his habit of wandering town with a lantern during the day, trying to find "a human being" among the crowds of disenfranchised busybodies, there seemingly must have been no end to his wit and moral outrage. There even is a story where he was allegedly captured by pirates and exposed for sale as a slave. When he was asked what he could do he replied, "Govern men." And he told the crier to give notice in case anybody wanted to purchase a master for himself. To Xeniades who bought him he said, "You must obey me, although I am a slave; for, if a physician or a navigator were in slavery, he would be obeyed." Xeniades took him to Corinth and had him run his household. The man whose influence may have made Jesus into such a possessionless, social reformer would have been institutionalized for any of his "lunatic acts" in this age.
- Henrik Wergeland was this to the Norwegian society in his lifetime. His impact was so intense, it reverberated long after he was dead and gone. He was, like Socrates, a "gadfly", prone to heckle the ruling classes or the upper elite, stinging into the more controversial matters like racism, social rights, or the plights of the needy. Regular people made him a Folk Hero for it.
Evil Counterpart Trope
Sometimes, the shaker is a villainous character, causing trouble for their own ends and means which might not be in the target's best interests. Sometimes involves a Deal with the Devil
with them as the Devil. Examples include: