Cool People Rebel Against Authority
This is the general portrayal in fiction that any character who displays any sort of aloofness or indifference to an authority figure, for any reason, must be incredibly cool. Quite often the person against whom the "rebellion" is directed is an Obstructive Bureaucrat
or some variant.
Expect "authority" to be heavily tainted in The War on Straw
in some way or another, when the audience inevitably asks "What's so bad
about the authority figure
, anyway?". Indeed, deconstructions
of this trope are becoming more and more common. Some works may point out that acting 'rebellious' to be cool is just another way to conform to a different authority. Others might portray the rebel as a needlessly belligerent and pretentious douchebag. They might also remind us that "The Man
" is capable of good things (Governments protect people and provide services while big businesses produce things and hire people) as well as bad. This Values Dissonance
can result in audiences Rooting for the Empire
. See also Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!
A very common trait of the Mary Sue
Supertrope of Good Is Old-Fashioned
, when coupled with Darker and Edgier
. The supertrope of School Is For Losers
. If the so-called rebel becomes too
culturally influential, expect either Rule-Abiding Rebel
or The Man Is Sticking It to the Man
Anime and Manga
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann plays with the trope. Once Team Dai-Gurren wins they become their own authority, and the epilogue features the kind of ultra-high-tech society (and its military) that wouldn't get built if everyone spent their time rebelling for the sake of rebelling.
- This is a point of the Character Development of Simon vs Kamina. Kamina would always have found something to rebel against, some further powa to rowrowfight. Kamina fought to fight; Simon fought to achieve a goal. When he dug through it meant he'd emerged into a world he could live in. Team Dai-Gurren could never have become anything more than a rebellious guerrilla unit without the change of leadership. Kamina knew this; that's why all his faith was in Simon instead of himself.
- Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. Right there in the title. Heck, Lelouch attracting followers to his rebellion through sheer charisma is a major plot point. It helps that The Empire he's rebelling against is only a couple steps shy of being a Nazi regime.
- Angel Beats!: The SSS. Since it's the afterlife, they can get away with quite a lot.
- Ranma ½: Ranma Saotome has little to no respect for authority. He physically fights with teachers on a regular basis and goes out of his way to piss them off. Then again, one of his teachers disciplines him with Ki Attacks, another one tried to make him confess love to Akane during his time as a teacher, and the principal of the school is just batshit insane, so it's kind of understandable.
- Robotech. Lynn-Kyle looks like he ought to be a Cool Guy. He's Tall, Dark and Handsome, the ladies drool over him. He's self-disciplined, a master of combat martial arts, and unquestionably intelligent. Some of his opinions about the situation they're all in are valid. Yet... his rebelliousness rings false, he comes across, over time, as self-righteous and selfish, increasingly so as time passes and his personal resentments against various people overcome the principles that he originally did espouse. By the end, he merely comes across as a selfish and destructive jerk.
- Riki in Ai no Kusabi is notorious in the slums for being a very headstrong and defiant Badass Biker rebel. So much so that he's admired by people who have not ever met him but heard of his exploits. He's aware of his status and proud of it until he is Made A Sex Slave.
- In keeping with the above picture, Captain America in the 1970s grew increasing disenchanted with America until it climaxed with him becoming Nomad for a few adventures. Fortunately, he soon realized that he can still be Cap and fight for America's ideals, rather than its government. He ended up doing it again (this time without name change) in the 2000s after a reporter told him that America was about Facebook and voting for the girl with the biggest boobs on American Idol, and not silly things like truth and justice and being able to trust in your government without looking like a fool.
- Comes up briefly a time or two in the X-Wing Series. In Michael Stackpole's run Rogue Squadron - who got that name in the first place purely for the coolness factor - is Mildly Military and quite happy to ignore minor directives and rules... which is usually seen as quite positive, with most people accepting it because they get amazing results, and the one who thinks they're irresponsible generally getting ignored. Then the complainer saves their skins after ignoring a rule himself - and rather than shrugging it off, insists that he be reported, because rigid rulebound discipline is all that keeps his people alive in the long run. In the end Rogue Leader Wedge Antilles has to accept this as valid.
- During Wraith Squadron, Wedge has to train and lead a squadron of misfits that make the Rogues look rulebound, and this includes a woman with a kneejerk hostility to authority, including to him. He reflects that in the old days of the Rebel Alliance she wouldn't be considered dangerous, but just another Rebel, and eventually earns respect from her and the rest of the squadron by, when she challenges him, winning by somewhat underhanded means - proving himself still too rebellious to win conventionally.
- Discussed by several characters stuck in an elevator in David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel The Pale King. A few of them point out how, in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, this trope has been made into a fashion trend in the US by the early 80's (when the story is set) for corporations and politicians to use to their advantage — the Apple 1984 ad is indirectly referenced, Ronald Reagan directly.
- Crops up a lot in the Left Behind books, for some reason. Perhaps it's an attempt to counteract the fact that when the Antichrist showed up, Buck Williams and Rayford Steele immediately went out and got jobs with him (ostensibly to undermine him from within, but they never seem to actually do any of that, instead simply acting as passive Peripheral POVs), and that might look cowardly and submissive if they didn't remind you of their manliness by posturing and sneering at every minor functionary who crosses their paths.
- Firefly has this in The Serenity's crew. Mal "aims to misbehave" and loves ticking off The Alliance.
- Virtually every American TV show made in the last forty years which even mentions government might as well flash "government, bad" on the screen in neon.
- Hawkeye from Mash might fall under this, although he usually only rebels against authority when authority is being stupid. Which is, admittedly, every episode. This is the whole purpose of the show, to rebel against authority. Hawkeye even interrupts the peace talks because he feels they aren't doing enough.
- Other episodes play with this trope. For instance, Frank Burns was left in temporary command and decided that the medical staff were verging on alcoholism, and declares the 4077th 'dry'. By the end of the episode, despite Hawkeye's furious protests and rants, it's become clear and is portrayed as such that Frank did have a point, he just took it a bit too far. More brutally, on a later occasion Hawkeye himself is left in temporary command of the 4077th, and rapidly gains a different perspective on the sort of shenanigans he himself often pulls, to the point that he actually muses over charging B.J. Hunnicutt with being AWOL because he wasn't there when Hawkeye needed him for a medical crisis (he was responding to a different problem on his own, without authorization). Margaret even teases Hawkeye about this realization.
- Played for laughs with Britta Perry on Community; she clearly believes this, about herself especially, but her overall cluelessness about many of the things she protests about (or life in general) and the fact that deep down she's basically sweet and Adorkable no matter how much she wishes she wasn't means that she generally tends to come across as self-righteous, annoying and not nearly as cool as she believes.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is Playing with a Trope.
- Coulson's team is authority and they don't rebel the higher authorities in SHIELD. Indeed, they belong to the loyalist faction during the civil war that starts in "Turn, Turn Turn". However, they have several Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right moments.
- Skye does this by default, because she's a hackivist, but her Character Development moves her away from "SHIELD is made of scary Men In Black" and more towards "SHIELD is the nice Big Brother". Even she herself gets a few What the Hell, Hero? moments when she goes too far.
- Miles, another Rising Tide member, is portrayed as a doofus who is willing to sell out for the right price.
- Villains tend to be inversions (e.g. Quinn - who espouses libertarian views, but is happy to use his money to act exactly as he accuses governments of acting).
- American Idiot plays this straight at first, with the main character Jimmy (styling himself "Jesus of Suburbia") leaving his town to live a punk life in the city. Then the trope is deconstructed when he eventually despairs and returns home to life the conformist life he rebelled against.
- Parodied by "Threw It On The Ground" by The Lonely Island in which a bespectacled hipster overreacts to imagined insults by angrily ranting about "the system." And, of course, throwing things on the ground.
- One of the premises of Cyberpunk2020, the characters are typically depicted as being future Robin Hoods who use their skills to challenge the megacorporations who rule over the world with an iron fist. Heck, there's even an attribute called "Cool"!
- Craig Hoffman in Family Guy:
Meg: Hi, Craig. Umm, I was wondering if maybe you would want to, I don't know, go out sometime?
Craig Hoffman: Huh, that's about as likely as me playing by someone else's rules besides my own. Which I would never do. I play by my own rules, nobody else's, not even my own.
- Rush Limbaugh (in a guest appearance) pointed out that Brian does this because he liked being the underdog.
- In The Simpsons, Bart questions what the baby sitter sees in Jimbo. "What do you like about him? He's just a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules." Cue sighing of female characters present.
- Played straight with Bart, at least in the early years. This was his appeal as a merchandising icon during that time period.
- Parodied by the Goths (erm, nonconformists) in South Park.