"You don't wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel."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 and parodies 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 a 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.
— Pee Wee Herman, Pee-wee's Big Adventure
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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.
- Before his death, Kamina reveals his reason for wanting to fight. He fights so that those of the younger generation like Simon, Rossiu, and the twins can live in a better world. It's one of the defining aspects of his Hidden Depths. Ultimately though, he entrusts the future to Simon.
- Hana from 7 Seeds. She dislikes being ordered around, rather taking up the reigns herself and often gets into fights or disagreements with authority figures because of this. Particularly when she refuses to properly play by her team's guide Yanagi's rules or gives him respect, as well as Ango, both with consequences.
- 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.
- In Robotech/Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Lynn-Kyle/Lynn Kaifun plays with this in a rather interesting way, as he looks like he ought to be a Cool Guy; he's Tall, Dark, and Handsome, self-disciplined, a master of combat martial arts, and unquestionably intelligent, plus the ladies drool over him. 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.
- 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 a 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.
- John Constantine's defining trait; he's a Blue-Collar Warlock who dares to kick the snobs - rich, well-connected or supernatural - in the bollocks. Deconstructed in that while it always proves a worthy pursuit - he has no difficulty finding high-status Asshole Victims in desperate need of humiliation, pain and death - but going to war with the people who own the world inflicts a lot of collateral damage on the world, on him, and on his allies. None of them let him forget that, either. Some of them suggest that he's not so much a champion of the oppressed so much as an adrenaline junkie who uses powerful and amoral opponents as a source of schadenfreude.
Clarice: Sticking your hand in something nasty, getting good and pissed off, getting the blood flowing—vintage John Constantine.
- Child of the Storm plays with this. On the one hand, as part of Harry's opening up and being able to express his emotions more, he becomes more confident and much more of a Deadpan Snarker (due to the profound weirdness of his life, how much of this is being a Stepford Snarker is up for debate), and it is implied that he's playing this trope straight, since he lives with and looks up to the Avengers, who are collectively described by Word of God as 'an anti-authoritarian snark patrol'. On the other, he gets gently called up on it by Sean Cassidy, who reminds him that there are boundaries, and he visibly takes this on-board.
- Bonnie and Clyde:
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
- Fight Club: Tyler Durden's loud and brash anti-establishment way of thinking clicks taps very well into the frustration and resentment of the working class. While harmless at first (at least as harmless as therapeutic punching of other people go), as the movie goes on, Tyler is shown to be increasingly destructive, narcissistic, and mean-spirited. By the end of the movie, Tyler is, for all intents and purposes, the leader of a terrorist organization, blowing up buildings without any care for what harm they might do to bystanders.
- Overdrawn at the Memory Bank: Fingal takes over the computer that controls the world's weather, causing hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards, probably killing thousands of people. The Fat Man is trying to stop him from doing so. Fingal is the hero of the movie for "fighting against the system";
Fat ManFat Bastard is the villain.
- Rebel Without a Cause: Has it in the title.
- Revolution (1968): That is precisely the reason people became hippies in the sixties.
- Rogue One: Jyn Erso is a brilliant but troubled pilot who doesn't like authority in general.
- School of Rock: Even though Dewey himself starts out as a washed-up loser, this is his argument for why the kids should join his rock band. Rock sticks it to The Man, and that's what makes it cool.
- In Serenity Mal finally has enough of The Alliance following the crew's discovery of just what the hell happened on Miranda and decides to pay them back for everything, starting with his famous line "I aim to misbehave". His statement of rebellion is not exactly unreasonable as The Alliance is not a well-meaning government and did many truly despicable things.
- The Wild One: Marlon Brando is probably the pioneer of this trope, turning into Mr. Fanservice, despite its very famous Lampshade Hanging of Brando's lack of motivation with the exchange:
Mildred: What're you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny: Whaddya got?
- 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, who is the commander of a bomber training squadron, 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.
- Twilight: All the cool kids and vampires rebel against authority even when the authority figures are being reasonable:
- Bella constantly disobeys and lies to her father, who happens to be the chief of police, despite the fact that he just wants her to be safe; while she loves him to bits she doesn't want to actually get married to Edward because she doesn't want to repeat her parents' mistake (while being perfectly fine with becoming an immortal vampire, faking her death, and never seeing her parents again); she fights to keep her baby even when everyone is saying it will kill her.
- Edward is haughty and rude to the Volturi after they let him off for trying to expose his sparkly self to humans in an elaborate Suicide by Cop and are perfectly fine with Bella knowing about vampires as long as she's transformed quickly.
- Garrett, a vampire who was transformed while fighting for the US during The American Revolution, makes a Rousing Speech against the Volturi despite the fact that he's aware his side could all be killed and their entire plan hinges on not fighting and since they don't fight it means the Volturi can find him later and end his rebellious streak for good.
- In Vampire Academy, Rose Hathaway opposes authority figures on principle, butting heads with the headmistress of the Academy and a few teachers. She gets some admirers this way.
Live Action TV
- Firefly has this going on with the crew of the Serenity. They rebel by avoiding their not exactly well-meaning government while earning a living in a number of morally ambigious ways.
- 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.
- The big exception being those that are Backed by the Pentagon, and even they can push things pretty close.
- Hawkeye from M*A*S*H 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 against 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 Cyberpunk 2020, 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"!
- In this case 'authority' is plans imposed on the characters by the undead lord of a dead kingdom, but it's hard to deny that in Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star rebellion is striking out to risk pain and disappointment for an uncertain future, and embodied by Yuuya, that is cool. Even some of the characters agree.
"Are you going to follow his orders just because he's the king?"
- Averted in Nip and Tuck. The Show Within a Show Rebel Cry features our hero defying the authorities again, and it hits him hard because he had sworn to give it up.
- In Sinfest,
- In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, Quinn explains he expects no trouble from his Pirate prisoners because their attempt to play this trope showed how stupid they were.
- Sal of Dumbing of Age has a leather jacket, a Cool Bike, a knack for attracting admirers whether or not she actually wants to, and zero patience for rules. This applies to everything from maths to room-mate agreements to Mario Kart.
Ruth: The fire alarm is not a toy. It's not.Sal: Shit, now ah ain't never wanted to pull a fire alarm so bad in all my life.
- Existential Comics: How Karl Marx usually appears as. Either bare-chested in a circle of German philosophers, as the main goal scorer for the group (since he felt it was important for philosophers and thinkers to "make" history), and as an ''Mad Marx: The Class Warrior fighting Hayek in single combat and killing Ayn Rand. In the comic with Chomsky, Fanon and Foucault, he appears as Gimli the Dwarf to join Fanon's proposed Fellowship of Revolutionaries appointed to help overthrow all the old oligarchs of Middle-Earth.
- Parodied by The Onion. Teen Rebel Refusing To Purchase Yearbook.
- The Nostalgia Chick rips this trope apart in her review of Reality Bites. She does it again when she takes on the film RENT, stating that rejecting the system that has left you behind also denies you any voice within it.
- Deconstructed in this article by Cracked.
- 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.
- Zig-zagged with the "Cool Kids" (Jenny Pizza, Buck Dewey, and Sour Cream) in Steven Universe. While they do insist on wearing seat-belts when driving ("There's nothing 'lame' about seat belt safety"), they also blithely ignore a web of police tape Pearl set up to keep humans away from some alien moss growing in a marsh.