In stories where Anyone Can Die
, there is often a protagonist who mysteriously (or not - so - mysteriously
) seems to be very knowledgable about how to survive the situation. That character is often paired with this one; a Commander Contrarian
who argues or disagrees with nearly every sentence he utters. It's rare that the Commander Contrarian
survives the tale. If this character finally leaves the group in disgust, taking others with him, it's common that not one of the separated group survives
Though this trope is classically associated with Disaster Movies
, it can apply to any genre where Anyone Can Die
. In stories with a lower body count, some or all the Commander Contrarian
's supporters may survive, but only after being subject to such misfortunes
that they realize that The Complainer Is Always Wrong
. Compare Doomed Defeatist
This is a Death Trope
, so beware of spoilers.
- The Trope Codifier (if not the Trope Maker) is very likely the original The Poseidon Adventure, where Commander Contrarian doesn't believe that the boat has been submerged upside down and won't follow the party in what he believes is a suicide climb towards the hull. They disappear from the plot after that, and they're implied to have never been found. The 2006 remake had them explicitly get drowned, the lounge singer and captain even embrace tenderly as the liquid death rushed at them.
- In the made-for-TV Disaster Movie 10.5 Apocalypse, a bunch of people get stranded in a tower after a massive sinkhole swallows Las Vegas, and the geologist tells them to climb towards the roof because the building is going to sink. The other party thinks he's crazy, and you never hear from them again.
- In The Day After Tomorrow, this is played straight with the big group of people that ignores Sam's warnings and leaves the safety of the library. We learn later that they froze to death. It is then averted with the Dick Cheney-esque Vice President who believed that taking action to stop global warming would destroy the economy. He is seen alive at the end of the movie, giving a speech apologizing for putting short-term economic benefit ahead of the health of the planet.
- In Jurassic Park, Genarro first disagrees with the scientists, then abandons the party.
- The black lawyer neighbor in the 2007 movie The Mist, based on a Stephen King short novel. As you can imagine, he didn't last long. We get a few minutes of characterization that show he's not a total jerk, but insists on leaving the supermarket against the lead's informed warnings. He and everyone in his group are politely and promptly introduced to things that were not meant to be.
- This is later subverted by the woman who leaves the convenience store and is seen at the end to have been picked up by the military, her and more importantly her children, alive and intact.
- In Star Wars, Grand Moff Tarkin refuses to believe that the rebels could take out the Death Star and won't let anyone evacuate. He got to carry one big Idiot Ball....
- Roy Nord in Daylight. He decides to be a Big Damn Hero and climb out through a ventilation shaft. Then, Rocks Fall, Roy Dies (causing a Special Effects Failure, while we're at it).
- Judson and Crimp from Five Came Back, which is about a plane that crashes into the Amazon jungle. Crimp doesn't want to follow orders from the pilots, tries to leave on his own, and gets killed by the local headhunters, alerting the headhunters to the white people in the jungle. Judson also doesn't want to follow orders, spends his time drinking, tells everyone that they'll never be able to fix the plane, and wants to make an almost certainly futile trek over the Andes. He dies in a Gun Struggle at the end.
- Stephen King's The Mist has a group that the protagonist dubs the Flat Earth Society. They refuse to believe that the mist is full of Eldritch Abominations, even in the face of concrete evidence. They eventually walk out into the mist and are never heard from again.
- Lost had the good Dr. Artz. He pointed out everything the main characters were doing wrong, then promptly exploded.
- Done with a twist in the Doctor Who story The Dalek Invasion of Earth when the Doctor, Ian, and another man are locked in a cell on a Dalek spaceship. There's some random objects left lying around inside the cell that the Doctor immediately deduces to be a means of escape. The other man flatly refuses to believe it, and turns out to be right, since the whole thing was an intelligence test by the Daleks to see if they were suitable to be turned into mind-controlled servants.
- A few episodes have had the classic horror-movie "that creature is no threat to us!" character who immediately gets eaten or whatever, but often the Doctor saves the contrarians along with everyone else. The 2007 Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned" subverts it with a plot where nearly every likable character dies, but rude, unhelpful, selfish coward Rickston Slade not only survives the disaster, but turns out to have financially benefited from it.
- The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Old Man in the Cave" invokes this trope. Humanity had a nuclear war and the landscape was so badly poisoned that the ground only yields burned or mutated crops. Despite all of this, the setting is a run down little town in which several people have survived for ten years. This is due to the old man in the cave, who though he has never been seen, leaves the people notes about what they can and can't eat of the leftover food. The old Man's unofficial representative is a man named Mister Goldsmith, who ventures to the cave every day with the questions the people have and returns with an answer. One day, a trio of Army Men with rifles arrive and essentially take over the town as well as belittle Mr Goldsmith and chide him for believing in someone he has never seen with his own eyes. The townspeople are quick to buy into what the soldiers say, especially when they suggest eating the leftover food that the Old Man has already deemed contaminated. Mister Goldsmith begs them not to eat the food , telling them that they will die if they do; after all, it is what the old man said. Frustrated, one of the soldiers skewers an onion with a knife and takes a bite. The people watch and are filled with confidence when he remains wholly unaffected, though he pretended to drop dead on the spot to further discredit Goldsmith. As might be expected, the people follow suit and grab loads of the food. That night, they party and eat their fill with the exception of Goldsmith. who keeps talking about the old man and calls the soldiers murderers. The trio decides to put the myth of the old man to death once and for all and the next morning they lead the townspeople up to the cave along with Goldsmith, who is the only one with the power to open it. At first, he refuses, telling them they don't need to see the old man at all, but the soldiers force him to open it and everyone enters. It is discovered that the old man is actually a very odd looking machine, which the people destroy at the command of the soldiers before heading back down to town. Night passes and early in the morning, Goldsmith walks through town which is littered with the dead bodies of the townsfolk, who have died from eating the poisoned food. He finds the Body of one of soldiers and solemnly explain that the danger wasn't the unknown. The dangers that lead to the deaths of everyone was that which comes from faithlessness. Afterwards, he leaves town for good. (It's important to note that we are never told who or what built the machine and that the people had disobeyed it before only to get the very results that it said they would. )
- Tragically, something similar happened on September 11, 2001, though not quite in the "contrarian" sense: information had spread about a possible air evacuation from the roof of the at-that-point-not-yet-collapsed towers, so many of the people on the top floors headed up, rather than down. The air evacuation was eventually deemed impossible as the towers became increasingly unstable.
- Some people left Spartacus's merry men to start pillaging. They were quickly obliterated by the Roman legions.