'"Every engineer dreams about saving the universe and having sex with aliens. This is much more glamorous than the real life of an engineer, which consists of hiding from the universe and having sex without the participation of other life forms. Consequently, ratings for Star Trek will remain high as long as they stay away from any realism."So you just picked up this book about a character who's powerful, incredibly talented, irresistible to the opposite sex, long-lost royalty, and Friend to All Living Things. Sounds like a horrible Mary Sue story, right? Except that you don't mind at all. Instead, you're seeing yourself in their shoes and enjoying it. After all, everyone likes to fantasize about being awesome once in a while. You can argue over whether or not they're a Mary Sue, but they're definitely an Escapist Character. While Mary Sue is generally defined as being a bad thing, some of the most widely loved characters in existence are Escapist Characters with any number of Common Mary Sue Traits. While a badly written Escapist Character can come off as a Mary Sue, the key difference between the two is that while a Mary Sue is the author's wish fulfillment fantasy, the Escapist Character also functions as the audience's wish fulfillment fantasy. Some members of the audience may identify with a character and others may not identify with the same character. Whilst many audience member's Wish Fulfillment fantasies have common elements, they are not all identical. Thus, the distinction between this and Mary Sue is very much a subjective matter. Please remember that conceptually, neither Wish Fulfillment nor Escapism are bad. Compare the Showy Invincible Hero. See also: I Just Want to Be Normal, I Just Want to Have Friends, I Just Want to Be Special, I Just Want to Be Badass; wishes that are fulfilled by escapist characters. Compare/Contrast the Expectation Lowerer, a character that allows you to feel awesome by being much worse than you are; and This Loser Is You; a character who the creator feels is a representative of the audience. This trope has nothing to do with the Escapist film or website.
— The Dilbert Principle
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Outlaw Star: Gene Starwind is almost certifiably the epitome of this trope: Hot, muscular guy with lots of Shirtless Scenes? Check. Awesome fighting skills? Check. Lecherous pervert who still scores booty all the time with various incredibly hot women? Check. Spends cash like popcorn yet never runs out because some bounty is always available for collection? Check. Has a highly sought after Cool Spaceship? Check. Commands a Badass Crew that is mostly female, follows his insane orders without much questioning and adores him? Check. Has a Magical Girlfriend that loves him dearly and heals all his injuries via Intimate Healing? Check. Wields a one of a kind Hand Cannon that is also a Wave Motion Gun? Check. Always leaves the bad guys screaming in frustration? Check. Can act as an obnoxious, irresponsible Manchild all the time and get away with it without breaking a sweat? DOUBLE CHECK. Yes, you totally want to be him. And if not: BITE HIM!
- Sailor Moon:
- Usagi might be one of these. She starts out as an ordinary school girl, then quickly gains magical powers, a small platoon of new friends, a destined love from a previous life, and finds out that she's a princess who's going to rule the world sometime in the distant future. Though considering Usagi's personality, that last one might not be so great after all. Seeing as how Usagi ends up watching all of her friends die right before her eyes, and then deciding to sacrifice her own life to save the world in the finale of the first season alone, it's probably safe to say her life isn't all that glamorous.
- Tuxedo Mask may count as an example for the guys. He is a handsome, young man who throws roses at monsters of the week and gets to fight alongside multiple women, plus being crushed on and eventually getting to die in Usagi's arms via Heroic Sacrifice.
- Given how popular Sailor Moon remains and the number of fandom-created senshi, it's safe to say the characters are all escapist to some degree. No matter what happens, the senshi are loyal to each other and pull through without long-lasting psychological damage. Going from an awkward adolescent to a badass fighter in an improbable outfit is a considerable upgrade for most people.
- Haruhi Suzumiya:
- The titular character is highly intelligent, exceedingly athletic, very attractive, omni-talented, and has a club of people who follow her beck and call, not to mention an entire secret organization of espers that exists to keep her happy. Deconstructed in that she's not the viewpoint character, and the story gives focus on how her Jerk Ass antics make the lives of the Audience Surrogate Kyon, as well as the others, a pain. She instead becomes a Parody Sue, and she's also the closest thing that the early novels and the anime have to an antagonist...
- One could argue that Kyon, already being the viewpoint character and Audience Surrogate, is the escapist character of the series. He's implied to be very smart (though he never claims it), constantly comes up with witty comments, and is surrounded by three good-looking (as acknowledged in-universe) female characters, at least one of whom is likely to appeal to you.
- The other Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club. A poor girl with incredible grades, great cook, and surrounded by five drop-dead gorgeous men (and one adorable one), who can resist their flirtations, and making snarky comments all the while? Yep, Haruhi definitely fits here.
- Golgo 13. The thing about Mr. Togo is that, yes, he's a nigh-unstoppable assassin with aim such that he's unironically referred to as the Hand of God, with more money than the entire nation of Japan, who regularly talks women he's never met before into bed... but he doesn't seem to enjoy any of it. Verges on deconstructing the idea.
- Edward Elric and the entire profession of 'alchemist' in Fullmetal Alchemist is designed to make the fairly mundane science of chemistry into an awesome, flashy combat form. The alchemists shown in the series are almost all incredibly intelligent and dedicated scientists who also happen to be extremely combat proficient.
- Alucard from Hellsing. Seras is also an example, as she goes from a police girl with a tragic past to an elite vampire soldier and even takes Alucard's position for a while.
- It could be argued that there are Escapist Character tendencies for most of the cast. There are many scenes that may and probably will go beyond suspension of disbelief, but the stylization with which Hirano pulls it off is so awesome that it can be excused on account of Rule of Cool.
- Love Hina's Keitaro Urashima. For everyone who ever couldn't get a date, what could be better than suddenly becoming the guy in charge of an all-girls inn, with an onsen, where practically all of them eventually fall for you? Sure, there's the physical pain inflicted on a nearly daily basis, but most would agree that it's Worth It.
- Of course, this also pretty much applies to the protagonist in any harem series. Tenchi Muyo!, Maison Ikkoku, et cetera. Amusingly, one of the biggest complaints about these sorts of characters being wishy-washy ignores the fact that it's the easiest way to make an escapist character not feel openly exploitative of the situation.
- 13-Dot Cartoons was incredibly popular in Hong Kong in the '60s and '70s, but mainly among a much lower economic class than its protagonist, who could never afford the fancy clothes she wears or all the things she buys. Plus, since she's a dimwit, readers got to feel good about themselves even as they wished they were someone else. Notably, after the recent growth of Hong Kong's economy there no longer seems to be as much of a market for the series.
- Death Note:
- Light Yagami. His Magnificent Bastard nature, perceived sexuality, fan fixations, and the fact that evil rocks doesn't hurt either.
- Also, L. Who doesn't want to just say whatever's on their mind, get whatever they want, afford to be picky about what work they take on, subsist on sweets and stay thin, and count putting on ratty old sneakers as "getting dressed up?" Not to mention he's a genius detective, and is implied to be incredibly rich.
- Yugi Muto from Yu-Gi-Oh!. We mean, what Shrinking Violet hasn't wanted, at least once, to beat up the school bully and get away with it?
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series takes this trope Up to 11 for both Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba.
- Its sequel series played with or outright Deconstructed this trope:
- Juudai/Jaden Yuki starts out at this trope, being a teenager who always wins in card games in a world that Duels Decide Everything, attending a school created for dueling without parents supervision and his teachers are Obviously Evil, never studying in class but managed to pass for his dueling skill and has an awesome deck filled with superheroes and aliens creatures. However, season 2 and 3 Deconstructed this so much by putting him through a massive Trauma Conga Line and burdened by the responsibility put upon him. This was thankfully reconstructed in season 4.
- Averted with Yusei Fudo and the entire supporting cast. His life is generally crappy and depressing due to living in Satellite.
- Yuma Tsukumo plays this trope straight. Unusual for the fact that he doesn't start out at one. Probably why he was hated among the franchise protagonist, for at least Yugi is meant to be a Vanilla Protagonist.
- Subverted with Yuya Sakaki within two episodes. After his dad disappeared, he was labeled as the son of a coward and is bullied, making him a Sad Clown. His first public victory is quickly diminished for being accused a cheater after using cards that were never publicly known or published. And that is before the series underwent a Cerebus Syndrome.
- Guts from Berserk: His conviction in facing opponents that would terrify a normal human being, along with his extraordinary strength and skill in using his gigantic sword, other weapons and wits against his opponents, make him stand out. But like everything else in Berserk, Guts is a huge deconstruction. He became this way as a direct result of a series of really nasty and horrific things that began, technically, even before he was born. You may wish to be like Guts, but no one wants to be Guts.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
- A good deal of fans want to be the seemingly worthless girl who made a wish to save her best friend and became a Groundhog Peggy Sue, learning to fight and getting ever more powerful weapons along the way; some others want to be loved by the aforementioned Peggy Sue character. Something for each gender/sexuality!
- But just like the Berserk example above, Madoka Magica is a Deconstructor Fleet. Considering that this girl leads a battle she is doomed to fail every single time and loses the girl she loves in the end, and as of the latest movie becomes an emotionally disturbed satanic figure, you probably don't really want to be her.
- Ciel of Black Butler. An incredibly rich and beautiful Teen Genius that nearly everyone loves and respects who has an almighty Bishounen Battle Butler that can grant his every wish and can be extremely close to him at times? Not to mention his Dark and Troubled Past (which he was 'rescued from' by the aforementioned butler), Even the Guys Want Him, he works for the queen, and he owns the largest toy company in Britain...all starting before the age of twelve.
- Simon the Digger of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. His beloved adoptive brother is Kamina, he hangs out with Yoko and Nia, almost everyone around him is incredibly supportive and he ends up leading a rebellion against (in order) an earth-wide tyranny, then a universe-wide tyranny at the ages of about fourteen and then about twenty-one. In a world where mechs quite frequently do the impossible, he's literally the best Gunmen pilot there is.
- Fist of the North Star: In another story, Kenshiro would be a Mary Sue. Luckily, it's not too hard to want to be him. This is a dude who beats enemies and blows them up like bombs on a day-to-day basis, and these enemies happen to be super evil that toys around with the weak just to be a bully because they have strength, so it's ALSO an escapism of upholding justice and beating evil in the most epic way possible. He protects the innocent, and more or less turns into The Messiah. He has to work at his victories and doesn't just get them handed over to him on a silver platter. This guy has coolness surrounding him like an aura.
- Dragon Ball has Son Goku. He is an All-Loving Hero who is The Ace and Hope Bringer among his friends and the universe at large. He is consider one of the strongest beings in the universe, regularly defeats super-powered aliens, androids, demons, and even gods, and can learn about any technique by just seeing it once. The fact that he was born weak and gained his strength through good old-fashioned hard work on top of being extremely talented endear him to a lot of people, which is part of why he is seen as a better main character than his son, who much more down to Earth. There's reason why he became the Expy to many modern day Shōnen protagonists and often compared to Superman.
- Lupin of Lupin III. He's a Phantom Thief with a Heart of Gold, traveling the world stealing priceless artifacts with his masterful cunning, trying to score with recurring Femme Fatale Fujiko (or the Girl of the Week) and always managing to be one step ahead of both the law and his adversaries. As quoted from author Monkey Punch in an interview with Anime News Network:
"Lupin is by far the character I most relate to. What I really like about Lupin is his freedom, his boundless freedom that allows him to do whatever he wants whenever he wants and never really be tied down to anything or anyone in particular."
- Kouta Hirano in Highschool of the Dead, both a borderline-psychotic killing-machine when he has ammo, and a deconstruction of this trope in zombie fiction. Inside the realm of a Zombie Apocalypse, all his years of accumulated military-knowledge let him act upon his violent tendencies on a city's worth of undead. Finding a safe-haven in the Takagi mansion, many of the adults working there don't approve of him carrying around so many military-grade weapons. When trying to take them away, he cries that without them he'll go back to being the pathetic military Otaku he used to be. As if to hammer this home, one early chapter even lets him hold some of former bullies at gunpoint, and when the first barrier goes down in Takagi's fortress-like defense, while the adults that tried to take his guns away are scrambling, he ends up using those guns to save them along with several other lives, shown to be the most effective with them of anyone in the compound.
- The titular problem children in Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren't They? but especially Izayoi can be considered this - they are beautiful, smart, super strong and have awesome adventures, yet aren't annoying unlike many a Mary Sue character.
- Don't forget Nobi of Doraemon fame! Getting constantly picked at school and grounded at home seems a lot more bearable with a Do Anything Robot Buddy.
- Black Bullet's Tina Sprout. Even among folks who hated this show, it's generally agreed that many want Tina as their little sister instead of Enju (especially in America). It also doesn't help to note that Tina's personality does not fit into the typical Japanese stereotype of an American.note
- Overlord's titular Overlord Momonga plays this trope straight in some ways and deconstructs it in others. An average salaryman with no friends or family in real life finds himself in the body of his video game character, a badass max level lich armed with some of the most powerful spells and artifacts in the game and a whole dungeon's worth of fanatically devoted followers, two of which are hot girls hopelessly in love with him. The world he finds himself in has very little to throw at him that can even challenge him. However... his power as an undead comes at the cost of gradually losing his humanity and dampening his emotions, he is gradually descending into villainy, all his subordinates hate humanity and any single careless word from him could lead to catastrophe (as seen when he absentmindedly muses that "conquering the world might be interesting" and Demiurge seems more than happy to take him up on that), the girls in question are Yandere for him and he cannot take advantage of their attraction for him because his skeletal body is not properly equipped.
- Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin. On paper, he would break many Mary Sue tests. He's a brilliant, talented swordsman who is considered the greatest in all of Japan. His sword skills are so legendary that he is a Living Legend who single-handily brought his side to victory during the war. And he did all of this when he was a teenager. Him being a chick magnet is also a bonus. Although, like Berserk, this is deconstructed. For all his talent, Kenshin is a very broken individual who has been through several lifetimes worth of trauma started from when he was kid. It's not until the end of the manga that he finally gets a happy ending. Like Guts, you would want to be like Kenshin, but you wouldn't want his life.
- Hyoudo Issei from High School D×D starts as The Everyman inducted into the Occult Research Club, and spends the next twenty volumes becoming the envy of any normal guy. He's surrounded by beautiful, adoring women who have no problems sharing, the other two guys in the club are his best friend and an underclassman who idolizes him, the most beautiful girl in school is his girlfriend, he's one of the most powerful members of his generation, he's now rich beyond his wildest dreams because his eccentric brother-in-law made a TV show about him, and he's on the fast track to becoming a noble in the demon world. Who wouldn't want to be him?
- Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle: Lux Arcadia is the only male student in an all-girls school, gets the attractions of five different girls and is a talented fighter who saves his kingdom on a regular basis. He is basically Ichika Orimura done right.
- Ash from Pokémon is a ten year old boy who doesn't have to worry about school or other problems most kids his age do. He's instead out on a journey across the world where he makes his own rules and does what he wants. He has a neverending chain of friends, both human and non-human, and several of them are attractive girls who Word of God notes are supposed to be eye-candy for kids. Ash himself is a bit of a Chick Magnet, though he's Oblivious to Love. Ash is a powerful trainer when he wants to be, has been noted as The Chosen One on more than one occasion, and even has spiffy powers such as aura. He also never ages. Ash being an escapist character is most pronounced in Pokémon: I Choose You!. In it, there are many scenes showing off how cool and free it is to be a Pokémon trainer. There's a Dream Sequence where Ash lives in a realistic world and goes to school. It's surreal and almost nightmarish to see Ash in such a mundane, lifeless world, which accentuates how much more freeing his life is from a normal ten year old's.
- Superman. He's The Cape, the Ideal Hero, and The Paragon whom everyone looks up to, as well as an immensely powerful Flying Brick who put most of the Justice League to shame. And the name of his city, "Metropolis", comes from the Greek and Latin roots for "city," so Clark Kent is basically Everyman, Everywhere.
- More specifically, he was the 'Man of Tomorrow ', i.e. he was supposed to be what ordinary people might dream of someday becoming.
- Batman. Grant Morrison actually talked about this and claims that for all the talk about how much of a fantasy Superman is, Batman is even more so:
"Batman is obviously much cooler, but that’s because he’s a very energetic and adolescent fantasy character: a handsome billionaire playboy in black leather with a butler at his beck and call, better cars and gadgetry than James Bond, a horde of fetish femme fatales baying around his heels and no boss. That guy's Superman day and night. Superman grew up baling hay on a farm. He goes to work, for a boss, in an office. He pines after a hard–working gal. Only when he tears off his shirt does that heroic, ideal inner self come to life. That's actually a much more adult fantasy than the one Batman’s peddling but it also makes Superman a little harder to sell. He's much more of a working class superhero, which is why we ended the whole book with the image of a laboring Superman."
- Or as a comedian put it: "I wish I was Batman; not so much the fighting crime, I just wish I was rich and my parents were dead."
- Captain Marvel took up the Wish Fulfillment a notch by taking Billy Batson, a boy within the age range of the target demographic, and giving him the ability to transform into a superhero very much like the one kids were into at the time. Unfortunately, the courts agreed with DC that it was a little too similar (which interestingly ended up with them in the same universe).
- The entire Kid Sidekick phenomenon was justified originally under this premise. It was only when the audience got older that they started to wonder what kind of person takes a kid with him to go fight crime.
- Kitty Pryde is this trope personified. Started out as the team's Naďve Newcomer, and grew up to be a badass ninja genius with a pet space dragon and lots of friends on earth and out of it. The fandom rejoiced of course, for they watched every step of this journey from Everygirl to Super-Special Heroine and wished they could be her (or "be with her").
- And, of course, Wolverine. So. Very. Much. After a while, it simply became a running joke with a Lampshade on his head much of the time.
- Storm is almost as blatant a one of these as Kitty, being one of the most powerful members of the team, worshipped as a goddess, having mad fighty and thiefy skills, and being heart-stoppingly gorgeous. Sometimes this got carried so far that even for teenage dreamers, it became something of a running joke. For example, the infamous scene where a depowered Ororo somehow manages to defeat Cyclops in a Danger Room contest, using rules which he more-or-less could not lose under. She manages to dodge energy blasts moving at the speed of light, more-or-less, and it was so blatant that even many of the fanboys ended up saying 'what?'
- Hercules is male power fantasy to a fucking tee. He's a Rated M for Manly Handsome Lech, who Really Gets Around, and solves nearly every problem he encounters through Attack! Attack! Attack!. He has thus been most guys' personal fantasy made manifest for the last couple millennia.
- Spider-Man straddles the line between This Loser Is You and an Escapist Character pretty much constantly. No matter how much his life ends up sucking (Hero with Bad Publicity, dead parents and uncle, "rocky" love-life pre-MJ, One More Day) he's a superhero who gets to web-sling from skyscrapers and he always has a quip ready. There's also something very appealing about an everyman amongst so many other powerful superheroes (even more so when you consider how most Marvel Universe characters are everymen already).
- Could be a Deconstruction, as his gifts hardly benefit him either due to thinking too small (his first use for his powers was entering small-time show business) or focusing his constant efforts on validating his right to have those gifts (rescuing people and fighting crime, selling his photos or teaching chemistry for change rather than exploiting his photographic talent or scientific know-how for greater profit).
- Several critics have argued that the character has become this to the writers even more so than to the reader. Hence why the franchise has gone through so many eras where the character pandered to each writer's personal vision of how the character should be instead of focusing on delivering a cohesive narrative. Also why Peter is reduced to a Static Character or even a perpetual Manchild. Not to mention his love life.
- One of the major themes of Rick Remender and Colin Bunn's run on Venom is not just Spider-Man as an escapist character, but escapism in general and the negative and positive effects it can have. Flash Thompson idolizes Spider-Man and wants to be a hero like him and as a result goes to war and gets his legs blown off. Later on, Flash becomes the new host of the Venom symbiote due to his bravery, basically becoming a new Spider-Man. Due to this, he constantly fights for control with the symbiote, gets possessed by a demon, loses his girlfriend, gets stuck on a team with people he hates, gets so many sedatives in him he now needs the symbiote to live, and gets conned by the Superior Spider-Man (thus ruining his friendship with Peter and his view of Spider-Man). However, because of that same hero worship Flash became a better person, became an Avenger and a Guardian of the Galaxy, saved hundreds, if not, thousands of lives, and never let any of the bad things that happened to him bring him down.
- Captain America. Scrawny 4F artist from Brooklyn becomes a A1 Super Soldier and the embodiment of all that is good and right about America.
- Iron Man. He's a billionaire playboy who has access to an awesome Powered Armor, and solve problems by blasting it. If that doesn't work, get another suit with even more fire power.
- This was Deconstructed in later storyline where his role as an Avenger, a superhero, the team's money managing guy , CEO of Stark Industry and managing SHIELD caused him severe stress and he developed an on-and-off battle with alcoholism.
- The Incredible Hulk is a mix between This Loser Is You and this. Most people can relate to feeling like poor, downtrodden Bruce Banner at least once in their life and he can provide wish fulfillment by turning into an unstoppable rage monster that can curbstomp almost anything that pisses him off. Somewhat Deconstructed in later storylines, as his Hulk persona wrecked his personal and professional life.
- The titular Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is this to more misanthropic readers of comics. Sure, his life is pure misery and he hates everyone and everything around him (including himself), but all of us feel like that sometimes. Not all of us can blow off steam by going on a sadistic killing spree and get away with it.
- The titular protagonist from Herge's The Adventures of Tintin series could possibly qualify as one of these; he's a successful journalist embarking on incredible adventures accompanied by a medley of unusual comrades. Not only that, but Herge himself admitted that Tintin's limited personality was a means of enabling readers to assume Tintin's position and experience such great adventures, and that writing the books provided him Wish Fulfillment, having initially conceived Tintin as an idealized version of himself.
- Richie Rich, without a doubt, can be considered one of these. Who WOULDN'T want to be the richest kid in the world, who literally has everything, and yet somehow remains the embodiment of Spoiled Sweet?
- Admit it, you nerds wish you were as cool as me, dontcha? I put the "crazy" and "awesome" in Crazy Awesome, I got an assload of guns, swords, and other such killin' tools, the Fourth Wall is my bitch, and I pull off the Rob Liefeld look better than Rob Liefeld ever could!
- Wanted is a very vicious deconstruction of the idea of Evil Is Cool-as Escapist Character. Wesley Gibson is a put-upon hypochondriac loser whose girlfriend is cheating on him. Then he finds out that his deceased father was a supervillain assassin, so he assumes his father's open seat in The Masquerade, Takes A Level In Badass, and eventually becomes one of the most powerful people in the world. However, when we say "supervillain", we mean it. He becomes a mass-murdering psychopath who casually notes that he raped a celebrity, kills any innocent person who looks at him funny, and eventually calls out the reader for cheering him on.
- Archie from Archie Comics is a huge Chick Magnet with girls always falling into his lap, despite him not really doing anything. He also is a musician, is on the football team, lives in a pretty scenic town, has a lot of friends, and is above-average looking (bar his Early Installment Character Design Weirdness).
Films — Animated
- Aladdin. In just 90 minutes he went from living off stolen food to having the friendship of an all-powerful-genie-Robin Williams, a flying carpet, the affection of the richest, most desirable girl in the kingdom, and an assured future as the next Sultan — and this status remains through two movies and 86 half-hours. That's pretty darn escapist.
- Vanellope Von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph, evoking sympathy from her situation as an outcast to becoming a Badass Adorable, has spawned a legion of cosplayers in a very short amount of time.
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire Milo goes from being freshly fired friendless nerd to having an expedition financed to search for his dream. By the end of the movie he basically has everything he ever wanted.
- Frozen: Queen Elsa definitely counts. There's a reason her Signature Song "Let it Go" is such a hit: in one catchy tune, she encapsulates many moviegoers' desire to cast away all their social hangups and be without restraints. Her ice powers, that can instantly weave dresses, craft enormous Ice Palaces, and conjure living snowmen, is the icing on the cake.
It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small, and the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all!
It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through!
No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I'm free!
Films — Live-Action
- James Bond, although his most recent Daniel Craig incarnation shows him being much more flawed. Until then, the movies had undergone Serial Escalation as the producers tried to outdo themselves with increasingly over-the-top quips, cars, gadgets, and Bond Girls.
- Indiana Jones: Travel the globe. Pick up chick. Punch Nazis. Find priceless artifact. Reveal ancient secrets. Get hounded by college girls. Repeat.
- Star Wars: One cannot forget the Jedi, and to some extent, the Sith, kicking ass throughout the galaxy with a glowing sword that can easily cut steel and the coolest Psychic Powers.
- Scarface's Tony-fuckin-Montana was never intended to be this but the only thing anyone remembers of him is how hardcore he was and how epic his death was. Entire subcultures sprung up just to emulate his badassitude.
- Liam Neeson's character in Taken is this for the middle-aged set. Despite being a middle-aged divorcee, he is still freakishly competent on his quest(s) to save his family (that does still love him, deep down), including rescuing his (explicitly) virginal college-aged daughter. And he is pretty much always right.
- In American Dreamer, Cathy saw Rebecca Ryan as this In-Universe, even though the character seemed to take James Bond's apparent Sue traits Up to 11.
- The lead character of Ferris Bueller's Day Off is popular, funny and rich. He has a hot girlfriend, does whatever he wants, and pretty much everything works out perfectly for him.
- Limitless presents us the answer to “What if they make a pill that would give you Super Intelligence?” Eddie Morra takes Wall Street by storm and wins millions by only taking a pill. Sounds like fun? But if you get everything you want by only taking a pill, you felt entitled to a lot of more other things without any effort. The movie deconstructs Eddie into a Jerk Ass with Acquired Situational Narcissism that cannot recognize where is the Moral Event Horizon anymore.
- Smith from Shoot 'em Up is a master of every firearm known to man, kills dozens of people in increasingly more creative ways, battles strawmen on both sides of the political spectrum, gets to have sex with Monica Bellucci, and rams inconsiderate drivers off the road without consequence.
- Word of God states that the Avatars Navi were designed to be a whole race of these.
- J from Men in Black definitely qualifies. He gets to wear a natty black suit, gets some awesome gadgets to play around with including an Amnesia Ray and the ray gun equivalent to a Cute Bruiser, a car that can drive on the ceilings of tunnels, and he STILL gets to out-cool Rip Torn and Tommy Lee Jones as well. He even manages to recruit a female MIB and avert the loneliness of the job. And he gets to save the world and hang out with alien pugs and chain-smoking worms all day!
- Sucker Punch invokes this both for the characters themselves and for the audience. To cope with the traumas in their lives, the girls create fantasized versions of themselves, who are badass warriors who mop the floors with robotic Nazis, orcs, and whatever else comes their way. Meanwhile, they invoke all kinds of daydreams the audience members have: piloting awesome mechas, mowing down enemy soldiers with machine guns, fighting robotic samurai with katanas, etc.
- Marty McFly of Back to the Future fame is, like Peter Parker, somewhere between "everyman" and "cool guy you want to hang out with". He's good at playing guitar, skateboarding, hoverboarding, wooing ladies, escaping by the skin of his teeth, and video games - pretty much everything an Eighties kid or teenager would love. Plus, his best friend is a mad scientist who invents time travel, allowing both to have exciting adventures in past and future. Shame about his mother, though.
- Bruce from Bruce Almighty. Aside from having a fairly attractive girlfriend and a steady job, he gets to spend several weeks with God's Powers, with which he could do absolutely ANYTHING he wanted (Aside from tell anyone he was God or affect free will), such as getting a promotion at work, revenge on people who'd done him wrong, making himself the world's greatest sex machine, and effectively sending Grace into a second puberty, her boobs growing, with the option for other changes. Really the only reason all the bad stuff happened to Bruce was that he was stupid, and seemed to forget that he could, in his own words, "Clean everything up in 5 minutes if he wanted to".
- According to Greg Sestero, Johnny from The Room was this for Tommy Wiseau. A well-liked, well-off man with a lavish apartment in San Franciso. Honestly, if it wasn't for his girlfriend cheating on him with his best friend, the film would have ended after the first sex scene.
- Just about every single one of Adam Sandler's roles. As Honest Trailers put it, the dilemmas his characters face can be summed up as "He's too rich and his wife is too hot".
- The Man With No Name of the Dollars Trilogy is smart, handsome, intelligent, always wins, and is the sort of guy that audiences feel they want to be.
- The title character in 1981's Arthur: He's insanely wealthy, never has to work, has a loyal and awesomely snarky valet, can have just about everything he desires, travels in glamorous circles in New York City, and while he is The Alcoholic, as Roger Ebert's original review points out he's what every drunk person thinks they are — witty and a joy to be around. His only problems, as he sees them, is that his family and their peers are all too stuffy and he hasn't found true love, which of course is something money can't buy — and when he finally finds it, it's with a working-class woman he can't have without risking his inheritance, which hinges on an Arranged Marriage with someone who would bring him down to Earth. Ironically, it's pursuing love instead of money that finally leads him to achieving some maturity, and in the Happy Ending he still gets both! About the only thing he isn't, due to the casting of Dudley Moore in a role that was conceived with a performer like Warren Beatty in mind, is conventionally attractive — key word being conventionally. In the film, Arthur actually asks someone "Don't you wish you were me? I know I do" — which became the basis for one of the film's Taglines ("Don't you wish you were Arthur?"). It's generally agreed that one reason the 1988 sequel and 2011 remake are not as effective as the original is because they both try to bring the character down to Earth by treating his vices (alcohol in particular) more seriously and realistically, and that's at cross-purposes to this trope.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh: A king, partly divine, all but invincible, Super Strength, gets laid with every girl in his kingdom but snubs the goddess of R3D H0T S3XX0RS... Gilgamesh is wish-fulfillment Snark Bait by modern standards. He's effectively protected by a Grandfather Clause, since he predates most tropes.
- Sherlock Holmes can solve any case, no matter how bizarre, and can identify a person by a strand of hair inside a hat! And right so inhumanly often. (People tend to forget the cocaine addiction and original shut-in nature.)
- Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan were and are both this for fantasy fans of a certain age. Big, heroic badass of a guy who has grand adventures and (for Conan) gets lots of hot babes? Sign me up!
- Harry Potter, before the Cerebus Syndrome set in. His character is almost entirely this in the first book (an abused orphan discovers that he is rich, famous, and oh yes, a wizard), but the following six consist of him slowing learning a: the magic world is just as messed up as ours and b: It Sucks to Be the Chosen One.
- A good way to see this is by reading any of the later books (especially Order of the Phoenix) and comparing them to the first: don't want to be Harry Potter anymore, do ya?
- Bobby Pendragon in the Pendragon books starts out this way. That is, until we see just how awesome a villain Saint Dane is. And maybe even after that too.
- Bella Swan (for Twilight's target audience). Her oft-complained about blandness was not a result of bad writing, but a deliberate decision on Stephenie Meyer's part so readers can step into her shoes more easily and experience what it's like to be loved by Edward Cullen. She's a very ordinary girl who effortlessly catches the eye of the perfect boyfriend and his beautiful, powerful, wealthy family, is fought over or secretly desired by every guy she meets, becomes an eternally beautiful and powerful vampire, and has just the right special power to protect her new family from a vampire army (which was strong enough even before it was amped by becoming a vampire that no vampire powers could work on her).
- Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium trilogy. An uber-hacker, punk bad-ass (but still vulnerable), slim-bodied (then conveniently well-endowed), absurdly wealthy, master-of-disguise bisexual Manic Pixie Dream Girl GENIUS with a strong sexual appetite and a sympathetic Dark and Troubled Past? What's not to want? Blomkvist certainly fits the trope, as well.
- Pippi Longstocking. Why does she get Super Strength, lots of gold, a horse, and no parents around to tell her what to do? Because that was your fantasy.
- Lord Peter Wimsey has elements of this: Dorothy L. Sayers created the character when she was desperately poor and got a certain satisfaction from making him the richest and most self-indulgent man in London.
- Artemis Fowl. Doesn't have to go to school because his parents are either missing or bedridden. He has a Battle Butler and enough money to indulge a self-admitted childish belief in fairies and magic. Though only 12, he's treated like an adult.
- Percy Jackson. So what if you don't do well in school, and your stepfather is a jerk? You're really a super-powerful demigod with Poseidon for a father, and you get to do cool stuff from now on! (This is likely why Rick wrote it in the first place - his son happens to have dyslexia and ADHD. Coincidence? I think not.) Though as with Harry Potter, Cerebus Syndrome set in, and became more of an example of It Sucks to Be the Chosen One.
- Dagny Taggart of Atlas Shrugged. Whilst she is clearly an idealized author avatar, a significant portion of the book's female audience has found Dagny provides a satisfying fantasy for them, as well.
- Tavi of Calderon from Codex Alera. So what if everyone outclasses you? You can kick their asses anyway! And they don't really outclass you, you're just a late bloomer.
- Tyler Durden of Fight Club basically exists to pass on Testosterone Poisoning to the men of The '90s. This was subtly parodied in the book, but lampshaded like a mofo in the movie.
Tyler Durden: I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.
- Honor Harrington: The eponymous heroine is a starship commander, the most victorious admiral in her either of her two nations' histories, the first or second highest ranking officer in both militaries, a feudal lord in both those nations, filthy rich from prize money and her landholdings, is genetically engineered to be stronger and faster than the average human, has several bionic implants, is one of the few humans to be mentally bonded with a friendly but badass alien companion, and Married both to a handsome, intelligent man and his kind and loving wife. To top it all off, every one of her victories, titles and ranks was earned by her own hard work and talent. If only all of our toils paid off as well as hers!
- Sara from A Little Princess is in denial about her (unconventional) beauty, filthy rich yet sweet to everyone, treated unfairly by the antagonists who eventually get their comeuppance, extremely smart, Wise Beyond Her Years and can speak fluent French. She is still a likeable character, with a little help from Grandfather Clause.
- There's Taran, from the Chronicles of Prydain. He goes from being an awkward, rather whiny Idiot Hero to being a brave fighter who participates in multiple battles and even is a war leader in the last one. He meets and holds council with the land's High King and multiple princes and noblemen, with one lord offering to name him as heir to his lands. He's wise (said lord wanted to adopt him because Taran was able to use his wits to end a long feud between two bickering noblemen), kind, and inspires the Common Folk to rise up and participate in the war against Arwan. The series also ends with him becoming High King and marrying the beautiful, clever princess Eilonwy. On the other hand, he only gets most of those things by sacrificing most things he desires, constantly feels the pain of those who died under his command, and ends the series with his friends leaving him, and him considering the position of High King to be mockery, initially.
- The human(or once human) Animorphs are this. They're 5 ordinary teens who are suddenly given the potentially limitless superpower of being able to become any animal they can touch, who then go out and save the world from brain infesting parasites.
- But, like many other instances on this page, this wears off as the series goes on. By then, the main characters feel totally isolated from others, are dealing with intense PTSD and grappling with incredibly huge questions of morality. They've discovered that War Is Hell, and both they, and the reader, just want it to end.
- Ender Wiggin is a mix. On the one hand, he is the smartest kid in the entire Battle School, and while not the strongest is clever enough to crush much bigger and stronger foes with ease. He's constantly hailed as the only hope the human race has of defeating the buggers, and manages to win every battle of the war, as well as in the Battle School. That is really cool to read as a kid, especially when you get to imagine yourself playing through all the fun sounding battle simulation games Ender trains in. On the other hand, Ender is constantly targeted by bullies, the people who hail him as a savior of the human race have no respect for his mental health and well being beyond being able to defeat the buggers, and the stress eventually starts driving Ender a little crazy.
- Rand al'Thor of The Wheel of Time is a deconstruction. He's an ordinary teenage farmboy who discovers that he has tremendous magical power, becomes a fantastically skilled warrior, has three beautiful women in love with him, and is destined to save the world from the God of Evil. Unfortunately for him, It Sucksto Be The Chosen One big time; his magical power will eventually drive him insane, every few books he gets another Wound That Will Not Heal inflicted on him, about a third of the world treats him like a living god, the second third wants to use him, and the rest just want him dead, he has no idea how to stop the Big Bad, and the previous Chosen One- his previous incarnation, by the way- went mad and killed everyone he loved, and then himself (and his Ax-Crazy ghost is now hanging out in Rand's head, occasionally sharing space with The Dragon). Have a fun time, Rand!
- Rachel and Kirsty from the Rainbow Magic series are these for younger readers; they hang out with fairies and save the world from Jack Frost all the time.
- The protagonist of the Tairen Soul series is saved from her abusive fiancé when the handsome Sorcerer King of the Fey literally descends from the sky to claim her as his divinely intended soulmate and make her queen of the Fey. All of this happens in the first three chapters, and the wish fufillment only escalates from there- not that that's a bad thing. (Oh, and she's also a magical prodigy who's able to wield the six elements with enough power to intimidate experienced mages, the only one who can save the Fey and the Tairen races from extinction, and secretly incredibly beautiful. Fortunately her biological parents cast a spell to hide that.)
- The House of Night, is filled with these. *ahem* The vampyre race is persecuted by humans, despite being superior to them both physically and aesthetically (and having superpowers). Because vampyres are more creative and passionate than any human, they are responsible for nearly all intellectual and artistic advancements, ever. They're all incredibly wealthy, and so socially progressive that their society is ruled entirely by women. Most importantly, upon reaching puberty, a human may be chosen by Nyx and taken away to become one of these glamorous creatures of the night. (To be fair, though, this same process may kill them.)
- The Heralds of Valdemar series tries to subvert this trope. It really does. But...about half its protagonists escape dreary (and/or abusive) lives when a magical white horse takes them away to have cool adventures, so a degree of escapism is unavoidable.
- Firestar from Warrior Cats starts out as a kitten bored with his life as a pet who gets invited to join a group of feral forest cats. There he experiences a freedom he never could have felt being a pet. He's referred to as "handsome" in the characters bios and quickly becomes a powerful, respected character in his clan, despite being born a kittypet. Firestar is also The Chosen One who becomes The Leader of ThunderClan by the end of the first arc and is Famed In-Story. Firestar is the embodiment of a xenofiction escapist character designed for people who wonder what it would be like to be a wild animal.
- Lucy Pevensie, and to a lesser extent the other protagonists from our world, are this in Chronicles of Narnia. Hasn't everyone dreamed of just finding themselves in a fantasy world with talking animals, and ending up ruling over them?
- Star Trek:
- Data and Spock both serve as the same sort of wish fulfillment archetype for socially awkward Trekkies. To wit, they're smart, respected, physically powerful, long-lived, and they're blessed with loving and devoted friends even though they themselves have never learned human social skills.
- Riker. Has a killer beard, grew up in Alaska, knows martial arts, plays trombone, will wipe the floor with you at poker, isn't afraid to break the rules, unflappable (well mostly)... And then he turns out to be an augment exile in one of the books. Squee!
- Kirk, the handsome, two-fisted, galaxy-trotting captain who calls the shots and bangs the aliens.
- Jean Luc Picard was a more educated, articulate, enlightened alternative to the pulp-reminiscent Kirk. Arguably, Sisko and Janeway were a Darker and Edgier alternative to both.
- Wesley was intended to be this to young viewers; a kid who could hold his own and had skills gradually prove himself to the crew as someone useful.
- Worf also became this in many of the more Klingon-centric episodes. The Proud Warrior Race Guy is usually pretty popular with the Fanboys.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor. Owner of an effectively self-powering, Bigger on the Inside time machine that lets him go anywhere in time and space he feels like - and no matter where that is, his ability to save the day lets him get away with acting (and dressing) like a complete lunatic regardless of cultural norms. Oh, and his travelling companions tend to be attractive twenty-something women. He doesn't have to work at a job, finds money to be a queer social construct he doesn't entirely get the hang of, and can go anywhere in time and space. Oh, and when he gets old, he can just change into a younger, often sexier body. No matter your age, that's pretty fun.
- The Doctor's companions are an Audience Surrogate who also get to be more grown-up, cooler and more fun than the children. Many, many children in the UK have grown up wishing the Doctor would whisk them away for adventures in his TARDIS.
- Susan Foreman was added to the show for this reason. The two teachers were needed for the show's original edutainment premise, and then an innocent teenager and close relative of the Doctor was added so children could imagine themselves aboard the TARDIS.
- Leela was created because Philip Hinchcliffe was concerned that the show lacked a companion that little girls would want to be, rather than one who always got rescued or who didn't have any cool features. She's an extremely strong and highly intelligent Action Girl from a warrior tribe selectively bred to embody the Doctor's courage and passion, with highly aware senses and a great outfit. She gets to come with the Doctor and learn about the world (and stab robots).
- Russell T. Davies stated that Rose was intended to be this. She is an Audience Surrogate already, but also a young woman from a London council estate who gets picked out of her boring life to find adventure and love (!) with an alien much cooler than her current boyfriend.
- The cosplaying Petronella Osgood is explicitly a big fan of the Doctor's. She's almost the canonical Whovian and she gets to run with the Doctor. SQUEE!
- Daleks. It's been noted for half a century that children strongly identify with Daleks - it's often suggested that it is because they act like bratty toddlers (even having Ambiguous Innocence) but get to exterminate adults, allowing children to explore anger and hate in a safe way. The 60s comics even used Daleks as heroes because this was what children wanted.
- In "Pyramids of Mars", when the Doctor shows Lawrence Scarman into the TARDIS, watch how Michael Sheard (who plays Scarman) chooses to play it - his otherwise adult character suddenly starts acting like an excited child. Sheard said that he hadn't known how to perform the scene, but then decided that his job was to 'live the dream of the children in the audience'.
- Jane by Design's Jane is shaping up to be this. She has multiple potential love interests, a fantastic job that comes easily to her, and all problems she has are quickly resolved.
- House: Dr. House, despite the chronic leg pain and occasional mental breakdown, is really fun to watch because he skewers stupid people without mercy. And he pretty much always gets away with it. Who doesn't want to be able to tell coworkers and customers exactly what you think of them?
- Back in the 70s, The Six Million Dollar Man embodied this in some ways (though Steve did have some problems his bionics could not solve). Interestingly, the other in-universe characters provided some counterpoint, there was another bionic man who had turned out to be psychologically unable to handle it, and Steve's lady-love Jaime Sommmers had recurring problems of bionic rejection that made her superpowers something of a double-edged blessing.
- The writers of The Bionic Woman invoked this by having Jaime use her bionics to accomplish mundane tasks, just like any other normal person would do in the same situation. Who needs a can opener when you have a bionic hand?
- Breaking Bad's Walter White is an interesting subversion. He's a lower middle-class teacher who gets crapped on in every possible way, including getting cancer...and he completely manages to turn his life around by living a double life as a badass drug dealer, getting wealthy, and commanding the respect of hardened criminals. A lot of people can identify with his initial hardships, and so we root for him when he starts kicking ass. As the show goes on, this makes it all the more disturbing when he gradually loses touch with his humanity, his family dissolves, and he begins indiscriminately killing anyone who gets in his way—becoming a Villain Protagonist. Because we're encouraged to identify with him in the beginning, his downfall carries the implication that we could go bad just as easily as him if given the chance. Interestingly, Walt's Escapist Character status ends up working as something of a Secret Test of Character for the audience. As Walt gradually begins committing more heinous acts over the course of the series, there will inevitably come a point when the audience stops fantasizing about being him and starts seeing him as the villain—probably when he finally does something that the viewer would never do. By pinpointing his Moral Event Horizon, we also end up learning how far we would really go if we were put in his shoes and forced to make life-or-death decisions to survive in the criminal underworld.
- Jason King: Jason King writes best-selling novels, travels to exotic locations around the world, seduces beautiful women by the busload, and had a knack for getting himself into and out of tight situations. And he does all this with his own individual and peculiar sense of style.
- Aaron Sorkin practically builds casts around this trope, with Sports Night and The West Wing being the two big ones.
- Sports Night was once described as the office where everyone wants to work (in contrast to The Office, where everyone does). Issac is the ideal boss, Dan and Casey are the friends/co-workers you wish you had, and the loyalty of the characters to each other is extreme. Whenever a group member has a problem, expect the characters to do rally around them, even when doing so would be firmly at odds with their stated job duties. The characters and their choices are wildly improbable and idealistic, but they're the gateway to a world in which people do the right thing.
- The West Wing: Keeping in mind the above, but with the stakes raised from "cable sports show" to "the White House." Would any White House staff member ever be so idealistic and willing to put principles ahead of politics, let alone be so bold in their politics? See their rivals as human beings first and enemies second? Of course. Almost the entire cast falls under this trope, but Donna, the audience surrogate (who is treated very well despite being an administrative assistant), Sam, Toby, and Leo stand out for being incredible idealists with improbable skill-sets.
- Harmon Rabb, Jr. from JAG comes across as this. His character imperfections are few and far between and they pale completely when compared to his strengths: an Ace Pilot, Perry Mason quality litigator, a resourceful man of action with Ultimate Job Security, Tall, Dark, and Handsome, and Friend to All Children…
- Since he's a James Bond Expy, it's not surprising that James West easily qualifies. His partner, Artemus Gordon, gradually develops into one as well.
- Hannah Montana is a textbook example for the preteen girl demographic of the show: an average, dorky, unpopular girl who is secretly a beautiful, glamorous pop star whom everybody loves.
- Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It might be fascinatingly unsympathetic, but much of his appeal comes from the fact that he's exactly the kind of asshole that we've all wanted to be at some point while working an unrewarding, low-paying job. He's got a Hair-Trigger Temper, he curses at every available momeent, and he always speaks his mind...because he knows full well that he's the smartest man in his field, and he's so valuable that his bosses would never dare get rid of him.
- In a similar vein as the above example, Edmund Blackadder.
- Arrow: The initial popularity of Felicity Smoak and the Felicity/Oliver (Olicity) ship was no doubt due to this. Awkward, but cute with a genius IQ who acts as tech support for a handsome, badass billionaire vigilante that she has a hopeless attraction to was fodder for fan girls who wanted to project themselves through Felicity. While Felicity did get promoted to a more prominent role in the second season because of this and had more Ship Tease with Oliver, the final pairing was clearly supposed to be Laurel/Oliver. However, the original show runner and many of the writers were replaced so they could start up The Flash (2014), and the new show runner decided to have Felicity replace Laurel as the official love interest starting season three due to her popularity. And focus more on romance and drama and Felicity in general. That's generally where many considered the show to have Jumped the Shark. Felicity's character took a turn for the worse during this season, with all attempts to redeem her in following seasons backfiring and making her even more hated. By Season Six, she was by far and away the most hated character in the entire Arrowverse fandom. The fact that the show has continued to prop her up regardless of the growing hatred of Felicity across every show's fandom and dropping ratings has caused many to speculate that Felicity isn't just an Escapist Character for the fan girls, but for the show runners and writers as well.
- The Outbursts of Everett True: You know those people who take too long at lines, are massive hypocrites, abuse animals, borrow money without returning it, or just generally piss you off every day? Do you wish you could beat up those annoying people with no consequences? Everett True can.
- Dilbert: Dogbert. Scott Adams has even said that he represents the kinds of things he wishes he could get away with and say to people.
- Much of the appeal of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was that he said whatever he wanted and did whatever he wanted, then cracked open a cold beer (or six) afterward. Raise your hand if you had a boss or co-workers you've fantasized beating the hell out of and telling off with no repercussions. Exactly.
- The Escapist Character is the central premise of all tabletop role-playing games. From Bunnies & Burrows to Exalted, they all focus on allowing the players to run characters who aren't bound by the rules of that pesky Real Life.
- Jace Beleren from Magic: The Gathering was explicitly designed to be this for the game's largest demographic, he is a shy, introverted creative person in his late teens to early twenties and he is the most popular of the game's colors among the fanbase (blue). He is also known for his great power, very strong cards, and anime hair. The official game font used for card titles as of Magic 2015 is even called Beleren.
- Why do you think most Video Game protagonists like Mario and Link are Heroic Mimes? It allows the player to have an easier time putting themselves in the character's position without having them write over the character's existing personality. Video game characters could be considered to be specifically designed to be one of these.
- While video games tended to mostly cater to the male demographic when it came to escapist fantasy (from your Duke Nukems to your Master Chiefs) Lara Croft was probably the first video game character gamer girls could project themselves onto. While it's debatable how twisted the character became since her first game to being mainly exploited for sex appeal, the fact remains she's an educated, badass, world traveling explorer and ass kicker extraordinary who is never portrayed as a victim and always in control of the situation. "She was Indiana Jones, but witty, measured, sophisticated. She shot first and asked questions later. She screamed only when seconds from death. She never, ever needed saving."
- The new reboot seems to bring Lara down a bit from being so larger than life in an attempt to make her more relateable, but she still remains an untrained twenty something post grad with more academic know how than a chief archeologist, and once she takes a level in badass (a prerequisite for any origin story).
- Similarly, this is part of the reason why Chell from Portal is so beloved by female gamers. Who wouldn't like to be super intelligent and determined, with boots that allow you to survive any fall, and a gun that allows you to warp reality itself?
- Master Chief in the Halo series, and especially Noble Six from Halo: Reach, since customization allows the player to identify even more with the Spartan who just happens to be as "hyperlethal" as Chief - and can even be female.
- This trope is Commander Shepard from Mass Effect to a tee. You can choose to be the ultimate hero or the ultimate bad ass, you can customize Shepard to be most like yourself, most of the characters have a crush on you, and you go around saving the world and kicking ass, as well as becoming an intergalactic celebrity on a regular basis.
- Subverted in Mass Effect 3: once the Reapers arrive in full force, Shepard is reduced to winning one pyrrhic victory after the next in order to give his/her allies just enough time to finish building the ancient prothean device supposedly capable of destroying the Reapers... whose inner-workings are barely half-understood by the engineers tasked to building it. Many chapters drive home the fact that for all his/her might and charisma, Shepard (who his slowly but surely cracking under the pressure by that point) is incapable of winning conventionally and only has this one final mad gamble in his/her sleeve.
- Alex Mercer in [PROTOTYPE]. Why? Shapeshifting with no squick, easy Instant Expert, and by the end of the game is a God-Mode Sue. However, everyone has wanted to be able to pick up a taxi and run down the sidewalk killing hundreds and that's just something you can do at the beginning. This game is the only stress relief you'll ever need.
- Batman himself in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Something is just so fun about terrorizing the inmates that it doesn't matter that, as normal, Batman is Crazy-Prepared.
- When one terrified opponent asks "What ARE you?", the urge to reply (out loud) "I'm Batman" is almost irresistible.
- The developers, Rocksteady, explicitly stated that their games are about making the gamers feel as if they're Batman, making them fight like Batman and think like Batman.
- Fate/stay night's Emiya Shirou is a strange example. On one hand, he's handsome, athletic, hardworking, and deeply committed to helping others. He's also a great cook, lives in a mansion left to him by his father, and has a beautiful kohai who adores him and would happily be his girlfriend if he'd only notice. Lastly, he's a mage and has the extreme luck to get paired with a powerful knight familiar and a brilliant mage ally when the Grail War starts. The problems with that are that he sucks at magic and doesn't know the rules because his father never taught him anything, he can't provide mana to recharge his energy-intensive servant, he has five far more powerful and experienced master/servant teams trying to kill him, and since his father's death he has lacked any sense of his life's own worth outside of helping others. In short, he's the kind of master who shouldn't last five minutes. If you don't play your cards right he will die in agony, lose his loved ones, and/or become just as ruthless as the villains. Play it right on the other hand, and he will become a heroic badass who saves the world with Hot-Blooded determination and potentially gets an awesome girlfriend and a chance to study magic properly.
- Solid Snake from Metal Gear is a subversion. The series starts by setting him up as an absolutely archetypal action hero (particularly the 80s action, Kurt Russell type), a classic Escapist Character. As the plot progresses, the player learns exactly how miserable and shattered Snake really is. Unfortunately, some players missed the point; Kojima decided to be a touch less subtle in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and gave us Raiden (an extremely vicious aversion of the trope) instead.
- Raiden in that game is a deconstruction of this: not of the Escapist Character him/herself, but of the idea of escapism. After playing a simulation of Solid Snake's adventure as his training, he desperately wants to be Solid Snake, but acting like Solid Snake just causes him to fail his objectives and be humiliated every time. Eventually, however, he finds his own way of doing things and becomes far more competent. By the time of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance he has become a cool superhuman cyborg ninja, appealing to many players' power fantasies. Again, this is made more complicated by the revelation that Raiden still hasn't shaken the trauma of his violent past and keeps getting pulled back into the battlefield against his will either by outside forces or his own inner demons.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots also highlights how unhealthy it can be to use first person shooter games as part of your escapist fantasies; not only does Snake have a lot of disdain for how warfare has changed due to social attitudes and technology, Big Mama has a long speech about how it helps mould people into viewing warfare as being just a game and possibly becoming soldiers themselves for the wrong reasons. To really drive home the point, it even shows an image of someone choosing to play the game, while emphasising how bad these games are! Moral of the story is that Kojima really doesn't want you to admire Solid Snake, or any FPS heroes who are like him.
- Kay Faraday from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is any fangirl's dream. She's a perky, smart thief who gets to tag along with Ensemble Darkhorse Edgeworth, is Gumshoe's bestest friend ever, most everyone is at least nice to her (even Jerk with a Heart of Gold Lang), and she even has a tragic past matching Edgeworth's so they have even more in common.
- In the previous games, Maya, Ema, and Trucy can count as this as well. They all get to tag along and help out investigating crime scenes, are clever enough to make at least one helpful observation or contribution, become close friends with Phoenix or Apollo, and have some talent that really helps out (Maya's channeling, Ema's forensics techniques, and Trucy's magic tricks).
- Apparently, Tim Schafer designed Raz from Psychonauts to be this. This is why he's human; originally, the game was going to be about a psychic ostrich. Seriously.
- There's also the protagonist of Brütal Legend, from the same creator: Riggs is a jaded roadie who feels his love for classic overdriven guitar riffs is underappreciated in an era of Nu Metal emo teenage crap. He ends up in a world where his roadie skills allow him to create war machines and his guitar can make the emo kids' heads explode. This dude embodies every metalhead's secret fantasy.
- Sora from Kingdom Hearts got to live out millions of kids' childhood dreams of being involved in various Disney Movies. Add being The Hero into the mix and he's officially become the Escapist Character we all dreamed of being as kids.
- Dante of Devil May Cry. A witty, snarky, badass Half-Demon Hunter of His Own Kind who does all kinds of ridiculous over-the-top stylish stunts in both gameplay and cutscenes and runs his own kickass Demon Hunting business. Who wouldn't want to be as cool as him?
- Dante boarders on subversion in the first game. Sure he wields incredible power and kicks a lot of ass, but he's also shown to have a lot of Survivor's Guilt, be the Angsty Surviving Twin and can even verge on Sad Clown, depending on how his fears and traumas are interpreted. Devil May Cry 3 on the other hand, takes this trope and runs with it.
- From the same creator, we have Bayonetta, a badass Hot Witch with Sexy Spectacles who summons demons with her Prehensile Hair and has a wide range of weaponry including a quartet of guns - two of which are attached to her shoes. She also gains some temporary power ups from eating lollipops.
- Sonic the Hedgehog. He's fast, powerful, and incredibly acrobatic and has several transformations. Who wouldn't want to be him? Shadow counts too.
- Shadow may be even more obvious in fact. He's almost as strong as Knuckles, as fast as Sonic thanks to his jet rollerblades, uses guns, cars, cursing and can choose whichever side he wants be on at any given moment. He's immortal, very intelligent, and pretty much has magical/super powers along with several transformations. And he kicked Silver in the back of the head.
- Really the Sonic franchise is like a world of Escapist Characters. Every single character is capable of some sort of Super Speed (at least enough to run through loops) and incredible acts of athleticism; every character has a power unique to them (Tails flies and builds machines, Knuckles glides and has super strength, Amy has a magical hammer, Blaze controls fire, Shadow has energy blasts, etc.) and anyone who grabs 7 magical crystals can turn into a invincible, flying Super Mode that can breathe in space.
- Asura from Asura's Wrath is definitely one of these. He's extremely powerful, and can punch out planet sized objects. He seems to subvert this somewhat, in that when his Old Master Augus thinks the way an escapist character should; fighting, eating, drinking, and sleeping with babes, Asura seems to not like it much, and is only focused on retrieving the daughter the 7 Deities took from him.
- Most Pokémon protagonists. You're a young child around 11 - 16 traveling the country without any adult supervision. You get to fight villainous teams using often times cute animals with extraordinary powers. You become the best trainer in that region within a few months.
- Gordon Freeman from Half-Life. Genius MIT graduate working in a secret research facility turned Action Survivor in the first game, then in the second he fills a role of leadership for an oppressed humanity. All of this mainly with a crowbar. He's essentially this trope in video game form. Could have something to do with him being a Silent Protagonist.
- The Dragonborn in spades. You start out as a random nobody who is about to get executed by mistake in the context of a rampaging Civil War, with Dragons suddenly showing up. Then it turns out you are some kind of Humanoid Abomination with the ability to absorb dragon's souls in order to get their power, as well as The Chosen One to save the world. You then proceed to take several level in badass, gain several titles, help end the Civil War by joining the side you want, join various factions to eventually become their leader, become the champion to various Draedric Princes, get various loyal followers and generally shape the country to you fantasy. And it's awesome.
- The setting itself also appeals to this. You're essentially in Fantasy Scandinavia, in a land where fantasy Vikings and fantasy Romans are battling for control, where dragons roam, or as many fans had pointed out you're in Game of Thrones where fantasy Starks and fantasy Lannisters are battling for control, where dragons roam, and Go T is one of the many many many mods that can further the idea. Massive predators lurk, evil elves plot in the shadows, and thieves, werewolves, wizards, and assassins do their work. Everywhere you go, there's monsters to kill, bandits to put to justice, evil wizards to defeat, vampires to slay, and countless more badguys to battle. And when you're not looking for things to fight, there's the an absolutely jaw-droppingly wondrous environment to explore.
- Rico Rodriguez of the Just Cause series. Manly, yet suave, with a magic parachute, whose literal job is "blow everything in sight up"? It's like playing as the forgotten lovechild of James Bond and MacGuyver.
- Spec Ops: The Line like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, deconstructs the concept of escapism. You first start the game as generic American soldier Captain Walker; who is brave, fearless, and shoots first before asking questions. His main goal of saving hostages later turns into a sad, horrid Protagonist Journey to Villain plot. Because of Walker wanting to be the hero of his own story, he ends up killing his teammates and dooming the city of Dubai, along with all the civilians. Later on, the game starts drawing comparisons between the player and Walker. Players who play modern military shooters as Power Fantasies.
Konrad:The truth is, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not: a hero.
- Sol Badguy from Guilty Gear is a rebel Bounty Hunter rocker who likes Queen and can turn into a badass half-dragon and Curb Stomp most of the cast with only half his potential power. His character is so absolutely over-the-top that he'd be a textbook Gary Stu if he wasn't so damn cool, or if he didn't actually have quite a rough past.
- While most Touhou Project protagonists could well count, Sanae Kochiya seems to have been created specifically with this in mind, maybe even as an Audience Surrogate. She is a rather geeky human from the Outside World who gets to personally come to the fantasy world of Gensokyo, live with goddesses and experience the beautiful danmaku battles firsthand, a dream that many fans of the series share. She quickly adapts to her new environment and seems to have a lot of fun dueling the locals. She is not exactly a small fry on the Gensokyan steep power scale, either. The fact that she is a descendent of a deity and has (admittedly minor) divine powers herself does not hurt, either.
- Marisa Kirisame could also count. She is a legit badass witch who fires giant lasers and just takes essentially whatever she wants from whoever she wants. But what makes her relatable is the fact that, unlike most of the characters, she is just an average human who knows a lot about magic, demonstrating that with enough drive and work, anyone could potentially become an awesome badass.
- This is the point of the many, many player-named Shin Megami Tensei protagonists who only speak when the game prompts the player for dialogue choices: You get to put yourself in the perspective of some ordinary teenager who soon learns they they have access to demon-summoning abilities, whether it be through an impossibly high-tech wrist-worn computer or being granted the power to summon them withou technology. You soon take levels in badass, decide for yourself what's the right way of reshaping the world and act accordingly, and eventually gain access to legendary gods and goddesses at your command.
- Nier from the self titled game falls right into this. He's strong, helps others, fights monsters and is trying to make the world a better place, all for Yonah, his daughter or little sister that's dying of an incurable disease. However, the game starts to deconstruct the trope on a second playthrough. Once you find out that Shades, aka the monsters you've been killing this entire time, are the actual humans, and the people you've seen are their Replicants that were supposed to be used to help humanity survive a deadly plague, things get very bleak. The fact that what happens to Yonah is what's supposed to happen to everyone, but due to his actions, Nier prevents it from happening again, he essentially dooms humanity into a slow extinction.
- Lots of Final Fantasy protagonists.
- The characters in I and III lack names, encouraging the player to name them after themselves and their friends.
- Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII is a criticism of this trend, as it turns out he's an insecure and pretentious young man deluding himself into thinking he's a cool fantasy badass himself, and the overall moral of his character arc is to Be Yourself. However, it's fair to say that the reason he sticks so deeply in fans' hearts is because he's strong, intelligent, stylish, has cool magic powers, rides a motorbike, has a kickass BFS, and is so respected for his competence and so charismatic that he can act like an outrageous, negging Jerkass and still be adored by all the girls. (And all the boys.) Many of his appearances in his spinoff media and cameos emphasize this side of his character, to wildly popular but somewhat mixed results.
- Noctis and Prompto in Final Fantasy XV. Noctis is a good-looking prince with the sexiest Cool Car ever to appear in the series, proficiency in absolutely every weapon, ridiculous magic powers over dimensions itself that all his friends are dependent on, a great outfit, a beautiful princess he's already engaged to, and a gaggle of friends who think he's the greatest thing ever. Prompto used to be an awkward, shy fat kid who lost weight, came out of his shell, and is now cool enough to hang around someone as cool as Noctis.
- Considering Overwatch setting about heroes, some characters really fit the bill more than others. Those that stand out include:
- Tracer, a beamingly cheerful British pilot who totes a dual gun and perpetually cheerful, always constantly positive and fighting for common good in the world, with her motto being "The world could use more heroes." Helping things are the fact that she can reverse time and reappear in a place several seconds before her. Bonus points for being unashamedly lesbian and not being discriminated for it, making more lesbian people feel more awed by her.
- Lucio, a funky Brazilian DJ who doubles as a freedom fighter and struck against a corrupt corporate from harming his people, becoming famous for that and spreads the good message of unity and freedom. He's loved by a lot of people, very social (except against anyone from that corporate) and his music, helped with his tools, can either heal people or stimulate them to move faster.
- D.Va, a 19 years old South Korean Gamer Girl who is an undefeated Starcraft pro, being conscripted by her nation's military in order to fight off giant robots that invaded her country, never losing optimism despite the horrors she went through and in fact streams her battles to lift her people's spirits and in battle, likes to pepper gaming jargon in battles, and also doubles as a celebrity.
- The Dragon Age series of games each handles this differently with their three customisable heroes, The Warden, Hawke and The Inquisitor. In all three, you can customise the hero's name and appearance, gain ridiculous amounts of power (both in terms of combat prowess and reputation), you get to hang out with a really cool cast of characters, you can save the world and there's lots of attractive possible love interests to smooch. Despite this, depending on what sort of protagonist you play as and how you interpret the plot, it can be a deconstructed trope with all three:
- The Warden, despite all the awesome quests and powers, is set to have an early, gruesome death from the taint (and that's if they don't die while killing The Archdemon), and throughout the game it's highlighted that your duty will likely block most attempts at true happiness; as well as this, your origin story means that you were forced to leave your past life behind, with no going back, and your choices ake an impact on the world for better or for worse. Even if you earn yourself a happy ending, it will end in tragedy eventually.
- Hawke is effectively a Failure Hero, with the riches and good reputation doing nothing to stop them from losing their mother or their remaining sibling, nor does it prevent Kirkwall from effectively imploding at the end of the game when Anders, a character who is possibly your friend or love interest, starts a revolution. As well as this, the Friend/Rival system means that you do still have a close-knit group of allies, but they may only respect you rather than like you.
- The Inquisitor starts off with great power and is destined to save the world... whether they want it or not. It's very easy to play your Inquisitor as being largely fearful and confused about what to do, as they are essentially an ordinary person who had massive responsibility (that they weren't trained or otherwise prepared for) thrust upon them; their reputation as being divinely chosen can also grate on an Inquisitor who is not a devout Andrastian. It also highlights that being the leader of a large organisation like this also involves handling lots of mundane tasks; it's not all swordfights and dragon slaying.
- HuniePop is deliberately set up to let you be one of these. You, the main character, start out as a shy virgin who can barely even talk to girls, and, with some help from Kyu the love fairy, end up having sex with several beautiful girls, including a catgirl, an alien, the aforementioned Kyu, and finally the goddess of love herself, Venus. And you do it all by, essentially, playing Bejeweled.
- The entire Command & Conquer series bar 1 or 2 exceptions has faceless protagonists as the respective Commander or General of your chosen side (and even if not, the player characters are generally very cool). This allows players to freely act like any kind of military commander they would like to, while building giant bases, training swarms of infantry and sending out dozens of awesome tanks in all shapes and sizes, alongside mecha, aircraft and sometimes battleships. Or occasionally lone commandos who can cause more damage than Superman. Most games put the fate of the world into the player's hand and allow their side total domination of the world, while they serve (and sometimes usurp) awesome characters like Kane, Stalin, Yuri and others, who hand out military honours and congratulatory remarks by the bucket load.
- Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is possibly one of the biggest deconstruction of this trope. At first glance, players find him to be a Chick Magnet, a guy who has a Dark and Troubled Past that has super powers, uses a famous sword style, has a robot that only he can pilot, is a Nice Guy to his friends, and looks perfect in almost every way possible, something that most high school students aspire their life to be. Then the game decides to show his big weaknesses and screw him in the worst ways possible; his solutions for his friends being in trouble is to sacrifice himself in near suicidal ways, he's self-loathing, he once thinks he doesn't belong in any of his acquaintace groups be it family or friends, he's always dragged in the worst situations possible, he's the Unwitting Pawn of almost everyone around him and his friends, and if his situation is seemingly getting better, due to how chaotic the situation in Erebonia is, life always finds a way to bring it down to where he comes out worse than before, ensuring that he is helpless in the face of the world even with dream traits he possess. Even deconstructed characters of this trope still manage to find a happy ending or two in their games. Rean on the other hand has yet to get one happy ending as he's always failed his primary objectives in three games he's the main protagonist in.
- The title character of The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon Sure, he doesn't get all the chicks (at least not yet), but he can beat you down faster than you can say, "Look out! Jack Cannon's about to punch you with his kung-fu-like action!"
- The Kids in Homestuck. You can't get along with your parents and your only close friends are online, SHIT IT'S ADVENTURE TIME. And then it all turns out horribly wrong. Have fun!
- Tedd Verres of El Goonish Shive has a shapeshifter girlfriend and access to transformation technology. Elliot is also somewhat of this trope having recently developed superpowers particularly with respect to his reaction to being able to fly.
- Lyle Phipps of Great is perhaps the ultimate example of this trope, about as much as the aforementioned Simon. After being brought to the edge of the Despair Event Horizon when losing his job and his wife on the same day, he decides to hell with it and swears that from that day forth, he would be a badass. Which he promptly does. He goes to a bad part of town and challenges a street gang. Not only does he win, he becomes their leader, and helps the now-Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters deal with their emotional issues. This eventually leads to him meeting a beautiful woman who marries him, and the two of them take over Lyle's new father-in-law's noodle shop, becoming multi-millionaires whom everybody looks up to. He also has such great charisma that he is able to create a self-help program that actually works, through sheer force of personality alone. He then becomes a deconstruction of this trope when his wife becomes a better chef than him, leading to him going off on his own to improve himself some more, but realizes that he doesn't need worldly success to be happy, and contents himself with running a small noodle stand at the park.
- Kirk in The Gungan Council is based heavily off of the Kirk, and generally flew around in a ship blowing up things and getting lots of tail. However, averted due to having a terminal disease.
- The Bastard Operator from Hell is the quintessential Escapist Character for netadmins. The early stories were rapid-fire blackmail/torment/abuse stories where the BOFH would perpetrate atrocity after atrocity upon the hapless end-users (spelled end-lusers) on his network in revenge for their wasting his precious time. Later stories are accounts of him and his assistant masterminding hilariously convoluted schemes to leverage or maintain their political untouchability around the office. Among the most memorable stories is the account of his negotiating overtime as well as meal expenses for after-hours network maintenance. When the boss grudgingly agrees that "Fine, I'll go as far as pizza," the BOFH wastes no time in ordering a $15,000 stainless-steel imported Italian pizza oven to put in the company cafeteria. And gets away with it scot-free. The number of bosses he's gone through, due in no small part to stress-induced cardiac arrest, is uproariously funny.
- Spoofed in an episode of The Simpsons with Biclops, a nerdy superhero who wears glasses that resemble Milhouse's and spends his time beating up jocks.
- Ben Tennyson from Ben 10 for all kids who would like to turn into any alien with superpowers that they want to. Even more so in the sequels, where he eventually gets Famed In-Story.
- Bugs Bunny. There is a quote on the Daffy Duck page that says: "Daffy is who we are, but Bugs is who we would like to be." This could very well be the appeal of the Karmic Trickster, defying the laws of physics to stay several steps ahead of your foes in the most hilarious way possible.
- Family Guy: Peter Griffin is loud and obnoxious, somewhat sociopathic, and often hilarious. He gets away with things many people wish they could. Later seasons deconstruct his status by making him an outright Villain Protagonist. In other words, you suck for wanting to be like him.
- Futurama: In the 20th century, Phillip J. Fry was your typical down-on-his-luck Idiot Manchild who would never amount to anything. 1000 years into The Future, and he's landed a steady job traveling the cosmos, interacting with all sorts of crazy aliens and robots, and has even been instrumental in saving the world a few times.
- Phineas and Ferb, especially Phineas, seem like Marty Stus in that nothing can defeat them. But without Phineas's optimism and the inventions the brothers build, the show wouldn't be nearly as awesome and fun.
- The leads of shows like Dexter's Laboratory, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, The Fairly OddParents!, and Codename: Kids Next Door. What kid didn't wish for an Improbably High I.Q., Fairy Companions, or access to a secret organization loaded with Bamboo Technology to invent or wish their imagination to life and help them out of childhood's many jams? Even relatively normal kid protagonists are still able to go out and have amazing adventures without adult supervision.
- Adventure Time: Finn the Human Boy lives in the fantasy world of every kid's imagination, enjoys fighting evil like no-one's business, and has a talking, stretching dog as his brother and sidekick, and when he's not adventuring, hangs out with the likes of a living video game console and a sexy, fun-loving, and all-around fun vampire girl in a Treehouse of Fun with a room full of gold. Unfortunately, things get deconstructed as he grows older. Namely, dealing with different sides and hidden secrets of his friends, the ramifications of being (possibly) the last human alive, and most painfully, dealing with his love life with very little guidance and no prospective romantic partners that match both his age and his species. note
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic gives us an In-Universe example in the form of the Daring Do books that Rainbow Dash becomes a fan of. Daring Do is an Adventurer Archaeologist in the vain of Indiana Jones who is fast, strong, smart, and an all around capable explorer who always gets the treasure and beats the bad guys. It's safe to assume that pretty much every pony in Equestria wants to be like Daring.
- Rick and Morty deconstructs it with Rick, a Mad Scientist who possesses untold knowledge about the universe, has all kinds of crazy adventures and outsmarts any enemy he comes across but at the same time he causes severe damage to himself, his family and the world around him. In the third season, Dr. Wong even says Rick uses his crazy adventures to deliberately avoid facing his personal problems because becoming a better person would take excruciating time and effort and Rick is too much of an adrenaline junkie.