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Heroic Wannabe
"The truth, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not. A hero."
Col. John Konrad, to Walker and the player, Spec Ops: The Line

A specific form of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and the Wide-Eyed Idealist. A Heroic Wannabe is a person so intent on the idea of becoming a hero that they're willing to do just about anything, and they tend not to think about what being a "hero" really means or what you have to do to become one. Darker cases may suffer from Black and White Insanity, or more seriously from being a Heroism Addict.

Very prone to becoming a Tragic Hero and often have a Spirit Advisor or Cool Old Guy as an advisor trying to warn them of the reality — not that the Heroic Wannabe will ever stop long enough to think about what they've been told. Is about equally played straight (usually as buildup to something bad or a Break the Cutie moment) or the character is used as Plucky Comic Relief in an otherwise serious show. Also, inevitably, prone to the Wannabe Diss, from just about everyone else involved in the work in question.

See The Gunfighter Wannabe and Young Gun for Western-flavored variants of this character and the Kid Samurai for the Eastern.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Utena from Revolutionary Girl Utena desires to become the saintly Prince who saved her as a child, and most of the series deals with deconstructing, subverting, and arguably playing straight this concept as Utena is essentially sent through Hell and back, and that's before we find out that her memories of her encounter with the Prince are anything but fully accurate.
  • Leopold Scorpse from Scrapped Princess, who follows the heroine out of equal parts sense of chivalry and growing feelings for her.
  • Katsushiro from Samurai 7 — character notes even say that he was supposed to look like his equipment had never been in a real fight before. Kikuchiyo from the same series is similar, though more in a Plucky Comic Relief sense.
  • America from Axis Powers Hetalia is this. However, before WWII, he doesn't sport this attitude.
  • Mahoujin Guru Guru gives us two examples. First is main character Nike's father, who dreamed of being a Hero but was forced to give it up due to there being no evil to be Heroic at. He therefore raises Nike to become a Hero and, when evil does return, sends him out to battle it. The second example is Gale, who appears nearly Once an Episode, faces the current crisis claiming himself the 'True Hero,' only to get beaten down and/or humiliated immediately after.
  • Sayaka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Given what kind of anime this is, things end badly. Very, very badly.
  • Interestingly, it's strongly implied that Lelouch Lamperouge of Code Geass is this, as indicated by several in- and out-of-universe factors. For example, he's a fan of Tokusatsu and Word of God says that his voice actorsnote  were chosen in order to show that Lelouch is trying very hard to be something that he's not.
  • Reiner Braun from Attack on Titan is hinted to be one, at least according to childhood friend Bertolt. He has strong ideals about how the strong should always protect the weak, and has a bad habit of rushing into danger as a result. A very dark and tragic example, since he's actually The Mole and committed an act of mass murder at the age of 12 for the sake of his mission. The guilt over his crimes, and attachment to the humans he's gotten to know, causes him to go insane and begin repressing his memories so he can continue to believe he's a hero.
  • Franken Fran has an extremely disturbing example (yes, disturbing for the series). One of the Sentinels literally gets a high from pursuing vengeance, so whenever he gets in a fight he arranges for the maximum amount of collateral damage. Then he swears to the dead that he will avenge them, and starts off anew.

    Comic Books 
  • The aptly named superhero fanboy "Wannabe" in Seth Green's Freshmen, who was the only student out of the dorms when the Applied Phlebotinum exploded and gave all of his classmates superpowers.
  • Similarly, the heroine Wannabe from Todd Nuack's Wildguard had no powers (but wasn't about to tell anybody) and was desperate to be a real superhero.
  • In All Fall Down, several spring up after The Fall to fill the void of the ex-superheroes. They are permanently discouraged by The Ghoul.
  • In Six-Gun Gorilla, the Gorilla accuses Blue-3425, an ex-librarian turned living video camera, of trying to spin the situation he's in so that he's the protagonist of one of the stories only people like him remember:
    Gorilla: You ain't a @#$%in' savior. And you ain't important on account'a your intentions, or your desires, or bein' in the midst'a the damn action. You're lookin' in the wrong direction.

     Fan Fic 

    Film 
  • Syndrome from The Incredibles, an Ascended Fanboy who ended up as the Big Bad — someone willing to engage in serial murder to upgrade his Humongous Mecha so that he'd be the only one who could stop it.
  • Mr. Furious in Mystery Men cultivates an anti-hero persona; he rests his laurels on an exaggerated story where he lifted a city bus (he pushed it while the driver accelerated), and tries to lend himself mystery with false names like "Phoenix Dark," "Phoenix Dirk," "Phoenix Dark Dirk," and "Dirk Steel" before finally admitting his name is actually Roy. Subverted when faced with an actual crisis he does become superhumanly strong and agile when angered.
  • The Dark Knight opens with a group of Batman-wannabes trying to bust a mob deal, but get in over their heads within a few moments. The real Batman rescues and chastises them for trying to do Batman's job without Batman's training, experience, or equipment. In a Too Dumb to Live fashion, one of them is later captured and killed by the Joker.

    Literature 
  • Older Than Steam: Don Quixote's was obsessed with becoming a knight (to the point of fighting windmills because he thinks they're giants).
  • Malicia from the young adult Discworld book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is a bit too Genre Savvy for her own good, and tries to cast herself as the Feisty Young Amateur Investigator who Saves The Day and Keith the piper as the comedy relief, when it's Maurice and the rats who are the real stars of the book.
    • And much earlier in the series, the cast of Sourcery included Nijel the self-proclaimed Barbarian Hero: a grocer's scrawny kid who was learning the art of "heroing" from a mail-order pamphlet, Inne Juste 7 Dayes I wille make You a Barbearian Hero!.
  • Billy and the Alphas of The Dresden Files are somewhere between this, Ascended Fanboys and Girls and Jumped at the Call, as while they are basically a college D&D group, they became a pack of werewolves who are surprisingly good at what they do.
  • Taran of the Prydain Chronicles starts out as this status, but over the course of the books Character Development takes hold.
    • And by the time he becomes a real hero he no longer believes in them.
  • Poor Ben Perkins from Sharpe. He's made a Chosen Man, ignores the advice of an older and wiser man to turn it down, and ends up murdered by a traitor from his own side.
  • In Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, shiny-eyed Gareth loved heroic ballads and dreamed of great deeds... but he met his hero and other participants of the feat.
    "Poison?" Such foulness clearly pierced him to the heart. "Harpoons? Not a sword at all?"
    Jenny shook her head, not knowing whether to feel amusement at the boy's disappointed expression, exasperation at the way he spoke of what had been for her and hundreds of others a time of sleepless, nightmare horror, or only a kind of elder-sisterly compassion for the naivete that would consider taking a three-foot steel blade against twenty-five feet of spiked and flaming death.
  • Tamora Pierce's Alanna is shown to have some elements of this when she first sets out to become a knight in Song of the Lioness, but it's not much followed up on.
  • DeGuiche in Cyrano DeBergerac, a cowardly, selfish, petty man who wishes to be just like his comrade Cyrano.
  • The title character from Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. Unfortunately, the universe he lives in is not nearly as idealistic, and it is in part due to his own character that he ends up a Posthumous Character.

    Live Action TV 
  • Jason from True Blood. He's constantly striving find some way to become a hero, but he tries to find short-cuts too often to be more than a wannabe.
  • Billie from Charmed. She even turns evil, but then turns right back once she realizes it involves killing something other than demons.
  • Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess, who ends up making a Heroic Sacrifice to save Gabrielle.
  • Captain Freedom (played by Dennis Dugan) from Hill Street Blues, a homeless man with a penchant for justice who provided several Pet the Dog moments for the precinct's gruff detective, Mick Belker.
  • Kamen Rider Taiga (of Kamen Rider Ryuki) kills his mentor and his best friend, all to fulfill his delusional wish of becoming a hero.
  • When Tim Kring was showing his wife the character ideas for his new show Heroes, she noticed that none of the Heroes enjoyed having their powers and that it was somewhat depressing. Thus, Hiro (get it?) Nakamura was born — as the personification of this trope.
  • Boone from LOST is a particularly sad example. From his first scene in the pilot (giving CPR to Rose), he's constantly trying to be a hero....and failing miserably. he does the CPR all wrong and Jack has to save Rose. He fails to save Joanna from drowning, almost drowns himself, and has to be rescued by Jack. He stands guard but falls asleep, allowing Ethan to kill Scott. Taken to the most tragic extreme, he climbs into the beechcraft in an attempt to radio the outside world, only for the plane to plummet off of a cliff, during which he sustains fatal injuries and eventually dies.
  • An intern on Grimm is eventually outed as a hero-worshipper of the main character, Nick. He pretends to be a Grimm himself, believing that all Wesen must die and murdering two Wesen before Nick captures him. He is revealed to be a Wesen himself.
  • Flynn from Power Rangers RPM in his childhood was a lover of comic books and wanted to help people. He went a little overboard - failing at being a cop (he tried to arrest the mayor's son), a fireman (caused water damage trying to save an old lady's goldfish) and in the Peace Corp (led a rebellion with the indigenous people). Unlike most examples, he actually gets to become a hero.

    Video Games 
  • A big theme in Crisis Core where Sephiroth inspired desire to be heroes in Zack, Cloud and Genesis. Most the game centers around their bumpy road towards achieving this.
  • Shingo Yabuki from the King of Fighters series idolizes Kyo Kusanagi, to the point of mimicking his moves and speech. He's training to be as good as Kyo, and is convince that he, too, can "shoot fire."
  • In Persona 3, most of Junpei Iori's motivation to help SEES is based on his desire to be a genuine hero. This desire causes him to rush into dire situations without any forethought, become intensely jealous of the Main Character for his role as The Captain of the group, and even reveal his Secret Identity to a girl to gain recognition (a move that later backfires horribly).
  • In Persona 2: Innocent Sin, there's a character who was convinced that she's the reincarnation of a Chinese Warrior and ended up being used by the bad guys as she tried to be a great heroine. It eventually led to her being trapped in a burning building. Poor thing.
  • Duran from Avalon Code desperately wants to be a hero, but his cowardice prevents him from doing much of anything, leaving it up to Yumil (or Tia) to use the Book of Prophecy to inspire him.
  • Almaz in-game title in Disgaea 3 is "Wannabe Hero" which pretty much says it all. Then Mao breaks the Fourth Wall to steal his title.
  • Conrad Verner from Mass Effect. He's Commander Shepard's number 1 fanboy, but hasn't got the brains to recognize that he's not anywhere near skilled enough to follow his/her example and become a Spectre. It's up to the Commander to keep him from getting himself killed. Or not.
  • BioWare did it again with poor foolish King Cailan of Dragon Age: Origins, who walks straight into a trap set by his Treacherous Advisor Loghain at Ostagar due to his desire to be a hero like in the legends he loves and dies when Loghain turns his back on him and abandons him.
  • Luke fon Fabre from Tales of the Abyss. All it takes is Van telling him that he'll be a hero to get him to completely ignore everything everyone else in the group tells him (even his long-time best friend and the one who practically raised him, Guy), split off from them when they're in a city infected by dangerous miasma, and then unleash a power he can't control when Van tells him to, resulting in the destruction of Akzeriuth and the deaths of hundreds of people. So basically, he goes from a Heroic Wannabe to Nice Job Breaking It, Hero all in one go. Yeesh.
  • Emiya Shirou from Fate/stay night wants to be a "Hero of Justice", following in his foster father's footsteps. Pretty much everyone around him tries to warn him of just what a bad idea this is, but it becomes the most pronounced with Rin and Archer in the Unlimited Blade Works route. In Archer's timeline, he took every opportunity he found to act as a hero, sacrificing everything else for the sake of others. His obsession led to him being ostracized and eventually killed as a scapegoat. Even when he died alone he didn't regret following his dream, but his existence as a Counter-Guardian changed that.
  • Capt. Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line. Throughout the game, he tries to do what is right - without fully considering the consequences. After he uses white phosphorus on a civilian camp, he refuses to acknowledge that it was his fault. And it breaks him.
  • At the start of Dhux's Scar, a man named Dario assaults the titular character, a cursed angel that's just vaporized a woman and her son. He gets his hands blown off and his head pulped for his troubles.

    Webcomics 
  • In Dungeons and Denizens, we have Sir Percival von Fluffypants. To him, the "hard parts" of heroism involve posing and having perfect hair. He uses his guards to do any fighting (not that it makes any difference, as his parents bribed the monsters ahead of time to go easy on him). He meets his well-deserved end when he trashes the room of a pre-adolescent Gothic Lolita - who happens to be a powerful necromancer with a cruel streak. Percy ends up being sent home in small disposable baggies.
  • Chris in Errant Story. Unfortunately for him, in this webcomic you actually have to be seriously dangerous to be a main character.
  • Anthony, of The Players Guide To SISU, is desperately struggling to be seen as a full-fledged hero, but hasn't made it yet. Possibly because of his elf obsession.
  • Dave Strider of Homestuck exhibits some Heroic Wannabe traits—he's expressed a fixation on becoming a "hero" and seems to be willing to sacrifice anything to save his friends.

     Western Animation  
  • Moomintroll of The Moomins. He tries to be the hero so very, very hard.
  • Catman from The Fairly Oddparents.
  • On South Park, the members of Coon and Friends manage to do some good deeds in their superhero identities, but are no match for Cthulu, with the exception of actual superheroes Mysterion/Kenny and Mint-Berry Crunch/Bradley. The Coon/Cartman is a darker example: self-aggrandizing at best, his attempts at "heroics" easily dissolve into wanton acts of evil because, as Mysterion puts it, he can't tell the difference between "good" and "good for him."
    • Especially considering that, up until Cthulu shows up, The Coon's "heroic" acts consist almost entirely of ruining other superheroes so that he'll be the only one around.

The Gunfighter WannabeThe Wannabe IndexI Just Want to Be Badass
Heroic ArchetypeArchetypal CharacterThe High Queen
Heroic NeutralCharacters as DeviceHidden Depths

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