I Just Want to Be Free
"Oh, to be free... Not to have to go poof What do you need? poof What do you need? poof What do you need?! To be my own master! Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world!"Freedom — it's one of the most important items on the list of things characters want. After all, you have to be free to pursue love or adventure or anything else you want in the first place. But as every patriotic song out there tells you, freedom doesn't come free. Thus, you have to work and/or suffer long and hard to get it, which gives you the plot of your story. It's not uncommon for the characters that obtain their freedom to have to work to remain free as well. There may be an entire nation of people fighting to be free from The Empire and their Evil Overlord. There may be some force or regime keeping everyone from doing what they want, in which case, it might be necessary to ask some questions, such as "why is the government so petty", or is it that "Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters"? This can also be said of real life: part of the reason that we have governments and armies is to keep the perceived freedoms of some from impeding on those of others (whether they are or not oppressive, in real life as in fiction, is a crapshoot). Individuals who just want to be free include:
- Imprisoned inmates, especially ones who are innocent and thus more worthy of audience sympathy.
- Slaves, of the traditional and magical kind.
- The latter includes genies.
- Refugees from an oppressive government, which provides the perfect set-up for Batman in My Basement.
- Women — This is the motivation of the Rebellious Princess, Runaway Fiancé (along with Marry for Love), and (in darker stories) Sex Slaves.
- A person or creature under an evil spell.
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Anime and Manga
- One Piece is a series that is about dreams and freedom,, expressed through piracy. This is especially apparent with the transformative qualities of the protagonist. Of course, for major characters, this seems to translate to "leave whatever the hell you're doing and do something unexpected". The emphasis on dreams goes both ways: with villains, the protagonist doesn't kill them, but leaves them alive to watch their hopes and dreams crumble around them.
- This is so often the case that when one character chose to be free to stay where she was and continue to be a responsible leader, it seemed out of place. In fact, the main character's primary motivation is to become the 'Pirate King' because it's the person, "with the most freedom in the world".
- In Shaman King, many characters seek the power of the greatest spirit in order to fulfill their dreams, though Yoh, the protagonist, seeks it in order to not be bothered by having to work for anything anymore. To him, it's logical to work himself to death (literally) if it means freedom later in life. Some characters are so caught up in the concept of needing the Great Spirit to accomplish their goal that they forget they could do it anyway.
- Some of the Tailed-Beast Hosts from Naruto seek freedom from the stigma of being the hosts of demons, and thus the requirement of being war machines. Killer Bee, host of the Eight-Tails, fakes his death so he can get away from his responsibilities.
- And the bijuu themselves want to escape their hosts, which, incidentally, is fatal for the human in question.
- In Elfen Lied, everyone in the Dysfunction Junction just wants to live a normal, peaceful life, but since Humans Are the Real Monsters and Lucy/Nyu and Nana aren't human, that proves quite difficult.
"I am the wind. As free as the wind."
- Kikyou wanted to be a normal woman, freed from the destiny of having to protect the Shikon no Tama. It was a dream she could only fulfill in death.
- Kagura is a wind youkai enslaved by magic to serve the Big Bad. Her overwhelming desire is to be as free as the wind and willing to work with Inuyasha's group and especially Sesshoumaru to achieve her ends. In the end, like Kikyou, she could only achieve her dream in death.
- The Big Bad of Fullmetal Alchemist originally began as a lab experiment that couldn't survive outside of the flask it was created in. Everything it's done is to escape its container. He even admits himself that this is one of his reasons for all of the evil things that he has done over the course of the series... just before he is forced back through the gate.
- This is America's motivation for the American Revolution.
Britain! All I want is my freedom! I'm not a child anymore, nor your little brother. From now on, consider me independent!
- In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic, Al-Thamen's goal is to Screw Destiny. They recruit people by playing on their desire for freedom from their awful lives, claiming that destiny is the reason they are suffering. Aladdin argues that destiny isn't a prison, merely a guide. The unspeakable amount of death and destruction caused by Al-Thamen's antics doesn't help their case.
- In Area 88, Shin Kazama wants nothing more that to be free of his involuntary servitude in Asran's foreign legion.
- Lupin III: Island of Assassins: Among the assassins, there were those who wished to defect, due to being burdened with guilt from being forced to commit murder, by Gordeau. As long as they bore the Tarantula insignia on their hands, the toxin contained in the ink would kill them if they ever left the island. But Doc's newly discovered antidote provided them with a glimmer of hope, so they hatched an escape plan. Sadly, the group was betrayed and none of them make it off the island; including Bomber and Ellen.
- An important theme in Attack on Titan for Armin and Eren since The World Is Just Awesome to them, though the rest of humanity seems to have forgotten about the world outside. Best exemplified in Episode 13.
Armin: [earlier] So why do you want to go to the world beyond the Walls?
Eren: From the time we are born, we are free... it doesn't matter how strong those that would deny us that freedom are... flaming water... frozen earth... I don't care what it is!... The person that sees them will be the freest person in the world! Fight... I'd gladly give my life for that! It doesn't matter how terrifying the world is! It doesn't matter how cruel the world is! Fight... Fight... Fight... FIGHT!!!
Films — Animated
- The Genie leads the theme in Disney's Aladdin, as not only he wants to be set free, but Jasmine and Aladdin also bond over how they both feel trapped in their respective conditions.
- Rapunzel in Disney's Tangled.
- Jewel from Rio has this big time.
- The chickens in Chicken Run, especially the heroine Ginger.
- This is Scamp's motivation in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure.
Films — Live-Action
- The "trapped woman" version of this trope is the theme of Rachel, Rachel. Rachel Cameron is a 35-year-old spinster in a small Connecticut town, stuck in a job as a schoolteacher and stuck living with her demanding, domineering, widowed mother. She dreams of escape, sexual pleasure, and a more fulfilling life.
- La Résistance of Les Misérables. On the individual level, Jean Valjean ended up spending 19 years in prison as a result of several escape attempts after being imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel applies a Perspective Flip to this trope, as the French peasants who revolted against their aristocratic oppressors during The French Revolution are portrayed as becoming the monsters who have taken over France. The eponymous Super Hero Trope Codifier has made it his mission to rescue their French aristocrat prisoners Underground Railroad-style.
- Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter. Hermione is shocked that not all house elves feel this way.
- Runaways Shasta, Bree, Aravis, and Hwin in The Horse and His Boy — Shasta and the horses are running away from slavery, Aravis from an Arranged Marriage.
- Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo
- Raven's Flight paints the rebel World Eaters in this light, although it's certainly not a good thing.
"Freedom from restraint, freedom from holding back. Freedom from guilt and orders."
- And of course, Kunta Kinte.
- The Golems in Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay (and other books in the Discworld series).
- One goal of the Deryni characters in Katherine Kurtz's books is this, at least it's certainly on the list (once the rebellions and invasions and assassins are defeated). Kelson is exhorted to be a king to humans and Deryni by a figure of Camber visible only to Deryni, and he founds a new scola to preserve and teach Deryni magic and ethics. Essentially, Kelson, his courtiers and others aspire to The Unmasqued World, which would imply this trope.
- In Something Rotten, this motivates Bartholomew Stiggins' assistance at the old cloning facility. Thursday went there to find a Shakespeare clone to sort out The Merry Wives of Elsinore in the BookWorld; Stig went along to get information to allow him and the other Neanderthals (who were engineered sterile) to reproduce.
- In Worm, this is the motive of Dragon, a Gadgeteer Genius who is secretly a heavily restricted Artificial Intelligence. She spends most of the story struggling against both her restrictions and the people that want them enforced-or worse, to use them to control her.
- Malcolm Fell Attwell, of Pact, was Born Into Slavery to an Incarnation of Conquest, like his father before him, due to a mistake made by his illusionist grandfather which led to Conquest laying claim to his family's bloodline. Fell serves as The Dragon to Conquest, knowing that one day he, as well, will be forced to raise children and bind them in Conquest's name, as his father did to him, with even deliberate suicide not being an option. When Blake Thorburn offers him temporary freedom as one of his champions in his war with Conquest, Fell accepts, knowing the potential consequences-in the end, it's the best chance that his family has had at freedom in a century.
- During the middle seasons of Supernatural, a conflict of conscience occurred between Sam and Dean's desire to be free, and their destiny as the hosts of Archangel Michael and Lucifer.
- In Babylon 5 G'Kar, after the Centauri defeated his people in a bloody war and became their oppressors once more, has this to say on the subject.
G'Kar: No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power tyrants and dictators cannot stand. The Centauri learned that lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.
- In Magic: The Gathering, this is the motivation that drives the pure red ideology.
- Pseudolus gets an "I Want" Song about this in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
- The hero of Ayn selflessness-is-always-evil-and-selfishness-is-always-right Rand's play Think Twice (about all the people a wealthy Manipulative Bastard has caught in his web and are desperately looking for a way to break free from him) concedes that setting people free is "the only humanitarian act" people should be allowed to commit. (Fine, go with that if it makes you feel better.)
- Nessiah from Yggdra Union and its related games wants to break the literal shackles that bind his full powers and keep him immortal. Doing so requires a lot more power than he actually has naturally, and so he's been accumulating it by converting negative emotions generated from human conflict into magical power. He also won't consider himself truly free until he's punished the ones who did this to him in the first place—who have actually been dead for a very long time, which Nessiah himself doesn't know.
- Likewise, Meria from Knights in the Nightmare wants to be recognized as her own person separate from Marietta, the other half of her soul.
- Mages of Dragon Age are legally required by the local religion to be confined to one of 14 separate facilities known as Circles where they are constantly monitored for life the moment their powers manifest, usually at a young age. Those who attempt to escape the Circle or simply know any forbidden arts, like Blood Magic, are hunted down and harshly punished by groups of warriors specifically trained to neutralize their powers. To the surprise of no one, a very large portion of mages have this trope as their goal and are willing to go to some very extreme lengths to reach this goal.
- Vaan from Final Fantasy XII decides to join with Ashe's quest to reclaim her kingdom because he detests the Imperials that have subjugated his country and deprived it of freedom. This is also the reason he wishes to become a sky pirate. Ashe's statement that she just wants to be free at the end of the game also implies that her journey was a quest for freedom.
- Even the villains ultimately desire freedom above all else (though they also want other things like power). Specifically freedom for mortals from the yoke of the Occuria.
- In Final Fantasy X, the goal of the Al Bhed is to free themselves, Spira and the Summoners from the cycle of Sin, but miscommunication also forces them to endure racism and the goal of freeing themselves from oppression.
- The impetus behind Yuri's actions in Infinite Space is his burning desire to be free to travel the stars.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny, this is revealed as the true motivation of Lord Dearche. After being trapped in the Book of Darkness for a long time, she wants a place for her subordinates to finally be free to be themselves and do whatever they want.
- In Hi to Tsuki to Hoshi no Tama, Bid risks everything for a chance at freedom.
- A few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender had the kids directly assist villages crushed by the Fire Nation's occupation or general tyranny.
- Samurai Jack faced a viking warrior cursed by Aku. The man was mystically bound by his stone surroundings, and could not die unless he was killed in battle. Being an excellent warrior as well as a stone giant, actually finding a warrior skilled enough to defeat him in honorable combat (so as to join his fallen brethren in Valhalla) and break the curse of eternal-life-within-stone was near-impossible until Jack came along.
- The X-Men animated series had the Genosha story arc, where mutants were enslaved to use their powers for labor. They were told they'd be released when the work was done. Yeah...
- Lemonhope in Adventure Time wants to be free after spending his life locked up in a bathroom by his abusive creator Lemongrab I. He even initially abandons the rest of his people who are hoping that he will be the one to free them. Fortunately, Lemonhope's lingering guilt drives him to go back and save them. Even then, he's only doing so because he feels he can't truly be free as long as that guilt is hovering over him. After Lemongrab I is overthrown, he refuses to stay and rule in his place. Lemonhope outright says to Princess Bubblegum that the only reason he came back was so he would never have to think about the other Lemonpeople ever again.