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I Just Want to Be Special
Maybe if you believe really hard, you too can be Batman wielding a lightsaber.

But somebody told me I was special.
Somebody told me that I could be
anything I wanted to be.
How could they have known the dreams I had
were not the dreams they had for me?
They said I could be what I wanted—
they had no idea what I wanted.
Ookla The Mok, My Secret Origin

The opposite of I Just Want to Be Normal, this is a character who is completely ordinary and unexceptional. And they desperately wish that they weren't. Either that or they have a very ordinary, uneventful life that they wish was fun and exciting. They would have Jumped at the Call, but the call never came. Very often, they are more than a little jealous of their friends who ''did'' get cool powers (as in the opening quote) or get to go on exciting adventures. If they're lucky enough, they may get to be the Badass Normal in their group of magical friends.

Anyone who is Cursed with Awesome can expect precious little sympathy from this character. Anyone who is Blessed with Suck has every right to argue with this character.

If they finally get what they want, they may become the Ascended Fanboy. Otherwise, they either Ascend and get slammed by the Sidekick Glass Ceiling or wind up Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life.

Like the other I Just Want To... tropes, this is frequently used to the audience's own desires. If the character gets what he wants, he serves as a surrogate for the audience who want to be able to do the same at least in their imagination. If he does not, it's usually meant as encouragement for the viewers: "See, you should just be happy with the boring life that you have! And being special is overrated anyway!"

May lead to a Be Careful What You Wish For situation.

Compare I Wish It Were Real, Changeling Fantasy, I Just Want to Be Badass, The Call Put Me On Hold, I Just Want to Be Beautiful, The Team Wannabe.

Contrast I Just Want to Be Normal.

Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Suzumiya Haruhi. Much of her character is subconsciously driven by a need to stand out so that she doesn't blend in with the crowd. If she only knew... On the other hand, it's better for us that she doesn't
  • In Narutaru, Akira Sakura just wants to be normal, because of the horrifying realities of being bonded with her "shadow dragon". Shiina, on the other hand, can't imagine getting on without Hoshimaru, and has a Heroic BSOD when she finds out he was never hers at all. Shiina also wanted to become closer to Hoshimaru, and be able to control him as if he were a part of her body, like others who have "dragons"; She never was able to.
  • Nami Hito, the incredibly normal girl in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. At first she tried being the truant, but as Chiri pointed out, she kept showing up.
    • She then tries various other things to try to stand out, but her classmates all had her beat. It culminates with a suicide attempt. Naturally, at THAT EXACT INSTANT, the teacher falls from the roof in an actual suicide attempt. Hilarious?
  • A similar example is Momose Kurumi from Pani Poni Dash!. Like Nami, the word "ordinary" is her Berserk Button.
    • But Momose doesn't want to have special powers - she just wants to not be so supremely uninteresting that nobody ever remembers her.
  • Kensuke from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He just won't stop pestering Shinji about becoming an Eva pilot.
  • Autor from Princess Tutu. He claims to be a descendant of Drosselmeyer and that he's inherited his Reality Warping powers, but it's soon revealed that it's likely not the case, as desperately as he wishes it to be.
  • One sequence in the Tokyo Babylon manga revolves around a group of girls who abuse magic out of a desire to be "special." Somebody grants their wish: they become a spectacular case of sudden, simultaneous mental breakdown.
  • The first chapter of Vampire Princess Miyu has a guy that wants to become a vampire to have superpowers and fight evil. It doesn't end well for him.
  • Ojamajo Doremi: Doremi and her friends want to become a Witches for varying reasons.
    • Inverted in a touching way in the Grand Finale. After everything she and her friends have went through, Doremi doesn't understand why the entire sixth grade came to convince her out of her Heroic BSOD. She's a Dojikko and constantly gets terrible grades...but little does she realize The Power of Friendship transcends more than just Magical Stage.
  • Saionji in Revolutionary Girl Utena. So, so much.
    • It should be noted that as a Student Council member in Ohtori, Saionji does have more than his fair share of power at the school. It's just that in comparison to Touga, whom he feels inferior to, this matters hardly not at all.
      • It's also possible to interpret Touga in this way, in relation to Akio.
    • Wakaba, Shiori, and most of the Black Rose Duelists would be better examples of this trope.
    • Arguably, everyone in this series that isn't Akio, Dios, Chu Chu, or the Shadow Girls fits into this trope.
  • Yuka Sugimoto of The Twelve Kingdoms desperately believes she is the destined hero of the titular Magical Land. In this case, the jealousy aspect is extreme enough that she tries repeatedly to kill the real Chosen One, Youko. Who manages to defeat Yuka and knock sense into her, though..
  • Done darkly in Ghost Hunt - one character's desire for people to notice them winds up creating a poltergeist and injuring several characters.
  • Haruna Saotome of Mahou Sensei Negima! wanted to be special badly. When the call came, she was so desperate that when she Jumped at the Call at one point, she actually outran it. She actually threatened her best friends with torture for not letting her in on The Masquerade sooner.
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun
    • Saten. She moved to Academy City to develop psychic powers, only to be told she had no potential whatsoever. Despite years of hard work, she remains at Level 0, and is unable to assist Misaka (Level 5) and Kuroko (Level 4) in fights. All of this eventually drives her to use the "Level Upper" to develop powers. Indeed, this is the collective thought of all Level Upper users, which Professor Kiyama and Mikoto heard when the AIM Burst broadcasted it all after it came out.
    • Kuroko correctly guesses that Misaka thinks that part of the blame for the Level Upper incident falls on espers, in part because they tend to rub their specialness in the normals' faces, and sometimes bullying happens. Misaka isn't one of these, but she tried to impart Wisdom from the Gutter, which backfired spectacularly especially with her words "Levels don't matter", which rubbed Saten the wrong way as Mikoto's a Level 5 and Saten's a Level 0.
  • Mikado from Durarara!! moves to Ikebukuro for the express reason of making his normal life become interesting. When he meets a mythical headless being and simultaneously discovers there's a laboratory conducting evil experiments, he does everything he can to become involved. However, he is an interesting subversion of I Just Want To Be Special, because all this time he has been hiding his identity - he is the leader of Dollars.
  • In FLCL, the main character opens and closes the series with a complaint about how boring and normal his life is (the events in between these complaints notwithstanding). Though he treats most of the crazy and exciting things that happen in the show as more of an annoyance than an adventure.
  • The World God Only Knows gives us Elsea's friend Chihiro, who is pretty much average in every way and knows it. To counteract this, she always tries to hook up with the most popular guy around in the hopes that their specialness will rub off on her. When she turns out to be the host of an evil spirit, Keima refuses to help at first, equating her with the faceless generic characters in the dating sims he plays. After Keima and Elsea help her, however, she gets the confidence to try to be special in her own way by starting a band.
  • Magical Project S Misao Amano dreams of being a magical girl in the third episode, even saying how she could do anything with magic powers. It got to the point were her desire made her daydream of it while saying " having magic" out loud in an embarasing way. Unknown to her she was already special , but not in the way she expected... ( she was already an active magical girl as Pixy Misa tough she wasn't aware of it)
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Videl. This trope is the main reason she trains so hard, because she wants to be as powerful as her father who supposedly defeated Cell and was already strong enough to be asked for help from the police. When she discovers Gohan's secret identity, she stalks him until he teaches her how to fly (with Goten who by the way surpassed her in a hilarious way) and use her chi like the z warriors. After this she became the third most powerful woman in the series (after Chi-Chi) .
    • This also applies to Vegeta. While already one of the most powerful fighters he has repeatedly fallen on this. For example, in the Frieza saga he wanted to be the legendary super saiyan, in Cell saga he wanted to be the best and became Super Vegeta, and in Majin Buu saga he became Majin Vegeta thanks to this desire. And in true Dramatic Irony, his greatest Crowning Moment Of Awesome in the Z series is the moment he gives up and accepts that Goku is better than him.
  • Mayo Sakaki, from the Fushigi Yuugi Eikoden OVA, is a deconstruction of this. All she wants is to be powerful and, more than that, to be Tamahome's true love. And she is willing to become an Apocalypse Maiden and very nearly destroy Tamahome's world (both literally and figuratively) to do it.
  • Friend. The first one.
  • Ayumu Nishizawa of Hayate the Combat Butler wanted to be this for a while, and actually accomplished it for a time, being the first girl to have actually confessed to Hayate. Then she learned the Aesop, and happily took a step back to play backup for the other characters.
  • In Bleach, Ichigo has wanted to lose his powers through most of the Arrancar arc. When he finally does, he hates that he can't protect his friends anymore.
  • Deconstructed in Digimon Adventure 02 with Ken and the Dark Seed Children. None of them were evil, they were just sad, lonely and lacking in confidence, something which Oikawa takes advantage of. He promises them that if they let him embed the dark seed in their necks, then they'd become smarter and more talented, like the original host of the dark seed, Ken Ichijoji. None of them realised that the seed could turn you evil/insane, and Ken ends up in tears, saying to them that they don't want to end up like him. They only listen later, when it all goes to crap.
  • In Medaka Box, Zenkichi after chapter 116. In this case, it's more like I Just Want to Be Special to Medaka, and he needs to be special himself after Ajimu removed his "Token Normal" status by introducing five Normal students to Medaka.
    • Itami "Best Pain" Koga before she met Youka Naze.
  • Genki from Monster Rancher thinks his life is boring. Luckily he gets Trapped in Another World, his favorite video game.
  • Since Chuunibyou (briefly, adolescent delusions of grandeur, see Real Life, below) is the main theme of Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, this trope is played straight by Rikka, who still has it, and deconstructed by Yuuta, whose bout of chuunibyou caused him to have the All the Other Reindeer treatment and now he just wanted to be normal.
  • In the Aesop-style manga Mahou Gyoushounin Roma, a boy is desperate to be the stand-out player on the basketball team, but is constantly in the shadow of the one other boy who is better than him. He buys a magical artifact allowing him to "erase" the other boy from history, thus becoming the best player himself, but before he can play a game he is himself erased by the former third-best player on the team who was in the exact same position with regard to him.
  • Madoka, of Puella Magi Madoka Magica starts off like this. When the call of 'one wish in exchange for service in battling monsters' comes, she admits to not being interested in the wish as much as helping others in a cool outfit - in her own estimation, she's not especially smart or talented, and she wants to accomplish things. It doesn't last. Homura tries to disabuse her of the notion at one point, saying that even if she isn't unique, she's still loved and needed by others, and shouldn't think of herself as useless.
  • Takara from Rising X Rydeen always wanted to be a stranger, people who've developed superpowers. By the start of the story he finds out that he is one. Unfortunately, his superpower is embarrassingly useless.
  • Teana Lanster has this prolem in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. She's in a division with talented or powerful individuals, while she herself comes from an ordinary background. She starts to train herself excessively more than she already does to become stronger, but she doesn't realize her own talents and strengths that made her part of the division and The Leader of the Forwards. Even after the "You Are Better Than You Think You Are" speech from Nanoha, Teana falls into depression when she's fighting three Numbers at once, but she comes out of it when she is thinking about her Heterosexual Life Partner. Since StrikerS Sound Stage X, Teana has embraced her own talents that made her special.

     Comic Books  
  • The U-Men, from Grant Morrison's run on the X-Men, who want to be special so much that they kill mutants to harvest their super-power carrying organs, and later graft these on themselves. It's never made clear whether it actually works, or anything, but...
    • It kinda works, but most die from organ failure.
  • The U-Foes (no relation to the U-Men) were a rich kid and his three employees who purposly built a rocket without any cosmic ray shielding, to get superpowers a la the Fantastic Four. Hilarity did not ensue.
  • In The DCU, Houston was the only member of the team Relative Heroes who did not have superpowers and was the one most desperate to be a traditional superhero.
  • She-Hulk was one of the few who benefitted from gamma radiation, and it only took a while to love her new form, which served as a sort of release from the far more inhibited Jennifer. She's rarely even wanted to turn back to human form at all over the years.
  • In Astro City, the villain Mock Turtle spent his childhood trying to find his way into a magical world like Oz or Narnia or Wonderland. As an adult he became an engineer and finally snapped and became a supervillain after learning that he wouldn't be allowed to pilot the battle suit he had created. His childhood sweetheart may have had something to do with it as well...
    • "The Tarnished Angel" indicates that most B-grade supervillains suffer from this. They're often ordinary folks who come across some sort of Applied Phlebotinum, then try to leverage it into riches and power.
  • Early issues of the in-canon Buffy the Vampire Slayer have the cast speculate that Dawn being fifty feet tall now wasn't a horrible mistake but a desire to be special. This may be the truth now, there were missed issues, but having a fifty-foot tall ally did help when the zombies invaded. Stupid zombies.
    Amy: What else you got?
    Xander: Say it with me now. Fe Fi Fo...
    Dawn: F*** ing Foom! [stomps Amy with her giant foot]
    Willow:Language, sweetie. How come you're a giant?
  • Komodo of the Avengers Initiative had this mindset and fears going back to normal. Spider-man has fun with her.
    • Komodo's fear of losing her powers wasn't because she wants to feel special, but because without her powers she has no legs. Now Armory on the other hand was going to commit suicide before she got the Tactigon. After getting the Tactigon she practically went around searching for the call.
  • In The Bulleteer, Alix eventually calls out Mind Grabber Man (a kid who had an adventure with the Justice League and has been trying to recapture that glory ever since) for this attitude. "Why's everyone so obsessed with being special?" This cuts him deep.
    • This is also Alix's own origin; her husband Lance Just Wanted To Be Special (and ironically was involved with Sally Sonic, who Just Wanted To Be Normal) and developed a supersteel smartskin that killed him and was accidentally transferred to her.
    • It's also mentioned that there are entire wings in many hospitals devoted to the people who expose themselves to radiation, etc, in desperate hope of gaining powers.
  • Jerry, the guy who finds the HERO dial in the first issue of H-E-R-O. This is a guy who became suicidally depressed at the mere sight of Superman, that's how severe his envy was. What's worse? He soon discovered that even with powers, he was no Superman and that there wasn't any point; his entire storyline is told through his call to a suicide hotline.
  • An issue of Rising Stars was dedicated to a young man who, in a bid for attention, claimed he was one of the "Specials" (113 kids who were in-utero when a giant energy shockwave hit their small midwest town, imbuing them with superpowers as they got older). However, since all the other Specials could "feel" one another, they knew he wasn't one, and encouraged him to recant his tale. Finally, this was all subverted when he gave his life saving a girl he liked from an oncoming, out-of-control truck. All the Specials went to his funeral and remembered him as one of their own.
  • In Insane Jane, Jane does drugs and exposes herself to dangerous chemicals under the delusion that that sort of thing actually gives you superpowers like it does in the comics she reads. She even murders everyone she knows in an attempt to invoke Death by Origin Story.
    • This was essentially a remake of an earlier issue of 10th Muse - with the important distinction being that, unlike Jane, Barbara/"The Wombat" lives in a world where superheroes are actually real. Well, that and Jane is schizophrenic and didn't know she was killing those people. Barbara knew exactly what she was doing.
  • "I Just Want to Be Special" practically defines Lex Luthor's character. He resents and envies people with superpowers in general and Superman in particular, both for their powers and for receiving the respect and adulation that he believes he's entitled to as a one-in-a-million 12th level intellect genius. Everything he tries to make himself more special than them never works. Being a brilliant inventor and businessman? Didn't work. Trying to kill them? Didn't work. Masquerading as his own son through cloning and starting his own super team? Didn't work. Becoming President? Didn't work. This reached a head in 52 when he started his "Everyman" Program that offered exo-gene treatments to other people who also wanted to be Special. Though his initial goal seemed to be building a superhuman army that he could control (while making real superheroes seem less special in general), Lex gets increasingly frustrated when repeated testing confirms that he is incompatible with his own treatment. He goes so far as to turn off the Everymen's powers on New Year's at midnight while thousands of them are flying in the skies of Metropolis - and promptly start falling to their deaths. When it turns out that he was compatible all along and that his head scientist Dennis lied about it because Dennis rightfully believed Luthor couldn't be trusted with superpowers Lex immediately gives himself a copy of Superman's powers. When Lex fights Steel in a later issue, he thrashes Steel with the powers of Superman and is absolutely giddy about it.
    Lex: No pain! NO PAIN! HAHAHAHA!
    Lex: Tell me again how being human is so much better than this.
  • Booster Gold used to play this trope straight, but now subverts it. Booster used to be a desperate, famewhoring, c-list superhero. Now he plays the part of a desperate, famewhoring, c-list superhero as a cover for his real job guarding the timeline. Booster got the Call to Adventure he wanted, but he can only stay special so long as no one knows about it; if his enemies figure out that he's competent they'll alter time so that he's never born.
  • Kid Devil wanted to be a special so badly that he built himself a power suit and high tech trident when he was 12, and then made a Deal with the Devil when he was a teenager to become a real devil. The motivation for his actions stems from being inspired by his friend and idol Blue Devil, and from parental neglect. This is counter to his friend and teammate Blue Beetle, who just wants to be normal.
  • The Golden Age Atom, who had operated for years as a Bad Ass Normal super hero, was so happy it almost brought him to tears when he discovered he'd gained super strength.
  • The Umbrella Academy has Vanya, who really wishes that she superpowers beyond playing the violin really well. This is largely because her father figure and some of her adoptive siblings at the titular academy frequently put her down for it. It turns out that the abuse was her father figure's attempt to hide the fact that Vanya had enourmous potential as a Musical Assassin, potential so great she could destroy the world if she tried. She does try.
  • College student Leonardo d'Aq (in one of the Paperinik continuities) wants to be a superhero, and desperately tries to have an "origin" - standing too close to an experimental nuclear explosion, being bitten by a radioactive bug, touching a strange meteorite - but fails. He does succeed in becoming the sidekick of a Superman expy, but that is when he simply acts with everyday heroism and helps the hero, instead of trying foolish stunts to gain glory. The hero points out that he is a potential Badass Normal, but ignored it dreaming of superpowers.
  • In The DCU, Donna Carol Force was so obsessed with gaining superpowers (seemingly being the only member of her family not to have powers) that she travelled to Metropolis hoping that an alien parasite would attack her and drain her spinal fluid, granting her superpowers in the process. Luckily for her, it worked and she became the electric superheroine Sparx.
  • The main character of Grounded is a comic book nerd who has always wanted to be a superhero, to the point that he once broke his leg trying to fly off the roof of his house. By the end of the story, both he and his like-minded girlfriend are attending an actual Superhero School - where they're the only students who actually want to be heroes.
  • This is part of the reason for the superhero movement in Kick-Ass. In the second series, Kick-Ass meets Dr. Gravity, who claims to be a genius physicist wielding a device that can increase or decrease the weight of an object. Kick-Ass expresses disbelief, and Dr. Gravity comes clean - he's an English major at a local university and the gravity rod is a baseball bat covered in tin foil. He isn't ashamed, though. As far as he's concerned, being a superhero is primarily about living your fantasy life.
  • The "Dead Robin" arc of Gotham Central revolves around the murder of several teenage boys who are dressed in Robin costumes. After the police and Batman eliminate the usual villains as suspects, the real perpetrator (A reporter) comes forward. However, he demands to be allowed to confess directly to Batman, and he explains that he just wanted to be a part of that world.
  • In All Fall Down, virtually everyone that lost their powers wants them back.
  • Although Andy Maguire from Spider-Man seemed to have no ambition to be anything beyond an extremely average nobody, we learned otherwise when he gained superpowers from a Freak Lab Accident ala Peter's and later faced the prospect of losing them. This was hinted at a bit earlier when he shows a secret envy and resentment towards a jock who managed to get with his school's most popular girl despite being there for only two weeks. Predictably, he was devastated when Spider-Man removed almost all his powers due to Andy being reckless with them one time too many, and so now he's back to being a nobody, and now, a laughing stock/has-been.
  • In Shaman's Tears, Thom Broadarrow is intensively jealous of Joshua Brand, and thinks the powers of Wakan Tanka should have been his.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Tailgate spends the first thirteen issues claiming he was a member of the Primal Vanguard, and accomplished numerous scientific feats and rubbed shoulders with some of Cybertron's greats. It's all lies. He spent the first two weeks of his life as a sluicer, followed by six million years stuck in a hole. He made up all those claims because no-one ever came looking for him. He eventually recants this attitude after nearly dying of cybercrosis.
    • Minimus Ambus, brother of the much more famous Dominus Ambus, has some of this. He put his heart and soul into his job, and pleads with his employer when he's stripped of his job because of a mental breakdown, claiming it's everything to him. Said job is being Ultra Magnus, by the way.
  • Deconstructed and played to it's darkest with the Crime Master in Venom; he just wants to be recognized as a great supervillain and continue the legacy of his father-figure, the original Crime Master. The methods he uses to accomplish this goal are terrifying and evil, up to and including feeding Eddie Brock to the Toxin symbiote to add Toxin to his personal Legion of Doom. As he dies his last words are used mourning his failure, suggesting that even after everything he did he still viewed himself as wasted potential.

     Fan Works 
  • Paul goes through several chapters of this in With Strings Attached, when the other three all get magic dumped on them, but he doesn't get any. Not one to sit around waiting, he attempts to learn how to cast spells, but even the easiest spell is too strenuous for him, and Grunnel won't teach him any more because more powerful spells would kill him. Eventually, though, he does get his magic... and as a bonus, he's now hardy enough to cast spells!
  • Like his canon counterpart, Burter of Dragon Ball Z Abridged repeatedly claims to be "the fastest guy in the universe," and while he is indeed quite fast, there are many characters in the series who have far higher Power Levels and can outspeed him (and Guldo, who can stop time). The major change is that he admits it's just posturing: he wants to be seen as special, and not just another guy, so he talks a big game to seem more vital. His teammate Jeice then tells him that he is special; he's his best friend.
  • Lily apparently feels this way in The Boy With The Magic Notebook when she tries to stop Tattletale from passing her in the PRT headquarters, only for Tattletale to say bluntly that Lily feels only part of the background compared to her brother and doesn't really know what do do when he's not there.
  • In Fist Of The Moon it's revealed that the Black Moon Family is composed of people like this. The future senshi have developed incredible tech and medicines, but they all require some level of Silver energy to utilize. Sadly, 7% of the population lack even the smallest amount of this energy, a trait termed Silver-blind, and while the senshi have done their best to develop alternatives, enough people feel slighted or oppressed for Wiseman to recruit into his army.

    Films — Animated 
  • Syndrome from The Incredibles had this as his Start of Darkness.
  • Kung Fu Panda. Po is constantly dreaming and fantasizing about becoming a kung fu warrior, something which his adopted father simply cannot understand, and he is more than eager to toss aside his noodle cart (though that may have more to do with the ridiculously high stairs to the Jade Palace) to go see his heroes perform and imagine he's part of their team. Of course he never dreamed he actually would get chosen, especially as the Dragon Warrior...
    • The movie actually flipflops between this and Refusal of the Call. Po weathers the Training from Hell all because he wants to be special, to prove to himself he can be more than just a fat, lazy panda. Then he flees when he learns he must face Tai Lung. He becomes bound and determined after Shifu's pep talk to train and be a true master, then gives up again when there seems to be no secret to the Dragon Scroll. In the end he finally does see that he is already special and uses that to achieve victory. The surprisingly realistic moral of the story seems to be that while many say they would love the chance to answer the call, when it finally comes they may find out it's not all it cracked up to be, and things are neither as fun or easy as they expected. But that doesn't mean the call shouldn't be heeded.
    • Tai Lung being told that he couldn't get the Dragon Scroll and be special was his Start of Darkness.
  • In the Tinker Bell movie, Tink desperately tries to shed her status as a Tinker Fairy and learn a more nature-oriented talent so that she can go to the mainland, with spectacularly disastrous results.
  • Inverted in The Little Mermaid when Ariel expresses her desire to have legs and walk on land with other humans. Her wish is eventually granted.
  • The LEGO Movie: This is a central theme to the plot. Even Emmet is called 'The Special'. In fact, this is Emmet's MO throughout the entire movie; he is desperate to be special and important to someone, to anyone. When he realizes that everyone he thought were his friends either think he's boring or could barely remember his name, he has a mini-HBSOD.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie Beetlejuice, Lydia wants to be dead (and become a ghost) like her friends the Maitlands.
  • Sky High:
    • Ron Wilson, Bus Driver!
    • Will, at first.
  • Star Wars begins with Luke saying that he wants to leave home to join the rebellion. It's bitter-sweet when he gets his wish.
  • A Knight's Tale has William who wants to "change his stars" to become a knight even though he's only a peasant.
  • Basically the whole basis for quite a few characters in Kick-Ass.
  • This is Emil Blonsky's motivation in The Incredible Hulk. (To be expected, given that he's the Evil Counterpart to Bruce Banner.)
  • This is used by Sam Witwicky in Transformers: Dark of the Moon... after he had used the EXACT PHRASE "I just want to be normal" in the previous movie.

    Literature 
  • Perky Goth Abby Normal wants to be a vampire in Christopher Moore's novel Bloodsucking Fiends.
  • The protagonist from the Twilight novels desperately wants to become a vampire before she gets too old for her boyfriend, who became a vampire when he was 17.
  • The 'cool' new witches hes led by Lucy "Diamanda" Tockley in the Discworld novel Lords and Ladies. Only Diamanda and Agnes have any actual power. The rest are just wannabes.
  • When we see Voldemort's Start of Darkness, we find that as a child he hated everything he considered "common" about himself (especially his name "Tom"). Ultimately, wanting to be special was what motivated everything he did, since even after finding out he was a wizard he wasn't satisfied, since he wanted to be "special" by their standards as well.
    • Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia is guilty of this too, as she wanted to go to Hogwarts, but she is just a muggle with no magic.
      • Or rather (since you don't apply to Hogwarts in the first place), she was jealous of Lily being the one who got powers, and thus got invited to the school for people with powers, and got to be special and get all sorts of attention for being special, et cetera and so forth until she resented everyone in her life for not paying enough attention to her, and most especially her sister for robbing her of that attention. This explains why she ended up marrying Vernon; if ever there was a guy more antithesis to magic and all the things that her sister represented, history never recorded him.
    • Filch, the caretaker of Hogwarts, is known to envy people with magical powers to the point that he has letters to learn magic. Too bad for him he doesn't have any.
    • This is also something of an issue for Ron as well, particularly noticeable in the earlier books (where it's bluntly stated a few times) but a general reason for his actions for the whole series. Wanting more than anything to stand out becomes difficult when one ends up best friends with the savior of the Wizarding world and one of the smartest people alive, and it takes him a long time to fully move past it.
  • In the novel Wings by Julie Gonzalez, the main character Ben desperately wants wings as a child and eventually starts to believe he has them. He even renames himself Icarus and attempts to build his own wings with which to fly off the roof.
  • Tavi in the Codex Alera starts out like this, since he's the one normal person in a setting where everyone has Elemental Powers. He eventually gets over it and resigns himself to putting the "badass" back in Badass Normal. Of course, his powers start coming in shortly afterward.
  • In Joanne Harris' The Lollipop Shoes (the sequel to Chocolat)), Zozie wonders why Vianne Rocher, who may or may not be a witch, spends all her time trying to fit in when Zozie's own mother "spent her whole life trying to be special".
  • In Replica, the heroine Amy was desperate every time she lost her power. Her best friend's nerve were really at stake, because she stands Amy being always superior to her, and than she must support Amy when she's depressed because she's not superior anymore. The series ends with Amy regaining her powers, enhanced, by volunteering as a test subject for the Evil Genius Creepy Child she stopped two dozen books before!
  • Tash Arranda in Galaxy of Fear is not actually normal. She's Force-Sensitive, though it take a while for her to realize it. Well before that she idolizes the extinct Jedi Knights, wishing she could be like them, and even after touching the Force she has no idea what to do. Throughout the series she longs to better use the Force, and never has real control over it - it comes and goes.
    • In Clones she's progressed to the point where she can make a small crystal move. A Dantari shaman, feeling upstaged - he can't do that - is maliciously jealous.
  • Simon Lewis from The Mortal Instruments. To the point of genuine pathos. It gets him in trouble though.
  • A major plot point with Opal of The Ultra Violets is that her powers develop later than the others, alongside her friends unintentionally bossing her around.

     Live Action TV  
  • Angel: Angel suspects that Gunn's neural implant is corrupting him. He's half-right; it's not the implant that destroys Gunn, but the fear of losing it.
  • In Young Dracula, Robin Branaugh belongs to a perfectly ordinary suburban family and wants desperately to be a vampire.
  • There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where a kid wanted to be an android like Data.
    • That had more to do with the kid being traumatized (he was the only survivor of a starship) and not wanting to deal with his emotions. So when he heard Data had no feelings, he went into full on copycat mode.
  • In Heroes:
    • Sylar. (Although Sylar takes a more proactive approach than most other examples of this trope.) Interestingly, he actually was special and just didn't know it because his power was so low-key. Then he decided to use it to become more special. And there was a lot of blood.
    • Hiro also fits this trope. He's always longed to get out of his cubicle and become something extraordinary until the day he finally does become extraordinary and he leaves his cubicle.
    • This could apply to Peter too.
    • Claire was the reverse of this at one point but now seems resigned to the fact she'll never be normal so wants to test the limits of her powers and be more proactive.
    • Gretchen's attraction to Claire seems to be at least partly because of Claire's own specialness, plus there was her eagerness to play Nancy Drew when Claire's first roommate died.
    • Another dark example, Linda Tarvara from the Graphic Novels. Almost a female Sylar she was isolated by her parents so much that when she discovered she could absorb the life force of living things she became addicted to doing so. Which lead to her crossing the Moral Event Horizon at sixteen by EATING AN OLD WOMAN'S SOUL.
    • Mohinder became obsessed with creating a formula to give himself a power (though he justified it was for humanity), as he was feeling left behind now that nigh everyone he interacted with was superpowered in some way. This caused all sorts of problems for himself. Surprising in that in the end he actually managed full control over his now stable power, and it is treated as a proper power from then on.
    • Daphne possibly, also. Due to her condition.
  • In Smallville:
    • Pete Ross is shown to have a desire for super powers, mostly to get out of Clark's shadow. Whenever he does get powers, something goes wrong.
    • This is Lex Luthor's main motivation. After being put through traumas that include losing his hair as a child, being bullied at school, taking the blame for his mother murdering his infant brother, having his mother commit suicide and dealing with his emotionally abusive father, Lex desperately needed to believe that it was all for a higher purpose as the alternative (That it was all for nothing) is far too horrible to contemplate. This goes to explaining his resentment of Clark who constantly rejects his amazing power and doesn't want to fulfill the destiny Lex believes he is entitled to.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Dawn undergoes this, briefly, in Season 7. She eventually learns that she can do as much from her position as any of the slayers, thanks to a talk with Xander (who briefly underwent this trope himself, in the episode "The Zeppo". It related more to his lack of supernatural abilities or powers though, as since he had helped to save the wold multiple times he could hardly claim that he had lived an unexceptional or unexciting life.)
      • Bites her in the ass in Season 8. She gets turned into a giant (which is problematic for her, though she does fight a giant Mecha-Dawn), a Centuarette and a Doll (which gets her captured by an insane doll collector). Xander was basically running the Slayer Organization and Dawn is quite happy to be normal again and is actually comforted by Xander throughout the whole ordeal while everyone else basically ignores her. They get together.
    • Jonathan's desire to be special manifests in the episode "Superstar" where his newfound celebrity status takes over not only Sunnydale, but the opening credits of Buffy.
    • Also Riley fears losing Buffy because he has no superpowers, and is willing to risk death to keep his newfound superstrength until Buffy forces him to go to the hospital.
  • LOST: Before the island, Locke lived a life that varied between uneventful and tragic. His desire to be special (and to believe his mother when she claimed he was special) made him vulnerable to a horrendously cruel con job committed by his parents. And incidentally vulnerable to manipulation by anyone who claims he is special and has a destiny they wish to further. It rapidly gets sad, though it turns out he really may be quite special all the same. Ironically, Young Locke's desire to be "special" apparently actually delayed him in achieving his special destiny. As the episode "Cabin Fever" reveals, the Island had been trying to get him there his entire life. But every time he had a choice, he screwed it up by trying to be "special" in his own way: outdoorsy and sporting rather than the bookish type he really was. He finally only got to the island because he thought he could go on a walkabout while paralyzed from the waist down.

    The Season 5 finale reveals that Benjamin Linus deeply wants to be as special as Locke seems to be. When he gives Jacob a speech about this, Jacob basically tells him that he was never special. Ben, not taking this very well, stabs and kills Jacob. At just about the same time, it is revealed that Locke was never really special at all, but was just being used as a pawn in an elaborate plot to get Ben to kill Jacob. He had, in fact, been dead for an entire season and an impostor took his place as leader of the Others. However, this gets reversed again in the series finale. Throughout the final episode, events seem to confirm that there was a certain special quality about Locke. Also, Jack tells the Man in Black that by using Locke's body, he disgraces the memory of Locke. Finally, after reuniting in the afterlife, Ben apologizes to Locke and tells him that he killed him "because [Locke] was special. And [Ben] wasn't."
  • House, in the episode "Lines in the Sand" explains how he envies his autistic patient for being accepted as abnormal. Wilson mentions at the end of the episode that House wishes he had an autism spectrum disorder.
  • In Misfits, when Nathan is the only main character not to develop superpowers, he gets jealous of the others (even though most of them are royally Blessed with Suck) and often whines about it. He's not even cool, clever or efficient enough to be considered Badass Normal - although if there were a prize for Jerkass Normal he'd probably win it. He goes to increasingly troubling lengths to find out what his power could be - dunking his head repeatedly in a bucket of water to see if he's Aquaman (as this clip shows}, launching himself into walls in an attempt to pass through solid matter, and throwing himself from heights in the hope that he can fly. note 
    • And then he gets his wish... in a rather unfortunate set of circumstances.
  • Dizzy of Dark Oracle is initially quite jealous of Lance when he finds out about the comic (which allows Lance and his sister, Cally to see the future). He eventually wises up to how bad the situation really is. Vern, Big Bad Wannabe extraordinaire is worse: he's jealous of Lance for having the comic, and of Doyle's magical powers. This results in him getting his butt kicked a lot.
  • Jack from the second season of Wicked Science is the only person aside from the protagonists' friends who knows Toby and Elizabeth's secret, and he wants to become a genius himself so he can become rich (while also depowering Toby and Elizabeth so no one can stop him).
  • Danny Farrell, Shawn's younger brother in The 4400. After his older brother gets healing powers, he gets jealous. Eventually, in later seasons, he's one of the first main characters to take the superpower-granting drug that has a 50% fatality rate. He's given the power to... kill anyone who comes within an ever-expanding radius of him and he can't control it. Be Careful What You Wish For. Shawn has to reverse his healing powers and Mercy Kill him after Danny accidentally kills their mother and several other people and can't stop it. So there's that.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: "I want to be... a lumberjack!"
  • In one episode of Pixelface, Kiki gets tired of being the only character without any special abilities and steals Sgt. Riley's next upgrade. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In The Secret Circle, this is Faye.
  • In Teen Wolf, Jackson wants nothing more than to become a werewolf seeing all the fringe benefits, and not really caring about being target to Van Helsing Hate Crimes.
    • The new Beta werewolves in Season 2, as well.
  • In True Blood, Jason Stackhouse mourns not inheriting any faerie powers like the rest of his family. At one point, he is bitten by werepanthers and is disappointed when he learns that they don't transfer their condition this way.

    Music 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played for Laughs in FoxTrot with Jason and his constant desire for superpowers, such as standing out under a full moon after being nipped on the finger by a chihuahua in case it was a baby werewolf.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin occasionally laments the fact that, as a human, he doesn't have any of the cool traits many animals do, like retractable claws, fangs, opposable toes, wings, the ability to light up his behind the way fireflies do, etc.

     Tabletop Games  
  • The World of Darkness has had this in any of its people who didn't get The Call themselves, but are linked to someone who did.
    • The infamous Samuel Haight got his start as werewolf Kinfolk, whose major "power" is not going catatonic at the sight of their relatives. He... shall we say... overcompensated.
    • The ones who get it the worst are probably Mage: The Awakening's Retainers, most of whom are Sleepwalkers, people whose souls don't rail against the presence of magic and cause Paradox, but have no magic themselves. They're prized by mages as companions (or pets), but because arrogance and hubris are part and parcel of Awakened life, most of them fall into this trope — after all, they're stuck watching their magical, wonderful friend go out and do magical, wonderful things, knowing that not only are they being forced to watch on the sidelines, but that their magical, wonderful friend only wants to hang out with them because they can be magical and wonderful around them. This is just a phase, though; many of them eventually find their niche and become Batman-level sidekicks in their own right.
      • To make things worse, there are even magical conditions that prey on this aspect of Sleepwalkers. For instance, there's the False Awakening, where the Sleepwalker believes they've Awakened to a path of magic no one's ever charted before... only it's actual a magical contagion that makes them crazy, gives them power beyond their reckoning, and then makes them explode in the most devastating of fashions.
  • Some superhero games, such as Aberrant or Paragons, are set in worlds where the main way of getting superpowers is by surviving a near-death experience that triggers a change within you. Needless to say, between the sheer joy of having powers and the celebrity-like status that comes with some supers, there are a lot of... unhappy accidents.
  • Exalted: The Perfect of Paragon really, really want to be an Exalt, and he's cursing the Unconquered Sun everyday for not making him a Solar despite all the things the Perfect has done for his people. Considering that the UCS has exalted the worst sort of people such as Havesh the Vanisher, the audience will sympathize with the Perfect.
    • If you're an Autochthonian, this is probably what you feel when you see the state superheroes that are the Alchemicals.
  • One of the reasons people play RPGs in the first place. They're called Role-playing games for a reason.

    Theatre 
  • In Pippin, the desire to be special is what motivates the title character's search for fulfillment. While he is supposed to be the first-born son of Charlemagne, that fact is downplayed when not outright forgotten.

    Toys 
  • The premise behind the Purr-Tenders was that nobody who visited the Pick-a-Dilly Pet Shop saw cats as special, even when they had pink or purple or blue fur or could talk. So they make ear headbands and muzzle masks to pass themselves off as more 'special' types of pets, like parrots or ducks or mice or dogs.

     Video Games  
  • In inFAMOUS, Zeke keeps asking you to find a way to get him some powers, especially after he finds out that your powers weren't random. It starts as early as when you jump off of a building and Zeke says "I wish I could do something like that." It eventually prompts his Face-Heel Turn.
    • He drops it in the sequel however, and seems to have accepted the fact that he will never have powers.
  • In the third .hack//G.U. game - Redemption - Yata, who is Wiseman from the original .hack// games, confesses to Ovan that he spent all of "The World R:2" frustrated that despite his determination and conviction neither AIDA, the invasive god, nor Aura, the absent god, had shown him any favor.
    • To a worse extent with Sakaki. Being a child genius in real life he's way too ambitious in the World (where he can mask his true age and be treated as a adult) to be satisfied being a "regular player", and his jealousy of the admins with their control of the system (which he can't be because he's just a kid) and the Epitaph users with their Avatars and ability to break the rules of the system (which are only 8 special characters and he isn't one) leads to him turning to the AIDA virus in order to "surpass the system".
  • In Final Fantasy XIII though everyone just wants to be normal, one of the bosses became a l'Cie for the power, though he later lamented that he while he had all the power he wanted he was just a puppet.
  • Music-based video games, like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, help the Real Life player fulfill his or her fantasy of becoming a rock star.
  • Kingdom Hearts has Riku, who's spent his entire life — literally ever since he was a toddler — dreaming of adventure and power, utterly convinced his destiny absolutely must lie beyond his little island town. When his best friend, Sora, turns out to be the hero instead, it gives Riku his Start of Darkness.
    • This turns out to be Braig / Xigbar's motivation, minus any good intentions - after seeing what a Keyblade can do, he has to have one. As he isn't one of The Chosen Many, he decides it's worth letting Xehanort slowly turn him into yet another Soul Jar.
  • Junpei in Persona 3 has a pretty bad case of this. He's thrilled when he discovers that he's one of a select few with the power to summon a Persona and fight against the Shadows... until he finds out that putting an end to the Shadows for good will also mean losing that power. This and an equally bad case of Always Someone Better lead him to make some unwise decisions around the game's midpoint.
  • Clone Shepard from the Citadel DLC of Mass Effect 3. As a result of being a clone of Commander Shepard created by Cerberus for nothing more than spare parts, they naturally have something of a major inferiority complex. The entire goal revolves around stealing Shepard's identity, convinced that doing so will make them the hero.

    Visual Novels 
  • Miou in A Profile is mercilessly teased for being so normal. This may have been part of what led her into prostitution and, it is implied, to take drugs. It's not like she needed the money.
  • Yayoi in Deardrops is frequently annoyed at her normal status. It doesn't help that she's surrounded by fairly interesting people.
  • This is the murderer Nathan's motivation for killing Dr. Johansen in Yousei. He was essentially cheated out of the position of head of the research team that should have gone to him and was always being overlooked alongside his equally intelligent teammates. When he learned that Johansen was going to destroy his life's research out of fear for his life, he killed him so that he wouldn't get the chance and was intending to deliver the research to Chance, who promised to give him Dragon Blood in exchange, a substance that is allegedly responsible for the development of a kansei, which Nathan claims was wasted on Kangai, Li Mei, and the twins.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, Ruby Rose zigzags this. She want to be a Huntress, as Elites Are More Glamorous, but doesn't want to stand out at a Huntress academy and is downcast when she assumes being admitted two years earlier than normal will make people there think she is special.

    Webcomics 

     Western Animation  
  • Tucker had this in one Danny Phantom episode. (Though really, who can blame him for wanting neat ghost powers?)
  • Shady, an Earth pony on My Little Pony who was frequently Emo about her mundaneness. Admittedly, this kind of thing must hurt all the more if you live in a Magical Land.
  • Ron Stoppable takes this trope to an annoying degree on Kim Possible. He wants to be a quarterback, he wants to be a manly man, he wants to be a grand competitor at the X games and most of all he wants to be special with the ladies. And the few episodes where he gets to be special he always ends up failing miserably at it (by either being a jerk or having several millions of dollars in his pocket).
  • Sokka feels this way sometimes in Avatar: The Last Airbender, most noticeably in the episode "Sokka's Master". It doesn't help that everyone else in his party, including his sister, is an elemental mage of some sort.
    • Not only is everyone else an elemental mage, they are all elemental mage prodigies and are all (except for Aang, who still counts physically) younger than him. Even the team pets are unique, one-of-a-kind beings.
    • Although Sokka is mundane only in comparison to the prodigious supernatural talents of his friends. Aang even lampshades the fact Sokka is the ideas guy, and no-one else in the Gaang has quite the mindset he does to come up with such mad/ingenious ideas and strategies.
    • In Season III Sokka actually tries to become special by learning swordplay: he wants to be a super swordsman. He actually becomes a formidable swordsman and gets himself a cool sword, to boot.
  • American Dragon Jake Long episode "Shaggy Frog": Spud would like to have dragon powers just like Jake. But instead has to settle for frog powers instead, which is just fine with him. Snapback when he realizes he doesn't need powers to be special
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: "I want to be... a dentist!" (Inverted with the titular character.)
  • Possibly the most straightforward nostalgic reminder that the Mary Sue wish-fulfillment fantasy has never just been the domain of internet fanfiction authors, the 1986 Nickelodeon short Grace is about a girl who isn't satisfied with her looks, and so re-imagines herself as a glamorous beauty queen, fawned over by all the boys (even though she's about eight years old). In the end, she gives up on the fantasy to go play baseball.
  • Elena Potato really wanted to see monsters. Well, in episode The Devourer, her wish is granted.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants had a case of this after becoming "normal" in one episode.
  • Happens in The Mask animated series. Two comic obsessed kids decide to infect themselves with radiation hoping it would give them superpowers. Due to some events, they did mutate into inhuman creatures. Sadly, one of the kids turned into a Fish Guy thats not even able to swim. Whenever Fish Guy sees someone doing something extraordinary, he starts complaining about wanting to have superpowers too.
  • The defining characteristic of Alice in The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland.
  • The Beatles episode "Bad Boy" has a Swiss boy running away from home because he wants to be a Beatle.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Princess Morbucks' debut episode "Stuck Up, Up And Away" has her wanting to be a Powerpuff Girl herself, but not because she wants to do good for the common masses. She thinks it's a status symbol. After a smackdown Princess evetually loses, Blossom unmercifully lays the ground rules of being a Powerpuff.
    • In 'Nuthin' Special," Buttercup is put out because she didn't have a special power to aid in assisting a giant flaming squirrel (who just wanted to have his fire put out). Throughout the episode she tries to unleash a special power, only for Blossom and Bubbles to duplicate it. She acquiesces at the end and in defiance, she sticks out her tongue, curling it in the process. To Buttercup's delight and everyone else's bewilderment (especially the narrator's), nobody else can curl their tongue.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, The Cutie Mark Crusaders (Applebloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle) want desperately to learn their special talents so they can earn their Cutie Marks and no longer be "Blank Flanks". This is actually a pretty unique mix of this, and I Just Want to Be Normal, since, while everyone's talents are unique, getting a Cutie Mark is the norm, and not getting one is unheard of.
  • Nobody Smurf in The Smurfs episode of the same name, who gets a Meaningful Rename after he deals with a Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • Smokescreen from Transformers Prime, a former guard of the Iacon Hall of Records grew up in the waning days of the War for Cybertron believing for a long time that he was destined for something great. He wasn't entirely wrong either, being used by Alpha Trion to carry the last Omega Key and later declared a worthy successor to Optimus Prime by The Matrix of Leadership should the need arise.
  • The Pulverizer in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), he wants to be a ninja like the Turtles, and douse himself with the mutagen to gain powers. Unfortunately for him he instead became a blob monster.
  • Mighty Mouse: the cartoon "Hero For A Day" has a doofus mouse trying to impress his girlfriend, who swoons over Mighty Mouse, by donning a costume suit of the hero. Some cats bully him and the mouse is knocked out cold. Just before the cats can pounce, Mighty Mouse himself shows up, beats the cats up and lets the little wannabe take credit for it.

     Real Life 
  • This is a common desire in Real Life (especially in little kids), frequently resulting in the creation of Escapist Characters in Fan Fiction. At its most extreme this can result in a Mary Sue, where the character is nothing but a list of traits the author wants to have, with no real personality.
    • A related phenomenon is the Japanese slang term chuunibyou.
  • Transhumanism.
  • A large part of what makes conspiracy theories so attractive is that they allow their believers to live in a world where nearly everyone else is either soullessly evil or mindlessly stupid, meaning that all they have to do to be better than the rest of humanity, is get out of bed.
  • Also the reason virally-infectious creatures like Vampires and Werewolves are still topical and marketable despite being one of the oldest persisting myths in the world. In fact, it's been observed that media where Vamps/Weres can't change normal people leads to poorer sales than the media where they can.


I Just Want to Be NormalThe Wannabe IndexLeader Wannabe
I Just Want to Be NormalNormal PeopleInnocent Bystander
I Just Want to Be NormalMotivation IndexI Just Want to Be You
I Just Want to Be NormalTear JerkerI Just Want to Have Friends
I Just Want to Be NormalNarrative Devices"I Know What We Can Do" Cut
I Just Want to Be NormalWish FulfillmentI Just Want to Be You
French Maid OutfitImageSource/PhotographyLatex Space Suit
I Just Want to Be NormalCharacters as DeviceI Just Want to Be You

alternative title(s): I Just Want To Be Abnormal; I Dont Want To Be Normal
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