"I'm no hero. Never was, never will be. I'm just an old killer, hired to do some wetwork."Often preceded by "You're a hero!" The Hero will respond: "I'm not a hero. I'm _____!" Can be used in a variety of ways, including:
— Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
- The Hero is awesome. May deliver the line as "I'm no hero. I'm ____man!", "I'm not a hero; I'm a superhero!" or "I'm not a hero. I'm just doing my job." Depending on the delivery, the latter can have either the connotation that the character is humble about his heroism or the exact opposite, that he thinks he's better than "heroes" because they're amateurs and he's a professional. If delivering the line to a villain and trying to be exceptionally badass or frightening, The Hero may say: "I'm not a hero. I'm Your Worst Nightmare" or something along those lines.
- The Hero is humble. Occasionally accompanied by Think Nothing of It. They may point out others who are The Real Heroes.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation. May lead to You Are Better Than You Think You Are.
- The Hero attempts to refuse or ignore the call, but will eventually accept it.
- The Hero exhibits false humility. Can lead to Dude, Where's My Respect? or Dude, Where's My Reward?. This "hero" may not be a hero at all. Can provide a lesson on the importance of humility.
- The Hero realized that he/she is not the hero he/she thought he/she was, and, as a result, his/her confidence is shot. Depending on the medium and the genre, may deliver An Aesop.
- The Hero only says his/her name.
- The Hero (or Anti-Hero) uses this logic to enable himself/herself to do what no one else could do, or should do, for the "greater good". Occasionally accompanied with the Zero-Approval Gambit.
- The Hero may not actually be a hero.
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Anime and Manga
- In Code Geass, Lelouch has one of these moments right after Euphie ended up going on an unintentional killing spree because of his Power Incontinence, when a dying old lady asks him as Zero to save them.
- In the Fishman Island arc of One Piece, none other than Luffy himself has one. Specifically, Jinbei asks him to be the "hero" of Fishman Island, to which Luffy informs him that he's a pirate, not a hero, and has no desire to be one. Luffy then gives an analogy about how a hero would share his meat with everyone, while a pirate would simply feast on it. He ends up agreeing to help anyway when Jinbei promises to give him some meat.
- Zoro gives a similar analogy later, except with booze instead of meat.
- Note this is a case of 'they are really not heroes.' The Straw Hats, and Luffy in particular just do what they want, always, regardless of the consequences. Most of the time, because they're nice people, this ends up being 'beat up the bastard who made my friend cry, who just happens to be the man who's oppressing this entire region, so I have subsequently liberated a country from tyranny.' But it's equally likely to be 'try to break my brother out of prison, and subsequently release thousands of dangerous criminals who will go on to hurt people out into the world.' Luffy never forgets that he is a pirate, even when his actions happen to benefit people, so he discourages heaping praise on him, unless it comes in the form of an awesome meat-themed party.
- Zoro gives a similar analogy later, except with booze instead of meat.
- Jack from Pandora Hearts is very insistent that he's not a hero. It only ends up making him appear humble and sweet, not to mention more tragic and cute.
- The catchphrase of Izumi Curtis, from Fullmetal Alchemist. Even though she's the one who trained the Elric brothers in martial arts and alchemy, she manages to make a Badass Boast out of declaring that she's (merely) a housewife.
- It gets subverted near the end of the Brotherhood anime when she gleefully exclaims she's an alchemist.
- In A Certain Magical Index, after his Heel–Face Turn, Accelerator rejects being called a hero, saying that a hero would be able to save the day without killing anybody. Touma also reacts in confusion to being called a hero, simply saying "I just did what anyone would do, right?"
- In Card Captor Sakura, Sakura protests that she can't be a Card Captor because she's Just a Kid.
- From the Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series.
Ray Palmernote : Have you ever had a sinus headache? So torturous you thought your head would explode? What if I shrank to microscopic size, entered your skull, then began to grow. Imagine how that would feel.Killer Moth: You're heroes, you don't act that way.
- No Hero, Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- In Kaine's Scarlet Spider series, he constantly tells people he is not a hero, and definitely not a superhero. This is in spite of the fact that he routinely puts himself in harm's way for the safety of others.
- In the Avengers Academy story "Final Exam", Smug Snake Jeremy Briggs continues bragging to Finesse about how he can always try again, while she's bandaging his wounds. She says he's right, and walks away, leaving Jeremy - whose entire thing had been that there were no such things as heroes and villains - protesting that she was a superhero and couldn't do this.
Finesse: Remember why we were recruited to Avengers Academy? Not because we were the best, or the most heroic. Quite the opposite. Because we were the most at risk of becoming criminals. Say hello to the bad guy.
- Kairi Niko in the Knights of the Old Republic Fanfic Destiny's Pawn adamantly insists that she's "just a translator." Even after the Jedi all but shove a lightsaber into her hand, she's done some heroics looking for the Star Maps, and assembled the Ragtag Band of Misfits, she still considers herself Bastila's aide. Queue massive Heroic B.S.O.D. when the truth comes out...
- Played straight in the Tamers Forever Series
Daemon: "Why can't you be a good boy and give up!"Chaos: "I'm a Virus, Daemon. I'm not a good boy."
- Also played in Harry Potter fanfic "The Apothecary Knows Best". Severus Snape claimed to be just an apothecary when Harry called him a hero for having defeated a "Jester". (This fanfic's Dark Lord has his followers known as "Jesters" instead of "Death Eaters". Yes, this fanfic's Dark Lord is Albus Dumbledore. Long story)
- In the Lord of the Rings fanfic Left, Sam tells Frodo about his fight with Shelob very matter-of-factly and he is surprised by how his master keeps harping on it.
- In a case of Exactly What It Says on the Tin, George uses this phrase several times in The Keys Stand Alone, and the others agree with him. All four hate being singled out to go on quests and perform heroic acts, especially when there are lots of other powerful, competent outworlders around to do these things—not to mention the city guards, who never do anything in these situations despite being the local cops. As John puts it, “We can't solve everyone's problems.”
- Which is what happened to them in Real Life, essentially, which explains why they find it easy enough to turn down a girl begging them to save her 8-year-old sister, and why they almost turned down a request to save a dying baby.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, upon learning of the prophecy that they shall be heroes, the Pevensies provide this little gem:
Susan: We're from Finchley!*Later, speaking to the lion who likely made that prophecy*Peter: Aslan, I'm not who people think I am.Aslan: Peter Pevensie, formerly of Finchley.
- The film version of the Hobbit has Bilbo utter this particular gem
Bilbo: I'm not a hero, or a warrior... I'm not even a burglar!
- In the film, Twilight, Edward uses this trope to warn Bella to stay away from him.
Edward: What if I'm not the hero? What if I'm the bad guy?Bella: You're not.
- In The Dark Knight, Batman says this just before his Zero-Approval Gambit.
- Something similar is done in the movie version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. "I can't be a wizard! I'm just Harry! Just Harry!"
- A variation of this occurs in in Spy Kids 3D. After exiting the video game, Arnold's, Rez's, Francis's, and Juni's respective secret, non-virtual identities. Various types of this trope occur in the conversation that ensues:
Francis: Well, in the real world I'm not that smart.Arnold: I'm not strong.Rez: I'm not cool.Juni: Reality Check!Arnold: So, who are you out here in the real world?Francesca: (to Juni) Special agent, we need you.Rez: Whoa!Juni: I'm Juni Cortez.
- The above declaration by Juni is also a reference to his facade as "The Guy," which was revealed shortly before the group's exit from the game.
- Near the end of Pulp Fiction, when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are robbing the coffee shop, and the manager attempts to cooperate:
Pumpkin: I don't know, Honey Bunny. He looks like the hero type to me!Honey Bunny: Don't take any chances. Execute him!Manager: Please don't! I'm not a hero. I'm just a coffee shop...manager...
Jules: There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you." Now... I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ass. You'd be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin' made me think twice. See, now I'm thinking: maybe it means you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here... he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. And I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
- Naturally, his character according to the credits was "coffee shop."
- Of course, the robbers' definition of "hero" is "anyone stupid enough to make trouble for us." Criminals are funny like that.
- Also this monologue by Jules, sort of:
- In Team America: World Police, Gary decides "I'm not a hero! I'm a dick!" after a mission results in the deaths of innocent bystanders. A drunk he meets at a bar gives him a pep talk about dicks, pussies and assholes that makes him feel a little better.
- He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!
- Variation in The King's Speech: "I'm not a king! I'm a naval officer."
- In Jumper, Griffin spits this at Davy as he walks off to what Griffin believes to be certain death; in his experience, Jumpers don't have the power to save anyone, as while the Paladins are ready, willing and able to kill entire families as collateral damage in killing Jumpers, all Jumpers can do is Jump away. The best Griffin's ever accomplished is escaping with his life after killing his enemies, and he's been Forced to Watch everyone he's ever cared for die at the hands of the Paladins.
Griffin: You're not a hero! You're a Jumper! Don't you get it? You don't save the girl! You lose her!
- Jack Reacher, in his self-titled movie, makes it clear enough for even the slowest-witted villain:
Reacher: "You think I'm a hero. I'm not a hero - I'm a drifter with nothing to lose. You killed that girl to put me in a frame-up, and I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot!"
- Live Free Or Die Hard: McClane thinks he isn't really a hero. He knows people call him one, but he doesn't really think it's worth it:
McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.Farrel: Then why are you doing this?McClane: Because there's no else to do it right now, that's why. Believe me, if there was somebody else, I'd let them do it, but there's not, so we're doing it.Farrel: That's what makes you "that guy".
- X-Men: Apocalypse: This occurs when Nightcrawler recognizes Mystique.
Kurt Wagner: You can transform. You're her, the hero.
Raven Darkholme: I'm nobody. I'm not a hero.
- In Gone, this attitude plays a huge role in the character of Sam, the Designated Hero of the FAYZ. Phrases reminiscent of the trope are consistently repeated throughout the books.
- In Twilight, Edward uses this trope as an attempt to warn Bella to stay away:
What if I'm not a superhero? What if I'm the bad guy?
- In the Harry Potter series, Harry verbalized this trope a few times throughout the series. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows he experienced somewhat of a fleeting Dialogue Reversal with Ron after Ron's return and redemption.
Ron: I'm sorry. I'm sorry I left. I know I was a — a— (trails off)Harry: You've sort of made up for it tonight. Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.Harry: Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was. I've been trying to tell you that for years.
- Mat "I'm no bloody hero!" Cauthon from The Wheel of Time, usually said after he does something heroic. He is the variety that thinks he can ignore the call, even though he's actively doing heroic things. Doubly obtuse, since he has gifted memories of hundreds of people throughout time - if there's one person who could objectively judge him a hero, it should be him.
- Perrin "Stop calling me Lord" Aybara.
- The Dragon Reborn stopped being this and pendulumed into Designated Hero syndrome, impressive because he is a bona fide, prophecy certified, world changing hero. He came around to a true, self-admitted hero in the final few books.
- Mogworld by Ben Croshaw, Jim's not a hero he's a protagonist.
- In This Immortal, Conrad's reaction when confronted with Diane's adoration towards his former identity Konstantin Karaghiosis is to reject it, although he later uses it to talk her into trusting him on whether someone else should live or be killed. It is also Played for Laughs when they check into a hotel in Athens only for Conrad to get the suite, a room famous for having been Konstantin Karaghiosis' headquarters during the Radpol Rebellion — pretty much everything in that room is adorned with a plaque commemorating the occasion:
The stain on this wall was caused by a bottle of beverage, hurled across the room by Konstantin Karaghiosis, in celebration of the bombing of Madagascar.
Believe that, if you want to.
Konstantin Karaghiosis sat in this chair, insisted another.
I was really afraid to go into the bathroom.
Live Action TV
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Gift":
Giles: ...[Buffy] couldn't take a human life. She's a hero, you see. She's not like us.Ben: ...us?*Giles smothers Ben to prevent Glory from ever returning*
- In Doctor Who, Donna Noble frequently puts herself down by saying "I'm nothing special; I'm just a temp from Chiswick". As it turns out, she's destined to become the Donna-Doctor to stop the Daleks from exterminating reality.
The Doctor: I stole your childhood and now I’ve led you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is, I knew. I knew this would happen. This is what always happens. Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain, because I wanted to be adored. Look at you, glorious Pond. The girl who waited for me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are. Amy Williams. It’s time to stop waiting.
- Done again in "The God Complex". In order to save Amy Pond, The Doctor must break her faith in the idea of him as a hero.
- The Episode "Robots of Sherwood" basically revolves around how the Twelfth Doctor makes a point to protest the notion. At the end of it, he and Robin Hood agree that while they might not be heroes, they might inspire heroisms in others with the stories of their deeds. Clara's opinion on the matter is that while he might not always do the right thing, the fact that he tries to do his best where he can is what really counts.
- In the series 8 finale, Missy offers the Doctor an army with which to conquer the universe for its own good. In response, he has a breakthrough and starts listing all the things he isn't - a good man, a bad man, a hero, a President, or an officer. He's an idiot with a box, a screwdriver and some friends, same as ever.
- In the DS9 episode "Empok Nor", Garak (under the influence of drugs) has been twisting the knife about Miles O'Brien's participation in an incident which occurred while he was serving in the Federation-Cardassian war under Captain Maxwell; O'Brien led an attack on a Cardassian encampment and was dubbed "the Hero of Setlik III".
Garak: Maybe it's true... maybe you're not a soldier anymore.O'Brien: You're right. I'm an engineer.
- This doubles as a Moment of Awesome, when O'Brien then saves himself by activating the improvised bomb that his soldier instincts had called for and his engineering skill had built.
- Li Nalas was hailed as a legend in the Bajoran Resistance during the Occupation, with most people proclaiming him Bajor's greatest war hero. He confessed in private to Commander Sisko that he was no hero - he was just some dumb kid who got stupidly lucky and managed to kill an infamous Cardassian leader while the man was bathing in a river. Sisko tells him how he became a hero doesn't matter, and that Bajor needed a larger-than-life figure at that point to avoid plunging into civil war.
- Sherlock has a particularly scathing example in the third episode.
Sherlock: Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist; and if they did, I wouldn't be one of them.
Sherlock: [To Moriarty] I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them.
- This gets amped up to eleven in the series 2 finale:
- And again in the series three finale:
- As Richard Alpert attempts to convince her to join "Mittelos Bioscience", Juliet Burke, who is going through something of an emotional breakdown, tells him: "Whatever you think I am, I'm not. I'm not a leader, Mr. Alpert. I'm a mess."
- In the season 1 finale of Burn Notice after blackmailing the second-largest drug kingpin in Miami via a "dead-man bomb", the kingpin asks Michael who he is.
Michael: I'm Michael Westen. I used to be a spy.
- In the Firefly episode "Jaynestown", criminal/mercenary Jayne is considered a hero by the locals after dropping stolen money on them a few years before. He only dropped it to lighten his damaged aircraft in order to escape capture... and he threw his partner out first. He has a change of heart about basking in their adoration:
Jayne: You think somebody's gonna just drop money on you? Money they could use? Well, there ain't people like that... there's just people like me.
- Once Upon a Time: When August (Pinocchio) tries to convince Emma that the curse trapping Storybrooke is real, she refuses to believe it and says that if the town is relying on her, "[they're] all screwed."
- A variant is used in Supernatural:
Meg Masters: So you think you're some kind of a hero?
- In the first season of Arrow, Oliver is noticeably annoyed when Diggle tries to make him help random people outside of his crusade against the Undertaking. "You don't seem to understand what it is I do." In this case, it's not humility, it's simple facts. In season one, he really wasn't a hero, he was just a guy on a revenge kick who happened to be targeting criminals. It was only in season two that he reversed that trend.
- The Dark Knight soundtrack has a piece titled "I'm Not A Hero" and correlates with the scene in which the page quote is delivered.
- Daniel Balavoine's song "Je ne suis pas un héros" (I am not a hero) repeatedly states that pop singers should not be considered as heroes by their fan base. But he was not only a famous pop singer, he also was a musician and a composer, he was quite smart and some of his lyrics were like poems. And he donated a lot for charity, he stood against racism, and died young. If he was not a hero, he was close to be one.
- "I'm not a hero! I'm not a savior! Forget what you know/I'm just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control." Styx's "Mr. Roboto" definitely fits. "The modern man/Who hides behind a mask" indicates this is probably the Tomato in the Mirror usage.
- Josh Groban's "In Her Eyes:" I am not an hero/I am not an angel/I am just a man...
- My Chemical Romance's Welcome to The Black Parade uses this.
I'm just a man, I'm not a heroJust a boy who wants to sing his songJust a man, I'm not a heroAnd I don't care
- Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road": "Well I'm no hero, it's understood/All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood/With a chance to make it good somehow..."
- Nickelback song Hero: "They say that a hero could save us; I'm not gonna stand here and wait... And now that the world isn't ending, it's love that I'm sending to you. It isn't the love of a hero, and that's why I fear it won't do..."
- The message of the Black Veil Brides has always centered around being who you are and standing up for yourself. As a result they have gathered a large fanbase that worship them. While the boys love their fans and support them through their music, they've always said that they were just guys in a rock and roll band. 'Nobody's Hero,' a song from their album 'Wretched and Divine' expresses this viewpoint. They will support you, they will help you, but in the end they are only human, not heroes.
"I can lead you to salvation yet I am just a man.
I'm a loaded gun, an only son.
I'm nobody's hero.
I've come undone, I'm on the run.
Yeah I'm nobody's hero."
- Kiss' "Just A Boy" from Music from "The Elder" has "I'm no hero, though I wish I could be; I'm just a boy..."
- Rush's "Nobody's Hero", a song about AIDS:
But he's nobody's hero
Saves a drowning child
Cures a wasting disease
Religion and Mythology
- For a series in which over 90% of the Loads and Loads of Characters are veteran soldiers, Metal Gear is amazingly pacifistic and permanently deconstructing the ideal of the 80s and 90s action hero. It's particularly emphasized in the first and fourth games of the main series when Solid Snake rebukes Ascended Fangirl Meryll, who claims to have trained to become a soldier all her life because she was inspired by him.
Snake: "I'm no hero. Never was, never will be. I'm just some old soldier hired to do some wetwork."Snake: "All the heroes I know are either dead or in prison."
- Hercules exhibits the "loss of confidence" variant by the book in Kingdom Hearts II.
- Eddie Riggs is just a roadie.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, after Auron saves Sora, Donald, and Goofy from Hades, this exchange occurs:
Sora: You're really good? Are you some kind of hero?Auron: No. I'm no hero. I'm just an…Sora: Huh?
- After which he then gives his name.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep has Terra. When Zack calls him a hero after being saved, Terra dismisses the notion. Only for Zack to clarify that being a hero isn't Terra's decision, it's for everyone around him to decide. Whether he likes it or not, Terra is a hero to both Zack and the cheering crowd around him at the time.
- Similarly, in Final Fantasy X, when Wakka refers to Auron as a "legendary guardian," he replies "Legendary guardian? I was just a boy. A boy about your age, actually. I wanted to change the world, too. But I changed nothing. That is my story."
- In Megaman Zero 4, Zero says this when Big Bad Weil tries to invoke Thou Shalt Not Kill against the legendary Reploid hero (Which shows how little Weil actually knows about the resident Anti-Hero).
Zero: I never cared about justice, and I don't recall ever calling myself a hero. I have always only fought for the people I believe in. I won't hesitate... If an enemy appears in front of me, I will destroy it!
- The Master Chief from Halo finds himself saying similar things a lot, though this is less out of humility for his actions and more because he is uncomfortable with lots of attention.
- A typical Paragon Shepard from Mass Effect, while seeing the importance of someone serving as a symbol to inspire, generally tries to downplay his/her heroics, feeling that s/he's just doing his/her job.
- In Fallout 2 it's Played for Laughs, as many other dialogue lines through the game. After finishing the main quest, many characters will treat you like a hero. If you speak with Father Tully, he'll praise your actions and you're given the choice of saying the following:
Chosen One: Yes, I tangled with the Enclave. They started it — I finished it. But don't get me wrong, Father. I'm just a man, trying to make his way in this unforgiving world... I'm no hero.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Battlecat gave this speech to his Arch-Enemy, Baron Samedi, right before dropping the villain from the roof of the Superdome.
Baron Samedi: "We both know you're not going to kill me. You're a hero."Battlecat: "Not tonight. I'm not a hero tonight. I'm a husband. I'm a father. That's what I am tonight."Baron Samedi: "No... wait!" (followed by a long drop and a sudden stop)
- In the Welcome to Night Vale special live episode "Old Oak Doors":
Carlos: "I'm not a hero, I'm a scientist."
- In the Justice League Cadmus arc, The Question tries to assassinate Lex Luthor in order to avert a dark alternate future. He reasons that a known Conspiracy Theorist like him could go rogue without surprising people, but if a hero were to breach the Thou Shalt Not Kill policy, the whole world would go to hell. (He was probably right.)
- Graveheart, the Protagonist and Leader of The Alliance in Shadow Raiders, says this a lot.
Graveheart: I'm not the man to lead this alliance.Jade: Aren't you?Graveheart: C'mon, Jade, look at me! I'm just a miner.(lengthy clip show with Graveheart saying "I'm just a miner" over and over and over and over)Jade: You have no idea how tired I am of hearing you say that.
- Kim Possible: Ron's dad does this to the Mathter before a math-based brain battle in "Mathter and Fervent."
Mathter: And what kind of hero are you?Mr. Stoppable: I'm no hero. I'm Actuary of the Year.
- Teen Titans: "I'm not a hero. I'm not out to save the world. I'm just a girl with a geometry test next period and I haven't studied."
- Megas XLR: Look, Red, I'm no hero. I'm just a guy from Jersey.
- Elisa in Gargoyles (specifically in "High Noon") says she's no hero; she's just doing her job. Not that this stops her from fighting tooth and nail to save her friends when she isn't on the job...
- In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie would like nothing more than to do his job as an archaeologist and leave the heroism to the authorities.
- In The Hair Bear Bunch episode "I'll Zoo You Later," the superintendent praises Peevly as a hero for corraling two bank robbers and the runaway Bunch. Peevly says it's simply "all in a day's work."
- In an episode of Batman Beyond, a Fantastic Four-ish group called the Terrific Trio goes insane and tries to set off a nuclear reactor. Terry tries to stop their leader by reminding him that he's supposed to be a hero.
Magma: No... I'm an accident. Real heroes, they make a choice. I never did.