No Hero to His Valet
"No man is a hero to his valet. This is not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet."Quite often, a character will end up idealized when he becomes acknowledged as a celebrity or a hero. All his little quirks and flaws will be overlooked by the general public because anyone who's that famous must be a great person, right? As a result, most people, especially the hardcore Fanboys and Fangirls, will simply assume that the character is, if not a paragon of virtue, at the very least someone who is better than they are. But there is always at least one person (and sometimes a small group of people) for whom the character's fame and heroic reputation mean nothing. It might be that the person has known the character from childhood, and thus remembers when they were an annoying nose-picker. It could also be that the character wronged them somehow, and the person's resentment makes them immune to the fame. Whatever the case, they refuse to be sucked in to the hype surrounding the character. They might also know a secret about the character or their accomplishments that nobody else does. Quite often, this person will be one of the character's friends. Sometimes, they will be the one person the character feels he can "be himself" with, because the character knows that the person is reacting to the person and not the hero. Sister Trope to No Badass to His Valet. See also Nice to the Waiter.
— Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Richard/Kogoro from Detective Conan is a revered detective; but that's because most people don't know he actually sucks at it compared to Conan and Conan solves almost every mystery that Richard/Kogoro is attributed to have solved.
- Hashirama aka the First Hokage in Naruto is revered by the world as one of the greatest shinobi that ever lived, but his younger brother Tobirama aka the Second Hokage shows him less respect and at one point even shushes him like a misbehaving child.
- This trope was averted in Chapter 620 of the manga and again in Chapter 624. In both scenarios, Tobirama was adamant about killing an Uchiha (Sasuke in 620 and Madara in 624), but Hashirama gives him a Death Glare, basically telling him to calm down and stop. He does. As laid-back and goofy as the man is most of the time, Tobirama will definitely back down when Hashirama gets serious.
- In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic, Sinbad is well-known in-universe through his adventures around the world. He has conquered seven dungeons, created his own kingdom that prospered within the span of only one generation, and is generally considered the most powerful character in the series. Nonetheless, his generals, most especially Ja'far, seem to have no problem calling him out on his stupidity.
- While clearly respected and loved by his subordinates, Colonel Badass Roy Mustang in Fullmetal Alchemist also regularly serves as the butt of said subordinates' jokes. They enjoy teasing him about being useless on rainy days (because of his flame alchemy) and a notorious womanizer, but it's usually very good-natured and he dishes it out as well as he takes it.
- Inverted in Superman For All Seasons. Clark Kent is an Ace Newspaper Reporter, but he lives in a city full of them and most of his friends are also ace reporters. When he goes home to Smallville, though, he discovers that everyone is incredibly proud of his accomplishments as a reporter, and that Smallville is the only town in Kansas that gets the Daily Planet every day.
- Alfred Pennyworth has a relationship similar to this with Batman; while he remains unfailingly loyal through thick and thin, he also practically raised Bruce from childhood and taught him several of the tricks he would later come to use as Batman, with the result that he never fails to vocally criticize Batman to his face when he thinks it's needed and is practically the only person Batman cannot intimidate with his usual tricks. Dick Grayson as well, for similar reasons.
- Lord Morpheus, Dream of the Endless, in The Sandman, is met with reverence from almost everyone, including gods and other supernatural beings. His handyman Mervyn Pumpkinhead, however, sees him mostly as a bothersome poseur.
Films — Live-Action
- Alfred from The Dark Knight qualifies in some scenes.
- Iron Man: Tony Stark is a larger-than-life celebrity to just about everyone...except Pepper Potts.
- The same goes for his best friend James "Rhodey" Rhodes, who, much like Pepper, never hesitates to call him out whenever he's making unwise decisions or just being a Jerk Ass.
- Kincade the groundskeeper from Skyfall feels this way about James Bond. He might be one of Britain's best professional killers who has saved the country (if not the world) single-handed many times, but he's still a "jumped-up little shit" if he thinks he can tell Kincade what to do. Played With since Kincade was unaware of James being a world-class spy. He is visibly shocked on seeing James' ace shooting before asking what was his profession.
- Inverted in The Wrestler. Wrestling fans see "The Ram" as a former great and current has-been, but the other wrestlers he interacts with, who know all about his warts, treat him with the utmost respect and affection. After their hardcore match, Necro Butcher shakes his hand and tells him what an honor it's been to work with him. Another wrestler, who very well knows Randy can't even afford to have a phone, provides him with various expensive medicines, in spite of being certain he'll never see a cent of the money Randy now owes him.
- In Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory Alternate History, General George Armstrong Custer goes on to be a famous, heroic, and long-serving general still in combat command during the Great War. His adjutant, Major Abner Dowling, allows the reader to see Custer's many flaws. Later, after Custer's death, Dowling has to admit that it was because Custer was a stubborn Glory Hound that he was able to bring a faster, victorious end to the Great War during the Barrel Roll Offensive for the United States. Of course, as Dowling also notes, if Custer hadn't been such a glory hound, he might well have been able to advance on the Confederates without barrels, as happened in the RW war by French "infiltration" tactics.
- In Turtledove's other Alternate History novel about the American Civil War, The Guns of the South, Robert E. Lee is this to his wife, who feels rather neglected by his constant devotion to the duty of serving the nation first and his family second.
- Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain is a Fake Ultimate Hero and among the most successful. Inquisitor Amberley Vail, his long-term associate and (apparently) lover, is perhaps the only person who can see past his sterling reputation. However, she herself thinks that he is too hard on himself, and possesses many heroic attributes. On the other hand, Cain's own adjutant/bodyguard Jurgen thinks the world of him. He deliberately cultivates a good appearance among the soldiers under him, partially because it makes them more effective, partially to avoid Unfriendly Fire. On the one hand, he tries to play up this reputation whenever possible, but on the other hand he earned it by genuinely caring about them (for whatever reason).
- Sasha doesn't seem to think all that highly of the great playwright and diplomat Aleksandr Sergeyevich Griboyedov. Definitely the "knew him from childhood" version. The abuse interpretation of this trope works pretty well too, even though Griboyedov still considers Sasha his closest friend.
- Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day is a study in this trope: Stevens must come to grips with the fact that Lord Darlington, what with consorting with the Nazis and all, was very much not a wrongly-oppressed hero.
- Hatsumomo from Memoirs of a Geisha is beautiful and popular among men, but Sayuri, Mameha and some others know that she is cruel, selfish and an all-round Jerk Ass.
- In the Wheel of Time series, Seanchan nobility have truth-speakers, high-ranking servants who are expected to see their masters objectively and cut them down to size when necessary.
- Harry Potter
- Sirius Black, to the family house-elf Kreacher. While Sirius is kind and respectful towards house-elves in general, Kreacher doesn't get it so well from his master, as Kreacher is just another reminder of the Big Screwed-Up Family Sirius hated and whose house he's being forced to hide in. To sum up, Sirius fits because both parties are assholes; Sirius is strained because of his situation and either won't or can't find a constructive way to deal with his frustration, while Kreacher provokes Sirius by being disrespectful, hateful, and bigoted towards all present.
- Albus Dumbledore is The Obi-Wan and The Greatest Wizard Ever to practically every non-evil character in the series, except for his own brother Aberforth Dumbledore. Aberforth knows all about Albus's Dark and Troubled Past in which he didn't exactly come off as a hero, but these events are largely forgotten due to Albus's in-universe Historical Hero Upgrade. Albus, for the record, is well-aware of this and holds his brother in very deep, personal esteem, even though Aberforth is seen by the wizard community as an oddball who doesn't appreciate his ingenious brother.
- Harry's father, James Potter, is often lauded to Harry by many as a paragon of the virtues that Gryffindor stands for, with the exception of Snape, who utterly detests him. Eventually, Harry gets a look into Snape's past, and sees James using magic (later one of Snape's invented spells) to mess with Snape and Harry is surprised and shocked to see Lily's vehement reaction (though she was Snape's friend). Lupin and Sirius later reassure Harry that they were just immature at that age and that he shouldn't let it get to him.
- A comment of Snape seems to indicate that pride was also an issue.
- One of the points of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is that Biff just doesn't believe in miracles, because he saw them performed from childhood on.
- In Death: Summerset is not only Roarke's butler, but he raised Roarke when he was a boy. Portrait In Death makes it clear that Summerset knows the best, the worst and everything in between of Roarke.
- In the Heralds of Valdemar series, Companions can be that friend to their Heralds. On top of everything else they do to assist Heralds (without actually doing their jobs for them), each Companion remembers when his or her Herald was just a confused teenager, and no matter how much the populace may admire or fawn over Heralds, their Companions help keep their heads out of the clouds. The Monarch's Own Herald also has the official job of being this for the Monarch (in addition to the Monarch's Companion) by becoming the Monarch's best friend, knowing them personally, and providing unflinchingly honest criticism when necessary.
- While most people in The Legend of Sun Knight think the Sun Knight is the epitome of perfection, all the knights who take orders directly from him are fully aware of the fact that he's not quite the kind, merciful man he's painted as, and are more than willing to crack jokes or complain about it when they think he can't hear them.
- In Emma, George Knightley is explicitly stated to be the only person who can see faults in Emma Woodhouse and will not hesitate to call her out on them.
- One of the best examples of this was Rochester, Jack Benny's Valet, no one else on the show could deflate Jack faster.
- River Song, The Doctor's... whatever constantly undermines his brilliance, at one point flying the TARDIS flawlessly (when the Doctor seems to think six pilots are required for that) and informing him its characteristic landing sound was due to his leaving the brakes on. She does mention him teaching her at one point which might suggest that he's simply less practical than her.note Over time it's revealed the trope is more downplayed than we're lead to believe, she does think he's an amazing hero, but is reluctant to let him know (and get a big head).
- The autonomous car KITT is usually like this with his driver Michael Knight. Of course, the fact that KITT does a significant percentage of the actual heroics himself may have something to do with this.
- In Merlin, Prince (later King) Arthur is no hero to his manservant, who just thinks he's a prat. And a clotpole.
- Somewhat subverted in that Merlin really does think Arthur's a great man and does (eventually) believe he'll lead the kingdom into a golden era. He just sees no reason to fawn over him the way other people do.
- Gwen (Guinevere) also turns into this after some Character Development.
- Although it's not really brought up directly, when Dave Rossi first joins the cast of Criminal Minds, most of the team is in awe of him, except Hotch. It's explained as Hotch having known Rossi for years. The rest of the crew does eventually become more comfortable around him.
- In Babylon 5, Londo Mollari is seen as being a great hero and patriot for the Centauri Republic, but his assistant Vir sees through the hype and is the only one willing to speak frankly with Londo. Of course, it doesn't help that the Republic is a Vestigial Empire rife with backstabbing and assassination, so Londo rarely feels like he can "be himself." By the beginning of the fourth season, Londo admits that Vir is the only true friend he has, because he is the only one who is honest to him.
- Played with in regards to Sheridan in season four. After Sheridan comes back from the dead and reunites both the army against the Shadows and the Earth resistance, some people start to treat him like he's a divine being or a literal godsend. Only his very close friends and worst enemies are willing to criticize him at that point. Unfortunately, Garibaldi walks the line between the two; throughout the season their relationship becomes strained because of Sheridan's "cult of personality", and even though it's revealed that Garibaldi betrayed Sheridan because Bester had messed with his head to heighten his mistrust of authority, at least some of Garibaldi's reaction is due to genuine closeness to Sheridan that was able to reveal his flaws.
- Kor of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a famous warrior and commander, enjoying respect and political power within the Klingon Empire. Martok however loathed the man, as years ago Kor had personally spoken against Martok becoming an officer in the military. Martok was descended from a commoner family and Kor felt that only nobles should be given commissions. The "mark of Kor" not only derailed what would have been a certain placement, it also blacklisted Martok from serving as even a common warrior. Despite having earned his command through battle and rising to general, Martok never forgave Kor.
- One episode of DS 9 also featured (Jadzia) Dax taking the heat for a murder of a man who was a great hero to his people, including his son. The man's wife, however, remembered him as a bully and a lousy husband, which was why she was in bed with (Curzon) Dax at the time of the murder.
- On Agent Carter Howard Stark's butler Jarvis has seen his master at his best and worst. During the war Howard went to great lengths to save Jarvis from a charge of treason and he helped Jarvis's Jewish fiance escape from the Nazis. Jarvis is eternally grateful for this and has Undying Loyalty toward Howard but it does not stop him from despising Howard's irresponsible womanizing and selfish business practices. Peggy Carter has known Howard even longer and while she is willing to risk her life for him, she knows quite well how much of a Manipulative Bastard he can be at times.
Myths & Religion
- Jesus was never really accepted as a prophet in His home town (including pretty much His whole family save for His mother). He says rather dryly that while He is a known as a great teacher and healer everywhere else, to His own village He is just the carpenter's son.
"Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.'" Mark 6:4, NIV.
- In The Bible: Mark 6:4 and Matthew 13:57. Considering He also says that 'he who is greatest among you shall be your servant' (Matthew 23:11) Jesus makes this one Older Than Feudalism.
- Protagonists in many of Shakespeare's comedies do not treat their servants well. This is played for laughs.
- This comes straight out of Commedia del'Arte, where abuse of those of different classes was standard. Note, too, that it cuts both ways in that tradition; the upper class characters heaped public, physical, verbal abuse on the lower, while the lower class replied with secretive practical jokes, snarky replies, sotto voce backtalk, and conspiring to manipulate events to their own favour.
- A more serious version is found in Othello, where Emilia is the only person who doesn't think the world of her husband Iago.
- In Peter Pan, after his children leave, George Darling blames himself for tying Nana up in the yard, and takes upon himself the Cool and Unusual Punishment of living in her kennel—even riding it to work. Before long, he's become a celebrity of sorts, with crowds following his cab through the streets and girls scaling the kennel to get his autograph. His wife is as supportive and patient as ever, but their servant, Liza, becomes a full-blown Servile Snarker.
- In the Mrs Hawking play series, Clara Hawking serves this role to the titular character. Most people who know what Mrs. Hawking is capable of are in awe of her, including Clara's husband Nathaniel, but Clara believes that her gifts do not make up for what an unpleasant person she can be.
- The housecarls in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (notably, Lydia) are just as likely to snark or otherwise harmlessly disrespect the Dragonborn regardless of how famous, influential, or badass he/she has become.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, despite all the accomplishments and fame (or infamy in the lawyer community) Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth has, Phoenix Wright only sees him as his once childhood friend who wanted to be a lawyer but changed for some reason. By the time of the third game, Edgeworth becomes this for Wright as well.
- Ratcheted up the the logical conclusion in Metal Gear Solid 2, where Snake not only works diligently to dispel Raiden's "legendary mercenary" conception, but also ends up showing that he's really a Jerk Ass. With a heart of gold, perhaps, but no less Jerkass.
- Tales of Symphonia has Mithos, who Kratos and Yuan (and later the main characters) know is no ancient hero, but a boy who wanted to save his sister. In the same way, this same group know that his sister, Martel, was no goddess.
- Perhaps most importantly, Martel is also well aware of this, and tells him so when he finally revives her. Unfortunately, since he was already unstable enough to try the whole scheme in the first place, this just makes his brain snap clean in half, rather than set him straight.
- In Mortal Kombat continuity, Johnny Cage is a celebrity - or used to be one - but according to the Konquest Mode of Deadly Alliance, Cyrax absolutely loathes his films, and "felt especially robbed of his eight bucks when he saw Johnny's Ninja Mime."
- Stryker doesn't seem to like him much either. In Striker's non-cannon ending for Mortal Kombat 9, Johnny plans to star as Stryker in Stryker: I Was Doing My Job . The project is cancelled when Stryker himself refuses to sell the movie rights, claiming "Never would he allow himself to be portrayed by Johnny Cage."
- In fact, he tends to get into arguments - and often actual fights - with the other Earthrealm warriors in 9 a lot, who don't tend to take him seriously. (Although Sonya does develop at least some respect for him, which clearly becomes more than just "respect" as X reveals that the two eventually have a daughter.)
- Space Quest: Roger has saved the day countless times, but he's an annoying, lazy, obnoxious, and by-and-large incompetent mooch who frequently steals from his peers even when he's not saving the day. Most people who deal with him quickly realize this.
- The Interactive Narrator doesn't like him much either, telling a lot of bad jokes at his expense.
- In Tower of God, Jyu Viole Grace is an often feared and sometimes imitated terrorist with rising infamy, but Hwa Ryun still knows him as 25th Baam, a cute little kid that just wanted everyone to get along until his best friend betrayed him and nearly killed him.
- In a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic, Don Quixote kills the last dragon, who was hiding in a windmill. When Sanchez praises him for his heroic deed, Don rebukes him. Sanchez proceeds to write Don Quixote as the senile lunatic we know and love.
- Roy Greenhilt is more than a bit of a dismissive ass when dealing with NPCs who are serving only a "trivial" purpose to him. Not that he doesn't have that streak anyway.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: While Captain Hammer is seen as a major hero (perhaps even a country-wide one), the Anti-Villain Protagonist, Doctor Horrible, sees him as a total dick. He's probably right.
- Sparadrap's real life job seem to have him be just famous enough to get interviewed from time to time. However, one of his lines from Season 2 hint that one of the reasons he gets away with spending lots of time on the MMORPG in which the story is set is that his father and grandmother prefer having him play video games than doing anything else. His guildmates also count as he's a Noob at the MMORPG in question.
- Arthéon doesn't make a big deal of any of the members of the game's top guild due to being in a We Used to Be Friends situation with them.
- Being his father probably factors in the fact that Tenshirock has no respect for Judge Dead's authority as a Game Master.
- Alfred Pennysworth form Batman: The Animated Series is an excellent example.
- Kif Kroker from Futurama knows all too well that Zapp Brannigan is nothing more than a cowardly braggart whose "exploits" are sewn wholesale from a lavish blend of sending wave after wave of his own men to their deaths, turning any mission into a death sentence and outright lies. Any such comment from Zapp is inevitably met with snark and a depressed sigh.
- Turanga Leela is also this to Zapp for the same reason.
- On The Venture Bros., Captain Sunshine's butler seems pretty unimpressed with him. This may have something to do with the fact that he was the original Captain Sunshine, and the current Captain was the first Wonderboy, his sidekick.
- An extreme example happens on The Simpsons. The town's founder, Jebediah Springfield, is worshiped by its citizens at a hero who did great deeds, and Lisa is no exception... Until the episode "Lisa the Iconoclast" when she discovers it was all lies. A confession written by Springfield himself before he died of syphilis admits that his real name was actually Hans Sprungfeld, and he was actually a cruel pirate, who among other crimes, tried to assassinate George Washington. At first, no one believes Lisa at all when she tries to expose him (except for Homer, surprisingly) but when she does find proof that might convince them (causing Mayor Quimby to consider shooting her before she can reveal it) she changes her mind, telling everyone that she was wrong the whole time. (Why? After seeing the positive factors of the town's bicentennial celebration like the veterans at the parade and children having fun, she decided that the town knowing the truth would destroy hope and morale.)
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Equestria Games, while everypony in the Crystal Empire sees Spike as a Living Legend, Ms. Harshwhinny doesn't think he's anyone special.
- A skit in Mr. Show about old-school entertainers was based on a documentary David Cross watched about Al Jolson, in which old business underlings talked about what a bastard he was in real life, but seemed to completely forgive him because "boy could he sing!"
- Averted by the autobiography of Charles Smith.
- Really, most secretaries/executive assistants/personal assistants are like this with their bosses. The recently-appointed VP of a major corporation may have gotten their position by singlehandedly saving the company billions of dollars or closing a deal on an international trade agreement with a foreign investor, but to their assistant, they're just "boss."
- Family. The woman who changed your diapers, the man who taught you to play catch, the girl who stole your toys... It doesn't matter how important these people are (or become), they're still defined by those characteristics.
- In Scotland, "Ah kent his faither" ("I knew his father") is a saying which indicates "...so I know his background and therefore I'm not overly awed by his fame." And given that it's a small country with a lot of social interconnection, it's still pretty common that ordinary people *do* know relatives of famous Scots.
- Monarchs and Jesters. The Jester was the only one that could mock the king and get away with it, so when the King made a bad decision and his vassals fawned over him about it, the Jester stood up and called him an idiot. (Of course, that was kind of his job.)
- Theodore Roosevelt so completely averted this trope that his valet wrote a book called "Theodore Roosevelt: A Hero to his Valet."