Spencer: "I toldja, its like an turning an old lamp into a chandelier"
— Half & Half
A commoner (or poor person) is thrust into rich culture for whatever reasons, but without becoming rich themselves. Most commonly, it will be a poor student who receives a scholarship
to a prestigious school, or a commoner hired to work as a butler/maid for someone rich. Usually the story is portrayed from the view of the commoner. Contrast Rags to Riches
, where the commoner becomes rich
but may still face taunts and derision from those with Old Money
. A classic of the Culture Clash
trope, contrasted with Slumming It
when jumping from the opposite side of the fence especially when doing the Prince and Pauper
routine, expect Fish out of Water
aspects in both this and the inverse tropes.
This is a Super Trope
of Princess for a Day
and Scholarship Student
. Sub-trope of Fish out of Water
. Also see Mock Millionaire
Anime & Manga
- He Is My Master: Two sisters are forced to work off a very large debt to a filthy rich kid, and become his maids.
- Ouran High School Host Club: Ouran Academy is a very prestigious and high-class school attended by the children of the very wealthy... and Haruhi, a lower-middle-class girl on an academic scholarship. Wacky culture-clash shenanigans are inevitable.
- Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate is left with a huge debt from his parents, and works to pay it off as a butler under a small rich girl.
- Hana Yori Dango.
- Dark Chick Alpha Bitch Satomi Ozawa and later protagonist Shiina of Naru Taru attend the prestigious Banda Academy despite being from poor and middle class families, respectively. Satomi's descent into villainy is mainly fueled by her obsessive need to prove herself superior to everyone in spite of her humble background as a result of her difficulties fitting in at such a fancy school, where by contrast Shiina's cheerful and friendly personality wins her plenty of decent friends who don't care about her background and she doesn't really take popularity or social status seriously, anyway. Which, of course makes Satomi resent her even more...
- Jo's Boys (the second sequel to Little Women) musician Nat goes to Europe for school. Due to having wealthy and influential friends everyone thinks that he's wealthy and influential as well. Too bad he's an orphan who spent a number of years as a street musician, and thus has little idea of how to handle money. Cue the nineteenth century version of a Credit Card Plot.
- The Great Gatsby: Gatsby was this in his youth, before he made a fortune bootlegging and became Nouveau Riche. He's still struggling to rub elbows with the Old Money, however.
- The Kiki Strike series has Ananka, who subverts this as well as Scholarship Student. At her elite private school, where there are a lot of actual scholarship girls, Ananka is the outsider because one of her relatives left the family money that can only be spent on education and nothing else. So she is neither a scholarship student or rich enough to fit in.
- In the Private series, Reed is a Scholarship Student at the elite Easton Academy. Many of the girls hate her for becoming a Billings Girl despite being at the school on scholarship.
- Gilmore Girls: Rori goes to a private high school and Yale thanks to some funding from her grandparents, but her family remains rather poor.
- The Nanny: The entire show revolves around Fran Fine leaving Flushing to become the nanny for a rich Broadway producer's children.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air revolves entirely around a West-Philadelphia-born-and-raised hoodrat named Will catapulted into his rich Aunt and Uncle's Bel Air community, resulting in many humorous moments as he finds himself at odds with the townspeople and characters, socially and financially.
- Burn Notice season one episode nine, has for a client of the week Nick Lam, a house sitter who's fiancee has been kidnapped. Problem is, he's just a house sitter who's had increasing difficulty telling people he's just a house sitter.
- In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Joy and Darnell (plus Dodge and Earl Jr.) are relocated as part of Witness Protection after Darnell's identity was accidentally revealed. Joy keeps outing the family so she'll be able to live in a gated community...and eventually gets her wish. But she doesn't fit in at all with the other women, and her family is not actually wealthy. Earl has to help her fit in.
- The core book for Hunter: The Vigil mentions that Ashewood Abbey will, once a year, take in a vagrant and give them the good life. If they prove decadent enough, the Abbey extends membership - and, presumably, keeps them buoyed.
- Final Fantasy XII: Vaan and Penelo are poor orphans who go on an adventure with Ashe (The queen of Rabanastre, who's on the run) and Balthier (formerly a Judge of the Arcadian Empire)
- Delita starts as this in Final Fantasy Tactics. Arguably Rags to Riches (to tragedy) by the end.
- Family Guy: one episode has Chris sent to a prestigious school with some influence from his grandfather, but he is teased as he still doesn't actually have any money. The rest of the family all take on part-time jobs to pay for his tuition.
- The Simpsons: When Marge buys a designer dress at a discount and gets invited to a country club.
- One of Homer's male relatives in "Lisa the Simpson" hopes to be the trope.