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Post Mortem Conversion
"If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew."
Albert Einstein addressing the French Philosophical Society

Bob was really popular in life, or became popular by how he died. Maybe he was a hero, great leader or philosopher, or maybe he was just a really nice guy.

After his death, some group he never belonged to - and did not sympathize with - claims him as one of their own. A kind of in-story "Misaimed Fandom", if you will. They are bragging about how he was truly one of them, and use his name to encourage others to join them. He's probably spinning in his grave!

In less blatant cases, they are merely showing him "respect" by politely editing out any unpopular or "inappropriate" thoughts, feelings & loyalties he might have had.

In some cases, the poor guy doesn't even deserve his good reputation: The same group who made up his loyalty to them also made up his good deeds. Good in their eyes, that is - his alleged deeds may or may not go against what he believed in. In either case, him being dead means he can't be there to contradict their version of how he lived, how he died, and what he believed in. In extra cynical cases, the group actually had him killed for this very reason!

However, giving your own real followers an undeserved good reputation is generally not covered by this trope.

Compare and contrast Post Mortem Closet, where the character is merely made more "normal" and average.

Compare In the Original Klingon, Historical Hero Upgrade.


Examples

Comics
  • At the end of Judge Dredd: Origins, with his last breath, Fargo despairs at what has become of America and urges Dredd to restore freedom and democracy. In order to maintain order, Dredd tells the few others who know of Fargo's true fate that the old man was pleased that the Judges now ran America.

Film
  • In Wag The Dog, the propaganda spin-doctors turns a retarded rapist into a faked war-hero. When they can't control him, they get him killed. This is a huge improvement for them, since his corpse is easy to control. Public burial of the "hero" ensues.
  • The premise of World's Greatest Dad is a father recasting his worthless son as a tragic idol after he dies from Autoerotic Asphyxiation.
  • In the Serbian film The Underground, a gun-runner during World War 2 becomes a powerful man in the Communist Yugoslavian government by paying poetic tribute to the martyrdom of his former partner Blacky. In reality, they were only in the resistance for the money, their legendary fight with Nazis was over a girl, and Blacky is still alive.
  • In Just a Gigolo, which is set in post-WWI Berlin, Paul, the protagonist gets a post-mortem conversion into the fledgling Nazi party, which had earlier tried and failed to recruit him when he's accidentally killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Literature
  • Poor Richard's Almanac by Benjamin Franklin sarcastically portrays this with the quote "Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead, Through which the living Homer begged his bread."

Live-Action TV
  • Deconstructed in the Masters Of Horror episode "Homecoming". The Invisible President makes a wish in one of his speeches to the nation, wishing for the dead American soldiers of the Iraq war to come back and express how they feel, implying that they would all support him. Cue the zombies! The dead soldiers are coming back, but they are not here to eat brains. Instead, they are here to vote... for the other guy!
  • In a season two episode of Babylon 5, Londo claims that the whispered last words of the Emperor of the Centauri were a statement of approval for a military victory (In a totally unprovoked attack on a foreign power that the Emperor was trying to end his nation's diplomatic tensions with) and a request that Mollari and Lord Refa return the Republic to its Glory Days. Right after Mollari and Refa leave MedLab, they have a brief conversation.
    Refa: Out of curiosity, Mollari, what did the old man really say?
    Mollari: You are both damned.

Real Life
  • Friedrich Nietzsche despised anti-Semitism, nationalism, and (towards the end of his life) Germany (he took to insisting that he was Polish, which is as false—perhaps intentionally so—as it is hilarious). It is therefore quite natural that Those Wacky Nazis appropriated his notes - heavily edited by his proto-Nazi sister - to make it seem like they had an intellectual program besides hating the Jews (and the Roma, and the Poles, and the Russians, and...). Unfortunately for the world, Martin Heidegger, a student of Nietzsche's thought, believed them....
  • Any well-known dead political figure qualifies. It's always been a staple of politics and it's taken to ridiculous extents these days: "This is my new proposal... and I'm telling you right now, George Washington would have loved it!"
  • In 1995, when Butterfly McQueen — Prissy in Gone with the Wind — died in a house fire, a fundamentalist neighbor who had proselytized McQueen (a lifelong atheist) several times reported to the press that as McQueen was being carried out, she said she was repenting and claiming that she was really a Christian all the time. Other witnesses disputed this claim.
  • Darwin's writings (and later additions) were used during his lifetime and after his death to justify social Darwinism and eugenics. He disapproved of and fought against both.
    • Not to mention the completely false story that he recanted his theory of evolution on his deathbed, along with accepting Christ (he was raised Christian, but died an agnostic).
  • At least twice, a Pope has had his predecessor dug up, put on trial, and convicted of heresy. And possibly tortured for good measure. If memory serves, it was quite karmic, since the first one to do it was himself put on post-mortem trial by HIS successor...
  • Pat Tillman by the Bush administration (via cover up) and right-wing politicians during an election year. As detailed in the book "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman" by Jon Krakauer and the documentary "The Tillman Story" by Amir Bar Lev. Quoted from the AV Club review of the film:
    people on both the left and the right (but mostly the right) have tried to project their own beliefs onto a man who kept his close to the vest... After John McCain and other political and military leaders spoke about Pat being in "a better place" the younger Tillman [Pat's brother] took the stage with a pint of ale, thanked everyone for coming, then said, "By the way, Pat isn't with God, he's fuckin' dead. He wasn't religious." — http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-tillman-story,44352/
  • During the Second World War Stalin, for propaganda reasons, admitted Alexander Nevsky and Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin into the Communist Party.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormons, perform baptism for deceased people not of their faith. They see it as providing a favor for people who didn't have the opportunity to be baptised in life. Critics say the practice is disrespectful and amounts to trying literal post-mortem conversion.
    • For what it's worth, the Church teaches that the deceased persons have to choose to accept that post-mortem baptism for it to have any effect on the deceased, who is being given the opportunity to make that choice.
  • George Orwell. Hoo boy. Since his death in 1950, many people from Right to Left have claimed that 'if Orwell was alive now, he would have been on our side', often selectively quoting him in the process. Orwell particularly attracts Post Mortem Conversions for two reasons. Firstly, he's a vulnerable target, because his own views were quite complex and often seemingly contradictory (for example, he was a revolutionary Socialist but took a deeply conservative stance on many cultural issues—recall that bit in 1984 about pints vs. half-litres of beernote ) - a point which he lampshaded by calling himself a "Tory anarchist". He also wasn't above sharply criticising some of the more extremist elements in his own political camp; Animal Farm in particular contains a very unsubtle No Celebrities Were Harmed caricature of Joseph Stalin in Napoleon. And secondly, he is a heavily idolised figure who is almost universally held up as a shining example of Brutal Honesty, making it very attractive to try and Post Mortem Convert him to one's cause.
  • Conservapedia is among the many who Post Mortem Convert George Orwell; they have also recently recast Martin Luther King Jr. as a conservative (when even liberals of his own era thought he went too far).
  • The Pilgrims are often said to support X or Y when in actuality they'd probably be disgusted about it. As an example, Religious Freedom; the Puritans discriminated against non-Puritans for years.
  • Dante Alighieri was born in Florence, and participated in a civil war. After that, he was exiled with a lot of the loser faction. Dante became Florence's Butt Monkey (when his natal city declared an amnesty for all the exiled politicians, he was the only one not included). He begged all his life to return to Florence, but he never could. He died in Ravenna in 1321. When they realized Dante was the greatest modern Italian poet, Florence came to regret Dante's exile, and made repeated requests for the return of his remains. The custodians of the body at Ravenna refused to comply, at one point going so far as to conceal the bones in a false wall of the monastery. Nevertheless, in 1829, a tomb was built for him in Florence in the basilica of Santa Croce. That tomb has been empty ever since, with Dante's body remaining in Ravenna, far from the city he loved so dearly.
  • Casey Sheehan by his mother and virtually the entire anti-war (and anti-capitalist) movement. The younger Sheehan volunteered to serve in the military and fight in Iraq. After he died, his mother began to use him as a symbol for struggle against the Bush Administration, (as well as for socialist principles) all the while claiming this is what he would have wanted, though his service record would suggest otherwise.
  • Limbaugh Whitewashes His Past Attacks On Mandela To Claim He's Conservative

Video Games
  • In the backstory of Final Fantasy X, Yuna's father Braska was a rebel who questioned authority and reached out in peace to the Al-Bhed, a people that the theocratic Corrupt Church he belonged to liked to use as a scapegoat, and was cast out of the clergy as a result. When Braska set out on his journey, he mused on what a delightful irony it would be if he, Auron (then a warrior-priest in disgrace for political reasons) and Jecht (seemingly a drunken heretic claiming to be from a city destroyed 1000 years ago) were the ones to defeat Sin. Fast forward to the present, and the Church of Yevon is proclaiming Braska a champion of the Church to be emulated by the faithful while never mentioning the way he challenged the Church. There's even a short scene where Auron stands before a statue of Braska in a temple and comments on the irony.
  • Slightly played with in Last Scenario, where Alexander, one of the renowned heroes of the previous age, has a tomb erected in his honor in the Empire's capital city (the Empire being the faction Alexander was fighting AGAINST) for an unjust war which he had turned his back on. There is however a kicker. The tomb is a fake that doesn't even have his body. That is because he was up to that point still alive, although due to being held hostage in a scientist military facility and having his memories mostly sapped by the setting's magical rocks biorites, he still fit the trope as he is generally unable to contest the falsehoods that his name was being used for.

Web Animation

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • The stonecutters from The Simpsons claim that (among others) the signers of The Declaration of Independence and Washington were Stonecutters, according to their Secret World History (this is a reference to the Real Life membership of many, including Washington, in the Freemasons, which the stonecutters are a thinly veiled parody of).

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