Rich Idiot with No Day Job
"Strange injuries, a non-existent social life... these things beg the question as to what exactly does Bruce Wayne do with his time and his money?"
When you think about it, the best Secret Identity
can have is that of the Millionaire Playboy
. Plenty of time to devote to smiting evil, plenty of money to spend on wonderful toys
— and if anybody becomes suspicious about these advantages, they'll be forced to admit that you're such a feckless layabout
you couldn't possibly be Scaryanimalman
. You're just too Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense
Most common with Badass Normal
heroes; it's not that superpowered heroes couldn't use the fortune and the free time, but Cosmic Balance seems to say that you can't have both. Narratively speaking, for these characters, having massive wads of cash to blow
on designing and building things like a Grappling-Hook Pistol is
The most recognizable modern example is Bruce Wayne
, but when he first appeared this was already a live trope in the Pulp Magazine
For the characters they're pretending to be, see Upper Class Wit
or Upper Class Twit
. If rather than concealing a Super Powered Alter Ego the character actually is
a rich idiot with no day job, they're Uncle Pennybags
. If they make no attempt to mask their identity, they're a Gentleman Adventurer
. And if they don't even have a reason for putting up this facade, they may be one of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
form of Idle Rich
or Upper Class Twit
. Also see One-Hour Work Week
A Sub Trope
of Living a Double Life
and Stock Superhero Day Jobs
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Anime & Manga
- Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass mostly fits this trope, except that rather than pretending to be stupid, he pretends to be too Brilliant, but Lazy. It's not a difficult pretense, because that was precisely the case until he Jumped at the Call in the first episode.
- Of course, that he constantly skips class in order to con money out of the rich and powerful by preying on their arrogance is the reason people think that he's lazy, (along with his great distaste for having to commit to physical labour) as he's quite clearly capable and willing to go to absurd lengths to manipulate events for his own whims, from world conquest to helping a little bird with a broken wing.
- Kallen also somewhat falls into this category, as her father IS rich, and she spends nights fighting Britannia. Except replace "idiot" with "Ill Girl".
- Another case of this being a cover for Obfuscating Stupidity: Prince Dryden, Millerna's fiancé from Vision of Escaflowne. He poses as a rich, indifferent and lazy merchant, but he's got a dry wit and a talent for manipulation that saves the skins of Van and his fgroup more than once.
- Jiraiya from Naruto qualifies. Ostensibly a wandering (and lecherous!) carefree hermit, he is actually quite wealthy...and in fact one of the Legendary Sannin.
- Batman: Bruce Wayne. Averted in Batman The Animated Series, where he takes a more active role in Wayne Enterprises (though he still puts on a Bunny-Ears Lawyer mask when in public) and in the live-action series, where he poses as a somewhat airheaded but much loved philantropist. He does so in The Dark Knight Saga as well, but keeps that hidden from the public by using Lucius Fox both as a decoy and an actual trusted advisor — probably to keep suspicions down.
- In The Dark Knight, Bruce actually provides an interesting example of being A Serious Man, who pretends to be a Rich Idiot, pretending to be a Serious Businessman. The world is of the impression that Bruce Wayne is the dignified head of Wayne Enterprises, while those who actually meet him are of the impression that he is a Rich Idiot and Lucius Fox is the real brains of Wayne Enterprises. While a small selection of people, including Alfred and Lucius Fox, know who he really is.
- The entire Club of Heroes is pretty much this; When invited to a reunion, Batman even says he's curious what happens to bored rich idiots when they're washed up. Chief Man-of-Bats flat out admits that whatever he is or was, he was never really a hero. The Musketeer also revels in the fact that his book made him a millionaire overnight and that he sold the movie rights for even more money, meaning he's internationally famous but never has to fight crime again. That's right, he got richer and also quit his night job.
He may secretly be the World's Greatest Detective, but I think that the average person in the DC Universe thinks of Bruce Wayne as the World's Worst Skier.
- Kate Kane, the Batwoman, is also this. To most people she's a military washout who parties all night and sleeps all day with her dead mother's money.
- Green Arrow: Oliver Queen, at least in some renditions. Before he became Green Arrow, it was said that Oliver Queen's sole survival skill was "making a martini last an entire hour".
- Averted by Ted Kord/Blue Beetle II who is very involved with Kord Industries, an R&D firm.
- PS238: The Revenant. He's one of the few that openly admits to gobs of cash in his costumed identity — as he commented (paraphrased), "Sometimes I think having access to (lots of) money is the greatest superpower." Amusingly subverted, as well, since he's wanted by the government ("warrants for arrest in eleven states"), not for being a vigilante, but because only one of his (many) identities pays taxes.
- Averted with Iron Man. Anthony "Tony" Stark is well-known as a workaholic engineer and business owner/government minister who definitely earns his money.
- In the movie, he seemed to be more of a Rich Idiot with a day job, where he only had to pay attention as long as he didn't get bored. Naturally enough, that was almost his downfall.
- And at the end, he goes and renders the whole trope irrelevant by revealing the truth at a press conference.
- In the comics, he also plays as hard as he works, but it tends to be between projects and/or a backdrop to high-level negotiations.
- Worth noting that, in the first movie at least, he is perhaps the world's most brilliant engineer, but only barely competent as a business manager, mostly delegating that part of his job to his hypercompetent secretary, Pepper Potts.
- Alan Moore gave Dan Dreiberg, aka Nite Owl, this background, and the expensive toys that go with it, in Watchmen — although in contrast to the more usual Obfuscating Stupidity, his cover is that he's a harmless intellectual. Played with in that, as a crimefighter, Nite Owl is decisive and confident, while Dan Dreiberg is nervous and impotent. (contrast with Rorschach, who is poor and a lunatic, with no day job).
- Watchmen originally was going to feature the Charlton Comics lineup, which includes Blue Beetle (the second — Ted Kord), who also fits this trope (though, like many of these examples, Blue Beetle is supposed to be a genius inventor within his setting, rather than a true "rich idiot").
- Adrian Veidt was already a millionaire, albeit not an idiot (World's Smartest Man, in fact), and one can presume he used this as his cover. Don't ask why he needed one, since you could see his face in costume... In an interesting variation, he became even more filthy rich after revealing his identity as Ozymandias and then starting a marketing business based on it.
- Sandman Mystery Theatre: Wesley Dodds was a mild form of this. He was very geeky, no one thought he was dumb by any means, and he was shown to be actively involved in business ventures (although usually in the background of the story).
- DC's recent reinvention of the old Archie Comics character The Web is one of these. The twist is that he's actually an inversion- whereas Batman is a grim vigilante who fakes being a feckless playboy, The Web is a feckless playboy who took up vigilanteism as a hobby. Then criminals killed his brother. In contrast, the original 1940s version was a college professor/criminologist who moonlighted as a vigilante, and the 60s version was a Henpecked Husband who had to sneak around his wife to fight crime. So more of a "comfortably well off intellectual with a job that leaves him plenty of free time" than this trope.
- Ariana Von Holmberg of Rashida Jones' Frenemy of the State offers a female twist on this character as an Upper Class Twit recruited by the CIA.
- In Quantum And Woody, Woody is technically one of these; after the death of his father, he's inherited a fortune and a sizable stake in the company. However, the trope is subverted because a messy divorce settlement and several inheritor clauses means he has no direct access to his fortune, but must instead get regular payouts from the estate's executor... which happens to be his Vitriolic Best Bud Quantum.
- Invoked in one half-issue of The Flash, when the second Trickster speculates that his Secret Identity is one of these—"I can tell he's one of those pretty boys under that mask. Probably has jet black hair. Dozens of girlfriends. Bet he lives in a mansion somewhere, too." He happens to be completely wrong, since the Flash at this point is a redheaded, Happily Married police mechanic.
- Mystery Men: Wealthy lawyer Lance Hunt is the alter-ego of Captain Amazing. Since Amazing is very focused on making money through sponsorships, and isn't exactly the brightest guy around, he's probably a pretty lousy lawyer.
- We find out that Sam Flynn in TRON Legacy has the controlling interest in Encom stock, implying he is very wealthy. He doesn't flaunt it but he isn't shown doing anything else other than causing grief for Encom (although Alan Bradley mentions he's very active in charity work).
- The Shadow: Lamont Cranston. However, Walter Gibson later revealed that the Shadow only impersonated Lamont Cranston, a separate person, in order to move about in the circles of the wealthy for intelligence. Kent Allard, a former secret agent, represented the Shadow's true identity. This seems to leave open the question of where the Shadow acquired the funds for his activities. In the novelization to the 1994 film version of The Shadow by James Luceno (but not in the film itself), Luceno acknowledges that the Shadow only impersonated the true Lamont Cranston. As in the film, he began as an opium/heroin dealer before his redemption. A scene occurs in the novelization where Shiwan Khan confronts the Shadow and wheedles him by pointing out that his paraphernalia and apparatus came from selling opium and heroin. In fact, Shiwan Khan points out that he played a hand in creating the addiction for opium and heroin wracking the US.
- Lord Peter Wimsey. Younger brother of an Upper Class Twit, Lord Peter goes out of his way to cultivate an Upper Class Twit image himself. The hapless criminals of Britain think of him as "Bertie Wooster playing detective"; by the time they find themselves face to face with Lord Peter's frightening intelligence, it's much too late.
- Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia from Atlas Shrugged. Though he has a well-known day job as owner of d'Anconia Copper, he still uses his millionare playboy status as a sort of Obfuscating Stupidity. Unlike most rich idiots, the public persona that spends money like water and can't make a good business decision to save his life ends up driving d'Anconia Copper directly into the ground... Exactly as planned.
- Prince Diarmuid of The Fionavar Tapestry generally gives the impression of being a shallow, frivolous twit who gets away with his shenanigans (like sneaking into an enemy country to woo their princess) because he's the heir to the throne. It works, until you realise that most of the crap he pulls actually requires quite a lot of strength, bravery and cunning.
- Alec Checkerfield from The Company Novels is an earl who plays at being an idiot, and on his own time funds various charities and countries while making money via being a pirate. Oh yeah, and he's a computer genius/cyborg who later decides to fight evil. At one point he gets compared to The Scarlet Pimpernel, but since it's the 24th century, he has no idea what that means.
- Henry Fitzroy from the Blood Books (and Blood Ties TV show) is a (romance or comic, depending on the medium) writer by night, somewhat subverting the trope in that he actually does something for a living. He seems to be fairly financially well off, presumably because he's saved up money over the years.
- American Psycho has a twisted variant: Patrick Bateman comes off to most of his acquaintances as a Rich Idiot With An Unnecessary Day Job (at least one of his girlfriends notes his dad owns the company and he's wealthy enough to not have to bother), but it's all part of a none-too-successful effort to fit in.
- Ripliad is equally twisted: Tom Ripley spends his days lounging around in Mediterranean European countries, occasionally killing someone when he really has to. Considering the books pretty much codified the Villain Protagonist trope, it counts as a subversion.
- Several Forgotten Realms novels by Elaine Cunningham feature Danilo Thann, a young nobleman from Waterdeep, inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel. In Elfshadow he initially appears as a none-too-bright dandy who dabbles in (frequently miscast) magic and (bad) music; Arilyn Moonblade briefly takes him hostage and ends up stuck with him, to her great dismay. It's eventually revealed, however, that Danilo is actually a member of the secret society of heroes known as the Harpers, generally very savvy, and was actually assigned to observe Arilyn all along. Another character who knows Danilo's true status observed that nobody would ever believe that he of all people is a Harper.
- More than once Danilo is shown getting heartily sick of playing the idiot, but he reluctantly continues because he can't deny how useful a cover it is.
- The first Deathstalker series featured as one of its side characters the son of a noble clan who was well-known for his sole skill of always being up to date with court fashion, no matter how extravagant or obscure. With everybody busy focusing on other more obvious threats than the well-dressed idiot, nobody figured out he was an assassin working for the rebellion for some time.
- Kylar from The Night Angel Trilogy poses as a poor nobleman as his cover identity. In reality, he is an apprentice assassin. While Kylar does have obscene amounts of money, he can't use it since that would draw attention to him, but posing as a poor nobleman gives him both access to his targets and anonymity.
- Sheftu from Mara, Daughter of the Nile. At court, he is the glittering Lord Sheftu who hovers somewhere between Upperclass Wit and Upperclass Twit, while simultaneously being the mastermind of the faction trying to put Thutmose on the throne, and also carrying much of the plots out himself, under the guise of the scribe Sashai.
- Seregil and later Alec play this in the Nightrunner series. Seregil is seen as an exile, a failure at the court, a party boy, a great listener with no strong opinions, and decadent rich idiot. In truth he is a master swordsman, famous cat burglar for the Nobles, and probably the greatest spy the kingdom has Alec is groomed as this as well though most dismiss him as Seregil's boytoy. They both find the act a burden and are eager to escape it.
- Thomas lampshades this in book 5 of The Dresden Files.
Don't look at me. I'm a drunken, chemical-besotted playboy
who does nothing but cavort, sleep, and feed. And even if I had the mind to take a bit of vengeance on the Red Court
, I wouldn't have the backbone to actually stand up to anyone. I'm totally harmless.
- While he's not a classic example, it's been impossible to tell how Peter Petrelli of Heroes pays for his groceries since he resigned from his nursing job halfway through season 1. The Petrellis are rich, but given that he's stated several times that he didn't want to live off his father's money, it's all a bit of a mystery. Hiro Nakamura is a straighter example of the trope, since he has apparently inherited money from his father.
- Averted in the 1960s series The Green Hornet (and the original radio series), in that Britt Reid's day job is publishing The Daily Sentinel, a newspaper that's been owned by his family for years.
However, in the original radio series and in two film serials based on it, this trope gets some lip service: while Reid has a day job, he often ignores it much more than his family likes.
- Kamen Rider Kabuto:
- Lampshaded and subverted in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Julian Bashir likes holonovels in which he is a James Bond character. On one occasion Garak (a
real secret agent completely innocuous tailor) joins him in one of these games. When Julian explains that his cover is a rich playboy, Garak remarks "I obviously joined the wrong secret service".
- Sort of in Have Gun — Will Travel. Paladin plays the role of city dandy in San Francisco, and generally wears light colored clothing there, but when hired for a job, puts on an all-black ensemble. However, he calls himself Paladin in whatever location he's in, so there isn't a pure Secret Identity here.
- Smallville: At times, Oliver. Tess seems to enjoy encouraging the idea. ("I work; he plays.")
- Hunter The Vigil:
- The Ashwood Abbey society is a group of rich socialites who are so bored with life that the only thing that can provide a sufficient thrill is hunting down vampires and werewolves.
- On the even more villainous end of the scale, we have the Hunt Club. They Serial Kill as a point-based sport.
- In Champions, 15 points buys you the "Filthy Rich" Perquisite, which turns your character into this.
- In GURPS there is a handwave/justification available for this in the form of the Advantage "Independent Income" that represents having "people" who will do some of your work for you (actually taking time out of your day to work is still required if you want your full income, though).
- Forgotten Realms:
- The classic character Danilo Thann is the very image of inane and decadent highborn dandy, mildly annoying due to his habit of singing bawdy couplets and hurling spells that tend to fail in spectacular ways. Behind the image is a Harper secret agent, a wizard who managed to impress his master Khelben "Blackstaff" (a champion and apprentice of the gods of magic) time and again and dares to confront him, a talented bard and a decent fencer. Even shrewd opponents disregarded him — until it was too late.
- Haedrak III, the Tethyrian throne's last heir who participated in a war, has a Rightful King Returns celebration... and that's about it. Yet another useless lordling dabbling in magic and absent-mindedly playing with his familiar instead of listening to the serious discussions. Haedrak Errilam Alemander Olosar Lhorik was also previously known as "Lhaeo". Remember that Obstructive Bureaucrat with Photographic Memory who for more than twenty years was the Old Mage's assistant, Seen It All and survived to never tell about it? So, he was also an apprentice (and Elminster developed a handful of spells personally for him), knows almost all the important people on the continent and lots of very exclusive secrets. After crowning Haedrak proved to be an investigator good enough to let Khelben (having half of the Harpers to spy on his behalf) know some things happening in Blackstaff's own city. Of course, he didn't stop working with Harpers just because he doesn't serve one of their founders anymore.
- Donnie Rhodes, Scion of Aphrodite, is a darker version of this — his father opted to give him as little attention as legally necessary (the elder Rhodes didn't take the whole "a goddess dumped their kid on his doorstep" thing well), so he threw himself into this lifestyle. His mother saved him from getting shot in a nightclub one night, and he grew out of it once he met his Band. Losing his Band in Scion: God caused him to revert a little.
- Played with in Batman Arkham City. Batman wasn't enough to get the prison city shut down, so he started putting on the pressure as Bruce Wayne. And was immediately kidnapped on live television and thrown inside.
- The Red Panda of Red Panda Adventures is an interesting example; it's explained in the backstory that he basically was a rich idiot until he began training and fighting crime. This led to a Secret Identity Identity in the present day.
- Played with in New York Magician. Michel's job both makes him very wealthy and lets him take lots of time off, but he's smart and very good at it, even without magical assistance.
- Global Guardians PBEM Universe:
- New Orleans oil-billionaire Spencer Troy is supposedly the President and CEO of Troy Petroleum. That said, to the general public, his "job" is fishing on the Gulf of Mexico, dating supermodels, and playing golf. At night he patrols the city as the heroic Battlecat.
- Spencer Troy's daughter, Diedre Troy, is also a Rich Idiot with No Day Job. While secretly fighting crime alongside her father at night as Minx, during the day she does a remarkable imitation of the Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan party-girl lifestyle.
- Prince Adam from He Man And The Masters Of The Universe is a feckless layabout Prince who is mysteriously never suspected to be the Big Damn Hero for precisely the reasons mentioned in the trope definition.
- In Frisky Dingo, Xander Crews has a secret identity as Awesome X. He has no super powers other than his small army of mercenaries. This is mocked by others, as "your super power is management". Awesome X did kill every villain, but he is hardly heroic as he is a total dick. He's also not all that good at management.
- Adam West, AKA Catman on The Fairly OddParents. Lampshaded at one point when he wonders what to do now that he has to quit crime fighting, to which Timmy responds "Oh, I don't know, go home to your mansion and watch TV?"
- In The Simpsons, Homer's family are apparently unable to convince him that Bruce Wayne is secretly Batman, because he's too much of a playboy to have the time. They are somewhat freaked out by his disturbing level of denial ("Why does he think Alfred's friends with Batman?").
- Larryboy both plays this straight or averts this, depending on the series. In the standard Veggie Tales episodes, he is never shown with a job. In the Cartoon Adventures of Larry-Boy spinoff, he's still a billionare, however, he works as a janitor at the Daily Bumble, the town's newspaper. According to Archie, his butler, this is so he can "keep his finger on the pulse of Bumblyburg". Why janitor? It was the only job he was qualified for. It's implied that Larry then has two secret identities, having to hide the Rich Idiot side from those who know him as a janitor.