Right Man in the Wrong Place
"The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference... in the world."
You're at your fairly mundane job, which isn't anything martial (military, police, security guard, etc), doing your job, when all the sudden there's an explosion, or gunfire, or someone shouting that you're now a hostage. The professional Badasses
who'd normally kick ass and Chew Bubblegum
, if they weren't out of bubblegum, are not available for whatever reason (slow to respond, killed, corrupted, etc).
So what do you do? Do you hide in a closet or something, and hope the bad guys pass you by or otherwise don't notice you while your friends/coworkers/family possibly face a Fate Worse Than Death
Hell, no! You're a man, not a mouse! (Unless your name is Mickey, and if it is you're unlikely to be in that situation in the first place - but we've got sources
that say you'd kick ass if found in it anyway.)
You step up to the plate, and start kicking ass. Sure, you might die in the process, but at least you went down swinging, instead of cowering in fear.
Often these characters are either long lost ex-military or scientist working on the latest Phlebotinum
Related to Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass
, but the character isn't bumbling or otherwise incompetent, they're just not specifically
competent or trained in the situation in question. Sometimes can also be a Badass Bookworm
, and most commonly a Badass Normal
. The Right Man is often The Only One
who can save the day, for whatever reason. If not the protagonist, they may be a Badass Bystander
A type of Action Survivor
. On the TV Tropes power scale
, these usually rate as Muggle Weight or Iron Weight. Compare Falling into the Cockpit
and It Began with a Twist of Fate
, and compare/contrast Unlikely Hero
and Heroic Bystander
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Medical student Otonashi, in Angel Beats!, winds up in an underground train accident that left only a handful of badly wounded survivors in a blocked subway tunnel. Otonashi was able to keep most of the survivors alive for an entire week; he himself died just minutes before rescue crews finally arrived. This also counts for the main story, in a way; ordinarily Otonashi would never have made it to Purgatory, as he died fulfilled. His amnesia got him in, and only someone who knew what fulfillment felt like would be able to help the SSS accept their former lives and move on to new ones.
- Negi from Mahou Sensei Negima! started off like this, tasked with teaching an Unwanted Harem after he graduated from magical school. Now look where it led us.
- In the anime of Golgo 13, Duke Togo is on an airliner that's hijacked for ransom. A British intelligence officer recognises his name on the manifest. The problem then becomes finding an unobtrusive way to let Duke know they want to hire him to take out the hijackers, as Duke doesn't do good deeds for free.
- In Campione! Godou was an average teenager whose only special ability was his skill at baseball. However, after encountering Verethragna he proved to be just crazy, reckless, and determined enough to stand up to and beat a Heretic God. The kind of recklessness Godou showed is a common trait among Campione. Many were ordinary humans until they encountered a Heretic God and were just too stubborn and lucky enough to kill them, usually getting themselves temporarily killed in the process.
- Almost every hero in Sin City has a habit of fitting this trope, Marv and Dwight stories especially. They almost always start off with the protagonist stumbling upon a crime for which they have to take action.
- President James Marshall, from the movie Air Force One (like Jack Ryan, below, he's long-retired military, in this case Vietnam experience courtesy of the Army), is forced to step up when his Secret Service security detail is overpowered while aboard the titular aircraft.
- Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise, particularly in Aliens (the closest to the classic action format). A cargo officer on an interstellar tug with no previous martial experience, she nonetheless manages to destroy alien menaces that claim the lives of fellow crewmen, superhuman cyborgs, and heavily armed space marines alike. Seems like the only ones she can't defeat are the producers.
- The essential premise behind John McClane of Die Hard. Except for the third movie, he always stumbled into a position to not only kick ass but save the day, but if not he would be okay with someone else doing it. He says so repeatedly. Die Hard 2 had the tag line, "John McClane is back in the wrong place at the wrong time!" While he is a policeman (though always off-duty when the actual excitement happens), he is not a trained counter-terror expert or anything. A line in one of the trailers for the second movie, unused because Trailers Always Lie, has McClane himself lampshading his situation. As he is running through the tunnels under Dulles Airport, he pauses for a seconds and mutters, "How can the same thing happen to the same guy, twice" and then runs off again.
- Dr. Phil Grant, from the movie Executive Decision, finds himself thrust into fighting a terrorist hijacking of an aircraft, instead of just lecturing on terrorism.
- Many Jackie Chan movies have Chan playing an ordinary guy forced into heroism by extraordinary situations.
- Stanley Goodspeed in The Rock is an FBI biochemist with no field training, and the only man who can disable a set of nerve bombs. He's forced to take the Action Movie Guy role, when all the other soldiers end up dead.note
- The Everyman Hero archetype from Feng Shui was built with this kind of character in mind.
- The protagonist in Doom isn't exactly a civilian bystander, but the only reason he was in a position to foil the demonic invasion is because he was reassigned to a middle-of-nowhere security detail after assaulting a superior officer.
- A common thread in the Fallout and and The Elder Scrolls games. The player character is usually a normal vault dweller or prisoner thrust into legend. The Fallout 3 classes, in particular, tend to be especially harmless, like the uber deadly Marriage Counselor. Of course, you don't have to be a badass to save the world. Or at least, you don't have to start out that way.
- Gordon Freeman from the Half-Life franchise is the Trope Namer, from the G-Man's quote about him above. Ordinary scientist of theoretical physics, forced to become a One-Man Army against a horde of alien gribblies. And not only does he kill the aliens, he also kills most of the military force sent to contain the situation. Interestingly enough, in Half-Life 2, the situation is a subversion, as the G-Man himself has purposefully left Gordon at a specific place and time, rather than Gordon falling into it by accident or chance. He's still really not supposed to be there and not at all prepared for the situation — thus The G-Man's quote. Then again, if you think of it as Gordon just continuing where he left off, the trope is still being played as straight as before.
- The origin stories in Dragon Age: Origins all have the right person in the wrong place at the wrong time, although for gameplay reasons every character has at least some training in combat.
- Hawke of Dragon Age II rose to prominence and played a key role in one of the most important events in Thedas's history almost totally unintentionally. The plot of the game explains how s/he managed to find themselves in these situations. This is stressed more than in the first game; the Framing Device consists of a borderline conspiracy theorist who thinks Hawke planned almost everything from the start, and Varric, who was actually there and has to explain how much more complicated it was.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the player character is widely assumed to be The Chosen One of Andraste. Later on, it turns out that they obtained their rift-sealing Mark by interrupting Corypheus' ritual to open the Breach. Unless Andraste acted *very* subtly, it was a complete accident.
- Roger Wilco, from the Space Quest series, has saved the day numerous times despite being a simple janitor (and not a very good one at that.)
- The Security Officer from Bungie's Marathon series. He (may have) just happened to be the one Durandal roped into his schemes, and as a result saved the human race from alien slavers and a chaos god.
- In the first group of games in the Dot Hack franchise, the main character Kite only got the power to Data Drain because his friend Orca (who was originally supposed to receive it) fell into a coma as he was about to receive it. Because of that, Aura had to give Kite the power because he was the only one there.
- Isaac Clarke of Dead Space and Dead Space 2, an engineer who survives two necromorph outbreaks and beats insanity. Played straight then subverted by Isaac in the third game. He eventually decides to STAY and fight instead of just walking away from the situation which, at the time, was very easy to do.
- Jason Brody was just some guy on vacation when he was captured by Vaas's pirates.
- Despite the baggage on his family name, all TRON 2.0's Jet Bradley wanted to do was program video games and stay the hell out of corporate intrigue. But when a phone conversation with his father is interrupted by intruders in the laser lab, he runs in to see what's going on and ends up zapped to cyberspace to fight a computer virus and a very hostile corporate takeover.
- Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider 2013 reboot. While it was her theories about Yamatai that led to the crew heading for the island and getting shipwrecked, she certainly didn't expect it to happen. And once she's there, her inner badass starts to wake up (or more accurately, the exterior it's buried under gets forcibly ripped away). She's one of two actual archaeologists in her team, and the only one with actual competence, seeing as her mentor Whitman is just a narcissistic self-promoter and she's ultimately the one left to piece solve a centuries-old mystery and upset the plans of the local psychotic cult.
- Jack from BioShock 1 is a subversion. Jack's airplane crashes, but Jack survives and swims to a lighthouse which happens to contain transport to the underwater city of Rapture. He is quickly given help with survival by Atlas, while Andrew Ryan immediately convinces himself Jack is from some foreign government and sends splicers to kill him. With some help from Atlas, Jack defeats everything that gets in his way, heads to Ryans office to kill the man... and shortly before doing so, Ryan reveals that Jack's entire past is fabricated, he was genetically modified to grow to an adult when he was a baby, and Atlas is controlling him through a hypnotic phrase.
- In Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, a game set in an Alternate History where Winston Churchill died in a car accident before World War II, Carson is a steelworker helping build a skyscraper in New York when the Germans invade. He fights his way out and joins La Résistance.
- In a sense, the Hero in Quest for Glory IV is this. In all the other games of the series, the Hero has gone to the current setting specifically to either make a name for himself (Quest for Glory I) or to investigate the problems there (the rest). The Hero did not intend to make his trip to Mordavia, and instead was shanghaied by the Big Bad and unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the Cave of the Dark One when the teleport spell fizzled out. With absolutely no knowledge of what the hell is going on, he jumps right into doing what he does best: Spanning the Works one minor problem at a time.
- In Dawn Of The Dragons, the player character was a farmhand enjoying a perfectly normal day picking turnips when an army of beastmen attacked.
- In Kingdom Hearts, Sora wasn't supposed to get the Keyblade of World's Hearts. That was supposed to go to Riku, but he had turned to Darkness already, denying him a keyblade from the Relm of Light.
- Schlock Mercenary: This Qlaviql ore freighter captain is in command of the only ship able to respond to an attack on his homeworld by a frigate armed with a powerful plasma lance. With guts and a "dream mess" created from the ore mined from asteroids, the frigate is destroyed. This ultimately results in his being declared the leader of the planet.