Whoopee. The Chosen One has finally arrived to the stock town and everyone is rejoicing because they're saved from—
... oh, no. The Chosen One's a complete moron. Or a greedy Jerkass. Or a coward. Or he hates his job as chosen one.
The phrase "Is this really the Chosen One?" or "Who chose him?" usually comes up once or twice. Also common: "We're doomed." As a result the inept/jerkish person has to be trained and hardened into a suitable warrior. By the time that's done, the trainer is convinced and, later, so is everyone else.
Often played for comedic effect. Sometimes the chosen one beats the enemy purely because he is an idiot.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
The entire premise of Rune Soldier: In the first episode the priestess Melissa gets a revelation by the god of war concerning her valiant champion, a great and noble hero whom she is to assist in fulfilling his destiny. It turns out to be the last person she could have imagined or wanted. Her Catch Phrase for the rest of the show is "...even though this is totally against my will."
In the end Louie does become a great hero who saves the kingdom and selflessly tries to help all people in need without second thought. But getting there is a path of numerous hard trials. For Melissa, that is. Basically its never Louie's heart that was questioned, it was his brains and basic competency.
In Gorsky and Butch, the characters know they live inside a comic and want to break free. Thus, Jerry is made the chosen one specifically to make the whole story jump the shark and get cancelled.
Sadly, it seems to have worked...
In Preacher, a 2000-year old conspiracy has been concealing the fact that Jesus Christ faked his death and kept his descendants hidden from the world. Unfortunately, due to two millenia of Brother-Sister Incest to "keep the bloodline pure", the final descendant and supposed saviour of the world is so chronically inbred it's a wonder he doesn't have antennae. This is what leads Starr to try and find a more suitable Messiah for their cause - namely Jesse Custer.
This is how Green Lantern Kyle Rayner got started. The last Guardian, Ganthet, found him at random in an alley behind a bar and said "you'll do". Kyle did not possess the normal qualities of a Green Lantern (such as being fearless) and had no training with the Corps. Eventually he figures it out on his own and becomes a worthy successor even playing a key role in bringing back the Guardians and the Corps and joining the Justice League.
The "I happen to be Humanity's last best hope!" "I weep for the species..." scene from Titan A.E. exemplifies this. Not really a straight example in itself, however; Cale is cocky, hot-headed and reckless but he's not completely useless in a fight, and Preed is the resident Deadpan Snarker and kind of a jerk.
Films — Live Action
Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy) in The Golden Child is so erratic that he's considered one of these by the people who recruited him.
Kala:(hidden behind a screen) Do you have any other questions? Jarrell: As a matter of fact I do. What are you doing this weekend, because your silhouette is kicking! [snip] Kala:This is the Chosen One? Doctor Hong:(looks embarrassed) Yes.
In all fairness, Jarrell is really good at his job (finding missing children) and kicks some serious biker ass at one point all by himself. It's just that he finds himself way over his head, what with supernatural shenanigans going on around him.
He's also Genre Savvy enough to agree to having stolen the magical dagger from the Big Bad, who accuses him, knowing that the dagger will be taken into evidence until the trial, meaning the Big Bad, who's on a tight schedule, would be unable to get his hands on it. Naturally, the Big Bad immediately refutes his claim.
Inverted in The Matrix; everyone is absolutely confident and sure that Neo is The One, except him, who considers himself incompetent.
In the 2010 Alice in Wonderland, the denizens of Underland aren't sure that Alice is the prophesied champion, and the Dormouse is especially prone to proclaiming, "She's the wrong Alice!"
The tagline of Shaft was something like: "The mob wanted Harlem back. They got Shaft".
The character of Ash in Army of Darkness is welcomed as "The Promised One" who must quest for the Necronomicon and save the townsfolk. Unfortunately, he proves to be pretty inept and cowardly (saying the wrong magic words, summoning the Army of the Dead) and loses the faith of the people. Of course, he earns that faith back in the final showdown with the Deadites.
In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, this is the Jedi Council's reaction to Anakin Skywalker, since recklessness and a bleeding heart isn't conducive to being a Jedi.
But considering that no one in Oz really understands technology and mistakes his magic tricks for real magic, this may be exactly what is needed to defeat the Big Bad.
The quote at the top of the page comes from Beverly Hills Ninja, where Chris Farley's character Haru was prophecied to be the Great White Ninja when the Sensei found him washed up on the shore as a baby. Of course, he turns out to be the most incompetent of the lot but still has high hopes. When he goes to Bevely Hills to help out a woman whose boyfriend is a killer, Sensei sends his top student Gobei (Robin Shou of Mortal Kombat fame) to watch over Haru. However, at the end, when the Big Bad and his Mooks prove even too much for Gobei, Haru proves himself to be the ninja of legend and unlocks his potential. He somehow manages to hide his wide girth behind a thin beam and then casually blocks bullets from a submachinegun with swords.
Haru: I may not be one with the Universe, but NO ONE MESSES WITH MY BROTHER!
In The Hobbit, the dwarves react to Bilbo this way. Ironically he doesn't even know he's been hired as an adventurer. Gandalf has to justify Bilbo's arrival by pointing out without him, the dwarves are an unlucky number.
In Feet of Clay, Nobby Nobbs is falsely revealed to be the Earl of Ankh and the successor to the throne of Ankh-Morpork. The rich and powerful citizens who want to dispose of Lord Vetinari see Nobby's claim to the throne as a stroke of luck (he is a useful idiot and will make a good puppet ruler). However one anonymous plotter couldn't accept Nobby Nobbs as king because "the man is a tit."
And of course, when Nobby realises that they want to make him king, he wants nothing to do with it, because his boss Vimes "would go spare!"
The Wheel of Time Rand Al'Thor frequently doubts himself, especially early in the series, while at the same time the people trying to manipulate or "guide" him have doubts about him for these reasons. He's a shepherd from a backwater area, lives by Honor Before Reason sometimes, etc. It reads like Genre Blindness, as those traits are all very common in heroic fantasy and Messianic Archetypes even if they are objectively bad for a leadership figure.
In Tom Holt's Expecting Someone Taller (a very loose comic sequel to Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung), Malcolm Fisher is about as far as it's possible to be from what anyone expected the One Chosen by the Fates to bear the Ring and rule the world to be like. He's not strong, brave, handsome, skilled, or even particularly intelligent, and he has absolutely no desire to be in this position. About the only thing he has going for him is that he's a nice guy. The first ring-bearer with that quality, in fact.
Live Action TV
This was Giles reaction to Buffy at the end of the first episode: "The Earth is doomed."
Repeated as part of a Call Back in the final episode of the series: "The Earth is definitely doomed." Subverted since, in this case, he's clearly expressing good-natured frustration, rather than actual skepticism.
In Merlin, Merlin's immediate reaction to being told that Arthur is the destined King who will save the land is "There must be another Arthur, because this one's an idiot!"
One Kaamelott episode has the kingdom run into a problem that only Merlin can solve. So when Arthur says "Wait a minute, are you telling me our last hope is Merlin?". Cue concerned looks between all characters and Bohort saying : "We're all gonna die!"
It is also clearly hinted that Perceval has a great destiny ahead and may be the one to finally find the Graal. Arthur is very disturbed by this.
It's inverted and played with in Stargate SG-1. In the season four premiere episode, "Small Victories", the Asgard ask SG-1 for help defeating the Replicators, because despite all of their intelligence they have yet to figure a way to fight them.
Thor: I have come here to seek your help. O'Neill: How can we help you? Thor: Your projectile weapons proved effective in fatally damaging the Replicators. O'Neill: Er... some... Thor: Your technology and strategy for destroying the Beliskner was successful. O'Neill: Yea, but.. you guys... Thor: The Asgard have tried to stop them. You have demonstrated their weakness may be found through a less... sophisticated approach. We are no longer capable of such thinking. Dr. Jackson: Wait a minute, you're actually saying that you need someone... dumber than you are? O'Neill: You may have come to the right place.
In Xena: Warrior Princess, the Amazons have this reaction when they try to use magic to summon a savior... and get a wimpy valley girl from modern times. The girl does end up helping them rise to greatness in the end.
Her greatest accomplishment with the Amazons may have been teaching them to ride horses rather than eat them.
She also taught them not to attack men on sight, just the perverts and chauvinists. This tolerance allowed the Amazons to trade for supplies.
In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, Cam initially has doubts that the three chosen to become Rangers...well, can become Rangers. To be fair, those three were considered the three worst students, not to mention that the only reason they were chosen was that all the other candidates got kidnapped. Same goes to the original counterpart, Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger, not so much with the Gouraigers and Shurikenger, who are powerful and prodigal students.
Myths & Religion
In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, this is arguably Judas's implied reaction to Jesus justifying the use of costly ointment to annoint him instead of selling it and giving it to the poor, because "You'll always have the poor with you, but you won't always have me." (Although it's worth noting that Judas had charge of the money bag, and was known to have light fingers.) Immediately following this incident, Judas betrays Jesus to the authorities.
The Bible tends to emphasize the flaws and weaknesses of each chosen individual and even entire nations while somewhat glossing over their strengths in order to remind readers that God is in charge. The inverse is confined to books and passages that are partly propaganda (e.g. the Chronicles).
Parsifal, in his eponymous Richard Wagner opera, is specifically referred to as both "chosen" and "fool": Durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Thor[sic!]— Harre sein, den ich erkor'.
Roger Wilco of the Space Quest series is a janitor whose various misadventures just happen to save the universe more than once.
There are examples in Fallout 1 and 2, when you have a character with low intelligence. Pay a visit to your Vault or your native village and the locals will all express various levels of horror that your drooling moron of a character is the only thing standing between them and total destruction.
In Tales of Symphonia, there are two significant Chosen: the clumsy pollyanna Colette and the seemingly dopey Handsome Lech Zelos. In this case, the real question everyone should be asking is "who chose them?"
Though it's justified when you discover how and for what they are chosen... mostly.
In the beginning of Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, you are met by a priest who explains to you that you are the reincarnation of a powerful elven demigod. If you happen to be, say, a dumb ogre, he will make an awkward "the gods move in mysterious ways" excuse while trying (and failing) not to be offensive.
Somewhat in The Wind Waker, where Link really isn't any kind of destined hero and only got involved in the plot because a giant bird kidnapped his sister. The stuff involving destiny and heroism come in later, and even then, Link has to earn this title.
It is uncertain if The Wind Waker's Link actually is part of the Chosen One/Reincarnation - Circle (There being hints in both directions really doesn't help), but if he is, he certainly really plays this trope straight. He may be unusually skilled in battle for a child his age, but he also has phenomenally bad luck, a tendency to dive into danger headfirst and is taking a lot more abuse and ridiculing than any of his other incarnations, including from the titular princess. Ouch.
Kingdom Hearts does this several times to Sora. "Man, the Keyblade picked a dud this time." But go ahead, underestimate him, we'll see how long you live.
If you piss off Leliana enough to get her to leave in Dragon Age: Origins, she will state quite bluntly that she weeps for Ferelden, if all it has standing between it and the blight is your character. This is more for outright evil actions than for stupidity; the action most likely to get her to storm off is also one of the blatantly Evil (TM) moves in the game.
Party member Alistair gets built up as Ferelden's only political hope as the future king, despite showing absolutely no inclination or aptitude to rule a country. (The Player has the possibility to help him fit his role a bit better, however)
In a similar vein, your commander in Star Control 2 will chew you out if you sell your crew into slavery to the Druuge. He only refrains from having you court martialed because, like it or not, you are the only chance humanity has against the Ur-Quan.
Dark Souls zigzags with this, though it is understandable why. There is an ancient legend that one can learn the truth and purpose of the undead by ringing the Twin Bells of Awakening in Lordran. You get this quest by talking to a dying knight who was trying to achieve just that. Given how many undead run through Lordran hoping to become the chosen dead, it's no wonder why a lot of NPCs treat you like you're no big deal.
Alex from Captain SNES: The Game Masta is a foul-mouthed misanthrope who himself admits that he isn't a real hero. This comes back to haunt him later, when he gets imprisoned by someone thinking that they could do a better job of it.
Played with in 8-Bit Theater. The main characters aren't the real chosen ones, but they do (sort of) save the world (albeit by being directly responsible for nearly destroying it), and the real chosen ones don't do anything important to the plot.
By book two, the major players who know about him are terrified of his skill. Once he does understand something, he generally comes up with a Game Breaker that changes the Meta Game of the setting's politics.
In Noob, the trope is justified as Tenshirock is discretely giving overpowered items to noobs on purpose and the recipients are usually stupid enough to think they just got lucky on their loot or not even pay attention. Season 2 follows mostly the story around the staff Tenshirock gave to Sparadrap, but The Stinger of the episode introducing Couette (who started out as Sparadrap's Distaff Counterpart) shows she got an overpowered item also.
In the flash series Larry, Larry became the chosen one because the Evil Chancellor wanted a pathetic weakling who wouldn't interfere with his evil scheme. Seeing that Larry was about four feet tall, he guided the king to choose him as the hero of the kingdom.
Fry in Futurama, who turns out to be the only one able to defeat the Brain Spawn because of his "special" mind.
In Jackie Chan Adventures, a group of Warrior Monks discover that Tohru is the reincarnation that they have been waiting for, and have this reaction when he fails to meet any of their expectations. By the end of the episode, it turns out that Tohru isn't actually the reincarnation at all. Jade is. Given how Jade is, she'd probably elicit that reaction too.
The Simpsons: When Homer becomes a member of the secret society The Stonecutters, he is found to have a special birthmark that signifies he is The Chosen One. He actually proves to be a great leader — but NOT the kind they were looking for. At least one or two characters have their doubts that he's really the one prophesied by the Sacred Parchment.
Its worth pointing out he actually was exactly the leader the Stonecutters wanted: one that abused his power for his own pleasure and let them do the same. Then he started listening to Lisa, and had them do acts of charity which they found unacceptable, making this an Inversion.
The Venture Bros.: Dean Venture's bizarre mental breakdown during the season 2 finale has him imagine himself as the chosen one of a fantasy world. The ruler of the fantasy land is not impressed and assumes that it's some kind of a joke.
Coop from Megas XLR fits well. He may be a strong fighter, but he admits he's just a guy from New Jersey. Plus, every time he fights in Jersey, the city ends up in ruins.
Osel Hita Torres was designated as the Lama Thubten Yeshe by the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition school of Tibetan Buddhism, but in his teens decided to quit all that and go to film school instead.
According to Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, lamas reincarnate, so children can be identified as the Chosen Ones early in life. (For instance, the current Dalai Lama was tested as a child by picking his previous incarnation's belongings from a pile of common objects.)