This character has the I Just Want to Be Special
attitude, but the kind of "special" he wants to be is a gunfighter. What distinguishes the Wannabe from the Young Gun
is that the latter usually just needs some training/experience/maturity to get up to speed, whereas the Wannabe lacks the talent or temperament to succeed as The Gunslinger
He may have plinked cans in the backyard, and practiced his fancy draw in the mirror, but the Wannabe doesn't have the speed and accuracy he thinks he does. And he's going to challenge a real gunfighter just as soon as he gets up the nerve. This will not end well.
The Gunfighter Wannabe's storyline usually ends in one of three ways, with a couple of rarer variants:
- The protagonist manages to set up a situation that shows the Wannabe that he's not ready for the gunfighter lifestyle, and the Wannabe gives up the idea...at least for now. This is suited for lighter-hearted stories, or ones on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale.
- The Wannabe challenges a gunfighter and winds up dead or severely injured. Most Gunslinger stories are littered with these unfortunates in the backstory.
- By some fluke or a cheat, the Wannabe actually outshoots a gunfighter...and only then realizes that now, every Wannabe in the territory packing heat and looking to make a name for himself will be gunning for him. Welcome to hell, kid...
A common variant of this is the Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond
: sometimes the Wannabe is
the fastest gun around, among the rather small group of people that he knows, and thinks he's really hot stuff, until a real
gunfighter comes along.
In a rarer scenario, The Gunfighter Wannabe
challenges someone who he thinks is The Gunslinger
but isn't. So the Wannabe ends up killing some Cowboy
or City Slicker
, and is promptly branded an Outlaw
— but discovers he lacks the cojones for banditry — usually ends with the other bandits killing or abandoning him. Occasionally this results in a Heel-Face Turn
, but since Redemption Equals Death
, it usually doesn't end well.
Other variations include the Wannabe being a hanger-on in an Outlaw band, only to learn that this isn't what he wants — usually when his supposed True Companions
abandon him (with a broken leg or something), and then the hero rescues him.
For similar characters outside the Western
genre, consult the general Heroic Wannabe
page. Note that this character usually does not wanna bee
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Anime and Manga
- Played with in Fist of the North Star, where a mook who thinks himself a master of the Hokuto Shinken tries to use his "Instant Kill" technique on Kenshiro, the principal Badass and real master of the style in the series, and dies hilariously.
- The Ultimate Nullifier in Vengeance, a rookie hero dressed in an all-white version of Captain America's costume (sans mask because he's just too damn pretty) and wielding two Power Nullifier pistols that he spins frequently. In his mind, he is the modern heroic ideal.
- Parodied in one Far Side cartoon, where the defeated reads out outcome #3 nearly word-for-word. Except that this was a Ping Pong match.
- Ron Howard's character in The Shootist is type 1.
- Dealing with Wannabes is a major theme of The Gunfighter. It starts with scenario 2, then has scenario 1, and finishes with number 3.
- Unforgiven has a hanger-on called the Schofield Kid. In a dark version of variant 1 he realizes he doesn't really have it in him to be a killer only after he murders an unarmed man on the toilet.
- The original script says he drowned himself out of guilt.
- Jim AKA The Waco Kid, (a Retired Badass from Blazing Saddles) recalls encountering a lot of these types back when he was the Fastest Gun in the West and how "it got so that every piss-ass prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out The Waco Kid", including the one that sent him into his Heroic BSOD: a six year old kid with a revolver. (Who promptly shot Jim in the ass when he threw down his guns and walked away).
- Marston in Quigley Down Under is a Big Fish in a Small Pond. He thinks he's a fast gun, on his cattle station in the Australian Outback, but at the time the movie starts he has never met an actual gunslinger.
- Sackett by Louis L'Amour has one of the hanger-on type of gunfighter wannabe.
- The short story "The Conqueror" by Richard Matheson plays with this. It starts as Type 3, only the kid is just plain ambushed by the friends of the men he killed and shot to pieces. And then we find out that he may just have been a Psychopathic Manchild who was planning to kill his way across the plains as the baddest gunfighter ever.
Live Action TV
- Played with on Justified. US Marshal Raylan Givens wears a cowboy hat and has a well deserved reputation as a gunslinger. A small time thug becomes fascinated with Raylan and starts imagining himself facing off against the marshal in duel. He practices his Quick Draw and even ropes in his partner into doing mock duels with him. The partner gets tired of this and decides that he would rather not split the money from their kidnapping scheme. As the wannabe is getting ready to face Raylan, the partner shoots him dead. The partner than gets involved in a gunfight with Raylan who kills him.
- Raylan meets several more through the course of the show, but they all end up being Type 2.
- An iconic example in Western television—the genre and the hemisphere—comes from The Twilight Zone. In the episode "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," the washed-up drunkard Mr. Denton is challenged by a young gunslinger eager to make a name for himself. Thanks to a peddler of remedies and cures of all sorts, the showdown doesn't play out quite as expected.
- You fight a number 1 in Red Dead Redemption as part of a sidequest. It serves as a Take That against 50s-style movie cowboys.
- Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 3 is a rare example of a Wannabe who grows up into a formidable fighter.
- Hardly. Ocelot is a 20-year-old MAJOR in charge of his own unit who can easily kill people with ricochet shots. He was far above a Wannabe, it's just that Snake was that much farther above him.
- In Mass Effect 2, the player runs across a young hotshot wanting to sign up with the mercenaries assaulting Archangel. The player can choose to intervene and demonstrate that the kid is way out of his league, in which case you later receive an e-mail from him thanking you for saving his life. If the player ignores him, he winds up dead.
- In Arcanum, the training master for the guns skill deliberately mutilated his hand after he killed a Gunfighter Wannabe in a completely one-sided gunfight.