With Great Power Comes Great Perks
In fiction it's very common that a character's life drastically changes after they get superpowers. The first thing most people do (after dealing with the person bullying them throughout act 1), is strap on their shiniest cape
or nicest dog-kicking boots
and become the local hero or villain. That's not the life for this character.
When this character gets superpowers, the first thing they do is... not much. They use their powers to marginally improve their lives, and simply do what they feel like. They don't care about the typical Good vs. Evil
struggle (unless their mother gets kidnapped by the Evil League of Evil, or is staked by the local Knight Templar)
. Their behavior is probably how most ordinary people would act if they got superpowers. They aren't particularly mean, nor especially kind. They are just ordinary people given extraordinary powers. Often this is how characters in shows on the center of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
act before the plot shows up.
If there are other characters that have chosen to become heroes or villains, they (more often than not) will tell this character that they are either selfish or wasting their potential
While plot-wise most characters are given superpowers for the purpose of beating up other guys with superpowers, this kind of character can be used in Slice of Life
situations and make a plot interesting without an antagonist that must be beaten.
Differs from Mundane Utility
in that Mundane Utility
is where a superpower can be/is used to make a character's every day life easier, whereas with this trope that's all
their powers are used for.
Opposite trope of Comes Great Responsibility
. Related to Cut Lex Luthor a Check
and Chaotic Neutral
(they tend to do whatever they want).
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Anime and Manga
- Dragon Ball Z. Present Android 18 uses her powers only for personal gain and fun. She more often than not only cares about monetary gain, and hardly ever gets involved in the Good vs. Evil struggle. Future Android 18 is very much evil, taking this trope to a sociopathic extreme. After all, if you can blow up a city with a wave of your hand, you don't need to pay at the clothing store.
- While only in the anime, Yamcha also uses his super human combat training to earn boatloads of cash playing professional baseball, between each crisis. Given his lackluster combat performance aside from early in Dragon Ball, it's pretty much the only effective use of his training he displays.
- Still pretty stupid though, considering how much more money Mr. Satan makes as the reigning World Martial Arts Champion. Even Yamcha could take him in a fight if he wanted. Ostensibly none of the protagonists do this because they don't want to deal with living in the public eye, but if you are going to be a famous athlete anyways...
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this is Kyoko's attitude after becoming a Magical Girl. Though initially an idealist like Madoka and Sayaka, after ruining her life, she decided to only use her powers for her own benefit.
- Nao from Mai-HiME uses her powers as part of her schemes to trap and rob perverts.
- When Makoto in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time discovers that she has the ability to, well, leap backward in time, she uses it almost entirely for things like singing karaoke for ten straight hours and having a dinner she likes instead of one she doesn't. On the other hand, the more significant the change she makes to the timeline, the more it tends to backfire on her dramatically. Both of the two other characters in the film who have experience with time travel separately say that it's a good thing that she used the ability almost exclusively for small things.
- Peter Parker, at first. It was only after a thief he could have stopped killed his uncle that he named the opposite trope and became Spider-Man.
- Something akin to this was invoked, however, in a short story about Spider-Man as if Stan Lee had never existed. The moral becomes "With great power comes hot chicks and money from wrestling".
- This is actually a point in the storyline "Alpha": a listless, ordinary teenager is granted superpowers by accident and, instead of being an actual hero, he becomes something of a media darling and a real Jerk Ass to boot.
- In a What If? storyline, Spider-Man becomes a celebrity and superstar when he decides that catching the robber (who would otherwise kill uncle Ben) is a good PR move, and ends up as a successful manager for supercelebrities wanting to jump the same bandwagon. Although this initially ends up benefitting several superpeople (the X-Men are no longer feared or hated), they suffer when serious threats show up, since the "heroes" don't have the training to stand up to them. Spider-Man in this timeline does ultimately become a hero after Daredevil sacrifices his own life to save him.
- The entirety of ClanDestine. The family lives a very wealthy, comfortable lifestyle and stays relatively quiet about their abilities. It's only when the youngest twins decide they want to become heroes that the family is exposed.
- There's a Flash story where a man asks him if he ever realized something like 90% of superpowered individuals became villains instead of heroes, then corrects him that it isn't the case. Most are like this, simply living their lives out of the spotlight. Flash realizes that this actually makes a lot of sense.
- The Beatles practically define this trope in With Strings Attached. After they get empowered, all they want to do is play with their magic, and they could have happily spent the rest of the book doing so (with a side trip to rescue Lyndess), except that the C'hovite gods decided to put them to use.
- Bruce Almighty: This pretty much sums up Bruce's first week as God, which involves getting himself his dream job, turning his car into a Ferrari, and giving his girlfriend a series of uncontrollable spontaneous orgasms. "Great Perks" indeed.
- In Jumper, the main character spends the time between finding out he has powers and the plot jumping around, seeing the world, and occasionally leaving IOUs in emptied bank vaults (but with the serious intention of one day paying them back).
- In What Women Want, the main character got the power to read minds thanks to getting electrocuted while drunkenly crossdressing. He uses these powers to improve himself on dates (and give at least one lady some mind-blowing sex), to bond with his daughter, and manipulate women.
- He also uses it to be better at his job, by stealing ideas from his boss and female coworkers.
- In Mystery Men, it's heavily implied that Captain Amazing became a millionaire after becoming a hero thanks to, basically, being a walking advertising board (imagine a NASCAR racer fighting crime). His problems at the beginning of the movie stem from waning interest in his heroic persona, meaning the companies are about to cut funding, ending his rich lifestyle.
- It was also mentioned he was a successful lawyer, so if anything may have merely wanted the attention.
- Chronicle features this in spades; after three high-school guys are given telekinetic powers by a mysterious artifact hidden at the bottom of a crater, they mainly use their newfound abilities to waste time in increasingly spectacular ways, from playing pranks on customers at a department store, to playing football several thousand feet off the ground. Unfortunately, a very nasty combination of Abusive Parents and bullying at school eventually turns one of them into a super villain.
- Hancock was this from the start and for most of the movie until Ray finally convinced him to use his powers for good as a superhero.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Quicksilver uses his super-speed for shits, giggles, and petty larceny.
- The Faust legend, and how it's depicted in Doctor Faustus is all about this, and would qualify as a darker take on this. After making his Deal with the Devil, Faust behaves in a quite similar manner to Bruce Almighty and uses his power to pull pranks and satisfy his whims of the moment. While this kind of thing makes the audience laugh, it amounts to him wasting the true potential of the deal and he ends up eternally damned without a lot to show for it.
- And also there are his apprentices, who use his magic books for even wackier shenanigans.
- In Wearing the Cape even the superheroes are working for big paychecks, and the more successful ones are idolized, with their own merchandise lines, fan-clubs, even TV shows fictionalizing their adventures. This doesn't mean they're all in it for the perks—just that a superhero career can be financially remunerative. The trope name is also used as an epigram for a chapter, along with the original.
- In The Scent Of Magic by Cliff McNish, when one girl gets magic all she does is read a book by the light of her spells shining from her eyes.
- In Murderess, Lu enjoys the newfound powers she gains after crossing into Greywall’d.
Live Action TV
- At the start of No Ordinary Family only the father wants to be a superhero. The mother uses her Super Speed to get her chores done and is more interested in the scientific implications. The son uses his super learning to get good grades in school and the daughter uses her telepathy to find out if a guy is a jerk.
- Merlin in Merlin uses his magic to do his chores in several episodes. He also uses it to humiliate Arthur in a marketplace duel in the pilot, only losing because he spotted his disapproving mentor in the crowd.
- When Anya becomes a vengeance demon (again) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer she makes extensive use of her teleporting powers for everyday use. It does come back to bite her in the ass when she is punished by having her powers restricted to vengeance-only purposes and she finds that she is really out of shape.
- Using magic for personal gain or other petty reasons was usually looked down upon or outright forbidden on Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch
- This is the essential concept of Misfits. Of course, a lot of characters have powers that aren't especially useful in making their lives better, but the ones that do only really use them for this.
- In Aberrant, this is essentially what every nova does with their newfound powers. Granted, there are a few who use their powers in the classical superhero way, but even then they only do it for the fame or the money. Justified, as Aberrant is more or less a deconstruction of the superhero genre.
- Likewise, in the Paragons setting for Mutants & Masterminds, you'll get just as many heroes who use their powers for personal fun times as do for altruistic aims. One sample NPC is Gourmand, who has the ability to teleport anywhere on Earth... and uses it to visit her favorite out-of-the-way restaurants across the globe (the fact that she has Immunities to gastric distress and weight gain help).
- Cecilia Rogers of the Whateley Universe can control fabric. She could become another Yomiko Readman or Magneto with her amazing powers. She chooses to be a really good tailor.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
- Zig-zagged with Hank Pym who is able to control ants, become a giant and shrink down to ant-size... and uses them For Science! until his girlfriend (see the Wasp, below) convinces him to become more proactive.
- Subverted by Wasp. She starts out following this pattern, then got bored and decided to convince Hank Pym that they should become superheroes.
- In The Simpsons, there is a Treehouse of Horror episode where both Lisa and Bart get superpowers. After getting his powers Bart declared "I must only use these powers to annoy!". He annoys bad guys.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, as shown in the page image. Admittedly, it must be hard to sew when you don't have hands. It overlaps with Mundane Utility as ponies with cutie marks fully utilize their special talents or powers in their everyday tasks and telekinesis seems to be the one universal capability possessed by all Equestrian unicorns.
- The show is also consistent in depicting unicorn telekinesis as being fairly "weak", good only for small- or medium-sized objects at close range, and nowhere close to Dark Phoenix power levels. Unless, of course, you're Twilight Sparkle. Rarity (pictured) has been seen to shift around a few hundred pounds in various objects simultaneously, but that was in a musical number and may not count.