ClassyMyths on Feb 11th 2012 at 4:47:11 PM
Last Edited By:
MaartenTroper on Feb 11th 2019 at 8:24:23 AM
Page Type: Trope
A character starts out as just an ordinary person or from a specifically lowly background. They've got nothing particularly special going on in their life, beyond being a bit of an outsider. However, an Inciting Incident soon changes that: Their story starts to develop, they may take a level in Badass, and eventually they become The Hero who has to save the day. A very common trope.
The call has probably come at their door, or they might have gotten themself mixed up in some conspiracy by accident. Some will try to walk away out of fear or not wanting to bear responsibility, while others grab the opportunity to do what's right, become a better person, or accomplish their dreams.
Of course, this person may be a pivotal part of an ancient prophecy saying they are The Chosen One, or discover to have had a special power all along that they can exploit. Others may be given or may take an ability or tool to accomplish their goals, after learning to use it properly. A Mentor or a partner who supports the hero might come into play.
Note that a hero learning An Aesop, a not-relatively weak hero becoming a strong one, or someone who has (or is implied to have) skills starting to use them more intensely is not this trope. At the start of the characters story, they should qualify as a zero by either being relatively normal, not having accomplished any significant heroic feats and/or being a noteable outcast. If they aspire to be a hero but aren't capable of being one at the moment, it still counts.
During their story, they should become a hero by, well, doing heroic things. These could include saving the world, fighting bad guys, or simply standing up for what is right. However, they must haven risen above their initial position in order to do this. So an average guy who starts doing a good thing wouldn't count as this trope if the thing is just as average as he is and does not take him much beyond his average life.
What's important is the context a character lives in. If someone appears somewhat of a Zero, but they are still above others, it doesn't really count. If someone would be kind of a hero (or at least not a zero) by our standards, but everyone else around them is either better than them, shuns them, and/or makes them feel inferior, they technically are a Zero. Because of the many different traits a character can have or different contexts they can live in, what makes one character a Zero or a Hero may not work for another. A trait that would define a Zero or a Hero might be negated by something else.
To keep it short: look at the beginning and end of a character's arc. If they are noticebly a Zero when starting out and a Hero at the end, it's this trope. If you can't give good reasons for one of them, it's not this trope.
A common Story Arc that facilitates this trope is The Hero's Journey. The villainous counterpart of this is From Nobody to Nightmare. Farm Boy, The Chosen Zero and Ordinary High-School Student are subtropes of this. Often overlaps with Humble Hero if the character still remembers their origins. These characters often start as Loser Protagonists.
Compare Took a Level in Badass and Self-Made Man. Also compare Giving the Sword to a Noob, Let's Get Dangerous!, and Messianic Archetype. Contrast Experienced Protagonist and compare/contrast with Rags to Riches, where a character rises from their initial position by making a lot of money. Contrast Born Winner, which may be the Privileged Rival to this character.
No Zero Context Examples, Please! Also, beware potential spoilers!
- Initially being a little, kinda wimpy guy, Koichi Hirose from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable shows that after gaining his Stand he actually has some backbone, and keeps getting more moments of badassery.
- Akko from Little Witch Academia, who dreams of becoming a magnificent witch who spreads happiness, but she lacks the magical prowess. She frequently goofs and looks even more incapable next to her highly skilled rival Diana. However, she goes trough lots of training, and manages to spread happiness with sheer positivity, even learning to master the legendary Shiny Rod which comes in handy when saving the world.
- Nanoha from Lyrical Nanoha starts off as the youngest daughter to a family of bakers growing up on an Insignificant Little Blue Planet. The revelation that she had great potential in magic (along with several years of Training from Hell) eventually resulted in her becoming a celebrated hero throughout the multiverse, with In-Universe movies having been made about her exploits.
- My Hero Academia has Izuku Midoriya, a Quirkless teen who can only dream of becoming a hero in a world full of them. After being recognized by his lifelong idol, All Might, he gains the powerful quirk One For All, giving him a chance at becoming the number one hero. Although he has to keep training his newfound power, he gets plenty of opportunities to fight villains and save others.
- Naruto: The titular character starts out almost completely untalented and overconfident, but once he finds his friends, he realizes what it means to be a hero and fights to protect them.
- One Piece: Luffy once was a loud, ambitious kid from a small village in the East Blue ocean, which is commonly regarded as "unremarkable" compared to the other big seas in the world. He then forms the Straw Hat Pirates with only a small crew (all of whom have their own humble beginnings) and proceed to make a name for themselves as they venture between islands in search for the titular One Piece. Post Time Skip, the crew is considered one of the most infamous, especially as they have tangled with at least 2 major governmental facilities, and Luffy having a very high bounty.
- The hero part is taken to extremes with Saitama in One-Punch Man. Whereas he starts out as a would-be salary man with no real goal in life, he realizes he wants to be a hero and starts training like mad. However, when he finally reaches his goal, being able to lay waste to any villain or monster with a single punch due to his ridiculous strength, he becomes really bored with this. Also, despite his heroism, nobody recognizes his feats and sees him as a very plain hero, even though he is anything but. Though admittedly, he does still look like an average guy and acts like one when he is not fighting.
- Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann starts out as a digger in an underground village, when he gets a hold of a mecha. Continuously getting inspired by big bro and mentor Kamina, this leads to his journey above ground, where he begins to fight Ganmen on his way to Lordgenome. The levels of greatness keep piling up until Simon and his allies are fighting in galaxy-sized mechas.
- Dave Lizewski, aka Kick-Ass, who is just a comicbook-loving nerd donning a homemade suit and goes out to fight crime... only to have his ass handed to him. However, over the course of his endeavours, he slowly becomes more adept at the vigilante hero thing. It also helps that other people look up to him for the stand he takes towards crime, with some even getting inspired to do the same.
- The titular hero from Captain America: The First Avenger enters the movie as a scrawny, weak kid kid from Brooklyn with poor health, but he really wants to be a soldier. Then, a doctor sees something in him and puts him through the Super Soldier program, giving him superhuman fitness. Donning a suit and a shield, he ends up kicking lots of nazi ass and saving even more people.
- Daniel LaRusso from The Karate Kid, being a target of bullies, encounters a gifted teacher in karate, by whom he is taught the martial art, so that he can finally stand up for himself in a fight.
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action sees both Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck attempt to thwart the Card-Carrying Villain from using an Artifact of Doom to turn Earth's population into monkeys. Throughout most of this adventure, Daffy has been The Load and The Chew Toy. However, once Marvin The Martian takes Bugs Bunny out of the fight, it's Daffy in his Duck Dodgers guise who monkey-wrenches the satellite. Back on Earth, Bugs Bunny even mentions that Daffy was the hero, though Daffy presumes this is a case of Pronoun Trouble and disputes it.
- The Matrix: After learning that he lives inside a virtual world and that he is the One to lead humanity to salvation, Neo becomes adept at kung-fu and bending reality (inside the Matrix), turning into the franchises main hero.
- Rey, the daughter of two nobodies that left her behind, lives on a sandplanet collecting scrap metal, when one day she encounters the droid BB 8. From there on, she becomes involved with the Rebellion, fighting against the First Order, who wants to take over the galaxy. She also turns out to have a great affinity for the Force, a mystical power used by the legendary Jedi.
- Also, Finn, who at first didn't even have a name (going by a number instead), before joining the Rebellion and playing import roles, which includes his big involvement in the plan to take down Starkiller Base.
- Harry Potter, a short boy living with an abusive family, recieves a letter from a half-giant, who informs him that he is wizard, enrolling into the magic school Hogwarts. While also being incredibly famous in this wizarding world. From her on out, he runs into several adventures and becomes a talented wizard, in a story leading up to his final confrontation with the dark wizard Voldemort.
- Being from one of the poorest districts, Katniss Everdeen volunteers for The Hunger Games to protect her younger sister, having to fight for her live and getting tangled in a political game.
- The Lord of the Rings: Frodo, a normal hobbit living in the peaceful village of the Shire, gets a ring, obtained by his uncle Bilbo in The Hobbit. After learning it is an Artifact of Doom smithed by Sauron in Mount Mordor, the hobbit, accompanied by the Fellowship, goes on a long and dangerous journey so they can destroy the ring in the fire of Mount Mordor, which they succeed at.
- Jesus Christ, according to The Bible and Christian belief. Born to a teen mother in a stable, raised by a carpenter, and the member of an ethnic group that was subservient to a large empire, Jesus became known as the "King of the Jews" and the Messiah, savior of man. He became a symbol of resistance to the empire (sort of) and inspired the world's second-largest religion, who regard him as the Son of God.
- The Adventure Zone: Balance, The Director, started off as the record-maker of the IPE, writing down everything the other more active members were doing. It was only through the Stolen Century that she became the proactive, decisive leader she would become.
- Bethesda Softworks games, in addition to the Elder Scrolls series above, uses this trope extensively.
- Most Fallout games utilizes this trope, with an average person ascending to savior/scourge/wildcard of their region of the Wasteland. The numbered series protagonists (the Vault Dweller, the Chosen One, and the Lone Wanderer) fit this trope absolutely to a tee. An exception is Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, where you're already a trained Elite Mook before the game begins.
- The trope is Played With in Fallout: New Vegas, where you're a traveling Courier (who are generally known to be Badasses, to survive constant travel in the Wastes). Even the Courier, however, fits the spirit of this trope due to the Reputation mechanic of the game, where you go from being completely unknown and dismissed by every faction and tribe in the Mojave to the main entity that every side seeks to either recruit or destroy at all costs.
- Dragon: Marked for Death: The protagonist starts off reviled and looked down upon by almost everyone due to being a member of the Dragonblood Clan, but over the course of the game wins the respect and admiration of most people.
- Every game in The Elder Scrolls series has the Player Character become one of these in both the main story and faction quests (although since its a sandbox game you can go From Nobody to Nightmare as well), generally Because Destiny Says So (although how much each character's mentioned in the sequels vary).
- Arena: You go from a random (but loyal) Imperial guardsman to the Emperor's saviour.
- Daggerfall: You begin as an acquaintance of the Emperor and go on to decide who gains control of a Lost Superweapon.
- Morrowind: You begin as some random Imperial prisoner the Emporer's sent in. You're the Neverine, the reincarnation of an ancient hero (although it's implied you might have taken on the role by being a hero rather than destined for it).
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: You start off as a common criminal in a cell. Then you meet the Emperor, witness his assassination and go on to become the Champion of Cyrodill.
- Skyrim: You pick a bad time to cross the border into a wartorn Skyrim and come within a hair's breadth of being executed after being mistaken for an enemy. You turn out to be The Dragonborn and must prevent The End of the World as We Know It, as well as decide the outcome of the civil war.
- Guild Wars 2, depending on your character choices. If you play as a Human (Street Rat or Commoner) or Charr, you start of as an ordinary, lower-class citizen or low-ranking solider or , but over the course of the game rise to become commander of the Pact, slayer of the Elder Dragon Zhaitan, and save the world multiple times. If you play as a Norn or Asura your background averts the Zero aspect of the trope, as you start as the winner of the Great Hunt and a recognized genius respectively.
- Mass Effect:
- Admiral Steven Hackett was born to a single mother and orphaned at age 12 when she died in a plague. He enlisted at 18 and after four years of volunteering for high-risk missions, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He spent the next 30 years working his way towards Admiral. In Mass Effect 3, he becomes the de facto leader of humanity during the Reaper War.
- Commander Shepard can have one of three origin stories, each of them perfectly ordinary by the setting's standards. They then go on to lead the entire galaxy to victory over the Reapers, and the epilogue of Mass Effect 3 reveals that "the Shepard" is remembered and respected for thousands of years afterwards.
- Subverted and parodied in Peasant's Quest. The hero, Rather Dashing, is a humble peasant who dwells in a thatched-roof cottage. He swears to save the land by slaying the dragon Trogdor who has been menacing the countryside, and goes on an epic quest. Rather Dashing completely fails at his goal, and gets burninated to death in the final boss battle.
- The Volunteer from XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a mechanical example: every soldier in the game is recruited as a level 1 newbie with no special qualities, but in the final act, one of them will become the Volunteer, i.e. the most powerful human psychic on the planet who sacrifices themselves to thwart the ongoing alien invasion.
- Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell: For much of the story, Darwin Carmichael is a Loser Protagonist who's stuck in a dead-end job in New York City, constantly being tormented by his wacky friends. At the end of the comic, he ends up stopping the apocalypse and saving the world through a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Looking for Group: Pervasive Butt-Monkey and Failure Hero tendencies aside, Cale'Anon starts off as naive and ditzy, but very slowly awakens to his destiny as a hero — ending the war with Legara and re-establishing the lost city of Kethenecia.
- Subverted with the titular character, a humble shepherd boy who is apparently The Chosen One and destined for greatness, but he never realizes his destiny due to being illiterate and thus unable to read the prophesies.
- Also, the Blowjob King starts off as an ordinary low-ranking soldier and adventurer. After being cursed to be the best at blowjobs, he uses his skill to save the kingdom from invaders, ending the war and becoming king. Later on, he also saves the kingdom from a guy whose sexual powers are causing destruction.
- Hercules: The titular character might be a scrawny kid who is an outsider, but being a son of Zeus, he was born with tremendous strength. He starts taking levels in badass in a training montage (set to a song with the same name as this trope) and becomes a renowned fighter of monsters.
- The film Home. The main character, Oh, went from being universally disliked by all of the other Boov, to being elected their leader.
- Kung Fu Panda: The chubby kungfu-fan Po suddenly gets the title of Dragon Warrior bestowed upon him, and the movie shows how he begins to train to be deserving of that title.
- Disney's Oliver & Company starts out with a giveaway kitten in a cardboard box. Evening rain destroys the box, leaving this kitten a street urchin. He happens upon Jenny Foxworth, who adopts him and names him Oliver. When she falls into the clutches of The Villain, Oliver is the first one of Fagin's crew to make an insane leap between speeding vehicles to effect Jenny's rescue.
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