With a laugh and a smile and a song?
And is it a crime to end each day
With a laugh and a smile and a song?
Is it wrong?"
A blithe spirit is a free-spirited Fish out of Water who goes to a strait-laced land and shakes things up there despite the insistence of everyone else that the way things are can't possibly be changed.
Common variants of this character include:
- An American abroad, usually in The Theme Park Version of Europe.
- A Magical Nanny in a strict household.
- A Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
- A Cool Teacher at a school run by crusty, old-fashioned types.
- Alternatively, a savvy new kid at a High School ruled by an Alpha Bitch and/or a Jerk Jock.
- A Fish out of Temporal Water can become this.
- The Pollyanna, an eternally optimistic innocent who brings joy and hope to a land full of grim despair.
- Mighty Whitey. Or, alternatively, a "Person of Color and Valor" who comes to a privileged setting and shows all the white folks how to "get down."
Not to be confused with the Noel Coward play or the classic film of the same name (both of whose titles derive from Shelley's 'Hail to thee, blithe spirit'). Interestingly, there's a famous quote by Matthew Arnold about Shelley's hopeless attempts to be a blithe spirit to the world himself: A "beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain."
The Complainer Is Always Wrong is an inverse of this trope. Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a subtrope that serves as a shaker-upper of one particular person. Contrast Fisher Kingdom, which tends to eat these people and turn them into cogs (not usually literally).
- Tweeny Witches: Arusu acts one of these in the magical world. She refuses to rob the sprites of their freedom, uses Goroawase Number to cast magic, and gives those with little magical power a second chance.
- The landlady Taeko's mother, Kimi, in Otaku no Musume-san. This is a point of contention between mother and daughter as Kimi left Tae to be raised by others throughout her life.
- Rosette from Chrono Crusade has a tendency to rush into people's lives and change them for the better. This is lampshaded at the end of the manga when Azmaria, looking back at things from when she was a kid, says "It was a time that Rosette ran her way through all too quickly. But the course her life took wasn't all sad. Rosette was always filled with a powerful light. That light was so strong...it lit up an era blackened by the darkness of night.
- In Simoun, Aer/Ael/That blond girl with the Odango Hair and the music box is this, to an insane degree. Coupled with her endless enthusiasm and her total lack of tact, she causes no end of frustration (or, in some cases, bringing up terrible memories) to the more straight-laced Sybilla, particularly Paraietta and Neviril/Neville/that pink-haired girl who doesn't smile.
- Sometimes averted and sometimes played straight in Irresponsible Captain Tylor: Tylor is made skipper of a starship, despite no training, no military or space experience, and a penchant for nonsensical and irresponsible schemes. On the other hand, he is given command of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, half of whom are on the verge of mutiny anyway. Still, near the series' conclusion, one of Tylor's Obstructive Bureaucrat antagonists admits Tylor's adherence to this trope is the likely factor of his success.
- This is the very reason not-so-evil Oni-baba of Hinamizawa agreed to sell land to Keiichi's family; she figured that the time for prejudice against the Houjou family had passed, and thought that new blood would shake things up enough to help that process along. Rika also comments that the few worlds where Keiichi never moved to Hinamizawa were the saddest of all. Keiichi acts this way most prominently in the first half of Minagoroshi-hen.
- Shiro in K, and also Neko, particularly in season 2. Not that Scepter 4 and HOMRA were all that strait-laced before he came along, but they did see themselves as perpetual enemies until Shiro's clan leads them into an alliance in season 2.
- In ReLIFE, due to Kaizaki's high emotional intelligence, he usually sets off character development for the other characters by giving them advice.
- Harshly deconstructed in FLCL Alternative: Kana is unerringly positive and acts out of an earnest desire to fix her friends' problems, but her immature worldview and total lack of subtlety usually means she has a rough time of it. Pets finally gets fed up with her meddling in episode 5, screaming that Kana's desire to "help" is really about her own ego and breaking off her friendship with Kana, seemingly for good.
- Red Sonja is a hero(-ish) Walking the Earth. She's usually motivated by securing her next meal or protecting the nearest innocent, and her quests rarely last longer than a month. As a female warrior she's often in conflict with either patriarchs that expect their women to fulfill domestic duties or elites that oppress the weak and poor. She inspires underdogs to stand up to their oppressors wherever she goes.
- Most of the main characters of Chrysalis Visits The Hague are this, in one way or another.
- Defense attorney Estermann is a borderline dogmatist who struggles with the moral and social stigma of defending a brutal tyrant.
- His assistant Lyra struggles with the predisposed xenphobic leanings of Equestrian society.
- Forensic investigator Edith Saric jumps the hurdles and taboos of her UN job with almost carefree disregard.
- Her UN superior Pierre Abel reacts to both UN and Equestrian high-handedness with protest and open (if largely futile) defiance.
- Even ICC prosecutor Pierman has to struggle against her own court's stringent rules of evidence in order to get to Chrysalis.
- Arguably even Queen Chrysalis herself, since she sees herself as a freedom fighter rather than the establishment.
- This is the whole plot of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. Twilight Sparkle (an Equestrian pony) chases Sunset Shimmer into the human world to recover the crown she has stolen, but to do that she will have to enroll in a high school and get crowned Princess of the school ball - a position which has been held by Sunset Shimmer for years. This despite not knowing virtually anything about the human world. And she succeeds, but Sunset Shimmer just steals it again.
- Robin Williams usually plays blithe spirit characters. Dead Poets Society (1989), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Patch Adams (1998), and even Robots (2005), Happy Feet (2007) and Night at the Museum (2007) have heavy doses of this. Apparently, just having Robin Williams appear in your movie at all causes Blithe Spirit. Doesn't even have to be Robin's character.
- In Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988), the title character travels to the fictional town of Fallwell, Massachusetts to collect an inheritance. The town is more or less stuck in the 1950s, with a passel of Moral Guardians led by one Chastity Pariah keeping it that way — the sole movie theater only shows G-rated films and the hub of social life is a bowling alley known as the Tidy Bowl — and Elvira's Perky Goth, Ms. Fanservice personality is a lively, positive shock to the system (especially for the men!) even before she programs a late-night screening of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! and uses actual witchcraft to take revenge on the goody-goodies at a potluck.
- Jungle 2 Jungle (1997) features a young boy who was raised in the Amazonian jungle and comes to New York to shake up his stockbroker father's stodgy yuppie lifestyle. (The film is a Foreign Remake of Little Indian, Big City, a French film that used Paris rather than N.Y.C.)
- Pete's Dragon (1977) has Pete and his Dragon, Elliot, acting as Blithe spirits for the town they visit; but Elliot also acts as one for Pete.
- Subverted with Holly Martins in The Third Man. He's a brash American who comes to Vienna and thinks he's going to prove everyone wrong about his dead friend Harry Lime, only to end up in over his head and screwing everything up.
- MacMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest challenges Nurse Ratched's unfair rule over the hospital and its sheepish patients, teaching them how to take back their individuality and bend or break the often arbitrary rules they live under. Other than the Chief, it's debatable how much good this does them in the end, though.
- Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, who shakes up Harvard Law school by proving she can be bright and intelligent despite being a stereotypically fashion-obsessed blonde.
- Played with in the film Doubt. Father Flynn is a Catholic priest who brings a fun modern way of teaching to a Roman Catholic school. And while most people are happy with the his new approach, he clashes with Sister Aloysius who values the old fashion ways and still has a lot of power and influence in the school. She eventually accuses him of molesting a vulnerable boy which forces him to resign. However, the question remains: Was he guilty? Or did Sister Aloysius use her position in the school to force someone out she didn't like?
- School of Rock: Jack Black introduces an upscale private school class to A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll".
- Wonder Woman (2017): Wonder Woman comes to Man's World to put an end to World War I, obstructive bureaucrats be damned.
- The World Unseen: Amina is a free spirited young woman who dresses in masculine clothing, runs a business and violates the apartheid laws (while also secretly being a lesbian). She stands out completely in the insular, conservative South African Indian community, and shakes up Miriam's life drastically.
- Cold Comfort Farm: Flora is a sort of inversion. She comes to the wild countryside to impose order and modern ideals, and do away with 'mess,' but she's still a fish out of water who solves everyone's problems, and her attitude about the more gothic elements of the setting is extremely blithe.
- John the Savage of Brave New World is this entirely. He protests against the loss of art, truth, and passion, despite the fact that for everyone else, it works.
- Daisy in Henry James' story Daisy Miller is also just like this, the quirky American girl trying to shake things up in Europe. Except the European aristocrats don't lighten up, and things end tragically, to say the least, for Daisy.
- Pippa in the poem Pippa Passes by Robert Browning - a young girl in Asolo, Italy who strolls through the town (on her single annual day off from the factory) singing a song which influences the lives of all who hear her for the better.
- The main character of Pippi Longstocking stirs up just about any situation, and is quite popular in the town for it, with some exceptions who prefer that people behave in a more orderly fashion.
- The titular character of Pollyanna is a bright, always-happy child moving to a town where everyone is dismal and sour, who tries to use her "Glad Game" to bring some light into their lives.
- A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones - the women who survive the trip to Arth start trying to deliberately upset 'the balance'. Except a few of them are quite mean-spirited about it - the people of Arth have been essentially robbing earth for centuries.
- Anne of Anne of Green Gables, Which makes her married name all the more fitting.
- Abby, the latecomer who replaces Dawn from The Baby-Sitters Club, is noticeably sassier and more irreverent than the other girls, particularly where (post-Flanderization) Kristy's rules and bossiness are concerned.
- While Jenny from The Truth of Rock And Roll has lived in the same town her whole life, she may still count as Johnny never really got to know her before the beginning of the story. She certainly has this effect on his life.
- Subverted in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which initially makes the title character seem like the typical kooky free spirit who teaches the kids to break out of their shells to find happiness, but soon reveals that she refuses to accept any idea about what that happiness should consist of other than her own. Eventually many of the children meet tragic fates due to her meddling in their lives. She's also a fascist, though fascism was considered "cool" and "cutting-edge" by quite a few intellectuals in the 1930s, just as communism was. It was democracy (or constitutional monarchy) that was viewed as old-fashioned and repressive.
- The titular character in Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl is a deconstruction, showing how people in a realistic setting would react and treat one.
- In the Sword of Truth novel Faith of the Fallen, Richard is this to the city of Altur'Rang. Nicci kidnaps him and drags him down there, intending to "educate" him about the superiority of the Imperial Order. Instead, Richard arrives, sees how drab and suppressed the population is, and immediately sets about making his corner of the world a better place by helping with repairs to keep up the apartment building, essentially starting a black market trade for goods (particularly food) the citizens are deprived of by the government for "the greater good," and creating artwork that shows man as beautiful and not a twisted and wicked creature inferior to the Creator. His actions lead to a city-wide revolt against the Order when they force him to demolish his artwork prior to his execution, and triggers Nicci's HeelFace Turn.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Hank Morgan, a 19th century Yankee, goes back to the Middle Ages and industrializes King Arthur's court.
- Raoden in Elantris takes this trope to a downright heroic level, as he spends most of the novel getting the people of Elantris - who are undying abominations imprisoned in a ruined city to await the point when they inevitably snap from the pain of their never-healing wounds and go catatonic - to cheer up and start showing some initiative.
- Innocent Smith, of GK Chesterton's Manalive. The whole first half of the novel is his shaking up the lives of the other lodgers, and the second half recounts his previous outings.
- Clarisse McClellan of Fahrenheit 451 is one of the few people who view the world with all it's beauty, in contrast to all the people who engage in crimes, mindless and shallow entertainment, and enjoy illiteracy. She is the main reason why Montag Changes his mind about books. She is promptly killed for her troubles.
- Haruhi Suzumiya tries really, really hard to be one of these, hence the whole SOS Brigade thing, explicitly created to "fill the world with fun!". Actually a subversion, as should the world be shaken up as she would want it to be, it could very well be the end of reality as we know it. Again. The Fish out of Temporal Water Mikuru does a better job of this, as The Woobie.
- The premise of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is that a bitchy otome game villain girl suddenly gets the personality and memories of a cheery tomboy and morphs into a Spotlight-Stealing Squad instead, stealing the protagonist role in the process. She accidentally fixes everyone's problems with her stupid optimism and friendliness, accidentally seducing all the game's love interests, rival characters, side characters and even the game's heroine herself. People are attracted to her not just because she's nice, but also because she's so damn weird and out of place that they have no clue what she's going to do.
- Santa Clarita Diet: The main character, Sheila, is a deconstruction. Turned into a zombie, she has less mental restraint than ever, and becomes chirpy, lively, fun and encourages everyone to get whatever they want and not think about the consequences, to the point of saying that, if her daughter wants it, she should quit school and become a poet. By the end of a season one episode, she realizes she can't keep doing this, as her encouragement has caused one of her friends to start an affair and strained the marriage of their neighbors when she told the husband to buy a new car without consulting his wife while telling the wife to go follow a musician on tour for almost a month and let her husband take care of their newborn twins.
- In LazyTown, Stephanie is theoretically responsible for helping to get everyone exercising again (at least, according to the theme). That she's just as likely to have the lazy ball in a given episode is apparently irrelevant.
- Also, Sportacus is new to the town at the beginning of the show and wants to inspire the kids to eat healthy and become fit.
- Accounting Prof. Whitman on Community thinks he's Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.
- Subverted on an episode of Frasier, in which the eponymous psychiatrist is hired to testify on behalf of an elderly philanthropist whose son is trying to have him declared mentally incompetent. After meeting with him, Frasier becomes convinced that the man is just a blithe spirit trying to enrich the lives of those around him...and is humiliated when he has a complete breakdown in the middle of Frasier's testimony.
- Inverted in another episode: Frasier hires a butler, who doesn't directly change the characters lives in any significant way, but has his own revelation that his British Stuffiness and class-consciousness may have been getting in the way of being with his One True Love. This, conveniently enough, means he quits his post.
- Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother thinks he's this trope, gracing his friends with his presence to guide them through life and make them "awesome" like him. He refuses to acknowledge the fact that his friends all actually consider him a walking, batshit insane, Your Approval Fills Me with Shame generator, and only indulge his ridiculous shenanigans out of loyalty to him (and on occasion, amusement).
- To his companions, The Doctor can be this. One day this crazy man just falls out of the sky to whisk you away on an adventure and show you the wonders (and dangers) of the universe. Those who survive find themselves forever changed by the experience, and many have gone on to becomes heroes in their own right. Davros mocks this as one meaning of his name: "The man who makes people better".
- Campbell Bain (played by the future Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, David Tennant) of the 1994 British miniseries Takin' Over the Asylum, is an exuberant, hyper, Bi-Polar (then known as Manic-Depression...though he's heavier on the 'Manic' part) young man who shakes things up in the mental hospital as a budding Disc Jockey and has a very chirpy, optimistic, idealistic, can-do demeanor.
- Princess: The Hopeful: This is one of the primary hats of the Court of Spades, whose philosophy revolves around laughter and surprise.
- In Bells Are Ringing, Ella Peterson has a talent for making friends in strange places like the New York Subway. She brings out the happiest qualities in many New Yorkers who at first are aloof, depressed or downright freakish.
- The Lady from the Sea has the mysterious Sailor, a male variation of the trope, who turns up, completely ignoring the social rules, to claim his former girlfriend, in spite of the fact that she is married to someone else.
- Lona Hessel is this in The Pillars of Society (also by Henrik Ibsen). She overrules the ruling class to a point where the main character has to listen to her.
- In Final Fantasy X, Tidus fills this role in the world of Spira, questioning the current way of dealing with Sin and generally being an over-anxious Fish out of Water.
- Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters, who spends his non-fighting days going from one temporary job to another and travelling through the world without settling down anywhere, save for coming back to South Town regularly. In XIII he turns down offers from a prestigious Taekwondo dojo run by his friend Kim and from the Ikari Warriors group, explicitly telling them that he hates being tied down to a regular schedule.
- Parodied on Homestar Runner in the trailer for the Peasant's Quest movie. The King of Peasantry accuses Rather Dashing of being this for trying to disrupt the centuries-old co-existence between Trogdor and the peasants. Said "co-existence" involves Trogdor burninating the peasants and razing their settlements whenever the hell he wants, while the peasants can't do a thing to stop him.
- In Flipside, this describes Maytag perfectly. In a fantasy setting with fairly standard levels of prejudice and bigotry, she's a free spirit who believes in loving widely and unconditionally, complete freedom of expression, and total acceptance of herself and the people around her. In fact, she's so good at this that she is almost completely immune to torture, due to accepting her pain rather than fighting it; and is uncommonly resistant to magical compulsion, due to seeing the world so clearly. She also loves to help repressed people find themselves.
- In Sluggy Freelance Torg plays this role when he's transported to the Dimension of Lame, being the only person there who doesn't epitomize Pure Is Not Good. When Demonic Invaders show up and starting eating people, the average Dimension of Lame citizen considers throwing food at them a monstrous overreaction. Then Torg shows up to organize a resistance movement and start hacking demons to pieces with his magic, talking sword.
- Fry in Futurama unwittingly acts as one of these, when his twentieth-century outlook persuades Leela and Bender to abandon their thirtieth-century ruts and follow him.
"It's funny, you live in the universe, but you never do these things until someone comes to visit."
- Jimmy Two-Shoes is practically built around this trope. Jimmy is a textbook pollyanna in Miseryville, where he constantly tries to cheer people up despite the fact that Lucius wants everyone miserable.
- Both used straight and subverted in Cartoon Network's Mike, Lu & Og. Mike is a hip American girl and the islanders are all descended from Brits (although they're "going native" by adopting faux-Polynesian customs), but they often manage to surprise her by being a lot less strait-laced than she expects.
- Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town reveals that Santa Claus was this as a young man. He avoided growing up in Sombertown when he was adopted by toy-making elves who lived up the nearby mountain. When he finally made the climb down the mountain to hand out toys to Sombertown's citizens, he was stunned to find out that toys were illegal and instantly became a toy-delivering outlaw, explaining his habit of going down chimneys and hiding gifts in stockings.
- The Simpsons has an episode like this with Lisa Kudrow as the voice for the new, hip, fashion-savvy girl at Springfield Elementary. Lisa learned to be comfortable with her self image (again), and New Girl learned that you don't have to grow up so fast, and can appreciate fun for what it is.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang acts as one of these in "The Headband" when he becomes accidentally enrolled in a straight-laced Fire Nation school. And being the friendly, world-traveling free spirit he is, he won't settle for anything less than throwing everyone a dance party. Yes, it's a Whole-Plot Reference to Footloose.
- His successor in The Legend of Korra is quite blithe herself. She waltzes into Republic City, trashes a street corner dispensing with some triad thugs, then trashes up some more street, fleeing the cops when they try to arrest her, and thinks she can get out of it all with just "I'm the avatar!"
- Jane Lane in Daria doesn't care that she's a social outcast and a misfit and generally breezes her way through it, side-stepping or accepting the inanities of teenage life at Lawndale High and rising above it. This makes her the perfect foil for the Deadpan Snarker Daria Morgendorffer, who does tend to feel these things acutely and adopts a cynical shell of armour.
- Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: While Kipo does come to acknowledge how dangerous life is for surface-dwelling humans, she still constantly insists on going around to talk it out with and/or help the various mutants who want to capture or kill her. Her friendly actions are so unlikely and her confidence so self-assured that this often works, even with more feral creatures. It's one of the reasons why, when planning to interact with the Newton Wolves, Wolf intended for her to play the role of pack leader.
- Socrates. He described himself as a gadfly stinging Athens into life.
- The most infamous student of Socrates' ideas, Diogenes of Sinope, later Diogenes the Cynic [a word meaning 'dog-like'] after being exiled for "debasement of the currency" (his father was a coin minter), was probably the greatest "Performance Philosopher" of all time, considering how many possibly apocryphal stories there are of his countless "one-man-riots". From his unimpressed, sunlight catching conversation with Alexander the Great, to the discourses he ended by defecating, or masturbating, etc, showing how much he valued rhetoric, to his habit of wandering town with a lantern during the day, trying to find "a human being" among the crowds of disenfranchised busybodies, there seemingly must have been no end to his wit and moral outrage. There even is a story where he was allegedly captured by pirates and exposed for sale as a slave. When he was asked what he could do he replied, "Govern men." And he told the crier to give notice in case anybody wanted to purchase a master for himself. To Xeniades who bought him, he said, "You must obey me, although I am a slave; for, if a physician or a navigator were in slavery, he would be obeyed." Xeniades took him to Corinth and had him run his household. The man whose influence may have made Jesus into such a possessionless, social reformer would have been institutionalized for any of his "lunatic acts" in this age.
- Henrik Wergeland was this to the Norwegian society in his lifetime. His impact was so intense, it reverberated long after he was dead and gone. He was, like Socrates, a "gadfly", prone to heckle the ruling classes or the upper elite, stinging into the more controversial matters like racism, social rights, or the plights of the needy. Regular people made him a Folk Hero for it.
- The original Dr. Lao in The Circus of Doctor Lao came more as a punisher of wicked deeds than an aid.
- American McGee's Grimm, who transforms the Sickeningly Sweet Disneyfied fairy tale worlds, returning them to their Crapsack World roots.
- There's a term for this in the international tourism industry: "Walking Talking American Flag." One of the most offensive things a group of American tourists can do is break into a fervent chant of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" while visiting another country.