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Bourgeois Bumpkin

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"Oh, this cursed Ministry! They'll ruin me with their damned taxes! — Why, Zounds! They're making slaves of us all, starving us to death!"note 

"I'm going to help you - because nobody ever helped a hick but a hick hisself!"
Willie Stark, All the King's Men

A Bourgeois Bumpkin is, generally, someone who enjoys many privileges - or at least enough privileges to be happy - yet suffers from delusions that henote  is deprived, marginalized, persecuted, or otherwise disadvantaged. In practice, this character type will tend to overlap with the Bourgeois Bohemian, but a key difference is that, typically, while a Bourgeois Bohemian is depicted having a "bleeding heart" for other people, the Bourgeois Bumpkin has a heart that bleeds primarily for himself. And precisely because the Bumpkin is more likely to see himself as a victim than the Bohemian, he'll tend to complain a lot more.

Another important difference is that while the Bohemian will, for the most part, shy away from proletarian trappings (although proclaiming that they're fine and good for other people), the Bumpkin fully embraces them, or at least embraces them as much as is feasible or plausible. The Bourgeois Bumpkin is as proud to be a bumpkin ("hick") as a Bourgeois Bohemian is to be a hip, "cool" dude. Indeed, much of the irony that proceeds from the Bourgeois Bumpkin is the dissonance between his avowed affinity for all things bumpkinish and his professed sympathy for bumpkins on one hand, and on the other his self-absorbed outrage and indignation at the supposed hardships he faces - hardships that pale in comparison to those of actual bumpkins. To put it another way, while the Bohemian sympathizes and possibly identifies with so-called social outcasts, the Bumpkin believes that he is himself an outcast, even though this is obviously not so.


This character type is described in great detail in Thomas Frank's 2003 book What's the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. This book, which traces the rise of the new, rawer, and angrier brand of American political conservatism that fully crystallized in The '90s, explains how the radical right appropriated the "class-warfare" worldview of the radical left and retooled it to serve their ends, substituting resentment toward elites' supposed moral depravity (think of the middle-class backlash against royal scandals in Britain beginning in the Victorian era, but much more outré in style) for resentment toward elites' support of the economic status quo. In Kansas and other "red" states, wealthy conservative politicos will take this basic stance in order to appeal to working-class voters, vocally campaigning on cultural issues like abortion, gay rights, and religion, while quietly rewarding the wealthy and corporations with tax cuts, anti-union policies, and deregulation. George Wallace and Richard Nixon are generally considered the first men to employ this tactic, with Nixon referring to it as his "Southern Strategy." Nixon did the same in the northern states with the "silent majority", by appealing to working-class voters who held conservative views on crime, civil rights, and national security.


This trope heavily overlaps with Self-Made Man, especially if the person in question comes from a seriously disadvantaged background. Succeeding in life from a Friendless Background may also lead into a Bourgeois Bumpkin. May also overlap with a middle-aged, jaded Dogged Nice Guy.

Many stories set in the South or the Midwest (particularly the more "western" part of the Midwest) will feature characters of this type. They are often Nouveau Riche - and if the "hick" part of their persona is more apparent than usual, they're bound to have traces of the Corrupt Hick as well. Despite the name, this character need not be a literal hick or even rural; an urban character will do if his traits include political conservatism and a disgruntled and/or entitled attitude toward the world. If such a character ever does gain ultimate power, expect a People's Republic of Tyranny. Related tropes include Angry White Man, AstroTurf, Good Ol' Boy, Lower-Class Lout (when it's an Insult Backfire), Obnoxious Entitled Housewife, Real Men Love Jesus, Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up, Snobs Versus Slobs, and Trumplica.

Of course, it's often pretty subjective as to whether this trope applies, since even the poor of many times and places are still better off than even the kings of others.


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  • In Your Cheatin' Heart, a 1964 biopic of Country Music star Hank Williams, George Hamilton portrayed Hank as a more sympathetic take on this character type. Born poor and taught to play the guitar by a homeless street musician, Williams is shown to be growing uncomfortable once his career rockets him to fame and he and his wife move into a mansion. Hank feels tremendous guilt and thinks himself a Category Traitor - but that doesn't stop him from ordering his butler to bring him a beer.
  • Big Boy Caprice has a bit of this trait in Dick Tracy. ("[Dick Tracy is] a servant of the people, like me.")
  • The Man Behind the Man who runs a behind-the-scenes political machine that tries to get The Penguin elected mayor in Batman Returns is a scheming department store owner. He worked his way up from poverty (or so he claims) to become the most powerful plutocrat in Gotham City, even more so than Bruce Wayne (whom he mocks for being an Upper-Class Twit). He has never forgotten his roots, and while giving a public speech he remarks: "I'm just a poor schmoe - got lucky. And sue me if I want to give some back." He indeed presents himself as a philanthropist, and engages in a lot of Bread and Circuses publicity to distract the citizens of Gotham from his plot to corner the city's electricity market with a massive, draining "capacitor."


  • Bruce Springsteen's Badlands:
    Poor man wanna be rich
    Rich man wanna be king
    And a king ain't satisfied till he rules everything

    Professional Wrestling 
  • John "Bradshaw" Layfield (formerly the drunken, violent, redneck Texan "Bradshaw" in the APA) had this as part of his gimmick during the early part of his heel run, constantly attempting to ingratiate himself to the fans by playing up his rags-to-riches story (he invested in a Wall Street company that enjoyed surprise success) and his patriotism. It was always clear, however, that what JBL valued most in the world wasn't the fans or even America; it was the WWE Championship. Later the sociopolitical element of the character was dropped, and JBL became just a cowboy-hatted businessman determined to ruin anyone who got in his way.
  • The Rock used a similar gimmick during his heel runs, claiming to be "The People's Champion" and referring to anything remotely connected to him as "the People's [X]", even dubbing one of his in-ring moves "the People's Elbow."
  • Mary Lillian Ellison was once the only daughter in a large family of sharecroppers of Scots-Irish and Native American descent in a very small town in South Carolina. When she became big on the pro wrestling scene in the 1950s, she renamed herself "The Fabulous Moolah", a Rich Bitch obsessed with money. Although Ellison obviously did not become villainous in real life, she did end up leaving her humble roots far behind by building a mansion in the same South Carolina town where she was born and renaming the street in front of it "Moolah Drive." She did, however, retain her Southern accent and lower-class mannerisms.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age II: The Player Character's mother Leandra chose to leave her Blue Blood family behind to elope with a mercenary 25 years ago and only returns to her home city of Kirkwall when her new home is destroyed by the Blight. While her brother gambled away their Hightown mansion without telling her and lives in a hovel in Lowtown (the slums), nevertheless he helps her get into the city while most Blight refugees were turned away and gives her and her children free room and board for a year to help them get back on their feet. (Also, while Lowtown isn't as nice as Hightown, it's still better than the Elven Alienage or Darktown.) She promptly spends the next year moping around, refusing to get a job, pay rent, or move out; complaining about the state of her brother's "house" (despite not having a job and not doing any chores) and her family's "disgrace," and never stops complaining that her family deserves to be restored to its "rightful place" in Hightown while refusing suggestions that the family take up a trade or start over somewhere else. To her, anything less than a mansion in Hightown is abject poverty and disgrace, even though their family still have it better than most Kirkwall residents, and even though she refuses to lift a finger to work for it.
      Leandra: My children have been in indentured servitude for a year. Servitude! They should be nobility!
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
      • While Sera is biologically a city elf (who are Enslaved Elves), she identifies with Andrastian human commoners (European Christian peasants) and insist they have it worst and are the most oppressed by the abusive nobles while dismissing the plight of mages and city elves (who live in fantastic ghettos and prison towers). She sees mages as a privileged elite due to having powers that normal people don't have and sees city elves as professional whiners.
      • The Inquisitor can accuse Josephine Montilyet of being this. During Josephine's personal quest, she reveals her family (from the Fantasy equivalent of Renaissance Italy) used to be prosperous merchant princes until a bad run-in with another noble family cut off many trade avenues and put them in massive debt. She wants help settling the quarrel so her family can remain Idle Rich. The Inquisitor can accuse her of presenting a non-issue since it's not like her family is starving (unlike many in Thedas), and at worst her siblings will have to take up trades rather than coasting off their family's inherited wealth. Josephine argues why she shouldn't make it so her brothers will never have to work?

    Web Original 
  • Stan Kelly, political cartoonist of The Onion, is known to interpret everything that doesn't directly benefit him as an attack on his demographic, if not him, specifically. This goes from large-scale events like gay rights groups winning victories and films with non-white male leads making money, to him having to eat foreign food on an outing with his family.

    Western Animation 
  • King of the Hill: Hank Hill is likely to have trouble getting along with anyone different from himself, and it's definite that bourgeois values are part of who he is. Therefore, he clashes not only with some bohemian types but also with any characters who are just-plain bumpkins with no bourgeois redeeming qualities. He is likely to be annoyed by characters like Lucky, Dale, and the many other residents of Arlen who are far more redneck than he is.
  • BoJack Horseman's Beatrice Horseman, BoJack's mother, plays with this trope. After getting hitched, she was forced to give up much of her luxuries but this was mostly due to a stern belief in financial independence and the desire to break away from her father's money (and influence), however, she didn't count on being unable to cope with normal life, along with the lack of creature comforts to distract her. The unfairness of her situation with boiling resentment made her turn on everyone as an outlet, instead of accepting her part in this. Even after convincing Butterscotch to take a job in a branch at her father's company and getting some of the prestige, it's still not enough, as, in her view, she's disadvantaged in comparison to her days as an heiress.