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Cultural Rebel

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A black person who loves Classical Music and hates R&B? An Italian person who likes Mexican food just a little more than Italian food, even though he has not a drop of Mexican blood in him? A lifelong resident of Nashville who hates country music, preferring heavy metal — or, alternatively, Blues and Soul? A middle-aged adult who likes modern rock as well as classic rock? An American with a penchant for Canadian rock music? A blonde teen girl who gets down with death metal and gangsta rap? Yes, all of these — and so much more.


Basically, as much as many of us may argue that we are all individuals and have a right to our own preferences, there are still preferences that are stereotypically expected of us. As such, people who deviate from those expectations may face opposition (or, at least, odd looks) from other people — be it from people of their own cultural group or from outsiders. They may even be accused of cultural self-hatred, even if they have nothing against their cultural heritage, but see no reason why they should be limited to preferences within their own culture.

This prejudice probably reaches its nadir where race and ethnicity are involved, as if people who look different are not only from different cultures but are of different species, and trying to pass from one group to another is seen as ridiculous. It gets even worse once you factor in religion. Since the stereotypical Christian is white or black, the stereotypical Muslim is Middle Eastern, and the stereotypical Buddhist is East Asian, say, a black person who wants to become a Buddhist or an East Asian who wants to be a Muslim will frequently be regarded as a freak — even though Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are all supposed to be universal religions, and seek converts from all the countries of the world.


Perhaps, this character may not even start out as a rebel — but becomes rebellious only after repeated snide remarks about his preferences. He may then run off to join the other side — but if he is rejected there, too, the Pretender Diss is most likely at work.

What's interesting is how often characters like this are often the protagonists in stories — but what's even more interesting is that they're often portrayed as heroic, not because of their rugged individualism but because of all the adversity they face for daring to be different. Sometimes this is a genuine plea for tolerance on the part of the author(s), but at other times it is actually a coded defense of the status quo: a sneaky way of suggesting that the hero faces this adversity not because of society's prejudices, but because people who act differently are, well, kind of misguided, if not outright freakish. In stories featuring an Action Girl, for example, the implication is sometimes that it's okay for this female to be the way she is because she's... different, and just can't mesh with the other, "normal" females, who are expected to know their place. (Compare You Are a Credit to Your Race, where a character is "praised" for being so much "better" than the rest of their kind, and thus the exception.)


Related to Real Women Don't Wear Dresses, Real Men Wear Pink, Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy, Straight Gay, Camp Straight, Perky Goth, Black and Nerdy, Mighty Whitey, Bourgeois Bohemian (arguably), Stereotype Flip, Straw Affiliation, No True Scotsman, My Species Doth Protest Too Much, The Complainer Is Always Wrong, and The Whitest Black Guy. Does not necessarily include Cultural Cringe or Klingon Scientists Get No Respect, or mean that Germans Love David Hasselhoff. See also Dawson Casting, which can overlap with this trope if the actor is portraying a "hip" character much younger than his/her own generation.


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  • One ad featured a posh couple with a gothic son and a gothic couple with a posh son. The two kids were friends.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Turles from Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might has this as the motivation for his villainy. He's an alien from a species with a Fantastic Caste System, into which he was born as a low-class warrior (much like series hero Goku). Low-class Saiyans were regarded by their culture as little more than weak Cannon Fodder, both incapable and undeserving of any higher purpose. But through means that have never been explained, Turles found himself in possession of seeds of the Tree of Might, an inverted World Tree that produces extremely effective Power-Up Food. Declaring himself "done with that life" (of being an expendable soldier), Turles went rogue and has spent decades traveling from world to world, planting the Tree of Might and increasing his strength. The result is a Saiyan who is, when introduced, is at least at the same level if not stronger than the Super Elite class Saiyan Vegeta.
  • UFO Warrior Dai Apolon has a motif built around American Football, which is odd given that the sport was barely recognized as an amateur sport in Japan in the mid-1970s. Speculation is that this was to add variety to the show. In-story, the protagonists frequently play football and often wear football jerseys, while the Humongous Mecha has a football-helmet-shaped head and uses a football-shaped knife.

  • Steve Martin's original "poor black child" sketch, which became the genesis for the movie The Jerk (although The Jerk itself doesn't count as the premise was slightly changed, making him adopted).
    "I was born a poor black child... then one day I heard my first Mantovani record, and realized — these are my people!"

    Comic Books 
  • In The Invisibles, Dane (a white English teenage guy) is a big fan of Gangsta Rap, and he asks Boy (a young African-American woman) whether she likes it. She says it's okay, but she prefers European techno. Later, we find out that her brother was an actual gangsta rapper.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Another Time, Another Place has Janie, who is the only one in her village to treat the Italian POWs with anything other than indifference or outright contempt.
  • Buck Swope, Don Cheadle's character in Boogie Nights, is a fan of country/western music, to the point that he wears cowboy hats and shirts with fringes (the whole Roy Rogers getup). Remember, he's played by Don Cheadle
  • Free State of Jones: Newt and the other white Southerners who rebel against the Confederacy, breaking with the majority. His Aunt Sally is also an abolitionist who helps slaves escape, while Newt comes to oppose slavery as well.
  • High School Musical has Zeke Baylor (a jock who bakes), Martha Cox (a nerd who likes Hip-Hop dancing), and a skater boy who plays the cello, all during the song "Stick to the Status Quo". The first two become major supporting characters for the rest of the franchise while the last is never seen or mentioned again.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has Sybok, an emotion-embracing Vulcan, a race infamous for not emoting.
  • The Larry Clark movie Wassup Rockers follows a group of Latino kids in Los Angeles who follow punk culture over hip-hop culture.

  • According to Jewish tradition (historians seriously doubt this story has any historic merit), there was a member of the House of Potocki named Count Walentyn Potocki, who renounced his Catholicism, converted to Orthodox Judaism, and changed his name to Abraham ben Abraham. It wound up getting him tortured to death and becoming a revered figure in Orthodox Judaism posthumously.

  • Holden of The Catcher in the Rye, who makes a point of hating everything his peers love.
  • Yo-Less from the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy: he's young, black, not into rap music or street slang but is Black and Nerdy and, because he's been brought up in the North of England, really loves brass band music.
  • Discworld.
    • Giamo Casanunda, "world's second greatest lover (but I try harder!), finest swordsman and soldier of fortune" (and outrageous liar) in the Discworld universe averts every stereotype connected with him being a dwarf (except the one about being short).
    • Another example is Hwel, a dwarf expy of William Shakespeare, appearing in the Wyrd Sisters and Lords and Ladies "who'd been banished from his tribe years ago, not only because of his claustrophobia but also because he had a tendency to daydream."
    • From Feet of Clay onward, a growing number of female dwarfs in Ankh-Morpork have begun working to subvert Our Dwarves Are All the Same through outward displays of femininity, such as wearing dresses and make-up. However, they draw the line at shaving off their beards since, female or not, they're still dwarfs.
    • There are also a few humans who are officially considered dwarfs because they follow the dwarf culture. Most obviously there's Carrot Ironfounderson, who was reared in a Dwarf mine, but we also see Pepe from Unseen Academicals, who is short enough to pass as a dwarf but is actually a human who converted.
    • In Thud!, it's mentioned that serious dwarf and troll players of Thud (a dwarfs-vs-trolls game where both players play both sides) become interested in the other's culture, with examples of a dwarf who knows the troll history chant, and a troll who wears an iron helmet and has a cup shaped like a dwarfish drinking horn (troll drinks would dissolve an actual horn, though).
  • The Commitments: The entire premise of the story is that a bunch of Irish people start out a British white soul band, despite the prejudices of other people. They justify it by pointing out that they're desperately poor and looked down upon by the rest of Europe - and even, in fact, the rest of Ireland - so they already have quite a bit in common with blacks.
  • J from I Am J bemoans about himself because he spent a day hanging at Starbucks "despite" being Puerto Rican. He keeps on doing it.
  • One of the two factions in In Conquest Born is Azea, a race that genetically engineered themselves to be loyal, rational, and moderate in all things, including the Forever War they fight. But Azeans can be pushed too far, as seen on the crew of the warship Conqueror. These soldiers aren't normal, reasonable Azeans who only fight because they have to. They are out for vengeance and they don't have any time for the pomp and circumstance Azean protocol demands. It turns out that Deuteragonist Anzha, who is technically but not legally Azean, is their ideal commander because she is just as fed up - and outdoes them in bloodthirstiness.
  • In A Room with a View, Mr. Emerson and his son George both embrace forward-thinking ideals that are at odds with the Edwardian society around them, and have a disregard for the way things are done conventionally. Mr. Emerson senior is stated to be a socialist, as well as an atheist.
  • In Warrior Cats, occasionally an outsider joining the Clans wishes to keep their original name rather than taking on a Clan name. While some respect this and say that it's the cat inside that matters, not their name, others question their loyalty because of it.
  • In Homecoming Saga, Volemak is a true believer in The Oversoul, in a world where such spirituality is seen as the province of women.
  • Elbow Room: The narrator of short story "Why I Like Country Music", a black man who grew up in South Carolina, is a country music fan. His wife, born and raised in the North, is appalled by his taste. It turns out that his fondness for country music is wrapped up in fond memories of square dancing and a grade-school crush.
  • In The Company Novels, Foxen Ellsworth-Howard, the Company scientist who designs the immortals, is the son of devout NeoPunks who replaced his hair with rivets when he was a child and rebels against them by becoming a corporate scientist and Fan of the Past.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Angel, Gunn doesn't start out this way. Then he sees a production of Giselle and falls in love with Ballet. And then Wolfram & Hart filled his brain with lawyer skills so he could contribute to the team and he ended up singing a lot more Gilbert & Sullivan than he would've liked.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Rajesh is not too fond of Indian food, while Howard takes a perverse thrill from not keeping kosher.
    • Sheldon was reared in Texas, but his accent only appears when upset, he looks down upon farmers, hicks, etc., and as a reclusive Nerd is the farthest possible thing from the athletic, stereotypical cowboy, and is a staunch Hollywood Atheist despite being reared as an Evangelical Christian.
    • Bernadette was reared Catholic, and thus is a Covert Pervert who couldn't wait to introduce her Jewish boyfriend to her mother.
  • Played with in the episode of The Brady Bunch that had the Bradys vacationing in the Southwest and meeting an Indian boy who has run away from a nearby reservation because he thinks his family won't let him leave to become an astronaut. He eventually learns that his family doesn't mind this at all.
  • Doctor Who: By Time Lord standards, the Doctor is one hell of a rebel. They are staid, egotistical, and overly formal, not to mention somewhat stagnant from a cultural standpoint. He, on the other hand, uses time travel to broaden his cultural perspective as far as possible, has (for the most part) no pretensions of being better than anyone else (aside from mentions of having Seen It All and his own genius, both of which tend to be quite true) simply because he was born a Time Lord, and he's so unorthodox and informal he (as well as his rival, The Master) is considered (from their point of view) the gold standard for a Time Lord Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jorah is one of the few Northmen to be an anointed knight (a calling associated with the Faith of the Seven and would require Jorah to convert from the Old Gods to the Faith of the Seven). As a result of his exile and travels, Jorah has become the most widely traveled and cosmopolitan Westerosi of his generation, despite the fact that he originated from the most insular and isolated part of the Seven Kingdoms. This is given a lampshade by his nickname "Jorah the Andal" despite the fact that he's of the First Men.
    • Euron puts on the Ironborn Viking act when it suits him (like in his Kingsmoot speeches) but deep down he hates the Ironborn and their culture, openly subscribes and accepts the Greenlander view of the Ironborn as a bunch of morons, and thinks the Drowned God is bunk. He sees being exiled from the Iron Islands after the Greyjoy Rebellion as his blessing since it allowed him to be "the greatest captain of the fourteen seas".
  • Alara of The Orville. The hat of her species is that of the intellectual, and if her parents are any indicator, they're pretty damn smug about it. Alara however takes advantage of hailing from a Heavy Worlder planet by being the skull-cracking chief of security.
  • Star Trek: Picard: The Qowat Milat nuns and Elnor follow the doctrine of the Way of Absolute Candor, which runs entirely counter to everything that the secretive Romulans hold dear. As Elnor's actor elaborates:
    Evan Evagora: Growing up in this sect, they were taught to always tell the truth, and that's kind of the difference between [Elnor] and every other Romulan.

  • The earliest rock musicians of The '50s were prime examples of this trope. Bill Haley of Bill Haley & His Comets was already in his thirties, had children, and was going bald when "Rock Around the Clock" became a huge hit. Elvis Presley did his first singing in a Pentecostal church (as did Little Richard and numerous others). Buddy Holly was a stereotypical nice boy with glasses - and a fiery iconoclast who relished being viewed as dangerous by the Moral Guardians of his day. And he also rejected country music, despite being from Texas.
  • The Beatles count too. When they first started Rock & Roll was primarily an American phenomenon. Nobody in their right mind believed British rock had any believability or chance to make it internationally. Then came The British Invasion and as a result, British rock has nowadays become just as accepted as American.
  • There are quite some famous white jazz musicians who managed to gain respectability in a genre that is predominantly black: Bix Beiderbecke, Chet Baker, Django Reinhardt, Toots Thielemans, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw. Then again, many of these musicians were Jewish (or, in Reinhardt's case, Romani) during the height of the Nazi racial mythology, so they may have felt more black than white in the first place. Indeed, at that time many ethnic whites - even affluent ones - identified with blacks even at the very moment when (in America at least) they were becoming "white."
  • The Fugs: Member Tuli Kupferberg was already past 40 when the Fugs were formed, making him effectively the oldest rock singer in the world until his death at 86 in 2010.
  • Michael Jackson managed to put the best-selling album of all time on his name, Thriller, despite the fact he was an Afro-American artist and many people never believed a black musician could ever become as big and internationally widely accepted as Elvis.
  • Beastie Boys: Despite being white and Jewish they became the first hip-hop band to become an international success and even gain respectability among black hip-hop artists.
  • Eminem was arguably this for rap music, as he was the first white rapper to really break into mainstream respectability (sorry, Vanilla Ice and Beastie Boys). He also was a trailer-park hick who never got into country-western, folk, hard rock, or any of the other genres stereotypically associated with his particular class - but instead wanted to make it big as a white rapper. Despite all odds, he cultivated a huge middle-class fanbase.
  • The Runaways are a 1970s all-female hard rock band, and Joan Jett and Lita Ford have both made a breakaway success. It was quite rare at the time for women to perform hard rock (as opposed to soft rock or pop).
    • From about the same time period was Pat Benatar. Then there was also Heart, but only the singers were female.
    • Blondie dipped into punk/new wave - but again, only the singer was female. Then again, Deborah Harry herself is a really good example, as she was in her early thirties when her band became a hit - a little old for one of the founders of female punk rock. (By contrast, The Ramones were still in their mid-twenties when they hit it big.)
  • The Ramones: Joey Ramone was a tall, shy, geeky-looking guy who suffered from OCD. Yet he absolutely loved Rock & Roll and even became the band's lead singer. Johnny Ramone was an ultraconservative supporter of the American Republican Party, which was quite unusual back then for a punk rocker (but of course, punk barely existed at the time, and was pretty apolitical at first).
  • Dixie Peach is a black DJ who presented a soft rock show on BBC Radio 1 in the 1980s.
  • The whole Riot Grrrl movement could be seen as an example of this. After all, they are a group of feminists performing Punk Rock (a traditionally male-dominated genre, although it could be argued that punk is essentially androgynous in character, having a strong LGBT element from the very beginning).
  • Sinéad O'Connor, while her musical genre has always been strictly pop, has been the subject of controversy with her baldness — and she steadfastly refuses to let negative public opinion influence her decision. She also often goes against the traditionalist attitudes of Catholicism, the dominant religion of her home country. Most famously, she ripped up a photo of The Pope on a live TV broadcast in protest of the child sexual abuse going on within the Church.
  • Living Colour aren't really this trope because they are funky hard rock, but are commonly called metal. On the other hand, they are black and have not chosen rap or soul as their medium of expression, so they still count. And if you never saw them, you might assume they were just another '80s hair band.
  • Bad Brains started out as an Afro-American jazz ensemble, but then became the first Afro-American hardcore punk band.
  • Sepultura are a metal band from Brazil. Before them, the only music Brazil was known for on a widespread level was bossa nova. Thanks to Sepultura's influence, magazines started covering metal from around the world rather than just the US, UK, and Germany. Now we have the likes of death metal bands from India and Iran and power metal from Russia and Italy.
    • Scandinavian metal might count too. While these bands incorporate plenty of "Viking" imagery into their music, and metal has been popular in the Nordic countries from the very beginning, many foreigners associate the Scandinavian countries with soft pop (ABBA, a-ha, Ace of Base, etc.). Black-metallists are also often very right-wing - sometimes fanatically so - in countries known for their strong liberalism and even progressivism.
    • There was heavy metal in Russia when there was still an Iron Curtain.
      • There was a punk scene in Poland back in the 1980s (i.e. before the end of the Cold War) note 
  • Many German metal bands formed out of a desire to make their country known for something apart from Schlager and Europop. They wanted to make it distinctive, and as a result, German metal is heavier and scarier than anything else until Black Metal from Norway became famous a few years later. Now, of course, German metal has itself become a cliché.
  • Charley Pride, the most prominent African American by far in the usually white genre of Country Music.
  • Nigel Kennedy, a British violinist caught the attention and scorn of many people by not conforming to the idea that you have to look neat and classy to play classical music. His hair was often uncombed and he did enjoy performing in formal clothing rather than always wear a tuxedo.
  • Madness: An all-white, British Ska band. Playing the genre almost 15 years after it went out of fashion in the country it originated from: Jamaica.
  • Fela Kuti, god of Afrobeat, once surprised a journalist by claiming that George Frederic Handel was his favorite musician.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mutant Chronicles: The Dragoons, or tank units, are the pride of the Bauhaus military and every child raised in Bauhaus wants to be a dragoon when they grow up at some point. Then there are the Blitzers, an infantry unit that specializes in tank hunting. Most Bauhausers think the Blitzers are weird, and the Blitzers proudly embrace their outsider status.
    • Clan Finn are the cutting edge of Imperial's medical industry and have taken vows of non-violence. However, there are those who reject the clan's pacifist ways in favor of taking the fight to the Dark Legion. These are cast out from the clan, but stick together and form the unit known as the Bad Samaritans.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey: Pausinaias, co-king of Sparta, who doesn't think highly of Sparta's chest-pounding Proud Warrior Race Guy attitude. Though he's also one of the Cult of Kosmos, manipulating the war so he can be the only king of Sparta.
  • Dragon Age II: Varric Tethras is a surface dwarf who is part of the Dwarven Merchant's Guild and is only attracted to other dwarves... and that's it. Otherwise, he fully embraces Andrastian human surface life; much to the chagrin of his exiled but proud traditional dwarven parents and older brother. His greatest fear is even "turn[ing] out like his parents."
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Sera prides herself on not being like other elves, and often boasts of how she's "just people," and how all her beliefs and interests lie with the majority Andrastian human commoner culture instead of the minority city elf culture. (It ties back to her Internalized Categorism.)
  • Can be invoked with the Grand Theft Auto protagonists with the option of multiple different radio stations.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Cowboy Cop Garrus Vakarian is this to the disciplined and highly regimented turians. He'd rather do what's right than follow lousy orders which, in his own words, makes him a "bad turian". He's also more likely to crack a joke than most members of his species — in the third game, Wrex exasperatedly calls him the one turian in the galaxy who thinks he's funny.
    • From Mass Effect: Andromeda, there's Vetra Nyx, another turian, who operates as a smuggler, an occupation that requires bending or just flat-out ignoring rules. Another teammate is asari Peebee, who despises her species' reputation as Space Elves, and acts about as opposite this as it's possible to be (the influence of a controlling mother and older sister in her formative years might have something to do with this).
  • In the interactive romance novel Moonrise, the supernatural community revers and works hard to maintain Masquerade. In defiance of this cultural norm, the werewolf Chika Itou wants to break Masquerade and bring about The Unmasqued World.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • The Vigil of Stendarr is a Church Militant order dedicated to hunting down and destroying supernatural threats to mortal life, including Daedra, Daedra worshipers, vampires, lycanthropes, and others. While generally good and benevolent, they also exhibit Knight Templar tendencies and are known to look down on Dunmer (Dark Elves) and Orcs (Orsimer) due to their cultural worship of and connection to Daedric Princes. That said, they are known to count some cultural rebel Dunmer in their ranks.
    • The College of Winterhold features an Orc librarian (Urag), a Nord scholar (Tolfdir), and a Nord student (Onmund). Considering that both orcs and nords are proud warrior races and magic is even a taboo among the later (at least in the current game era), their interest on it can be seen as uncommon.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: Unicorns as a whole have a narrow-minded belief that only light magic can keep the world safe (with dark magic being forbidden), and they need to take no action against the upcoming Predators. Oleander is the only one in her clan who not only believes dark magic can be used for good but travels out of the Woodlands to actively use it to fight and save her home, completely against the mentality of her fellow unicorns.

    Visual Novels 
  • Zigzagged with Lily in Daughter for Dessert. Her Korean heritage is clearly important to her, yet she has openly resisted her parents' attempts to make her into their cultural paragon of a good Korean girl.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: A Noxian who doesn't spill blood may as well be a vegetarian serpent. Mel seems to have designed her life in Piltover to be be the opposite of everything her family stands for. A reunion with her mother makes her realize it's not enough to value diplomacy over battle. To break free from her roots, she must strive for peace rather than allow conflict to fester.
  • Trixie Tang, the popular girl from The Fairly OddParents, is secretly a comic book fangirl. She also thinks dead frogs are "cool".
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has done this a lot, with Spike the dragon who acts like ponies (by virtue of being reared by them), Gabby who would rather be friendly, helpful, and generous rather than a greedy apathetic jerk like other griffons, Thorax who would rather just be friends with ponies rather than using them like a food source like other changelings, and Autumn Blaze who would rather be talkative and feel emotions rather than the other mute emotionless kirins. Later episodes have subverted this though with more civil dragons showing up, griffons deciding to lighten up a bit, changelings pulling a Heel–Race Turn, and the other kirin deciding to give emotions and speech a try again.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks:
    • Every Orion we've seen in the prime timeline has been either a murderous pirate (male) or a voracious sexual predator (female). Conversely, D'Vana Tendi is a socially awkward medic.
    • In "wej Duj", we're introduced to T'Lyn, a Vulcan who is this by Vulcan standards as she prefers to work on her own projects in her spare time and trusting her instincts rather than relying on logic alone. She's ultimately shipped off to a Starfleet ship despite the fact that these actions are what saved their ship.
  • In ThunderCats (2011), Lion-O prefers researching technology (which most Thundercats scorn as a myth) to fighting and sees the Fantastic Racism of Cats being on top as wrong. Lampshaded at one point by his older brother, Tygra:
    Tygra: You look at Lizards and see victims! You look at junk and see mythical tech!


Video Example(s):


T'Lyn the Vulcan Rebel

T'Lyn is one by Vulcan standards where she works on projects outside of her assigned duties because they interest her, and trusts her instincts rather than relying solely on logic. The other Vulcans consider her an irresponsible, emotional hothead.

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Main / CulturalRebel

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