Follow TV Tropes


Defector from Paradise

Go To
I can discover within me no power of perception which is not glutted with its proper pleasure, yet I do not feel myself delighted. Man has surely some latent sense for which this place affords no gratification, or he has some desires distinct from sense which must be satisfied before he can be happy.
Prince Rasselas: The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia

In certain stories, there are situations where a group or an individual decides to leave what is essentially a utopia or a paradise for a variety of reasons. The setting that the character decides to leave is usually depicted as a form of utopia similar to views or places like Shangri La, Nirvana, Shambhala, or Heaven that are lacking in the usually cumbersome qualities that relate to real-life issues of modern society or living.

What you're probably asking yourself is why would someone decide to leave such a utopian setting? Maybe it's for a strong love of someone who is not in the same setting. Maybe the ones who are leaving feel they have no place there. Maybe there is a dark secret that keeps the setting so idyllic that the ones leaving just cannot tolerate. Or maybe the setting is so sublime that it's just boring and lacks the thrills of cumbersome living. Who knows?

Regardless of the reasons, this trope involves the circumstance where the ones who are leaving can't bear to stay in the place any longer and decide to just pack up and leave.

In comparison and contrast to a Fallen Angel, the ones who leave paradise are not kicked out by some higher authority but leave of their own volition. However, if the one who becomes a Fallen Angel does so by choice then this trope still applies. Contrast Escaped from Hell.

This trope can overlap with Refusing Paradise, but the ones involved must have experienced the paradisaical setting before choosing to defect as opposed to simply refusing an offered choice. The trope can overlap with Defector from Decadence if the setting in question holds norms and views that are opposed/outright rejected by the defector.

Warning. As a possible Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Medaka Box, a less broad home-based example is presented. It is eventually revealed that Medaka's older sister, Naze Youka, ran away from home at a young age because her home was too idyllic. She had wealthy supportive parents, an older brother and younger sister who loved her, and everybody was eager to help her make the most of her genius intellect. Her personal philosophy, however, boiled down to "Adversity Makes You Stronger", and the huge number of advantages she enjoyed got in the way of that. In the end, she not only abandoned wealth and privilege, she also concealed her beautiful face (to avoid preferential treatment based on looks), erased her own memory to avoid clinging to the past, and deliberately set herself up as a feared outcast in a new school. Only then could her genius TRULY blossom!
  • In One Piece, the later descendants of the Celestial Dragon Donquixote Family are this. The Celestial Dragons, a society of the highest class of nobles in the verse, live a life of utter luxury and peerless authority on the high capes of Mariejois, often called the "Holy Land". In the backstory, one of them, Donquixote Homing, decided to leave the place with his family and live in a more humble place because he, unlike other nobles, considered himself "a human being".

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman
    • Diana sometimes counts. She chose to leave Themyscira, an all-female utopia where women can practice a peaceful way of life and cultivate their minds, to become a worldwide superhero and diplomat in order to make the "Man's World" more like her home. However, this case is sometimes presented as an aversion, considering some stories present Themyscira as not being as perfect or flawless as previously believed... or present Diana as still being able to visit home as she pleases.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Following Darkseid's attack, Hermes refuses to quit Earth like the other Olympians, and eventually joins Diana's (mostly mortal) supporting cast. At first it's pretty clear he's trying to have his cake and eat it too, zooming around and using his remaining powers to dazzle and bribe the Puny Earthlings into worshipping him, but he eventually undergoes some pretty brutal Break the Haughty moments and starts losing his powers entirely.
  • America Chavez, something of a Wonder Woman Expy, follows suit. She could have stayed in the "Utopian Parallel", an idyllic pocket dimension separated from the rest of the multiverse. Problem is, she wanted to be a hero, and a perfect world doesn't need any of those.
  • In the First Annual Issue of the Ultimate Fantastic Four, Crystal decided to run away from Attilan, that's described by herself as a flawless super-society without crime or disobedience and essentially a Heaven on Earth, because she did not want to go through with her prearranged marriage to Black Bolt's brother, Maximus. The prospect of her living in a "boring perfect kingdom" while spending the rest of her life married to Maximus caused her to immediately defect.
  • In Justice League of America, we have the League Member and veritable Angel of the Lord, Zauriel. He left Heaven because he fell in love with a mortal woman when acting as her guardian angel. It's a bit of subversion considering that Zauriel was actually kicked out of Heaven after expressing his desire to leave to his superiors, the King-Angels. After he was allowed permission to live in Heaven as he did before, he adamantly decided to live on Earth instead.
  • "The Reigning" story arc of The Mighty Thor series presents a massive version of this trope. The story arc featured a nigh-omnipotent Thor ruling over both Earth and Asgard as All-Father. His reign was characterized as having "solved all of humanity's ills", including war, disease, hunger, etc. However, the conflict of the story revolved around the idea that the "paradise" Thor had created wasn't earned by humanity and therefore wasn't real. Furthermore, Thor was also blamed for the fact that his adviser, Loki, engaged in secret executions and other atrocities to silence dissension—-something that Thor wouldn't have approved of if he had known about it. Almost all of Thor's old friends (Sif, Captain America, and others) formed a rebellion to reject the paradise world and take Thor down, which basically resulted in his perfect kingdom being utterly destroyed, everybody dying, and King Thor being forced to use all of his power to hit a Reset Button so that his younger self never came to rule.
  • In Green Arrow, the titular character was resurrected without a soul, as well as any memories of his past during his more cynical years. He seemed to get along fine without it and his soul rested peacefully in Heaven. However, his lack of a soul made him a gateway for possession by powerful demons, which would be a very bad thing for the entire world. He eventually convinced his soul (still in Heaven at the time) to come back to his body to save his son from being killed by demonic conjurers.
  • Happened in the comic Grimjack — the title character died, but chose to leave Heaven and move into a cloned body to save a friend. And hunt down an old enemy. Consequences happen.
  • The domed city that was home to Axa by Avenell and Romero was depicted as little work and mostly play. Axa rebels against this, seeing her life there as nothing more than a baby factory. Most of her adventures occur outside the city, in a Crapsack World brimming with warlords, mutants, and Everything Trying to Kill You.
  • Kang the Conqueror is another example. He originally comes from a futuristic utopia that he once described as "the century of peace and progress". Unfortunately for the rest of the universe, this didn't suit him at all. He essentially travelled to the past and became a Multiversal Conqueror because he found his own time to be boring.
    Kang: For I was then, as I am now, a man of action, an adventurer! But there were no adventures in the year enemies to battle, no dragons to slay! All was peaceful...horribly, unbearably peaceful!!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Wings of Desire, an angel falls in love with a human and chooses to become human himself in order to be with her, leaving Heaven.
  • In City of Angels, a Foreign Remake of Wings of Desire featuring Nicolas Cage, an angel falls in love with a human and chooses to "fall", become human, in order to be with her, leaving Heaven.
  • The adaptation Logan's Run of the science fiction novel likewise has a domed city that acts as a playpen for teenagers. However, its age cap is set at 30 years, while the winnowing process is called "Carousel," and is touted as a "renewal" program. Logan 5 and Jennifer 6 attempt to escape, and discover how badly their idyllic city has Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • In Big Fish, Edward comes across the idyllic town of Spectre, where everyone is friendly, everyone is barefoot (so that they can't leave via the forest), and the culture is in eternal stasis. Edward eventually decides he can't stay here when there's so much else he wants to accomplish in life. A poet there, Norther Winslow, also leaves after he's realizing he hasn't been able to write a single decent poem since he arrived, and becomes a bank robber and then a businessman. Years later, they return and use their fortune to save the town from bankruptcy.
  • In Star Trek: Generations, we have the case of Jean-Luc Picard and Captain Kirk attempting to escape the Nexus. Kirk is reluctant to leave the Nexus at first but soon realized that the ability to make a difference in the real world was more important to him than anything the Nexus could offer. The tipping point is when he jumps a ravine with his horse, one he jumped numerous times in the real world, only to realize here that the element of danger which made it feel exciting when it was real is absent since he knows he's in the Nexus.
  • In Maleficent, the three fairy godmothers of Aurora originally lived in the Moors, a very idyllic, beautiful place. They left to pay a visit to the human's king and accepted the job of raising Aurora in a remote house in the woods, resulting in them not being able to return to the Moors for sixteen years.
  • According to Agent Smith, the world of The Matrix is stalled at a "realistic" late 20th/early 21st Century civilization because humans rejected the virtual paradise that had been created for them in the first iteration of the system.
  • The plot of Date with an Angel focuses on an angel sent by Heaven to bring the main character Jim to Heaven after his impending death from a brain tumor, but falling in love and staying with him on Earth as a nurse after he nursed her to back to health from a broken wing injury she received during her descent.
  • The plot of Soul Collector focuses on a soul collector, an angel who collects souls to take up to Heaven, sent to Earth to live as a human for thirty days on a Texas cattle ranch. There, he falls in love with the ranch owner, a widowed single mother, and influences the lives of her son and the ranch workers, which convinces him to stay with them permanently.

    Film — Animated 
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, Charlie Barkin immediately decides to defect from Heaven upon explanation of its lack of thrill, complete predictability, and cushy lifestyle. It's best described in his song, "Let Me Be Surprised". The movie's antagonist, Carface, also tried to do so upon entering Heaven at the end of the film and actually did so in the sequel due to his greed.
  • In The Return of Hanuman, Hindu God Hanuman descends to Earth as a human boy named Maruti because of his boredom as a result of staying in Swarglok (some Fluffy Cloud Heaven) for many years.

  • The classic Bavarian story Ein Münchener im Himmel (A Man from Munich in Heaven) by Ludwig Thoma has this plot: a grimy patriotic Bavarian working-class guy dies from labouring too hard and ascends to heaven, only to realise that not only is it full of stuck-up Prussian snobs, and not only does God put him to work for his eternal happiness, but they won't even grant him any beer. He proceeds to trick them into sending him back to Munich as a celestial messenger to the Bavarian government, from which he promptly deserts to the Hofbräuhaus for all eternity.
  • The short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas features the titular Ones. The Ones are people who choose to leave the perfect Utopian city of Omelas of their own free will because Omelas's prosperity is Powered by a Forsaken Child.
  • Samuel Johnson's A History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia is a fictionalized account of the titular prince's despair at being kept in the Happy Valley and given everything he could ever want. He eventually manages to escape his homeland and goes to Egypt. His dissatisfaction is best exemplified in the page's quote.
  • The automated city in Logan's Run by Nolan and Johnson is described as idyllic, wherein most residents live a life of leisure. However, to sustain the masses, the city has instituted a population cap called "Sleepshop" that terminates anyone over the age of 21. An underground society of "runners" seeks to subvert this age cap, which protagonist Logan 3 initially joins as The Mole before his Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Culture is a utopia, but its members generally avoid subliming despite having the option. The civilization also has the State Sec Special Circumstances populated by those who instead of living a life of idle comfort, help protect and spread the Culture's ethos (often by any means possible). Probably not coincidentally, one Culture Living Ship is called the Bodhisattva (see the Religion examples).
  • The Elric Saga in Michael Moorcock's series presents an example. The troubled hero finds and experiences the secret city of Tanelorn which stands outside Chaos and Law, a place of peace and tranquility where heroes may find rest and the Eternal Champion may lay down his burden. He later decided that he could not settle down there and became the only person to renounce Tanelorn and return to the world outside.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Scandal, Olivia decides to permanently leave the beautiful island she and Jake were peacefully living on to arrange Harrison's funeral in Washington, D.C.
  • Legend of the Seeker: In "Eternity", Kahlan and Richard are trapped inside a magical land that has many immortals living happily without hunger or want. However, they break out in spite of the immortals urging the two to stay, because the world still will be destroyed otherwise.
  • While how utopian Gallifrey in Doctor Who is varies considerably, it's certainly a post-scarcity society at the very least, and yet the Doctor chose to run around the galaxy in a rickety old TARDIS, getting into trouble. His stated reasons for this have varied from simple boredom to outrage that his fellows ignored injustice elsewhere in the universe. In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Revelation he tells Ace (who has just made a broadly similar decision in an imaginary world) "You live in paradise, you start to wonder who empties the bins".
  • Tempus from Lois & Clark came from an ideal future created by Superman and Lois Lane. As a sociopath, Tempus found these conditions intolerable and jumped at the chance to appropriate H. G. Wells's time machine intending to wreak havoc in the past and undo his hated utopia.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Daniel Jackson spends a season Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence. But he learns some things about the other ascended beings that make him reject all that and go back to being human with most of his ascended knowledge erased. Some of the other Ancients also tread dangerously close to breaking the rules, and at least one or two others chose mortality to help the lower beings face the threat of the Ori.

  • Invoked in A Passion Play by Jethro Tull:
    "God of ages, Lord of Time, mine is the right, right to be wrong.
    Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs.
    Jack rabbit mister spawn a new breed
    of love-hungry pilgrims (no bodies to feed).
    Show me a good man and I'll show you the door.
    The last hymn is sung and the devil cries 'More.'"
  • In the Title Track of Genesis' A Trick of the Tail album, a civilization of satyr-like "Beasts" live in a utopian City of Gold. However, one of them gets bored and leaves to explore the human realm. Once there, he's captured and imprisoned in a freak show, which teaches him to appreciate his world a little more. Fortunately, he escapes and is welcomed home.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • According to Buddhism, there are enlightened figures known as Bodhisattvas who have chosen to forego entering into full Nirvana. They have taken special vows to help other sentient beings reach complete enlightenment before embracing Nirvana themselves. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, was actually this according to Buddhist scriptures. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment and a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana. The Buddha described Nirvana as the perfect peace of mind that's free from ignorance, greed, hatred, and other afflictive states of living. Immediately after his awakening, the Buddha debated whether or not he should teach the way to obtain Nirvana to others and eventually decided to leave the state of Nirvana to teach others the knowledge he attained.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Roy enjoys a peaceful afterlife with his family in Celestia following his untimely demise in battle. However, upon realizing that his allies have failed to resurrect him on schedule, he rushes off to search for answers rather than keep waiting in paradise.
    • Much later, Minrah is granted the right to enter Valhalla. She chooses to go back as she wants to help fight the Snarl instead of going to her reward right away. Although, Thor tells her nothing's preventing her from grabbing a beer in Valhalla while she waits for the Resurrection spell.
      Minrah: You are the best god ever.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Futurama, Bender went to Robot Heaven after saving Fry's life as a ghost. Upon entry, Bender met the robot version of God and promptly possessed it and made it hit itself until it decided to return him to his original body. All this for the sake of seeing Fry again.
  • In Gargoyles, Puck had initially left Avalon because he viewed it as boring due to his thrill-seeking nature, despite it being a paradise for his kind. However, his case is a bit of an aversion because he was visibly distraught when he was eternally banished from Avalon after hindering Oberon's plans to abduct Alexander Xanatos, before accepting his fate.
  • Remarked upon in an episode of Hanna-Barbera's Super Friends, wherein Professor Goodfellow creates a master computer that can regulate thousands of robots around the world, automating almost every human activity. He theorizes that this will spark a new Renaissance of human research and creativity. Instead, the professor is told that many citizens had resorted to vandalism, fighting, and anarchy because they had nothing else to do. This is an inverted case of this trope, because of the occurrence of unrest and subsequent rebellion within a Utopian setting due to its idyllic nature instead of defection.
  • Similar to the above example, Duckman had the episode "The Gripes of Wrath" where a supercomputer is accidentally inspired by Duckman's griping about crappy deodorant to take over the world and optimize it, creating a perfect utopia where the frustrating grind of everyday life is gone, and everyone is happy and fulfilled. That is, until two weeks later when said society crumbles out of nowhere, and people descend into fighting and anarchy. As Duckman points out (by complete accident in his ranting) with no jobs or chores to occupy themselves with, free time means nothing and made people even more bored and frustrated than they were before. Charles and Mambo summarize it a bit more eloquently, explaining that it's an imperfect world that gives humans any productive drives at all.