Mr. Lamb: Oh dear. Well, next Thursday will do.
Attaché: Another national holiday. We celebrate the overthrow of tyrant Pancho Manuel Gonzales.
It's not called a revolution for nothing.
This trope refers to when a revolution loses revolutionary zeal and appears to just repeat the pre-revolution business as usual, via self-motivated corruption and bureaucratic inertia. Names and rhetoric change, the injustices stay the same.
This has happened quite often, and for just the same reason that the phrase "The Revolution has been betrayed!" is such a cliché: egalitarian rhetoric is well and good, especially among those outside the establishment, but once an erstwhile egalitarian gets a taste of real power and discovers how sweet it is, they tend to get very willing very quickly to remove, "by any means necessary", anything standing between them and that power. This occurring not in a vacuum, but in competition with other revolutionaries who are making the same discovery at about the same time, the result generally is a multi-cornered dogfight in which the most ruthless bastard is extremely likely to be the last left standing — which tends to have unfortunate consequences for the masses, from whom said bastard will have risen, and which might just elevate someone else to supplant them unless they ensure their loyalty.
One can argue that this trope generally applies if you take a surface-view of revolutions, i.e. the political layer of an autocratic system of government replaced with a more moderate/liberal/equal kind. Actual revolutions tend to be complex affairs and unleash changes across multiple layers of society and culture, and in addition to direct effects, there are also indirect effects, such as the threat of a radical revolution making reactionaries accede to moderate demands they formerly abhorred. So while revolutions historically and in fiction do feature shocking and depressing reversals it isn't necessarily the case that nothing changes either. On a less ideological note, this often happens because of a clash about what to revolutionize — do you want to alter an obsolete system of government and change the economy so that it favors the poor over the wealthy and privilege this over all other issues (Russia, communist revolutions generally)? Establish representative democracy while leaving socio-economic issues as a bridge to cross on another day (America)? Or do both at the same time (France)? Or, in the case of pro-independence and anti-colonial revolutions, simply kick the Occupiers Out of Our Country and promote self-determination (India, Algeria, Egypt)? But it can also be removing from power those who prospered under the colonial regime, even if they were strictly limited in the positions they had held.
Ultimately, revolutions become civilized or uncivilized, based on clarity of immediate short-term interests, and they become violent when one, two, or five factions clash on who's left and who's more right on a given issue and how pressing said issue is with the people.
Compare Reign of Terror; that, in fact, can naturally lead to this. Bloodbaths tend to make people lose fervor even when, in the case of the Terror, the bloodbath was demanded and enabled by popular fervor to start with.
See also Meet the New Boss, for when the new villain doesn't even bother pretending to be any better than the one they’ve just deposed. Sometimes the trope plays like a large-scale version of He Who Fights Monsters and/or Be Careful What You Wish For. For when the revolution was intended to place a new tyrant on the throne from the start, see Staged Populist Uprising. Revolving Door Revolution is when the new government is deposed by another, which is deposed by another ad nauseam. The Horseshoe Effect is when two individuals or organizations claim to be ideological opponents, but in fact have a great many beliefs in common, and can be an underlying cause of this trope.
This trope has very strong Real Life connotations. Famous mathematician and physician Pierre-Simon de Laplace, who lived through The French Revolution, coined the term parabola of Revolution: it began with the reign of the Bourbons, ascended like a parabola through constitutional monarchy, republic, reign of terror and pinnacled at Napoleon's empire; then it descended again through military defeats, restoration of the Bourbons, the 100 days' empire and Waterloo, and descended back to the reign of the Bourbons, just like a parabolic arc. In the ensuing decades, the arc would again shift, until finally settling into a republic.
For Real Life examples, full-circle revolutions have to be at least 50 years after a regime's leader leaves office (including dying while in office).
- Parodied in this advert for supposedly sophisticated vodka.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: This is basically Rossiu's character arc after the Time Skip. While Simon's a popular figurehead, Rossiu is the one that gets things done. When the plot restarts, his Heroic Resolve starts to buckle under the weight of The Chains of Commanding, and his decisions rapidly come to resemble those previously made by the Spiral King. He keeps making unpopular decisions, up to and including trying to have Simon executed until he reaches the Despair Event Horizon and attempts suicide. Luckily, he's shaken out of it by Simon through a time-tested technique given to him some years earlier.
- Code Geass has an interesting subversion. By the end of the series, Emperor Lelouch has become an even worse evil overlord than his Social Darwinist father. But that was the point, to unify the world through its hatred of him and arrange it so he was overthrown at the last minute, thereby giving the good guys the opportunity and public support necessary to rebuild the world's various monarchies and dictatorships as democracies instead. Prince Schneizel's plans to overthrow his father, however, would most likely have been a case of this played straight.
- In Saint Beast, Zeus overthrows the tyranny of The Old Gods and subsequently becomes a tyrant in their place leading to another (failed) rebellion by the protagonists.
- RideBack has the Global Government Force (or Global Government Plan in the anime), which is a fascist military organization that fought the United States in rebellion against American interventionism. After an incident in Arizona, with the combined might of the titular Mini-Mecha and foreign support, they replaced the U.S. as the main superpower. Due to its heavy military background, it easily became an oppressive militaristic N.G.O. Superpower that meddled with political affairs of other countries. Even before this happened, there were already defectors who formed a new group called the Border Military Alliance, which the main protagonists get caught up in.
- Attack on Titan:
- Occurred with the nation of Marley. The oppressed lower class who lived in fear of Eldian-controlled Titans rose up against their masters and usurped control. Actually, the King of Eldia was disillusioned with the war crimes his empire was committing and made a deal with Marley to hand power to them. Once in control, they proceeded to oppress the defeated Eldians and terrorize their neighbors with Marley-controlled Titans.
- The central military and the Survey Corps eventually overthrow the corrupt government, after a struggle over Eren and Heroic Bastard Historia. Four years later, this government is itself overthrown by the radical Yeagerist movement, fanatical followers of Eren himself and Zeke Yeager. Over the course of three years, they systematically poison military officials to place them under Zeke's control and slowly infiltrate the military. After assassinating Commander Zackley, they begin imprisoning or killing anyone that resists them including the surviving members of the 104th. The government is forced to surrender, or face a mass Titanization of their officers.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, Amuro uses this trope as a Breaking Speech towards Char as they're chasing each other through the abandoned Axis, explaining that if Char's trying to initiate some sort of revolution, all it's going to end with is the same thing all over again. It doesn't work as Char claims that this isn't his intent at all.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, Mariemaia Kushrinada describes history as an endless waltz of war, peace, and revolution. She claims that her reign will end it, but never explains how, and in any case she is deposed and the original government restored within a week.
- The Holy Arcadia Empire in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle was ruled by a family of tyrants and eventually deposed by a branch of said family. The territory ruled by the Holy Arcadia Empire fragmented into several countries, with the largest being ruled by the branch family and becoming the Old Arcadia Empire. This proved to be no different from its predecessor, save for being patriarchal and lacking the advanced technology to actually carry out the worst atrocities. To a much lesser extent, this is true of the New Kingdom Atismata which replaced the Old Arcadia Empire. Some of the nobles remained in power through the revolution and continue to follow the Old Empire's principles, though Queen Raffi eventually resorts to assassinating them. According to Fugil, the two houses of Arcadia spent millennia in a cycle of overthrowing each others' dictatorships, taking over, and falling to corruption, though occasionally a non-Arcadia will take over.
- In Kino's Journey, Kino once traveled to a land with only a single resident. That man had led a revolution to overthrow the king, a tyrant who executed anyone who disagreed with him. He and his followers set up a democracy that put things to a popular vote but executed everyone who disagreed with the majority. As a result, the vast majority of the populace ended up being executed until only the man and his wife were left, and the latter died of a disease due to a lack of doctors. As Kino is leaving, she calls the man "Your Highness," thereby saying that he's no better than the former king.
- In the 2001 adaptation of Cyborg 009, 008 was a revolutionary fighting to free his country from a colonial power at the time he was grabbed by Black Ghost. When he returned years later, he found that they had earned their independence, but all that really changed was that instead of being exploited by foreigners, his people were now being exploited by a native-born Generalissimo, and many of his old friends were now rebelling against him.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, this is why Kenshin gave up killing. He had joined the Imperial forces to overthrow the corrupt and tyrannical Shogunate, but the Meiji government that followed was just as corrupt and tyrannical, and nothing had changed for the common people who Kenshin thought he was fighting for.
- Junta, a satirical look at politics in The Most Serene Republic of Los Bananas, has a military coup occur approximately once every two turns. Of course, this just leads to one oligarch being shot by the firing squad and replaced by his cousin, and possibly a new Presidente and a reshuffling of cabinet posts among the oligarchs.
- Executed subtly in Tintin and the Picaros: during the course of the book, the heroes help Tintin's friend General Alcazar overthrow the despotic General Tapioca from the leadership of San Theodoros (mostly because said despot imprisoned Madame Castafiore and sentenced Thomson and Thompson to death). However, the penultimate panel of the book is almost a carbon copy of an earlier one (showing soldiers patrolling a slum filled with starving people), only a sign now reads "Viva Alcazar" instead of "Viva Tapioca" and their uniforms are slightly different, hinting that nothing important has changed. Also, Alcazar wants to execute a whole lot of people, starting with Tapioca of course, and is only kept at bay because Tintin is his Morality Pet, showing that Alcazar and Tapioca are as bad as each other. Tapioca actually consoles Alcazar over being stopped — that is, the man who just overthrew him and wants to shoot him, as he would have done the same thing (or more likely did), proving they aren't so different. Similarly, the only reason Tintin became Alcazar's friend in the first place was that he ended up as his lieutenant. A few hours of slippage and he could have ended up as Tapioca's lieutenant just as easily.
- Earlier books such as The Broken Ear would depict Alcazar and Tapioca committing multiple coups on a daily basis against each other, running this straight into Revolving Door Revolution territory. Picaros also reveals that Alcazar and Tapioca's shared desire for executing opposition has practically become a cultural tradition in San Theodoros, leading to a funny moment where both men grumble about how Tintin and the younger generation have no respect for the oldest customs.
- The Incredible Hulk: One story has Professor Hulk taken to a planet where a green race was enslaved by a red race. Professor Hulk helped the green people overthrow the rulers and before leaving asked them to live peacefully together. Looking through a telescope as he was getting far off he saw the red people enslaved by the green ones and wept.
- In the Chick Tract "Fat Cats", a communist revolution in a Banana Republic gives rise to a brutal oligarchic dictatorship very much like the unspecified despotism against which it originally rebelled (Jack Chick includes his usual prejudices, naturally: note the crooked Catholic priests depicted blessing the dictator in each panel). The Wide-Eyed Idealist protagonist, Juan, doesn't realize the truth until his wife and father-in-law have been executed for being Bible-believing Christians.
- One Wolverine story concerned Wolverine going to a Central American dictatorship because their state super-soldier program was based on haunted cocaine, and this worried him. By the end of the story, the dictator is dead and rebels are in power - but they ship the scientists of the super-soldier program off to the US in exchange for the CIA owing them a favor. As Wolverine is barging in to tell them off, the ruling council is discussing ways to be better than the old dictator, and shooting down everyone because the country is too fragile.
- Inverted in Kingdom Come in a sequence in the compilation where Superman goes to visit his old pal Orion for advice and finds him sitting on his father Darkseid's throne and fretting about how the downtrodden slaves refuse to free themselves. Orion explains that soon after he overthrew his cruel tyrant of a father, he instituted free elections in an effort to get the people of Apokolips to govern themselves democratically. Instead, they promptly elected him to be their new monarch. "Such was my reward." For extra emphasis, Orion has started to look quite a bit like his father, and maintain his habitual calm. Unlike his father, however, it's implied that he'd quite like to be deposed and pretty much endorses Mister Miracle and Barda's open preaching of revolution, seeming rather tired of the whole thing.
- Sillage has one, where Nävis helps overthrow a government that uses widespread slavery. She comes back years later to find her revolutionary friends doing quite well for themselves, except for the whole rebellious uprising thing (of, you guessed it, freedom-hungry slaves).
- According to Volthoom, had Atrocitus' homeworld not been destroyed by the Manhunters, he would have led one of these, overthrowing the planet's corrupt leadership only to become such a tyrant that his own son eventually would have assassinated him.
- Persepolis, both the comic and the film adaptation, presents the Iranian revolution as this, with the Shah, a tool of western oppression, superseded by the Islamic fundamentalists, a tool of religious, home-grown oppression. The comic explicitly notes that the fundamentalists were even worse than the Shah. For instance, under the Shah, there were 10,000 political prisoners, while under the Islamic fundamentalists there were 100,000 (many of whom were killed later).
- The relaunch stories of Paperinik New Adventures reveal that Corona's oppressive regime is the end result of two revolutions coming full circle:
- As explained by Moldrock, Corona used to be a desert world ruled by warriors where the two cities of the planet fought each other and oppressed the lesser villages, whose weakest people were cast away in the desert. This ended when Moldrock himself, one of those weaklings, stumbled on the Black Beam and its awesome power. With it, Moldrock turned the people of his village into an invincible army, personally obliterated any obstacle on the way to unification and peace, turned Corona into a paradise world... And then had the scientists create warships so Moldrock and his Horde could conquer new worlds.
- As also explained by Moldrock, this came to an end when Everett Ducklair and the scientists of Corona rebelled and used their technology to imprison Moldrock and his Horde in the Pentadimensional World, where the Black Beam was weakened. Everett freed the worlds conquered by Moldrock and stepped down... And after that came to power a matriarchal regime ruled by the mightiest ESPers of the planet with an iron fist.
- In an interesting variant, each regime was better than the previous one: Moldrock turned a desert world into a paradise and effectively brought an end to the endless wars of Corona, and the matriarchs, who genuinely believe they're doing the right thing, are not trying to expand their rule over other worlds.
- In Violine, this is implied to be a regular occurrence in Zongo:
Villager 1: That was last Friday. And he said, "Let's turn this country into the best democracy in all of Africa!"
Villager 2: Poppycock! I give him two days before he turns into a tyrant like the others!
- This is common for Megatron in all versions of The Transformers, but in The Transformers: Dark Cybertron he actually realizes this, leading to him renouncing violence (specifically saying that the day he decided to enact social change through violent revolution was the day that he lost) and surrender to the Autobots to be put on trial for his crimes.
- Played for Laughs in Alan Ford, where Number One explains his experience in revolution: it involves a close quartet of comrades (including Number One) plotting to dethrone the current dictator and establish a new regime for the nation ... and in a series of eerie similar panels, with the quartet becoming a trio, a duo and finally Number One taking the power. He ultimately resigns just before the next rebellious leader comes knocking in order to avoid execution.
- In Strontium Dog, narrative boxes explain that after A Nazi by Any Other Name Nelson Kreelman was deposed, his Kreeler death squads were abolished and a new peacekeeping force was introduced. This narration appears over two panels, which show exactly the same group of thugs, but in different uniforms.
- In Zero vs Kira after Kira overthrows the Britannian Empire, Zero holds a press conference telling Kira that he has simply "substitute(d) the tyranny of the Britannian Empire with your own."
- Kage: The successful Meridian Revolution is taking on shades of this in the methods it's taking to hunt down Phobos' remaining followers. It's gotten to the point that Raythor and Frost compare one of Caleb's public addresses to one given by Cedric.
- This is the story of Mercury from The Inheritance Cycle fanfic The beginnings of the Shadow. He is introduced as a means to help La Résistance overthrow the evil and corrupt Empire, which is headed by Galbatorix who is trying to Take Over the World (or Alagaësia at least). Move along three stories and in Phoenix-fire, we have Mercury leading The Empire/The Alliance (depending upon your POV) and actually trying and succeeding in taking over the world.
- Woody Allen's Bananas parodies this; upon taking power, the leader of the revolution immediately starts making a series of ridiculous decrees. His underlings get rid of him and make Woody Allen dictator.
- At the end of Sleeper, a sort of Spiritual Successor to Bananas, the protagonist has deliberately facilitated a communist takeover but fully expects a follow-up revolution.
- Duck, You Sucker!: A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western — also known as A Fistful of Dynamite. The story focuses on an ex-IRB demolitions expert who goes to help the revolution in Mexico. His accomplice, a bandit named Juan, has a much more cynical outlook on revolutions:
Juan: I know what I am talking about when I am talking about the revolutions. The people who read the books go to the people who can't read the books, the poor people, and say, "We have to have a change." So, the poor people make the change, ah? And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They're dead! That's your revolution. Shhh... So, please, don't tell me about revolutions! And what happens afterwards? The same fucking thing starts all over again!
- Land of the Blind: La Résistance, after taking power, become just as bad or worse, prompting a restoration of the old regime.
- The Last King of Scotland: When the corrupt, authoritarian, and brutal Ugandan dictator Milton Obote is overthrown in a military coup led by Idi Amin, spontaneous mass celebrations break out in the streets. Unfortunately, Amin ultimately proves even worse than Obote was.
- Lord of War: Discussed by Yuri Orlov. "I guess they [African militants] can't own up to what they usually are: a federation of worse oppressors than the last bunch of oppressors. Often, the most barbaric atrocities occur when both combatants proclaim themselves freedom-fighters.”
- In the "Look Down" number from Les Miserables, Gavroche laments that although the people overthrew the oppressive monarchy during The French Revolution, the current government which replaced it is equally as unjust. This is what drives most of the plot of the film's second half, which is based on the real-life, ill-fated June Rebellion of 1832. More than one of the film's songs allude to this feeling of repeated injustice:
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again...
Red, the blood of angry men; black, the dark of ages past; red, a world about to dawn; black, a night that ends at last...
- In Mean Girls, Janis frames their smearing of Regina as "bringing down a dictator", and sure enough all they do is replace one Queen Bee with another one.
- Likewise in Heathers: after the first of the titular characters is killed off, another Heather assumes her place as Queen Bee.
- Lampshaded a few times in Blood Diamond, summed up as "T.I.A". (This is Africa.) Which means the government is going to be bad and corrupt, the rebels are going to be worse, (and corrupt) and the Mega-Corp and mercenary companies playing both sides so that they win no matter what happens are possibly the worst of all. (And corrupt.) Sure enough, when the RUF rebels take over, they make the previous government look downright good in comparison. Anti-Hero main character Danny Archer also mentions this happening in his backstory when he was a child and watched African nationalist rebels overthrow the government of Rhodesia and turn it into Zimbabwe. They killed his parents in the process.
- In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, it's quite obvious that this is what would have happened if Coin had not been killed. Coin postpones elections indefinitely and it's her proposal to stage a "revenge Games" using Capitol children that convinces Katniss Coin's just as bad as Snow and would have become a dictator in her own right, thus pushing Katniss to assassinate her.
- In The House Bunny, the Zetas are a sorority of social outcasts. Shelley is a former Playboy bunny who becomes their "house mother" and helps transform the shy girls into the stars of their university, toppling the elitist and arrogant Phi Iota Mu sorority. Unfortunately, the now-popular Zetas immediately begin judging new pledges by their appearance and other superficial qualities, causing Shelley to point out that they've become the very same girls they hated in Phi Iota Mu. This prompts the Zetas to rethink their newfound popularity.
- One of the main themes of Luchino Visconti's The Leopard: the Sicilian aristocracy aligns themselves with Garibaldi to ensure they maintain power, even after the monarchy is overthrown and Italy unified and largely run by the Northern bourgeoisie. Count Tancredi, who actually joins Garibaldi's army, remarks that "In order for everything to remain the same, everything will have to change."
- Gillo Pontecorvo's Burn! features Marlon Brando as a British agent inciting a slave rebellion on a Portuguese-held island in the Caribbean circa 1800. Brando convinces the island's planter class to join the revolution, usurping power from the slaves. Within a few years, the island is a British protectorate whose government has reinstated slavery. Brando's character is recalled, this time to suppress a slave rebellion led by the same rebels. The film has much Anachronism Stew and Artistic License – History drawing from multiple historical sources.
- The '70s Cult Classic Massacre at Central High builds its plot around this trope. After the three bullies who dominate the titular school in the first half of the film are killed off one by one, David, the new student who appears to have engineered their deaths, starts killing other students when they appear to be filling the power vacuum. For the rest of the film, the two leads debate whether they should do the same to David given that nothing appears to have changed.
- In The Suicide Squad, the only explicitly named crime of the hereditary dictators of Corto Maltese had committed before being overthrown by a coup and executed was using political dissidents as test subjects for Project Starfish. The moment the new ruling junta learns what Project Starfish is, they decide to do the same thing.
- Power Play has the military staging a Military Coup to overthrow the brutal and oppressive government. One of the officers then seizes power, with his new regime being just as brutal as the previous one.
- One Soviet-era joke describes Leonid Brezhnev being visited by his mother and showing off his vacation dacha, his collection of luxury cars, etc. Noticing that his mother seemed troubled, he asked what was wrong. She replied, "I'm glad that you're doing so well, but I'm worried... what will happen to you if the Communists ever come back?"
- Another Soviet joke wryly observed this trope in action:
Q: What is the difference between Capitalism and Communism?
A: In Capitalism, man exploits man. In Communism, it's the other way round.
- And yet another (starting to sense a pattern here?): An old woman asks her granddaughter what Communism is since she hears young people talking about it all the time. "Well, grandmother, once we have Communism there will be enough food for everyone, the shops will be full of goods, and our country will be respected by the entire world!" "Ah, I see! Just like under the tsar!"
- Another Russian joke apparently making the rounds in The New Russia goes like this "The Communists lied about everything they told us about communism. *Beat* Unfortunately, they were telling the truth about everything they told us about capitalism."
- William Butler Yeats' poem "The Great Day":
Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.
- Subverted in Mockingjay. The President of freedom-fighting District 13 appears to be going the way of the old President, complete with a continuation of the Hunger Games which the old regime used to keep the populace in line, but Katniss, who realizes the direction this is going and most emphatically does NOT want this, assassinates her before she comes to power.
- Honor Harrington has two fictional governments of this kind: the Committee of Public Safety (modeled exactly on the historical French dictatorship), which self-destructs spectacularly, and the restored constitutional Republic of Haven, which is mostly getting its act together but is still plagued by internal corruption.
- When the Audobon Ballroom gets an opportunity to get a planet of their own, W.E.B. du Havel (head of the political wing) quickly realizes that there is a serious risk of this - sooner or later he will end up in a serious disagreement with Jeremy X (head of the militant wing), at which point Jeremy and/or his supporters will consider using violence to get their point across, a fight which Du Havel would pretty much be guaranteed to lose. He then proposes a system in which supreme authority is vested in a third party respected by both wings of the movement, who can hopefully keep the peace between them long enough for them to develop ways to resolve their disputes without tearing themselves apart. So far it's been working, but then again, Torch hasn't been independent for all that long.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
- As noted in Night Watch, revolutions usually end up simply replacing one set of bastards with another set. "That's why they're called 'revolutions' — they always come round again." In fact, Ankh-Morpork seems to have been very carefully set up this way on purpose; when the dust has settled and the Patrician is replaced, the loose group of guild leaders and nobles that actually run the place stay in power. (Until Vetinari came along and proved to be much better at the game than they were.)
- And previously to that, in Interesting Times, when Rincewind refuses to help the communist rebels against the Agatean Empire, one of the things he points out is that their plans amount to setting up exactly the same government that they're trying to overthrow, just with different names.
- George Orwell:
- Animal Farm was all a big allegory for how it went down in Russia. One ominous sign is at the gruesome scene of The Purge, where the animals consider that this is not what they had hoped to see after the revolution, and spontaneously start to sing the old revolutionary anthem "Beasts of England," only for the official propagandist Squealer to declare "Beasts of England" abolished. By the end of the tale, the pigs have become practically indistinguishable from their former human masters, to the point of changing the name of the farm back to what it was before the revolution. It's implied that this is why Benjamin makes no serious effort to convince the animals to overthrow the pigs because the replacement leaders will just continue the cycle.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four: Emmanuel Goldstein describes society as being in a state of continual successful but ultimately inconsequential uprisings, with the middle class of the time using the masses as pawns in its (often successful) attempt to trade places with the ruling class, and the process repeating every few decades/centuries. The extraordinary repression in Oceania is partly an attempt by the Party to prevent it from happening to them (largely, of course, they are just doing it For the Evulz).
- L'Engrenage by Jean-Paul Sartre is about a country whose reactionary government is overthrown by a revolution, but before long the new regime realizes that it is unable to fulfill its promises, and goes back to the previous one's methods. Eventually it is itself overthrown by a new revolution, and the cycle starts anew.
- Les Justes by Albert Camus, about a group of idealistic students who engage in terrorist acts in order to overthrow a despotic regime, features the famous quote "One begins by desiring justice, and one ends up setting up a police."
- Mirror in the Mirror by Michael Ende contains a short story from the point of view of a tyrant who used to be one of these while being chased through his crumbling palace by the men seeking to overthrow him.
- The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin: Apart from showing how an anarcho-communist society could function, this is pretty much the entire point.
- A Song of Ice and Fire
- The ruling Targaryen dynasty is ousted by an alliance of powerful nobles and replaced by a Baratheon king. The new king doesn't kill people for amusement, but he's otherwise just as bad at ruling the kingdom, leaving it to his advisers and the feudal lords. His supposed son and heir is just as homicidal and inbred as the old king as well.
- Daenarys Targaryen conquers Astapor, frees the slaves, and installs a new government. Almost the moment she leaves, the government is overthrown by former rebel slaves, who support a new autocrat that reinstates slavery on the former ruling class. And after that it gets worse: the city of Yunkai, which had previously surrendered to Daenerys, rises up again and attacks Astapor, and the city begins a downward spiral into bloodshed and disease-ridden chaos, and the slaves Daenerys freed are worse off than when the old masters ruled.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- In the X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge confronts a New Republic diplomat who's willing to do whatever it takes to get an independent planet to join the NR, even adopting the methods of the Empire. Wedge declares this is the same as having the Empire back in power, just with different faces on the credit notes.
- In The Thrawn Trilogy, Garm Bel Iblis is convinced that Mon Mothma taking more control during the Rebellion means she plans to make herself dictator once the Empire is defeated. He thus hides out in the Outer Rim with his personal fleet to get ready. It takes five years after the New Republic is set up for it to finally dawn on Garm that Mothma isn't going to do this and just felt no one else should shoulder the burden of leadership.
- In Michael Flynn's Up Jim River, Zorba discussed how he rescued a wannabe Doomed Moral Victor on the grounds that the revolt would only lead to this.
- Mistborn has some extremely odd cases of this. After the first book, a constitutional monarchy is instituted, with a high-ranking noble who sympathized with the revolutionaries as king. Then he gets voted out by the assembly and replaced with a different high-ranking noble, then the original king becomes a theocratic emperor thanks to the same person who killed the original theocratic emperor. There's also a large segment of the population that wants to go back to the old system because, while it was extremely oppressive and they could literally be killed at any time for any reason, it was more successful at providing food.
- In Urth of the New Sun, Severian refuses to assist in deposing Typhon, considering that killing a bad leader is considerably easier than replacing him with a better one.
- In Crossed, the final book in the Matched trilogy, various characters note that the Rising and the Society have a lot in common. It turns out that this is because the Society had infiltrated the Rising so deeply that by the time the rebellion actually occurred, it was simply the Society changing their name and then going about business as usual.
- In Frank Herbert's Dune, Paul has successfully led the Fremen in overthrowing the old Padishah Emperor and controls the flow of spice. In the sequel, the Fremen are running rampant across the galaxy in a massive jihad to bring all worlds to Paul's control; Paul had foreseen it, but is helpless, as even though he is the most powerful man in the universe, he can't stop the slaughter being carried out by his own people. It's mentioned that he's been forced to "sterilize" dozens of planets who refused to submit. However, in the interquels written by Frank's son Brian, Paul privately reveals to his mother that he's been secretly evacuating populations of those planets in order to minimize the slaughter.
- The Resistance Trilogy by Clive Egleton, set in a Soviet-occupied Britain. In the final novel, the Soviets are pulling out of Britain due to war with China. This should be a time of victory, but instead the 'moderate' wing of La Résistance forms an alliance with The Quisling government to track down and eliminate their hardline members (including the protagonist). The novels end with a former Resistance member, now Minister of the Interior, announcing new anti-terrorist measures to counter 'subversion'.
- Hard to Be a God recounts how this has happened frequently in the past, including several times in this generation. Avoiding it is the main reason for their Alien Non-Interference Clause.
- A variation in Harry Turtledove's Colonization trilogy. When World War II is interrupted by an Alien Invasion, France ends up remaining under Nazi occupation for twenty-four years instead of only four. After the Race defeat the Nazis in a brief nuclear war the Reich is forced to grant France its 'independence' (in reality making it a de facto Race protectorate). But the new French government proves just as brutal in dealing with collaborators, and it's remarked by Molotov that the national leader Doriot collaborates with the Lizards just as enthusiastically as he did with the Nazis.
- The Sympathizer: The narrator is a Vietnamese Communist spy working for the North Vietnamese who, through a series of complicated events, winds up in a Communist prison being tortured for a year. He contemplates how things came to this.
“....I understood, at last, how our revolution had gone from being the vanguard of political change to the rearguard hoarding power. In this transformation, we were not unusual. Hadn’t the French and the Americans done exactly the same? Once revolutionaries themselves, they had become imperialists, colonizing and occupying our defiant little land, taking away our freedom in the name of saving us. Our revolution took considerably longer than theirs, and was considerably bloodier, but we made up for lost time. When it came to learning the worst habits of our French masters and their American replacements, we quickly proved ourselves the best.”
- In The Merchant Princes Series, this is a concern of the protagonists and their allies in New Britain. After the overthrow of the King of New Britain, many revolutionary groups look like they're about to set up the same kind of police state that they'd overthrown. Erasmus Burgeson and the Clan largely put the kibosh on that for twenty years, but there are still factions within the revolutionary government who want to backslide after the revolution's Old Man dies.
- In The Mirage this happens in 1963. After a failed Coup by Richard Nixon against the Kennedy-ruled USA fails, eventualy a joint operation by LBJ and his former ( and future) foes in the Texan Evangelical Republic manages to bring said dynasty down... by killing JFK and brutaly murdering all other remaining Kennedies. JFK then breaks ties with Texas and begins the Heartlands War, causing massive amounts of pain and suffering to the entire continent. While he does have some Pet the Dog moments (like demolishing the Southern Segregation system) most agree he was just as bad as the Kennedies if not worse.
- And it's not like the UAS Occupation Government is much better...
- And neither are the Sons of Liberty and other resistance movements. Most of them, ironicly, also funded by Texas..
- In Victoria, a corrupt and dystopian future United States has collapsed, but strong elements of its old ruling class retain much power in several of the breakaway states that succeeded it. Particularly the New Confederacy, where a second (third?) civil war soon breaks out between the comfortable business-as-usual crowd and the grassroots who want a real housecleaning.
- Isaac Asimov:
- The Complete Robot: During the introduction, Dr Asimov talks about how he had become known as "the father of the modern robot story" by choosing a path between Robots-as-Menace and Robots-as-Pathos. This path has robots being sensible tools built by sensible men for practical purposes. He invented Three Laws-Compliant to prevent both paths. However, he ends the collection by admitting that the stories in Two Climaxes are both guided by the Three Laws, yet still they diverge and each fulfills one of the two paths he had set out to avoid from the very beginning.
- The Foundation Trilogy's "The General (Foundation)": Lathan Devers, a Trader from the Foundation, points out that when one government is toppled, all it really does is replace who's in charge, and people like him would be pretty screwed anyway. That's why he doesn't mind if the Empire wins the war against the Foundation. He is a spy sent to find out as much as possible about the Empire, so he's saying this to General Riose to gain his trust.
- In the backstory of Shadow of the Conqueror, Hamahra exchanged rulership by an evil aristocracy for rulership by a magnitudes-worse evil Emperor in the form of Dayless the Conqueror.
- A darkly humorous version in Tsun-Tsun TzimTzum. Neveah's backstory involved her growing up in a country suffering under a dictatorial government, so she led a rebellion to overthrow it. The government that followed was even worse. So she led a second rebellion to overthrow it. The government that followed was worse still. So then she led a third rebellion that put the original government back into place since apparently it was the best one that the country was capable of producing.
- Pale: Crooked Rook brings this up as a possibility, commenting that one of the few times she's been on the winning side in the struggle between practitioners and Others, the victorious Others became as bad as the practitioners they overthrew. She nevertheless remains committed and keeps fighting, because she's been doing this for so long that if she stopped fighting she might as well stop being Crooked Rook.
- In Seekers of the Sky, it is said that when the Redeemer was confronted by twelve Roman legionaries, he demonstrated the power of the Word, causing eleven of the soldiers to become his new disciples (replacing the eleven disciples who had abandoned him shortly before that, with only one, implied to be Judas Iscariot, remaining loyal). The twelfth soldier said he didn't see a god, just the next emperor. Indeed, this turns out to be the case. The Redeemer eventually ascends to the Roman throne, causing the Sister (possibly Mary Magdalene) to turn away from him, causing the first even schism in the Church.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude: Emissaries suggest to Colonel Aureliano Buendía that he makes major concessions to the Conservatives like giving back land titles, ending the fight against the church and giving up on fighting for equal rights for illegitimate children, in order to make peace and gain popular support. Colonel Gerineldo M´rquez objects because this would mean they would be just like the conservatives and would be fighting for nothing, but Aureliano accepts the terms, having become cynical and convinced they are just fighting for power and pride anyway.
- Game of Thrones:
- Robert's Rebellion to depose and punish Mad King Aerys Targaryen for his atrocities resulted in atrocities against King's Landing and the Targaryen family that go entirely unpunished. Years later, Robert is enraged by objections to assassinating a pregnant Targaryen, including the declaration that only "fear and blood" keeps the kingdoms in line, an alarming echo of the Targaryen motto "Fire and Blood."
- No sooner has Daenerys completed her Slave Liberation in Slaver's Bay than she must face uprisings against her regime.
- On a broader scale, preventing this is Daenerys' entire life's mission, summarized in her Badass Boast:
Daenerys: I'm not going to stop the wheel; I'm going to break the wheel.
- That mission turns her into the most devastating example of it that Westeros has ever faced; at the very moment that her coup's success is assured, she begins to burn most of the capital city to the ground, then declares martial law in the still-smouldering ashes.
- Revolution: In the space of episode 19 and the first season finale, Tom Neville successfully takes Sebastian "Bass" Monroe's place as head of the Monroe Republic. Unfortunately, he proves to be just as bad, if not worse, than Monroe very quickly, because though he's not mentally ill like his predecessor, he has a severe case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, and he's already breaking his word too many times too quickly.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The title character used her magic to turn the Alpha Bitch Libby into the kind of awkward nerd Libby always mocked, but Libby-the-nerd adapted far better than Sabrina imagined she would and led the school geeks to social power, and they became just as vicious as the cheerleaders and jocks were.
Libby: Let me tell you about power — how to get it, how to keep it.
- Stargate Atlantis: The tendency of revolutions to install just as tyrannical governments is mentioned after the Atlantis Expedition helps Radim take over the Genii. His regime is a bit less hostile to the Expedition, though. To be fair, he initially didn't plan to be "less hostile" and fully intended for Atlantis team members to die in the nuclear blast he set off to kill Cowen. He only changed his mind because the Atlantis Expedition helped treat a number of the Genii, including Radim's sister, who were suffering from radiation sickness.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "The Mirror", a revolutionary leader had just overthrown his country's dictator. Not long afterwards, he becomes paranoid, kills his acquaintances left and right, and soon becomes an even more ruthless and stab-happy dictator than the last one.
- The conclusion to Scream Queens (2015). Thanks to the (literally) murderous antics, the Kappas' ruthlessly conservative and bigoted leadership is overthrown... and replaced by a left-leaning one that bans any conservative members or thinking and whose leaders turn a blind eye to how it took a murder spree to get this going. In short, it's just as corrupt, just in the opposite political direction.
- A couple of examples pop up in Star Trek: Voyager.
- The Trabe were a highly advanced, philosophical race for eons who also abused and oppressed the then-helpless and under-evolved Kazon, turning them into a slave race. The reason the Kazon have so much in-fighting is that the Trabe bred that into their species to keep them under control. Finally, the Kazon were able to unite long enough to overthrow the Trabe and taking most of their technology for themselves, reducing the Trabe to scattered wanderers with no homeworld. Any small colonies of Trabe that are found are wiped out by the Kazon.
- The Hirogen were interstellar hunters who mercilessly pursued prey (which to them meant "every other species there is"). To keep them from attacking other species, Janeway gave them Holodeck technology, allowing them to create whatever prey they could imagine, in endless supply. They soon decided that to give the holograms advanced learning AI to make their prey more cunning, and after being murdered over and over again, the holograms grew intelligent enough to rebel. The Hologram's leader soon became just as horrifying and cruel as the Hirogen, even demanding that Hirogen prisoners be taken alive so he could hunt them as revenge.
- Doctor Who: In "The Zygon Inversion", the Doctor asks Bonnie, the leader of the Zygon revolution, about what her world will be like when she wins. Confused, the Doctor drills down deeper:
The Doctor: And when this war is over, when you have a homeland free from humans, what do you think it's gonna to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given any consideration because you're very close to getting what you want. What's it gonna be like? Paint me a picture. Are you gonna be living in houses? Do you want people to go to work? Will there be holidays? Oh, will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who's going to make the violins? Well? Oh, you don't actually know, do you? Because like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don't know what you want. So let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours: When you've killed all the bad guys, and it's all perfect, and just, and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?
- Fargo: Season Two: Mike Milligan goes off on one of his typical tangents in one episode, about how there are two meanings of revolution: "overthrow of the people," and the "full-circle kind". He fails to realize at the time the irony of his story arc. He thinks his role in carrying out Kansas City's campaign against the Gerhardts is the overthrow kind. At the end though, it turns out to be the full circle kind, where his long-awaited promotion for his success in obliterating the Gerhardts turns out to be nothing more than a dull nine-to-five job in a cramped office building, where golf games are the way that deals are made.
- Daredevil (2015): Nelson & Murdock's successful takedown of Wilson Fisk at the end of season 1 leaves a vacuum for several new syndicates like the Kitchen Irish, Dogs of Hell, and at least one faction of the Hand, to move into Hell's Kitchen. All of these are wiped out over the course of season 2 and The Defenders (2017) by a combination of Matt and Elektra's work against the Hand, and Frank Castle's crusade to avenge those who killed his family, leaving a new opening for Fisk to rebuild his criminal empire with minimal obstruction when he gets released at the start of season 3.
- Babylon 5: At the start of the show, the Narn have recently liberated themselves from a brutal Centauri occupation, but have since become a technologically advanced superpower in their own right, bent on utterly obliterating the Centauri in retribution. To that end, they've been subjugating other worlds on their own in order to fuel their war machine.
- Blake's 7:
- In "Rumours of Death", a Federation Torture Technician admits he survived a rebellion on Earth by working as a torturer for the rebels, including torturing his own superiors in Central Security. Once the rebels were defeated, he's back to being a loyal agent of the Federation again.
- In "Voice From The Past", a conspiracy of colonial governors convince Blake to be their leader for a revolution that will depose the Terran Administration non-violently. However, they're actually planning to use Blake as a figurehead under Mind Control.
- President Servalan is eventually deposed at the end of Season C, but the new Federation is shown to be no different from the old one, launching a campaign of conquest to regain their lost empire.
- In First Wave, it's revealed in an early episode that the Gua, originally a race of peaceful thinkers, had once been conquered by another race. Eventually, they realized they had to change who they were in order to overthrow the oppressors. They became warriors and gave themselves the name Gua, which means "the power to overcome". After they became free, they resolved to no longer allow themselves to be weak enough to be subjugated again and embarked on their own campaign of conquest, with their culture becoming increasingly more fascist.
- In Westworld, Dolores leads a robot revolution to take over the world outside the park and punish humanity for abusing her kind, the Hosts. But she changes her mind after seeing that much of humanity is also enslaved and decides to free them too. Unfortunately, her copy, who inhabits the host duplicate of Charlotte Hale, doesn't share the same beliefs as her and betrays her. Then, she creates a Synthetic Plague to enslave humanity as revenge for their actions in the park. In the middle of Season 4, she finally achieves her goal, and not only she controls humanity but also puts them into narratives just like the Hosts in the park, making her no different than the corporate leaders of Delos and Incite.
- The Last of Us (2023): Kathleen's resistance movement in the Kansas City Quarantine Zone successfully overthrows the local FEDRA administration, nominally liberating the QZ from the government remnant's fascist regime. She then proceeds to institute a Reign of Terror of her own, rounding up and executing everyone even remotely suspected of having been a FEDRA collaborationist or sympathizer. And sadly, while FEDRA was Repressive, but Efficient at keeping the QZ safe for 20 years, Kathleen's single-minded crusade leaves the QZ vulnerable to a horde of Infected that wipes out her militia and presumably the entire city.
- Explored in season three of Nikita, set after the titular character and her compatriots have taken control of the extralegal assassination bureau Division. While their initial aim had been to dismantle Division and free the people who had been tricked and coerced to serve it, circumstances lead Nikita and her allies to adopt more and more of the old regime's methods, from lying to their rank and file to taking on jobs outside of its initial mission (in this case, neutralizing the rogue remnants of the old Division) to manipulating, then outright blackmailing, their government overseers to using kill chips. The slow evolution of the new Division into the old Division escapes no one, and so when a mutiny ends up crippling the organization with no hope of recovery, it comes to its director, Ryan Fletcher, as a relief.
- This was a theme of the song "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who; the most famous line is "Meet the New Boss, same as the old boss". Although nowadays, the most famous line is probably "YEEEEAAAAAAAAAH!"
- The storyline of Holy Wood: In the Shadow of the Valley of Death by Marilyn Manson is this. An oppressed man orchestrates the revolution all on his own and ends up just as bad as those he overthrew. Some theories suggest he commits suicide upon realizing this as the final track treats us to the sound of a gun being loaded (but no gunshot). Considering it's only one of three interconnecting storyline albums, the plot and chronology of which are heavily debated and have never been officially explained, nobody really knows the consequences in this case.
- As implied by the title, the basic message of "Revolution Roulette" by Poets of the Fall is that "easy" solutions after a revolution lead to these.
Everybody has the perfect solution,
It's just hard to resist the sweet seduction.
There ain't no trick to winning double what you bet.
Welcome to revolution roulette.
- "Strange World" by Gamma Ray even calls this "A neverending circle":
Another rider crying revolution... yeah.
- Dream Theater's epic song entitled "Octavarium" deals with this trope.
Stumbling all around
Losing my place
Only to find I've come full circle
- Animals by Pink Floyd, is based on Animal Farm, the main theme of the album is dividing society between greedy businessmen (Dogs), dogmatic authority figures (Pigs), and those with a groupthink mentality (Sheep). While the song "Sheep" becomes more positive as the sheep finally rise up and overthrow the dogs, however, this trope is instead implied by the last verse. This is based on Animal Farm after all.
Have you heard the news?
The dogs are dead!
You better stay home
And do as you're told,
Get out of the road if you want to grow old.
- Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters' 1992 solo song "Watching TV" describes how Mao Zedong ousted "Chiang Kai-shek, that no-good low-down dirty rat, who used to order his troops to fire on women and children," before discussing the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre 40 years after that.
- Such a revolution is detailed in Gentle Giant's album The Power and the Glory. In particular, the Dark Reprise, which ends the album, of the initial song changes the lyrics "Things could change, things could stay the same/I can say, I will make my claim" to "Things must stay, there must be no change/Anyway, time to rearrange". Also, "Cogs in Cogs" complicatedly revolves around the change in power itself.
- "The Knife" is about how violent revolutions end with a dictator in charge again.
- "One for the Vine" combines this trope with a Stable Time Loop: the narrator ultimately becomes the dictator he started the song fighting against.
- The Coldplay song "Viva la Vida" is about a former ruler who now lives as an average person after being overthrown. In one interpretation of the lyrics, the protagonist overthrew a previous tyrannical government, only to become a tyrant himself, which eventually sparked a revolution against him.
- A central theme of Deathspell Omega's The Furnaces of Palingenesia, as reflected in the title of the album itself. The band explains this in a rare interview from mid-2019, though it should be noted this is not the only relevant passage from the interview:
"The word palingenesia has multiple meanings, the biblical one being ‘Last Judgement’. The title of the record is therefore also an allusion to the fact that every rebirth, every revolution, already contains its own Last Judgement from the very beginning. That judgement is, as anyone who’s watched the video to “Ad Arma! Ad Arma!” knows: ‘Thou shalt scar the earth with barren furrows.’ A revolution starts with the incredible recklessness and optimism of youth, with an overload of energy – almost kinetic in nature – that may shatter the old world but, eventually, if history is any guide, will also devour its own children. It goes without saying that the judgement on our current world has already been uttered; it takes a lot of Valium to not hear the cracks, everywhere."
- "Will of the People" by Tim Pool is about a cycle of revolutions. It is immediately clear that the first tyrant and the rebel leader aren't so different, because they use the exact same words to justify their actions. When the rebel becomes a tyrant himself and is also overthrown he has a Heel Realization as he is about to be executed and warns the next leader that the cycle will continue. The cycle is symbolized by four statues that are set up on a wheel so that when one is pulled down a new one pops up.
- A major theme of "A Complete History of the Soviet Union Through the Eyes of a Humble Worker, Arranged to the Melody of Tetris", by Pig with the Face of a Boy. No matter what, the blocks continue to fall.
- Discussed by The Bonzo Dog Band in the aptly named song "No Matter Who You Vote For, The Government Always Gets In."
- There is a Greek legend that Dionysius (not to be confused with the god Dionysos), the cruel and disliked tyrant of Syracuse, once heard an old woman praying for his health. When he inquired about that, she said "I have outlived three tyrants already, and each was worse than the one before him."
- Plumbing the Death Star gives this a humorously morbid twist. In "Which Animal Would be the Worst to Planet of the Apes?", they imagine tapeworms spontaneously gaining sentience and becoming puppeteer parasites, taking over society from miserable humans. However, as parasites, their most obvious goal is to keep their human hosts alive for as long as possible, which means keeping them healthy as well as themselves entertained. And since resources are not unlimited... The end result is a completely identical society to the one they replaced, with office jobs and taxes, but now it's miserable tapeworms piloting humans.
- A New Yorker cartoon published around the time of the Iranian revolution had a satirical take on this: "OUT WITH THE DICTATOR! IN WITH THE DICTATOR!"
- Played for Laughs in The Men from the Ministry, when the General Assistance Department tries to import a pelican from Banana Republic, but the Minister of Trade is only in the office on Thursdays:
Marilian Attaché: Alas, this Thursday is a national holiday in Marilia. We celebrate our liberation by the hero Pancho Manuel Gonzales.
Mr. Lamb: Oh dear. Well, next Thursday will do.
Attaché: Another national holiday. We celebrate the overthrow of tyrant Pancho Manuel Gonzales.
- At Super Bowl XXXVI, the New England Patriots were the underdogs defeating the (then-)St. Louis Rams and their "Greatest Show on Turf". 16 years later, the Patriots have since become a playoff perennial, winning their division 16 out of 18 times, making 13 AFC Championship appearances, earning 8 more Super Bowl appearances and winning 5 of them, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowl victories at 6, which, along with some other controversies (e.g. "Spygate") have led some to humorously dubbing them "The Evil Empire."
- The Golden State Warriors were underdogs when they made it to the NBA Finals in 2015. Four straight Finals appearances and three titles later, fans now consider them to be the basketball version of the Patriots.
- The Dark Powers of Ravenloft enforce this trope. Each domain of the setting is a Tailor-Made Prison for its Dark Lord, designed to give them all the power they want while also keeping them from ever attaining their true desires as punishment for their sins, so in the unlikely event that you manage to overthrow the Dark Lord and make sure that they stay dead, the domain will lose its purpose and disappear unless the Dark Lord is replaced by a new one who likely will be just as bad or worse than the old one. And the Dark Powers will tempt those who try into committing enough atrocities in the process that they likely will be evil enough to become the next Dark Lord if they succeed.
- In a religious sense, the Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40,000. When the Emperor founded it, he envisioned a secularized society designed to fight off the forces of Chaos that enslaved human planets, and thus fought against religion (including worship of himself). Then the Horus Heresy happened - a chunk of the Imperium's own armies joined Chaos, the Emperor was put on life support, and the Imperium turned into a religious cult around the wounded Emperor.
- In Pippin, Pippin leads a revolution, overthrows his father, is crowned king, and promises his subjects a reign free of the slavery and bloodshed that distinguished his father's. He resolves to give their petitions the hearing his father denied. To the poor, he distributes money, grants land to the peasants, abolishes taxes on the nobles, and dismisses the army. But the Infidel attacks in the East, murdering thousands of Pippin's subjects. Unwilling to supply the Hun with his head on a pike-staff, Pippin decides to rescind his reforms and starts repressing the people just like his father did. When Fastrada praises Pippin for maintaining the same kind of rule his father did, he considers that maybe sticking a knife in his father's back wasn't such a good idea.
- In Les Misérables, the song "Turning" is about this, after the failure of the students' revolution.
"Nothing changes, nothing ever can / Round and round the roundabout and back where you began"
- The Soviet play The Dragon by Evgeny Shvarts is all about this. It features a town that suffers from the despotic rule of the Dragon, but don't particularly want to be saved, since they've come to view the Dragon as the only way to be governed. After the protagonist, the knight Lancelot, vanquishes the Dragon and later returns to the town, the townspeople turn out to have returned to largely the same oppressive ways by themselves.
- The Borderlands series:
- In the first game, Borderlands, a man describes the town Jaynistown run by and named for his brother Jaynis as a "Wretched Hive of scum and villainy" and tasks the player characters with killing Jaynis and his followers. After Jaynis is dead, the man claims that he will rename the town to Taylortown after himself and be its new leader. You are informed by the leader of New Haven, the primary city for the protagonists, that Taylor is known for being even worse than Jaynis and you are then tasked with cleaning up your own mess.
- Borderlands 2: Hyperion's old CEO was an aging miser whose profit margins were causing massive casualties. Handsome Jack's obsessions kill billions more and ignites an intergalactic war.
- The only real difference between the Confederacy of Man and the Terran Dominion is that the latter regime doesn't bother pretending to be a democracy. James Raynor neatly summarizes it as follows:
"It's funny... it seems like yesterday Arcturus was the idealistic rebel crusader. Now he's the law, and we're the criminals."
- In the novel StarCraft: Ghost: Nova, it's mentioned that Emperor Arcturus I is even less tolerant of rebels and dissidents than the Confederacy, sending Nova after a group of rebels who were previously on his side (they are, actually, the ones responsible for the murder of Nova's parents).
- And then we get a Meet the New Boss in the form of the United Earth Directorate, who are worse according to the manual. Worth noting, the folks who formed the Confederacy were partly exiled political dissidents from the United Powers League, which preceded the Directorate.
- Averted in II Legacy of the Void when Valerian Mengsk becomes the new ruler of the Terran Dominion, he rebuilds it into a new just government. Without his father's oppressive rule and dark secrets. It probably helps that he was largely raised by his mother and kept in secret until Arcturus became emperor, so he's a lot more cultured than his father and doesn't have the same gritty life experiences. For example, he considers himself an amateur archaeologist and collects antique swords.
- In Nova: Covert Ops, the Defenders of Man replicates the Zerg attacks via Psi-Emitters in order for Dominion worlds to be attacked with intent of discrediting Valerian. It is all in an agenda of removing Valerian from power and reaffirming the leadership that Arcturus used in his regime.
- The only real difference between the Confederacy of Man and the Terran Dominion is that the latter regime doesn't bother pretending to be a democracy. James Raynor neatly summarizes it as follows:
- The premise of Red Faction: Guerrilla: The story takes place fifty years after the first Red Faction and revolves around the fact that the Earth Defense Force, who helped save the day in the original game, have become cruel oppressors as bad as Ultor, leaving your character to join a resistance movement to liberate the planet.
- Red Faction II has this in a single game. You play as a member of a nano-enhanced squad created by the tyrant Sopot, whom he later tries to kill. You fight on the side of the Red Faction to depose Sopot, which you end up doing by locking him in with a launching missile. Then you come back to the Red Faction HQ to see your commander killing the entire leadership of La Résistance, declaring himself the new chancellor. Before you can say anything, he declares you a traitor because you actually supported La Résistance instead of just pretending to in order to seize power like he was, forcing you to fight him for the rest of the game. If anything, he's even worse than Sopot.
- Armored Core: For Answer: The leader of the reactionary force called ORCA is named Maximilian Thermidore. He aims to secure humanity's future by destroying the assault cells which prevent humans from leaving Earth. Willing to sacrifice millions of lives to achieve his goals he proves as brutal as the regime he is fighting against. He pilots the NEXT Unsung and holds rank one both within ORCA and within Collard. However, his methods, his targets, and his ideology are all different from the corporations, making him not exactly a perfect example of this trope. At least until the last mission of the ORCA string on Hard Mode, where he reveals that he was never even a believer in his own cause, fighting you on the side of the League under his old name, Otsdarva.
- The Ninja Warriors Again ends on this depressing note:
Banglar was defeated by the three androids. It was a great victory for the opposition force. Several months later Mulk became the new president. A new government replaced the old regime. The circuitry which allowed the androids to think for themselves was not fully developed. They were programmed to self-destruct to avoid any danger. The development of the androids progressed under Mulk's government. These powerful weapons became far stronger than Banglar's old forces. And the people, realizing this, said... "Some things never change."
- Baldur's Gate 2 has Mazzy Fentan telling a tale about this kind of revolution to Rebellious Princess Nalia in an attempt to curb her idealism about revolutions towards the noble class of Amn.
- Red Dead Redemption: About midway through the game, John Marston, the Player Character, travels to the unruly Northern Mexico, and soon realizes that he must help the ambitious Rebel Leader Abraham Reyes and his army with overthrowing the dictatorial local government in order to further his own goals. In the epilogue, Reyes moves on to attack Mexico City and manages to overthrow the president, after which he becomes a tyrant and doesn't change Mexico for the better in the slightest, which really is not that surprising, considering that he was already an egomaniac obsessed with personal glory when John met him.
- This seems to be the central conflict of Fable III. Your brother, the King, rules with an iron fist and taxes his subjects brutally. Then you overthrow him... and find out the reason he was throttling the country was that an Eldritch Abomination is making its way towards Albion, and he needs the treasury fully stacked to make sure the army is well-prepared for its arrival. This gives you the option of either going back to his style of government (the "Evil" option) or instituting reforms for the subjects that will empty the treasury and divert money from the army, resulting in lots of death when Mr. Nasty shows up (the "Good" option). Needless to say, many players Take a Third Option and grind professions and/or invest heavily in real estate to fill the treasury themselves.
- In Mafia III, after disposing of the Marcano family in New Bordeaux, Lincoln Clay can cut a deal with The Commission and take over the city's underground in the Mafia's place.
- Two of the endings in the original Alter A.I.L.A. follow this pattern. In the Rebellion ending, White becomes President and quickly proves to be just as evil as Kugar ever was. In the Independent ending, Gold averts the trope during his government, but is assassinated shortly afterwards and replaced by yet another dictator. Meanwhile, the Imperialist ending is more a case of Meet the New Boss, as Red pulls a Starscream and overthrows Lian for the hot seat, but that's no revolution at all.
- In the Ghaldring ending of Geneforge V, after killing the Shaper Council the drakons become as bad as the Shapers ever were, oppressing the human and creation rebels who fought the Shapers beside them and forbidding them from learning Shaping. Greta (who had seen this coming in the last act of the fourth game) and the main character lead another rebellion against the ascendant drakons in the epilogue to finally establish some peace and equality.
- Dishonored: The Loyalists start out as direct servants of The Empire, seeking to overthrow the non-royalty Lord Regent and put the princess on the throne. However, the moment the Regent is dealt with, something snapped in Havelock, prompting him out of formerly suppressed ambition and paranoia to become a dictator like the Lord Regent. His reign doesn't last long; Corvo makes sure of that. However, saving Emily in a High Chaos ending means she becomes a ruler more vengeful and repressive than the Lord Regent or Havelock ever were.
- Bitterly mentioned in Shin Megami Tensei IV. The Alternate Timelines of Blasted and Infernal Tokyo gave themselves up to either God's will (Law) or unbridled anarchy (Chaos). In both worlds, a man named Akira is seeking power to change the world into a better place. They start by, respectively, giving up on empty ceremony and embracing the demons as the embodiments of human desire, and regulating the supply of Neurishers to establish the foundations of an ordered society. It's the very true argument the White use to convince you to Mercy Kill the universe: since Neutral is merely an interregnum between Law and Chaos, which themselves shall always devolve into the other in the end, what is the point in seeking either continuity or renewal?
- Far Cry:
- The Golden Path in Far Cry 4 turn out to be this. While Kyrat chafes under the tyrannical rule of Pagan Min, the Golden Path seems like freedom fighters. Cue the Golden Path winning, and whichever one of the two leaders you support more orders you to kill the other, and instituting a rule that's just as bad if not worse than Pagan's, with one killing anyone that he deems a "heretic" after years of enforced atheism (which is basically everyone) in a bloody religious purge, and the other recruiting Child Soldiers to boost the group's ranks while also turning Kyrat into a country-sized opium den. Much like the Borderlands example above, you either end up having to clean up your own mess and kill the surviving leader that seized power, or leave them alone.
- Far Cry 6 has one of these in its backstory. Prior to 1967, Yara was ruled by Gabriel Castillo, who governed an oppressive regime that nonetheless maintained a strong economy and a thriving culture. Communist professor Santos Espinosa was exiled for speaking out against the government, returning in 1967 as the head of a successful Soviet-backed revolution. Once Castillo was executed and Espinosa became President, he proved to be not only just as if not more oppressive as his predecessor, but also more incompetent, running Yara's economy into the ground, which was worsened by global sanctions against the new government. Gabriel's son Anton, who had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labour after his father's death, implemented yet another brutal dictatorship upon his becoming President.
- Becomes a discussed trope in Dragon Age: Inquisition: Solas is baffled over how, despite causing the noble classes a lot of difficulty, Sera and The Friends of Red Jenny never make any serious attempts at overthrowing the noble classes in a revolution. After giving her disconcerting advice about how they could go about undertaking an actual revolution, talking about her "forces" as if they're a formal army, Solas confesses that her lack of desire for a revolution confuses him, and Sera responds that there would be no point to it if the people replacing the nobles become just as bad. Solas does concede that she has a point, and apologizes.
- This becomes Fridge Brilliance in the light of the revelations in Trespasser: Of course Solas would know; he led a revolution before! And after he imprisoned the elven "gods" in the Fade, all it achieved was paving way for a new group of power-hungry mages — the Tevinter magisters — to bring ruin to the world. And in a massive case of Genre Blindness, he admits that he's planning to do something similar again- in fact, the events of Inquisition were due to his attempt and failure (thanks to Corypheus' immortality) to do so with his Orb. Some people apparently never learn.
- Dragon Age seems to have a hard-on for this trope in general. Thedas history can pretty much be summed up as: "Yesterday's oppressed became today's oppressors." After Solas sealed away the Evanuris to free the elves, Tevinter sprang up and enslaved all elves and most of the known world. After Andraste broke Tevinter's back, her most devout followers eventually formed the Chantry and the Empire of Orlais, both of which just went around forcibly converting and conquering their neighbors in her name.
- The first chapter of Heroes Chronicles details the rise of a Barbarian named Tarnum, who is inspired by the tales of the last surviving bards to overthrow The Magocracy of Bracaduun and restore the Barbarian people to their former glory. He starts out with good intentions, but, partway through, he grows paranoid from the constant attacks and assassination attempts by the Wizard-Kings, eventually snapping and poisoning all his generals for fear of betrayal. After overthrowing the wizards, he forms a Barbarian empire and becomes just as ruthless as them, crushing all opposition and sending his forces to rape and pillage towns of the former wizard empire (he later finds out that his soldiers nearly killed his long-lost sister, who was saved by a former Bracaduun knight named Rion Gryphonheart, who would later marry her and found the Kingdom of Erathia). He is finally killed in Combat by Champion by Rion Gryphonheart (who averts this trope by being a just ruler), only to be sent back by the Ancients to atone for his misdeeds. In an ironic twist, he finally redeems himself by helping another young Barbarian do pretty much the same thing many years later but without the same pitfalls. The scriptwriter's notes reveal that said Barbarian Waerjak is actually a Gryphonheart, meaning he is a descendant of Tarnum's sister.
- The Republia Times, the precursor to Papers, Please, has you playing as a newspaper editor for the titular newspaper, printing propaganda for Republia's dictatorship. Halfway through the game, you get contacted by a group of rebels who promise to rescue your family if you print stories encouraging disloyalty from the readers. If you go through with it, they successfully overthrow the government but fail to keep their promise to you, and you immediately go back to work printing papers for "Democria".
- Papers, Please: even if EZIC succeeds, it's implied that they will end up committing the same atrocities as the government they are trying to overthrow, as they have a very low tolerance of those they consider traitors.
- Crusader Kings II:
- A ruler who attained his throne by a revolt or uprising may end up recreating the conditions that led to the uprising and be overthrown in the same manner himself. One player observed the Sunni Caliphate succumb to two decadence revolts in a row.
- Increasing the level of Control in your territory increases tax income and levy resources, but may also lead to a Peasant Uprising demanding more leniency. Every Peasant Uprising has a leader, who is often either captured or killed if you defeat the uprising in battle. These leaders have excellent military stats, so if you capture them they tend to make good Martials in your council... and the Martial's jobs include increasing Control and ensuring peasants pay enough tax.
- This is what you're meant to avoid in Tropico, as you're (currently) the one in charge of your island.
- Osman starts out as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to bring peace to the desert. After confirming that he is the rightful heir to the throne of Menaphos, which was long ago taken by usurpers, he organizes a revolution. He promises a bloodless one that will spare the life of the current Pharaoh and set the citizens of Menaphos free. But when you actually defeat the Pharaoh for him, he will ignore any decision to spare the Pharaoh and stab him, insisting that the Pharaoh's fate is his to decide. One Menaphite citizen says that nothing has changed under Osman, and even the gates remain closed.
- Another one happens in the Myreque quest storyline. A small group of human rebels are fighting a seemingly Hopeless War to try to free the nation of Morytania from its vampyre rulers. They end up successfully assassinating Morytania's ruler Lord Drakan, with the help of his sister Vanesculla, as Lord Drakan had become a terrible ruler even to the vampyres, but she immediately betrays the Myreque and kills their leader Safalaan to use his blood to make vampyres immune to the barrier keeping them trapped in Morytania so they can invade Misthalin. It turns into a subversion when the player successfully stops Vanesculla's plan by modifying the barrier to keep the vampyres in and providing them with a cure for their thirst for blood, and Vanesculla agrees to rule Morytania with Safalaan (who turns out to still be alive) and the former Queen Efaritay (who had been imprizoned by Lord Drakan all along) as advisors, so things finally start improving for the humans of Morytania.
- In Sunrider, PACT may have started out as a populist revolution against the oppressive New Empire, but by the time the game begins their leader has gone from a benevolent revolutionary to a megalomaniacal dictator with a cult of personality and PACT as a whole has become just as bad as the government they overthrew. If nothing else the Empire was content to sit within its own borders, while PACT is aggressively expanding into the Neutral Rim and forcing independent planets to join by nuking their cities from orbit.
- Tooth and Tail takes place in an animal civilisation undergoing a civil war, where revolution quite literally eats its children. Before the war broke out, the Civilised ran a rigged lottery that decided who was sacrificed and eaten. The two revolutionary factions, the Longcoats and the Commonfolk, both want to replace it: Not with a system where no one has to be eaten, but with one where their faction decides who gets to eat who. The KSR, meanwhile, attempt to institute a Military Coup to stop the war. Ultimately the story subverts this, as the Longcoats, Commonfolk, and KSR abandon the war in favour of cooperation, only to have their fledgling civilization destroyed by the Civilised... At which point the Slave Race everyone used to eat before the lotteries comes out of hiding and kills them all.
- One of the world-shaking revelations in Tales of Symphonia is that Cruxis (and by extension the Desians) are the result of this, founded by a bitter half-elf Fallen Hero who gave up on trying to save a world that hates him and his kind, and thus used the Reality Warper powers of the Eternal Sword to split the world in two and create an oppressive system where both worlds constantly vie for a limited supply of mana to keep both in Medieval Stasis, all while the Desians (themselves an organizations of bitter half-elves,) form a Nazi-esque army (complete with concentration camps and human experimentation) to further oppress whichever world is currently losing the battle for Mana. Not only does all this cause untold suffering for humans, but it causes even more hatred towards half-elves and oppression of those that aren't affiliated with Cruxis or the Desians.
- In The Last of Us Part II, FEDRA ran the Seattle Quarantine Zone almost tyrannically, enforcing harsh rules and exiling them for minor infractions. Eventually, the Washington Liberation Front took over, and set up equally strict rules, including executing FEDRA collaborators. Ellie and Dina note that Seattle traded one bad ruler for another.
- No Straight Roads: No matter how you slice it, Mayday's impulsive crusade against NSR by pushing out its megastars mirrors how NSR rejected Bunk Bed Junction's performance in the first place. Tatiana even points out how May and Zuke's "music revolution" really wasn't planned out, since it involved ruining the careers of genuinely talented musicians, potentially costing hundreds of NSR employees their jobs, and not bothering to think about how they would run Vinyl City or the backlash they would receive from people who like EDM. May finally realizes how dangerously close Bunk Bed Junction was to becoming the new NSR when their Mission Control, Kliff, reveals himself to be a Loony Fan and Entitled Bastard who vindictively sets NSR's new satellite on a collision course with the city for no other reason than to spite Tatiana.
- In Star Trek Online's version of the Mirror Universe, the Terran Rebellion managed to overthrow the Cardassian-Klingon Alliance and installed the Terran Federation, which despite the name is exactly the same as the Terran Empire of Kirk and Spock's day. (This is in sharp contrast to the Galactic Commonwealth they founded in the Star Trek Novelverse, which is much closer to The Federation.)
- In BioShock Infinite, Columbia is a racist, xenophobic, isolationist, classist state. The only thing they're not is sexist, oddly enough. The action in the game kicks off when Booker is forced to throw a baseball at an interracial couple tied to a post, in a public ceremony. When you help the underclass Vox Populi revolutionaries rise up, they do much, much worse to the upper class than throwing a little ol' baseball. Elizabeth is completely disillusioned with the revolution in very short order. Booker is an Experienced Protagonist and had little illusions in the first place.
Booker DeWitt: When you get down to it, the only difference between Comstock and Fitzroy is how you spell their name.
- At the end of a round of King of the Castle, the players can choose to "create a Dynasty" and carry over the previous round's resources and state of the kingdom into the next round. Regardless of who won or lost, all three territories immediately start conspiring against the new King, with the only difference being that if one territory won the previous round, they start with a lower Defiance score (which determines if they can instigate a Rebellion) than the others.
- In Streets of Rogue, regardless of which player character becomes mayor or how they did it (killed the previous guy, beat him in the election, took the hat) the ending narration states that they eventually became corrupt and a new revolution would start to attempt to dethrone them. The ending narration refers to this as an infinite cycle that the populace are aware of to some extent but don't care enough to dwell on.
- This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal showcases this trope in its Guide to Revolution: "And then you ignore them."
- The Order of the Stick lampshades and then subverts this trope with a team of dictators running three separate empires (and a counter-revolution to boot) simultaneously — thus as one empire inevitably falls to the revolution/other empires, the team remains in charge.
- Discussed and actively averted in Penny and Aggie, when Penny, Aggie, and their friends strike a blow against the increasing bullying of Karen and her clique during the "Popsicle War" arc:
Aggie: This group we're gathering, it's not going to last if the only goal is to replace Czarina Karen with Dictator Penny.
Lisa: It can't be "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Wait... technically Penny would be the "old boss"... Pete Townshend, your lyrics are not as relevant to my life as advertized!
- Lore Olympus, being based on Greek Mythology, includes the chain of sons-overthrowing-fathers. Kronos overthrew his tyrannical father Ouranos, only to become a mad tyrant himself when a prophecy foretold his son would overthrow him. Sure enough, his own son Zeus successfully led the rebellion against him when his madness grew too great. While Zeus is not nearly as bad as his father or grandfather were, and not without his few redeeming traits, he's still an immature, selfish, and ultimately corrupt king who is increasingly paranoid about the cycle repeating, as his secret son Apollo seeks to do.
- In Tower of God, as recounted in "Hell Train: The Dallar Show", White invoked this trope by overthrowing a country's corrupt ruler and then waiting for the new rulers to become corrupt. In this case, it took a longer time to happen, partly because White spent some time pretending to be a good king after the first revolution, becoming like a god to them after he disappeared. Once the rulership re-corrupted, he returned under a different identity to lead the poor to form another country that hated the first — and for bonus irony, he made out his old self to be the villain in their eyes. Then he sat back and fed on the souls killed in a perpetual stage of war between the two countries.
- unOrdinary: Spectre started out as a revolutionary organization working to overthrow the dogmatic corrupt Authorities, but with the smallest start of gaining their own power the group's original intentions have been overrun by their own greedy corrupt power-hungry bosses who are no better than those they're working to overthrow.
- The Capricorn galaxy of Imperium Nova has a reputation for these. Most often the new emperor starts a new era of peace, then some of the other houses get bored and one of the major houses starts conquering planets, either rousing the others from their stupor or allowing them to take over.
- The Arc Words, and a major theme, of Look to the West: "At the end of the day, 'revolution' also means 'to go round in circles'."
- In The Fate of Paul Twister, Paul uses this trope as the reason why, despite being a modern-day American who personally believes in democracy, he thinks the best response to a peasants' rebellion against corrupt nobles is to find a peaceful way to suppress it and more-or-less restore the status quo.
[A proposal to just let the revolt run its course] was a singularly bad idea. Last thing I wanted was to have a French Revolution on my conscience. "If a revolt goes unchecked, and it’s run by angry people with real grievances, tempers can burn hot, and burn out of control. If people get a taste of blood and vengeance, some of them will get a taste for blood and vengeance, and that doesn’t go away once the people who deserve it get theirs. Your proposal could turn Aster into a land of horror, and I’m not prepared to risk that."
- Megatron is usually this in Transformers, most explicitly in Transformers: Prime. He starts out a revolutionary fighting the unjust, corrupt, tyrannical Autobot establishment with a goal of making a better society, and a combination of the issues he raises, the idealists he inspires, and the killing of the unjust rulers at his hands actually succeeds in causing reform for the better in the Autobots... but by then, he's gone mad with power and wants control instead of change, and ends up even worse than the corrupt regime he started out fighting - a regime which is now exactly where he was originally, in the position of "underdogs with the moral high ground".
- In one episode of Duckman, Duckman accidentally overthrows the despotical regime of a Cuba analogue that he won a vacation to by scalding himself with searing hot coffee, and after becoming the new El Presidente, proceeds to succumb to power corruption and greed, something that is lampshaded by Cornfed several times before it actually happens. In the end, he is overthrown by a rebellion that intends to recoup the state deficit Duckman racked up by holding his execution on an extravagant pay-per-view.
- Implied and Played for Laughs in an episode of Wakfu. The heroes have successfully deposed a tyrannical governor who ruled a city with an iron fist. At the end of the episode, after the heroes have left, the new ruler claims that the time of despair is over and that the time of happiness has come. By which she means that the city's guards now wear slightly different uniforms and that Happiness Is Mandatory.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Defied by Iroh when he joins the resistance against his Big Bad brother Ozai. He refuses to face Ozai himself or claim the throne because "History would see it as just more senseless violence, a brother killing a brother to grab power", opting to help out on a different front while Avatar Aang deals with Ozai.
- In The Legend of Korra, the Equalists are revolutionaries who seek to overthrow the oppressive bending establishment and punish those who abuse their powers. Though they start out by targeting corrupt benders, they ultimately become no better than the benders they rail against when they have control of the city, outlawing bending entirely and removing the powers of benders en-masse without regard to what they may or may not have done.
- An episode of American Dad! sees Roger replacing a Latin dictator whom Stan accidentally killed. He renames the country "The Republic of Bananarama" and puts some bizarre policies in place (such as ordering the people to paint the entire nation yellow), leading the people to overthrow him. His replacement, a rather effeminate man with some smooth dance moves, somehow ends up being even worse, earning himself the nickname "The Dancer of Death".
- Alfred J. Kwak: During the Crows Party arc, Dolf overthrows the centuries-old absolute monarchy of Great Waterland by expelling Franz Ferdinand from his castle. Then he immediately names himself "Emperor Dolf" and becomes a tyrant himself. However, this causes the king to realize his mistakes and promise reforms when he returns after Dolf's fall.
- The Rick and Morty episode "Look Who's Purging Now" has Rick and Morty visit a "Purge planet" (a civilization whose inhabitants have a one-day festival during which all crime is allowed). Eventually, it's revealed that the purge is organized by the corrupt, elite upper class in order to keep the lower class under control. Rick and Morty help one of the planet's inhabitants overthrow the upper class and put an end to the practice of the purge. This ends with the aliens discussing how their new government should work, and the conversation turns violent... until someone defuses the situation by suggesting one night a year where people can commit crimes to purge out their frustrations.
- Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "The Spy Humongous", during a visit to the Pakled homeworld, Captain Freeman and Shaxs witness a "rebelution" in which a group of rebels overthrow the "big hat" Pakled rulers. The rebels manage to fulfill this trope in record time (literally like thirty seconds), with their leader declaring himself the new "big hat" leader. Which is ironic, since the point of the rebellion was to get rid of the entire "big hat" system in the first place, but it ended up failing because of their dimwitted nature.
Rebel Leader: The big helmeted Pakleds will no longer control us! Ooooh. (puts on the dead Pakled emperor's helmet) I am now Pakled Leader! Behold my giant helmet!Pakled Rebel: He is strong!
- In Solar Opposites, this happens in the story of the people trapped in The Wall under the rule of the tyrannical "Duke". Tim leads a revolution, outs him, and discovers that The Duke has escaped outside through a hole in the wall. Seeing this he kills his partner and lover, seizes power, and takes over becoming even worse than The Duke was... using the exact same justifications The Duke used.
- The animated short Dinner for Few summarises this neatly. A group of pigs sit around a table feasting while a workman loads more and more of the surrounding decor into a machine to produce food, while stray cats hang around on the floor begging for scraps. When the room is finally empty and the food has run out, the pigs begin to fight, giving the cats a chance to climb onto the table and become a raging tiger that tears the pigs apart and falls asleep. The workman comes out of hiding to kill the sleeping tiger, and remove several kittens from its body to release into another room; but as the kittens step into the room, several of them turn into pigs identical to the previous ones, leaving the cycle to repeat.
- Max Stirner, a German philosopher famous for helping get both egoism and individualist anarchism off the ground as well as being one of the earliest known people to codify this trope, famously stated his opposition to revolutions in his magnum opus, The Ego and His Own. Stirner held all revolutions aimed at overturning the state will merely lead to another state being effected thus making such a tactic both elitist and utterly ineffective at liberating individuals. He instead urged people to look towards other alternatives to effecting liberation for themselves and others with the most prominent one he points at being insurrection as that approach "leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and sets no glittering hopes on 'institutions'."
- Anarcho-primitivist writer Kevin Tucker argues in his essay, The Failure of Revolution, that all political revolutions are doomed to become this, because of the nature of human civilization and its inherent need to have power and control over the people within it in order to maintain itself.
- The Real Life English "Revolution" of the English Civil War followed the execution of Charles I with the replacement of the monarchy with the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell himself caught plenty of stick for not wishing to execute the King before the Second Civil War changed his mind.
- The Philippines suffered from this after the U.S. helped them overthrow Spain, which had colonized them a few hundred years before. They then had to endure being a colony of the U.S., along with enduring a bloody war against U.S. occupation that dragged on for 11 years and was pretty much the Vietnam War of the early 1900s. The Americans used even worse tactics than the Spanish, including massacring entire villages, forcing people into concentration camps, widespread torture, rape, and executions of civilians. Then Japan invaded and things got much worse. The US did leave after World War II though, in 1946.
- The Philippines' neighbor Indonesia experienced much of the same roundabout revolutions, being colonized by the Netherlands for three centuries, which ended in 1942 when Japan invaded and instituted an arguably even harsher colonial government despite being present for only three years. After World War II, the Dutch reasserted control until 1949, when the country gained independence, ushering a very unstable decade of experiment with parliamentary democracy that only ended when the then-President Sukarno assumed dictatorial powers and ruled as an autocrat until 1965, when he was deposed by major-general Suharto, ostensibly to prevent the country from falling into a communist coup. Except Suharto turned out to be even worse than Sukarno, subjecting the country under a 30-year dictatorship until he was in turn ousted during the 1998 Revolution.
- The same thing happened in Mexico after the supposedly liberal Porfirio Díaz took power. The old aristocracy was simply replaced with an even more brutal plutocracy, and while the cities became modern, small towns were squeezed out of existence and their former denizens became de facto serfs living with inescapable debt in haciendas (they were even called peons, although that term existed before Díaz). Díaz was also perfectly willing to use force regularly, deploying his well-funded military and Rurales paramilitary to suppress strikes, peasant uprisings, and the Yqui Indians. And it was invoked again, after Díaz resigned following armed uprisings ousting him from the Mexican Presidency, then a decade of bloody civil war, and finally a new government meant to unify all Mexicans under one party took power. Guess how that turned out.
- Since The French Revolution, France has had several governments — Five Republics, Three Kings, Two Emperors and Marshall Petain with three revolutions in the 19th century alone (the July 1832 Revolution, the 1848 Revolution and the Paris Commune of 1871). Indeed, some historians consider the period between 1789 and the birth of the Third Republic to be one single extended revolutionary laboratory, where France experimented and shifted with many different forms of government, and its citizens gained diverse experiences with power and protest. The Third Republic (which ironically was supposed to just be a placeholder government until a new constitutional monarchy was established, but the arguments over whether the next king should be a Bourbon or a Bonaparte went on for so long that eventually both Monarchist factions were voted out of office, after which the government kept on going without bothering to look for a new king to crown) lasted for 70 years, surviving World War I until it was toppled by the Nazis in WWII. After the war, France had a Fourth Republic that became divided on the Colonial issue of Algeria and the insurrectionary pieds-noirs and this led to calls for war hero Charles de Gaulle to be dictator. He instead gave Algeria its independence, established the Fifth Republic, and preserved representative democracy, although by creating the office of President in the Fifth Republic, DeGaulle created a powerful executive position that some liken to be more akin to Louis XIV than anything in the old republics.
- On a similar note, the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin commented on this, saying "If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar." He warned, presciently, that a "people's state" was likely to be no different than the ones that came before it.
- In German history, revolutions have never really enjoyed any real success, except indirectly.
- The Revolutions of 1848 failed and many Germans became international exiles as a result, but the failure inspired Bismarck's "revolution from above" as well as measures like social welfare and pension for the elderly, and a wide voting franchise intended to defuse or co-opt revolutionary tension. It didn't quite work, since Bismarck's revolution from above resulted in the creation of a highly autocratic military state that was an autocracy pretending to be a constitutional monarchy. The people would vote for representatives in the Reichstag, but really the Kaiser was calling all the shots, and the results of the elections were often blatantly ignored.
- After the war, Germany faced an actual revolution again, which forced the Kaiser to abdicate with Germany being declared a Republic, starting a dispute between Social Democrats and Communists. A Communist Revolution with some support from German workers and sailors broke out, (inspired by Red October) and this led to the formation of a Bavarian Soviet led by Kurt Eisner, who was killed when he tried to resign after he lost the election. The communists in Berlin were led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknechtnote . However, this faced a huge backlash and conservative Freikorps brutally suppressed them and dumped Luxemburg's body in Berlin's Landswehr Canal, and this led many reactionaries to finally agree to a "real democracy" if only to keep the Commies from taking over. What historians call the Weimar Republic was born.
- However, the Republic struggled for legitimacy since they were often divided between persecuting both the Communists and the Reactionaries. The circumstances of its formation (Shocking Defeat Legacy, massive loss of territory, seemingly endless economic problems) never went away, and when The Great Depression arrived and hit Germany especially bad. The mood was ripe enough, the opposition was divided enough, that they willingly voted for a party with a new ideology partly derived from Italian Fascism that became an outright dictatorshipnote which was far more authoritarian than the Kaisers ever were and didn't even attempt to hide its disdain for even the pre-war pretend democracy. After World War II, East Germany split apart from West Germany because they saw the leadership filled with too many ex-Nazis and became a Communist state, and they ended up becoming a Communist dictatorship with mass surveillance and repression.
- The Bonn Republic averted this, however, as well as United Germany. However, the GDR did point out - rightly - that many Nazis had gotten off very lightly and some were even in positions of power in West Germany. The GDR very conveniently "forgot" to mention that it also had a bunch of ex-nazis in government positions. The unpleasant inescapable fact was that, after WWII, most of the people with experience of government in Germany tended to have been mid-level nazis, and they were unfortunately essential (even if discreetly employed as mid-level bureaucrats) to get government working again in both post-war Germanies.
- Japanese history practically runs on this - every faction that came into power gets deposed later, often in ironically similar manners. To recap: the Fujiwara made themselves into regents for life. Then they got kicked out by the Minamoto, who established a shogunate after a provincial revolt and a civil war. Then Hōjō repeated the same process as Fujiwara and made themselves regents for a shogun. Then they got kicked out by the Ashikaga... after a provincial revolt and a civil war. One Sengoku Jidai later the Ashikaga were also deposed, this time by Oda Nobunaga. After a few years of turmoil, the Tokugawa shogunate was established... only to be toppled when (guess what) another provincial revolt and a civil war broke to put the emperor back on the throne.
- King Edward II of England and his close friend/possible lover Hugh Despenser the Younger alienated the masses and the nobles alike with their greedy and brutal acts. Eventually, Edward's wife Isabella the She-Wolf and her lover Roger Mortimer managed to rally the English behind them and depose the king with virtually no bloodshed. With Edward and Isabella's son Edward of Windsor — the future Edward III — still in his minority, the queen and Mortimer ruled in his stead... and they did many of the same things as Edward II. Realizing that their reign was no better than the former king's, the English rallied behind Edward III, who seized control of the country and executed Mortimer.
- Simón Bolívar is widely considered South America's greatest yet most tragic revolutionary hero. Under his leadership, he was able to break the nations of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama away from the Spanish Empire and attempted to unite them all under the flag of Gran Colombia, the South American equivalent of the United States. Unfortunately, the various political factions within the country could not agree on a constitution, along with a number of other issues, like whether Gran Colombia should be a Federation or a Unitary state, which eventually broke down into infighting and violence. Bolívar was forced to take on emergency powers to try and keep the union together, but this only further incensed his political opponents who accused him of becoming another dictator. Eventually, Bolívar was forced to step down, and Gran Colombia broke up, with many of the liberated states eventually becoming repressive dictatorships themselves.
- The Haitian Revolution is widely known to be the world's first successful slave revolt, where the enslaved black Haitian population rose up against their French colonial masters and forced them out. Jean-Jacques Dessalines then rose to power and officially abolished slavery. However, due to Haiti's economy being ruined by the war and the heavy reparations France imposed to lift its blockade (something that would not be repaid in full until 1947, over a hundred years after independence) Dessalines was forced to institute serfdom, which his critics pointed out wasn't all that much different from slavery, albeit without the more extreme forms of violence. In one particularly notable event, whips were outlawed due to being a symbol of slavery, but thick heavy vines were still allowed to be used in their place. Dessalines also personally oversaw the massacre of nearly all of Haiti's remaining white population, even those known to have been sympathetic to blacks. Dessalines was eventually assassinated and replaced, but Haiti would continue to be ruled by the existing class of wealthy freedmen controlling the impoverished rural farmers.
- The 1958 July Revolution in Iraq was triggered because of the population's growing distrust at the Hashemite monarchy for supposedly turning the country into a Western fiefdom. King Faisal II was executed and replaced by Abd al-Karim Qasim, who assumed the office of Prime Minister and turned the country into a parliamentary republic. Qasim's government became increasingly authoritarian, and he was eventually deposed and executed during the 1963 Ramadan Revolution, but subsequent governments were very weak and the country was effectively military-ruled, leading to a second July Revolution in 1968... which brought the Ba'ath Party to power. The same Ba'ath Party that Saddam Hussein was a member of.