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Glorious Leader

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"People need to be properly guided. They need an absolute leader to guide them."
Paptimus Scirocco, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, "Casualties of War"

The whole world's going to hell. Crime, corruption, moral degeneration, and a soft, weak government that can't do a thing to help. In comes this guy, promising to end all that — and being the idiots we are, we elect him, or at least wildly applaud his coup d'état. Once he seizes power, he may become The Generalissimo.

The Glorious Leader is a political outsider who uses romantic and idealist rhetoric to hide some malevolent agenda. He talks lovingly about the Good Old Ways and/or the great new age he will bring about, and every other sentence out of his mouth is a New Era Speech. Bonus points if he fingers some other group of outsiders as The Enemy, blaming them for the degenerate modern era, or decides the country ought to go to war on some implausible pretext just to prove its military strength.

The Trope Codifier, of course, is Adolf Hitler. Other examples: Mr. Saxon, Darth Sidious, tyrannic leaders all throughout the 20th century, Josef Stalin, and Mao Zedong have been accused of being this/portrayed this way (although there is room for debate about whether these portrayals are strictly speaking accurate). However, although this trope became much more common in fiction after World War II, it did not originate in the 20th Century. Various usurper Kings — or other rulers who were viewed as coming by their position through illegitimate means — throughout history have also been portrayed this way by their contemporaries (regardless of whether the facts actually support this portrayal). Particularly if female. Similarly, in myth and fantasy fiction alike: usurpers or rulers viewed as otherwise illegitimate are almost always this trope. If a ruler is this without being a usurper or otherwise illegitimate: then expect him/her to be corrupted by or tricked into being the puppet of some other entity.

Contrast Dark Messiah, who this guy is dangerously close to becoming if there's a religious angle to the story.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Gundam franchise has had more than a few of these. Expect a lot of talk about humans on Earth being weighed down by gravity.
  • Overlord (2012): Ainz is this to the population of Nazarick, through no fault of his own (as the only guild member to be present in the game's final hours, the denizens look on him as a benevolent god). Later, he's established as the savior of a kingdom with one of the people he saved starting a literal cult devoted to him. Again, Ainz is totally out of his depth and has no idea that he's being worshipped by humans (he already has enough trouble keeping his people's worship under control).

    Comic Books 
  • Adam J Susan (or Adam J Sutler) from V for Vendetta.
  • New Gods villain Glorious Godfrey has (fittingly enough) played this role in numerous guises.
  • DMZ: Parco Delgado goes from populist revolutionary to autocrat once he assumes power, complete with lionizing propaganda posters spread around the DMZ.

  • Star Wars:
    • Chancellor Palpatine, aka the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Three years into the Clone Wars, the Republic was a military dictatorship in all but name, and Sidious had a supermajority in the Senate who did everything he said (to the point where he could legitimately boast that he was the Senate). Although his rise to power had been planned out in meticulous detail (with a healthy dose of Xanatos Speed Chess for any sudden changes in circumstances) before anyone noticed him, and his closest political allies knew he was a Sith Lord long before he made himself Emperor. It's implied that a great deal of his power came from mind control. Indeed, in The Clone Wars, it's shown that this is how he controlled the clone troopers, using a biological implant that made them execute Order 66 when a signal was broadcast.
    • Count Dooku (Darth Tyranus) had a similar role among the Separatists as the public face of that faction with near-dictatorial powers over the Separatist state. However, he and the rest of the Separatist leadership also secretly took orders from Dooku's Sith master, Darth Sidious (although only Dooku knew that Sidious was actually Palpatine, as Sidious always appeared In the Hood whenever he addressed the Separatists to prevent them from recognizing him).

  • Greg Stillson, the obscure up-and-coming local politician destined to become President and destroy humanity from Stephen King's The Dead Zone, certainly fits the "political outsider with bizarre behavior and no obvious qualifications who nonetheless manages to climb to power through populist rhetoric and spectacular publicity stunts" part of the trope. The narrator even outright says that Stillson is obviously unsuited for serious public office, but the voters enjoy his theatrics and vote him into power anyway as a sort of "screw you" to the Washington establishment, believing that he'll shake things up without doing any actual harm. This proves an exceptionally poor decision on the part of the voters, as while Stillson has no actual over-arching Evil Plan, he's obviously loony, secretly corrupt, and criminally inclined, and the sort of person who would start an unnecessary nuclear war just because he felt like it (and eventually does).
  • President Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip of Sinclaim Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, later adapted as V (1983). And by extension Charles Lindbergh as presented in Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (Roth's novel is a Spiritual Successor).
  • The Antichrist in Left Behind. Though his rise to power completely ignores the Rapture occurring less than two weeks ago and is even in complete contradiction to the supposed off-screen record crime waves. He just becomes the head of the United Nations and says it would be nice if every nation would destroy or hand over all their weapons to him so there can be world peace. This works.
  • Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Nobody has seen him in person, but his face is worshiped on posters and on the telescreens. It's implied he may not actually exist, but it holds if he's merely a symbol even so.
  • In Octavia Butler's Parable series, a dystopian United States elects Reverend Andrew Steele Jarrett, a radical preacher who eventually leads a crusade against all non-Christians and other undesirable groups, blaming them for the devastation of the economy and using them as a scapegoat to unite the people against.
  • Star Wars Legends: In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, Daala is sickened by the ranks and self-promotions the warlords have invented and/or given themselves. This, combined with other reasons, results in Daala ending the Enemy Civil War and uniting the imperial military.
  • Sword of Truth
    • The series given its Anvilicious libertarian themes, whenever an enemy is this, it instantly makes them an acceptable target for just about anything.
    • Jagang himself: he's essentially the product of magic in a society that hates and fears it, he snapped up almost all of the known world, and through exceedingly clever management, the ability to run a crowd like none other, control over the wizards and sorceresses, and demonizing the freedom-loving wizards and "New World"ers, he's well on his way to actually ruling the world. He even has popular support, despite the terrible economic system that the Brotherhood runs.
    • Joseph Ander in particular, but the Anders in general, did this as a race, using guilt and political correctness to crush those who genuinely were trying to uplift them.
  • Jake Featherston, the Adolf Hitler analogue in Timeline-191. Elected leader of the CSA, he cripples Congress, emasculates the courts, tries to destroy the Confederacy's black population in a Final Solution, and invades the United States, planning to ruin them as a power forever more. In the end, he destroys only his own nation.
  • William Kraft in Victoria is a rare heroic example of this. Kraft, a right-wing ideologue, uses a deft combination of reactionary agitation, moving public displays, and political intrigue to seize power in the fledgling Confederation, whereupon he proceeds to implement his revolutionary agenda. A small but extremely brutal purge of about a hundred and fifty political enemies is his first major executive action, followed by various similarly ruthless acts of national consolidation and limited wars with neighboring states. However, while Kraft's methods are often portrayed as unsavory, the ultimate moral of the story is that they are also necessary to secure the new state. By the time he passes away decades later, he is remembered very fondly by the people as the father of their nation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in The Day of the Triffids (2009). Torrence sees himself in this light, often admiring statues or paintings of Winston Churchill, but he's just a sociopath with delusions of grandeur. The government he sets up in London only lasts briefly before it's overrun by triffids.
  • Doctor Who: British Prime Minister Harold Saxon, a.k.a. The Master, a homicidal Time Lord, notable for having strong public support (using the ArchAngel network to subtly hypnotise them), being honest and open with his Cabinet (giggling at them, throwing the paperwork in the air and then having them all poisoned), taking a strong stand in diplomatic relations with the US President (having him murdered on international television) and bringing about dramatic electoral reforms (taking over the world). Vote Saxon!
  • Flash Gordon: Ming is called "Benevolent Father" and took control of Mongo during a Civil War or a time of overall anarchy.
  • The Last Ship: Season 5 Big Bad Gustavo "Tavo" Barros is the Simon Bolivar-like leader of a revolutionary movement aimed at uniting Latin America (by force, if necessary) and then usurping the United States' role as a world power. His followers view him as a champion of the common people and practically worship him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth. The Brotherhood of the Beast plans to cause worldwide disaster so its leader can step in, save the world, and be made President of the U.S. (and eventually ruler of the world).
  • Exalted: The Scarlet Empress initiated her rule on the basis of her power over the Realm Defense Grid being the only thing capable of holding off the surviving raksha hordes and maintaining peace and solidarity among the remaining Dragon Blooded.

  • The Wizard of Oz as presented in the musical Wicked, though he is a more sympathetic example than most, being manipulated by Madam Morrible into thinking what he is doing is helping the people achieve their true potential.

    Video Games 
  • Bioshock Infinite: Zachary Comstock styled the secession of Columbia as this, saying that the United States condemning their destruction of Peking was a sign that it had fallen irredeemably into apostasy. Comstock's actual control of the city was something he had secured since its founding (although it's implied he had rivals who were violently removed early on, probably on similar grounds). Comstock justifies all of this by invoking divine sanction indicated by his visions of the future.
  • Scholar Visari of Killzone, of which the Helghan race is based on the Nazis.
  • Star Wars Legends: Darth Revan has more than a few elements of this in Knights of the Old Republic, especially considering how loyal his followers tend to be to him and/or his ideals even in the sequel, when he's been gone for at least five years. Well, his followers who aren't Malak, at any rate. Of course, Malak proceeded to (try to) set up his own cult of personality, although he was somewhat overshadowed by Revan even then. And the big honkin' tombs of the dead Sith Lords of Korriban suggest this is something of a tradition.
  • King P otherwise known as Porky Minch from Mother 3 has his own army of brainwashed soldiers who wear pig masks on their heads, and try to convince others to serve him. He's actually a nihilistic, childish kid who has become immortal due to time travel.

    Web Comics 
  • Von Gernsbach in Minion Comics rails against the governments, corporations, and the military who keep information secret from the people as justification for his organization's hacking efforts.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • The ancient Greeks called this form of government a Tyranny. In their political phraseology "Tyranny" meant not necessarily rule by The Caligula, but rule by an autocrat who rules based on force and popular sentiment rather than by Royal Blood (who could of course be The Caligula but was often just a Magnificent Bastard). Such rulers were common in Ancient Greece and some were well-liked and reasonably good at their job. In any case, the Ancients were quite familiar with Glorious Leaders, making this Older Than Feudalism.
  • Mao Zedong was known as "The Great Helmsman" among other nicknames, and portrayed himself as the driving force behind China's journey to modernization, ignoring the millions of deaths and disasters that happened under his rule.
  • His rival, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, was actually not much better. Although he kept his entire squabbling KMT party united and led China through its war with Japan, he engaged in some similar practices to Mao, such as hanging his portrait in Tiananmen Square. Additionally, Chiang ruled as an authoritarian dictator throughout his career, especially in Taiwan, where he introduced the second longest period of martial law in history.
  • The rulers of North Korea have their people literally address them as this. Because of translation errors, political titles, military ranks, and propaganda messages, there are multiple variations; common ones include "Dear Leader", "Leader", "Ruler", "Marshal", and "General". An internet search is recommended for more information since listing all of their titles is not realistic.
  • has several articles about similar rulers.
  • In a similar case is Idi Amin, whose full title was His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.
  • Augusto Pinochet set himself up as this following his Military Coup in Chile, portraying himself as the savior of Chile, while destroying the nation's democratic institutions, and killing 3000 of his people.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Gaius Octavian Caesar, later known as Augustus, took power after two decades of civil war had destabilized the Republic. Rather than framing himself as a simple autocrat like his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, he positioned himself as Just the First Citizen who was here to restore the Republican principles of Rome. His propaganda machine heavily played Augustus up as a restorer of Rome's traditional power abroad, as well as a defender against immorality and vice.
  • Any head of state who relies heavily on personal charisma, populist support, and promises of sweeping change will inevitably be accused of being, or at least being in danger of becoming, this trope by the people who voted for the other guy. Those accusations are usually (but not always, as the above examples prove) greatly exaggerated.
    • On the other hand, even in a democracy, a particularly charismatic leader can attract unhealthy adulation that goes beyond normal loyalty and respect. Some of her backbench MP's seriously suggested that anyone who thought Margaret Thatcher was less than perfect, or that she was only normally human and could be wrong, was committing an act of treason. This was an attitude shared by some British Newspapers such as the Daily Mailnote . Similarly, Tony Blair attracted such adoration and worship from the backbench MP's known as the "Blair Babes", women who would cut their own right hands off rather than criticise The Leader, that they became derisively known as The Stepford Wives. Also witness the way Donald Trump is even now so idolised by his supporters that they see no wrong in him. And dare we mention the fanatical support and hard-core followers of deposed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn? People like Benito Mussolini were voted into power in what were, to begin with, democracies.

Alternative Title(s): The Glorious Leader