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Grew a Spine

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"Catching my breath, letting it go,
Turning my cheek for the sake of the show.
Now that you know, this is my life!
I won't be told what's supposed to be right!"
Kelly Clarkson, Catch My Breath

Bob may have opinions, but he doesn't act on them if someone disagrees. Instead, he will follow their instructions or advice. This someone might be anyone, a single person that he is dependent on, or the prevailing attitudes in society. Then Bob starts to trust and act on his own judgment and begins to go his own way. Bob earlier had no independent judgment in relation to some external factor, and this is the growth and expression of his own judgment: he's growing a spine.


This is a form of Character Development, and often a defining moment in a Rite of Passage. It's also a staple of a Coming-of-Age Story, where it does not necessarily mean that Bob has more resolve than earlier, but rather that he has learned to follow his own independent judgments. It might be lousy judgment, but at least he has started to develop and act on it.

As a trope, this can take two forms:

  1. A plot arc for a character. This is the long and slow variety.
  2. A single scene, where the character unambiguously chooses their own way in a plot-relevant fashion.

Grew a Spine is normally a big part of a Coming-of-Age Story, and can be assumed to be included as part of that. Please only include such examples if Grew a Spine is the major part of the Coming-of-Age Story.

Some starting points for Grew a Spine is Extreme Doormat or Shrinking Violet, but the character might just be inexperienced and unsure of themselves. After all, this is all part of growing up. Calling the Old Man Out is a specific subtrope. May coincide with Took a Level in Badass, The Dog Bites Back, or Sudden Principled Stand. Has nothing to do with the evolution of vertebrate animals.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, this is Simon's character arc in the first half of the story. Simon is a complete wimp unless his Cool Big Bro Kamina is around, and relies on him for confidence. But after Kamina bites the dust in Episode 8 while recovering Team Gurren's new home base, Simon learns to start standing on his own, becoming rather like Kamina in the process.
  • 7 Seeds has Natsu Iwashimizu's character development revolve around this. She started off avoiding participating in school a lot and was much too shy, slow and afraid of other people to do anything on her own, only following instructions or advice. But she has learned to do things on her own more and more, including standing up to people trying to put her down.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's protagonist Shinji Ikari, despite being often criticized for lacking a spine, actually tends to try and be more confident in himself and self-assured. But these attempts keep backfiring and sinking him further into despair and pain. However, when at the brink of humanity's end, he decides to choose to keep living in a painful world and not doom humanity to loss of individuality and such earn a happy ending. note 
    • In Rebuild 2.22, Shinji both grows a spine and takes several levels in Badass during the battle against Zeruel. It doesn't end well for Zeruel, who becomes Unit-01's dinner. The repercussions of Shinji actually growing a spine for once, however, include humanity being reduced to a fraction of that it used to be.
      • In Rebuild 3.33, Shinji has his newly-grown spine broken and grows a new one by the end, as he tries to undo the damage done by Near-Third Impact. However, he ends up starting Fourth Impact in the process, and further reduces humanity to what is implied to be the cast of FINAL.
  • Yukiteru of Future Diary. This backfires horribly, until he manages to earn his almost happy ending.
  • Hiroko in AKB49 – Renai Kinshi Jourei opposed her Fantasy-Forbidding Father for the first time in her life after he demanded her to quit her aspirations as an Idol Singer and she refused, which led to her father estranging her and her gaining even more resolve than before to pursue her dreams.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure: Jonathan Joestar is constantly beaten up and humiliated by Dio Brando, but he's too timid to stand up to him. Then Dio steals the Sacred First Kiss of Jonathan's Love Interest Erina and attacks her for immediately washing her mouth out with muddy puddle water, and that's the final straw: Jonathan personally confronts Dio at the Joestar family mansion and beats him so brutally that Dio actually bursts into tears.
  • Monster: Kenzo Tenma decides to stop being the doormat of his fianceé and his boss after seeing the immorality of both (the fianceé is not that evil, but this still counts).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: This is basically the regular Yugi's character arc, as he grows independent of having Yami Yugi as his crutch in life and starts making his own decisions.
  • Maria of Seven Mortal Sins. At the start of the series, she couldn't do anything but crying as Lucifer forcefully dragged her around. After some time though she slowly lost her fear of the Demon Lords around her. This is demonstrated when she shames Mammon for the cold way she raises her children, and later when she actually challenges Lucifer when she is led to believe that the fallen angel was terrorizing an alternative world For the Evulz.
  • Mai "Ino" Inose from Asteroid In Love goes through this. Her admiration towards Mikage means before she was named the president, she pretty much treats Mikage as her personal clutch and didn't do much really of her own. It took her a whole episode (Episode 7) that she decides to take steps to make herself more like an independent school club president, first by participating in the Earth Science Olympiad.

    Comic Books 
  • In the "Outer Dark" arc of The Authority, Swift, who's normally more gung-ho, decides to oppose one of Jenny Sparks' orders, as following it might lead to the unnecessary deaths of aliens that might be considered civilians. In "The Nativity", she also forces a truce between the Authority and Krigstein that gives the latter control over the Southeast Asian government that the Authority recently overthrew, in order to avoid a long, drawn-out conflict in which Krigstein's forces were more than willing to kill civilians.
  • Klak from Pocket God is a Butt-Monkey who gets no respect from the tribe. However, when he starts hanging out with the more assertive Moon, he starts to stand up for himself more often.
  • In Secret Six, Ragdoll mostly puts up with being treated as The Team Freak and being The Friend Nobody Likes, but threaten Black Alice and he actually stands up fully straight instead of his usual Primal Stance in order to defend her, leaving Deadshot visibly frightened.
  • In Supergirl story arc Bizarrogirl, the titular Bizarro gets frightened and runs away when it’s time to face the enemy eating her planet, but she becomes more courageous after talking to Supergirl.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust:
    • Shinji, with the help of Asuka's influence. Fully demonstrated in the fight with Bardiel, where he and Asuka convince Rei to disobey Gendo and attempt to rescue Hikari.
    • And thanks to Shinji and Asuka's influence, Rei develops one as well...covertly, so as not to cue Gendo in to the fact.
  • The Child of Love: After getting Asuka pregnant Shinji convinces himself that he must to stop run away and face his responsibilities. In the process, he becomes more assertive and somewhat more strong-willed.
    Shinji: ...but I know one thing: I care for her and for our child. Even if she denies it, this child's part of me. I can't leave those two alone. I just can't. Even if she pushes me aside, I can't leave her!!
    • Subverted. Although Shinji tries to be more responsible and determined he is still a shy kid and often he is tempted to run away and hide and a member of the cast (Asuka, Misato…) has to help him or coax him into facing his fears.
  • Children of an Elder God: In this story, Shinji kept being shy, quiet and non-confrontational like his canon self, but he resolved to learn to face his troubles, and he charged headlong into combat against whatever was threatening him and everyone.
  • A Crown of Stars: Several characters -including Asuka- remark to Shinji several times that he needs to learn to push back and stand his ground if he wants to have a relationship with Asuka. Slowly he starts to gain one through the history. After liberating Buenos Aires he is determined to try to be a hero and a good person.
  • Doing It Right This Time:
    • After returning to the past Shinji considers running and hiding for an instant… before resolving he would not run away this time and he would not be scared anymore.
    • After having been his dutiful servant in the original timeline Rei slapped Gendo and called him out on everything.
  • Erased Potential sees Izuku becoming more confident thanks to convincing Aizawa to teach him how to become a Guile Hero despite being Quirkless. Katsuki first learns about this shift when Izuku stands up for himself against their middle school teacher's attempt to humiliate him into giving up on U.A.
  • Evangelion 303: Due to being older, Shinji Ikari is less wimpy in this fic that his canon counterpart, but he is still somewhat of a wuss with no motivation or drive to live on. During pillow talk Asuka said to him that he could not keep that attitude when people like herself depended on him to live. And in fact, in the second story arc Asuka went through a downward spiral and Shinji needed growing a spine to help her and save her from herself.
  • For His Own Sake: The entire plot begins when Keitaro finally gets sick of constantly being abused by the Hinata Girls and quits being manager of the inn, breaking up with Naru in the process. From then on, he's far more willing to stand up to the girls.
  • Hail To The King: Zone Fighter helps Shinji to grow one through the history. Shinji is still quiet and calm, but he becomes more confident and assertive.
  • HERZ: In this story, Shinji has become more confident and more determined to protect his family. Although he hates fighting and killing he has learnt to use weapons and practices his aim constantly to defend his wife and his daughter.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Thanks to his Kryptonian powers and the inspirational speech of Jor-El (Kal-El in the rewrite), Shinji becomes braver, more determined, and a real hero.
  • Downplayed in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide. Shinji is still pretty insecure and timid, but he makes an effort to become more assertive, since he knows he will let Asuka and his family down again unless he stops running away, mans up, and takes responsibility for his actions, and he even gradually succeeds in doing so. It is perhaps most obvious in his interactions with Asuka, especially after he gains a better understanding of her; he finds that while it just isn't in his nature to be confrontational with her (plus he knows that such an approach wouldn't be very likely to change her mind anyway), he can, often successfully, appeal to her better nature during an argument.
  • Once More with Feeling: The premise of this story is Shinji returning to the past with a steel rod inserted into his back to manage to make up for his complete lack of a spine in the original series, and thus saving the world.
  • The One I Love Is: Shinji forces himself to grow a spine AND keep it intact to protect Asuka and Rei.
  • The One to Make It Stay downplays this: While Marinette is no Shrinking Violet, a key part of her Character Arc is learning how to stand up for herself. Not just against obvious bullies like Chloe and Lila, but against things like her friend Alya being pushy and controlling, or Chat Noir's entitlement and refusal to take 'No' for an answer.
  • The Giselle Interlude of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines features Joe, who is often picked on by the rest of his classmates, who are considered as a whole the "Golden Generation" of the Pokémon Tech trainer school, for being the least remarkable and wanting to try things out of the norm, but never actually retalliated. After Ash and Misty show up and utterly beat and humiliate the students, he chats with Ash for a bit, who advises him to follow his own path and not to take abuse from anyone. The next day, he decides to quit the school and begin his Pokémon journey on his own, even telling Giselle how he felt about the way she and the others treated him.
  • RE-TAKE: Beset by Bad Dreams of a horrible future, Shinji forces himself to grow up and become a badass to avert it. In the process he gets hurt, despairs, loses Asuka and then he gets her back... and he finally and truly becomes a hero and selflessly saves the world.
  • Scar Tissue: The events of the Angel War and Instrumentality had removed any fragment of backbone that Shinji grew during the War, and he was wimpier than ever in the post-Impact world. However, throughout the fic Shinji forces to himself to regrow a spine to confront his inner intense self-hatred and protect his surrogate family, as seen when he saved Asuka after they got shot by a sniper.
  • The Second Try: After Third Impact Shinji needs to man up in order to survive, help Asuka and later raise their daughter together. And he manages it, maturing and becoming a better and stronger person who'll defend his family at all costs. Threaten Asuka or Aki at your own risk.
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: Possibly The Most Triumphant Example in Evangelion fanfiction, this fic is the tale of a wuss becoming God Emperor of Humankind. At the start of the story Shinji is his wimpy canon self, but after finding a suitcase full with Warhammer 40,000 figurines and books he gradually grows a gigantic spine, becoming an utterly fearless badass that earns the reverence of his people for his heroism and the love of women for his gentleness.
  • In Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton Shinji tries to be braver and more confident, especially after finding out that Asuka is Supergirl.
  • Thousand Shinji: A darker example. After being abandoned by his father, Shinji found a mentor who raised him and forced him to grow a spine. However his teacher was an amoral trickster, and Shinji grew into a trickster, violent, mostly uncaring asshole. He STILL fights to protect humanity and he only targets people who are worse than him or has tried to make him harm, and he still cares for other people (such as Asuka, Rei and Misato. May Heaven help you if you hurt them), but he is a Manipulative Bastard and a Jerkass.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • George McFly punches out Biff Tannen after seeing Lorraine threatened by him in Back to the Future. From this point on, he no longer allows Biff to bully him.
  • Luke leaving Yoda's training in The Empire Strikes Back to save Han and Leia.
  • This is a big part of Raven's character development in X-Men: First Class. The downside is she joins the wrong side in doing so, forsaking the only family she's ever known.
  • Todd in Dead Poets Society goes from extremely shy and incapable of speaking up for himself to the first student to stand on his desk in support of Mr. Keating when the latter is fired.
  • Black Swan: Nina, as she gets in touch with her darker side. Her snapping when her mother tries to stop her performing is the deciding moment in her twisted Coming-of-Age Story. From there on out, Black Swan Nina takes control and really shines.
    Nina: [pushing her mother's hands off] I can't handle this? I'm the Swan Queen! You're the one who never left the corps. [slams door] I'm moving out!
  • Near the end of School of Rock, Ned the perpetual pushover is getting chewed out by his girlfriend for his spinelessness. Right when she asks if he's ever going to get around to standing up for himself, he interrupts her by heading off to the concert that she didn't want him to go to. Many of the kids also grow spines in a more gradual way, by learning to defy their overly strict parents.
  • At the end of The Hangover, Stu finally stands up to his overbearing girlfriend Melissa, even going so far as to dump her.
  • In Separate Tables, this is the conclusion of the character arc for Sybil, the Shrinking Violet dominated by her bitchy My Beloved Smother. Her hesitant romance with Major Pollock, a fellow guest at the hotel, is wrecked when her mother humiliates Pollock, exposing him as a Phony Veteran and a Covert Pervert who was caught hitting on women in darkened theaters. After Major Pollock comes down for breakfast, Sibyl's mom makes a show of leaving the hotel dining room, and demands Sibyl leave with her—but for the first time, Sibyl defies "Mummy", remaining at her seat and insisting on welcoming Major Pollock for breakfast.
  • Pan in the film The Granary, after facing Fear suddenly has the strength to face the burglars who he's been afraid of.
  • Elliot in Bedazzled starts out afraid to ask the girl he likes out and keeps trying to be friends with his coworkers who don't really like him. By the end, thanks to the Devil's hijinks, he grows up, asks the girl out, gets rejected, takes it in stride, and decides he doesn't really want to hang out people who don't treat him well. It's heavily implied this was the Devil's plan all along.

  • In the Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In Shards of Honor, this is combined with Sudden Principled Stand when Sergeant Bothari refuses to rape Cordelia as per Admiral Vorrutyer's orders.
      Bothari: She's Commodore Vorkosigan's prisoner. Sir.
    • Ekaterin in Komarr and A Civil Campaign, though it is probably better to say that she found and nurtured the spine, rather than grew it.
  • William de Worde Grew a Spine relative his father in The Truth. An example of the Coming-of-Age Story variant.
  • In Chronicles of the Kencyrath:
    • Donkerri ordering the Caineron troops to their posts in the end-battle in Dark of the Moon, countermanding his grandfather's orders.
    • A plot arc for Torisen in his relation to Adric Lord Ardeth in the same book.
  • Peter Pays Tribute has the main character, Matt, and his counter-part Peter, both learn how to stand up to their father-figure.
  • Ella Enchanted is a concrete-metaphor version of this, where the protagonist has been magically compelled to be a pushover.
  • In On Basilisk Station, the first Honor Harrington novel, Alistair McKeon has a strange variety. He proposes a moral course which is promptly discarded as wrong, but the very act of making an independent proposal against The Captain and arguing for it was a key in developing the dynamic between the characters.
  • This is the main character development arc for the protagonist of Doc Sidhe.
  • A minor plot point (and one of many) in The Wheel of Time. Nynaeve is infuriated that the Kin are helplessly deferential to the Aes Sedai despite being technically independent and in many ways more learned. She endeavours considerably to get them to collectively "grow some backbone" and stand up for themselves, and they gradually do... to her, which is not remotely what she intended.
  • Journey to Chaos: The premise of the first book, A Mage's Power, is Tasio trying to invoke this on Eric, the Extreme Doormat. Being The Trickster, he does this by promising Eric help, then dropping Eric in mercenary company and (seemingly) abandoning him. The unsaid message is "grow a spine or lose your head." The definitive moment of growth is when he refuses to be bribed by an orc attempting to rape a friend of his, and instead, kills said orc. Tasio arranged for this scene.
  • In Don't Call Me Ishmael!, this is a big part of Ishmael's Character Development. It takes a long time for him to become more self-confident and stand up for himself. At the beginning of the first book he lets bullies walk all over him, but this slowly changes when he joins the debate team.
  • In The Belgariad, moments that demonstrate this make up half of Belgarion's Coming-of-Age Story. Most frequently in the form of rebellion against his aunt Polgara, until he gains enough maturity and perspective to realize that she really is acting in his best interest.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: It's been steadily happening to Sansa since Ned's execution, but come Season 6, she's boldly declaring war on the Boltons and insisting on the need to retake Winterfell.
  • In one episode of Head of the Class Jawarhalal (an Indian student) is suddenly well known for agreeing with everyone about everything. Then the class goes to see Mr. Moore's off-off-off-Broadway post-post-Modern production of Hamlet. Everybody hates it except Jawarhalal, who defends it to everyone. They're so caught up in trying to prove him wrong that until the end of the episode they never ask him why he likes it and don't notice that he's disagreeing with them, counter to his personality.
  • A major part of Fabian's development in House of Anubis season 2. Just calling out Joy for her Jerkass traits took a lot of backbone he didn't have before, considering how earlier he was mainly working to just not upset her or Nina.
  • Throughout Joe Schmo 2, Eleanor is a weeper who breaks down crying due to the smallest slights from Austin, usually because of him favoring the ditz Cammy over her. Just before she quits, however, she finds it in herself to refuse Austin's offer of a pearl necklace to remain on the show, telling him...
    Eleanor: You can take your pearl necklace and your half-hearted locket and shove it up your ass.
  • Ward Meachum in Iron Fist (2017). At the start of season 1, he's a weak minion of his undead father but gets Character Development and starts to assert himself. He finally has enough and stabs Harold, killing him, at least until Harold revives himself just days later. He has a Heel–Face Turn when he finally has the courage to do the right thing and stick with it.
  • Million Yen Women: Midori starts out getting regularly shaken for money by her former foster brother, but gets more able to confront him thanks to Minami's influence.

  • The last verse of The Puppini Sisters’ “Jilted” is about learning from the experience of being, yes, jilted, and gaining a spine as a consequence.
    I jumped through hoops to keep that man
    But now he's gone I'm finally free
    To try new ambitions
    And learn new friends’ names
    And wash my hair through all those football games...


    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Yuna from Final Fantasy X. Although it does take a healthy amount of spine to become a summoner in the first place, learning how to have desires for herself rather than the greater good of Spira is a big part of her Character Development.
    • Hope and Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII:
      • Hope follows Lightning on her revenge quest against the Sanctum with the intention of toughening up and though Lightning is initially reluctant and sees Hope as The Load, she takes him under her wing. Hope evolves from a complaining victim of circumstance focused on avenging his mother's death to a young man willing to risk life and limb to save an entire world.
      • After being too scared to play her part in the ancient war against Cocoon, Vanille's fear and guilt continue to plague her centuries later in the present day. Despite her good intentions in trying to keep history from repeating itself as she tells one lie after another, Vanille's secrets soon catch up to her and she is forced to face them after they result in countless innocent lives being destroyed. Vanille eventually resolves to fight to save Cocoon instead of running away even though it may be a losing battle.
  • Naminé in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, who at first is submissive to her abusive guardians and only defies one when another gives her the go-ahead to, but after being forgiven by Sora for what she was made to do to him, Naminé refuses to obey her captors any longer and boldly declares that she would rather die.
  • Warcraft III has a villain-to-villain example: "Ah, my wayward pet, Garithos. I see you've grown a spine since we last met." Technically the mind control spell the dreadlords put on Garithos was broken but evidently, he lacked the Heroic Willpower to defend himself against it in the first place.
  • In the Saints Row: The Third DLC "Gangstas in Space", The Boss's co-star in the titular film is a girl named Jenny who starts off as an Ascended Fangirl feeling powerless in the face of the Jerkass director repeatedly lambasting her for breaking character and not following his directions to a T, while ignoring The Boss doing the same. She gets more resentful as the storyline progresses, notably killing two of the five girls hired to replace her before straight-up murdering the director using the modified VTOL that you pilot in the third mission.
  • In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, the otherwise usually cowardly Galactic Rangers appear during the second phase of the fight against Dr. Nefarious to help Ratchet destroy his minions.
  • Sophie Grundler from The Sandman. She's been a Stepford Smiler for years, trying to put on a brave face and seem okay because she didn't want to cause any trouble to her father, who's busy working and trying to raise her after his wife's death. Her tendency to bottle everything up, as well as pretending to not stand up to her once-friend-turned-bully Regan, caused her insomnia and led to the game's events. In the good ending Don't Stay Up Late At Night, Sophie grows herself a spine and chooses to openly talk about her feelings now, as well as when things bother her; this includes giving a good round of The Reason You Suck Speeches.
  • In Ensemble Stars!, this is Makoto's main Character Development arc - he starts off as a very shy guy lacking in self-esteem, but over time grows much more confident in himself. This is especially obvious when it comes to Izumi, who reacted very badly when Makoto quit modelling and became a scarily obsessive Yandere towards him. At first Makoto simply tries to run away from him, but as the year goes on he becomes assertive enough to tell Izumi exactly how he feels and force him to change his behaviour. And just to really hammer in the point, 'Makoto' in Japanese means 'courage'.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Katawa Shoujo, this happens to Hisao in Shizune and Lilly's routes. In Shizune's route, while attempting to stand up to Shizune's father in an argument over the Student Council, he reflects on how much he has changed, wondering why he was so resistant to joining the Student Council at first despite his general apathy about life. In Lilly's route, he realizes in the Good Ending that he has relied on her for everything, and so decides to confront her one last time before her departure for Scotland in order to apologize for not being there when she needed him.
    • Also happens for Hanako in her route: slowly through awkward relationship-building in the Good path, and abruptly in the Bad one. In the latter, Hisao gets excessively pushy, so she furiously tells him how much she hates it when people treat her like she's helpless...and how much she hates Hisao and Lilly for failing to understand that. Some people think her "Neutral" ending is the worst one because it's the only version where she doesn't grow a spine.
  • Little Busters! is largely the story of how Riki — a rather nervous, passive, and feminine boy totally content to live in the shadow of his friends — manages to, over the routes, grow into a more independent and strong person. In fact, it's the very basis of the story—Kyousuke created this world specifically so he and Rin could become strong enough to live on without him after he and the others died in a bus crash.
  • In Fate/hollow ataraxia, Sakura is shown to have gone through this after the events of Fate/stay night, becoming much more confident in herself, as well as much more intimidating. Shirou even states she has become much more like her sister, Rin.

    Web Comics 
  • In Drowtales, Syphile manages this through a "The Reason You Suck" Speech while held at swordpoint by her adopted mother Quain'tana once her attempted assassination of Quain fails miserably, and Quain calls this trope by name before killing Syphile in one blow.
  • Homestuck:
    • Tavros Nitram finally stands up to Vriska and actually goes to fight her when he learns she created Bec Noir. Too bad it gets him killed.
    • Later, Tavros finds himself still berated by Vriska in the afterlife for a long while until he finally tells her off and flies away.
  • At the start of volume 10 of Ménage à 3, Extreme Doormat Gary finally stands up for himself when pulled into the middle of Tracy's and James’ relationship mess. In a nice ironic twist, Gary has a momentary flashback to some good advice about showing courage which Tracy herself gave him just a few days earlier — and politely thanks her for that advice.
  • Defied at the end of The Order of the Stick prequel volume "Start of Darkness". The Dragon Redcloak tries to stand up to Big Bad Xykon when Xykon orders him to reanimate his dead brother as a zombie. Xykon responds by not only revealing that he knew about the attempts Redcloak had just made to deceive him but also lays down an absolutely brutal combination Eviler Than Thou/Breaking Speech. The book ends with Redcloak following Xykon's orders and following after Xykon, apparently a broken shell of a goblin.
    Xykon: Huh. First you kill your baby brother, then you lie to me about it, now this? Did they have a sale down at the testicle store or something?
  • MegaTokyo: After Piro spends most of the comic just going with the flow and muttering about how much his life sucks, he helps Kimiko with a really bad situation she got herself into, and she snaps at him for it, even accusing him of just doing it to get laid. He quietly says he didn't deserve that, and leaves without another word. Both the fandom and the characters were impressed.
    Erika: At least Piro was there for you... Looks like your boy might have a bit of spine after all.
    Kimiko: [flinches]
    Erika: You didn't rip his little spine out and stuff it down a garbage disposal, did you?
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Reynir has a complicated relationship with this trope, resulting in it being zig-zagged:
    • He decides to go on a trip without his parent's permission after finding out they have been lying to him about the extent to which the law allows him to travel (they claimed it was less than it actually is). Unfortunately, he ends up in a Death World surrounded by a handful of people who know how to survive it better than he does, resulting in an obedient attitude being a matter of survival and limiting the extent to which he's The Load.
    • There is occasionally a danger that only Reynir can see coming and/or do something about, and he gets better at being assertive in those situations as the story progresses, but he returns to being submissive once those dangers have passed.
    • Once reunited with his parents, he makes up for having worried them by sticking to an obedient son attitude, to the point that he doesn't correct his mother when she assumes that he's friends with the two travel companions who are around his age but don't particularly like him. However, when one of them decides that Reynir's bed looks much more comfortable than the guest mattresses on the floor, Reynir has no qualms about tilting his mattress to get him off it.

    Web Original 
  • Taylor in Worm becomes a lot more able to assert herself after she begins kicking large amounts of ass in her supervillain identity, Skitter.
  • Kitten of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device starts off as a Sycophantic Servant and a Yes-Man to the Emperor, but after long exposure to his lord's snarkery and an in-depth crash course on reality of the universe, he morphs into Servile Snarker and outright defies the Emperor once.

    Western Animation 
  • Edd of Ed, Edd n Eddy had a few moments of this, notably in "The Day The Ed Stood Still" when he scolds Edzilla (who is Ed in a monster costume) for kidnapping the kids and sticking them onto his wall.
    • Ed lashes out at Sarah in "Little Ed Blue" when she starts one of her typical (violent) tantrums. She cowers in terror before him.
    • In "A Fistful of Ed", Eddy does what he couldn't do in "A Twist of Ed": stand up to the Kanker Sisters. And it works.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Fluttershy does this after assertive training under the minotaur Iron Will. She takes it a little too far for a while, though. Most episodes after keep her assertiveness higher, though it depends on the writer.
  • Stacy from Daria began to become more confident during the show's final season, and in the series finale, she finally stood up to Sandi for all the abuse she put her through and inadvertently caused the Fashion Club to crumble.
  • South Park: Throughout Season 21, Heidi Turner had to deal with being mentally abused by her boyfriend Eric Cartman. By "Splatty Tomato" Heidi no longer wants to be his victim and finds the courage to break up with him for good, even leaving while he threatens to kill himself.

Alternative Title(s): Growing A Spine


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