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High-School Hustler

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"Need an ID? Or a better report card?"

"A: You can never go too far. B: If I'm gonna get busted, it is *not* gonna be by a guy like *that*."
Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off

The high school hustler effortlessly outfoxes authority figures — particularly those who are irrational and hidebound. He's just packed full of brainpower, connections, chutzpah and luck.

He can arrange a Chain of Deals and make it work for everybody. He can pull off a Bavarian Fire Drill without getting his bluff called. Often he's out for himself, but frequently willing to help those in need.

The High School Hustler may use some friendly Dumb Muscle to deal with problems his brains can't beat. Other times he's the Karmic Trickster, using his brains to dish out poetic vengeance to bullies and protecting the weak. But he's also the guy running the betting pool and selling term papers.

He is not a straightforward young hero. He lusts for payment in return for his good deeds. Popularity might be his deepest motivation. He won't demand payment from those who can't pay though, or run out on his friends. He just likes to take the easy and stylish road to success. In general he is a good guy.


The High School Hustler is the positive adolescent version of the Mouthy Kid. Usually he's regarded as a good kid by almost all adults save those whose authority he directly challenges — and he can maintain that camouflage even under fire.

The character type is predominantly male. He is the ideological nemesis of Dean Bitterman. If he grows up and joins a Five-Man Band he'll either be The Leader (a type 1: mastermind) or if the The Leader is The Hero he'll be The Lancer to foil his purity. Other possibilities are The Face or The Smart Guy who comes up with the sneaky plans. When he graduates high school, he may become a Frat Bro upon entering college, but any fraternity he joins will be usually see him preside over a bunch of dorky outcasts as their charismatically rebellious trouble-making leader rather than the bullying Jerk Jocks who make up the other fraternities.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kira Sakuya from Angel Sanctuary would fit this to a T, except not really.
  • In the novel, a precocious middleschool hustler!Orihara Izaya of Durarara!! was the bookie of the school's betting pool for baseball. It didn't run so smoothly when a better who had betted using stolen money from his father's wallet threatens Izaya with a knife. Shinra steps in to receive the blow. In return for telling people that it was actually Izaya who did it, Izaya vows to make the stabber regret his move for his entire life. Knowing Izaya, it probably works. All too well.
  • Hiruma of Eyeshield 21 is an example of what happens when the High School Hustler becomes a Drill Sergeant Nasty football player. At heart, Hiruma is a good guy who loves football and cares about his teammates. That said, he's not afraid to blackmail people to get what he wants and god help the people who piss him off or get in his way. His ability to manipulate situations to benefit himself scares even authority figures.
  • Negiri from Futaba-kun Change!. Originally nothing more than a Captain Ersatz of the more famous Nabiki Tendo (above) she quickly became a more sympathetic, friendly and professional example of this trope.
  • Kiriko and Sawamura from Harlem Beat.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: One of Haruhi Suzumiya's many strengths is the ability to get away with practically anything, up to and including extortion, indecent exposure, commandeering an entire room, and press-ganging members, and make the SOS Brigade end up in a better situation by the end of the episode. Her peculiar brand of conscientious amorality tends to help with this. The fact that she is possibly God probably helps a lot more. However, this trope is probably played straight. Her "recruiting" of Asahina in Disappearance (where she can't cheat) is a good example: She flings the door open, claims to be from the Student Council Intelligence Agency...and drags an upperclassman out. No problem.
  • Shouko Yamanobe from Mamotte Shugogetten made her debut as a hustling Delinquent, but was redeemed via her interactions with the Magical Girlfriend Shaorin. Henceforth she decided to devote her Zany Schemes to help Shao realize her feelings for Unlucky Everydude Tasuke.
  • Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club is charming and managed to gather the members of the club despite being the last thing any of them needed (or so they thought). In the last two episodes of the anime, Tamaki falsely believes that he has really mucked up everyone's lives instead of helping them and it pushes him to make a rash decision. He's wrong, of course; even though he is constantly pulling the others along in eccentric plans and gimmicks, his carefree look on life is the right medicine for everyone.
  • Nabiki Tendo from Ranma ½, though more of a Barnum than not. She rarely (if ever) cares about the consequences other people have to face for her actions, though.

    Comic Books 
  • Roger the Dodger from The Beano
  • Winker Watson (the Wangler) from The Dandy.
  • 'Young Arfur' from School Fun (later Buster), who was a kid version of Arthur Daley.
  • The protagonist of Five Weapons, with shades of Batman Gambit and Magnificent Bastard.
  • Gotham Academy: Colton Rivera is they guy to go to if a Gotham Academy student wants to purchase fireworks or get something the headmaster has confiscated stolen back. He's a known mess though rather than a "cool kid" and is always on the verge of getting expelled.
  • Shazam: Freddy, in the New 52 reboot. Not only is it near-character assassination compared to his Golden Age self but he's not even good at it (having sold a forged doctor's note for a gynecological disease to a boy).

  • College example: Bartleby in Accepted.
  • Back to the Future: Marty McFly is a variant of this trope. Note that he is less of a trickster but no less lucky and helpful. The earlier drafts did make him more of this type of character, though.
  • Better Luck Tomorrow puts a twist on this trope by making the hustlers Asian honor-roll students. Their schemes run the gamut of selling stolen test answers to murder.
  • Dave in The Burning, who manages to get his hands on stuff like adult magazines and condoms to bring back to the cabin he shares with the other older male campers.
  • Mud Himmel from Camp Nowhere is the junior high equivalent.
  • In the beginning of Catch Me If You Can, Frank uses his cleverness to teach a French class for two weeks, and then tells a girl getting out of class with a parental note that her paper is incorrectly folded. She resists his implication at first, then surreptitiously takes his advice.
  • Charlie Bartlett: A High School Hustler becomes an underground school psychiatrist!
  • Zeke Tyler in The Faculty, a delinquent with a Cool Car who sells his classmates such items as condoms, VHS tapes containing nude scenes of popular teen actresses (or so he claims), and most critically for the purposes of the story, a homemade drug that, as it turns out, is highly toxic to the aliens.
  • Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a classic example. It's not clear how much hustling he does in the day to day, but he's apparently well-liked by all the cliques at school and has worked out scams on his parents and school down to an artform.
  • In The Hole, Liz's original story portrays Martyn as this; able to get hold of anything for a price, including the keys to the bunker. Later events indicate that this is a complete fabrication on Liz's part; part of her plan to frame Martyn.
  • Max in Max Keeble's Big Move, to the point that critics panned it mostly because he was a Bueller ripoff.
  • Droz, played by Jeremy Piven, in PCU. One scene has him selling term papers to a group of students whose papers were wiped when the computer lab went dark.
  • Real Genius: Chris Knight is a prototypical example of this trope.
  • Creepy example: Roger Corman's Rock 'n' Roll High School features Clint Howard (at 20, an unfortunate mix of Dawson Casting and Younger Than They Look) as the enterprising Eaglebauer, who resides in a Bigger on the Inside office that is accessed through a stall door in the boys' bathroom (leading to massive lines for that one stall) which includes a receptionist with her own klaxons (a girl approaching inspires a red alert). Eaglebauer's ability to sell students' needs borders on the satanic, with many references to selling touchdowns in football games to the male protagonist and a plot revolving around characters paying to become sexually involved with their desired love interests.
  • In Rushmore Max Fisher is the low key version of this trope. Actually a Deconstruction of the very concept.
  • Van Wilder is what happens when this character successfully becomes Big Man on Campus. And then stays there for almost a decade.

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: The eponymous Tom Sawyer is an irascible trickster who most famously gets out of his chore of whitewashing fences by convincing other kids to pay him for the privilege of doing it for him.
  • Harry Potter: Fred and George Weasley, particularly in their later years at school. Order of the Phoenix reveals they're not the only ones on campus, and seem to have better morals that some of the others when Hermione has to go around confiscating Black Market brain stimulants sold by some of the others, none of which work and at least one of which was somewhat toxic.
  • The unnamed diarist (later revealed to be Brian Boyes, see below) in the How To Handle Grownups series by Jim Eldridge.
  • The protagonist is a variant in Little Brother.
  • Bruno and Boots from the Macdonald Hall series.
  • Middle School: Rafe aspires to be a middle school example. He sells soda from his locker, even though no sugary drinks are allowed at school.
  • P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith started as this, and arguably maintained it into adulthood, becoming a master of the Indy Ploy. He notably prevented his best friend getting expelled from school for something he didn't do by first going through astonishing contortions to hide the evidence pointing to him (a shoe stained with red paint), then, when it looked like that would fail, merrily confessing to the crime — even though he hadn't done it either.
  • Smythe from the Robert A. Heinlein juvenile Red Planet.
  • The eponymous Luther Wesley "Soup" Vinson from Robert Newton Peck's Soup series is an Elementary School Hustler.
  • Rudyard Kipling's Stalky, the hero of various Boarding School stories collected in the book Stalky & Co..
  • Raven from Vampire Kisses seems to have shades of this.
  • Coyote from "White Lines on a Green Field" by Catherynne M. Valente.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Squib of 15/Love was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and borderline Manipulative Bastard who lived to torment the school president, Harold Bates. Bates bans sugar on the premises, Squib smuggles in chocolate bars. Bates wants extra training sessions, Squib tries to get them removed, etc, etc. Unfortunately for Squib, Bates was far from stupid, and won more often then not.
  • Maeby in Arrested Development, who swindles her way into a job as a successful movie executive before graduating high school through a combination of right place / right time and sheer Refuge in Audacity.
  • Brian Arthur Derek Boyes in Bad Boyes.
  • Griff Hawkins on Boy Meets World takes this trope Up to Eleven, organizing pro wresting matches in the schools gymnasium in one episode.
    • He also got Robert Goulet to sing at his ensuing detention.
  • The Brady Bunch: In the Season 3 episode "My Sister Benedict Arnold," Greg views classmate Warren Mullaney as one of these — a smooth-talking, slick-acting con artist who lies, cheats and uses other Social Engineering tricks to get his way and satisfy his goals any way possible, even if by outright cheating ... this after Greg loses (at least) a class election and a spot on the first-string basketball team to Warren.
  • In the Broad City episode "Pu$$y Weed," Abbi buys pot from an adolescent drug dealer who sells a wide variety of products and offers to sell her three pages of his dad's oxycodone prescription for $500.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies often end up in this role.
  • In the Community episode "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" Jeff is a junior call version. He seeks out "blow off classes" and failing to find one he isn't beyond making up an imaginary class to get unearned credits in a style which would make Ferris Bueller proud. But he's put to shame by "Professor Professorson"'s fake class, teacher, and entire night school... Or he would have been if any of that were true. In "Pillows And Blankets", the narrator refers to his scheme to interfere with classes as "Ferris Buellerian".
  • Degrassi: Joey Jeremiah from the various series, although his schemes fail as often as they succeed. (In Degrassi: The Next Generation, it is revealed that he became a used-car salesman when he grew up.)
  • Diff'rent Strokes: The Season 8 episode "Arnold's Tangled Web" saw Spider, an adult version of the High School Hustler, offer his services to high school students who want to avoid trouble. This con artist used the Hamburger Haven as his base of operations, and in this episode offered to forge Arnold's report card to conceal a poor grade in geometry. When it almost backfires on Arnold - Drummond thinks that Arnold is performing so well in the class he wants to put him in an advanced placement course – he turns to Spider to pose as his guidance counselor. However, Drummond is on to Spider from the git-go (but doesn't let on), springing a web of his own before exposing Spider as a liar and cheat … and when Arnold finally admits the truth, Drummond kicks Spider out and warns him that the police will be called if he ever hears of him preying on teenagers again.
  • Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
  • Luke "Gonch" Gardener from Grange Hill, although he was more a wanna-be in this trope than a full-fledged member because his endless money-making schemes rarely made any profit.
  • Happy Days: The Fonz is occasionally this, operating out of the Men's Room at Arnold's. This is even lampshaded when, after the place is burnt down and rebuilt, he's given an actual office desk in there. Ew.
    Fonz: Step into my office. (bangs open bathroom door, sending guys using it scurrying)
  • Brad's friend Jason on Home Improvement.
  • "Rip-off" Rodney of iCarly. His wares range from concert tickets to burritos.
    Sam: Okay! So you got anything else to say to the iCarly fans of the world?
    Ripoff Rodney: Yeah. I've got a special this week on burritos.
    [opens up his jacket to reveal a bunch of burritos]
    Ripoff Rodney: Two for six bucks.
    Carly: And do they contain quality meat?
    Ripoff Rodney: No they do not.
  • Its Your Move: Matthew Burton (played by Jason Bateman).
  • Older Than They Think example — Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver.
  • Francis from Malcolm in the Middle.
  • Radar O'Reilly of M*A*S*H fits this trope in a military setting. The initially teenaged Company Clerk was constantly making trades, notably in one episode to secure a supply of tomato juice for Col. Potter (who had forgotten he was allergic to it).
  • In "Life Skills," a fourth-season episode of The Middle, Axl (who normally wouldn't fit this trope) manages to pull together an impressive demonstration of how to run an Italian restaurant by calling in favors from a wide group of students in less than an hour, saving his class project not only for himself but for his sister.
  • Parker Lewis from Fox's Parker Lewis Can't Lose, sometimes said to be the real TV adaptation of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, rather than the deservedly short-lived TV series Ferris Bueller.
  • The Phil Silvers Show: Sgt. Bilko (Phil Silvers) was a middle aged version, with an army base as his "high school" and its colonel as the Dean Bitterman.
  • Split between two characters in Press Gang: Spike Thompson was the cool, in-control aspects, while Colin Matthews was the teenaged Honest John.
  • Zack Morris of Saved by the Bell was so good at pulling off ridiculous schemes that he almost qualifies as The Great Gazoo. He was so well-equipped for and good at hustling, he even has his own cellphone! He is also revealed to have some issues from his often-absentee businessman father.
  • Saved by the Bell: The New Class:
    • Scott, as he's an Expy of Zack mentioned above.
    • Later seasons has Ryan, who's more or less a Suspiciously Similar Substitute to Scott. It's even mentioned In-Universe early in season 3 by fellow student Maria, due to her having been with him longer as fellow classmates and, therefore, more privy to his tendency to scheme for what he wants. That said, most of his schemes end up failing, for one reason or another.
  • Maeve in Sex Education makes scratch selling pre-packaged essays, and she kicks off the series plot by exploiting Otis' talents for back-alley sex therapy. She's not a Lovable Rogue, though, just an emancipated minor living in near-poverty, who really needs money.
  • Shake it Up: Deuce Martinez is a main character and good friend of the protagonists who can sell anything to anybody.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Nog, a Ferengi character.
    • In one episode, he helps Chief O'Brien find a much-needed graviton stabilizer through a series of bizarre exchanges, trading Captain Sisko's desk for an induction modulator from the USS Musashi, for a phaser emitter, which is finally traded for a graviton stabilizer.
    • In another episode from the first season, Nog was told to get rid of some Cardassian packaged food that had been delivered to the bar, since there were no more Cardassians on the station who would order that food. Jake Sisko and Nog sold the food to a trader who gave them self-sealing stembolts that a Bajoran farmer had ordered but had been unable to pay for.
    • Jake and Nog contacted the farmer to try and get money from him in exchange for the stembolts but the farmer could only pay them in land. Meanwhile, the land had become prime because the Bajoran government wanted to build something on it but didn't know who owned it. Jake and Nog approached Quark (who had mentioned he wanted the land so he could sell it at an inflated price), saying that they had something to sell him and that was the end of the episode.
  • Veronica Mars is a more organized version of this trope, with her father's backing (such as when he finds her in the principal's closet, and rather than ratting her out, says, "Yep. That's mine", referring to his coat). References Parker Lewis Can't Lose and his "step into my offices" by frequently having people at her school "ambush" her in the bathroom with "I need you to help me."
  • The Wire:
    • The fourth season gives us Randy, a middle school version of this trope who cleverly does everything from buying candy in bulk and reselling it to his classmates to standing up for a new teacher and then swiping a batch of hall passes from the teacher's desk when he's distracted.
    • DVD extras also show us the past of drug kingpin "Proposition" Joe Stewart, generally called Prop Joe. The extra scene shows Prop Joe selling stolen test answers to a group of his fellow classmates. First he deflects their threats to simply beat him up and pay nothing for the answers by pointing out there are more tests in other subjects coming up, and if they take that approach they won't get anything. Then when they only pay him half the agreed upon price, he promptly turns around and sells the teacher information on who'll be cheating on the test to make up for the shortfall!
  • Cam Dunleavey in The Zack Files.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • TJ from Luann is a young adult version of this. He's aged out of school, but the personality remains.

  • Veronica in Heathers offers her services forging documents so she can join the titular Girl Posse (the original film only implies this). In a subversion, she does it for popularity and security rather than money, and soon gets tired with her talents being exploited for petty pranks. Then taken to much darker extremes when J.D. starts employing her skills to cover up actual murder.

    Video Games 
  • Jimmy Hopkins from Bully may be a surly punk. But underneath his delinquent attitude he wants the cliques of the school to stop fighting and for everyone to stop bothering him. He succeeds eventually and has them all eating out of his hand, until it all goes to rats again, courtesy of a deconstructed version of this trope, Gary Smith. As it turns out, the only guy who is better at getting the entire school to eat out of his hand has to be a manipulative prick and an unstable psychopath to do so.
  • Both Vera Oberlin and Valerie the cat girl from Monster Prom. Vera's an Alpha Bitch constantly on the lookout for a new scam, while Valerie just sells random junk. They're adopted sisters.
  • Raz of Psychonauts has elements of this in his character, although he is younger than average. The bad guy of the game is Coach Oleander, the kind of adult that any High School Hustler would be against.

    Western Animation 
  • Jonesy of 6teen qualifies, when he's not getting caught at least.
  • Max Goof in Goof Troop is a perfect example of this trope, both in school and out of it. He comes up with many plans which are overwhelmingly successful, though there are a few times when his Zany Schemes either turn into Shaggy Dog Stories (with his hapless friend suffering for it) or end up putting him in serious danger because of his severe recklessness. He is fairly self-centered and ambitious but generally is a good person and will help out others.
  • Big Gino from Hey Arnold!, who fronts an elementary school organized crime syndicate.
  • Humphrey: Kevin Harnisch from O'Grady practically makes a religion out of pulling schemes.
  • TJ from Recess certainly qualifies, though the actual hustling aspect was given to the "Hustler Kid".
  • The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat: Back when he attended High School, Bet-a-Billion-Bill used to run a gambling ring at school and win everything his classmates ever waged.
  • The main character from What's with Andy??, who is also a Prince of Pranksters.


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