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Honest Advisor

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"Seek counsel of him who makes you weep, and not of him who makes you laugh."
Arabic Proverb

You've got to pick yourself an advisor, but, you have a problem. Everyone around you is a Yes-Man: spineless, coddling, and/or too concerned with gaining your favor or attaining their own aims to give the truth. Luckily, there's at least one person who isn't afraid to tell it like it is.

This kind of advisor isn't cruel, just blunt and outspoken. They'll never let their charge take the easy way out, never sugarcoat the truth, and never be afraid to criticize. As a result, their wisdom is either completely appreciated by their students, or violently rejected if said student is the egotistical type.

If he isn't a mentor, but a regular part of the group instead, then he's usually the Deadpan Snarker, the constant criticizer, and more or less the one that annoys everyone but still gets their complete respect. All in all, this is who you want when it comes to finding a most trusted ally, and it's probably better to find people like this than your average minion.

The Good Chancellor is this as a matter of course. Often the role of the Court Jester in a royal court, getting away with mouthing off to the king either by couching criticism in satire or by being (or appearing to be) mentally incompetent and thus not a threat. Another term frequently used in the past was "Naysmith" (which survives in the modern surname Naismith), meaning the one person in a royal court who could openly say "no" to the king's plans without fear of censure, forcing the king to accept criticism—the opposite of a Yes-Man.

See also Hire the Critic, The Consigliere, and Insurrectionist Inheritor.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: CC is this to Lelouch because she calls him on his bullshit and points out things he doesn't want to recognize, but she's not a perfect example. While she is generally honest, she also has a habit of withholding important information as well. Like the reason she gave him Geass in the first place, or the fact that she knows what happened to his mother (as well as knowing her personally).
  • The Gadfly Pariston Hill in Hunter × Hunter is revealed to have been this to Chairman Netero. While he wasn't exactly honest, being a manipulative Chessmaster and Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, Netero could always count on him to serve as a contrarian and amuse him while the other Zodiacs acted as yes-men.
  • This is a central trope in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The eponymous character is initially a self-centered jackass who finds it difficult to understand that other people have feelings, and may even disagree with her. Unfortunately, she's also an extremely powerful Reality Warper who may have created the universe, and because of this, very few people are willing to tell her when she's wrong. That is where Kyon, the series' POV character, comes in. He is deeply pessimistic and rarely a moment goes by when he does not insult Haruhi... but he's also the only person willing to tell her the truth, and it's his unwavering honesty that kickstarts her Character Development into a better person. Haruhi, for her part, usually pretends to ignore him, but the first season's finale makes it pretty clear that she values him more than any other person, and he's the deputy of the group she forms in all but title.
  • Jetfire of Transformers: Armada serves as a nicer version of this. He's generally a good friendly guy to the other Autobots, but he's also one of the few people who's willing to tell Optimus Prime to his face when he thinks the latter is making a bad decision. Optimus respects Jetfire for this.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • Genkai is one, whose favorite pastime is to call her student a dumbass/moron/dimwit/etc. and outline just how stupidly he's dealing with the current situation. All in all, she isn't afraid to trick, insult, or nearly kill Yusuke if it means he'll finally stop fooling around and see things clearly. Ironically, this is the very reason Yusuke respects her so much (not that he'd ever admit it of course), because she's the only adult in his life that doesn't screw around with him.
    • Also Kurama, who is both kindhearted and brutally honest, due both to hundreds of years of experience being a bandit and to experiencing the redeeming Power of Love firsthand. He lampshaded this with his training Kuwabara. Hiei, by his sense of honor, would hold back while training him. Kurama will show him clearly just how much he is outclassed.
  • One Piece: Zoro serves as this to Luffy at the end of the CP9 saga. When the Straw Hats learn that Usopp is planning to rejoin the crew after his nasty split-up with Luffy at the beginning of the saga, Zoro is the one who has to stop Luffy from accepting him back into the crew without a proper apology. Zoro isn't very bright, but he understands the important things in a pirate's life, and serves as a grounding force when Luffy needs it.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Alfred is like this to Bruce Wayne, and, as a result, he's one of the people Batman respects the most.

    Fan Works 
  • Communication: The main goal of Consensus, i.e. you guys, the Player Character, is to make sure their Hosts get the best ending possible. This means telling said Hosts like it is, no matter what they say that may frustrate or even outright offend them in the process of aiding them in their journey. They are officially put into the role in the third incarnation of the Quest.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Lord Vetinari is testing out a new employee, born a bonded peasant in Far Uberwald, who is going to perform occasional diplomatic tasks for him. He asks her straight out about her revolutionary sentiments. She answers frankly and honestly, pointing out it is wasteful of crossbow bolts and the labour of good comrades to shoot members of the parasitical aristocratic classes. Far rather that they are re-educated to perform an honest day's work, perhaps digging ditches. With no exceptions, My Lord. Vetinari accepts this without comment. Later, he remarks to Sam Vimes that if Irena Politek can speak to him as frankly as that, then he has no doubts she will be every bit as candid to other noble leaders around the Disc.
    Capital. She has passed the test.
  • Hope for the Heartless: When the Horned King is resurrected by the Fates for his forced and fixed-term (and only) redemption quest, they provide him the Invisibles as servants and advisers. As the creations and minors of the Fates, they're powerful creatures of their own right and unable to be hurt physically, thus listing them among those few who are completely unafraid of the Horned King and unhesitant to give him sound suggestions on how he should treat Avalina or call him out when he treats her cruelly.
  • The Karma of Lies: After realizing that both her father and Adrien enabled her spoiled, bratty behavior for years by never challenging her, Chloe pursues a tentative friendship with Marinette for the sake of having somebody who will be brutally honest with her. She wants to change for the better, and hopes Marinette will help keep her on the straight and narrow.
  • The King Nobody Wanted: Lord Rys Chelsted believes in absolute frankness, combined with Gentleman Snarker quips. While building up to an argument that Stannis should stop impounding merchant ships, he says that, as the king, Stannis has the right to paint himself blue and parade around naked, but that doesn't mean he should do it.
    Stannis: You share your truths quite freely, I see.
    Lord Chelsted: As I have told you, Your Grace, it is my understanding that is what you wish from me. Should you wish a liar and a flatterer, well, say the word and I will go find you one. They are about King's Landing in great abundance.
  • The MLP Loops: Gilda, both Awake and unAwake, has been hired by Equestria's royal family to serve in this role more than once. As she puts it, "how often do you get hired to tell your employer when she's being a pain?"
  • My Little Titan: In chapter 14, it's explained that there was an incident involving a large group of anti-war protestors (Celestia had thrown herself into military expansion to honor her latest student/lover, a military general and tactician, after he died), whom Celestia ordered to disperse after finding out what they were doing. But when one of them basically told her to shove it, she was happy to find someone who'd tell her what they really thought without fear of retribution, and took him as her new Royal Consort, whose duties included telling her when she was "behaving like an ass".

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • When Joker is questioned on his religious beliefs in Full Metal Jacket, he gives an answer that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman doesn't like. When Hartman then threatens him to recant his statement, Joker stands firm, explaining that he guesses Hartman would just punish him all the more for giving in so easily and being a Yes-Man. Hartman immediately promotes Joker, making it clear that he thinks Joker is stupid.... but also brave and honest.
  • The Sound of Music: Maria shows herself to be this, holding her own in an argument with Captain Von Trapp about his parenting habits (or lack thereof).
    Captain: I don't wish you to discuss my children in this manner.
    Maria: Well, you've got to hear from someone. You're never home long enough to know them.
    Captain: I said I don't want to hear any more from you about my children!
    Maria: I know you don't, but you've got to!
  • Star Wars:
    • Daine Jir is an Imperial officer from A New Hope. He only appears in one scene, but he criticizes Darth Vader to his face and Vader listens. Also he always listens to his stormtroopers and fighter pilots because they're the people on the front lines. He just doesn't get along with anyone else.
    • The Star Wars Expanded Universe establishes that Vader is a Father to His Men when it comes to the front-line troops, but that he typically has a hate-on for the officer corps. That said, any officer sufficiently sharp to keep up while working for him can face rapid promotion (probably due to how the insufficiently sharp officers are disciplined), so Vader presumably respects officers who have proven themselves capable. In this case, Daine Jir had proven himself a capable officer with a bluntly honest manner about him and Vader was impressed enough to promote him for it.
  • In public, Stephen of Django Unchained seems to be a textbook Sycophantic Servant, sucking up to his masters and snapping at anyone who seems to oppose them. This is simply because he knows Candie, like any slave owner, would never stand for a slave or any black person showing himself to be smarter than him. In private, Stephen gives Candie meaningful advice that he highly values, despite thinking black people are of biologically inferior intelligence.
  • Syriana: Prince Nasir offers Bryan Woodman's company a lucrative contract, partly out of guilt over the accidental death of Woodman's son. A still-grieving Woodman rips into him with what he really thinks of Nasir and Arabs in general, then accepts the offer. Clearly bearing the page quote in mind, Nasir takes it right on the chin and on-the-spot hires Woodman himself as an economic advisor.

  • A twist on an Inter-Service Rivalry joke goes like this. The Chiefs of Staff of all the services decide to test which of their enlisted men are the bravest. All other services’ men willingly climb taller and taller flagpoles carrying more and more explosives on their backs. But the enlisted man in the service of your choice, responds with an order to climb a flagpole with explosives by saying, “You’re insane, sir!” And the service chief turns around, saying “Now that is true courage!!”

  • Niccolò Machiavelli advises princes to avoid flatterers, although their advisers shouldn't be seen as disrespecting them either.
  • William Cecil does this for Queen Elizabeth I in Philippa Gregory's The Virgin's Lover. Not sure how close to the truth the book is though.
  • The prophet Nathan to David in The Old Testament, making this Older Than Feudalism.
  • Discussed in the Dystopia novel The Unincorporated Man. When the main character becomes the leader of a group of rebels, he has a Black Shirt as his advisor, because he thinks the group is out of touch with what normal people think. (Mind you, he's smart enough to choose someone who considers him a friend and won't betray him.)
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, low-born ex-smuggler Davos Seaworth is this to King Stannis Baratheon. This works in his favor, as Stannis is brutally honest to a fault, hates people sugar-coating their words or turning the flattery on, and makes Davos his Hand and a Lord for giving good and honest advice, saying there is nobody more fit to be his Hand.
    • King Robert calls Ned Stark to the south to be this. Stark nearly loses his job for doing it too well.
    • Tyrion Lannister is an errant Honest Advisor (with no fixed advisee, let alone abode) who shamelessly uses the contempt others hold for his being a dwarf to act the role of Court Jester when needed: from Jon Snow to Catelyn Stark, his own father, his sister and brother, Joffrey (comes with free insults) and anybody else he comes in range of, he can and will give blunt, honest (various shades of), well-thought-out (given what he knows) and accurately on-the-nose advice along with the cutting humour and wordplay. However, it comes back to bite him, as snarktastic advice can be made to sound like a threat if a wounded party chooses to make it appear that way. There's also the fact Tyrion is knowingly helping out a tyrannical and usurping regime as he's related to them, despite his claims to help the common people he knows full well Lannister rule is horribly oppressive to the smallfolk.
      • Tyrion is notably not this during A Dance With Dragons due to having passed through the Despair Event Horizon and crawled his way back up through The Power of Hate: The advice he gives Young Griff was definitively not given in good faith and leads the Golden Company to invade Westeros prematurely, likely setting off another Civil War and plenty of suffering. Tyrion is well-aware that Griff will have no chance of restoring Targaryen rule even in the best possible scenario. Yet, however dishonest the intent, the advice itself still had a solid basis in verifiable fact(s): Daenerys is not some meek little girl to simply marry and swipe the throne from under with no logical, foreseeable problems with that theoretical course of action. Being a dishonestly honest-ish, Captain Obvious-skinned onion, for the win. Especially if, say, one suspects the lost Targaryen prince one is currently advising is actually a Blackfyre already geared up to do something politically destructive with the Golden Company against the Seven Kingdoms as a whole, the Targaryen with dragons and the Lannisters in particular. Which Tyrion kinda sorta does very, very strongly suspect. Yeah; trying to divine the "right" side to tacitly or outwardly support for the least amount of fallout in any given direction in that particular mess (and still survive the experience) is... yeouch. Even without personal issues on top.
      • On the other hand, the situation in Westeros is so shit that Griff might well be able to gain the throne anyway. Whether it will work in the long run, however... and even if it does, it does not change the fact that Tyrion did not intend for Griff to succeed. He basically sent an innocent youth to die so he could have some revenge on Lannisters.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar books, it is built into the Heraldic system that the King or Queen always has a Monarch's Own Herald, ready to serve as trustworthy friend, confidant, and brutally honest advisor if needed. Part of their purpose is to call the Monarch out on anything questionable, stupid, or pointless they try to do. The breakdown of this relationship between Queen Selenay and Queen's Own Herald Talamir causes numerous political problems and plot points in the main time period covered by the books.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has Captain Pellaeon, second-in-command to Grand Admiral Thrawn. Pellaeon is a reasonably smart man and is always pointing out apparent flaws in Thrawn's plans. Usually Thrawn has already accounted for said flaws but tolerates (even invites, at times) the criticism because Pellaeon will occasionally point out something he hasn't thought of, and Pellaeon is always respectful about it in any case.
  • Victoria Rione is this to Captain (later Admiral) John Geary throughout The Lost Fleet series, which is just as well given he became Famed in Story to near-Messianic levels while sojourning as a Human Popsicle. Some of her criticisms have turned out to be wrong, but she still serves the vitally important role of preventing Geary's fame from going to his head. Captain Desjani takes on this role as well, once she gets past her Fangirl tendencies.
  • In The Wheel of Time:
    • The Seanchan Empire codifies this role with the Truthspeaker: a servant of royalty who is required to ignore the Court's exacting code of etiquette and be a voice of unflinching Brutal Honesty to their master. In an empire where a servant even making eye contact with a royal can be a deadly insult, one famous Truthspeaker was not punished for slapping the Emperor before the entire court.
    • The Aes Sedai claim this reputation since they make a magically binding vow never to lie. Though almost every ruler has an Aes Sedai counselor, their actual reputation is as undisputed masters of Exact Words, tactical omissions, and otherwise stretching the truth to its limit. Pragmatic rulers just recognize that the Aes Sedai are one of the best-informed organizations in the world, so there's much to be learned from trying to work out their real agenda.
  • Folta from Pavane In Pearl And Emerald was chosen by the emperor to be one of his daughter's handmaidens because he thought it would be good for her to have someone as bluntly honest and intelligent as Folta around.
  • Harry Potter: Later books show that while most people on the good guys' side will follow Dumbledore without question, Minerva McGonagall is one of the only people who will challenge his beliefs and actions, readily voicing disapproval when he does something she disagrees with. That said, once she's spoken her piece, she will follow Dumbledore's orders regardless. Dumbledore, in turn, clearly appreciates her input, if appointing her his second-in-command is any indication, and as The Deathly Hallows shows, Dumbledore has made some terrible mistakes in his past and has good reason to doubt his own judgement.
  • Archie Goodwin is Nero Wolfe's legman, gofer, and dogsbody more than an actual advisor, but it's frequently implied that one of the main reasons Wolfe keeps him around is because Archie is willing to puncture his pomposity with sarcasm and snark and is able to call him out whenever he feels Wolfe is crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed.
  • Vito encourages Tom to be one of these in The Godfather: "Not even a Sicilian consigliere always agrees with the boss."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • Londo Mollari is unhappily married to three wives: One (Timov) who unabashedly criticizes him at every turn and two others (Muriel and Daggair) who act nice to him in person while plotting behind his back. When he's permitted to divorce two of the three, Timov is the one he keeps even though she's given him no reason to like her. When she asks why Londo chose her, he explains that she was chosen because he would always know where he stood with her, unlike with his other two wives.
    • Londo's assistant (and eventual successor as ambassador) Vir Cotto was one of these by accident, due to the sheer naivete he had regarding the way the Centauri political system functioned. Much later on, when Londo was next in line for the throne, and Vir was not only the Centauri ambassador on Babylon 5 but also surprisingly influential overall for such a joke position he wondered how Vir could have come as far as he did, done what he had, and still have both a personal moral code AND faith in others. "I wonder if you have even been paying attention!"
    • Michael Garibaldi wants this of his workers and subordinates. In Season 5 when he becomes the leader of Edgars Industries by marrying the widow, an old girlfriend, of the deceased owner William Edgars, he first deals with the troublesome backstabbing corrupt board who tried to have him and Lise killed. After that, he got a list of names of people stuck in middle management. These are troublemakers and complainers and ones who think they can do their job better than the department heads and selected six of them. He told them he is promoting them, not firing as they each feared and suspected, to the board of directors with an effective 100% increase in pay with benefits. He tells his new advisors their job is to tell it to him straight and tell him when he or the company are messing up. If they stand their ground and are right, he will give them a bonus. If they are wrong, he "will eat [them] for lunch."
  • Blue Bloods:
    • Commissioner Frank Reagan desires this trait in his top subordinates. Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Garret Morris will frequently give him his direct and sometimes blunt advice on even touchy subjects.
    • ADA Erin Reagan becomes one to her new boss Manhattan District Attorney Amanda Harris in season 3 when she is promoted. When a subordinate brings to Erin a concern their boss might have buried exculpatory evidence in a case a few years ago, Erin calls her out on the injustice of her actions and when pushed by her boss, Erin pushes back with the threat to go public with this. The DA backs down and contacts the judge on that case on her oversight of the evidence. The DA is impressed by Erin's courage and keeps her in her new spot. The DA tells Erin she may not like it when Erin talks to her like in this incident, but it may be something she needs to keep her from going over the line again.
  • Chernobyl: Both Valery Legasov and Ulana Khomyuk do their best to explain how serious the nuclear meltdown is and how disastrous the consequences will be if it's not contained. Legasov especially, to Boris Shcherbina, who's a Badass Bureaucrat who actually listens and takes the situation very seriously unlike many Soviet authority figures who would simply cover it all up ignoring the severity of the disaster.
  • The only people who ever truly talk back to or argue with Queen Elizabeth in The Crown (2016) are her sister Princess Margaret and her husband Prince Phillip. This is largely Truth in Television too.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ned tells his king what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. Telling Robert "You're too fat for your armor!" isn't a comment Robert would've accepted from many people and least of all would have laughed at. This is also the reason why Robert asks Ned to join up as Hand of the King.
    • Davos also tells his king what he needs to hear. As Maester Cressen puts it, Stannis is surrounded by fools and fanatics and Davos is the only one who tells him hard truths.
    • Kevan often questions his brother Tywin's orders candidly but respectfully. Although he refuses the job, it's clear he would be one for Cersei. Being an experienced soldier and a member of her family, he's no Yes-Man.
      Kevan: I did not return to the capital to serve as your puppet. To watch you stack the Small Council with sycophants.
    • Tyrion takes this role in Tywin's war council and in King's Landing whenever he's not acting as an executive power himself. Tywin listens to his input, but Joffrey and Cersei do not. Tyrion eventually becomes Daenerys's honest advisor once he's recognized as this after a single conversation.
  • House of the Dragon:
    • Ser Lyonel Strong is the most honest Hand to serve King Viserys, giving him selfless and practical advice for deciding Rhaenyra's suitor instead of advancing his House's own interests, giving an honest assessment of Viserys' reign instead of talking him up, and attempting to quit his position on account of his son's affair with Rhaenyra. This makes him a strong contrast to Otto Hightower.
    • Somewhat sadly, Daemon also turns out to be this in retrospect despite initially being set up as The Evil Prince. He correctly points out Viserys' character flaws that make him susceptible to the manipulations of the Small Council, which Viserys ignores in favor of his non-Targaryen advisors. It ends up costing House Targaryen dearly.
  • The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: DS Barbara Havers is this to her partner, DI Lynley. Although it took her some time to earn the position, by the end of season two she can get away with saying things no one else could because she has earned his trust repeatedly over the course of their partnership, and though he might snap at her, she knows that's as far as it will go.
  • Revolution: Captain Jeremy Baker is this to General Bass Monroe. Episode 10 had Baker discussing the possibility of capturing Miles Matheson alive with Monroe. Then in episode 17, when Monroe decides to execute Baker because he thinks Baker tried to have him assassinated, Baker decides to give his friend the total truth and a The Reason You Suck Speech. He still got killed off, but he was spot on with everything that he said.
  • The West Wing: All of President Bartlet's senior staff are fully capable of speaking truth to power; it's absolutely necessary, given who they're advising! Leo and Toby tend to give out the most unmitigated criticism, but Josh, Sam, CJ, and even Charlie know not to hold back when the President needs a clear and unvarnished analysis of the situation at hand. Will has difficulty with this at first - in fact, he's given a Secret Test for it by Bartlet and fails - but gets better at it as he settles into his new senior staff role.
  • The BBC miniseries Gunpowder, Treason & Plot (about the Stuart succession and the Guy Fawkes plot) has two of these: Bothwell is the harsh but intelligent adviser to Mary, Queen of Scots, and probably the only person around her she can really trust, even if she takes too long to realize it. In the second episode, Lord Cecil is this trope for King James, basically masterminding the fullest way to exploit the gunpowder plot and the anti-Catholic sentiment surrounding it.
  • JAG: Admiral Chegwidden is depicted this way in his onscreen dealings with the two SecNavs during his time in office.
  • Louis Howe is this to Franklin Roosevelt in Warm Springs and in Real Life. He tells Franklin to get back into politics and to stop wasting time building a polio rehab center in Warm Springs.
  • The Magicians: All of the Fillory advisers are spineless Yes-Men, not to mention rather out of touch with the kingdom anyway. The primary exception is Lady Abigail, a talking sloth. Unfortunately, there are two problems with her: She needs a translator for anyone to understand her, and her suggestions are invariably extremely violent.
    Margo: That sloth is psychotic.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Hernan "Shades" Alvarez spends most of his time trying to be a voice of reason to whichever crime boss is in charge of Harlem's Paradise. Throughout season 1, he repeatedly attempts to get Cottonmouth to let his vendetta with Luke Cage go as it's making him look weak, but Cottonmouth doesn't listen. After Diamondback comes along, Shades' efforts to rein him in lead to Diamondback eventually double-crossing him. In season 2, he constantly brings up logical and less risky moneymaking schemes for Mariah that she refuses to take.

    Mythology & Religion 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Office of Vizieral Counsel in Changeling: The Lost is supposed to hold this role for the reigning Changeling monarch, which is a tough job when most Changeling freeholds have four monarchs who rotate the crown in time with the seasons and are usually rivals. However, the Magically-Binding Contract of the Office states that a Vizier who betrays their current master loses the agelessness and protection from Sanity Slippage that the position confers, so when a Vizier turns traitor, it is immediately, terrifyingly obvious.
  • Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • Malcador the Sigilite in the backstory of the game as well as the Horus Heresy is shown to have been the Emperor's closest confidant and advisor despite his unassuming appearance. Not only did he manage the Imperium with incredible efficiency and helped established vital institutions like what became the Inquisition, but also had the privilege of being blunt and frank in his comments (and criticisms) on the Emperor. And the Emperor, for all his disdain against people questioning his views or decisions, approved of him.
    • Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines, kept his old nanny around (her life extended via rejuvenat treatments) because he knew she would tell him the things he didn't want to hear.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Soren is the chief strategist of the Greil Mercenaries, and he has a pragmatic and blunt, straightforward way of advising them. While many of the mercenaries are idealistic, Soren is a realist, and the first to suggest refusing to harbor an escaped princess being hunted by a powerful enemy kingdom due to the danger it poses to themselves, or even that joining a war on the aggressive, invading side is more to the mercenaries' benefit, while reminding the mercenaries that they work for coin in the end. As their leader, Ike, is an idealist, his more pragmatic suggestions are often overruled, though Ike tells Soren that he values his strategical skill in battle.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, in his support conversation with Hubert, the son of the current prime minister of the Adrestian Empire, Ferdinand, states that his intention once he inherits the mantle of prime minister of the Empire from his father is to be someone who can challenge the imperial princess and future Adrestian Emperor, Edelgard. He wants to give, in his words, "frank advice" to her when she's on the wrong path, rather than blindly following her orders the way Edelgard's retainer and Yes-Man, as well as Ferdinand's foil, Hubert, does.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • Arl Eamon is this towards Alistair if he takes the throne of Ferelden. His brother, Bann Teagan, comes off as one as well in his interactions with Loghain and the rest of the bannorn.
    • Loghain himself spent much of his life being this to King Cailan, usually successfully, and it's implied that it was Cailan's refusal to listen to reason (in Loghain's eyes) in the case of the Blight that convinced Loghain Ferelden would be better off without Cailan.
  • Jaehee Kang from Mystic Messenger is the Beleaguered Assistant to Jumin Han, the CEO-in-line of the massive C&R corporation. Jumin's convictions are strict and he's unashamed about speaking his mind, but when it comes to Jaehee, he's completely comfortable with her sharing whatever opinions she has about him and his behavior, good or bad, because he values her too much to take offense to anything she has to say.
  • Stern the Destructor of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable games is this to her Lord Dearche. As she always says and later shows, she's absolutely loyal to her Lord and truly does respect her, but as the Material of Wisdom, she could not abide by any plan or opinion of her Lord that is illogical or counter-productive to their goals. Lord Dearche, for her part, tends to relent when Stern argues against her, but not without a lot of grumbling first.
  • Despite his name, Yes Man of Fallout: New Vegas is capable of telling the player when they make decisions that he considers strategically unwise, ranging from allying/ignoring factions he considers potential threats (most notably the Brotherhood of Steel) to even destroying your Sealed Army in a Can. Granted, he tends to be somewhat passive-aggressive regarding most of his criticisms, but he'll still make it clear what he thinks.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius:
    • Baron Wulfenbach states early on that he prefers his men criticize him when possible, rather than see flaws but be too afraid to voice them.
    • Also, Agatha and Gil seem to prefer to have advisers who know how it is and aren't afraid to tell them off as well, Agatha with Von Zinzer, while Gil nearly always works with close friends rather than minions.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Jones acts as this to the administration of the titular Court and later to Antimony, as a neutral party untouched by Court and Forest interests. Being an Emotionless Girl as old as the Earth itself makes her pretty reliable in that capacity.
  • Part of the reason King Samrick of Charby the Vampirate decides to recruit Sadick to his Royal Justicars is that he "appreciate[s Sadick's] honesty and constancy", giving the same complaints about the king's rule to his face as he has been saying elsewhere.
  • In Sticky Dilly Buns, the Short-Tempered Rightly Self-Righteous Ingenue Ruby somehow finds herself delivering doses of the obvious to Cloudcuckoolander Camp Gay Dillon. She finds this quite annoying.
    Ruby: How can I possibly know more about being gay than a gay man? I've been in this house too long!!!

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko can always go to his uncle Iroh and best friend Aang when he wants someone to tell it to him straight, though the latter is more in the tie-in comics than the show itself. The trust runs so deep that in the Sequel Series (mentioned below), Zuko's grandson, Iroh II, jumps right into helping Korra because of how much respect his grandfather had for Aang.
  • The reason Foghorn Leghorn keeps taking Daffy under his wing in The Looney Tunes Show.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Bolin becomes this accidentally when he mentions that the businessman Varrick is not actually levitating. Varrick takes a shine to him for it, fires the lying swami on the spot and scolds all his yes men for not telling him and letting him look like an idiot.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Beach Head often took up this role to his superiors in the Joe team. His primary function was the team's drill instructor and thanks to being the military equivalent of a By-the-Book Cop, he was more than willing to speak up if he thought that something was off. That said, if after giving his opinion he's ordered to proceed anyway, he'd adhere to The Chain of Command and obey. He avoids The Complainer Is Always Wrong by actually being right on several occasions: in "Arise, Serpentor, Arise", he complains to General Hawk, Duke and Flint that they're letting the Joes get too soft and it's in the midst of his haranguing Mainframe for slacking off that Mainframe bothers checking the security cameras just in time to see COBRA is arriving and preparing to attack.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • Applejack would be this if she had any interest in politics. However, she plays one in the pageant from the "Hearth's Warming Eve" episode, Smart Cookie. Her boss, Chancellor Puddinghead, was such an arrogant nutjob that Smart Cookie had long since degenerated into a Deadpan Snarker.
    • Owlowiscious to Spike in "Inspiration Manifestation".
  • On The Simpsons, Mr. Burns hired Lisa (who hates him) as his assistant after listening to his yes men caused him to lose his fortune.

    Real Life 
  • Companies and governments often have the position of ombudsman. Parliamentary governments, in particular, enshrine the "honest advisor" position in their very function: in the parliamentary system, the opposition party's traditional responsibility is to challenge new bills and policy proposal to reveal unexpected loopholes and ensure that they stand up to close scrutiny.
  • Simon Cowell: "I'm not being rude, but…" He wasn't interested in making friends or sparing feelings; he often delivered hard truths the contestants needed to hear as they'd likely had a lifetime of coddling by people more interested in stoking their ego than nurturing any talent they might have had. On the other hand, it has often been said that if Simon gives someone praise, then they probably really deserved it and had some real talent.
  • Gordon Ramsay is basically the culinary world's equivalent to Simon Cowell. He's known for his fiery temper, frequent f-bombs and curses, clever yet harsh insults and taking no bullshit or tomfoolery, but is doing so because he wants to bring the best out of his contestants. Plus, he has 16 Michelin Stars, so clearly advice, criticism or praise from him would mean a LOT.
  • Italo Balbo, The Dragon of Benito Mussolini, didn't trust the Germans and advised Mussolini to continue with the alliance with France and maybe build up an alliance with the UK as well. Mussolini refused and Balbo answered with "You will all wind up shining the shoes of the Germans." Guess what Mussolini's last job was.
  • Walt Disney had a notorious hatred for Yes-Men. He would actively seek out people like Bill Peet and Ward Kimball who were known to disagree with him on pretty much everything because he wanted to hear as many opinions as possible in order to make his films as good as they could be.
  • The old Imperial Chinese Bureaucracy had the anonymous memorandum system, where any official could send straight to the Emperor (bypassing the entire bureaucracy) a critique of what was wrong with the current state of administration (up to and including denouncing him in name). Pity the poor sucker who had to give the memo to the Emperor, though. Others went up to tell him to his face and then would kill themselves if they were really serious about it.
  • In ancient Imperial Japan, there was a position known as "nagon" (納言, literally "one to take words from"), they act as the speakers and advisers to their superiors, which in certain cases just so happen to be the emperor himself. Although the position is no more, its legacy can be found in the names of some red bean breeds, named so because of their toughness and thus aversion of breaking when cooked, not unlike how real nacons tend to keep their bellies intact despite their job description and the prevalence of ordered harakiris.
  • Many of the (successful) leaders of the Three Kingdoms of China had at least one of these, though whether or not they listened varied.
    • The uber-example of these would be Zhang Zhao, who served Sun Quan of Wu. Historically, he was legendary for telling Sun Quan exactly what he thought whenever he thought Sun was in the wrong and the fact that he'd known Sun from his youth meant he could get away with outright scolding his boss. It wasn't unusual to have both Sun Quan and Zhang Zhao screaming at each other when they disagreed.
    • What made Cao Cao the most successful of the warlords was his ability to realize he had a number of these in his employ and knew when to listen to them. As an example, during one campaign, his forces were besieging a city that put up a better fight than expected and in his fury, Cao ordered that when the city fell everyone inside was to be killed. After the siege stalled, his general and kinsman, Cao Ren, approached him and pointed out that since everyone in the city knew they were going to die anyway, naturally they'd fight to the bitter end. Seeing his point, Cao rescinded his order and the city surrendered soon after. On another occasion, when his showdown with Yuan Shao had stalemated, he sent a letter to his top advisor, Xun Yu, back in Xu City, his letter written in such a way that let Xun know he wanted to be advised to retreat (so that he could claim, "Oh, I wanted to stay and fight, but Wenruo (Xun's style name) advised me to retreat so what choice did I have?"). Xun instead wrote back and pointed out if he retreated, sooner or later, Yuan would crush him so it was better to fight to the end where he was. Cao supposedly laughed and saw Xun's point. He eventually overcame Yuan thanks to holding on.
    • Jia Xu was notable for being one of these, not because it was something he particularly believed in, but because it was pragmatic. When he served Zhang Xiu and helped Zhang successfully repell Cao Cao (killing Cao's oldest son, Cao Ang, in the process), he later dismissed a messenger from Yuan Shao who hoped to recruit Zhang's forces in the buildup to Yuan's showdown with Cao. He bluntly laid out his reasons for doing so note , and when Zhang rightfully pointed out Cao might hold a grudge over their previous conflict (especially since Cao lost his eldest son and heir), Jia admitted that was probable, but he also judged that Cao wasn't a man to put personal grudges over affairs of state. He was correct and Zhang's forces were welcomed into the fold with Zhang achieving high rank due to Cao's acknowledgement of his ability.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Speak Truth To Power


"Now if I was in charge..."

Unhappy with what he views as an unacceptable lack of discipline (the latest example of which is Cross Country installing a tape player in his HAVOC), Beach Head complains but is reminded of the pecking order.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheChainOfCommand

Media sources: