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Manifesto-Making Malcontent

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If you're gonna be me, you need a manifesto
If you ain't got one, you better get one presto
M.I.A., "Matangi"

When authors need to establish a character not just as a Rebellious Spirit, but as a potential danger to the established order of things, they will often offhandedly mention that character penning some kind of manifesto in their free time. This is, of course, in the tradition of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, which spawned a number of revolutions across the world and led those revolutionaries to write their own manifestos, such as Mao's Little Red Book.

Compare Tinfoil Hat, which is a shorthand to establish a character as a paranoid weirdo, and Rabble Rouser, who relies more on oratory than on writing skills. Has nothing to do with Manifest Destiny.

Since this is a Characterization Trope and Real Life has no author to write up characterization, No Real Life Examples, Please! Suffice to say that writing subversive manifestos is Truth in Television.


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    Comic Books 
  • Hellblazer: Nigel Archer is one of John Constantine's contacts, a medium and true believer in socialism, calling himself a radical journalist (despite never being published). John pranks him by adding the words "Tear yourself off a socialist manifesto" on a toilet paper dispenser.
  • The Dark Knight Strikes Again: The Question mentions a manifesto almost immediately after he is introduced. Later on, he is established as a hardcore anti-authoritarian technophobe.
  • The massively paranoid and violent Rorschach from Watchmen spends a lot of time writing in his diary, which doubles as a manifesto and criminal case research and which by the end of the story holds the clues and evidence to the overarching plot. His final act before embarking on one last mission that he's not certain he will survive (he doesn't) is to mail the diary to the right-wing extremist newspaper The Frontiersman.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye establishes that Megatron was once this. Subverted in that he wanted an entirely peaceful revolution against the evils of Functionism, the fundamentalist belief among some Cybertronians that one's rights and role in society should be entirely determined by what one transforms into; Megatron had a brilliant mind but was stuck in the role of a miner because that's what he was built for. The senate considered his writings a threat to society and first tried to have him killed while in jail over a brawl he didn't start, then sent to an asteroid prison, then brainwashed when he just kept writing. With all that happening to him, it's probably no wonder he eventually gave up on pacifism and turned to more violent methods. The comic eventually gives him a redemption arc and has him rediscover his peaceful revolutionary ways.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Homestuck fan song "An Ugly Story" about the end of Act Five Act Two, Eridan tosses out that he's "made a manifesto" in the midst of his increasingly furious rant about how he's going to either win Feferi back or kill her.
  • The Discworld equivalent is That's Capital! by Karl Spenzer. As well as providing the theoretical basis for a Revolution in Rodinia, the work persists even today, after the collapse of the Union of Soviets, bobbing under the surface like an iceberg in a shipping lane. Lord Vetinari has no objection to its continued publication and circulation, finding it "amusing" and "instructive". Spenzer himself met a martyr's end: the parts about religion being an illusion and a conspiracy cooked up as a means to control the masses were critically read by the Gods of Dunmanifestin, who pointed out one or two little flaws in the argument about their not existing. Today's Discworld Communists skirt around the bits about "worship is the opium of the Gods" and about their being the ultimate form of capitalist oppressor, if they exist at all. Discworld political discussions occur in the works of A.A. Pessimal.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A borderline example in The Punisher (2004): Before going on to storm Howard Saint's offices, Frank Castle writes a letter where he makes clear his decision to "pursue natural justice" so nobody will be confused about his reasons. Since the movie showcases the Punisher's Origin Story, nobody but Saint (and Castle's neighbors) knows he's a vigilante yet. The letter is an If I Dont Return so people understand why is he doing what he did.
  • Played for Laughs in Thor: Ragnarok with Korg. He explains that he was arrested for trying to start a revolution against his corrupt government. Unfortunately he didn't make enough manifestos and the only people who showed up to the first meeting were his mom, his mom's boyfriend, and the cops there to arrest him.

  • In Sirantha Jax: Endgame, Loras publishes a manifesto telling his people, the La'hengrin, that he has a cure for their chemically-induced docility and to rise up against the Nicuan Empire. The manifesto also contains an overview of guerrilla warfare tactics.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the pilot for the unproduced season four of Veronica Mars, the bad guy successfully distracts Veronica and her partner by claiming his disappeared roommate was writing some kind of manifesto and offering to show it to them. Instead, of course, he comes back with a gun in his hand.
  • In That '70s Show, Eric jokes that Hyde (a noted anti-government Conspiracy Theorist) should be writing angry manifestos under a bare bulb in his basement room.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • One Unsub was one of these, who was targeting people and institutions associated with technology (the Unsub was a reference to the real-life Unabomber), and leaving behind copies of his manifesto A Guide To Practical Living. However, it's eventually revealed that the majority of his actions were to gain the attention of Ursula Kent, a sci-fi writer who he believed to be his birth mother. Kent had written a dystopian novel named Empty Planet, and the Unsub was mimicking the novel's anti-technology message as a sort of homage. She turned out to have had a girl, which he finds crushing.
    • One unsub made a video manifesto regarding his plan to start a feudal commune centered mostly on torturing and raping women. The fact that it's on tape lets the team profile both him and the cameraman, who's continuing the original unsub's work.
    • Yet another unsub wrote a manifesto centered around his inability to get laid. The team has to search through it and decode his regional slang in order to identify the target for his large-scale acid attack.
  • Manhunt: Unabomber, which follows both the FBI's manhunt for and a re-enacting of the stresses that created the titular Evil Luddite, obviously showcases a moment in which Theodore Kaczynski writes his manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future and negotiates that he will stop making bombs if a national newspaper publishes it unedited in its entirety (which is done, but Kaczynski keeps making bombs regardless).
  • Andor: Played seriously. Nemik, the young and idealistic tech wiz of the Aldhani rebel cell, is writing a manifesto in response to the barrage of atrocities regularly committed by the Empire, and believes that they've got the beginnings of a fight on their hands. He's right, as the Rebellion will eventually succeed. This is in contrast to the rest of the cell, whose motives for fighting the Empire are personal rather than ideological. Nemik dies tragically in the sixth episode, but manages to pass said manifesto on to Cassian. When he eventually listens to it in the Season 1 finale, it (along with the Trauma Conga Line he'd been through by that point) inspires him to fully commit to fighting the Empire.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Subverted in Retail; Marla is sometimes described as writing a manifesto about the many injustices of the retail sector, but this seems to be a safety valve that allows her to work within the system, rather than snapping and attacking the regional manager.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In 2010, Kanako Urai published a "manifesto" about the state of joshi that annoyed a lot of that community. The late Stuart Allan, co-founder of the website, commented: "The actual suggestions were all sensible, but the issue wasn't as much with the suggestions as the Japanese mentality at this 'rookie' wrestler with a reputation for being overly stiff in the ring telling all the joshi veterans and promoters what they needed to do to fix the entire scene." This was actually intentional, though she was hoping it would get her heat with the fans who respected and admired the joshi veterans and promoters she was calling out rather than said veterans and promoters themselves.

    Video Games 
  • In Act 2 of Dragon Age II, Anders starts writing a manifesto calling for the abolition of the Circles of Magi and spreading it around Kirkwall (but mainly around Hawke's mansion; there are several different locations in Casa Hawke where randomised dialogue can throw up a reference to his manifesto, most amusingly the fireplace). In Act 3, he stops working on it, and instead becomes a Bomb Throwing Anarchist.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire chapter 10 has the Outlander going to recruit a revolutionary anarchist trying to destroy Zakuul's perfect society who came to Theron Shan's attention when he discovered her rambling, nonsensical manifesto.
  • It's less a manifesto and more pamphlets relating to the Cult of Reason, but Silvio in Aviary Attorney makes and tries to press these on the Parisian citizenry.
  • In Reflections on the River, Ah Zhu, a fisherman, is known for pushing papers of his opinions at people who just want to buy a fish. Zheng's captive, the bookish Prince Shun, finds a copy of one such paper and is genuinely intrigued and impressed by it, seeing in it a unique philosophical standpoint absent from his formal education. Zheng never explains that Ah Zhu isn't a traditional scholar — but if Zheng and Shun are getting on well, Zheng does go and ask Ah Zhu for part two.
  • In the present-day sections of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag the player can find sticky notes scattered around the Abstergo offices outlining the manifesto of the Instruments of the First Will, a cult that worships the First Civilization. It mostly consists of rants about the evils of technology and predictions of the return of Juno. The author later tries to trick the player into allowing Juno to possess them.
  • Mass Effect 2: A codex entry reveals that shortly after aliens were discovered beyond the Charon Relay, someone posted a manifesto warning that a human genocide was imminent; and humanity needed a Cerberus to protect itself from this threat. Government officials denounced this as "survivalist rhetoric from an illusive man". The man who wrote it eventually reinvented himself as The Illusive Man and created Cerberus to ensure humanity's survival and prosperity.

  • Early in Narbonic, Helen Narbon announces her arrival on the mad science scene by sending a manifesto to the authorities, declaring that she will unleash giant rodents on Washington, D.C. if her demands are not met.

    Web Video 
  • In Counter Monkey, Spoony introduces a fellow player whom he dubs "Crazy Mike" and, to illustrate how crazy he was, says that he was the kind of guy you'd expect to be working on a manifesto.



Video Example(s):


Nemik's Ideals

Cassian's young, idealistic new teammate talks about how he's writing a manifesto in defiance of the Empire's barrage of atrocities.

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