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Messiah Creep

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Given sufficient running time, the protagonist will invariably evolve into either the All-Loving Hero or the Messianic Archetype, overriding any previous characterization.

This seems likely to happen to a character who was previously The Ditz or The Fool, or otherwise fell into This Loser Is You category. More cynically, it may occur because characters otherwise lacking any genuine positive qualities can only compensate by the "kindness of their heart". It can also occur as a result of exclusively positive Character Development. A character actually learns their Aesops and overcomes the flaws in their personality, but creators are loath to have them develop new flaws, so they end up perfect.

Note that not all characters falling into the Messianic Archetype are victims of Messiah Creep: it's about the archetype overriding previous characterization. If the character fell into the archetype from the beginning, it is Not an Example.

Often crosses over with a "Save the World" Climax; as their goals escalate to the scale of Saving the World, their personality evolves into one worthy of the task.

This does not mean a Messiah who's a creep. Although that also happens.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kenji from 20th Century Boys starts out as The Everyman, but by the end is a full-fledged rock and roll messiah.
  • The original Sailor Moon anime is a clear-cut example: Usagi was initially the Girly Girl, but became and was actually called the Messiah by the third season. Coupled with Minako's Flanderization, it caused them to swap roles, promoting Usagi to The Hero and reducing Minako to the Girly Girl.
  • Kira Yamato in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED essentially became one of these in the sequel series Destiny.
    • Setsuna F. Seiei later becomes one in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 through his transformation into the first Innovator, and Flit Asuno becomes one in the last episode of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. Overall it seems to be a running theme in modern day Gundam series.
  • Kei Kurono in Gantz does this starting out all the way from Jerkass. Although it's less drawing on the "kindness of their heart", and more tatooing "What would Kato do?" to the inside of his eyelids as part of his Character Development.
  • Naruto starts as a lonely brat who most find annoying, but evolves into someone who can easily empathize with and win the support of anyone. This is somewhat lampshaded as he even refers to HIMSELF a "savior." Then it turned out that he was actually The Chosen One of prophecy destined to Save the World and the reincarnation of one of the two sons of the Sage of the Six Paths.
  • Ash Ketchum from Pokémon: The Series was originally characterized a short-fused, bratty Idiot Hero in Kanto. After much Character Development and multiple Retools, his XY series self is written as a Wide-Eyed Idealist All-Loving Hero that mentors and inspires everyone around him. This is most prevalent during the "Save the World" Climax at the end of the series, where Ash leads the entire region, including two Champions, in the battle against Lysandre.
  • Shibuya Yuuri of Kyo Kara Maoh! starts out an ordinary idiot who had super powers if he got really, really mad. Over the series he conquers racism, defeats the Sealed Evil in a Can, purifies a corrupted deity, and develops in a competent monarch, albeit one that is only still alive because of his loyal advisors.
  • Through all of his massive, massive Character Development, it seems that Guts from Berserk is finally coming around to this. Slowly, but surely.
  • Linebarrels of Iron starts out with a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk protagonist who sticks to the good guys in the hopes of becoming a Destructive Savior. After dealing with the ramifications of being drunk on power and causing civilian casualties, he undergoes massive character development and ends up mostly in this trope. Lampshaded: "The people needed a hero, wanted him to become a hero, so he ended up becoming a hero."
  • In Dragon Ball, despite Toriyama's claim that Goku can be a selfish person who will put a good fight ahead of everything, Goku experiences this even in the original manga. As a child, he was selfish in that he would only protect those he personally bonded with and he had no problem causing great physical harm or killing his enemies if provoked. As he grows older, he becomes more protective of humanity in general, to the point that he goes out of his way to revive the Dragon Balls during the Cell Games after Cell murdered the world army. He's also more picky about who he kills to the point of trying to spare monsters like Frieza and tries to defeat his enemies with minimum force.

    Comic Books 
  • According to Alex Ross, Superman started out in The Golden Age of Comic Books as a strongman akin to Samson. By the Silver Age Curt Swan era, he had come to be much more representative of a heavenly savior. And, of course, he died and came back in the '90s. In Kingdom Come, Superman also fulfils the Second Coming aspect.
  • X-Men:
    • Jean Grey started out as simply the token female to the original X-Men. Then the Phoenix Saga happened; even following her return, her raw power remained far closer to Phoenix levels, her compassion became perhaps her most defining heroic trait as she was The Heart of the X-Men alongside Nightcrawler (it was the entire point of X-Men: Red - not coincidentally, Nightcrawler was also on that team) and elevated to The Paragon, becoming the White Phoenix of the Crown and saviour of the multiverse in Grant Morrison's X-Men run. Her epitaph even said "She Will Rise Again." (And she did. Repeatedly).
      • This was deconstructed with Teen Jean, who was quite understandably not exactly thrilled to be cast as either a Messianic Archetype or The Antichrist in-waiting (never mind all the other messes her past/future self had got into), and the ghost form of Adult Jean, who was decidedly annoyed at both her situation and her younger self. They got on much better once Adult Jean had her own body back and Teen Jean had bullied the Phoenix, which had killed her, into bringer her back too. Yet, even Teen Jean pulled a supposedly impossible messianic resurrection, twice - by hijacking the entire Poison hive-mind with her remaining consciousness, absorbing enough psychic energy to recreate her body from a few pieces of DNA, conveniently saving the world in the process and by essentially bullying the Phoenix into bringing her back.
    • Much like her mother, Rachel Summers underwent this - from concentration camp survivor to Phoenix host and saviour of the multiverse, being considered the One True Phoenix, starting a quasi-Jedi religion in the future, and organising the raising of mutantkind's chief Messianic Archetype, Cable.
    • Cable is an odd example - while he wasn't intended as a Messiah when he was first created, after The Reveal of his origin, he became this. He started out as a grizzled old minor telekinetic soldier and ideological counterpoint to Xavier, and became a Messiah, fighting an eternal war against Satanic Archetype Apocalypse (though the relationship has been more complicated than that for a long, long time). He intentionally leaned on the imagery during his 'Saviour Cable' period, intending to both invoke a Genghis Gambit through fear of his sheer power, and martyr himself in a Heroic Sacrifice to show people a better way.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Even in the first Matrix film, Neo has some strong parallels to Jesus. By the end of the trilogy, he's practically an Expy.

  • Doc Savage is a really good doctor (creating antibiotics for plagues) who becomes a really good doctor (making the blind see, the lame walk, raising the dead from 3000 years ago) after just a decade's experience. Then he falls from grace by fracturing his skull and goes to Hell to fight the devil.
  • This happens to Harry Potter within the first book, in which he goes from an abused, snarky, insecure, and vindictive child to a heroic savior, and increasingly throughout the series until he literally allows himself to be killed and returns to life.
  • The Space Trilogy: Dr. Elwin Ransom goes through this over the course of the series. In the first book, Ransom is a kind of Joe Everyman having very-personal but largely-inconsequential adventures on Mars. In the second book, he is tasked with saving the entire world of Perelandra from the influence of cosmic forces of evil. By the third book, he has become the Pendragon, leader of the new Round Table, suffers for the sins of the Earth, regains man's legendary authority over the animals, and leaves for another world, vowing to one day return at the end of the world to save humanity.
  • Appears in universe in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, where Seerdomin slowly realizes that he's becoming a figure of salvation to the followers of the deity known as the Redeemer, because his daily visits to their god's barrow keep undesirables at bay. He is deeply conflicted about this, since while his deeds may seem heroic to outsiders, he is mainly in it for personal reasons.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Heavily invoked in Babylon 5 with G'Kar. After a lifetime as a Narn resistance leader and soldier, filled with hate for the Centauri, he experiences a revelation that causes him to completely rethink his own beliefs and values. After the Shadow War, he becomes something of a teacher and philosopher to the Narn colonists on board; his private writings were even taken and published (entirely against his will) as a new holy book, which sweeps through the masses. More and more, to G'Kar's irritation, the Narns look to him for spiritual answers rather than seeking them out for themselves. He wants to teach them, but is very uncomfortable taking on a Messianic role where his every word is dissected for some deeper meaning. Eventually, he leaves the station to travel the galaxy, both to find those deeper answers for himself and to give his people the chance to do the same without his interference.
  • Community: Troy went from a surprisingly talented air conditioner repair student to "the Truest Repairman," the Chosen One foretold in ancient prophecy. The Vice-Dean helps Troy take down a dictatorial regime solely to get him into the school, and isolates him from his friends in order to teach him all the ancient ways of the secret order of Air Condition Repair Men. Troy, for his part, finds the cultish attitudes of the Air Conditioner Repair Annex to be weird and confusing, and repeatedly tells them to stop taking it so seriously, since it's just a two-year degree.
    Troy: Yeah, I told the Air-Conditioning Repair School that they had to start acting like a normal school. I can do that, cuz I'm their Messiah.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor began as a selfish, irritable old man on the run from his own species. He did save people, but it was more because he happened to be around than because of any higher calling. Around the time of the Fourth Doctor's tenure, religious subtext began to appear, but it was very subtle and deployed with some actual weight behind it when it appeared, and he was still mostly an 'intergalactic bumbler'. By the time of the Tenth Doctor's tenure he's striking crucifix poses and being revived by the power of prayer. Though it needs to be said that the ending phase of Tenth's adventures involved deliberate deconstruction of his heroism creeping into the storylines. With the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor, the deconstruction was in full swing — yes, the Doctor is still doing his best to be heroic, but the prideful implications of Chronic Hero Syndrome are increasingly examined. Companions and even random people call him out far more often on his vain or questionable moments. (When he claims in a fit of anger on two different occasions that he's "answerable to no one", his then companions look at him with instant distrust and outright tell him he's being arrogant and scary.)
    • This is examined at length in "Twice Upon a Time", the Twelfth Doctor's Grand Finale, in which he meets and has to work with the First Doctor shortly before both of them are due to regenerate. One is not thrilled by Twelve's bold actions and declarations that he protects Earth from beings like the Testimony, and from there he's downright frightened to learn about the conflicts his future selves will be involved in and the reputation he will gain as "The Doctor of War" (among other names) in the process. Twelve is humbled by One's cooler, calmer approach to the crisis, which allows him to notice things Twelve does not, and the Novelization has Twelve additionally realize that One is the only Doctor who never got carried away in his heroics to his and others' detriment. On the other side of the coin, One's more cynical view of the universe, particularly his view that Good Is Impotent, and his inability to realize that he is already a Hope Bringer is questioned by Twelve's companion when she asks him exactly what he set out from Gallifrey to find in the first place. Later, the climax and denouement has Twelve showing One that being "The Doctor of War" is as much about hope and healing as it is fighting and sorrow, which helps One accept regeneration at last.
  • Fonzie from Happy Days was originally a juvenile delinquent who dropped out of school who wasn't above threatening and even hurting teens who considered him a friend. As the series went on and his popularity skyrocketed, he eventually turned into an all-around protector of the other characters, and his skills as a Percussive Maintenance fixer are exaggerated to a point they're supernatural. By the last season, he's a teacher, community leader and sports a Jesus-like beard.
  • Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1 starts as a TV Genius, naturally assumes the role of The Smart Guy when the title team SG-1 is assembled, but by season four, becomes The Messiah while the role of The Smart Guy is almost completely delegated to Samantha Carter. It certainly doesn't help that he later actually ascends. Well, for one season. And then does it again, but only for one episode.


    Video Games 
  • Stocke from Radiant Historia starts out cold and aloof from his subordinates, but becomes more willing to form lasting emotional connections with other people over the course of the story. He remains somewhat stoic, but is completely dedicated to their well-being, and his desire to protect them eventually extends to the rest of Vainqueur's inhabitants as well. By the end of the game, he actually sacrifices himself in the Ritual in order to protect all the races from the continent's desertification.
  • If the player does enough, the protagonist of any of the Persona games becomes the messiah by the end of the game.
    • Invoked in Persona 3 as the player gradually goes from being a depressed loner to a straight Messianic Archetype with his ultimate Persona actually being The Messiah.
    • In Persona 4 Yu can solve everyone's problems and become everyone's best friend, be top of the class, become the best fisherman of all time, be The Leader of the group of meddling kids who save the world and even befriending Adachi, the murderer himself. Subverted if the player decides to seduce all the potential love interests (and break their hearts on Valentine's day in the vita remake) or gets either of the bad endings (either being party to the murder of an innocent man who was framed as the murderer, or outright becoming Adachi's accomplice).
    • The trend continues in Persona 5 with the Phantom Thieves starting out as flawed characters seeking to change society for justice, revenge or fame using morally questionable means, and end up being treated as genuine heroes by saving the world from a controlling god born from the masses still using the same questionable methods.
  • Sora, from Kingdom Hearts, was always a save-the-world kind of hero. But as the series went on, he went from being a kid who, through a mix of skill and coincidence, ended up saving the multiverse to a kid so heroic that he was saving people's lives minutes after being born and the only one who can bring back all of the sleeping doomed heroes of the games he doesn't appear in.
  • BlazBlue, from beginning to end, is the story of how a grumpy, anti-social wanted criminal who adopts the "Grim Reaper" as a moniker to frighten people eventually becomes the literal god of death and saves all mankind and reality itself from destruction.

    Web Comics 
  • Torg from Sluggy Freelance has gotten a bit of this treatment as the series has gone on (particularly during "That Which Redeems"), but his Cloudcuckoolander status always reasserts itself eventually.

    Web Original 
  • Sparadrap from Noob starts out as a mix of The Fool and Kindhearted Simpleton and takes the All-Loving Hero road. He did gain hate for a couple of people along the way, but about half of the people he considers friends remain either jerks or non-friendly recurring enemies.

    Western Animation 
  • Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender begins as The Fool, and evolves into a Messianic Archetype. Although this had been what he was originally supposed to do before running away and being frozen for a century.
  • Flash from Justice League, though this is a slightly unusual example, since he's only one of seven equally main characters and therefore not technically the hero. At least, no more so than the other six. He starts out as the immature rookie of the group, with a leaning towards the idealistic approach and a tendency to hit on people. But this is followed by the implication that his influence is keeping the League out of Knight Templar territory and a recurring tendency to try helping everyone that eventually leads to marking him as a Messianic Archetype.
  • In terms of characterization, one could argue Optimus Prime has been going through a gradual Messianic creep, While his nature as the heroic Big Good and the leader of the Autobots, more modern series have slowly been making him more of a straight-up messianic figure, where the G1 take still had the time to play Basketball, later incarnations (excluding the Transformers Animated take, whose rebooted identity exists entirely to move away from Prime's messianic shift) such as the Transformers film series have shown him to be a sad, and entirely serious figure, yet one that still had it in him to make one liners. The Aligned version starts out somewhat similarly in his video game series, but over time, becomes the somber, stoic yet suitably dramatic figure in Transformers: Prime, finally climaxing in a scene where he willingly becomes one with the Allspark to give create a new generation of Cybertronian life.
  • In Hey Arnold!, In the beginning of the series, our protagonist was an honest but down-to-earth, regular kid who did the right thing at the end despite sometimes letting himself get carried away (just like regular children). However, in later seasons he becomes an incorruptibly pure kid, whose friends always consult his wisdom in whatever subject was discussed and was willing to "do the right thing" no matter the consequences.
  • One could argue that Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic belongs in this category, now that she has become a princess. Perhaps a Down Played example, as her personality does not seem to have changed even if her role within Equestrian politics has. It has been noted that she is more open to socializing, compared to her loner status in the pilot episode.
  • As the eponymous character of Steven Universe grows up, all the other characters become entirely reliant on him to solve their problems and hold their neuroses in check... even though he's a teenager and they're thousands of years old.
    • This gets deconstructed in Steven Universe: Future, which makes it very clear that solving everyone else's problems has left Steven with an inability to address his own problems, not knowing how to rely on or ask others for help, viewing himself as a burden if he can't help anyone, having no idea who he is when he isn't helping people, years of trauma that he has only just started to finally address all coming back to bite him at once, and eventually everything winds up leading him to a full-on psychotic breakdown.