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Post-Mortem Conversion

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"If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew."
Albert Einstein addressing the French Philosophical Society

Bob was really popular in life, or became popular by how he died. Maybe he was a hero, great leader or philosopher, or maybe he was just a really nice guy.

After his death, some group he never belonged to - and did not sympathize with - claims him as one of their own. A kind of in-story "Misaimed Fandom", if you will. They are bragging about how he was truly one of them, and use his name to encourage others to join them. He's probably spinning in his grave!

In less blatant cases, they are merely showing him "respect" by politely editing out any unpopular or "inappropriate" thoughts, feelings & loyalties he might have had.

In some cases, the poor guy doesn't even deserve his good reputation: The same group who made up his loyalty to them also made up his good deeds. Good in their eyes, that is - his alleged deeds may or may not go against what he believed in. In either case, him being dead means he can't be there to contradict their version of how he lived, how he died, and what he believed in. In extra cynical cases, the group actually had him killed for this very reason!

However, giving your own real followers an undeserved good reputation is generally not covered by this trope.

Compare In the Original Klingon, Historical Hero Upgrade.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the backstory of Mobile Suit Gundam, only one person truly knows what the last words of Spacenoid political leader Zeon Deikun really were, as they were whispered into the ear of his protege Degwin Zabi. Degwin claimed that it was a statement that he should take over leadership of Zeon's political movement, and is able to successfully sell that story to the public as a whole. Degwin's rival Jimba Ral always believed (and eventually talked Zeon's son Casval, who would later be known as Char Aznable, into believing) that what Zeon really said was something on the order of "I know you were the one who poisoned me".

  • At the end of Judge Dredd: Origins, with his last breath, Fargo despairs at what has become of America and urges Dredd to restore freedom and democracy. In order to maintain order, Dredd tells the few others who know of Fargo's true fate that the old man was pleased that the Judges now ran America.

  • In Wag the Dog, the propaganda spin-doctors turns a mentally ill rapist into a faked war-hero. When they can't control him, they get him killed. This is a huge improvement for them, since his corpse is easy to control. Public burial of the "hero" ensues.
  • The premise of World's Greatest Dad is a father recasting his worthless son as a tragic idol after he dies from Autoerotic Asphyxiation.
  • In the Serbian film The Underground, a gun-runner during World War 2 becomes a powerful man in the Communist Yugoslavian government by paying poetic tribute to the martyrdom of his former partner Blacky. In reality, they were only in the resistance for the money, their legendary fight with Nazis was over a girl, and Blacky is still alive.
  • In Just a Gigolo, which is set in post-WWI Berlin, Paul, the protagonist gets a post-mortem conversion into the fledgling Nazi party, which had earlier tried and failed to recruit him when he's accidentally killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • Poor Richard's Almanac by Benjamin Franklin sarcastically portrays this with the quote "Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead, Through which the living Homer begged his bread."
  • In The Lost Fleet, various individuals in the Alliance have been in the habit of using the long dead war hero "Black Jack" Geary for this to drum up approval for their proposals. Then John Geary's cryo escape pod is found, he's thawed out, and it turns out that he's nothing like how the propagandists have painted him for the past century.

     Live Action TV  
  • Deconstructed in the Masters of Horror episode "Homecoming". The Invisible President makes a wish in one of his speeches to the nation, wishing for the dead American soldiers of the Iraq war to come back and express how they feel, implying that they would all support him. Cue the zombies! The dead soldiers are coming back, but they are not here to eat brains. Instead, they are here to vote... for the other guy!
  • In a season two episode of Babylon 5, Londo claims that the whispered last words of the Emperor of the Centauri were a statement of approval for a military victory (In a totally unprovoked attack on a foreign power that the Emperor was trying to end his nation's diplomatic tensions with) and a request that Mollari and Lord Refa return the Republic to its Glory Days. Right after Mollari and Refa leave MedLab, they have a brief conversation.
    Refa: Out of curiosity, Mollari, what did the old man really say?
    Mollari: You are both damned.
  • In Season One of The Last Kingdom, Prince Æthelwold tries to claim that his father named him, not Alfred, as heir on his deathbed. Unfortunately, he tries this with nobles who were at the king's deathbed and knew that not only had he done no such thing, Prince Æthelwold wasn't even there.
  • Million Yen Women involves a rivalry between the protagonist Shin and Yuzu, the best-selling author of their common publishing house. The plot of the series causes Shin to be living with a celebrity that Yuzu wants to be better acquainted with, to the point of eventually asking her out to a private dinner. During that dinner, the celebrity tells Yuzu that she likes Shin's work better than his. She's found dead the next morning. Some time after that, Yuzu claims she called him the better author during their dinner.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim has, in the web-movies of the Gaim Gaiden series, a guy named Shura. He used to be on Zack's dance team before Kaito Kumon took over. Several years later, after Kaito dies, Shura takes over the dance team, Team Baron, and turns it into a wrestle-to-the-death, terrorist group who would use small bombs to become suicide bombers. And they did this in the belief that this was something that Kaito would want. Surprise, surprise- Kaito was nowhere near that type of thing. He was an Antisocial Darwinist who wanted to create a world where the weak wouldn't be oppressed and the strong wouldn't abuse ther power. So of course Shura had to be stopped.
  • In The Expanse, while the death of Miller in Season 2 is quite a noble and Heroic Sacrifice, he is also upgraded to being a hero of the Belt and Belters, when during his life he would have been (and often was) sneered at as a Category Traitor to the Belt due to having been a Dirty Cop who worked for a Law Enforcement, Inc. company from Earth, who were seen as repressing Belters. The OPA in particular is happy to adopt him as a hero, despite the fact that mere weeks earlier Anderson Dawes, one of the most powerful OPA leaders in the solar system had tried to murder Miller because Miller was insisting on going ahead with an investigation that was awkward for Dawes.

Heathers: In "Me Inside of Me", J.D. and Veronica cover up their (not so) accidental killing of Heather Chandler by writing a fake suicide note claiming she was a broken soul. Heather's ghost/hallucination is ecstatic to have gotten more popularity in death than life.

     Video Games  
  • In the backstory of Final Fantasy X, Yuna's father Braska was a rebel who questioned authority and reached out in peace to the Al-Bhed, a people that the theocratic Corrupt Church he belonged to liked to use as a all-purpose scapegoat, and was cast out of the clergy as a result. When Braska set out on his journey to defeat the Eldritch Abomination Sin, he mused on what a delightful irony it would be if he, Auron (then a warrior-priest in disgrace for political reasons) and Jecht (seemingly a mad, drunk heretic) were the ones to defeat Sin and bring a period of peace to Spira. Fast forward to the present, and the Church of Yevon has proclaimed Braska a champion of the Church and a model to be emulated by the faithful, all while never mentioning the way he challenged the Church's corrupt dogma or that the Church kicked him out when he was alive. There's even a short scene where Auron stands before a statue of Braska in a temple and indirectly comments on the irony.
  • Slightly played with in Last Scenario, where Alexander, one of the renowned heroes of the previous age, has a tomb erected in his honor in the Empire's capital city (the Empire being the faction Alexander was fighting AGAINST) for an unjust war which he had turned his back on. There is however a kicker. The tomb is a fake that doesn't even have his body. That is because he was up to that point still alive, although due to being held hostage in a scientist military facility and having his memories mostly sapped by the setting's magical rocks biorites, he still fit the trope as he is generally unable to contest the falsehoods that his name was being used for.

     Web Animation  

  • Hark! A Vagrant had a comic poking fun at the myth that Charles Darwin recanted his theories on his deathbed.
  • In Drowtales, Quaintana lampshades the depths this trope can sink; Sharess, the mortal queen of the Dark Elves, led her people during the apocalypse and sacrificed herself to the legions of Hell to buy them time. Instead of being respected as a heroine, the Sharen spun a propaganda story about her transformation into the goddess of the Drow, and used their new status as relatives of a god to create a caste system that gave one Dark Elf absolute and uncontested control over an empire. Quaintana decides to destroy all statues of Sharess, so the people can stop groveling and learn to be heroes on their own.

     Western Animation  
  • The Boondocks: Ed Wuncler's scheme in "It's Goin' Down" was to kill an extremely ornery security guard, claim he was a hero who was martyred fighting terrorists, and profit from his death with a massive media franchise.
  • The stonecutters from The Simpsons claim that (among others) the signers of The Declaration of Independence (and Washington) were Stonecutters, according to their Secret World History (this is a reference to the Real Life membership of many, including Washington, in the Freemasons, which the stonecutters are a thinly-veiled parody of).

     Real Life  
  • Friedrich Nietzsche despised anti-Semitism, nationalism, and (towards the end of his life) Germany (he took to insisting that he was Polish, which is as false—perhaps intentionally so—as it is hilarious). His ‹bermensch theory - a term co-opted by the Nazis - was used to describe remarkable individuals finding their own morality in the absence of God. It had nothing to do with a Master Race taking over the world, which is an inherently collectivist concept. It is therefore quite natural that Those Wacky Nazis appropriated his notes - heavily edited by his proto-Nazi sister - to make it seem like they had an intellectual program besides hating the Jews (and the Roma, and the Poles, and the Russians, and...). Unfortunately for the world, Martin Heidegger, a student of Nietzsche's thought, believed them....
  • Any well-known dead political figure qualifies. It's always been a staple of politics and it's taken to ridiculous extents these days: "This is my new proposal... and I'm telling you right now, George Washington would have loved it!" Or the opposite, where some dead public figure is allegedly spinning around in their grave because of something that's happening in the present... with the inevitable following joke being that all those spinning corpses could power entire cities.
  • In 1995, when Butterfly McQueen — Prissy in Gone with the Wind — died in a house fire, a fundamentalist neighbor who had proselytized McQueen (a lifelong atheist) several times reported to the press that as McQueen was being carried out, she said she was repenting and claiming that she was really a Christian all the time. Other witnesses disputed this claim.
  • Darwin's writings (and later additions) were used during his lifetime and after his death to justify social Darwinism and eugenics. He disapproved of and fought against both. Not to mention the completely false story that he recanted his theory of evolution on his deathbed, along with accepting Christ (he was raised Christian, but died an agnostic), which is an odd type of Appeal to Authority. Scientific theories have ontological inertia (at least for a while); they aren't disproven because one scientist does an about-face, but because a broad consensus of scientists start accepting a better theory.
  • At least twice, a Pope has had his predecessor dug up, put on trial, and convicted of heresy. And possibly tortured for good measure. If memory serves, it was quite karmic, since the first one to do it was himself put on post-mortem trial by HIS successor...
  • King Charles II of Great Britain had the body of Oliver Cromwell, who had presided over his father's execution, dug up, tried, and beheaded.
  • Pat Tillman by the Bush administration (via cover up) and right-wing politicians during an election year. As detailed in the book "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman" by Jon Krakauer and the documentary "The Tillman Story" by Amir Bar Lev. Quoted from the AV Club review of the film:
    people on both the left and the right (but mostly the right) have tried to project their own beliefs onto a man who kept his close to the vest... After John McCain and other political and military leaders spoke about Pat being in "a better place" the younger Tillman [Pat's brother] took the stage with a pint of ale, thanked everyone for coming, then said, "By the way, Pat isn't with God, he's fuckin' dead. He wasn't religious." —,44352/
  • During the Second World War Stalin, for propaganda reasons, admitted Alexander Nevsky and Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin into the Communist Party.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormons, perform baptism for deceased people not of their faith. They see it as providing a favor for people who didn't have the opportunity to be baptised in life. Critics say the practice is disrespectful and amounts to trying literal post-mortem conversion.
    • For what it's worth, the Church teaches that the deceased persons have to choose to accept that post-mortem baptism for it to have any effect on the deceased, who is being given the opportunity to make that choice.
  • George Orwell. Hoo boy. Since his death in 1950, many people from Right to Left have claimed that 'if Orwell was alive now, he would have been on our side', often selectively quoting him in the process. Orwell particularly attracts Post Mortem Conversions for two reasons. Firstly, he's a vulnerable target, because his own views were quite complex and often seemingly contradictory (for example, he was a revolutionary Socialist but took a deeply conservative stance on many cultural issues—recall that bit in Nineteen Eighty-Four about pints vs. half-litres of beernote ) - a point which he lampshaded by calling himself a "Tory anarchist". He also wasn't above sharply criticising some of the more extremist elements in his own political camp; Animal Farm in particular contains a very unsubtle No Celebrities Were Harmed caricature of Joseph Stalin in Napoleon. And secondly, he is a heavily idolised figure who is almost universally held up as a shining example of Brutal Honesty, making it very attractive to try and Post Mortem Convert him to one's cause.
  • Conservapedia is among the many who Post Mortem Convert George Orwell; they have also recently recast Martin Luther King Jr., another socialist. They also appropriate all of America's Founding Fathers (presumably including even Alexander Hamilton, who could be plausibly claimed as a liberal). The noted Progressive reformer Theodore Roosevelt as well.
  • Interestingly, Conservapedia does not give this treatment to Ayn Rand, and in fact seems to loathe her, even as many conservatives have co-opted her philosophy since her death in 1982. Ironic for a woman who, for a while at least, was popular with the 1960s counterculture.
  • The Pilgrims are often said to support X or Y when in actuality they'd probably be disgusted about it. As an example, Religious Freedom; the Puritans discriminated against non-Puritans for years.
  • Dante Alighieri was born in Florence, and participated in a civil war. After that, he was exiled with a lot of the loser faction. Dante became Florence's Butt-Monkey (when his natal city declared an amnesty for all the exiled politicians, he was the only one not included). He begged all his life to return to Florence, but he never could. He died in Ravenna in 1321. When they realized Dante was the greatest modern Italian poet, Florence came to regret Dante's exile, and made repeated requests for the return of his remains. The custodians of the body at Ravenna refused to comply, at one point going so far as to conceal the bones in a false wall of the monastery. Nevertheless, in 1829, a tomb was built for him in Florence in the basilica of Santa Croce. That tomb has been empty ever since, with Dante's body remaining in Ravenna, far from the city he loved so dearly.
  • Casey Sheehan by his mother and virtually the entire anti-war (and anti-capitalist) movement. The younger Sheehan volunteered to serve in the military and fight in Iraq. After he died, his mother began to use him as a symbol for struggle against the Bush Administration, (as well as for socialist principles) all the while claiming this is what he would have wanted, though his service record would suggest otherwise.
  • Adolf Hitler is an almost universal inversion in that nobody wants him on their side. Whenever his beliefs are discussed outside of neo-nazi circles they never coincide with the beliefs of the speaker, and usually do coincide with those of the speaker's opponent. He is alternately labelled a left- or right-winger note ; a Christian, an atheist, an agnostic, or a pagan note ; for or against gun rights note ; so on and so forth. Hitler Ate Sugar is this phenomenon in trope form.
  • Whenever someone invents something spectacular, does something heroic, or is responsible for something horrendous, count on their nationality becoming a hotly-debated topic. For instance:
    • Was Napolťon Bonaparte French or Italian? note 
    • Was Adolf Hitler German or Austrian? note 
    • Was Alexander Graham Bell (and his various inventions) Canadian, American, or Scottish? note 
    • Is basketball a Canadian or American creation? note 
  • Humorist Ambrose Bierce famously accused the Freemasons of achieving great antiquity by "cleverly recruiting the dead."
  • Justin Bieber caused quite a bit of controversy by declaring that Anne Frank "Hopefully would have been a Belieber."
  • The 1825 Schlegel & Tieck translation of William Shakespeare was so crucial to the development of the standardizing German language, that the Bard was often claimed as a founding poet of Germany ... and even as a literal German.
  • The infamous "Lost Cause Myth" often lionized Confederate generals as brave men resisting "Northern Aggression". However, Robert E. Lee, himself the most lionized man of all, opposed Confederate revivalism since he felt it would prevent the wounds of the American Civil War from healing.