Follow TV Tropes


Power Fantasy

Go To

"You're sorta stuck where you are,
But in your dreams, you can buy expensive cars,
Or live on Mars and have it your way.
And you hate your boss at your job,
But in your dreams, you can blow his head off.
In your dreams, show no mercy."
Flaming Lips, "Bad Days"

Sometimes people can be really mean to you. The Jerk Jock and the Alpha Bitch will mock you in school, the Sadist Teacher and Obstructive Bureaucrat won't leave you alone, the vile new boss can turn your beloved workplace into hell on earth. Even your parents can hurt you. And sometimes your whole city will hate you for some reasons. And you know what the worst part of it is? You can't take revenge. You can't tell your boss what you really think about him unless you want to lose your job. Standing against the bully will just get you a serious beatdown for your trouble. And how the hell are you going to fight with the whole town? Sometimes the only thing you can do is give in to your imagination. Because there, you can be anyone — The Chosen One, a Super Hero, or just badass with a cool longcoat. And everyone who ever pissed you off will have to pay. You can give villains the faces of your abusers, or just imagine them being beaten by you or your avatar.

The Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism shows two possibilities of this trope played seriously. In more cynical settings, a person stuck in this situation will never get to stand up against his abusers, always living under their heel and either will become a completely broken person as time passes or just cracked up. In more idealistic settings that person will at some point stand against those who turned his life into a living hell, either verbally or with fists.

Sometimes, this can be played for laughs: Sam pissed off Bob and Bob imagines himself beating the tar out of Sam, but this was just a separate incident — Sam and Bob are friends, or at least don't have a reason to hate each other.

Most definitely Truth in Television.

Compare Indulgent Fantasy Segue. See also I Just Want to Be Badass, pretty much the same basic desire; Dream Sue, where the characters imagine themselves to be ridiculously perfect; and Wish-Fulfillment.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The black suit of armor from After School Nightmare embodies this trope; in the dream world, it acts for the real-world character as a way to do this in dreams.
  • Isao Kako in Bokurano has a disturbing dream in which he takes revenge on everyone who was mocking him, including beating up his older sister alongside two bullies and trying to rape the Alpha Bitch.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: After being teased over being heavy-footed despite her height by her brother Touya, Sakura imagines growing into a fifty-foot monster. Then grinding him into the asphalt under her foot.
  • One episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex involves Section 9 looking into the daydreams of a refugee from the last world war who fantasized about killing his boss and rescuing the girl as an escape from his mundane life as a helicopter pilot and society at large. The episode itself is an homage to Taxi Driver, but in the end, it is concluded that the man poses no actual threat to society and that his daydreams are just that.
  • Played for very dark humor in the Dirty Pair manga "Fatal But Not Serious". Kevin Sleet makes a clone of Yuri and convinces her that she's in a very realistic computer simulation, where her task is to kill an "imposter" duplicate. (She's in the real world, and the imposter is the real Yuri.) She's also told to use any means at her disposal and think outside the box, and that she has complete freedom to do whatever she thinks is necessary and nobody will know because the "simulation" results are classified. As Yuri has been forced to play the prim and proper girl to her partner Kei's hotblooded idiot, she takes the opportunity to cut loose completely - booze, party, bed strangers, kill strangers, get lots of tattoos, make the sun go supernova...

    Comic Books 
  • In one storyline, Superman has a particularly realistic dream; once he figures out it isn't real, he uses it as an opportunity to vent by massacring the villains who keep coming back.

    Comic Strips 
  • Beetle Bailey once takes the advice to think of something nice during a long march to make the time pass faster. He has so much fun imagining abusing an unresisting Sarge that he doesn't even notice when the march is over.
  • Calvin and Hobbes is probably the most iconic example of this
    • Calvin has three different imaginary alter egos — Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man, and Tracer Bullet — of this trope as major recurring characters, plus other fantasies of being a dinosaur.
    • There's also the strip where Calvin fantasizes about being an all-powerful, sadistic god who enjoys tormenting the denizens of his little world. The final panel reveals that he's playing with Tinker Toys.
  • FoxTrot: Peter gets these whenever he is left in charge of his younger siblings, including fantasies of being an all-powerful god.

    Fan Works 
  • Deconstructed in Catarina Claes MUST DIE!. The Villain Protagonist Henrietta has been bullied for much in their life, finding relief in Fortune Lover where she witnesses Hate Sink bully Catarina Claes die brutally in the bad ends of Geordo and Keith's routes. So when she is reborn in the game world, she eagerly looks forward to witnessing these events. However, she ended up in the world of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, where Catarina is now a Nice Girl, though Henrietta viciously denies any evidence that this Catarina is different. When she sees that Catarina won't die, Henrietta becomes determined to make Catarina pay for her "crimes".
  • Sword Art Online Abridged
    • The series takes an accusation frequently leveled at the source material and makes it a part of the plot. This version of Kirito is an insufferable Internet Jerk to compensate for how crappy his life is outside of VR, and part of his Character Development over the first season is finding enough value in the friends he made in SAO to be willing to give up his ideal existence in the game to keep them safe. But in the second season, Kirito begins to relapse in the face of Suguha's abuse, so that he's actually ecstatic to learn that Asuna is being held captive inside another virtual reality because it means he gets to be a "video game badass" again and rescue her.
      Kirito: Goodbye, stupid real world, and hello, Alfheim Online!
    • Suguha herself is an odd inversion. In the real world she's an aggressive bully, but when she logs into ALO as "Princess Leafa," she roleplays (badly) as a Deliberately Distressed Damsel victimized by other players in an I Have You Now, My Pretty scenario. Since Yui pegs Suguha as a Tomboy with a Girly Streak who suffers from Internalized Categorism over her affection for "girly shit," it's likely she's using VR to safely explore that aspect of her personality.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Brazil Sam Lowry dreams of being a winged hero as a means of escape from his bureaucracy-filled dystopian world.
  • An alternative interpretation of the Happy Endings of both Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy (both of which were made by Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro) is that they occurred all in the protagonists' heads.
  • Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. Supposedly the tell-all tale of how game show producer Chuck Barris was Living a Double Life as a ruthless CIA assassin, but implied to be a fantasy he constructed to cope with the contempt he gets for being a purveyor of tasteless television.
  • In the Bollywood film Delhi Belly, Arup after finding out his girlfriend has a new boyfriend and getting dumped by her on the spot, fantasizes crashing her wedding and revealing her dirty secrets to the families. He then proceeds to perform a dance number where she gets publicly humiliated after receiving a loud slap from he mother and spanking from Arup.

  • The white nationalist novel The Turner Diaries by William Luther Pierce.
    • The Day of the Rope, in which all nonwhites, Jews, and perceived "race traitors" are systematically executed.
    • Everyone against the Organization, including the entire US military, is a hopelessly incompetent dolt who can't catch them. Meanwhile, Earl Turner and friends are all omnicompetent badasses who win a nuclear war against the US, Soviet Union, and China single-handedly, and get to have the whole world to themselves.
  • Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye after the pimp beats him up.
  • The short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber is about a man who frequently daydreams about being heroic and powerful, in contrast to his humdrum reality.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Samurai Gourmet is what happens when Power Fantasy meets Japanese Politeness. Kasumi is a mild-mannered Japanese retiree who just wants to really enjoy his food. If some social dilemma gets in the way of that, an imaginary Sengoku ronin steps in to show him how he might deal with it. Sometimes this inspires Kasumi to greater assertiveness; sometimes it doesn't.
  • Lt. Barclay does this in his first appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation and his appearances on Star Trek: Voyager but unlike most other examples he has the holodeck to make his power fantasies reality.
  • Black Mirror: USS Callister is the story of a geeky lead video game designer named Robert Daly. Daly is ridiculed and excluded by his subordinates by day, and sadistically bullies digital copies of them in a full-immersion video game of his own design in the evening when he gets home from work. He plays a dashing, clever James T. Kirk Expy and his co-workers have to play his loyal crew. Or else. Worse, the female crew often have to do more for him! Of course, the horror of all this is the digital copies are sentient and retain all their personalities, so from their perspective Daly's power fantasy is their Cosmic Horror Story. An example of a power fantasy played pretty much entirely negatively.



    Video Games 
  • Mewt in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance breathes the trope. In the real world, he is painfully shy at school and he is constantly picked on and bullied by the other children. Mewt's mother passed away some time ago and his father is an emotional wreck who barely gives Mewt any emotional support. When he and his friends get thrown into the fantasy world of Ivalice, Mewt becomes a prince, his mother is alive again and is a queen, his father is the Judgemaster, he has a personal assistant that will tend to all of his needs, no one bullies him anymore, and everyone does what he tells them to do. Only when Mewt listens to his friend, Marche, about standing up for himself and being true to himself does he give up the power fantasy and agrees to go home.
  • Metal Gear Solid (1998) deconstructs the trope. The game constantly reminds the player that being a Super Soldier that can kill dozens or even hundreds of generic men and that war isn't as fun or glamorous that other forms of media may make it seem to be and that you will always lose people that you grow attached to during war. Most players missed the point and saw the game as nothing more than a power trip with Solid Snake being so badass for taking on a tank, a helicopter, Metal Gear itself, and a slew of characters with special abilities.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) deconstructed the trope much further and was made to specifically attack the audience that thought being a badass during a war or hostage situation was so fun. It replaced the badass Solid Snake with the amateur Raiden, in many ways meant to represent the player. The game often mocks the player, with various comments directed at Raiden also directed at the player. At times the game even punishes the player, rather than rewarding them, after beating a boss or clearing an objective. This only got worse as the player progresses through the game, with the Colonel at one point mockingly telling the player/Raiden to turn off the game console. Read more about how it deconstructs the power fantasy trope here.
  • No More Heroes also deconstructs this trope. Travis Touchdown may be a dangerous Laser Blade-wielding madman, but when he's not fighting his way through the UAA ranks, he's a creepy Otaku (not unlike some of the people who would play this game) who has to work menial jobs to make the money to challenge other assassins/indulge in his own power fantasies.
  • The trope is also deconstructed by Spec Ops: The Line, a game that looks like it will fulfill this need on the part of the player. For the first hour, it even imitates the military shooter ubiquitous in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Then it becomes clearer and clearer that by wanting to be the "hero" of the story, the Player Character is worsening an already disastrous and desperate situation. Some of the loading tips are brutally sarcastic and suspiciously ambiguous about whether they refer to the protagonist or the player. One developer stated that the ultimate answer to the moral quandaries the player encounters is to stop playing, thus letting go of the expected Power Fantasy.
    John Konrad: The truth, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not. A hero.


    Western Animation 
  • Angela Anaconda has these Once an Episode... One time, in a short prior to a compilation movie, she even paid homage to Digimon Adventure to the point where, in an altered version, she actually mentions Digimon terms, like Digivolve and attaching -mon at the end of people's names.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy Turner has created so many imaginative alternate personae that the rest of the town starts asking him which one he is each day when they notice he's not looking or acting like his usual self.
  • From A To Z-Z-Z-Z: Ralph has to solve a math problem, but doesn't know how, so he imagines the numbers laughing at him. He then fights back by killing them. In other fantasies, he battles Native Americans and a large shark.
  • Justice League:
    • "Only a Dream" begins with a scene of John Dee defeating the Justice League and being congratulated by their enemies. This is then revealed to be a dream as a guard wakes him from a nap.
    • Done hilariously in "The Doomsday Sanction". When Dr. Milo, a high-ranking Cadmus employee, is told by his boss (Amanda Waller) that he's fired, he at once pulls out a huge laser cannon and kills everyone else at the conference table. Of course, it's a fantasy and in real life, he just meekly takes his pink slip before releasing Doomsday as payback.
  • Kung Fu Panda: "We should hang out." "Agreed."

    Real Life 
  • Prior to emancipation, American black slaves told stories about Brer Rabbit outwitting Brer Fox and Brer Bear as a way of fantasizing about turning the tables on their white tormentors.
  • The philosopher Bertrand Russell dismissed Friedrich Nietzsche's entire body of work as mere "power phantasies".


Video Example(s):


Mithril Pebble of Pig-Smiting

Kirito manages to kill a Boar using a rock.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / PowerFantasy

Media sources: