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Rich Kid Turned Social Activist

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This character is usually a young idealistic kid from a wealthy background who takes a hands-on approach to helping the poor and helpless. Their family is filthy rich, but this kid is very well aware of their privilege and they desperately want to balance social injustices. They try to use their money to help the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the ill, orphans and abandoned kids, and other people in need. They may be involved in various charity projects but most importantly, they'll be interacting with those in need personally. They'll organize charity drives, they'll buy them food and clothes and toys and medicine and distribute it all in person. With smiles and immense emotional support.

Helping people with faces (and sometimes names) will look better to the audience, regardless of efficiency. If a wealthy character never donates any money to charity but sneaks out every night in disguise to volunteer at a soup kitchen, they serve to humanize them more than donating money to an anonymous charity organization, even if that would actually help more people. This might be justified if their wealth comes from parents who don't want to donate to charity — the rich kid might not have access to any money they could donate, so volunteering might be the only way they can help.

Social Activist often advocates for systemic change, or at least acknowledges the unfairness of the system, even if that includes their own wealth. It's an eventual conclusion to draw from immersing themselves in the struggles of the lower class and helping personally. Some of them might have political aspirations and hope to bring about a new economic system that is more just and install an equal society. These kids are often true revolutionaries at heart, and they may become pure socialists or anarchists. Usually they're idealistic and they believe they work for the greater good, but they lack any real grasp of the politics or what revolutions really look like. Their trust funds will always be welcome to their fellow social activists.

Some of them might be Secretly Selfish types who do it for PR or who tell themselves that Good Feels Good, but they still invoke/exploit the notion of this trope. Still others may be doing it purely to annoy and defy their parents.

Not to be confused with Slumming It, noblesse oblige, or philanthropy, though they can overlap. It can also overlap with Non-Idle Rich or Hero Does Public Service. See also Boomerang Bigot (if the character is Old Money who hates Old Money), Hope Bringer and White Man's Burden. See also Photo Op with the Dog if their charity work could be a publicity stunt, or mistaken for one. This character might become a Bourgeois Bohemian when they grow up.

Compare/contrast with Crimefighting with Cash. Contrast Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything — those who say that they're an "agent of change" and yet do nothing meaningful, while here, the rich kid actually does something to improve the society, hands-on.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Albert of Moriarty the Patriot grew up the wealthy son of an Earl, but knew that the power differential in society was wrong and did his best to contribute to charity and even sought out his younger brothers to adopt in hopes they could help him change the world.
  • Narsus in The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a noble person and a genius strategist who is morally opposed to his country's tradition of keeping slaves, an attitude that makes him highly eccentric within the setting. He freed his family's own slaves as soon as he inherited his father's title, and is so outspoken about it that before the series he was declared no longer welcome at the king's court despite his strategems having saved the kingdom only a few years earlier.

    Comic Books 
  • The Pied Piper, a former The Flash villain. Born Hartley Rathaway to parents from old money, the Piper used to donate his stolen loot to the poor and continued to personally help the homeless after he reformed.
  • Green Arrow started off as, at best, a "limousine liberal" until writer Dennis O'Neil introduced a storyline in which Oliver Queen lost his fortune. A few nights on the street dealing with the social services net from the bottom radically altered Green Arrow's politics, leading to him becoming an outspoken champion of the poor and oppressed, as a cross between Robin Hood and Abbie Hoffman.
  • The original Doctor of The Authority was a software billionaire. After suffering a nervous breakdown, he gave away his fortune and tried to waste his life in a flophouse. Jenny Sparks convinced him to join her socio-anarchist collective.
  • Kate Bishop of the Young Avengers is the youngest daughter of a Manhattan publishing magnate and grew up wealthy, attending posh boarding schools and developing world-class archery skills and the like. However, Young Avengers Special explains that unlike her sister Susan, she was never comfortable with her family's wealth and was distant from her father, so she set about emulating her mother by volunteering at soup kitchens and women's shelters. After she was assaulted by a homeless man, she turned to martial arts and later superheroing; her considerable wealth funded the team's early efforts.
    Kate: Do you know how many starving families in Niger we could feed for the cost of this wedding? [...] Five hundred thousand.[...] Why not get married at city hall and give the money to charity?
    Susan: Because we already have plenty of money to give to charity, and I want a wedding.
  • In Truth: Red, White & Black, Maurice Canfield is the son of a wealthy black family who spends his days hanging out with socialists, much to his parents' horror.

    Films — Animated 
  • The title character in Fritz the Cat thinks of himself like this, when in fact he's just making irrational, barely-informed judgements based on White Guilt and whatever he picked up in an NYU class. His resulting call for revolution results in all of Harlem getting hammer bombed by law enforcement.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Across the Universe (2007): Lucy Carrigan starts the film as the only daughter of a rich WASP family; she later becomes entrenched in the bohemian lifestyle and becomes entangled with anti-Vietnam War activists.
  • The prequel movies of the X-Men Film Series emphasize this for Charles Xavier. He was born into immense wealth and grew up in the academic Ivory Tower. However, he devotes his life and resources to being a refuge for mutants, particularly underage mutants who have been turned away from their homes and families. Across the series, he is on a quest to ensure equal rights for mutants and a peaceful civilization for all.
  • Charlotte Dalrymple in Hysteria. She's a young daughter of a rich medical doctor who used her dowry to help the poor in Victorian London. She runs a settlement welfare house and personally teaches poor children. She helps prostitutes (for example, Dr Dalrymple's maid Molly is a former prostitute) and is unapologetic about her progressive opinions. She also tries to raise more money from other rich people of her acquaintance.
  • Julia: Julia comes from a wealthy family, but hates living with them due to her belief in social justice. Later, she drops out of university, forgoing a medical career, in order to join the anti-fascist movement.
  • Knives Out adopts a more cynical version towards this trope. At first glance, Meg matches this trope to a tee — young, contemptuous of her staid conservative relatives, gets on well with and defends "the help", is studying something vaguely understood by her relatives to be along Marxist / post-modernist / social justice lines, tends towards politically correct self-righteousness, likes weed, and so forth. However, when her share of the family inheritance ends up being threatened, she's quick to turn on her lower-class friends by revealing that Marta's mother is in the country illegally and side with the relatives she supposedly disdains. While she does later demonstrate regret for this, it's ambiguous how sincere she is and the point is nevertheless made that in most cases of this trope, the "Rich Kid" part will usually win out over the "Social Activist" part when the crunch time comes.
  • Jeffrey in 12 Monkeys is the son of a wealthy pharmaceutical company owner. It's debatable how much good he accomplishes since he's also crazy.

  • Erast Fandorin's girlfriend in The State Counsellor, Esfir Litvinova, is the only child of one of Moscow's richest bankers — as well as a radical left activist. While her father is extremely happy about her dating Fandorin (a respectable civil servant, as opposed to her usual preference for men from the lower classes), she dumps him by the end of the book — but not before shifting his political views away from the strong conservative monarchism he has displayed throughout earlier books.
  • Les Misérables: Les Amis de l'ABC are a group of privileged students who nonetheless empathize with Paris's poor and try to stage a rebellion in their name. Their leader, Enjolras, is specifically mentioned to be born to a wealthy family.
  • Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma is a rich young lady and she is very compassionate to the poor. She visits the poor personally and assists them as best as she can. However, she doesn't have romantic ideas about them or the extent of the help she can offer.
    Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as from her purse.
  • The Essex Serpent: George Spencer is a doctor and his family is described as 'embarrassingly rich'. He falls in love with Martha (from the working-class, but now a lady's companion) who however doesn't return his feelings. She doesn't tell him this right away and keeps him hooked because she plans to use him to help her solve the problem of London housing and deal with poverty in general. George improves conditions for lodgers in the buildings he buys and the rent is very low. He plans to work for the poor even after it becomes clear that Martha won't change her mind.
  • Harry Potter features a few wealthy purebloods who ended up in the Order of the Phoenix, dedicated to resisting the Death Eaters' agenda of enforcing purebloods' elite position in the Fantastic Caste System. Sirius Black is an extreme example: not only did he join the Order, he'd been pointedly rebelling against his parents' blood purism since adolescence.
  • In The House on the Lagoon, which takes place in Puerto Rico, Manuel starts participating in pro-island independence activities to please his girlfriend. He ends up joining an extremist group of nationalists called the AK-47. This enrages Quintín, his father, a staunch supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico, to the point that he revises his will so that Manuel will not get any of his money.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Rachel Elizabeth Dare advocates for various environmental and social causes against the wishes of her father, a wealthy real estate developer. This causes her immense guilt when she witnesses the death of Pan, as her father's business directly contributed to the destruction of nature that caused Pan to fade. The god didn't blame her though, saying she could be better than him.
  • Discussed during the reading of Goldstein's manifesto in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Goldstein (or whoever penned it in Goldstein's name) argues that proletariat revolutions are effectively the more prosperous middle classes driving the lower classes to revolt against the ruling classes. Once the revolution is complete, the middle class becomes the ruling class. The ruling class becomes the new middle class and the lives of the proletariat remains unchanged.

    Live-Action Television 
  • In Batwoman, Mary Hamilton is a wealthy debutante who spends almost all of her free time (and a considerable amount of her money) running a free clinic for those in Gotham who can't afford a hospital.
  • Julie Mao from The Expanse and the novels the show is based on. She was born into one of the wealthiest families on Earth but had no interest in the lavish lifestyle of her peers. In college, she joined the student activist group Far Horizons Foundation, which eventually led to her joining the Outer Planets Alliance. The OPA is a decentralized movement with an ambiguous reputation that fights for the rights of Belters, who are largely under the heel of Earth and Mars.
  • Game of Thrones: Margaery Tyrell's second Establishing Character Moment is when, while traveling through a bad part of King's Landing in the royal party, she hops out of her litter to go into an orphanage to spend time with the children. The Lannisters complain, but she points out the Enlightened Self-Interest aspects of it: if the commoners like you, they're easier to govern (a sharp departure from the more dismissive or paranoid attitudes of previous southern nobles we've met, especially the Lannisters themselves, who are downright cruel).
  • Downton Abbey: Lady Sybil Crawley is an earl's daughter. She's liberal and radical in her opinions. She's a socialist at heart and supports woman's suffrage. She cares on a personal level: she befriends housemaid Gwen Dawson who is determined not to follow the prescribed path for women of her social status and strives to make a better life for herself. Lady Sybil helps her to land a job as a secretary.
  • Ripping Yarns, "Roger of the Raj": Roger is a son of incredibly, immensely rich British aristocrats. His teacher tries to invoke this trope and make Roger a leader in social revolution, believing that Roger should want to "found a socialist state with centralised ownership of capital to be used for the benefit of all". So he teaches him about social revolution, socialism, Marxism, the state ownership of capital, and the bloodshed that would follow the armed uprising of the proletariat. Roger is disgusted with his parents and their social class, but he has a different idea about his life: he wants to start a little shop and go into trade.
  • Sandglass: Hye-rin, daughter of a corrupt businessman who has built a huge casino empire by bribing government officials and paying off gangsters to eliminate the competition. Unlike her mobbed-up father, Hye-rin is a student radical in her youth, going to protests and such and leading rallies and strikes. She even gets arrested and tortured by the secret police, once. But it's all really a rebellion against her controlling father. Eventually, after she joins her father's business, she cast her left-wing past behind without a second thought.
  • Babylon Berlin: Maria-Luise Seegers, the daughter of Major General Kurt Seegers, is a full-on communist who wants nothing to do with her father's right-wing, militaristic beliefs, or the conservative elite high society he runs with. She spends her time studying law and civil rights and volunteers as a clerk at a left-wing legal charity.
  • The Barrier: One of the recurring members of La Résistance is a government offical's adult daughter who wants to help those worse off than her.
  • Zig-zagged in the NUMB3RS episode "Tabu". An heiress joins up with an underground anti-capitalist organization, but Megan deduces that she's just using the group to lash out at her billionaire father and doesn't really care about the underlying cause; as she points out near the end of the episode, the girl had access to millions of dollars, but didn't give a cent of her own money to the cause she was supposedly so dedicated to.
  • On Transatlantic (2023), Mary Jayne's wealthy father disapproves of her using her fortune to smuggle refugees out of World War II-era France, and would rather she come home and settle down.
    Mary Jayne: People think there's nothing they can do, so they don't do anything.
    Albert: Most people don't expect rich, beautiful American girls to do anything at all.

  • Once parodied in MAD. A typical rich-kid-turned-hippie is seen being the male equivalent of a Granola Girl and over five excruciating frames is seen declaring, to what looks like an equally stereotypical black man, about how he has tired of his life of unearned wealth and riches and has turned his back on all that so as to come to the ghetto and share the everyday poverty and suffering of poor Americans and become as you are, brother. The black guy considers the obvious BS being spouted at him, and answers
    Hey brother, I got a better idea! Why don't I go back with you to your ghetto and share your suffering with you?

  • Deconstructed in "The Power To Believe" by The Dream Academy (best remembered for its instrumental version in Planes, Trains and Automobiles). The song is about a man "born and raised in privilege" who had everything handed to him on a silver platter and foregoes any sort of higher education to make the world a better place for those less fortunate than him. Unfortunately, it proves to be too much for him to handle and he soon goes crawling back to his life of comfort.

  • Parodied by Princess Jasmine in Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier. She cares deeply for the downtrodden masses but is unfortunately also very naive and spoiled, leading her to come out with lines like "This is so unfair! Poor people need slaves just as much as rich people do!"
  • Love In Hate Nation: Francis is a wealthy Ivy League student who takes up various civil rights causes, including dating Susannah, a black girl, during a time when it's forbidden, but it's implied most of this is just to get clout with his progressive friends. It's worth noting that, for all his self-aggrandizing, he isn't willing to support LGBT rights and has regressive views about women, snapping at Susannah when he (correctly) suspects her to be a lesbian and guilt tripping her for not taking the opportunity to marry a rich man.
  • Ragtime: After a life of Rich Boredom, the "Brother" of the play's archetypal wealthy white family finds a purpose for his life when he happens to stumble into a socialist rally led by activist Emma Goldman, a Historical Domain Character. Her speech awakens him to the reality of race and class struggles in early 20th Century New York, and he later abandons his family and life of comfort to join the revolt led by black protagonist Coalhouse Walker. The epilogue reveals that following the disbanding of Coalhouse's group, he migrated to Mexico to join the peasant revolution led by Emiliano Zapata.

    Video Games 
  • Nalia of Baldur's Gate II is a wealthy noble daughter wishing to crusade for the poor and downtrodden peasantry, but she's very bad at it on account of having no idea what the lives of the less fortunate actually are like. She grows out of it by the expansion pack.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Callum Crayshaw is a guest on the "Pressing Issues" talk radio show. He is a stereotypical trust-fund liberal who genuinely wants to help the lower classes, but has no practical ideas on how to do so (his solution to gang battles and automatic weapons on the street is to let all the criminals out of jail), struggles with the concept of people who don't have access to a trust fund, and mostly ends up blathering about his vacations to third world countries.
  • Rinoa Heartilly in Final Fantasy VIII turns out to come from a privileged upbringing in Galbadia, one of the most powerful nations of the game's world; her late mother was a famous singer and her father is a prominent Galbadian general. Rinoa is introduced as a member of the resistance movement against her own country's military occupation of Timber, hiring the main party to help her group in their efforts to liberate Timber from Galbadian control. Her idealism and her lack of practical experience or training contrast sharply with the rest of the main cast, especially Squall.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Ilmeni Dren is the daughter of Vedam Dren, the duke of Vvardenfel and head of the wealthy House Hlaalu. She lives in a simple apartment and is one of the most prominent opponents of slavery in Vvardenfel.
  • Sitara of Watch_Dogs 2 is a hacktivist who despite coming from a wealthy family has chosen to dedicate herself to the DedSec cause of trolling Big Tech and harassing The Man through graphic design.


    Web Original 
  • The scary-looking punk girl in this story from Not Always Right turns out to be a kindhearted spirit from a wealthy family, who buys sandwiches and coffee for homeless locals from a neighborhood coffee shop and stuffs hundreds in the tip jar so the baristas can go to college. When asked, she explains that she just finds face-to-face interaction more fulfilling than signing checks to charities.

    Web Video 
  • Tabby of ContraPoints is a representation of the stereotypical left-wing activist furry transgender woman (her nickname even comes the Sabo-Tabby), and implicitly has (or prior to transitioning had) the same upper-middle-class background as most of Natalie Wynn's characters. Deconstructed in that she has difficulty explaining anything without obtuse academic jargon, and gets criticised for starting violence that she might not be as likely to suffer the consequences of (since despite being trans and dressing as a Cat Girl, she's still upper class, white, and passes well).
  • RWBY has May Marigold, who was born into a wealthy Atlesian family, but joined the Happy Huntresses, a group of political activists and vigilantes who look out for the plight of the impoverished, neglected city of Mantle. She and her family mutually disowned each other over it.

    Western Animation 
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Star Butterfly, princess of Mewni's royal family and heir to the throne, becomes a proponent for the rights of monsters by the second season after re-reading her Mewnipendence day book revealed how unfair the Mewman treatment of monsters really was.
  • Robot Chicken: One sketch has Richie Rich fall on hard times (his father refused to buy him a rocket-powered skateboard), so he bonds with a homeless man and begins working to fix the inherently flawed capitalist system that left the man jobless. When he learns that the special interest money that led to the man's employer being shut down came from his own father, Richie decides to take direct action by murdering him. His father bribes him with the rocket-powered skateboard, and Richie is immediately back to his original, uncaring personality.
  • Ninjago: Harumi is the adopted daughter of the emperor and empress. Since she started her life as a commoner, she knows how tough it is for average citizens, so she frequently takes her family's leftover food to distribute it to hungry people. At least part of this is an act in order to gain Lloyd's trust, but her distain for the royal family and their wastefulness is real, and she's shown to empathize with a child she relates to, so there may be a nugget of truth to it.

    Real Life 
  • Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune and Manson family victim. She was a civil rights activist, a volunteer with the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, and a volunteer social worker who worked in the ghetto.
  • Peter Kropotkin, Anarcho-Communist activist, writer, and philosopher who was born a prince, a descendant of the Smolensk branch of the Rurik dynasty who ruled Russia prior to the Romanovs. Kropotkin's father owned large tracts of land and nearly 1,200 serfs in three provinces. Kropotkin himself, however, dropped his princely title by age 12, expressed great concern over the treatment of peasants and serfs through his youth, and spent a portion of his adult years spreading revolutionary propaganda before finally writing The Conquest of Bread, a classic of anarchist literature.
  • Mikhail Bakunin, a Russian anarchist whom Kropotkin took some inspiration from (though they differed at times) came from a noble family but had become radicalized as a university student, adopting socialism and then anarchism, becoming a life-long revolutionary. Due to this, the Russian Tsar stripped him of his land and titles (not that Bakunin likely cared). He played a leading role in the Prussian May Uprising, for which he was sentenced to death, but spared so the Russian government could take custody of him for advocating revolution against them. Bakunin languished in Russian prisons, suffering greatly until being exiled to Siberia. From there he escaped, took a ship back to Europe, and lived in exile there for the rest of his life, where he advocated collectivist anarchism by revolutionary violence.
  • Abigail Disney (the grandniece of Walt Disney), who has publicly criticized the working conditions at Disneyland and the hugely disproportionate compensation of Disney CEOs.
  • Clement Attlee, He was born into an upper middle class British Family. But while volunteering in the slums of London's east end, he was exposed to poverty and became a socialist. He would go on to be Britain's first deputy prime minister in the wartime coalition, Become the first labour prime minister to win a complete majority in 1945 after the war ended, and go down in history as one of the greatest British Prime Ministers and left wingers in history.
  • Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. He started life as a wealthy prince, sheltered from the world until he one day got the opportunity to go on a carriage ride, where he saw many people suffering. This upset him, and he renounced his pampered royal life to become an ascetic. After many years as an ascetic, he found himself no closer to enlightenment than he had been as a prince. After much meditation, he came to the conclusion that most of the suffering he saw was due to people's greed and materialism, but that the utter rejection of material things was in its own way materialist. He therefore posited that and that the way to attain freedom from suffering was to free oneself from the attachment to the material—which included both the possession of material objects and the rejection of them. He gained quite a few followers, in his lifetime and beyond.
  • While many of the Bolshevik leaders of the Russian Revolution had at the very least middle-class origins (which makes sense, considering that Russian society of the time made it very hard to get any sort of meaningful education without a certain amount of wealth and privilege), Leon Trotsky probably matches this trope the most, as he came from a family of wealthy landowners. This was something that was often used against him during his power struggle with Joseph Stalin (who, for what it's worth, actually was from poverty) following the death of Lenin.