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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 are 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.

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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, it serves to humanize him more than donating money to an anonymous charity organization, even if that would actually help more people.

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.

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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 Rich Idiot with No Day Job and Crimefighting with Cash. Contrast Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything - those who say that they're "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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Examples:

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    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 story-line 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 And 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 
  • The prequel movies of the X-Men Film Series emphasize this for Charles Xavier. He was born into immense wealth and grew up into 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 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.

    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.

    Magazines 
  • 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?

    Music 
  • "The Power To Believe" by The Dream Academy (best remembered for its instrumental version in Planes, Trains and Automobiles) 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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!"
  • 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 abandons his family and life of comfort to join the revolt led by black protagonist Coalhouse Walker.

    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.

    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).

    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.

    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 male 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.
  • 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 much meditation, he came to the conclusion that most of the suffering he saw was due to people's greed and materialism, and that the way to attain freedom from suffering was to detach oneself from one's material possessions, earthly relationships, etc. He gained quite a few followers, in his lifetime and beyond.


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