The bad guys are on the verge of victory. All seems hopeless and it looks like the end for the heroes. But then at the last moment, they figure out a way to win the hearts and minds of the people: by creating a work of art.
An unusual version of Saving the World, Saving the World with Art is when the heroes decide to have a concert, paint a mural, write a poem, invent a game, or create some other form of artwork that will solve the problems and save the "world," whatever that may be in the setting.
This can be either a serious trope that provides a nonviolent resolution to a conflict, or a comedic trope when the solution to use art to solve the problem is silly (sometimes unintentionally so).
Given that Most Writers Are Writers, it's likely that this trope is influenced by the fact that they work in an artistic field, which they no doubt see as being important and influential.
- Macross: A central theme of the series. Particularly blatant in the first series, where the alien menace is not defeated through military power (which would be impossible, as they outnumbered humanity's forces literally millions to one), but by singing songs at them and exposing them to human culture and emotions.
- Patton Oswalt mocks the naïve and simplistic belief in this trope among certain hippies in his special No Reason to Complain:
Oswalt: ..."Here's how we're gonna stop the war: We're gonna make the world's biggest finger painting, and that'll blow people's minds!" No it won't, for God's sakes! "I know how we can stop the war: We're gonna knit the world's smallest pair of hemp pants, and put 'em on a mouse, and hide the mouse in a cupboard! But which cupboard is it in, man? People'll be so busy thinking about that, they won't have time to go to war!" Oh God, you're idiots!
- In the film The Painting the whole story takes place in a painting full of living painted people. Painting incomplete things and people is what eventually saves their whole society.
- In Yellow Submarine, The Beatles defeat the Blue Meanies and save Pepperland by The Power of Rock.
- In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Plankton's Mind-Control Device has taken control of the entire town, but becomes overloaded when SpongeBob dons a guitar and sings "Goofy Goober Rock" complete with flashy music video effects.
- The future in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is apparently built on the rock and roll of Wyld Stallions. In this utopia, the air is clean, the water is clean, even the dirt is clean, bowling scores are way up, and minigolf scores are way down.
- Empire Records ends with the teens planning a music concert to "damn the man, save The Empire", which will also raise enough funds to save the store.
- Hero (2002), the wuxia film, has the heroes and Anti-Villain realize the error of their ways by appreciating the calligraphy of Broken Sword.
- Lady in the Water: The protagonist must save a writer whose work will cause world peace and harmony. Said writer is played by, of course, M. Night Shyamalan.
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ends with Sgt. Pepper magically comes back to life and restores Heartland back to the way it was, rewinds Billy Shears' suicide, and brings Strawberry Fields back to life by singing "Get Back."
- In Terminal City Ricochet, the main resistance movement against the tyrannical rule of evil corporate overlord mayor Ross Glimore is a group of artists and punk rockers. In return, Glimore has banned rock music and a TV show called Artists On Trial publicly humiliates and slanders dissident artists as "terrorists". The artists and punks win out at the end of the film, and the liberated Terminal Citizens are shown enjoying a D.O.A. concert before the credits roll.
- Used several times in Discworld:
- Inverted in Soul Music, when Death plays the "empty chord" that sets the end of the universe in motion. Then played straight when the Music spares Imp so he can play the chord that started the universe again, preserving it.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Lady Sybil sings the "Ransom" aria from the great dwarf opera Bloodax and Ironhammer, charming every dwarf in Bonk and convincing them to let her husband deliver the Scone to the Low King in person. This not only allows Vimes to clear his own name, but averts a terrible underground war that would've torn dwarf society apart.
- In Snuff, Tears of the Mushroom's stunning harp performance convinces the elite of Ankh-Morpork and many visiting dignitaries that goblins like her are worthy of all the rights and legal protections extended to other sentient races. This saves her kind from ignominy, enslavement, and likely extinction.
- The second book of The Locked Tomb series, Harrow the Ninth, throws this in at the end of the main subplot. Since the final battle against the Sleeper takes place in the River, an afterlife dimension that can be shaped by certain spirits, Ortus Nigenad manages to defeat the Sleeper by reading his epic poetry about ancient heroic swordsman Matthias Nonius, which summons Matthias' spirit to fight for him. Notably, as the descriptions of his heroism become stronger and more detailed in the poetry, his spirit becomes stronger in the fight.
- In The One and Only Ivan, the gorilla Ivan, kept in a small enclosure in a circus-themed mall, wants to prevent an orphaned baby elephant from having to grow up in these circumstances. Being unable to leave his enclosure, Ivan's only outlet is art - he's given paper and fingerpaints so that the mall's owner can sell them. Ivan agonizes over this for a while, sees a commercial for a zoo, and pushes his capacities to the limit - he Never Learned to Read, being a gorilla, but he can see the billboard for the mall and has heard that it says "Home To The One And Only Ivan", so he tries to paint an image of the green, pleasant zoo with the baby elephant in it and the word HOME. An artistic child who sympathizes with him is after some prompting able to tell that it's representational and advocates for people to see it. Whether or not others can tell what he's trying to portray, this gets a lot more attention paid to the mall, and Ivan and the young elephant are indeed taken to a zoo as a result.
- Alan E. Nourse's Raiders from the Rings. The Spacers and people of Earth have been fighting for centuries. The war is ended when a Spacer mauki sings to the people of both sides about the history of their conflict and the hope of peace.
- The Shahnameh is an epic Persian poem from the 10th century (making this trope Older Than Print) that tells the tale of Talhand and Gav, two half-brothers, who vie for the throne of Hind, but Talhand dies in battle against a mutual enemy without a wound. Their mother suspects that Gav killed him and threatens to start civil war. But then the sages of the court invent the game of Chess and use the piece movements to reenact the battle, ending with the King capturing several pieces and then ultimately being checkmated, thus representing how the half-brother died of battle fatigue. In the end, the mother was appeased and the game of Chess averted civil war. In a Meta example, the Shahnameh essentially saved the entire Iranian culture from being completely subsumed by Arab traditions. Ferdowsi made it cool to write in Persian again.
- The sixth book in The Sword of Truth series, Faith of the Fallen, puts Richard in the heart of the Imperial Order, powerless to free the people from the enemy government that preaches that people are inherently corrupt and shameful and that only through the Order's "benevolent" guidance can they be redeemed. After being forced to create a hideous sculpture idealizing this, Richard decides to instead create a sculpture showing the sanctity and beauty in the human potential, which he names Life. This sculpture has such a profound impact on the populace that it inspires a rebellion against the government and its teachings, instigating a civil war within the Capitol of the enemy.
- Doctor Who:
- "The Mind Robber": The Doctor and The Master (not that one) are hooked up to a computer that makes fiction real. So the two of them fight... by telling a story.
- "The Shakespeare Code": The world is saved by iambic pentameter and a Harry Potter quote.
- "A Christmas Carol" ends with the Doctor asking a teenage girl to sing to the fishes floating in the sky in order to calm the planet's atmosphere so that a spaceship can safely land instead of crashing into a widely populated city. It Makes Sense in Context, at least as much as Doctor Who normally does.
- "The Rings of Akhaten" centres around a system of planets where they believe that a song must always be sung in order to keep an angry god asleep, and if it ever ceases he will awake and devour them all.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Learning Curve", the team discovers a planet where the children soak up knowledge and then have it all removed from their minds in order to distribute to the entire population, after which they are locked away indefinitely because they become infant-like. Appalled by this practice, but unable to do anything about it, O'Neill makes one girl spend her last day "acting like a kid" by playing games with other children and learning how to paint before giving up her knowledge. Next time SG-1 visits, it is completely transformed with children playing games and adults drawing pictures. The previously neglected children are now being cared for and reeducated, allowing them to have a new life where previously they had none.
- This was the theme of Harry Connick Jr.'s Star Turtle — along with "Follow the Music", a poem about music succeeding where other methods fail, there's also an overarching story of the titular Star Turtle gathering Earth's music to save his dying planet.
- This is ultimate message of The Wall, as demonstrated in the final song, "Outside the Wall." "Some hand in hand, some gathered together in bands/The bleeding hearts and the artists make their stand."
- The Shadowrun supplement Shadowbeat provided rules for creating characters with musical skills, such as rock stars. It also had rules that allowed the characters to put on performances that could sway the masses to defeat the character's opponents; for example, a musician could hold a concert with songs opposing the destruction of the environment, thus causing public opposition to a Mega-Corp's plan to turn wetlands into a toxic waste dump.
- This is almost literally the mission statement of the Troubadors from Princess: The Hopeful. They are the artists and storytellers of the Princesses, Called to lift up others' spirits and strengthen their hearts.
- In Final Fantasy X-2, the leaders of the two big political factions have disappeared and their followers are at each other's throats blaming each other, almost boiling over into civil war. The Gullwings plan a concert for Yuna (a figure both sides respect greatly) to sing at in order to calm things down. Only one song is actually sung, but the song in question means there's only one needed.
- Jet Set Radio is about rollerskating around and tagging over the graffiti of other roller gangs. Halfway through the game, there's a shift and you start tagging the art of the Rokkaku Group, becoming The Last DJ and resisting the evil group. In the end, you manage to defeat the final boss who is a demon summoned by the Corrupt Corporate Executive using nothing but your graffiti.
- In the Myst video games and its novels, certain people can use the "Art" to write a book to create a world. The world of Riven is unstable and Atrus staves off its collapse by frantically writing small changes into its book in hope of stabilizing it. Subverted when Riven falls apart anyway, but he keeps it intact long enough for its people to escape.
- This is the premise of PaRappa the Rapper 2, in which Colonel Noodle is turning everything in the world into noodles, and it's up to PaRappa to deliver a Kirk Summation in the form of a rap battle.
- At the end of the "To Arms!" side mission in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, you're called to Concordia to "Witness the revolution." The leader of the People's Liberation Army reveals his plan for the fifty common-quality weapons you've gathered for him: a flower sculpture made out of guns.
- In the final stage of Elite Beat Agents, the Earth is conquered by music-hating aliens, but the Agents inspire a band of survivors to fight back with The Power of Rock. It works because music is the Rhombulans' greatest weakness.
- One particularly triumphant example of this trope shows up in Long Live the Queen where the queen-in-training Elodie (Melody) can potentially end a war and bring about true peace against an invading expansionist nation through combining her persuasion skills and her singing skills to convince King Togami who used to be a bard before he married into royalty about the futility of Togami's endless wars and the pain that he as a father is bringing to his family due to his absence as well as the pain he would cause them if he is killed just like the pain Elodie suffered when her mother the previous queen died. If successful, he calls off the war and returns home. Later it turns out that Togami's wife and children are extremely gratified by this brave gesture of peace and gives her personalized gifts, including paintings portraying Elodie as an angel. Other endings where Togami is instead slain in battle will leads to endings where the widowed Queen continues to wage war against Elodie.
- Homestuck, John plays the song showtime using a planet for an organ, he takes the land of wind and shade out of continuity, with Roxy on it, allowing him time to alter the alpha timeline enough to gain a fighting chance at victory.The song is quite moving and is found here.
- Starslip: This is inverted when an interstellar warlord uses a piece of art to try and conquer the cosmos. Just looking upon the small conical statue fills people first with despair and then complete submission to him. His armada is basically a flagship covered in enormous monitors displaying it (so anybody trying to attack will have to look at it and fall under his control). One of the only people immune to its power is an obsessive museum curator with such a deep, complex understanding of the subject that he is immune to the effects. The trope is thus ultimately reversed again in a still-not-quite-straight way ("Saving the World with Curation"), when the he foils the evil plan by using that deep understanding of the power of art to "recontextualize" the meaning of the piece and thus remove its power over the psyche of other beings (by having somebody "wear it like a hat").
- SCP Foundation: Inverted with the art collective known as are we cool yet?, who are responsible for several art installations that are now in SCP custody, some of which having the potential to destroy the world, while others are more mundanely dangerous, like the invisible, shark-shaped mass of water that is still solid enough to eat people.
- Deconstructed in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Over a Barrel". Pinkie Pie tries to invoke this to stop the ponies of Appleloosa and the native buffalo fighting. After her show, the sheriff and the buffalo chief agree... that her performance was the worst thing they ever heard.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, the nefarious Mr. Mime is restored to a happy-go-lucky clown after the girls put on a concert of how "Love Makes the World Go Round". And then they beat the crap out of him anyway just for the heck of it.
- Discussed in an episode of BoJack Horseman, where Diane explains to BoJack that television normalises anything shown on it, and should therefore be used to advance good progressive values and avoid showing bad behaviour even under the guise of condemning it.
- Inverted by governments throughout history who have banned various forms of art, believing that unsuitable art can have a negative impact on the world (or worse, destroy it altogether).
- A ploy by the communist Romanian government backfired when they allowed Dallas to air within the country, intending to show the wasteful, brutal American lifestyle. Instead, it made the citizens wonder why they weren't living such nice lives under the current regime. During an interview, a teary-eyed Larry Hagman recounted when a citizen thanked him by saying that his character J.R. saved their country.
- This article at Cracked tells how the CIA helped curb the influence of Communism in The '60s by secretly popularizing modern art across the globe. The fad even spread directly into the Soviet Union itself. Bear in mind, that we only have the CIA's word for this. So it's probably best taken with a piece of salt.
- The 1983 Made-for-TV Movie The Day After is often credited with scaring President Ronald Reagan out of the idea that World War III would end in anything more than a Pyrrhic Victory, and into signing a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the Soviets four years later. To quote his diary:
In the morning at Camp David I ran the tape of the movie ABC is running on Nov. 20. It's called "The Day After" in which Lawrence, Kansas, is wiped out in a nuclear war with Russia. It is powerfully done, all $7 million worth. It is very effective and left me greatly depressed. So far they haven't sold any of the 25 ads scheduled and I can see why. [...] My own reaction: we have to do all we can to have a deterrent and to see that there is never a nuclear war.
- After ISIL overtook the city of Nimrud, 17 year old Nenous Thabit decided to personally carve replicas of statues they destroyed in defiance of the terrorist group. In his words: "They waged a war on art and culture, so I decided to fight them with art."
- Subverted with Live Aid. Multiple credible sources, such as Medicins sans Frontiers, alleged the funds raised by the concert were siphoned off by the military government of Ethiopia and used to prolong the civil war, killing as many people as were saved from famine.