When you succeed, do you obtain your success without sacrificing your integrity, or does it come about via your skills at sucking up, only doing it for the money, or a number of things that involve selling your soul, either literally or metaphorically?
This is what the kids these days refer to as a Sellout, which is probably one of the most subjective traits in existence. In essence, you could choose to go a certain route and feel you're doing the right thing, and there will always be one person who felt you gave up a little part of yourself to obtain your goal.
Given the contentious nature of the term, there is no completely agreed upon definition of "selling out", but the one that seems to hold the most usage is "compromising your integrity for monetary gain" (usually artistic integrity, although there are other situations in which the accusation is thrown about) and that there are degrees of selling out (From "Sure, I have to make a Silly Love Song to make the rent, but I'm going to make the best Silly Love Song I can" at the lower end to "What's popular right now? Let's put in the minimal effort to cash in on that." at the higher end).
See Money, Dear Boy for cases of writers, performers or others admitting money is their main motivation and Only in It for the Money for characters.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi #2 (DC Comics) had "Puffy Ami Yumi Sell Out." With concert revenues on the decline, the girls agree with Kaz to have their names and likenesses appear on merchandise. It all goes well until they see their names and faces on bags of kitty litter. The girls get even—they have Kaz on rolls of "Shiny Heiney Toilet Paper."
- In Scott Pilgrim, Ramona's second evil-ex, Lucas Lee, is a professional skateboarder turned actor and he is recurringly called a sell-out. This appears to be the main reason he's considered evil, but otherwise he seems nice. However, being called a sell-out is his Berserk Button. Though a little bit of it is hinted at when he says he'll spare Scott a fight if Scott gives him all his money. Scott calls him this and the fight resumes.
- Sandro from L'Avventura admits that he is the one. He long ago lost his integrity creating designs for the rich but tasteless clients. He completely quits his high hopes.
- tick, tick... BOOM!: In the song "Play Game" Jon despairs at the increased commercialization and lack of creativity in the New York theatre industry. He muses that writing in film and TV might mean churning out crap, but at least "you won't write for free" and can make thousands off a draft.
- This spoof by Andy Samberg of Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" sung during the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards is all about how this trope affects up-and-coming actors.
- Molly Phillips of So Weird considers herself to have been one during her time singing advertising jingles, which is the inspiration for her song "She Sells." She and a particularly Caustic Critic are the only ones shown to believe this, though. She is otherwise a well-respected performer among those who are familiar with her career.
- The Day of the Locust protagonist Tod Hackett is accused of selling out by his Yale School of Fine Arts classmates after accepting a job as set and production designer at a Hollywood studio, as they are convinced he will never paint again if he chooses to chase the almighty dollar instead. However, his interest in painting was fading in his last year at Yale, and moving to Hollywood actually recharges his creative batteries.
- Olga Dies Dreaming: Olga and Prieto's parents refer to a sellout to their cause as a "lombriz" (Spanish for "worm"). When Prieto votes for PROMESAnote , his mother arranges to send him a box of worms to let him know what she thinks.
- John Lennon famously said about Elvis Presley: "He died when he went in the army." What Lennon meant with this was that after Elvis joined the army in 1958 his raw Rock & Roll sound was left in favor for more sappy pop tunes, increasingly embarrassing Hollywood musicals, eventually degrading into the blobby Las Vegas act he became by the end of the 1960s. Elvis tried to return to his roots with the excellent Elvis (NBC TV Special) and From Elvis in Memphis, but these comebacks were brief.
- Bob Dylan was accused of selling out when he abandoned his acoustic Folk Music sound and suddenly started playing the electric guitar. On the "Royal Albert Hall" bootleg, a member of the crowd can be heard shouting "Judas!" when Dylan is strapping on his electric guitar.
- The Who played with this trope on their album The Who Sell Out, where the cover and the songs imitate a commercial advertisement and a fake radio show.
- Captain Beefheart alienated his Avant-Garde Music fans by making two pathetic and desperate attempts at commercializing his sound: Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans & Moonbeams. It even failed to attract the mainstream crowd and he later regarded them as an Old Shame.
- Porcupine Tree frontman and "king of prog" Steven Wilson has been accused of this with his 2017 solo album To the Bone, which consists mostly of pop songs and ballads, and became his most commercially successful album. However, Wilson assures fans that he has always been inspired by pop music such as ABBA, and To the Bone is simply him following new aspects of his musical passion. However, he did throw a bone to his prog fans with songs like The Same Asylum as Before and People Who Eat Darkness.
- Sid Vicious started off as a cool audacious Punk Rock musician, but after Sex Pistols split he was promoted as the new marketable punk star. John Lydon felt his friend was being exploited into yet "another ridiculous rock star". It didn't help that Vicious was drunk and high most of the time and didn't care too much about his public image.
- Ironically even John Lydon fell more into this trap from the 1990s on. He reunited the Sex Pistols in 1996, but wholeheartedly admitted it was pure for the money. Appearing as a TV presenter or an interviewee in a lot of shows and making commercials for butter in the 2000s didn't diminish these accusations either.
- Kurt Cobain also lived in fear of being perceived as a sell-out. While he wanted to become successful the explosive popularity of Nevermind in the charts was not what he had in mind at all. Suddenly his music was played by the same kind of poseurs he hated. He tried to keep their sound as alienating as possible, even making In Utero purposefully dark and less slick.
- Chumbawamba ingeniously subverted this trope not once, but twice. The first time, they signed with EMI and released an intentionally pop-oriented album, Tubthumper (earning a One-Hit Wonder status with "Tubthumping" in the process and proudly lampshading it for the rest of their career) and then released albums that were completely different just to mess around with their new "fans" and completely piss off the label before inevitably getting kicked out. A couple of years later, GM gave Chumbawamba $10,000 for a Pontiac Vibe commercial. Chumbawamba donated the money to Indymedia and CorpWatch, who used the money to start an information and environmental campaign against GM.
- As depicted in the documentary Dig!, Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre was violently opposed to "selling out." The fact that his friend Courtney Taylor-Taylor's band The Dandy Warhols achieved some measure of mainstream success drove a wedge between the two of them.
- tool's song "Hooker With A Penis" is about exactly this accusation. To quote from the chorus:
I sold out long before you ever heard my name
I sold my soul to make a record, Dip shit
And you bought one
- In addition to Reel Big Fish in the page quote, Chicks On Speed also have a song called "Sell Out"
Exploit yourself, just sell out
Cash and cards, just sell out
Do it to yourself before it's done to you
- This was the gimmick of The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. "Everybody's got a price. Everyone's got to pay. Because the Million Dollar Man, always gets his what. Muhahahaha!" However, he could never buyout Hulk Hogan.
- In 1997, Rob Van Dam showed up on Monday Night Raw, supposedly to promote an ECW Pay Per View, leading the rest of the ECW locker room to suspect he had really sold out to the WWF.
- Mike Awesome was long called a sellout by the mutants for leaving ECW for WCW while he was still ECW's Heavyweight Champion.
- Mick Foley got chants of "You sold out!" when he left ECW for The WWF.
" I have a feeling that a year from now, I'm going to have to look in the mirror and admit in my heart that I sold out...I sold out the Garden, I sold out the Coliseum, I sold out every damn arena in this country!"
- Stevie Ray felt that Booker T had become a sellout during their time in WCW. They both were in WCW, but Stevie Ray still found time to visit his friends from beforehand while Booker T had gotten into his head that he was too good for that now, or so Stevie Ray claimed. This led to Booker T being kicked out of "Harlem Heat Inc".
- The Attitude Era came to an end when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin sold out to Arch-Nemesis Vince McMahon.
- Brock Lesnar was greeted with chants of "You Sold Out" at Wrestlemania XX for leaving WWE to go play football in the NFL. While its possible Brock could have made more money in the NFL, he was actually leaving for a smaller paycheck.
- Carly Colon was called a sellout in Puerto Rico, particularly in WWC where he worked, for signing a developmental deal with WWE. However, people quickly warmed up to the idea as he continued to show up in WWC even after he made it to WWE's active roster. His WWE persona eventually completely overwrote his original WWC one.
- CM Punk berated Jimmy Rave for going against all his advice and selling out to Prince Nana in 2005.
- CM Punk was himself accused of being a sellout when he won the Ring of Honor World Title and announced his intentions to take it to WWE before signing his WWE contract on top of the belt.
- In a shocking twist, Samoa Joe sold out to the Main Event Mafia, who it turned out had just gotten Survivor contestant Jenna Morasca on their side and used her winnings from the show to placate him. Morasca would also buyout Awesome Kong, though it would be short-lived, as she thought she could get away with hitting Kong now that she was being paid.
- Gail Kim was called a sellout off-set by some in TNA for agreeing to resign with WWE. She was still presented in a respectable manner during the shows, though.
- Portia Perez called Serena Deeb a sellout after Deeb stopped wrestling for SHIMMER following OVW's replacement with FCW as WWE developmental. This was all out of Deeb's control, of, course and she returned to SHIMMER after WWE terminated her contract, but Perez still managed to turn a few others against Deeb.
- Tyler Black/Seth Rollins sold out to Jim Jesus at the expense of his longtime partner Marek Brave in All-American Wrestling and was accused of being a sellout in Ring of Honor when he signed a deal with WWE, which prompted him to threaten to take the Ring Of Honor World Title with him. Once in WWE he would sell out to The Authority at the expense of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns and was again called out on it.
- Nevaeh called Ashley Lane a traitor on the grounds she left ROH and SHIMMER to go wrestle for TNA.
- Abyss was called a sellout after he joined up with the TNA World Champion Magnus, the figurehead of the Carter's "Dixie Land" stable.
- Kane, in something of a twist, sold out to The Authority because he thought ruining people's lives was ultimately best for business. (It makes as much sense as anything else he does except for the fact he was in an unresolved feud with The Wyatt Family and just cut it short to go pal with Stephanie McMahon)
- Rhyno sold out fellow ECW Alumni to the bad bosses of TNA twice. The first time he even admitted it, the second time he claimed to have other reasons but Ethan Carter the third cut all pretenses and told Tommy Dreamer and Team 3D he was paying Rhino.
- Jimmy Jacobs, Roderick Strong and BJ Whitmer developing this opinion towards everyone who was celebrated as they left Ring Of Honor for a larger company led to the foundation of Decade. Targets include The American Wolves, The Addiction and AJ Styles.
- MVP was greeted by chants of "You Sold Out" after he revealed he was going to use his position as TNA's Director Of Wrestling Operations to give himself a shot for TNA's World Heavyweight Title. He answered the chants in a manner similar to Mick Foley, except MVP claimed he had already sold out arenas all over the world, including the one he was currently in.
- Tommy Dreamer called Kenny King a sellout for being billed from Las Vegas, Nevada when he's really from Queens, New York.
- Reggie White, a legendary NFL player used to play for the Eagles. He was a lead sacker for the defense. Yet in the 90s, he left to join Green Bay. Unfortunately the Eagles didn't win their first Super Bowl until SB LII, while Green Bay won 2 Super Bowls after Reggie switched over. Adding Insult to Injury, Green Bay defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in the rout to their Super Bowl XLV victory.
- Shaquille O'Neal, otherwise known as Shaq, is a 90s example. He used to play for Orlando Magic. Took the team to the NBA Finals where they lost. But in 1996, he moved to the bigger city team Los Angeles Lakers. Obviously the more than $120 million contract they gave him had something to do with it. Yet Magic fans dislike this move as he left a then blossoming team for its more successful counterpart in So Cal.
- In 2010, there was LeBron James of Cleveland Cavaliers fame. He was a top player alongside Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and several others. Won the NBA MVP in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Yet he couldn't win a championship in Cleveland, the city which had a Straw Loser reputation back in that year. So he moved to play for the Miami Heat. He joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They won 2 championships in the city. But to make amends with his former team, he rejoined in 2014. They then won the NBA Finals in an upset over the Golden State Warriors who went 73-9, a record as of 2017 and beat them in the Dubs' arena. LeBron was then forgiven by Cleveland for giving them their first city big 4 championship since 1964. When he left Cleveland for the second time in 2018, this time to go to the Lakers, he got far less hatred than back in 2010.*
- Kevin Durant would end up being hated even more than Lebron James for basically doing the same thing, because it was a lot more obvious. Unlike James who had some sympathy because he was on a team without any good role players and everyone expecting him to do everything, often comparing him to Michael Jordan, when Jordan actually had very good role players that helped him shine and win championships. Durant on the other hand was the chosen one for the Oklahoma City Thunder who had The Lancer in Russell Westbrook and decent role players to make a strong run every season for the title. However, loss after heartbreaking loss in the playoffs finally got to Durant who then left the team to join the very team that kept blocking the Thunder's path, the Golden State Warriors. To Durant's credit, despite joining an already stacked team, he would rise to become the best player on the team and led the Warriors to two championships with him winning Finals MVP in both runs before leaving for another team at the end of the 2021-2022 season.
- Brett Favre, known for his womanizing habits and winning the most games by a QB in league history. He played for many years with Green Bay. The city was rejuvenated with his excellent play and a Super Bowl victory, followed by a Super Bowl appearance in the mid-90s. People thought he would retire after the 2007-2008 season and would appear on the Madden NFL cover. However, he then announced he would go to the New York Jets, basically meaning he went from Green Bay, which has the lowest urban population of any current NFL team to New York, the biggest city in America. The media market there was huge. But he then left the Jets to join Minnesota Vikings, the rival of Green Bay. This was a great thing for Minnesota fans and a horrible thing for Packers fans.
- The Cleveland Browns were successful in the 80s, going to 2 AFC championship games, though losing both times. Fans packed Cleveland Stadium in the 80s through 90s. This was due to their successful Midwestern team. This case, however, is not of a player, but of an owner. Art Modell, the then Browns owner moved the team to Baltimore. While Baltimore did lose the Colts earlier and putting a team there would placate its suffering fans who only had the Orioles to watch, the move was criticized as he took a rich team with history, instead of creating an expansion franchise in Baltimore itself. So the team moved to Maryland and won 2 Super Bowls in the 21st century. Al Lerner, a credit card businessman, rebooted the Cleveland team. While Modell is revered in Baltimore for the return of Football there, he is among the most reviled people in Cleveland even after his 2012 death.
- Marcus Allen, a Hall of Fame running back. He was successful in the esteemed Los Angeles Raiders backfield. Earlier years in his career were with the famously injured Bo Jackson. Bo may have made the Hall of Fame if he wasn't injured against the Bengals and become the 9th Heisman winner to make the professional hall.
- Patton Oswalt had a routine about becoming a sell-out on his album Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time. Patton describes how he used to think that "selling out" was something you only ever had to decide once, but he changed his mind as he got further in his career. The turning point was when he was invited to perform at a casino for a "sacrilegious" amount of money, and he accepted, only for the crowd he was performing for to be so drunk that they just shouted Patton's career at him, without Patton getting the chance to tell a single joke. After the set, the casino offered him the chance to do it every weekend, so the temptation to become a "corporate whore" for them is always there.
- This is a core theme of Saints Row: The Third. By this point in the series, the 3rd Street Saints have full control of the city of Stillwater, its members are celebrities (except for Pierce, but who cares about Pierce?), and the gang is a global multimedia franchise complete with Planet Saints stores, comic books, movie deals, bobbleheads, and horrible Saints Flow energy drinks. When The Syndicate gives them their first real setback in years, actor Josh Birk and veteran Saints like Johnny Gat complain how the gang "traded in our dicks for pussies," and throughout the game The Boss is forced to make decisions such as whether to destroy an enemy stronghold to gain Respect and avenge a fallen comrade, or capture it for additional income. The final mission boils down to a Sadistic Choice between saving the Boss' friends and letting an enemy escape, then working with him to act in a cheesy sci-fi 'flick, or pursuing and killing him for the sake of revenge, proving that the Saints still know how to be ruthless gangsters.
- Interestingly, the "sellout" option is the good option, since the Boss shows that he cares more about his henchmen than he does about looking ruthless and getting revenge. And ultimately, the sellout ending is the canon ending, as Shaundi is still alive and kicking in 4.
- The Grand Theft Auto games have Samantha Muldoon, who we are introduced to in the fourth game as a pop singer based on Madonna who's famous for adopting African children. Following a Creator Breakdown, however, the fifth game reveals through an interview on Blaine County Talk Radio that she's reinvented herself as a Country Music artist, adopting a fake Southern accent, right-wing politics, and blatant corporate sponsorship of her Bleeter account so as to better appeal to the older white demographic that "doesn't save money and buys all kinds of superfluous stuff and doesn't have a clue what downloading is" — all while lambasting "shallow and petty" liberals who "won't stick by their convictions".
- A subplot in Hypnospace Outlaw concerns the music subgenre 'coolpunk', an internet fad based on slowed-down jingle samples from an 80s soft drink commercial and Christmas samples. By the time the game is set, coolpunk has already been appropriated by the soda company, who has revived their 80s snowman mascot and are trying to push a music festival. The genre was invented by a producer going by FRE 3 ZER, and early examples of his music can be found buried in Hypnospace and sound genuinely emotional and innovative; but you will first hear music off his current album, which is much poppier and worse, and see him being marketed to teen girls to get them to buy soda. Later in the game's story, he is caught lip-syncing at a concert and destroys what little credibility the genre had left, leaving only the people so uncool they still feel like they've hopped onto a new trend, a few haters sticking around just to see how bad it can get, and a handful of literal children.
- In Borderlands 3 one of the sidequests has the main villain Tyreen Calypso hiring the players to kill themselves in exchange for a fancy new gun. Your reward for doing so is a Legendary Pistol called the "Sellout" that has Tyreen's voice constantly mocking you for being a "Gun Slut".
- In The Hex, In-universe game developer Lionel Snill hit it big with Super Weasel Kid, but after Radical Road became a Contested Sequel, he decided to abandon the franchise by selling it to GameFuna, a company notorious for their Obvious Betas and Porting Disasters. Naturally, Super Weasel Kid '09: The Revivial winds up a buggy mess and one Steam review outright says Lionel "sold out".
- Parodied in Social Marketing from Loading Artist.
- In one Shortpacked! strip, the gang are queuing for the new Transformers movie when a passerby informs them that Transformers has totally sold out. Once they've realised she doesn't mean there aren't any tickets left, they're puzzled by the idea that something that started as a half-hour toy commercial can sell out.
- In the Strong Bad Email "geddup noise", it's revealed that the "Geddup Noise" that plays when Strong Bad gets out of the stool in front of his computer "got all big overseas" and became an overnight sensation, with appearances (so to speak) on TV and radio and "the odd, or sometimes very odd celebrity endorsement".
Strong Sad: (after the Geddup Noise does a commercial for "Hamburger Shampoo") Frickin' sell-out.
- Though they've never actually played it straight themselves, the Game Grumps have had their fair share of fun playing with the concept:
- They often jokingly proposition themselves to companies after praising or insulting their products, offering to continue praising or cease insulting said products in exchange for money, all the while making it very clear they're willing to say or do just about anything in exchange for some cold, hard, delicious cash.
- They once suffered fierce backlash after their playthrough of Trials Fusion inexplicably had a Wendy's ad in the corner. It turns out what had actually happened was their product key was visible in the corner and they didn't realize it after the fact, so they had Barry "cover it up with a burger". Cue mostly negative votes on the video and outrage over a false advertisement for a deal that wasn't even being offered anymore.
- Arin even makes fun of this in some of his paid promotions, where the commercial itself will be him gleefully praising a service such as Crunchyroll while his friends react with disinterest, frustration, or by calling him out for selling out.
- The "Not Paid For By Michael Bloomberg" episode of Some More News leads to the News Dude selling out to Michael Bloomberg's campaign for a pet Zebra and a Cool Boat. The News Dude eventually breaks down from an inability to say positive things about Bloomberg and recants, causing him to lose all his wealth and items and be forced to play the show's outro music on an ocarina due to lacking money for the stock music.
- The Simpsons: In The Last Temptation Of Krust Krusty reinvents himself as an anti-establishment stand-up comedian. While being applauded at first, Krusty eventually is offered a lot of cash for endorsing the product "Canyonero" during his stage shows. As the shows become blatant Product Placement Krusty is accused of being a sell-out, but he gladly gives up his former ideals to get back on top in show business.
Krusty: I learned something about myself tonight, kid. It's not comedy that's in my blood, it's selling out.
- In the South Park episode "Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls", Stan accuses Cartman of being this when he sells Mr Hankey's current dilemma to a movie producer. Neither of them actually know what a sell out is, except "if you work in the entertainment business and make money" you're one. Cartman decides he likes it anyway.
- Flash signs on with an ad agency in Justice League to hock "Lightspeed Energy Bars" in Eclipsed, which gives the obnoxious sensationalist talk show host "Glorious" Gordon Godfrey fuel to slander the "Just-Us League" and claim they're only in it for money:
"See?! This is what these self-appointed guardians of humanity are all about! Cashing in on their image! Shilling for whoever's got the deepest pockets!"
- "That's right, Corporate America! Robot Chicken is ready to sell out!"