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Spark of the Rebellion

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"When the Empire's operations are targeted on an ongoing basis, it could signify more than the theft of a few crates; it could signify the spark of rebellion. Next time they make a move, we'll be waiting for them — to snuff out that spark before it catches fire."
Agent Kallus, Star Wars Rebels, "Spark of Rebellion"
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When a relatively minor act of defying the authority (such as a Defiant Stone Throw) or a similarly minor act of oppression by said authority (e.g. accidentally shooting a future martyr) serves as a catalyst for a massive rebellion against it. Sometimes, the two options are rolled into one (defiance followed by crackdown), in which case the ur-rebel may experience a Dying Moment of Awesome. If they survive, on the other hand, they have a good chance of becoming a Rebel Leader. May also go hand-in-hand with Hope Bringer if the rebellion was seen as futile prior to this act.

Compare Butterfly of Doom and Powder Keg Crowd.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Claymore, the final warrior generation's rebellion against the Organization starts with a low-level Claymore—who isn't even named in the narrative!—refusing to follow her handler's orders and to deliver the killing blow to Miria, the future Rebel Leader. After the rest of the generation similarly feigns obedience, the latter is able to recover from her wounds and returns to rally them against their handlers.
  • One Piece: While the Thunder Soldier, the Living Toy soldier, has been trying to undermine Donquixote Doflamingo's rule over Dressrosa 10 years from the present, and the dwarves whom Thunder Soldier allied with had an even longer beef (for centuries) with Donquixote Family. But it takes Doffy organizing a tournament in Dressrosa, then most of the participants being turned into toys for losing, and the arrival of the Straw Hats and Trafalgar Law there, for the rebellion to really start moving; starting from Usopp being directed by Thunder Soldier to go after Sugar, the Donquixote Family member responsible for the Living Toys, and then knock her out, causing all toys that she "made" over 10 years to turn normal and cause massive chaos in Dressrosa. From there, the Dressrosan resistance movement starts making their big move, aided by the Straw Hats and the tournament participants.
  • In Spirit Circle, Fone tried to interrupt a sacrificial ritual to save his lover, who is chosen to be the sacrifice. He failed and died, but his efforts sparked a rebellion against the tribe priests and elders. The irony, the rebels won and decided to make him their new god... and sacrificed the priests in his name.

    Comic Books 
  • Beast Wars: Uprising: Lio Convoy was already feeling doubts about the Builder regime, but a chance encounter with Blackarachnia followed by seeing two Maximal cops harassing another Maximal for looking at his reflection finally has him decide "screw it", and join the rebellion, becoming their leader. He interrupts the next round of the Games to call on Maximals and Predacons to rise up against the Builders.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: Early in the film, Hopper explicitly points out to his gang that the grasshoppers are wildly outnumbered by the ants, and their ability to extract tribute depends on all of the ants being too intimidated to stand up to them. Sure enough, at the end, Flik, despite having taken a beating, defies Hopper in front of everyone, triggering all the ants to turn on the grasshoppers once and for all.
  • Tiny kitten Edmund from Don Bluth's Rock-A-Doodle dares to blare the name Chanticleer in front of the Grand Duke, and gets swatted down hard for it. Edmund's close friend Patou takes up the chant, followed by the multitude of small creatures oppressed by the Duke. Despite the villain's efforts to silence them, their chanting awakens Chanticleer's memory of his purpose in life, triggering a Heroic Second Wind that sunders the Duke.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Amy Mitchell from Bad Moms reaches her breaking point with being a Stepford Wife, and rebels against Queen Bee Gwendolyn and her Hive Mind clique. Kika and Carla join Amy in sabotaging this Crapsaccharine World, ultimately sundering the clique and loosing Free-Range Children.
  • In The Last Jedi, after the events of The Force Awakens had effectively demolished the New Republic thanks to the First Order, the Resistance—a military formed by Leia but not authorized by the New Republic—is all that's left to continue fighting the good fight. Poe Dameron says at one point that "We [the Resistance] are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down!" This is also a Call-Back to Trope Namer Star Wars Rebels, as described later in this page.
  • V for Vendetta: At the end of the movie, a girl is shot for graffiting the Anarchy symbol on a wall, causing the neighborhood to revolt, which spreads to the rest of the country.
  • In Yellowbeard, Dan attempts to stand up to Mr. Crisp, which goes as well as you'd expect, resulting in him being knocked out. Crisp is about to finish the job, when Yellowbeard comes out of hiding, headbutts Mr. Crisp, and throws him overboard. On finding out, Captain Hughes, thinking Dan did it, exposes him as Yellowbeard's son, and is about to punish him, when the crew, inspired by Dan's example, mutiny, surrounding the captain, and hanging him upside down.
  • The mutiny in The Battleship Potemkin starts over rotten meat being served to the sailors.

    Literature 
  • In the Arcia Chronicles, the overthrow of the Tarskan occupation in Tayana is kicked off by the murder of Rodolph Gleo—an otherwise completely unremarkable drunkard poet—who reads a rousing poem in public, is shot by a Tarskan lackey, and, with his dying breath, calls upon the onlookers to liberate Tayana.
  • In The Mortal Instruments in the Thule Universe, Sebastian was informed Lily, New York's Second in Command vampire, was sending information to the rebels, so she is killed mercilessly. The seemingly emotionless Head vampire, Raphael, led thousands of Downworlders out of the peace talks with Sebastian, sparking the rebellion, and almost succeeded in killing him.
  • In Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert's... contested series of Dune prequels, the robot Erasmus triggers a massive uprising against the machine-run, human-enslaving Synchronized Empire by dropping a baby off a building (his motivation is a particularly twisted and useless version of For Science!).
  • The Hunger Games:
    • Katniss volunteering in place of her sister to be their district's warrior tribute for a Bread and Circuses tournament put in place by the Capitol, which was almost unheard of in their district (as District 12 had only ever won the Hunger Games twice in their 73-year history). While preparing for the event, Katniss does do some things that edge on being barely acceptable in the Capitol, but the most significant thing she does is (appear to) fall in love with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta. Unknowingly, this soap opera-esque love entertains the masses of the Capitol, which causes the gamemakers to decide to change the rule about how to win the Hunger Games; you can survive with your fellow district tribute. This ultimately comes back to kick them in the teeth, because when those conditions are met and the gamemakers decide to backspace for dramatic effect, the couple attempts to commit suicide to be Together in Death and prevent there from being a single winner for the games, so since that would upset the audience, the Capitol reluctantly lets the two live. The Capitol bending over just to entertain the masses ends up giving covert rebels throughout Panem a chance to begin their rebellion. It may also be mentioned that there was also a firebird motif with Trope Namer Star Wars Rebels, which was released after The Hunger Games series.
    • However it's also been argued that Rue's death is the true spark, as her young age and friendliness results in a non-malicious alliance between Katniss (from District 12) and herself (District 11), with Katniss helping her find peace in death when she gets mortally wounded. This causes a riot in District 11 (in the film adaptation, it is implied her father was the first to lash out).
  • In The Final Empire, the first book of Brandon Sanderson's original Mistborn trilogy, Kelsier planned out the entire heist plot of the book, including his own place as a religious figure and eventual death, to serve as this for the enslaved Skaa people of the Empire.
  • Red Rising:
    • In between the second and third books of the trilogy, Sevro releasing footage of Darrow's carving and posthumously (or so he thinks) outing his friend as The Mole sparks a mass uprising against the Golds.
    • A more specific example occurs later in the third book when the rebellion is on its last legs before Darrow's Rousing Speech and public return from his presumed death gives the rebellion a Heroic Second Wind.
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the revolutionaries are planning an uprising, but the security from Earth precipitates it by raping and killing a woman, who Manny notes could have been a 'slot-machine sheila' (prostitute), but on the Moon, you don't touch a woman without her consent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Castle episode "Pandora" has Dr. Nelson Blakely, a specialist in "linchpin theory", or looking for small actions that can induce large events. He claims responsibility for a lone act of civil disobedience that led to The Arab Spring. (The episode aired before the Arab Spring went pear-shaped.)
  • In Horrible Histories, Rosa Parks' song was about how she started the anti-segregation movement by refusing to give her bus seat to a white man.
  • A very minor example. In an episode of The Wonder Years, the entire school is poised to stage a walk-out to protest something, but the principal warns them that this would go on their permanent records. At the crucial juncture, Kevin walks out of the classroom to go to the bathroom without asking permission. Others think he is staging a walk-out and get up to leave. Others see them and follow. When Kevin comes out of the bathroom, he discovers that the entire student body has walked out and he is being credited with instigating it. And, as the narration notes, it went on all of their permanent records.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn starts with Daein under the oppressive occupation of the Begnion Empire. The Dawn Brigade has been doing small acts of rebellion for a while at this point, but the spark seems to be an incident where Micaiah heals a boy wounded by Begnion artillery, thereby proving herself to be the Silver-Haired Maiden, the common people's near-mythical folk hero. Soon after, the Dawn Brigade finds King Ashnard's lost heir his attendant, and Micaiah's identity convinces them it's the right time to start the fight against Begnion.
  • Mega Man X4: The entire Repliforce revolt snowballs from the Repliforce Colonel politely refusing to disarm and follow X or Zero for questioning when he's seen at the scene of a terrorist attack. The entire Repliforce is declared mavericks (Reploid criminals) as a result. This sparks Repliforce operatives to start committing their own attacks on humanity.
  • In Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman and Alyx's assault on Nova Prospekt was taken as the signal to start the Uprising against the Combine. Of course, because the Combine teleporter exploded, Gordon and Alyx didn't get to see the results until a week later.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the Reachmen, the primitive in dress and technology tribal inhabitants of the Reach in western Skyrim, have been resisting any and all groups who attempt to claim the Reach dating all the way back to the First Tamriellic Empire thousands of years ago. During the 3rd Era Septim Empire and into the early 4th Era, they begrudgingly accepted Nord rule rather than risk the wrath of the Empire. When the crumbling Empire was preoccupied with the Great War, the Reachmen rose up and captured the city of Markarth. Though the Nords would drive them out, they reformed as the Forsworn and hold strong in the countryside of the Reach with their numbers swelling. In Skyrim, the Forsworn take the place of bandits as generic Mooks in and around the Reach. A sidequest offers the opportunity to help their Rebel Leader escape from a Nordic prison.
  • Just Cause 4: Rico Rodriguez gunning down a single Black Hand patrol is enough to invigorate an entire Army of Chaos. It's a bit of a bigger spark than normal as Rico has a storied career in dictator deposition by this point and this dictator's Dragon is rightly terrified of his presence.
  • Sniper Elite 4: Sofia di Rocco's father, the previous leader of the Allagra Partisans, is stated by her to be the spark that ignites the flames of revolution in Italy. Sofia herself turns out to be this as well when her Heroic Sacrifice following the massacre of most of the partisans at Giovi Fiorini causes other partisan groups to spring up and kick the Nazis and Italian fascists out of Allagra altogether.
  • Tales of Arise: Played with somewhat. While there was a rebellion group already going, it's Shionne's Blazing Sword and Iron Mask's ability to wield it that give them them muscle they need to go straight for the local lord's throat. Despite this being a team effort, everyone is happy to give Iron Mask all the credit, even though he was mostly The Right Man In The Wrong Place and then along for the ride: Shionne is Renan and refuses to tell anyone her actual motives for turning on her own kind.

    Visual Novels 
  • Utawarerumono: The spark that sets off a rebellion that overturns not one but over a dozen nations? An old woman getting accidentally killed by royal guards in a backwater, no-name farming village. The village immediately arms for war, joins forces with another village already doing the same, and then the idiot emperor starts pre-emptively slaughtering neutral villages "just in case", which leads to even more villages joining the rebellion... and it all snowballs from there.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In one episode, Katara wants to save the earthbenders from a Fire Nation's prison barge but finds trouble due to the lack of something for them to bend, so she has Aang blowing up a lot of coals from the barge’s furnace, through the vents, onto the upper deck. At first, the warden stands there and gloats about how broken they are. It's not until one of the earthbenders throw a lump of coal at the alerted prison warden that the big riot starts. In the end, the earthbenders manage to escape with the Gaang.
  • Star Wars Rebels is the epitome of this trope and is the Trope Namer. There's whole reason why the Pilot Movie is even called "Spark of Rebellion". True to the trope, the Ghost crew do everything they can to make life on Lothal better from The Empire, but the defining moment was when they liberate Wookiee prisoners from the spice mines of Kessel. Since then, their actions on Lothal would signify the start of a growing rebellion. To further deliver the punch, the season finale is titled "Fire Across the Galaxy"note  — as the season ends with the rebel cells beginning to unite and people beginning to turn against the Empire, and it has served as Arc Words for the rest of the Star Wars reboot.
  • Referenced in Justice League episode "A Better World", where in the Justice Lords timeline, Lord Green Lantern and Lord Hawkgirl go to intimidate a protest against their rule despite the police already being there to handle it, with Lantern stating that "it only takes a spark to light a fire", although it's implied that the Lords are bored and just need an excuse to get out.
  • Steven Universe: The episode "Your Mother and Mine" has Garnet recounting how the rebellion against the genocidal Gem Homeworld started in earnest. Rose Quartz, Steven's deceased mother and the former leader of the Crystal Gems, convinced other Gems to start rebelling with her by destroying a terraforming machine and giving a rousing speech on top of its wreckage.

    Real Life 
  • According to most histories, the Stonewall Riots began as a routine police raid of a Greenwich Village gay bar, the mafia-controlled Stonewall Inn. Shakedowns like these were commonplace; the notoriously corrupt NYPD would get their payoff, the patrons who had been rounded up would be released, and the bar would be back in business quickly, sometimes even the same night. On June 28, 1969, however, the raid was taking much longer than usual, possibly due to a number of people there who were not used to the procedure. This allowed time for a crowd to gather, many of them taunting the police with accusations of taking bribes. As the crowd grew rowdier, the police dragged a small, butch-dressing woman from the bar, her face already marked from a baton strike. A hush came over the spectators, and the woman yelled something to the effect of "Aren't you going to do anything?" The police then roughly tossed her into a paddy wagon. Immediately, the crowd surged forward, throwing bottles and attacking the cops. The rioting would last off and on for several days. These events are usually credited with starting the modern gay rights movement.
  • The Mutiny on the Potemkin battleship of the Russian Imperial Navy started over sailors protesting them being served borsht made from rotten beef. Then, when the anger calmed down, officers threatened them with firing squad or hanging, which started the whole mutiny.
  • The Congo Crisis started when Emile Janssens, commandant of the Force Publiquenote , replied to soldiers asking for promotions they were denied under colonial regime by writing on a blackboard "After Independence = Before Independence."
  • The immediate causes of the February Revolution was Putilov Factory strikers being joined by women demonstrating against food rationing.
  • On 17 December 2010, a frustrated Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in protest of the unjust Tunisian government in general and its stupid street vendor laws in particular. Not three months later, nearly the whole Arab World was on fire...


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