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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."

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.

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Compare Butterfly of Doom and Powder Keg Crowd.


Examples

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    Anime and 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.

    Film — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: Hopper has the colony paying him tribute every year, threatening to wipe them out if they fail to provide an offering, and Flik tries standing up for them twice. The first time Hopper stares him down, but the second, after Flik's been worked over by Thumper, he gets back up and delivers a blistering "Reason You Suck" Speech to Hopper, pointing out that the colony does everything to provide for itself and the grasshoppers. Shortly after, Hopper realizes all the ants, who by his own admission outnumber his gang a hundred to one, are about to charge him. The scene ends with the ants charging and driving the grasshoppers off.
  • 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.

    Film — 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.
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    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 succeded 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!).
  • In 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.
    • Though 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 between the second and third books of the Red Rising 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 Tellius: 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 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In one episode, Katara wants to save the earthbenders from the Fire Nation's remote island prison, 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 island's furnace, through the vents, to a hole on the prison field. At first, the warden stands there and gloats about how broken they are, but it's not until one of the earthbenders throw one coal to the alerted prison warden that the big riot starts. In the end the earthbenders managed 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 Expanded Universe.
  • 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.


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