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The Elites Jump Ship

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"The Earth was losing habitable land as the oceans rose, and territorial and water wars were breaking out worldwide. So the rich, as always, left because they could."

Some awful calamity is happening. The world might be ending. There's maiming and killing afoot. Cities are on flame (possibly with rock and roll). The Masses are sick, starving, and dying. Screaming and cursing, cries for mercy, the sound of society tearing itself apart. The public is crying out for aid and their leaders to guide them through this catastrophe. It's a horrific situation.

And where are the leaders, the elites, and the best and the brightest during this whole quagmire? The rich and powerful with the money, influence, and the talent to help people through this chaos? Certainly not where the danger is! They've jumped ship, gotten on an aircraft and flown to a safe haven, sailed to a private island, locked themselves in a bunker, or all of the above, basically telling the rest of the world: "You're on your own."

Likely to overlap with While Rome Burns or Dancing in the Ruins as the characters in question indulge in their decadent personal behavior in response to the chaos around them. Rarely expect anyone involved in this trope to be the least bit sympathetic and expect them to be a combination of Rich Jerk, Corrupt Corporate Executive, an Upper-Class Twit, Aristocrats Are Evil, Dirty Coward, President Evil and his contemporaries, or all of the above. If the aforementioned elites are actually responsible for the calamity they're running from in the first place, any sympathy for them should be thrown right out the window. If the world itself is crumbling, Watch the World Die can overlap, but the characters are in the group who happen to be in the upper crust and simply let the rest of the world rot to save their own skins. Or at least try to at everyone else's expense.

Essentially a subtrope or at least subcategory of Screw This, I'm Outta Here, as applied to, well, social elites.

Note the Rules Of Cautious Editing must apply when describing Real Life examples to avoid unnecessary Flame War disputes. For the sake of example clarity, all spoilers shall remain unmarked.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Defied in Cross Ange: Big Bad Embryo pulls the plug on Mana, triggering the eventual collapse of the World of Mana, and denies the world leaders the opportunity of leaving with him, leaving them to an ambiguous fate.
  • In Remina, The Prime Minister of Japan abandons Japan with his family for Remina as soon as it becomes apparent Earth will be destroyed. Naturally, this ends poorly for the lot of them.
  • In FLCL Alternative, when Medical Mechanica start up their plan to flatten the Earth with their irons many of the rich and powerful board rockets to flee to Mars while leaving the planet to its fate. This includes the smug Japanese Prime Minister occasionally seen through the series and Pets whose family is revealed to be wealthy, forcing her to leave her friends behind, especially after a bad argument with Kana that they sadly never resolve before her departure.
  • In One Piece:
    • Wapol pulled this when serving as King of the Drum Kingdom when the Blackbeard Pirates arrived. Despite his arrogance, when he learned how strong Blackbeard's crew was, Wapol took his army and ran rather than fight them, leaving his country defenseless.
    • As told by Trafagar Law's backstory, the royal family and high-ranked nobles managed to escape from Flevance with assistance of the World Government just before the Amber Lead Syndrome crisis went really bad and the entire country was quarantined by force. These included the people who most actively sought out the Amber Lead. Of course.
  • Gundam
    • Inverted in the original Mobile Suit Gundam: As the world suffers from overpopulation and resultant environmental collapse, the elites force others to jump ship. By 0079 (79 years after the space colonies reached a population of 40 million, by which point half of humanity has joined them) anyone born on Earth, regardless of class, are jeered at as "Earth elites" and are the subjects of resentment by the colonists — occasionally murderously so.
    • Played straight in Mobile Fighter G Gundam: The powerful and wealthy from each country moved to space on colonies named after their nation but with a "neo" prefix (so the Japanese colony is "Neo Japan") and those unable to go into space have to suffer poverty and being collateral as the colonies send Gundams to fight Combat by Champion every four years to determine who controls the world's government.
    • Most of the wealthiest people in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury have gone to space and become the contemptuous Foreign Ruling Class of the "Earthians" suffering from world-wide economic depression and food shortages.

    Fan Works 
  • A Different Weasel Makes A Difference: While most elites stand their ground during the invasion of the White Walkers, Lord Torrent of Littlesister and his family try to abandon their lands and vassals "without a care in the world." Unfortunately for the family, a Manderly warship stops them as they try to sail to the comparatively safer Riverlands. The male members of the family are escorted back to the Three Sisters islands and placed in a particularly dangerous beachhead position to meet the approaching zombies.
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: At one point during "What if there was a zombie apocalypse?", it's mentioned that wealthy elites are buying their way off-world as fast as they can to escape the zombie plague.
  • Code Prime: Near the end of R2 - Revolution, when Starscream announces his intention to just completely destroy Earth rather than continue to try and subjugate it, the captive Brittanian royals being held prisoner by the Decepticons immediately swear loyalty in exchange for being spared and offered a ride off planet when the Cons leave. According to a derisive Schneizel, many of them have deluded themselves into believing that they can repopulate humanity through incest, ignoring the many problems that such a small gene pool would create. And unfortunately for them, they never even get that far, as Megatron responds to Starscream's attempted by coup by unleashing a synthetic Rust Plague, which consumes not just Starscream but also all of the Britannians as well.
  • Project Sunflower: Late in the first story, Heart's Bloom and a number of other members of the Canterlot Elite choose to take their families and move to Starfall Isle for the sake of keeping themselves "pure" and "untainted" by what they see as a disaster — humans moving to Equestria from their native world and bringing their own ways with them, which the Elite who are leaving see as damaging to their existing society.
  • Arrow a spinoff to The Victors Project has an unpremeditated version of this where said elites come across as less despicable than the people they were bribing. The gangs that control District 6 seize all of the trains to flee District as it descends into anarchy in the first waves of rebellion and retaliatory bombings, handing over seats to "prosperous citizens who hand over everything they own for a chance to escape the rains of fire," while running down others in their path. It is unclear whether any of them make it; only one train is specifically mentioned as being destroyed and this was one filled with fleeing gang members.

  • It's a running gag in Welcome to Night Vale that the City Council hits the bricks as soon as serious trouble starts, generally going on an extremely coincidental vacation. This is despite the City Council being initially composed of a multi-body Eldritch Abomination that probably has a better chance of survival than any of the city's human inhabitants.
  • In It Could Happen Here, it's mentioned in the episode "The American Refugee Crisis" that rich people would be the first to escape the Second American Civil War and the one that would have the least problems with it, being able to buy visas to still-stable European nations.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Used in the swan song of the Planescape metaplot, Faction War. The module's events would be expected to heavily involve the faction leaders and established characters, all of whom have a stake in the fight and should be actively intriguing, fighting, and betraying. Since that would be complicated to write (and to run), the named characters not immediately relevant to the story "go to ground" and can't be contacted.
  • Features in the backstory of Changeling: The Dreaming, as centuries ago the ruling class of Sidhe fled the human world for Arcadia, leaving the other fae to fend for themselves, and only returned recently.

  • In Act 2 of Into the Woods, after the giantess has set upon their castle, the royal family, along with Cinderella's stepfamily, flees the kingdom instead of staying to fight. The finale hints that their fate was, well, not pretty.
    Stepmother: When going to hide, know how to get there.
    Cinderella's Father: And how to get back.
    Florinda & Lucinda: And eat first.

    Web Original 
  • Some More News devoted part of an episode to discussing this trope and some hypothetical scenarios in the context of the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak.
  • RWBY: This is the catalyst for the climax of Volume 7. General Ironwood, overtaken by paranoia due to Cinder taunting him and the threat of Salem soon arriving at the Floating City of Atlas, decides to abandon the remaining unevacuated people of Mantle to raise Atlas up higher (out of Salem's range). He immediately proves willing to get rid of anyone who opposes this decision. As Team RWBY refuses to abandon Mantle, he orders the Ace-Ops to arrest them, puts out warrants for them and their friends, and tries to execute Oscar for trying to talk him down. Add on Cinder delaying Winter's task to become the Winter Maiden long enough for Penny Polendina to take the power instead, and Ironwood is left unable to complete his plans. As the new Maiden is more sympathetic to the protagonists and Mantle, she defects, leaving Ironwood without the means to raise Atlas. RWBY's resistance incapacitates four of his Ace-Ops, while the fifth and leader of their group ends up killed thanks to the conflict allowing Tyrian to escape. And with his forces exhausted from the evacuation that had been completed before it was abruptly stopped, Ironwood's army is crippled just as Salem arrives at Atlas' doorstep. Just as Salem wanted.

    Western Animation 
  • Presented in Futurama episode "The Deep South" where it's revealed that the city of Atlanta, Georgia became an island and eventually sank from over-development. As the city sank, its "gods of our legends" evacuated, including Ted Turner, Hank Aaron, Jeff Foxworthy, "the guy who invented Coca-Cola" and "The Magician". Oh, and Jane Fonda was there, too. Leaving the rest of the city population to sink and mutate into fish people.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: President Business leaves to play golf during the alien invasion at the beginning of the film.
  • Love, Death & Robots: In "Three Robots: Exit Strategies", the three droids examine pre-apocalyptic settlements from various social classes. While regular rich people and world leaders resorted to self-sustaining pockets in the ocean and in mountainside bunkers, the 0.01% not only attempted to make a break for Mars but torched the masses who tried to come with them. To rub it in, cats, but not humans, make up the Martian society seen at the end.
    "Who were you expecting to see? Elon Musk?"
  • Presented for laughs The Simpsons in the third segment of "Treehouse of Horror IX", where the Y2K computer virus bug creates a world apocalypse, and a rocket ship with the most beloved celebrities is launched so they can start a new society on Mars. Homer and Bart sneak onboard another rocket, only to find that it's full of the most hated celebrities and is being fired into the Sun.
  • Played for satire in The Boondocks episode "The Fried Chicken Flu", when a viral pandemic spreads around the world and (seemingly) causes great sociopolitical chaos. In response, US President Barack Obama makes an Emergency Presidential Address to calm down the American public, preaching to show compassion and help out their communities, only to reveal that he and his family have gone underground to live in the fully-stocked White House bunker, and have essentially let the rest of America rot.
    President Obama: In conclusion, I wanna say that we are all in for some tough times ahead. And when I say we, I mean you.

    Real Life 
  • In 1815, after the French ship La Meduse grounded in the Bank of Arguin, the commanders and officers, who put themselves on the lifeboats, cut the rope that relayed them to the raft where the NCOs, soldiers and sailors were, leaving them to drift at sea until a British ship rescued the considerably small group of survivors.
  • This trope is what used to happen during most of the plagues in the Middle Ages (such as The Black Death). The rich fled the cities and towns, escaping to their private residences in the countryside in hope that the fresher air there would protect them (it was widely believed at the time that plagues were caused by "corrupted air"). It did protect them to a degree since contagions spread more slowly in less densely populated regions. This is also the premise of the novel The Decameron.
  • During World War II, United Kingdom propaganda promoted the idea of "In It Together", in which groups of people from all walks of life gathered in the London Underground to get through the war (and the German bombing of London) together. This was a reversal from their reaction early in the Blitz, when the Tube was locked up to prevent people from sheltering there - and to stop them reaching the wealthier areas of London where the rich could take shelter in, for instance, the basement shelters of grand hotels. The Savoy had a shelter it advertised as "The Smartest in London"; some shelters had bars and restaurant service (Hotels were exempted from rationing) and at least one had a gaming room so patrons could gamble while they waited out the bombing. Meanwhile, surface shelters intended to provide some protection for the working classes were so cheaply built that children could push the bricks out of the wall with their hands; they were overcrowded, had no toilet facilities, and became known as "Morrison Sandwiches", named after the then Home Secretary, because a nearby bomb hit could blow out the brick walls and drop the solid concrete slab that comprised the ceiling onto those sheltering inside. These blatant injustices were at least somewhat corrected as the Blitz went on - the Sandwiches were mostly pulled down as not fit for purpose, the Tube was no longer locked and had fold-up bunks installed to enable more people to sleep there - but in truth, less than .1% of London's citizens actually gathered in the Underground (7000 out of 8 million residents), and these people were almost entirely poor and working-class. The rich elites, who either owned or could afford to build their own bunkers, were still waiting things out in relative comfort. The Tube was safer than most shelters, but a direct hit above a station could drop chunks of the ceiling onto those sheltering there, and there were a few freakish tragedies where bombs just happened to drop at exactly the right spot and at exactly the right angle to travel down the escalator tunnels, detonating inside the stations and killing hundreds. The Government did issue kits to build your own Anderson Shelter, free to any family earning less than £5 a week; for those earning more, the kits cost £7. Morrison got another type of shelter named for him; the much more effective Morrison Table Shelter, which could serve as a dining table during the day and be quickly converted into a steel-framed bomb shelter during raids, intended for those who had no garden in which to place an Anderson.


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The Rich Went to Mars

The robots learn that the 0.01% of humanity tried to escape the apocalypse by going to Mars and burnt the 99.99% who wanted to come with them. It's lamented that they could have poured the resources they put into space travel into saving the planet instead.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / TheElitesJumpShip

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