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The Last DJ

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"Well you can't turn him into a company man
You can't turn him into a whore
And the boys upstairs just don't understand anymore"

This is a character type with a lot of integrity. His skills at what he does has made him something of a legend, often greatly admired by those who work beneath or alongside him. He refuses to just go along with what his bosses or administration want. Unfortunately, because he doesn't play by the rules of office politics, and because house politics here promote Blind Obedience, his superiors have blacklisted him and made his career stall out at a certain point. This results in a tense situation where management may be actively looking to get rid of him, but can'tnote  because of his reputation, while he wants to either just do his thing or make changes to the existing system.

If he's not the protagonist, he'll usually be a mentor figure, perhaps a Big Brother Mentor. Alternatively, in stories on the cynical side of the scale he can serve as a warning of what happens if you're not willing to make compromises. A natural enemy to and the bane of the Obstructive Bureaucrat.

The Last DJ can become the Almighty Janitor, though not always. If the bosses really get sick of his Honor Before Reason attitude, he may be threatened with or actually have to endure being Reassigned to Antarctica for his stubbornness. It may also get to a point where this character winds up having to Resign in Protest when their organization really goes too far for them.

In the end, of course, if he pushes them too far the bosses might decide to fire him once and for all, his reputation be damned. If he keeps his head down instead, he may become the Internal Reformist.

Frequently overlaps with Knight in Sour Armor. Music-wise it overlaps with Music Is Politics. This trope is the opposite of Kicked Upstairs, where an unwanted and incompetent person is promoted, to get them away from the real work so they can no longer screw things up.

Compare Rebellious Rebel, whose conflicts with his superior are acute, not chronic, and who rapidly ends up dead or fleeing. Also compare Bunny-Ears Lawyer, where the traits that would hold back a Last DJ get overlooked on account of how much of an asset the character is otherwise. The traits in a Bunny Ears Lawyer are also mostly just quirks and eccentricities that may be self indulgent, as opposed to the Last DJ who is more likely to feel like he's the Only Sane Man. The traits that cause the Last DJ to clash with his bosses or colleagues are traits related to virtuousness and work ethic in comparison to his or her more bureaucratic, cliquish, or Pointy-Haired Boss colleagues. The Last DJ is especially at a disadvantage in a system that is "Broken by Design".

Contrast Limited Advancement Opportunities, where characters never advance in their position because that would force the writing team to separate the cast; and Lonely at the Top, where characters get promoted but lose everything else in the process. See also Bothering by the Book and Screw the Money, I Have Rules!.

Not to be confused with Last of His Kind, or The Last Starfighter.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episode features Marcelo Jarti, a popular South American war hero, revolutionary, and drug kingpin who spends half his time dodging assassination attempts from the US and Britain because he refuses to go along with their plans for South American politics. Turns out that he was actually put in a machine that made copies of him and the original died a while ago. It isn't made clear whether he chose this or not.
  • Kenzo Tenma in Monster ultimately counts as an aversion. It looks like he is being set up for this when he chooses to treat an injured child instead of the Mayor, who dies while being treated by less talented surgeons, but then his superiors died mysteriously, at the hands of the very psychopathic child Tenma had treated leaving Tenma clear to advance his career. After that he does choose to play it straight and leaves the better job to follow what he feels is a moral obligation.
  • Jin from Samurai Champloo has most elements of this. Believing in the purity of martial arts, he objected to his sensei's plan to work with Kagetoki Kariya, the Shogun's chief assassin, knowing that it would result in the entire school being forced to become assassins as well. For this defiance Kariya ordered Jin's master to kill him, but Jin won the fight. Despite this, Jin never revealed the reason behind their duel, taking the blame for what happened rather than allowing his master's reputation to be stained. Later, despite wandering Japan aimlessly living as a near penniless Rōnin, he refuses to work for the corrupt lords of Japan because of their evil ways and in one case we even see him mouth off about it to that lord's face.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Roy Mustang presents himself as an inversion, a loyal kiss-up who will do anything to gain favor with the system and be promoted. Eventually however we learn that in truth Mustang is an Internal Reformist who was disgusted by the horrors and slaughter he participated in during the Ishval War. As a result he wants to gain control of the military dictatorship, topple it, and reform it forever even though the military is the only thing shielding Mustang and numerous other soldiers and officers from being tried for war crimes. In fact, it's specifically said that Roy wants to be put on trial for his part in things. And regardless of the personal dangers, the attempts to isolate, bribe, or coerce him, nothing can stop Roy from working towards his goal.
    • Also played straight with Alex Louis Armstrong. Fuhrer Bradley tells Armstrong that he's never promoted because he refuses to follow orders completely. More specifically, he refuses to kill blindly and indiscriminately just because those are his orders. Both in the show's present and in the flashbacks to the Ishval War, Armstrong has either attempted to show mercy to his enemies or help Ishvalan civilians.
  • Cowboy Bebop: Jet Black's refusal to turn Dirty Cop or at least ease up on the syndicates running Ganymede resulted in him being ambushed and nearly killed. At the hands of his own partner, who was working with one of said syndicates, no less. This is paralleled in "Black Dog Serenade" by Udai Taxim, the main (apparent) antagonist of the episode, who tries to hook up with his old syndicate after escaping prison and is outright rejected by them, who state that times have changed; the final confrontation between the two is essentially settling a score between two people from a bygone era who've been struggling to live in the present one.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes - Yang Wen-Li is the greatest military genius to be born since Genghis Khan conquered Eurasia, is loyal to a fault toward his country and politically savvy enough to know what the Free Planets Alliance should do to ensure its perenity and prosperity for a few generation at least and probably the nicest guy of The 'Verse. Because of this, a lot of corrupt officials in the alliance fear and hate him, knowing that he would easily beat them should he decide to quit the army and run against them in an election. Fortunately for his rival Reinhart von Lohengram, Yang is so devoid of ambition that he passes every opportunity to gain political power, unwittingly giving Reinhart the opportunity to conquer the Free Planet Alliance.
  • Kotetsu from Tiger & Bunny is an idealistic hero who thinks that saving people is more important than scoring points...or worrying about collateral damage. His lack of respect from his superiors, his peers, and the general public is a Running Gag in the first season.
  • In the anime/manga of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Narsus is a source of unease back in his days in Andragoras's court, being the first and only noble to speak of abolishing slavery, which provides the backbone of Pars' economy. Thus, many traditional nobles supporting Arslan are uncomfortable with his ideals and jealous of his close presence with the prince. So despite serving as Arslan's de facto chancellor since the beginning, Narsus hands over the position (for now) to another noble. After all, his "official commission" from Arslan is "Court Painter".
  • Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai provides an example of this with Mai, the main female character. She used to be a popular child actress, but after her trauma fame and money didn't matter anymore to Mai. She made it clear that she was not willing to do any commercials that put her in swimsuit type clothing. When her mom did so anyway, she felt betrayed, used by her only for easy money, and quit immediately afterward. She felt extremely uncomfortable about showing off her body when she was just a middle schooler, yet her mother went over her head and forced her to do it for the money anyway. She values her integrity over advancing her career, and so she takes a hiatus; her mother had no qualms using her as a tool and forcing her to pose in a swimsuit when she was a very young girl, so she changes the company she works for instead of making easy money.

    Comic Books 
  • Preacher:
    • Minor character Colonel Holden. His response to Herr Starr when Starr chews him out and tells him to shut up and follow orders if he ever wants to get promoted past colonel is the very essence of this trope.
    I know how to get ahead, mister. And I know damn well I will never rise higher than colonel, because I do not and by God will not kiss the requisite amount of ass.
    • Main character Jesse Custer himself could count as an example, as he has a tendency to royally piss off people in power and defy them over idealistic points, up to and including God Himself, who Jesse chases down and tells off for being irresponsible and abandoning Heaven. Later in the series we see his integrity making him solve problems the hard way instead of just using his handy Word of God power to get himself out of the situations he gets himself into.
  • The Losers has supporting character Agent Stegler, a CIA agent who is an experienced field agent that has been reassigned to a desk job that he hates due to his unpopular opinions on what the agency should be doing, and his objection to young agents doing crappy work and just using their jobs as a networking opportunity to get in with corrupt private companies. (At one point some younger agents even ask why Stegler seems to be unable to get the point that his reassignment was an obvious attempt to get him to resign.)
  • John Hartigan, the last honest cop in Sin City, until he is framed and sent to prison for refusing to let the son of a senator rape a little girl.
  • Young Gordon in Batman: Year One. Commissioner Loeb and Det. Flass try to break him, Gordon turns it back on them.
  • Robin: While Gordon has done a lot to clean up the GCPD by the time the title starts there are still plenty of horrifically corrupt cops on the force who have managed to avoid prison time or other punishments due to the city's mess of a judicial system and the unions preventing them from being fired. Jamie, as a new cop without any connections, is harassed by the old guard as they try to force her to let them do things as they want and her refusal to back down has her nearly killed in the locker room at one point.
  • Peter Parker from Spiderman, as the CEO of his own company, could focus on financial gain. He instead chooses to focus on the betterment of mankind (and limits his salary to compensate for the resulting low profits).

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Phantom Menace: Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn was allegedly never chosen to join the Jedi Council because of his unorthodox views, and his questioning of/refusal to just go along with the council's views and decisions.
  • Captain Gordon from Godzilla: Final Wars. When the Earth Defense Force is infiltrated at the command level, the soldiers nonetheless implicitly trust Gordon, who would never become "one of them."
  • In The Untouchables (1987), when Eliot Ness asks Malone why he's still a beat cop at his age, the latter answers that he's one of the few policemen in Chicago who isn't on the take.
  • In Batman Begins, Lucius Fox was shifted away to the Applied Sciences division for making too much trouble for the Wayne Industries Board of Directors. At the end of the movie, he becomes CEO of the company.
    • In the unproduced Batman: Year One film reboot by Darren Aronofsky, Lieutenant Jim Gordon fulfills this role. Gordon is (quite literally) one of the only two notable cops (the other a newly-hired desk jockey) who refuses to accept the drug money kickbacks and corruption that permeate the Gotham City Police Department, to the point that he is kept on crap assignments and as far out of the way as possible by Commissioner Loeb.
  • Twin Sisters of Kyoto: Takashiro has a business designing kimonos. He scorns the post-war Japanese fad for bright, flashy kimonos with intricate patterns, preferring more traditionalist, simple designs. As a result, his business is not doing very well.
  • In Soul Kitchen, a chef gets fired for declining to cook food that is not up to his high standards (warm gazpacho soup, namely).
  • One of the most extreme cases of this trope is the film, Hive Mind (2009), where the main character's sticking to his standards have made him the last unassimilated human in a post-apocalyptic future. Interestingly, he literally was a DJ in his younger years.
  • In TRON: Legacy, the boardroom scene heavily implied that this became the case for Alan Bradley, who questioned the rest of the executives on their improvements to the new operating system, and got "we put a twelve on the box" in response.
    • The first film had the same for Walter Gibbs, who was essentially locked out of his own company for protesting Dillinger's shoddy treatments of programmers and lockdown of data through the system. His counterpart, Dumont, was almost a literal case, operating the last free I/O Tower on the System in defiance of Master Control.
  • Heartbreak Ridge brings us Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, who's still "just" a Gunnery Sergeant despite rapidly approaching the mandatory retirement age. His semi-regular bouts of insubordination, public drunkenness, fighting with civilians and police (usually because of public drunkenness), and hard-headed dedication to the "old ways" of the Marine Corps are just enough to keep him from getting promoted, but not quite enough to get him discharged. By sheer accident, he happens to use these skills to turn an under-performing recon squad into a competent and savvy military unit just in time for the invasion of Grenada and are an instrumental part of an early victory, while the more "modern" and "elite" units headed by a number-crunching desk-jockey have barely advanced past the initial beach-head.
  • With the North Norfolk Digital station being rebranded as "Shape" and old timers like Pat Farrell being fired, Alan likes to think of himself as this in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. He's not, in that he has next to no integrity whatsoever, but he likes to think he is.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: When Jeff starts getting wise to the corruption in his state, Taylor offers him a lifetime job as a senator if he cooperates. When Jeff refuses, Taylor conspires to have Smith expelled, prompting one of the best filibusters in film history...
    • Smith's father was also this, using his newspaper to fight against a criminal syndicate. It ended with him getting a bullet in the back.
  • Embrace of the Serpent: Karamakate is a shaman in the Amazon rain forest in the early 20th century. He is fighting a rearguard battle against the forces of imperialism, guarding his tribe's secrets, refusing to allow the mystical yakruna plant to be used for profit or war. He looks down on Manduca for working for a white man and scorns white men like Theo and Evan for being attached to material things.
  • Model Shop: George's problem. He's an unemployed, broke architect he's fixated on grand creative architectural work and can't lower his standards enough to get a paying job designing, say, an office building. Similarly, when Gloria's excited at the prospect of getting a part in a soap commercial that's going to involve her clad in nothing but suds, George sneers that other actresses get their starts doing Shakespeare.
  • Top Gun: Maverick makes Maverick himself one of these. While other pilots of his generation like Iceman became admirals or retired, he is still a mere captain because he just can't leave the cockpit. He is also thought by others to be among the last generation of fighter pilots because drones are slowly taking over. There is an obvious parallel with Tom Cruise and his insistence on doing real action instead of CGI.
  • Footnote: Eliezer, a Talmudic scholar, dislikes everyone else involved in Talmudic Studies in latter days, regarding all their work as "superficial". He regards his own highly technical, meticulous analysis of Talmudic texts as superior to anyone who actually tries to derive knowledge of the past. His interview about the Israel Prize leads Eliezer to call recent Talmudic research as "folklore", including that of his own son Uriel, who writes bestselling popular histories. As a teacher, Eliezer is stubborn enough to teach a course that has only one student in it.

  • Discworld:
    • Captain Vimes in Guards! Guards! felt that he was in this situation. In his own words: "Every time he seemed to be getting anywhere he spoke his mind, or said the wrong thing. Usually at the same time."

      However, this has become inverted as the series progresses, as Vimes is repeatedly promoted and ennobled against his wishes, having to be coerced into accepting by the Patrician. Vetinari likes having a powerful person who won't play the game; it keeps the people who are playing it worried. The ultimate example is probably the end of Feet of Clay where, much to Vimes's own bewilderment, Vetinari gives him a pay rise for upsetting everyone important in the city, and bursting into a council meeting with an axe. Vetinari muses in one book that having an authority figure who is so staunchly anti-authoritarian is "practically zen".
    • Vetinari himself holds the unique position of being this trope, in a position of power. Vetinari believes in only as much authority as absolutely necessary; since this is far less authority than many influential people think is natural (and especially far less than they think should naturally be held by them), they'd love to be rid of him. But at the same time, he's managed to get the city working far better than any of the previous patricians, and he's the only one who knows the language the instruction manual is written in; in other words, he's made himself not just effective, but necessary, which (as is noted with some frequency) has far better staying power than being feared, and thus puts him leagues ahead of Machiavelli by just about every metric.
  • Eva Wolfe from the Burke series by Andrew Vachss was fired from her job as the head of City-wide Special Victims for refusing to "go along to get along", in the form of giving a pedophile a merciful deal.
  • Vorkosigan Saga - Aral Vorkosigan, in his depressive phases. After his almost-bloodless conquest of the planet of Komarr, he first killed his Political Officer bare-handed for ordering the Solstice Massacre, and got busted from Admiral back to Captain and Reassigned to Antarctica. It didn't stick.
  • Sir Sparhawk, the protagonist of David Eddings' The Elenium series, originally held the hereditary position of Champion of the Royal House of Elenia... but when the king was corrupted by his sister and a greedy Primate, Sparhawk refused to just go along with things. He was then forced to take on the position of glorified nursemaid for the young princess Ehlana, in hopes that he'd resign his position in humiliation. Instead, he proceeded to raise her into a brilliant ruler. The king finally exiled Sparhawk, sending him to keep an eye on the heretics, in the middle of the desert half a world away. Years later, once the king has died and he is allowed to return, her Decadent Court quickly finds that he is not only as incorruptible as ever, but now also on very friendly terms with the highest power in the kingdom. Not to mention well-armed and more than willing to prove it to anyone who impugns the honor of his wife the Queen Elhana, or himself.
    • His father, also named Sparhawk, was the reason King Aldreas could not marry his sister. The incorruptibility of the Sparhawk line was legendary.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Lieutenant Karrin Murphy was transferred to Special Investigations specifically because she wouldn't shut up about inconvenient facts. This also results in her getting demoted later, when her absence during an investigation got her in serious trouble. She couldn't exactly tell her boss she was helping a wizard storm the Winter Queen's castle to rescue a teenage girl, now, could she? And in the book Changes, she is fired (but with retirement pay, thanks to her boss at SI fighting for her) after disappearing for a while in order to help Harry save his recently-discovered daughter.
    • In Battle Ground, Harry Dresden becomes this himself when his refusal to play ball with the White Council's Lawful Stupid rules finally gets him cast out while his two strongest advocates on the Senior Council are incapacitated following the events of the book. When Harry is told this, and also told that he'll have to submit to random inspections or be executed, Harry tells them to get bent.
  • Snow Crash - Hiro Protagonist, last freelance hacker. He is aggressively sought after by at least one software firm willing to pay top dollar for his skills, but working for them would require wearing a tie and showing up to work in the morning. Hiro finds these conditions to be dealbreakers and remains unaffiliated.
  • Harry Drinkwater from Allen Steele's Lunar Descent. He obeys all FCC regulations to the letter, yet manages to get fired from every DJ position he's ever held.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Ministry of Magic treats Dumbledore like this in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Later books reveal that Dumbledore is partly this trope by choice because, after his tragic history with Grindelwald, he fears that political authority would be too big of a temptation for the Manipulative Bastard side of his personality. It does, however, have the unfortunate side-effect of making the Ministry reluctant to believe him when it really counts.
  • Morgan and Duncan are treated this way by the Camberian Council in the Deryni novels. They are skilled and heroically loyal to their king (mentoring him in his youth despite efforts to stop them), they even rediscovered the Healing ability thought lost for two centuries, yet they are repeatedly dissed by the Council for being rogue half-breeds. The Council even votes to make them liable to arcane challenge just when reactionary clergy are out to get them and there's an invasion in the offing. They get the chance to confront the Council directly once, and Morgan seizes it:
    "Do you presume to question our authority?" Coram asked carefully.
    "I question your authority to place our lives in jeopardy for circumstances which are outside our control, sir" Morgan replied. Coram sat back and nodded slowly as Morgan continued. "I do not pretend to understand all the ramifications of my inheritance, but His Majesty will assure you, I think, that I have a fair idea what justice is about. If you shut us out from the protection of our birthright, and force us to stand against full Deryni who are formally trained in the use of their powers, it may be that you decree our deaths. Surely we have done nothing to warrant that."
    • The Council's antipathy continues for years after this; they hold Morgan and Duncan responsible for Kelson's reluctance to accept their guidance (rather than considering their own actions may be the cause), and many of them deplore the very notion that either Morgan or Duncan could have enough merit to join their number. It's fortunate that they have another, more understanding boss in their king.
  • Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, which is essentially the whole point of the book.
  • Detective Rivera, a character who shows up in many of Christopher Moore's San Francisco based books, is described in one of the books from the Bloodsucking Fiends series as a good cop who, "In 25 years on the force had never taken a bribe, never used excessive force, and never done special favors for powerful people. (Which was why he was still just a detective)".
  • This is essentially what happens to Violet in Feed (2002), except without the "world renowned skills" part. Because of her active refusal to conform and be a mindless Feed user like many other teenagers she rebels and basically tries to troll the Feed company. Unfortunately, because she never expressed interests that would make her needs marketable, no company is willing to invest in saving her.
  • In the Elemental Logic series, Supreme Chef Garland deserted the Sainnite army because the General ordered him to cook badly, which he was completely unwilling to do.
  • A more literal DJ example in The Stand is Ray Flowers (played by Kathy Bates in the miniseries). It ends badly.
  • Rick Rickenharp's last guerrilla electric guitar solo atop the Eiffel Tower in Fascist-occupied future Paris provides the eponymous title of John Shirley's cyperpunkish trilogy, "A Song Called Youth", currently indexed here as Eclipse Trilogy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Treme has Davis, a quite literal embodiment of this trope. He gets fired from the last "real" DJ position at WOL for blessing their "soulless" post Katrina digs with a voodoo ritual. He then proceeds to make several different short careers out of refusing to keep his mouth shut.
  • House is the embodiment of this trope. So we have a drug addict who pries into others' lives, even going so far as using breaking and entry or mind games to get what he wants. His co-workers hate him for his surly temperament and cavalier attitude. His students hate him for being vicious, demanding and very unforgiving. His boss hates him for all the laws he keeps breaking and the many patient complaints about his attitude. The thousands of people he has saved, however, call him a miracle worker and adore him for saving them. He's a doctor and is unafraid to do these things because he values saving human lives above all else and refuses to compromise even in the face of modern medical laws.
  • The Purge: When supporting character Pete was still a cop, he fought hard against the pro-Purge attitude of his superiors and most of his rank-and-file colleagues and tried to limit the slaughter of the lower class. He stopped other cops from engaging in Knight Templar Vigilante Man activity on Purge night and tried to build a case against the leader of a Scam Religion who was tricking people like Penelope into letting themselves be murdered on Purge night. Eventually, however, he left the police force and chose to oppose the Purge in other ways.
  • Scrubs has Dr. Cox, whose stubborn idealism makes him a near perfect example of this. In a very early episode, Dr. Cox is criticized for this by a former chief of medicine and mentor.
    Dr. Benson: You don't think, Perry. You're such a talented doctor. If you would play the game even a little, you'd be in a position where you could change things around here. But you're too stubborn for that aren't ya?
    • Later episodes go on to continue deconstructing this. For example, patients impressed by Dr. Cox and familiar with the hospital's power structure wonder how Dr. Cox can only be an Attending Physician and not higher up the chain of command. Cox's therapist tries to get him to confront his self-sabotaging tendencies, basically contending that Cox lies to himself by pretending that those tendencies are idealism and staying honest rather than self-loathing. At one point when Cox criticizes his Hero-Worshipper JD for playing the game and scoring brownie points with Dr. Kelso, JD responds by saying "Look, I wanna be like you...but a more successful you. There's nothing wrong with playing the game once in a while." Even Dr. Cox himself shows that he realizes what a toll his behavior takes on his life. In one episode JD blows off a date to work late in an attempt to imitate Dr. Cox. When Cox learns about this he berates JD and gives the younger man some food for thought by saying "Are you trying to be like me? Newbie — don't you realize that I just barely want to be like me?" It finally pays off for Cox in the show's last season, when he becomes Chief Of Medicine after Dr. Kelso's retirement and several other would-be Chiefs flop at the job. Even that has its downside, however, as Cox becomes so bogged down with paperwork that he barely has any face time with his beloved patients — or even his son — just like he was worried about.
  • The Wire has a few examples. Jimmy McNulty constantly flouts the chain of command and makes cases against the department's political interests, enraging his superior officers. He is eventually transferred to the Marine Unit, but comes back, then becomes a beat cop and eventually is forced to retire for going too far. Lester Freamon is also a great detective, but was busted down to the Pawnshop unit for going against the Deputy Commissioner, where he stayed for over 13 years and four months before getting back into real police work.
    • Michael is a very talented young drug dealer and hitman for Marlo Stanfield's crew, but he becomes increasingly disturbed by Marlo's tendency to kill anyone who challenges his authority, and his willingness to murder entire families. He starts to speak out against it to other members of the crew, and Marlo eventually orders Snoop to kill him. Michael kills her instead, however, and he becomes a stick-up artist.
    • Gus Haynes, the City Desk Editor for the Baltimore Sun is another example. He seems to be the only one who still values journalistic integrity and the proper process while everyone else keeps their head down to avoid being laid off or actively games the system.
    • Cedric Daniels is slightly more willing to "play the game" than McNulty, but always chooses proper police work over good-looking statistics. His main obstacle is an unspecified past corruption charge that his superiors like to menacingly bring up whenever he goes too far. He eventually rises to Police Commissioner, and promptly resigns rather than start juking the stats like his predecessors.
  • Dr. Johnny Fever, a DJ from WKRP in Cincinnati. A former successful DJ in Los Angeles, he was fired for saying "booger" on the air in The '70s. Something of a burnout, he still refused to play songs from the station's Top 40 play list.
  • The Last Detective features 'Dangerous' Davies, who, despite his obvious brilliance, is always the.. well...
  • Star Trek - There are many subversions where Starfleet actually tends to promote its mavericks, sometimes intentionally to give them cushy desk jobs as Admirals where they can't cause trouble. It's the heroes who just don't want to accept.
    • Commander Riker who holds the record for most turned-down promotions. And of course, you had Admiral Kirk who got himself demoted back to Captain, some would think on purpose.
    • It turns out that Riker actually got his posting to the Enterprise-D directly because of an episode of this: The tie-breaker for Captain Picard was a letter of reprimand in Will's personnel file for "insurbordination", which on closer inspection turned out to be telling a superior officer what they needed to hear instead of what they wanted to hear.
    • Odo was a rare Reasonable Authority Figure during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. Although, despite the Bajoran government hailing him as a bright spot of reason and compassion, not even his hands are clean. Starfleet gets so fed up with Odo's unwillingness to play by their rules that they assign their own security officer to the station. This goes horribly wrong for the station when this officer turns out to be a traitor.
    • Mariner is an even more extreme example, as she still serves as an ensign despite the fact that one of her fellow academy grads is already a Captain. She's been in Starfleet for a surprisingly long time, and it's implied she's been both promoted and demoted several times. She's got a strong sense of her own convictions and is extremely competent when she applies herself, but her laziness when she doesn't care and a general disdain for authority have severely limited her career advancement (which is a state she seems perfectly content with).
  • Lt. Col. John Sheppard from Stargate Atlantis said a lot of people never thought he'd make it past Captain, due to his tendency for insubordination. But as Elizabeth Weir reminded General Jack O'Neill, it ain't like Sheppard was alone in that regard...
  • Grissom from CSI qualifies in spades. In fact this is arguably the central theme of the show; pretty much every member of the night shift is like this — they're good at the job, but not good at playing office politics. Ecklie, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.
    • Ecklie himself zigzags this trope. When he actually fulfills his ambitions and realizes that the night shift crew isn't competition for advancement, he actually uses his office politics skills to help the team. When Nick is kidnapped, Ecklie quickly gets some money out of CSI's budget for the ransom, he keeps the press and the politicians focused on him so the night shift crew can focus on their jobs, and it's implied his skills at kissing the asses of the politicians who control the city budget ensure that CSI stays well-financed.
  • The Last DJ was done very literally on Cupid (2009).
  • The protagonists of many British drama series are like this, including Inspector Morse, The Last Detective, and Rumpole of the Bailey.
  • NCIS: Jenny Shepherd on why Gibbs isn't Director: "Jethro's a great field agent. He's a great team leader. And he deals more efficiently with difficult politicians than I do." "Then why isn't he the..." "He shoots them."
    • And, indeed, when we see him as Acting Director in one episode where Jenny's out, Gibbs is incredibly maverick and winds up getting involved in field work, despite being the director and having people who could do that for him.
  • The premise of The Good Guys is based on this. Dan and Jack both pissed of their superiors but cannot be fired so they are relegated to investigating property crimes (petty thefts and vandalism). Dan disdains police procedures and disrespects his superiors but is a hero cop with his own TV movie. Jack in turn is a by-the-book cop who is so straitlaced that he once corrected the police chief's grammar at a public event.
  • Babylon 5 has several cases that are at least alluded to. Dr. Stephen Franklin is the most orthodox one: when the war with the Minbari was going very, very badly for Earth, he and other xenobiologists were called on to create biological weapons to combat the Minbari. He refused, and destroyed his notes so no one else could use them, and promptly spent most of the war in a jail cell as a result. In the pilot, the station's initial Number Two describes being stuck in a position where the only way to get promoted was to pay for it, which she refused to do. Had the actress stuck around past the pilot, she would have been uncovered as The Mole, making her claims seem a tad less righteous—though it's implied that she would been revealed as a Manchurian Agent like Talia eventually was.
  • In New Tricks, this is where Gerry Standing got his nickname (Last Man Standing) from. A mob boss gave it to him in a mocking manner, since he was the only officer who refused to take bribes (and thus the one who took the blame for everything).
  • Captain Furillo of Hill Street Blues shows these tendencies; Season 1 ends with him losing his shot at a promotion to Divisional Commander by dropping a well-connected senior City official in the ordure because the guy was seeing an underage hooker. (This was the early Eighties.)
  • Lieutenant Giardello from Homicide: Life on the Street is a holdover from the old guard of the BPD, which has been slowly forced out by the new, politically minded brass who know nothing about good police work and frequently cut corners, disgusting the hardworking and diligent Giardello. It's deconstructed later on, as Giardello comes from an age where cops could get away with corruption and flat-out murder, making him tolerant of police brutality and corruption to an almost criminally negligent degree.

  • The Trope Namer is the song "The Last DJ" by Tom Petty, quoted above. Over the course of the song the titular DJ gets pushed out of the industry for his refusal to play mediocre music, until he winds up playing a station in Mexico. The song is about Jim Ladd, widely regarded as a hero of Broadcasting in the United States and the last free-form rock announcer-programmer on mainstream radio.
  • And before Petty, folk singer Mike Agranoff wrote "The Ballad of the Sandman."
  • The title track of Donald Fagen's first solo album, The Nightfly, is sung in-character as this sort of DJ — "An independent station, WJAZ, with jazz and conversation, from the foot of Mt. Belzoni. Sweet music! Tonight the night is mine — late line 'til the sun comes through the skylight"
  • Gorillaz uses this metaphor in the song "Hong Kong", a rumination on the ever-changing namesake city-state, alluding to the anxiety surrounding the increasing political approach of China in the 2000's, including fears over the loss of personal freedom.
    The radio station disappears
    Music turned into thin air
    The DJ was the last to leave
    She had well conditioned hair
    Was beautiful, but nothing really was there

    Tabletop Games 
  • Princess: The Hopeful: This is a common occurence for Troubadours of Tears. Troubadours are the Princesses Called to provide inspiration and provoke thought, and the Court of Tears' reigning ethos is depression and obedience. Unwilling to give its Troubadours the freedom to pursue their actual Calling, Tears ends up using them primarily as squishier faux-Champions.


    Video Games 
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin: Captain Brenner/O'Brian. He and his battalion focus on rescuing as many people in the ruined world, protecting them from bandits and warmongers, and only fights in the name of peace. His superiors and peers from the New Rubinelle/Laurentian Army don't share his way of thinking at all, which ultimately gets Brenner/O'Brian killed. Luckily, he was training a new DJ.
  • Final Fantasy X: Going by the flashback scene in a recording sphere, Auron could also fit into this before embarking on the pilgrimage with Braska. A promising Warrior Monk within the theocratic church and a true believer, Auron's career was blacklisted and at least one promotion that was meant for him went to others after he refused to marry the daughter of a high priest.
  • Ace Combat:
    • Captain Bartlett from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. "Why do they even bother reprimanding me anymore? I know I'm gonna be stuck at Captain forever." He's too much attitude to promote, but too much skill and reputation to just court martial.
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has a variation with the Schnee Squadron leader Erich Hillenberand, known behind the scenes as "The Eternal 2nd Lieutenant" because he didn't particularly have any interest in awards or promotions, since they would have taken him out of the cockpit where he felt he belonged.
  • Max Payne — Max is something of a Cowboy Cop, and often disregards proper procedure in favour of following leads and going after perps. By the third game, this (and his excessive drinking problem) have gotten him drummed out of the police force, albeit with a full pension.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Subverted and parodied — Lazlow thinks that he's this, but is really just an arrogant, egotistical jerkass who doesn't realize that he's no longer relevant, with most people treating him as a joke.
  • Junichiro Tokuoka from the .hack franchise was an eccentric, almost-worshiped director for The World's Japanese localization. After The World hit the jackpot, he was discarded by CC Corp because of his behavior and how it conflicted with the executives.
  • The Tales Series has a few examples.
    • In Tales of Destiny 2, we have a villainous example in Barbatos, a warrior in the ancient war. This guy loved being a soldier and loved fighting so much that he became an excessive Blood Knight that just massacred everything in his path. He became such a headache to deal with that his name was stricken from the history books as a final punishment after his death.
    • In Tales of Symphonia, Yuan qualifies. As the only member of a group of legendary heroes who fought for peace and became Fallen Heroes in the process, he opted to work against Cruxis because he felt they were drifting away from Martel's ideals. Unfortunately, his resentment at how things have become has turned him into a huge Jerkass and a nasty Control Freak Chessmaster who's more on his side than that of the heroes.
    • In Tales of the Abyss, Big Brother Mentor Van is this. The entire world is hooked on a prophecy known as the Score, which predicts everything from when people will live and die to what they will eat for breakfast and he is part of a Church Militant organisation that protects and preserves it. When he learned that the Score's keepers foretold the destruction of his homeland and did nothing to stop it because that's how destiny was going to work out anyway, he didn't take it well. As such, even though nearly every member of the religion he serves wants to continue preserving the Score, he wants to actively subvert it, a desire that becomes his Start of Darkness.
    • In Tales of Vesperia, it's clear that The Hero Yuri Lowell saw himself as this - being someone who quit the Knights because he didn't feel that they were doing enough to protect the people. The prequel move, The First Strike however, reveals that he's actually an Unreliable Narrator. He was only with the Knights for a few months and, of the people he worked with, the majority of them were actually good folks trying to do right. His Rival Flynn later calls him out on this in the game itself, stating that despite all of Yuri's posturing about how bad the Knights supposedly are that his Vigilante Man actions haven't changed or improved things in the slightest.
  • In Last Scenario, Felgorn is a failed example. He tried to be a shining force for goodness and justice in The Empire despite all of the problems in the world but one too many people with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder using him for this, that, and the other scheme turned him into a tired Punch-Clock Villain. Castor is another example, being a Last DJ who was so rebellious that they ended up betraying everyone and becoming the villain.
  • From the same developer, Daniel of Exit Fate is this to a fault. This works against him big time because even the slightest thing he does that's even a little out-of-line is used as "evidence" of his supposed treason in a Kangaroo Court midway through the game.
  • In The Spectrum Retreat, Cameron Worrall is the only member of Spectrum's management left with any moral integrity, and mentions that the only reason they retain their job is because their pet project, the Penrose, was a massive success. They still get the boot in the end.

    Web Comics 
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The angels are described as living nuclear explosions, contained in ceramic shells forged for them by humans millennia ago. The bodies were given to them in the Angelic Compact, an agreement where the angels would enforce the Law in Heaven. But as the gods died and Heaven began to rot, fewer and fewer angels cared about the Law any more. By the time the story starts, the vast majority of angels don't even bother to take bodies, and those that do are almost exclusively Thorns, insane angels who love nothing more than killing the humans who have corrupted Heaven. The only angel we see who still holds to the Law is 82 White Chain Born in Emptiness Returns to Subdue Evil, who is constantly mocked by everyone and everything they encounter.

    Web Original 
  • The internet folk tale The Story of Mel tells of a legendary programmer in the very early days of computing who is asked to do something unethical by the Big Boss. Mel refuses, and the story is told from the perspective of a junior programmer trying to understand Mel's code and make it do what the bosses ask. In the end he doesn't do it, telling the Big Boss it's impossible, but telling the audience he 'didn't feel comfortable hacking up the code of a Real Programmer.'
    • Truth in Television: Mel is now thought to have been Mel Kaye, who worked on drum memory computers at Royal McBee in the late 50s.
  • Deconstructed and defied by CGP Grey in "The Rules for Rulers". Trying to be an "honest" leader, whether in a democracy or dictatorship, means you risk losing power at the hands of several powerful interests by not giving them a share of the wealth you control. Corruption isn't just a petty crime, it's a tool designed for gaining and maintaining power. But even after explaining the harsh realities of politics, the viewer is told that while the political game is hard and brutal, not engaging means you can't change a thing.

    Western Animation 
  • Bones Justice, the main character of Mutant League, refuses to join any team owned by Zalgor Prigg, mostly because the latter resorts to any means possible to win a game. Bones, instead, joins the cheapest and most ridiculed team in the series, and also lives by a creed instilled by his father that goes by always playing fair, no matter the odds.
  • The main reason Optimus Prime in Transformers: Animated is stuck leading a glorified repair crew is that he won't kiss ass and toe the line like Sentinel Prime does. Most obviously presented when Optimus refuses to cave in and lie about the presence of Decepticons on Earth, even though Sentinel threatens to have him locked away for "inciting panic".
  • In the Regular Show episode "K.I.L.L.I.T. Radio", the gang try to get the DJ of the titular station to play a song for Muscle Man's girlfriend Starla. They discover that the DJ is the only human left at the station, which had been completely automated. The DJ isn't even a DJ anymore, but a repairman maintaining the machines that run the station. With the gang's help, the DJ defeats the machines and broadcasts the song.
  • The Bob's Burgers episode "Long Time Listener, First Time Bob" offers a literal example. Bob is a long-time fan of local disk jockey Clem Clements, who was fired for talking too much, playing music he liked instead of what he was told to play, and generally being too proud to compromise with his bosses. When Bob and his kids discover that Clem has been reduced to working at a local bowling alley, they try to get him re-hired, but Hilarity Ensues when Clem takes over the radio station.
  • The Owl House's Eda the Owl Lady see herself as this while being a Deconstruction of this trope: part of being a witch is to align oneself with one of the many covens but their members are restricted to one type of magic. Eda is completely against this type of broken system and chooses to work alone, resisting any attempt to make her a member. The end result, however, is she's living in squalor, hocks human junk as treasure, and the Boiling Islands' government has marked her as a wanted fugitive (both for refusing a coven and for various forms of fraud).
  • The Monarch in The Venture Bros. lives in a universe where the "hero and villain" roles have been codified into little more than expensive LARPing with costumes and lasers. Most villains treat "arching" as a scheduled arrangement brought on by their Weird Trade Union, and bear little real hatred for their nemesis, who are frequently assigned to them by tryout sessions or bureaucracy—some go so far as to delegate it to villains working under them. However, the Monarch stands out for genuinely despising Rusty Venture, and sticks to antagonizing him even at great personal risk and cost to himself. A recurring idea in the show is him butting heads with the idea of what the Guild expects of its villains versus what he actually wants to do, with him frequently worming his way through regulations to go back to arching Rusty.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Last Honest Guy In The Biz, Will Never Be A Company Man, Principles Over Promotion, Last DJ


Bob Meets Clem Clements

The Belchers meet Bob's favorite radio DJ and learns why he's not on the radio anymore.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheLastDJ

Media sources: