The Man is a much less specific villain than The Syndicate or the Ancient Conspiracy, a personification of establishment itself, even if no one person or organization makes up that establishment. You've heard of him. He controls everything. Emperors, ancient conspiracies, gods, Absurdly Powerful Student Councils. They are all under his control according to the resident New-Age Retro Hippie.
This trope does not refer to any man, it refers to the Man. Often, this is just a stand-in for capitalism and its many contradictions that benefit only a certain few.
It can overlap with The Man Is Keeping Us Down and The Man Is Sticking It to the Man. Rarely involves The Man Behind the Man, unless the said person was made explictly clear to be the one who created the personification of establishment on the first place.
- Excel Saga had "That Man", the actual leader of ACROSS, instead of Il Palazzo, who was more of an Evil Overlord.
- The 2011 revival of Kinnikuman introduced The Man, also known as the Merciful God, who handpicked a number of Chojin to become the first Perfect Chojin. His many disguises include Chojin Enma and Strong the Budo.
- In No Hero, Carrick Masterson had been able to control the world since the sixties. He was responsible for having Nixon only stay one term in office, the Great Iran Oil Fire, and the destruction of South Africa.
- Max in The Losers.
- The kids in Bryan Lee O'Malley's Lost at Sea decided to head for another diner when they couldn't find a Wendy's, because "sometimes it's good to give your money to somone other than The Man". Cue laughter.
- The second issue of the Black Dynamite comic sees the titular hero taken in and offered a job by a bald (white) individual who, when asked who he was, answered "I am The Man". More specifically, The Man is the representative of the Illuminati, the (predominantly white) elite who secretly run the world.
- Used as a Black Comedy joke in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.
- The Big Bad in Undercover Brother, who only appears at the end.
- Jack Black's character in School of Rock rambles about The Man, prompting the kids to stick it to The Man. This leads to one of the kids telling the principal that "[she's] the Man." She thinks it's a compliment.
- Captain Industry, the Big Bad of Defendor. Subverted, though, as in reality he doesn't actually exist, the protagonist confused a comment about his mother being "killed by the captains of industry" for his mother being "killed by Captain Industry."
- The unseen Man in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, who personally orders the hit on the titular character.
- Eddie from Super Fly blames The Man for the existence of the drug trade that he and Priest are enmeshed in.
"I know it's a rotten game. It's the only one The Man left us to play."
- One of Cao Cao's official titles was "The Man".
- In A Calculated Magic by Robert Weinberg, protagonist Jack Collins poses as an agent of The Man, who is a very real figure of modern origin among the living legendary and mythological beings that populate the Logical Magician series of novels.
- The infamous "Big Brother" in George Orwell's 1984.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest describes a mechanised Mind-Control Conspiracy called the "Combine" to represent society's ubiquitous systems of conformity and control. The Combine's chief representative in the story is not a man but a woman — specifically, Big Nurse Ratched.
- Walker from Simon R. Green's Nightside books. At the end of The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny, John Taylor is maneuvered into taking his place.
- Randall Flagg is the source of all evil in the books by Stephen King. Any truly evil enterprise is linked to him in some way.
- Present in Unbuilt Trope form in 1922 novel One of Ours, as Claude's progressive friend Gladys ruminates on the sort of people who run the world.
She believed that all things which might make the world beautifullove and kindness, leisure and artwere shut up in prison, and that successful men like Bayliss Wheeler held the keys.
- Barney Miller: In "The Harris Incident", Detective Harris is enraged when two NYPD beat cops arrive at the scene of a robbery, take him for the armed robber because he is black, and shoot at him. He gets a lot angrier when Barney tells him that nothing will happen to the two cops right away, that Barney will file a report and things will go "by the book".
Harris: [screaming] You mean the book written by the man?
- In Living Color!: Homey the Clown pretended to sell out just to get close to the Man and whack him on the head.
- MADtv once featured a PSA from The Man.
- Dave Gorman's documentary America Unchained was all about trying to tour America whilst avoiding what was called (at least in the book of the series) "The Man(TM)"- that being the big chains of shops, gas stations, motels and such, in favour of smaller, independent "mom and pop" businesses which were becoming harder to find.
- Angel: The demonic law firm Wolfram & Hart is the embodiment of the Establishment, and there are many examples of "The Man" among it and its clientele. In season five, the main characters take over the firm with the goal of reforming it, thus becoming "The Man" themselves. After realizing that's impossible to reform the Establishment, they epicly stick it to The Senior Partners (The Man Behind the Man, except demons) by assassinating a shadowy council of W&H's top clients and briefly postponing the Apocalypse.
- John Lennon correctly blames The Man for trying to kick him out of the country in "New York City".
- The Man is usually referred to as they in Supertramp's music. Good examples of this include School and The Logical Song.
- The Roy Orbison song "Working for The Man".
- The They Might Be Giants song "Working Undercover For The Man".
- "Left a good job in the city, workin' for The Man every night and day..."
- Shut up, you're talking too much!
- The Ben Folds song "The Ascent of Stan" is sung from the perspective of The Man, about how bad it actually is to be The Man and how he regrets betraying his old values to become The Man.
- In the Shadowfist CCG, The Man was the leader of The Ascended (and thus, pretty much ruled the world) in the 1970s.
- Spirit of '77: This being a game about The '70s, all characters have a common goal of sticking it to him.
- The Technocracy, one of the two main playable factions, in Mage: The Ascension are very much this. While they don't directly control the world, they secretly manipulate most modern institutions like academia, the financial sector and the media (all of which they created) in order to protect humanity from the supernatural, by using methods such as torture, brainwashing, prison camps and genocide.
- The Seers of the Throne in the sequel Mage: The Awakening are like this as well but without any of the Technocracy's redeeming factors. In fact, they go out of their way to make humanity scared and miserable as otherwise humanity would become powerful enough to destroy them. And their leaders are literal gods.
- "The Man" turns up in Kingdom of Loathing, as the leader of the Frat Orcs during the Mysterious Island War quest.
- The Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2, played by Martin Sheen. He communicates with Shepard to provide them with info via hologram and is always shown in dim light while smoking a cigarette and/or drinking. His name and backstory are only explained in a tie-in comic; none of the characters, including his right-hand-woman Miranda, have any idea where he came from or how he got where he is. All they know is that he has staggering resources and big, big plans for his species.
- The Half-Life character "G-Man" is always lurking around in the backscenes, armed with a briefcase that could contain anything, dressed in a perfectly anonymous suit. He may take a train to the opposite of your direction, he will still be at your destination before you.
- In Alpha Protocol, Henry Leland thinks he's The Man. Potentially, however, Mike Thorton can become The Man through careful manipulation and control of his contacts.
- Mr. House of Fallout: New Vegas, the mysterious ruler of New Vegas.
- In Deus Ex, Bob Page serves as The Man in charge of the MJ12 conspiracy.
- "The Manh" is a possible name for a general of Zhuang culture in Victoria 2.
- That Man is a main antagonist of the Guilty Gear franchise.
- Used as a "Rejected Mega Man Villain" in the Webcomic Dueling Analogs, as seen in the pic.
- The Man applies Rule 34 to capitalism and civil rights violations, according to Questionable Content.
- Bob and George Who else would Mega Man blame?
- In Sinfest,
- King Jahad from Tower of God.
- In Tigerlily Jones's personal reality in Skin Horse, the eponymous "black ops social services" organisation is The Man. Despite their leader, a female uplifted Spitz, insisting "I am not The Man! For several reasons!"
Tigerlily: Hiding himself inside a cute dog. That's such a "The Man" thing to do.
- Parodied in an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball where Gumball mentions The Man and Idaho is confused as to who he's talking about saying "What man?" and "Who's that?"
- Well, you can tell everybody. Yeah, you can tell everybody. Go ahead and tell everybody. I'm the Man, I'm the Man, I'm the Man...