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The Only Believer

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"This was the noblest Roman of them all.
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar.
He only in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them."
Mark Antony on Brutus, Julius Caesar

So, you have a group of people — whether it be a group of friends, a military, government system, a church, or something else — that are supposedly all united by a common belief, cause, or goal. It's been loudly proclaimed, everyone knows who they are and what they stand for...

And none of them really believe it.

Whether out of corruption, ambition, greed, or some other reason, all of the people who claim to be part of this group don't really care about the cause and mostly care about themselves... Except for one person, who truly and honestly believes in the cause, and is increasingly shocked or appalled when he sees that everyone else is a hypocrite.

If he had a mentor who taught him these ideals, or he idolized the organization as a whole, realizing what the group is really like will often result in a Broken Pedestal. This often is the prelude to a Defector from Decadence, if he switches sides in his disillusionment, or The Paragon Always Rebels, if he goes to make his own side to do what the group should have been doing.

Contrast Not in This for Your Revolution, which may come from a single non believer with pragmatic motives among a group of believers. See also Took the Bad Film Seriously, which is about the one actor in a bad movie who doesn't realize/care it's bad. Compare Flock of Wolves.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Attack on Titan
    • Most people who seek to join the Military Police do so because of the perceived life of ease and luxury, which is sure to be far, far away from the hordes of man-eating Titans outside the city walls that the other military branches deal with. From the 104th Trainee Corps, only Marco actually believes in the honor of serving the King, everyone else trying to join the Military Police just want the easy life.
    • And we later encounter another character in the Military Police with similar idealistic beliefs. Marlowe declares that his goal is to work his way up the chain, purge the now notoriously corrupt Military Police of corruption and turn it back into a force humanity can be proud of. His fellow new recruits mock him for his attitude and think his goal is stupid. When he sees some of his superiors selling arms to the black market, he tries to stop this, it goes about as well as you'd expect.
    • Flashbacks reveal that Reiner Braun was this among the Warriors. While the others privately expressed misgivings about their duty, and went along with it out of a sense of obligation or self-professed weakness, he genuinely believed every word of the lies their superiors told them. His desperate attachment to these lies continued to the point of lashing out at his comrades, and eventually drove him insane from guilt. Even after accepting that everything was a lie, he remains loyal simply because he doesn't believe there's any other options left for him.


  • The French comic Leo Loden has an animal rights group called NOE with a Granola Girl secretary. It's actually a front for a far-right organization with the same initials, with the secretary being the only one unaware of its true nature.
  • A Gahan Wilson comic that shows two rather elaborately dressed priests busy doing some kind of religious ritual in front of an idol implies this about the priest in front (who's busy shaking some kind of totem or fetish at the idol) as his eyes bug out in surprise when the priest behind him (who's busy tapping a little brass gong) asks him "Do you really believe in any of this stuff?"
  • In IDW's The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, the Decepticons started out as an equality movement that got twisted into fascism and war-mongering. Only a few seem to still be committed to the early ideology as opposed to the opportunity to indulge in sadistic violence, the most notable being Soundwave.
  • The Shazam-centric issue of The Multiversity (Thunderworld) shows us a version of the Legion of Sivanas, a Legion of Doom composed of some Captain Marvel Arch-Enemy Doctor Sivana Alternate Universe. One of them was a Nobel Prize winner with some personal problems that wants to exchange knowledge to save the world, and discovers to his horror that every of his Alternate Universe counterparts is a Super Villain.

  • In The Confectionary Chronicles, since Gabriel has grown used to basically ignoring most of the prayers he receives in his role as Heaven’s Messenger (although he will act on some of them as his Trickster self), most of the prayers he receives as Loki are from eccentric wiccans, the odd hunter, the occasional demon or demon-witch (who he tends to kill immediately), rebellious teenagers, or the occasional person so desperate for justice or punishment that they’re trying to summon Loki without really believing in him. Hermione’s prayer thus grabs Gabriel’s attention due to the sheer strength and purity of her belief in him, which leads to her becoming an ‘official’ high priestess of Loki after her first sacrifice, although her first acolyte is not brought into the fold until shortly before Hermione starts at Hogwarts.

     Films — Animated  

  • In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Milo is the only character who thinks the expedition's goal is to find Atlantis to advance science; he's a bit miffed when everyone else in the entire expedition openly admits to being Only in It for the Money. He does manage to make most of the team switch sides once they find out that taking the treasure will mean destroying the Atlantean civilization, barring the main bad guy and his right-hand woman... and their Gas Mask Mook army.

     Films — Live-Action  

  • In Equilibrium, a dystopian society uses Emotion Suppression drugs to prevent violence, strife, and dissension from breaking out, and main character Preston is an enforcer for the regime. Eventually, Preston goes off the drugs and joins the rebels, and while singlehandedly infiltrating and shooting his way to the dictator, he finds that nobody in the higher echelons is really on the drugs; one of the biggest advantages to a totalitarian regime of suppressing peoples' emotions is that they can't recognize a subtle 'sense-offender' unless their leaders explicitly tell them what signs to look for, and throughout the film we get subtle clues that there is some serious psychotic emotion surging through the regime that has gone unnoticed; Brandt constantly smirks and asks questions that would not exist without curiosity (and his shouting at the 3/4ths mark outs him as an emotional glory-hog, which he papers over by focusing his tirades on arresting Preston), DuPont shows a level of pride in his work and in the supposed superiority of his preferred fighting style (which gets applied in the climax), rank-and-file military are demanding instead of stoic and raise their voices in combat (one the dictator's elite guard actually snarls), methods of execution involve burning people alive instead of shooting them and saving resources, etc.
  • Near the end of the Street Fighter movie, we find that Dumb Muscle Zangief is the only one who believed Bison's lies and propaganda about his cause. Everyone else was just Only in It for the Money.
    Zangief: General Bison is a bad guy? If you know then why do you work for him?
    Dee Jay: Because he paid me a freakin fortune, Man! If you know what's good for you you'll save your own ass!
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, when Captain Jack learns that yet another of his rescuers had an ulterior motive, he calls for a show of hands by anyone who'd come to save him just because they missed him. Only a few people raise their hands, and in the trailer only the monkey does.
  • The Hunt for Red October: Dr. Petrov is the only officer serving on the "Red October" (other than The Political Officer, and Ramius kills him soon after leaving shore) that doesn't believe that the Soviet Union and Communism are a load of bull, (all of the rest are loyal to Captain Ramius and had been tossed to the wolves by the Party in one way or another) and as a result he's left in the dark about the plan to defect and turn the submarine over to the Americans. When the time comes to fake scuttling the ship so it "won't be captured", he's convinced to leave the ship with the rest of the crew while the other officers stay and he sincerely swears to Captain Ramius that he will try to make sure the Captain gets the Order of Lenin for his (alleged) Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Network, after UBS gives the Ecumenical Liberation Army their own Docu Soap show, The Mao Tse-Tung Hour, the onetime revolutionary socialists quickly turn into socialites as the show becomes a hit and the network's money hollows out their ideals, perhaps best expressed when they're renegotiating their contract with UBS. The only one of them who still believes in their revolutionary ideals is, ironically, Mary Ann Gifford, the Patty Hearst-esque heiress who they kidnapped and who embraced their ideals with the zeal of the convert.
    Laureen Hobbs: I'm not giving this pseudo-insurrectionary sectarian a piece of my show, I'm not giving him script approval, and I sure as shit ain't cutting him into my distribution charges!
    Mary Ann Gifford: YOU FUCKING FASCIST!!! Did you see the film we made of the San Marino jailbreak demonstrating the rise of the seminal prisoner class infrastructure?
    Laureen: You can blow the seminal prisoner class infrastructure out your ass! I'm not knocking down my goddamn distribution charges!
  • There's a dark case in Derek's flashbacks in American History X. When he went to prison, Derek, who was a leader of a Neo-Nazi gang on the outside, hooks up with the local Aryan Nation gang in prison for safety and protection. He quickly comes to see, however, that none of the inmates believe in the ideology that Derek had bought into, and routinely transgressed against the various codes that Derek thought they stood for. This soon turned into Break the Believer when they get angered by Derek calling them out and subject him to a vicious Prison Rape, bringing Derek to his personal Rock Bottom. At that point he is finally able to consider changing his life and outlook.

  • In The Man Who Was Thursday, while the rest of the anarchists in the club are police spies spying on each other, the character Gregory is an actual anarchist, and is not pleased at the reveal.
  • Similar to the above, in the backstory of the novel Beach Music by Pat Conroy, during college Shyla became passionately involved in an anti-Vietnam War movement. While presumably there are other sincere people that we never actually encounter, both the leader of the movement and Shyla's lover turn out to be moles, a betrayal that is not good at all for a Broken Bird with some schizoid issues.
  • Discworld:
    • Monstrous Regiment takes place in a country where the common people have more or less given up the faith in their petty and increasingly unhinged god and begun transferring all the belief and feelings toward the country's Duchess. While all the humans in the squad pay lip service to the Duchess, (except one girl who hates everything the Duchess and the country's mainstream society stands for), Wazzer is the only one who truly believes in her. Because Discworld gods are powered by belief, all this has turned the Duchess into a quasi-deity and makes Wazzer into a Joan Of Archetype who hears the Duchess' voice guiding her.
    • Night Watch: In the revolution to overthrow Lord Winder as Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Reg Shoe is the only one who really thinks that a revolution will actually be a good thing or change anything. When he finally realizes just how little anyone cares about his ideals, the cynical, self-interested way that people are using the revolt for career advancement and such, and that the revolution is going to be a Full-Circle Revolution, he breaks down sobbing. And then he stands up and starts fighting again.
    • In Small Gods, the "great god" Om is stunned to realize that despite having a theocratic, fundamentalist church devoted to him and a nation of millions named after him, nobody actually believes in him. (Again, this in a world where Gods Need Prayer Badly.) People believe in the Church, sure, and have feelings about Om such as hope and fear, but the only one who actually believes in Om is Brutha, who ranks so low in the Church hierarchy that he's barely even considered a part of it. There's also one extremely determined atheist that militantly and very specifically disbelieves in Om even while acknowledging the existence of other gods. Om notes that this kind of attitude is so similar to actual belief that it's almost as good as the real thing.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, two characters with something of a Duality Motif come to represent this trope:
    • Jon Snow joins the Night's Watch believing the hype about a thin line of defense against the supernatural horrors beyond The Wall, but he's dismayed to find that over the centuries they've become an Army of Thieves and Whores who don't believe in the Others and see their duty as preventing raids by the thoroughly human wildlings. The few other people who believe in the Watch having a higher calling are either unaffiliated (Melisandre), die off over the course of the story, or are sent away to raise support elsewhere. Jon's lack of support on this issue is Deconstructed: though he rises up to Lord Commander, his efforts to ally with the hated wildlings cause a huge amount of dissent and he's assassinated by mutineers.
    • Jaime Lannister starts off as a cynical Blood Knight In Sour Armor widely reviled as a regicide and an oathbreaker. He was only accepted into the ranks of the Kingsguard to spite his father (as Kingsguard cannot inherit titles), and nowadays he only sees it as a way to be close to his sister/lover the Queen. However, after a long arc of Break the Haughty and a positive knightly role model in Brienne of Tarth, Jaime starts to think about restoring his own honor and that of the Order he has come to command — however, by this point his subordinates are mostly thugs and lackeys, a world away from the Knight in Shining Armor stories that inspired a young Jaime to join in the first place.

     Live-Action TV  

  • In M*A*S*H, Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan are the only main characters who actually believe in the cause of The Korean War. All the other main characters are draftees who share the writers' anti-war views.
  • In the third season of Blake's 7, Cally is left as the only genuine idealist in a group of revolutionaries, most of whom were originally criminals who happened to break out of jail with an imprisoned revolutionary leader. After her death at the end of the third season, the fourth season leaves the regular cast with no-one who actually believes in the cause politically, with the survivors fighting only for self-preservation or to satisfy their own psychological issues.
  • Farscape, which was blatantly influenced by Blake's 7, had only one character who was actually fighting the Peacekeepers for idealistic reasons, and she died early in the third season. It's lampshaded in one episode where Rygel "nobly" offers to escape alone from a lethal situation so that he can carry the team's message into the future, and another character points out that they don't actually have a message.
  • Played for tragedy on one episode of CSI: A con man had set up a cult that ripped off the "Heaven's Gate" cult in Nevada, a scam that he had done repeatedly (brainwash people, take all their possessions, do a faux-suicide with Kool Aid and sleeping pills, run away while everybody's knocked out. It is said that he had not been caught because the other times he'd done that had not been fully documented out of the cultists' embarrassment). While the other cultists "believed" out of brainwashing, one young woman truly believed because her life was crap and she wanted to go someplace better, and when she discovered the con man checking his getaway vehicle and he let her into the secret of his scam, she killed him and went out to get real poison for the mass suicide (and while she chickened out of committing it with the rest of the cultists because she was horrified at seeing their death throes, she tried to kill herself anyway a few hours later. The cops caught her and saved her life, but Brass made it clear in the aftermath that someone believing this kind of stuff as hard as she did probably won't be deprogrammed any time soon).
  • On Star Trek: Voyager, as yet another member of Chakotay's original Maquis crew turns out to have been a mole:
    "You were working for her, Seska was working for them... was anyone on that ship working for me?"

     Tabletop Games 

  • Paranoia occasionally has a citizen who actually believes The Computer is doing the right thing (not just playing along to serve their own ends, or drugged/brainwashed into it).


  • As seen in the quote on top, this is the most common interpretation of Brutus in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. All the other conspirators who convinced Brutus to join them by decrying Caesar gaining the power of a king mostly just wanted that same power themselves. Brutus on the other hand was horrified by the thought of a king taking over the Roman Republic. This is why Brutus gets treated sympathetically by Anthony and Octavian after his death.

     Video Games  

  • In Pokémon Black and White, N is the only important member of the Animal Wrongs Group Team Plasma who actually believes in liberating Pokémon. Worse, he's being manipulated as a puppet figurehead. On the other hand, Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 reveals that roughly half of Team Plasma, including at least one of the Seven Sages, actually did believe in helping Pokémon, and after the events of the first game they split off from the main team and do what they can to atone for the group's misdeeds.
  • In Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, the Token Good Teammate William very quickly becomes the only one among the three McCall brothers to still believe in using the Juarez treasure to rebuild their homestead and return to a peaceful family life, as Thomas and Ray's motivations rapidly decay into just grabbing the money and running for it.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has Senator Armstrong, with this heavily prominent in his Motive Rant about USA being a worse version of Eagleland while going No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Raiden.
  • In Armored Core: For Answer, the Player Character is this on ORCA's path, as the rest of ORCA is either killed in action, or in Thermidor's case, was a Mole in Charge for the corporations the whole time. By the time the last mission happens, the player is the only one who still holds to ORCA's original plan to free humanity to go to space, and the one who ultimately carries it out.
  • Deus Ex: After JC Denton discovered that the anti-terrorist organization he was working for is really a front for the evil Majestic-12, he and some fellow colleagues leave. Quartermaster Samuel Carter opts to stay behind, as he still believe that UNATCO can still be a force for good if he can reform it from the inside. It was shown later that Carter would be kicked out due to having prior experience outside of the organization.

     Western Animation  

  • Late in Exo Squad, a group of Neomegas conspire to kill Big Bad Phaeton, whose Villainous Breakdown is likely to lose them the war against Terrans. They convince Marsala (a Neo Sapien serving in the Terran Exo Fleet) to cooperate by saying they need him to capture Phaeton, so they can make peace with humanity. In actuality, they just want to take over the Neosapien race(s) and are quite willing to turn around and finish wiping out humanity afterward. Only one of the Neomegas, Galba, actually believes in the stated goal. Ironically enough, that saves Galba's life when the coup fails, as an aide loyal to Phaeton hears the other Neomegas order Galba's arrest when they think their plan has succeeded, so the aide and Phaeton both conclude that Galba must have been loyal to Phaeton, and the other Neomegas were turning on him due to that.
  • While he's not the only true believer, the cult leader in the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "The Cola Cult" was certainly the only one in the cult's priesthood who genuinely believed his religious order was intended to enlighten its various adherents. He's genuinely surprised and dismayed to discover that the rest of his colleagues have been stashing the worldly possessions new converts surrendered to the cult in a kind of treasury, and are exploiting the cult's followers. He also does what he can to help the Rangers escape and overthrow the priesthood, and is implied to be willing to try implementing their suggestion at the end that the cult's former laity continue to meet as friends (and maybe set up a social club) rather than as cultists.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of Teen Titans. Brother Blood, headmaster of the HIVE Academy, discovers his two top students are actually good guy Moles. In frustration he angrily asks "Was anyone in my school actually here to learn?!"
  • Recess: In the episode, "The Great Can Drive", Third Street School holds its annual Thanksgiving Canned Food Drive to help the homeless, the poor, the handicapped, etc. Initially most of Miss Grotke's class, save for Mikey, bow out of the drive, knowing whichever class has the Ashleys is going to win. When the Ashleys start taunting Mikey over collecting cans by himself, however, T.J. rallies the rest of the class to help Mikey... purely in order to beat the Ashleys. Mikey remains the only one involved for the sake of helping the less fortunate.
  • South Park
    • Officer Barbrady is the only member of the South Park police department that is neither corrupt nor racist and genuinely wants to uphold justice. His early season appearances showcases his capacity for extreme Police Brutality and criminal neglect, but he does that sort of thing due to incompetence instead of malice.
    • PC Prinicpal would be the only member of PC Bros who is actually concerned and advocates for social justice, while the rest of the fraternity is only interested in using activisim for scoring with chicks.