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Warts and All

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Delenn: If you go, you will learn things about me that may change your opinion of me.
Lennier: Delenn, I have pledged myself to your side... come fire or storm or darkness or death. Can understanding be a greater danger?
Delenn: In this case... yes.

The heroes need the help of a legendary figure who, over the years, has been idolized as the paragon of virtue, the source of all that is good and just, a true example for schoolchildren everywhere. The legend has beaten back all enemies, saved the day hundreds of times, and is truly a Knight in Shining Armor worth looking up to.

And then, when they finally meet this so-called legendary figure, they find out that he's anything but.

This is not to say that the legend didn't actually do all those amazing things people say he did. He's no Miles Gloriosus. The guy really is a hero. What he isn't, however, is a paragon of virtue. He's rude. He drinks, he smokes, he's a bit of a womanizer, and he only got into the hero biz in the first place to make himself rich.

It's not the legend's fault that the heroes have idolized him. He can't control what other people say or think, after all. He, like the heroes, is only human, and the flaws that the heroes are complaining about are merely proof of their own unrealistic expectations. They had no right to expect him to match their daydreams. Exactly how serious the flaws are depend on where they land on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism; anything from minor foibles or even Good Is Not Nice to serious Anti-Hero territory is possible.

The trope name comes from Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), who, in an attempt to avoid this trope, once told an artist to paint a portrait of him "warts and all"note . Official portraits were commonly done with the flaws in a person's appearance "corrected" by the artist. Cromwell wanted his picture to include his imperfections. Similarly, this trope is about the legendary character being finally seen for who and what he is, flaws and all. It is somewhat fitting that Cromwell, whom many admire while still admitting to his flaws, is the Trope Namer.

Usually, this trope involves the lead characters convincing the legend that he must rise above his weaknesses and become the true shining example that they thought he was. A more Bittersweet Ending is possible if one of the leads gets caught up in the hero-worship and refuses to see through the foibles to the human being inside. Or worse, if they only realize the legend is human after a Heroic Sacrifice; if only the reader realizes it and the characters all refuse to, this trope can reach Tragic Hero heights.

An Aesop about expecting the Knight in Shining Armor is possible. Contrast Feet of Clay or Fake Ultimate Hero, where the "legendary hero" is anything but. Compare Broken Pedestal and No Hero to His Valet, where someone close to the hero does not hold him in awe because they know him. Inverse of Hero with Bad Publicity. A Historical Downgrade is doing this to a historical figure.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: When the Gogyosen question why Matsuri cares about Suzu despite her Extreme Libido and hedonism, Matsuri is undeterred.
    Matsuri: Yeah, she may eat a lot and have thick legs. Sure she sweats a lot and might even be a bit of a pervert..
    Suzu: ...
    Matsuri: But that's exactly why I like her!
  • The Dangers in My Heart: Moeko recalls a story in elementary school where Ichikawa made a boy apologize to her for going too far in rejecting any insinuation about liking her, calling her a hag, and making her cry. She seems flattered at first until Ichikawa reveals that he guilt-tripped the kid into doing it with a Breaking Speech about how he would get financially ruined for defamation to take him down a peg, to the point where the boy was crying. By then Moe’s just appalled. Yamada, on the other hand, is awestruck by his sense of justice.
  • L/Ryuzaki in Death Note. Light mentions that most people would expect the #1 greatest detective in the world to be more detective-y. Instead, he's a barefoot young insomniac with a sweet tooth, non-existent social skills, and extremely poor posture.
  • In Dragon Ball, Bulma tells Future Trunks that Vegeta is a noble warrior; needless to say it's jarring and very disappointing for him when he goes back in time and sees just how much of a Jerkass Blood Knight his father really was.
  • Holland from Eureka Seven. When Renton runs away to join Gekkostate, he is disappointed to discover that his idol is a Jerkass who doesn't subscribe to his own ideals.
  • Played with in Fullmetal Alchemist, where the young Princess May Chang has a sizable crush on famed alchemist Edward Elric - whom she's never met. She imagines him to be dashing, tall, and a complete bishounen with beautiful manners...then she meets the grumpy, snarky, vertically-challenged reality. It's done for laughs when she berates him for "toying with a maiden's affections" - and he stares at her and wonders who in the world she is.
    • This is played straighter in regard to her feelings for Alphonse. After Ed turns out to not be the person she hoped he was, once she gets to know Al (in his suit-of-armor body, of course), she begins to imagine him as dashingly charming and handsome (in his real body) in much the same way she did to Ed, and thus is very eager for him to get his body back. However, when Al does get it back (after first sacrificing himself, causing May to believe he died), he's very emaciated and sickly-looking (due to the time his body was on the Gate), not at all how May imagined him. Nonetheless, she still tearfully hugs him, overjoyed that he's alive.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: For Kaguya, a couple being able to share and accept each other's flaws is what romance is all about. This ends up leading to the final hurdle she and Shirogane have to overcome before their Relationship Upgrade, as he believes that one should only display their ideal self to their significant other and has no idea why she's suddenly acting cold to him.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray, Kisato is a total fangirl of the legendary George Glenn, the original Coordinator and an Ace of the highest caliber. He ends up coming back to "life" when the team finds his Brain in a Jar and Professor hooks it into a hologram projector. However, he turns out to be a very goofy and playful fellow, which upsets Kisato's image of him as an austere, serene, larger-than-life figure. In the end, she accepts him after he convinces her that he's only human and legends always exaggerate...but she's still put off by how silly he is.
  • Naruto:
    • Jiraiya is one of three legendary shinobi who have saved countless lives. Unfortunately for his apprentice Naruto, he's also a huge pervert who writes porn novels.
    • Naruto himself counts as by the end of the series. He truly is a shinobi worthy of the history books and a legend in his own right, but he's still an Idiot Hero with No Social Skills. As the Canon movie The Last: Naruto the Movie shows, Hinata has admired, acknowledged, and loved Naruto for the way he is since the very beginning, rather than the hero that everyone else sees. Both Naruto's flashback in Chapter 538 and Masashi Kishimoto in this 2015 New York Comic Con interview confirm that Hinata was the very first person to acknowledge Naruto for who he is, long before Iruka did. This is one of the reasons why Naruto marries her in the end. Hinata loved him long before he ever became the hero in the public's eye, and she'll love him long after his story fades into legend.
      Hinata: "You make mistakes... but... because of those mistakes... you get the strength to stand up to them... that's why I think you are truly strong."
      Naruto: "This whole time, you always loved me for the way I am."
  • Saiyuki has this happen all the time to the main characters. Sanzo's team is famous as a group of demon slayers led by a legendary priest, so they're wanted in pretty much every town they pass through. What the townspeople don't realize until it's too late is that said priest is a young chain-smoking jerkass who shoots anything that annoys him, and that his companions are demons themselves. And while they live up to the "demon slayers" part, they normally only care about defending their own lives. They usually get the deserved thanks for solving the town's issues just because they're the only ones strong enough to sort them out and often have to do it anyway to progress on their journey.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne, Chid has a case of this toward Allen Schezar: his mother's tales of Allen's skill, bravery and heroism had led Chid to expect him to be an unbeatable hero. Allen showing up badly wounded and semi-conscious is something of a letdown to the boy, who'd been expecting someone rather more invincible.

  • Thomas strives to take this approach in his cartography, whilst remaining politically neutral. He doesn't want to sugarcoat the uglier parts of world history, but he also acknowledges that sites of traumatic events don't deserve to be completely defined by said trauma. A quote from the artistnote 
    • His solution for a appropriate depiction of Guantanamo Bay is a bit more humourous — Right below it lies the golden arches of McDonald's, symbolic of both America's capitalist influence and the sole Micky D's located in all of Cuba.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City does this a couple of times:
    • In "Confession", Altar Boy learns that his mentor, the Confessor, is a vampire. Worse, the Confessor refused to declare that he had never killed anyone as a vampire. Even so, his heroism and selflessness not only won over Altar Boy, but also inspired him to take up the mantle.
    • Crackerjack, who's a bombastic, money-seeking vainglorious womanizer, but still a genuine and well-respected ("reasonably respected", at any rate) hero.
    • Winged Victory is revealed to be this in "Victory". She champions women's rights, but recognizes that she's not the be-all-end-all solution to society's gender divide and is just a normal woman trying to do the best she can and lead by example.
  • The DCU:
    • Batman: For the last couple decades, it's been quite popular to portray Batman as a serious Jerkass, particularly to his friends and allies.
    • Booster Gold: Booster is a Large Ham who seems, at times, to be more interested in product endorsements, fame, and getting rich than he is fighting crime. Nevertheless, he really is a true blue hero who has regularly put his life on the line when the situation called for it. After the death of Ted Kord though, he became the hero he always wanted to be seen as. He has to constantly pretend to still be a greedy, shallow idiot so that he can effectively defend time. Sacrifice is a predominant theme in his 2007 series.
    • The Warlord (DC): This is the main theme of the 1992 miniseries, which largely consists of the Warlord's friends and family telling the viewpoint character "Well, yes, he's a hero, but..." There's a fair amount of it in the 2009 series, as well (which is unsurprising, as they're both by Mike Grell).
  • Jonah Hex: One issue is nostalgically narrated by a writer who, in the time frame the issue takes place, was a mute orphan. After his father dies, he runs into Hex, who saves him from being eaten by wolves. The two of them have some adventures (during which he constantly narrates about how awesome Hex is), he saves Hex's life, and then Hex leaves him to fend for himself in the Canadian wilderness.
  • Judge Dredd: Happens with the entire human race in the short spinoff The Robot Hunter. A single robot, Smokey Joe, is sent to establish a massively roboticised infrastructure so the colonists arriving later will have a prebuilt utopia. Unfortunately, Joe idolizes humans and makes sure every robot he builds knows all about how awesome and fantastic the wonderful humans are. When the colonists show up, the robots see a bunch of soft and feeble fleshbags and not the living gods they were expecting. So they very reasonably decide that these are "simulated humans" sent as a test, and since their programming only applies to real ones, there's nothing stopping them from putting the lot in cages and doing horrible things to them. When their super-intelligent leader realizes their mistake and what they've done, his programming breaks so bad he regresses into childhood. Despite, uh, never actually having had one.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Peter Parker had always idolized Charles Xavier. His essays about human-mutant integration were awesome. But, when he actually meets him and hears his way of dealing with a dangerous and destructive mutant, he's not so amazed.

    Fan Works 
  • In Living History, a group of time travelers are shocked to learn how human the Scoobies actually are. They're all considered legends (and in the case of Xander and Faith, patron saints) but are still relatively normal people doing their jobs. One at least is massively disappointed by how incredibly primitive they are as he simply can't account for over 800 years of technological advancement.
  • Tsunade in Eroninja always imagined her grandmother to be a Proper Lady, but when she's resurrected Tsunade learns that Mito only acted as such after her husband died to keep the nobles and council happy. In reality, she's a Hard-Drinking Party Girl. Thankfully they later reconcile.
  • Deliberately invoked in The Vain Rose's Garden after Belldandy walks in on Skuld having sex. Urd explains to Belldandy that Skuld idolizes her and is likely feeling ashamed at being caught doing something she never does, and thus urges Belldandy to explain to Skuld that she too has urges and indulges them.
  • Rivals Series: A rare positive example. For most of the story, there are two versions of Viktor Nikiforov that Yuuri Katsuki sees: first, the idol he adored and worshiped, and then (thanks to a mixture of Viktor's Brutal Honesty and Yuuri's fragile self-esteem) the memory he despised and hated and did everything to beat. It's only after getting to know Viktor the person, both the good and the bad, that Yuuri begins to let go of his grudge, and eventually, fall in love with him.
  • This idea is invoked in the one-shot Kim Possible fic "Eric", where Ron tells Kim to go to prom with Eric after it's revealed that Eric is real after all (Drakken just replaced him with a synthodrone to undermine Kim's confidence). However, when Kim starts seriously thinking about recent events at prom, she finds herself struck by the thought that Ron has seen her even at her most flawed moments, such as her obsession with designer labels or dismissing her lifelong best friend even when he's still willing to be there for her, and still has those kind of feelings for her.
  • On top of the issues regarding his father Vegeta, remaining from the canon series above, the Dragon Ball Z Abridged version of Trunks also has to reconcile the fact that Son Goku, the Ideal Hero his mother spoke of as the key to saving the world... is an idiotic Manchild who largely only cares for eating (to the point of threatening him for implying he should cut down on the bacon to avoid the fatal heart-attack from Trunks' timeline) and competitive fighting. He discusses this with Bulma the instant he gets back to his own time.
    Future Bulma: Well, apparently, you're his baby boy, so... he wasn't all bad, right?
    Future Trunks: A revelation that came at the cost of my literal life. Then again, considering the dysfunction of that whole group... maybe I'm not the worst off.
    Future Bulma: Yeah. Because I raised you right.
  • It takes very few loops for Joffrey to realize what a horrible human being Cersei really is in Purple Days, but he never stops loving her, knowing her one redeeming trait is her unconditional love for him. On the other hand, he quickly gets fed up with her Stupid Evil tendencies and her attempts at seizing personal power, and once he begins fixing the realm, he makes it a point to sideline her, and eventually, he decides to just chuck her and Jaime in a Gilded Cage in the Westerlands and be done with it.
  • The Pokémon drabble Fix You has Misty and Serena having a little argument apparently due to Serena not liking the way Misty treated Ash. When Serena says that Ash was being Not Himself and wanted to help him, Misty accuses her of making herself a perfect image of Ash and not actually knowing him, unlike her who met him the time he was a rookie (meaning that he was brash, arrogant, and a bit of a Sore Loser prone to Unsportsmanlike Gloating). The implication is made clear that, unlike Serena, Misty is aware of Ash's flaws, yet accepts them as a part of him and loves him nonetheless. It's somewhat downplayed as Serena's feelings aren't less genuine than Misty's, but the Kalosian girl acknowledges she should get to know him more.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole, Soren finds out that the ragged, one-eyed, rather cynical old owl Ezylryb is actually his hero, the legendary Lyze of Kiel.
    Lyze: Fancy it must be hard, meeting your hero and seeing that he's real and not a myth.
    Soren: You're just not—
    Lyze: Well what did you expect? Some Tyto alba with gleaming armor and battle claws, the moon rising behind him? (holds up his mangled talon) Well, this is what it looks like when you've actually fought in battle. It's not glorious, it's not beautiful, it's not even heroic. It's merely doing what's right. And doing it again and again, even if someday you look like this.
  • This is one of the bigger morals in Mary and Max, and Max's psychiatrist name-drops the trope twice.
    Max: [Dr. Hazelhof] said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all, and that we don't get to choose our warts. That they are a part of us, and we have to live with them.
  • Played with by the North Wind in Penguins of Madagascar. While they are a competent and heroic team, they're also rather egotistical and unsympathetic, causing much of the antagonism between them and the penguins. Cemented when the North Wind abandon the penguins inside Dave's submarine to "regroup", even after Private saved them from a Death Trap.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Peter Parker (Spider-Man) ultimately comes to terms with this when he learns his late mentor Tony Stark (Iron Man), while a hero, was a very flawed man, usually second guessing himself, acting before thinking, and even then, didn't think through the consequences of his choices. Despite this, he never hesitated to help others if he could, and was willing to make sacrifices for the greater good, including the ultimate one. This makes Peter realize that he shouldn't underestimate himself nor overestimate his beloved late idol, because, in the end, heroes are human too.
  • Hancock: Only one character manages to see through the appearance to heroism.
  • In Star Trek, Zefram Cochrane was the genius who gave the human race warp drive, thus taking the first step in the founding of The Federation. Star Trek: First Contact revealed that he was a cowardly, womanizing drunk whose intentions in building the first warp ship was "dollar signs, and lots of them".
    Commander Riker: Someone once said "Don't try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history make its own judgment."
    Zefram Cochrane: That's rhetorical nonsense. Who said that?
    Commander Riker: You did, ten years from now.
  • In Cat Ballou, Catherine is dismayed to find that Shelleen, whom she hired due to his high reputation with a gun, is constantly drunk and uncoordinated as a result. Even his horse shows a similar laid back attitude.
  • Race: Owens cheating on his wife (whom he has a daughter with) for a period of time is shown, even though the film primarily focuses on his triumphs as a barrier-breaking African-American olympian.
  • Schindler's List pointedly includes Schindler's womanizing and, pre-Character Development, war profiteering along with his more well-known heroic actions.
  • Peter Jackson's 2005 version of King Kong has a good one. After Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is taken away by Kong, the crew goes off to rescue her, but about half-way (after a run-in with some Raptors) Bruce Baxter, the intended star of Carl Denham's (Jack Black) film, decides to turn tail much to the disappointment of Adrian Brody's character. "I always knew you weren't the tough guy you played in the movies, Baxter, I just never figured you for a coward." Later on though, as Jack, Carl, and the rest are about to be killed, Baxter returns with the crew for a Big Damn Heroes moment and gets to be the action hero he always pretended to be.
    Baxter: Hey, pal. Hey, wake up. Heroes don't look like me, not in the real world. In the real world, they've got bad teeth, a bald spot, and a beer gut. I'm just an actor with a gun, who's lost his motivation. Be seein' you.
  • The Wizard of Oz: The all-powerful Wizard of Oz turns out to be nothing more than a Snake Oil Salesman. His confidence trickster skills do, however, eventually save the day.
  • Malcolm X includes Malcolm X's early life as a criminal and the various controversies surrounding his life. It also finds time to remind the audience that Martin Luther King cheated on his wife. However, it ends with an anvilicious monologue about how Malcolm X still did great things and ultimately his work shouldn't be sullied by his less-than-savory aspects (it also helped that he rescinded on some of his more militant viewpoints later on in his life).
  • Evee is of this position in V for Vendetta, although it's an unusual case because V wants to embody an idea instead of be a hero (because ideas are bulletproof) while Evee wants to remember him as a person who lived and loved, as apart from the faceless totalitarian government he opposed.
  • Patton has this sort of portrayal about the titular man, who despite being a brilliant commander had his attitude, bloodlust, and overeagerness to fight cause no end of frustration to a lot of his fellow Allied commanders. And this is to say nothing of him slapping a soldier who is suffering from shellshock and wanting to start another war against the Soviets immediately after the Second World War just ended.
  • Control takes this approach regarding Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis; it's not afraid to showcase the more jerkass-y side of the man, while at the same time allowing the audience to understand the escalating personal struggles that tormented him throughout his life and drove him to suicide in 1980.
  • Saving Mr. Banks, which examines the early production period of Mary Poppins, takes this approach with both P.L. Travers, showing her as being stuffy, inflexible and unnecessarily rude, and Walt Disney, showing him to be pushy, obnoxious and with little regard for personal space. Robert Sherman comes off as short-tempered, at least in his dealings with Mrs. Travers, and Richard Sherman is portrayed as something of a doofus, though a friendly and talented one.
  • Ray does not shy away from portraying any part of the life of Ray Charles. It does portray him as an inspirational figure who managed to reach stardom in spite of his blindness, but also doesn't shy away from portraying his constant struggles with his lack of eyesight, his addictions to pretty damn near everything, his near-constant adultery or his ruthless business dealings. When he was given the script, the two things Ray refused to allow in the film was when he, as a young boy, was forced to play the piano (he always claimed music was his interest and that he pursued it), and the scene that showed im sharing heroin with Margie Hendrix (he was clear enough to see what heroin was doing to him, and refused to drag her down with him).

  • Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cainnote  is a Fake Ultimate Hero and among the most successful. Inquisitor Amberley Vail, his long-term associate and (apparently) lover, is perhaps the only person who can see past his sterling reputation. However, she herself thinks that he is too hard on himself, and possesses many heroic attributes. And she has a point. For all of his self-deprecation, Cain does have a heroic side that shows through every so often, though he always quick to claim that he only saves people left, right, and center for strictly selfish reasons (the only one he fools is himself). Thing is, thanks to the unreliable narration from Cain's viewpoint, there's no way to be sure how much of Cain's heroism is really fake. Certainly, his handwaving to explain the selfish, cowardly reasons why he performed seemingly heroic acts looks rather thin at points. Assuming he is telling the truth about what he does, he's often actively trying to avoid danger and yet somehow ends up in it, so you can agree with his self-depreciation. On the other hand, more of the time he actively puts himself in harm's way even when there are numerous moments he could have quietly slipped away with no one the wiser and no harm to his reputation.
  • In Mitchel Scanlon's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Descent of Angels, Zahariel's first glimpse of Brother Amadis disappoints him: merely a man, not a figure like Lion. But the longer he looks at him, the more he understands his character and heroism.
  • In Rick Riordan's The Battle for the Labyrinth, they meet up with Briares, the Hundred-Handed One, and find him demoralized and unwilling to fight, much to Tyson's distress. In the end, however, he does join in the final battle.
  • In Poul Anderson's Virgin Planet, the somewhat callow hero lands on a planet inhabited solely by women — and women whose myths recount the days where there were men, wonderful and marvellous beings. Meeting with a real merely human man leads them to rapidly conclude that he's really an alien, not being wonderful and marvellous enough. Dealing with him, however, brings various women to realize that he really is a man. (Not at all hurt by his Character Development, all the way up to offering to make a Heroic Sacrifice at the climax.)
  • In Piers Anthony's Xanth, when the Gorgon asked Good Magician Humphrey to marry her, he set the same condition as anyone else who wanted an answer from him: she had to work for him for a year. When Dor discovers this, Humphrey explains that he feared this trope, because the Gorgon had thought herself in love after he cast the spell to keep her from turning people to stone. Working as his housekeeper for a year would ensure that she knew of all his little quirks and annoying traits before she married him — if she married him. A little later, the Gorgon explains to Dor that she had worked this out, and it is exactly what convinced her that he was the right man.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, Trev was bitter about his dead father. Nutt pointed out that his father had been only human, not a god; a good father; and, if perhaps a Fearless Fool who had gotten himself killed, yet people who had risked their lives had been important to the human race — an insight which profoundly moves Trev.
    • Discworld also references the Trope Namer in Feet of Clay when "Old Stoneface" Vimes, a Captain Ersatz of Cromwell, is persistently described as having 'warts and all' by historical romantics who essentially use this as their justification for considering him the bad guy (King Lorenzo, on the other side, was "extremely fond of children" but he looked the part).
  • The Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, aka the Great and Powerful Oz. Less so in the book, where he is portrayed as a kindly old man who has simply gone astray in his balloon, as in the 1939 film, where he is shown as a Snake Oil Salesman.
  • John "Black Jack" Geary of The Lost Fleet. After being in suspended animation for over a century, he's found by a fleet on its way to a major offensive. He quickly discovers that he's nearly worshipped by people on his side of the war. This trope is a major theme of the series as a whole.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, although Harry had known Dumbledore for over six years and saw him as a father figure, he realizes that he doesn't really know the true Dumbledore: what he does outside of school, what his history is, whether he's truly the paragon of virtue that Harry's viewed him as for years. That's what makes it all the more soul-crushing for Harry to read the (surprisingly true, considering the author) biography of Dumbledore written by Rita Skeeter, depicting a youthful Dumbledore championing Wizard superiority and being buddies with Grindelwald, who was effectively the Wizard Hitler. By the end of the book, Harry accepts that Dumbledore is not perfect and that he is still the greatest wizard who ever lived regardless of how he used to be.
    • He had an earlier moment in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where he views one of Snape's Pensieve memories and observes his practically-sainted father, James, antagonizing Snape (specifically, the moment where Snape ruins the only good friendship he had.) A moment later verified by James' fellow Marauders, Sirius and Remus. They dispell Harry's worries and mention that while James had his negative sides, he was ultimately a good and noble man and he did mature beyond that.
  • In the Uglies series novel Extras, the protagonist Aya eventually meets Tally Youngblood, who is now the most famous person in the world for overthrowing the dystopian system of the previous books. While Tally very much did save the world and is still working hard to protect it, all the brain and body surgeries and traumatic experiences she was put through have left her with a terrifying appearance, short temper and artificially lowered opinion of humanity.
  • In the epilogue of Ender's Game (and throughout the direct sequels), this trope is part of a movement called the "Speaker for the Dead" (also the title of the first sequel). A Speaker is something of a professional eulogizer, they speak at funerals and tell the story of the person who has died: the good, the bad, how they were seen by others, and how they saw themselves. The idea being to tell the story without applying judgment or justification, laying bare all the cold hard truths of the departed's life. In-universe, the concept became popular after it was done for the man who united humanity under a single government (the story including his sociopathic behavior as a young man, which included violent emotional and physical abuse and manipulation of his siblings).
    • One such funeral service (for a wife-beating alcoholic) is shown in the titular sequel. No attempt is made to justify his violence and abuse, but those in attendance finally understand how much physical and emotional pain the man himself was in for his entire life and why he took it out on his family. No forgiveness or redemption is implied, only an increased understanding and empathy for a fellow human being.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Invoked in the Battlestar Galactica (2003) episode "Final Cut" by Commander Adama and President Roslin, who want the Fleet News Service to show an honest depiction of the crew of the Galactica to the fleet in the aftermath of an incident in which several civilians were killed.
    President Roslin: I want to show the people what life aboard the Galactica is really like; I want to put a human face on the officers and the crew who protect us against Cylons and guard our freedoms every day.
    D'Anna Biers: You might not like that face when you see it.
  • Poignantly subverted in Firefly. After arriving at a village that has put Jayne up as a folk hero due to a misunderstanding, Jayne eventually tries to make the townspeople understand he's just a regular guy, even going so far as to push over his own statue (which breaks and, being made of the stuff, leaves behind a pair of literal Feet of Clay). They don't believe him.
    Mal: I imagine every guy's got a statue made of him, was one kind of sumbitch or another. It's not about you, Jayne. It's about what they need.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dahar Master Kor is a legendary warrior that everyone gushes over. But he is really old and becoming more and more senile as time goes on. His legendary status gets stripped away when he starts reliving a battle from his glory days which gets a lot of his people unnecessarily killed. Shown for the senile old man that he was, the crew rejects him. But he redeems himself when he undertakes a suicide mission and shows that he still has the skills (and the honor) that made him the legendary figure in the first place.
    • The Federation itself seems to get this treatment. Non-Fed aliens like Quark and Garak talk about how they see the much-vaunted Federation as hypocritical and self-righteous, boasting of its supposed superiority while denying its own darker elements — and then decide that with threats like the Klingons and the Dominion lurking, the Federation is their best hope for survival.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "Father's Day", Rose meets up with her dead father, whom she knows only from her mother's stories. He proves to be up to his neck in get-rich-quick schemes and he and her mother quarrel almost continuously. However, in the end, her father makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save the universe. Rose's voice-over at the beginning and end of the episode are both about her father, but the concluding one is full of new insight. She better gets to know him (or rather an alternate universe version) in another episode. Turns out that his get-rich-quick schemes would've succeeded if he actually lived and despite initially being hostile to Rose (namely because he didn't get to be a dad here), he quickly embraces her as the daughter he never had.
    • In "The Shakespeare Code", the Doctor and Martha Jones attend the premiere performance of Love's Labour's Lost and Shakespeare himself appears on the stage at the end. The Doctor is initially thrilled at the prospect of meeting the greatest writer in the English language — until he acts boorishly in front of the audience. Somewhat amused, Martha quips to the Doctor, "You should never meet your heroes." It gets even worse when he starts (quite unsuccessfully) hitting on her.
  • Textbook demonstrated in an episode of M*A*S*H. Hawkeye's nightly habits catch up to him, and a hangover prevents him from finishing surgery on a patient. Radar, laid up due to an earlier injury, chastises Hawkeye for his failure, which results in his hero angrily yelling at him. After much discussion (and everyone in camp chewing out Hawkeye for his lost temper, Hawkeye included) Radar reaches the conclusion that he was human all along, and that seeing him off the pedestal, he might be able to like him more as a person than an idol.
  • Occurs in the Babylon 5 episode "Atonement". Delenn warns Lennier to stay on Babylon 5 when she goes to face the clan council, lest he finds out about her biggest wart. He refuses because of his Undying Loyalty. When he finds out what it is - that she had cast the deciding vote for the Earth-Minbari war - Lennier tells her that he still has Undying Loyalty for her.
  • In Heroes, Hiro goes back in time to feudal Japan and meets his hero Takezo Kensei, who turns out to be a drunken Englishman. With Hiro's help, Kensei becomes the man the legends told of and discovers along the way that he's immortal and unkillable. A falling out between Hiro and Kensei turns Kensei into a villainous inversion of the man Hiro helped him become.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Early in "Winston's Lost Night", Inspector Brackenreid is unhappy that the great Winston Churchill is locked in one of the station's cells, and he effusively praises Churchill's book as "stirring stuff". As he learns of Churchill's apparent alcohol-induced blackout and aristocratic ways (including traveling with servants and his treatment of Crabtree as another of his servants—asking the constable to fetch his hat and stick) and gets insulted by Churchill for requesting an autograph, Brackenreid begins to write him off as another "toff". Eventually, Brackenreid quotes from Churchill's book (to the author's delight) to talk down a murderer threatening to kill Churchill, and Churchill apologizes for his insulting comment on the autograph book and asks to sign it.

  • "All of Me" by John Legend sums it up thus:
    Cos all of me, loves all of you/All your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Shane Douglas grew up thinking Ric Flair was what a pro wrestler was supposed to be. After meeting Ric Flair, spending time with him, and seeing how he conducted himself, Douglas began to feel that Flair's public conduct made him publicly embarrassed to be a pro wrestler and that he was bad for WCW's public image. Flair was also one of the names in his "Kiss My Ass" "ECW" promo, but he maintains that he does think Flair was a good wrestler and wishes he was the elder statesman of the business he initially thought he was.
  • Since she's commonly proclaimed to be the best wrestler in the world, Sara Del Rey attracts a lot of admirers who don't realize she commonly wrestles as a ruda, thus many a wrestler honored to be in her presence get a little disappointed to find themselves in the midst of a cranky, disrespectful bully who at times even resorts to dirty moves. For the most part, though, she remains respected, if not liked, as they still often admit she is among the best wrestlers in the world. To Del Rey's annoyance, Cheerleader Melissa, Christina Von Eerie, and Courtney Rush still wanted to be her friends even after seeing all her faults firsthand.
  • Before he became a professional wrestler, Colt Cabana looked up to Adam Pearce. By 2007, Colt Cabana had come to realize that everything he admired about Pearce was still worth admiring, but he also had to admit that Pearce was a jerk beyond description.
  • At the tail end of 2014, Matt Sydal was recruited by Truth Martini and Prince Nana in hopes that he would return to Ring of Honor and work for them. He returned and even said that he admired both for their cunning and for their longevity in the business, but he had seen them do too much wrong to work for either the Embassy or House Of Truth.

    Video Games 
  • Guybrush ends up one of these in the eyes of fangirl Morgan Le Flay in the third episode of Tales of Monkey Island, though this is a big case of Wrong Genre Savvy on her part. She built up such an expectation of him as an unparalleled swashbuckler and unstoppable pirate that she never realized he was the protagonist of a comedic puzzle-adventure game.
  • Two examples from Metal Gear Solid:
    • The first, Solid Snake. He's been idealized as the legendary soldier/superspy who went deep into heavily defended enemy territory as part of the FOXHOUND black ops unit in separate incidents to destroy nuclear weapons at great risk to himself to save the world. He's also supposedly thought of in-universe as the modern James Bond, or such is the implication. Naturally, Meryl Silverburgh is surprised when Snake turns out to be rather coarse, rude and disdaining of her combat ability, as well as rather unhappy that he's involved in the mission to begin with.
      Snake: The real me's no match for the legend, I'm afraid.
    • The second, Big Boss. Though he ended up being a traitor, that little fact was apparently concealed by the government, as by the time of the fourth game he's a household name as a Captain America-style badass, considered to be the greatest soldier in history and his awesome-ness is apparently common knowledge. Numerous and highly inaccurate video games and poorly researched books have been made out of his career. What nobody realizes is that he was a mentally damaged man who had to shoot his own mentor on the orders of his government and later became convinced that utopia for soldiers is worth nuking people with giant bipedal tanks. As well as that, some of his most mind-blowing feats were actually done by his body double, Venom Snake.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • The game plays with this by giving the players the decision of following this trope straight or not when Liara asks for input on a time capsule she's leaving for future generations to discover in case they fail to defeat the Reapers, with input that will hopefully allow them to succeed where they failed. Shepard has the option of letting Liara decided for herself how to comment on his/her work, painting them as a larger than life heroic figure, or not covering up his/her flaws and letting history decide for itself.
    • Javik, an ancient Prothean who was put into stasis 50,000 years ago and whom the player has the option of reviving. Liara, an archeologist who has spent her entire life studying Prothean artifacts and ruins, has built up an image of the entire Prothean race as a race of sages and scholars and diplomats. Reviving, and then interacting with, Javik reveals that the Protheans as a race were social Darwinist militaristic conquerors and that Javik himself is a bit of a racist who holds all of the "primitives" surrounding him now in contempt. This latter attitude is somewhat understandable; when Javik went into stasis, humans and asari were still living in caves, and the salarians were swamp-dwelling animals who hadn't actually reached sapience yet.
  • This occurs to an extent during the Legacy DLC for Dragon Age II, which delves into the shady past of Hawke's father Malcolm. Though his past had been a mystery, Malcolm was by all accounts a good father who loved his family dearly and was even something of The Ace, being both a master mage and an excellent hand-to-hand combatant. During the DLC, Hawke (and their sibling, if still alive) discovers that Malcolm had never wanted a child with magic (he had at least one) and he was also a practicing blood mage who used his powers to imprison an ancient darkspawn mage named Corypheus. However, Hawke also learns he only used his Blood Magic to buy passage out of Kirkwall, and only because he was coerced by the Grey Wardens.
  • Assassin's Creed: A major element of the franchise is taking historical situations and people and showing them in a more naked and honest light than is typically found in the history books. For example, Richard The Lion Heart is shown as something of a Blood Knight, Niccolò Machiavelli is shown as more of a statesman than a ruthless schemer, and the Patriots involved in The American Revolution are shown manipulating public opinion to make their war seem more just than it is. At the same time, the games also take some liberties by having major historical figures be allied with the Assassin and the Templar factions that are engaged in a Secret War for control of humanity's hearts and minds.
  • In Assassin's Creed III, Samuel Johnson is arguably the nicest of the founding fathers. However, when Connor asks him why he isn't speaking out about slavery even though he freed his wife's slave, he says "It's complicated" and ducks the issue. Even though he himself is opposed to slavery, he doesn't really want to force the issue for fear of dividing the colonists, a trait that was true even years later.
  • In City of Heroes players will find the Big Good, Statesman - hero of Paragon, leader of the Freedom Phalanx, and saver of the world multiple times… But when you actually meet Statesmen up close, or the Freedom Phalanx you will find Statesman apparently berates his team, demands constant perfection, doesn’t trust the rest of the Phalanx to do the job without him around, can’t recall every one whose helped him save the world (he doesn’t deny they helped him, he’s just done it so much it’s a But for Me, It Was Tuesday situation) and in general is a colossal pain-in-the-ass; He is however despite all this still a genuine hero, and most of his flaws come from years of having to save Paragon City over and over again.
    • This actually happens with multiple members of The Freedom Phalanx, Sister Psyche’ is a heroine who has been active since she was a tween in World War II, but actually meet her and it turns out the years have turned her into a cynical snarky Smug Super; Manticore is non-powered wealthy hero who lost his parents as a kid and now fights crime, but get to know him and you’ll find he is a very pro-lethal force hero whose angst and rage can make him come off less as edgy and more like an angry rich person upset he has to put up with the system of law and order; The hero Synapse was an engineering assistant used as a test subject by a company of mad scientists and now has super speed, but what you don’t find out from his public appearances is he apparently still gets night terrors from reliving the tortuous experiments he was subjected to; and then we have Back Alley Brawler - Semi Retired Badass, whose still on call but mostly focuses on his career as a Super Cop, but you will find out he is semi-retired because he’s had to straight up kill people and doesn’t want that tainting the Freedom Phalanx.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, there is a celebrity named Poppy Mitchell. She is an actress popular in the romantic comedy genre, and she has a reputation as "America's Sweetheart." One mission in the game requires you aid a paparazzi in capturing video footage of Poppy engaging in anal sex with one of her co-stars. Another later mission requires you to get footage of her fleeing from the police while drunk driving. Needless to say, these two incidents pretty much destroy her squeaky-clean image.
  • The so-called "legends" that make up the Order of the Stone in Minecraft: Story Mode are revealed to be a bunch of cheap glory hounds who used a command block (i. e. Minecraft's version of cheating) to kill the Ender Dragon when they realised the fight was too tough for them. Their refusal to own up to their cowardice basically fuels the first arc. Needless to say, the lead Jessie, who really believed that they were heroes, is less than impressed.
  • The Player Character in Disco Elysium is a legend in the local police force of Revachol, having served for years in the city's most crime-ridden neighborhood, but also having solved hundred of cases and having a remarkably low kill count. He is also a hopeless alcoholic, drug addict and potential sex pest, who suffers from occasional mental breakdowns and hears voices in his head. In fact, his assigned partner, Kim, first meets him, after he has been through a three-day bender that has obliterated his memory. In the better endings Kim admits that he's completely insane but also a good man at heart and the best detective he's ever seen.
  • Age of Empires II:
    • In The Forgotten (HD Edition), the narrator of Vlad the Impaler's campaign noted his achievements, but did not shy away from his extreme deeds.
    • In The Rise of the Rajas (HD Edition), Wang Tong, the narrator of Lê Lợi's campaign, noted that while Lê Lợi did much good during his reign, the state of affairs deterioriated under his successors.

  • Homestuck: Dirk seems to have a very high opinion of Alpha!Dave. While he certainly was an amazing hero, he's far from flawless. And although we haven't seen it directly, the same is probably true for Roxy and Alpha!Rose as well.

    Web Original 
  • The site doesn't paint a romanticized version of the world. The darker sides of so-called (American) heroes and history are discussed in detail.
  • Stated by illustrator and author of Rejected Princesses to be one of the goals of the site when it covers a more well known historical woman by presenting details and character flaws that are often left out of popular depictions.
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device: Whammudes and Custodisi's opinion of the Emperor after reading The Last Church. Their loyalty to their lord and liege is unbreakable... but that doesn't mean they don't see just what kind of an asshole he is. Before The Reveal that Uriah Olathaire had become a Chaos priest, Custodisi's opinion favored him over the Emperor in the tale.
  • The London arc of Shadowrun Corporate Sins revolves around Cromwell's search for Pip, the dwarf who raised him on Yomi Island, a Japanese concentration camp for metahumans. When the team finally finds him they find that not only is he a nanny rather than a butler but that he's a BTL addict and a fighter in an illegal fight ring. Nonetheless, he and Cromwell do reconcile once he explains that as rough as he may have treated Cromwell he was doing what he thought was best and Cromwell admits that he probably wouldn't have survived Yomi without him.
  • Epic Rap Battles of History exempts none of its participants from fact-based criticism, save for a few who only show up as surprises near the end of their battles, but very few who aren't universally regarded as outright villains by historical consensus are portrayed in a strictly negative light. Thomas Jefferson is a good example; his battle with Frederick Douglass consists in large part of scathing criticism over his status as an unrepentant slave owner, but ends on a note stressing that this does not discredit his positive achievements.
  • RWBY has Summer Rose, deceased mother of Ruby Rose. She's described by nearly everyone as the perfect Huntress and leader, no heroic character has anything bad to say about her, and Ruby feels enormous pressure to live up to her legacy. In the Volume 9 finale "Of Solitude and Self", she sees a memory of her mother revealing that the night she left, she lied to Ruby's father Tai and went on a risky mission with only Raven knowing, nor was she the perfect loving angel Ruby's been picturing her as. While she's initially angry at this, she eventually realizes that no one is perfect and thus she shouldn't hold herself to those standards either.

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in the first episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Batman and the Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes) end up on a distant alien planet that reveres the Beetle (actually, a previous owner of the scarab) as their savior. Like the Firefly example, Jaime tries to convince the aliens that he's no savior and that they should stand on their own two feet, but it fails... until the climax of the episode.
  • In BoJack Horseman, BoJack lets Diane, his ghostwriter for his autobiography, tell a warts and all story. However, he changes his tune once he actually reads the book, which portrays him as the pathetic figure he really is, having hoped that he would at least come off as sympathetic.
    BoJack: This isn't warts and all! It's just warts! Where's the all?
  • In Hey Arnold!, Eugene is disillusioned when he learns that his idol is a foul-tempered hypocrite. However, he's also a good person as demonstrated when he selflessly saves Eugene and Arnold from untimely deaths.
    • In another episode, Arnold himself meets his favorite author and interviews her for a book report. She's an irascible recluse who acts like Arnold is an idiot for liking the cheerful fantasy stories she wrote years ago. When Arnold gives his report, he doesn't sugarcoat any of it and still considers her his favorite author. In a heartwarming twist, Arnold's idealism actually rubbed off on her to where she wrote a new book based on meeting Arnold.
  • On Daria, an old sports hero comes to Lawndale High for a dedication, and everybody has to put up with what a Jerk Jock he is. The discrepancy between his honored status and caustic personality becomes even more difficult when he dies in an accident, evoking sympathy and Never Speak Ill of the Dead.
  • Beast Wars: Invoked by Dinobot via his Last Words:
    "Tell my tale to those who ask. Tell it truly, the ill deeds along with the good, and let me be judged accordingly. The rest... is silence."
  • The Simpsons:
    • Often spoofed with Krusty the Clown in who is often smoking or doing other disturbing things which children might find shocking. He doesn't care about the kids, comedy or entertainment one bit (the odd Pet the Dog moment like at the end of "Kamp Krusty" not withstanding); he's in it for the money.
    • A topic of the episode "Lisa the Iconoclast", in which Lisa discovers the town's founder, Jebediah Springfield, was actually a pirate who even tried to kill George Washington. Eventually, she decides not to reveal this to the rest of the town, believing that his good image has always kept the town morale high and that it's better to keep the myth alive.