It's a simple question, really. What if someone were a god? Being God in Human Form or Deity of Human Origin would probably be harder than one would think. For starters, there's a good possibility you wouldn't be The Omnipotent. For another, there's the whole "human psyche" aspect to worry about. What happens when the powers of a god are encased in a mortal shell? Even if only perceived as such, and not a god in actuality, what would the psychological ramifications be? Would you use this for power?
The ramifications generally break down into one of nine psychological archetypes:
- The Savior: You follow the creed of With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility and devote yourself to helping others outwardly, hoping you will have a positive effect on society.
- The Despot: You flaunt your power over others, declaring A God Am I and using this power for personal gain and satisfaction.
- The Shepherd: You know the truth, and must show the world the true path, the righteous way; you shall teach men to fish, and they shall be fed for a lifetime.
- The Prince: You will rule over all you see, for only you are capable of preventing these wretches from drowning themselves in their own filth.
- The Reluctant Messiah: You will do what you must for the greater good, but why you?
- The Rebel: You are you, god or not; you are flesh and blood, and will decide your fate for yourself. If that means becoming the opposite of what you were intended to be, then so be it.
- The Self-Denouncer: You are not a god and you wish people would believe in themselves and others, rather than worship you.
- The Apathetic: You are a god. Fine. Then how are mortals or their morals and troubles any concern of yours?
- The Oblivious: You haven't the faintest idea that you are a god, or even anything other than human. You may not notice all the odd things that tend to happen around you...
Note that this describes the psychology behind any character and their motivations who possess god-like powers or positions, and not the repercussions or actions taken because of his status.
May overlap with Tomato in the Mirror if the character discovers hes a god.
Given the nature of the trope, examples are likely to be spoiler-heavy. You have been warned.
- Light Yagami of Death Note is a perfect example of The Prince. He uses godlike powers to kill evildoers and those who stand against him, so as to gain the fear and admiration of the weak populace as a true god, all to ultimately bring order and peace to the world - with him as God Almighty reigning over it, of course.
- Lain of Serial Experiments Lain starts out as The Oblivious, but becomes aware of her true nature by the end of the series.
- Naruto: Pain is basically human but possesses godlike powers (or something like that) and tries to use them. The category... he probably thinks of himself along the lines of a savior but is more a prince type. But you can probably argue about that.
- Kamichu! Yurie fits the bill for Relcutant Messiah.
- The premise of the Haruhi Suzumiya series is that Haruhi is The Oblivious. She's bored with ordinary life, so she regularly goes out of her way looking for interesting things, or trying to imagine mysteries where none exist, but she doesn't realize some of her friends are aliens or time travelers, who may or may not exist because she wished them into existence.
- Jodie in American Jesus starts out the The Saviour, though later moves towards The Shepherd.
- Superman, pre-Crisis, is a clear-cut example of a Savior-type. Post-Crisis he is a combination of a Reluctant Messiah and Self-Denouncer type - he hates being called a god, but wishes he were the god people make him out to be.
- Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan is essentially a god, and is explicitly called that by one character. Because he sees everything at its molecular level, and all time exists at the same time for him, though, he's become The Ubermensch. In flashbacks (such as the Vietnam War), he's more of an Extreme Doormat who doesn't fit any of the archetypes, though he tries to be The Savior.
- Of all people, Jesus of Nazareth is presented as a Reluctant-Messiah-type in The Last Temptation of Christ.
- Some of the gospels had him showing hints of this also, notably in the garden of Gethsemane. He asks God if they could avoid the whole crucifixion thing, but then says that since it's the big guy's will, that's okay too.
- The plot of Bruce Almighty. Starts as The Despot, tries to be The Savior but isn't up to the task.
- Tron universe: Humans accidentally created a civilization of sentient Programs, and for the most part, they love and worship their human Users. Of the humans who find out?
- Kevin Flynn started as Oblivious, went to Self-Denouncer (admitting to Tron and Yori he was totally making things up as he went along), then built The Grid and tried to the The Savior, but it blew up in his face as he really wasn't up to the task, and more or less ends as The Apathetic, as he cared little about The Grid itself and only about getting Sam and Quorra to safety.
- Tron 2.0: Thorne got shot into cyberspace and embraced being The Despot whole hog. The people behind Thorne plan on being even worse Despots. Ma3a, the Benevolent A.I., uploads Jet Bradley in desperation. Jet thwarts them, but realizing what being a User means doesn't do his sanity any favors. He ends up as a cross of Reluctant Messiah, Self-Denouncer, and The Savior, realizing that as much as he hates the idea of being a User, humans have a responsibility to the Programs and that there's always another guy like Thorne waiting in the wings.
- Thor: While living among humans, and even a bit among his own kind, Thor is a Prince (possibly because he literally is one), but becomes a Savior later. Loki is even more twisted, taking delight in killing humans purely because Thor has sworn to protect them, like a bratty kid breaking his brother's favorite toys.
- The Twilight Zone (1959) episode, and the short story on which it's based, "It's a Good Life," deal with what would happen if a bratty child were given Reality Warper powers akin to God.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In "Josh", Captain Marquez believes that Josh Butler is God. Josh's amazing abilities support this.
- Joan Osborne's song "One Of Us", the Trope Namer, wonders what type of "one of us" God is, tending somewhat to the "Reluctant" type.
- One of the central themes of Exalted is to explore this question. Given that there are several thousand of them, the titular Exalted tend to run the gamut of archetypes presented here, with the possible exception of Obliviousness—Exaltation is hard to miss.
- The God-Emperor of Warhammer 40,000 is a mix of The Self-Denouncer, The Prince, and The Shepherd. He considers himself to be a human and thinks humanity should worship themselves rather than any deities. While at first he just guided humanity instead of making his presence known, when the Age of Strife happened he decided to make his presence known since if he didn't there wouldn't have been a humanity left to guide.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Immortals Set, which describes what happens to player characters who Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, the Immortals are Apathetic: completely concerned with their own society and personal projects (many of which involve creating life-bearing planets from scratch). With a few exceptions (such as Rad), Immortals are only interested the Prime for three reasons: to use it as a neutral meeting ground, to nab specimens of interesting species for their projects, and to recruit potential new Immortals.
- Mata Nui fits multiple categories during his tenure as the Great Spirit of the Matoran (who wasn't explicitly worshiped, but was revered and had the powers of a god.) It's actually a large part of his Character Development over the course of the series.
- Initially, he was a combination of The Shepherd and The Apathetic, wishing the best for his people but largely ignoring their existence.
- When he was hijacked from his position by Makuta he firmly became a mixture of The Shepherd and The Savior as he sought to find a way to free the Matoran. In the process, he helps restore hope to the inhabitants of Bara Magna and reforms their society.
- After all was said and done (read: re-uniting the shattered parts of Spherus Magna and fulfilling his destiny), he then 'left' his friends and people in a Self-Denouncer fashion. Citing his apathetic nature to them earlier, he recognized that since then, they'd mostly grown into their own as a self-determining civilization that no longer needed him. This is especially the case since the thing that enabled his godlike abilities—a Humongous Mecha that everyone else lived in—was destroyed. So even if he doesn't ignore them any longer, he can't actually help them beyond using the powers of the Mask of Life. Still, in true Shepherd fashion, he promises to answer them if they should ever require his aid.
- In Baldur's Gate, the PC is The Oblivious for much of the game. In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, the ending determines whether he will be The Despot, The Savior with shades of Rebel, or Rebel and leave the mantle on the floor.
- Devil Survivor: The Main Character in the King of Saints ending is the Prince, with some Shepherd-like characteristics. In the King of Demons ending, he acts like he's The Ubermensch, but this is actually a smokescreen: he's actually The Savior in a somewhat twisted way. In the other endings he gives up or fails to attain the power of Bel, though an argument could be made for him acting as The Shepherd and The Self-Denouncer in Atsuro's route, as he gives power to humanity instead of seizing it for himself. Gin's route is pure Rebel, while Yuzu's is an unusual Rebellion in that the MC simply drops the problem and runs away rather than fighting to save the world.
- In The World Ends with You, Joshua shows elements of The Prince and The Shepherd, trying to erase all of Shibuya, shooting Neku twice, and using him in a pawn in his game. On the other hand, -he- also keeps the Game running as a means of judging the dead and refining their Imaginations, and Neku, Shiki and maybe Beat seem to have grown from their experiences in it. Hanekoma, meanwhile, seems to be a straight example of The Shepherd.
- Xenoblade makes Shulk the next god of the world. They ultimately become The Rebel and sacrifice their godhood to recreate their world, so that it doesn't need gods to function.