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Working-Class Hero

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Quint: You have city hands, Mr. Hooper. You been countin' money all your life.
Hooper: All right, all right! Hey, I don't need this... I don't need this working-class hero crap!

When a working-class character or group of characters is shown to be highly intelligent and capable because they learned everything by doing it on the job rather than in school, this is an impressive achievement. Figuring everything out themselves gives them initative, common sense and folk wisdom that makes them able to solve problems creatively and intuitively. Highly-educated characters may marvel at this character's ability to figure out problems that go beyond the textbook procedures.

This character, at times, tends to be disdainful and negative to higher social class characters who learn things through formal education and/or display conscious/unconscious elitist class assumptions. In communist nations, a Working Class Hero reads books, learns about ideas, and generally isn't anti-intellectual. This character type is more common in socialist and communist literature, which usually averts Working-Class People Are Morons.

Likewise, this character type, for a variety of reasons, tends to be male. Poor women when represented are usually wives, sisters, or mothers of the male hero, and their issues are usually seen in gendered dimensions rather than class ones — such as being a Struggling Single Mother, a Single Mom Stripper or in some cases working as prostitutes, in spite of the fact, that at least since The '80s, women represent a disproportionate number of the world's low-income earning population and were victims of some of the worst workplace disasters. Nonetheless, female examples of this trope have become increasingly popular in some media.

Historically, in the vast majority of literature and theater, the heroes and heroines tend to be from a high socioeconomic status group, either because of wealth, education, or aristocratic birth. Lower middle-class and working-class characters are either supporting characters or they are confined to comedies. For a long time, critics and artists regarded aristocratic issues such as fall of a ruling family seriously because it aristocrats were essential to the state as it existed then. Also, realistically speaking, they had better career opportunities to be captains, commanders, governors, and heroes, so artists should not be faulted for reflecting the confined and restricted worldview as it existed then. In authoritarian countries, artists didn't have much of a choice, due to censorship. In the wake of the revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries, when working classes started uplifting themselves, working-class heroes and artistic modes to represent them gained increasing currency.

This trope is common in the military stories, usually portrayed as the hero has risen Up Through the Ranks. While a majority of officers tend to come from the upper classes, militaries are by their nature meritocracies, and some talented working-class youth may attain a surprisingly high position.note 

Related to Farm Boy. See also Book Dumb, Almighty Janitor. Magical versions may be a Blue-Collar Warlock. For a more negative example, see Social Climber, who is usually regarded as a working-class villain, in that the working-class hero does not deny their roots or forgets about their family and where they come from. Can overlap with Science Hero or Nerd Action Hero (or even both) depending on the job. Contrast Crimefighting with Cash for wealthy superheroes who rely on their income to fight crime, and the Lower-Class Lout for hard-drinking, lazy and/or even villainous working-class types (though the two can overlap if the working-class hero is also a a particularly dark Anti-Hero like a Sociopathic Hero).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: At the beginning of the series, Tanjiro Kamado works as a humble charcoal seller like his ancestors have for centuries; during the first manga chapter/anime episode this is shown to portray how diligent Tanjiro is, his kindness in working to assist his mother after his father passed away a year before the series began. That diligence follows Tanjiro when he becomes a Demon Slayer.
  • My Hero Academia: Ochaco Uraraka's family owns a barely-afloat construction company and she sticks out compared to the more well off students of U.A. Her initial motivation for becoming a hero is simply to earn more money to support her family.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Katsuya Jonouchi/Joey Wheeler is a delinquent from a broken home, and specifically has permission from the school to work multiple odd jobs to pay the bills. He also happens to be one of the most competent and lucky duelists in the series, defeating cheaters through fair play and coming within a gnat's whisker of besting Dark Marik.

  • The implication behind Freedom of Speech (of Four Freedoms). Through his clothes and the clothes of that around him, Norman Rockwell implies that the subject is a blue-collar worker who is the lone voice of dissent in a crowd of white-collar men. The further implication is that because he has freedom of speech, he isn't afraid to speak his mind.
  • "Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring" by Dame Laura Knight: a portrait of a wartime munitions worker. From the linked page: "Miss Loftus had been brought to the attention of the War Artist's Advisory Committee as 'an outstanding factory worker'. Knight expected to do a studio portrait but the Ministry of Supply requested that she be painted at work in the Royal Ordnance Factory in Newport."
  • The Soviet sculpture Worker and Kolkhoz Woman depicts a male industrial worker and a female collective farm (kolkhoz) worker in a heroic pose. It is typical of Socialist Realism.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain Klutz: The character by Don Martin (from a Mad magazine paperback book) was impoverished nobody who tried to commit suicide from a high-rise tenement, wound up getting wrapped up in some clothing from a series of laundry lines, and inadvertently thwarts a robbery. The burglar calls him a "klutz" before getting arrested. The policeman asks what his name was and dazed he says "I'm a klutz, Captain." So he became Captain Klutz.
  • Catwoman: Catwoman, when portrayed as a hero, is shown to be highly conscious of being a girl from Gotham's poor district and often acts as a Robin Hood-type hero who hasn't forgotten her old neighbourhood even after becoming The One Who Made It Out.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
  • Savage: In Invasion!, Bill Savage was a lorry driver before the Volgans attacked, and his working-class common sense is frequently what allows him to succeed where the top military see no chance of victory.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Man and Peter Parker very believably comes across as a poor scholarship boy whose daily pressures (education, being an orphan, having elderly guardians) was already a strain before his superpowers. It's also there in his identity as a "Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man" and a Small Steps Hero. This aspect tends to be toned down some adaptations (with the exception of The Spectacular Spider-Man) and more recent stories, especially when he became CEO of Parker Industries in The Amazing Spider-Man (2015). Realistically, to continue living in New York, Peter would have to move up the income bracket and persist in the 21st Century.
    • Peter's long-term girlfriend/wife/Love Interest, Mary Jane Watson, was born poor, to a broken home, and essentially ran away to live with her Aunt Anna in New York and chose to work for a living. She eventually becomes entirely through her means a successful model and actress, a nightclub owner, and lately, a highly paid member of Stark Industries. Tom Beland's "Web of Romance", a one-shot written during their marriage, has Peter reflecting on how his wife was more impressive than him:
    Peter Parker: "My wife is strong. My wife is smart. My wife is everything I could never be without that bite from a spider."
  • Superman: Several observers and Grant Morrison observe that the original appeal of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman was that of a Working-Class Hero (though as a civilian news reporter he's middle-class) who in the early issues tackled the Corrupt Corporate Executive, slum lords, strikebreakers and was a Wife-Basher Basher. Morrison specifically compared Superman to Batman as class opposites, the former grew up on a farm and needs to draw a salary while the latter is filthy rich.
  • Wolverine: In most stories where Wolverine isn't an active super hero or living as a wild animal, Logan prefers a low-key, blue-collar lifestyle, usually as some kind of manual laborer and hanging out at the local bar. Origin revealed him to have worked in a stone quarry for most of his adolescence.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: The Mario Bros. blew their entire life savings starting their own plumbing business and their commercial and van is of low quality. Said investment managed to lead to a series of events where they became heroes in another world and later their own.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Silent comedians Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton created comedies where they star as poor and struggling protagonists. Keaton even moreso, since he played technicians — projectionist, train operator, navigator, cameraman — that were embodiments of working-class technical know-how and competence. Keaton noted that this was what made him different from Chaplin, in that while the latter's films were about the "common man" and the vagabond they also had a "bum's philosophy of life", whereas Keaton's own films were about people who worked for a living.
  • A running theme throughout the Alien series, especially the first two films, is that the protagonists are working-class people who are routinely abused and manipulated by their bosses at the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, which sees them as expendable. In the first film, the human characters are Space Truckers who brought a xenomorph onto their ship because Weyland-Yutani wanted a sample for their own purposes, and didn't care about it killing their workers one by one. In Aliens, meanwhile, the protagonists are Ellen Ripley, the Sole Survivor of the first film, and The Squad of implicitly blue-collar Space Marines around her, while the main human villain Carter Burke is a sleazy corporate suit sent by Weyland-Yutani to once more retrieve a xenomorph sample.
  • In Armageddon (1998), our heroes are oil drillers, none of whom exceptionally intelligent (with the exception of one character who specializes in geology and hides his intellect behind acting like a perv), but who get to save the day by being astronauts and drilling a giant hole in the killer meteor. It is stated, outright, that apparently it's easier to teach drillers to be astronauts than it is to teach astronauts to be drillers. Buzz Aldrin would like to have a word with you.
  • In Back to School, Rodney Dangerfield's character, Thornton Melon, is a college dropout who's nevertheless become incredibly wealthy with his chain of "plus-sized" men's clothing shops. Despite his fortune, though, he's a genuinely Nice Guy. When Thornton finds out that his son is considering dropping out himself, he enrolls in the same college (thanks to a generous donation that leads to a new business school being built) to inspire the boy. When Thornton enrolls in an economics class where the snobby professor speaks in pure theory, Thornton —who has actual business experience— offers his own practical knowledge of the economy (such as setting aside money to pay off the teamsters and other kickbacks for the mob's involvement in construction). It's so effective that the students start taking notes from him.
  • Black Lightning (2009): Compared to his jerk friend Maxim and an evil businessman Kuptsov, who both have everything, Dima is a relative nobody who lives in a small flat with his family.
  • The Confirmation: Walt, the protagonist, is an out-of-work contractor.
  • In Deadly Harvest, the protagonist Grant Franklin is portrayed as a simple working class man struggling against Corrupt Corporate Executives, organized crime syndicates, and other threats from the upper-class city folk, whom he eventually fights back against.
  • John McClane of Die Hard fame is the ultimate everyman who learned everything he knows from on-the-job honest policing in the NYPD. Then becomes a generic Super Cop in Live Free or Die Hard.
  • William Foster in Falling Down is an educated man who made his bones as an aerospace engineer working for a paycheck rather than a scientist or an academic. However, when he snaps after being laid off, he is the Angry White Man personified, raging at a society that left him and others like him behind and treading a very dark path that leaves nothing but destruction. For every cogent point he raises about the world he, the other characters, and the viewer live in, he then proceeds to cast a very dark shadow over it through his increasingly horrifying actions and his pettier and more questionable concerns.
  • The eponymous protagonists of both the original 1984 Ghostbusters film and its 2016 reboot start out as scientists and parapsychologists, but after getting fired from their university jobs, they spurn the academy by taking their ghost-hunting technology and entering the world of private business (together with a blue-collar, street-smart new recruit), becoming the supernatural version of vermin exterminators. This proves to be a far more lucrative and fulfilling career path.
  • In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood's character Walt Kowalski is implied as not being a terribly intelligent or academic fellow, but he has lots of common sense wisdom and is totally effective at dealing with young gangsters. However, he is incredibly racist toward the Hmong, has a massively restrained relationship with his kids such that they want little to do with him (and appeared to have raised their own kids to resent him), and his attitude makes him lonely and miserable.
  • Quint from Jaws is a veteran, competent, and savvy seaman who dismisses Hooper's knowledge of sharks outright because Hooper is a college kid. Hooper, treated with contempt, makes some mistakes in his assessment and also calls Quint out. However, Quint's pride causes him to ignore important advice from Hooper, and ultimately gets killed for it. Hooper, although not exactly effective in his own right, at least survives at the end.
  • Margot Mills in The Menu is an Audience Surrogate who grew up poor with a Struggling Single Mother in a Trashy Trailer Home, she's more sensitive than anyone else to the class implications of the meal that's being served, and its revealed later in the film that she's not actually Tyler's girlfriend, but an escort he hired to take to the dinner. The fact that she and the villain Julian Slowik share a blue-collar background winds up saving her life, as it allows her to connect with him and break through his elitist shell, causing him to spare her from his plan to kill himself and everybody else at the dinner (and make her a damn good cheeseburger on the way out).
  • Throughout The Purge Universe, the protagonists are usually working-class people banding together to survive a "holiday" designed to Kill the Poor, while the series' Greater-Scope Villain is the plutocratic elite of its dystopian near-future America.
  • All three film versions of Spider-Man have this going for them to some extent.
    • A lot of his actions in Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man Trilogy movies are either motivated or affected by his financial concerns. Even in the third film, his landlord can't stop bugging him for rent, despite the fact that Peter's apartment is significantly beneath standard.
      Symbiote Peter: You'll get your rent when you fix this damn door!
    • The version seen in The Amazing Spider-Man Series is probably the most downplayed example; this version of aunt May has to work two jobs after Uncle Ben's death, and Peter himself earns some cash on the side with the Daily Bugle to cover costs, but on the large and by this aspect of his character is Out of Focus in favour of worldbuilding and the Myth Arc.
    • Lastly, the version seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe applies the Decon-Recon Switch to this trope. The movies have a significantly more realistic take on how Peter and Aunt May's living conditions in the modern, expensive New York, as the two live in a small apartment. While Peter is enrolled in an exclusive school for gifted children, the movies also deliberately contrast Peter, who got there on merit, with a Privileged Rival who got there because of his family's wealth. He is also introduced as a literal dumpster diver in order to supply his intellectual work and gear as Spider-Man, wearing a "costume" that is visibly a refashioned onesie. On the other hand, from his introduction onward the Avengers and Shield hook him up with gear, thereby preventing his life as Spider-Man from seriously affecting his civilian life financially. The events of Spider-Man: No Way Home body-slam him right back into this role fully — after becoming an Un-person to the whole world, Peter's resources are whatever he can get from odd jobs and a Spidey suit he sewed together.
  • Tetris (2023): Alexey Pajitnov is an odd case. Despite his game becoming a national sensation, he and his family are still stuck in poverty thanks to being screwed over by his country's communist government.

  • The 1632 series has many main characters who are excellent at improvising with what they have, but very few of whom have higher education by the standards of the 20th century from which they were plucked by Alien Space Bats. However, these characters do not underestimate the value of education and knowledge. In fact, that is the primary asset the small Virginia town brings to 1632 Europe.
  • Discworld:
    • Sam Vimes is just a beat cop in the town watch who moves up through the ranks to become Captain and has a Duke-ship thrust upon him against his will. The ruler sends him as a diplomat/ambassador where he uses street smarts to beat the bad guys.
    • Harry King has built an empire on collecting and recycling garbage, after starting out as an urchin. However, he does recognise that fancy book learnin' can be useful at times. He is also impressed that William de Worde knows what a tosheroon is due to his love for the written word.
  • The Joads from The Grapes of Wrath. Just like everyone else, they flee to California to try and escape the worst of the Great Depression. Tom Joad in particular became an icon in folk music as a hero of the Depression, for the likes of Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Sam is the only member of the Fellowship who doesn't come from either royalty or nobility: Aragorn is a king to be, Legolas is a prince and Boromir might as well be one for all practical purposes, Gimli is a relative of Dwarven kings, and among the Hobbits, Frodo, Merry, and Pippin all come from wealthy and influential families. Sam, on the other hand, is Frodo's gardener. Gandalf also technically isn't royalty or nobility, but his status as a Maia means that he's not exactly working-class either.
  • In The Migax Cycle, most of the main protagonists are this:
    • Summer comes from a lower-class background, which ends up giving her an advantage when it comes to not being noticed by authority.
    • Leafsong is tough due to her lower-class background and it makes her more alert and suspicious than others.
  • Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick is The Captain of a whaling boat who began as a simple fisherman who steadily rose through the ranks, from crewman to his current position. He's regarded as a rare example of a working-class Tragic Hero.
    "Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God! who didst not refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty, earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the kingly commoners; bear me out in it, O God!"
  • Joseph Conrad's titular hero Nostromo is the Capataz de Cargadores, the foreman of the stevedores for the Gould Mining Concession of the fictional South American city Sulaco.
  • Leads in Pump Six and Other Stories are often with working-class background and sensibilities:
    • Travis Alvarez from Pump Six is the most intelligent and competent person in the entire city of New York... by the virtue of being a pipe repairman doing his duty and keeping the city sewage system running, while everyone around him is a complete imbecile.
    • Lalo in The Tamarisk Hunter is a Determined Homesteader, hunting down the eponymous tamarisks and gaining his water bounty. He's smart enough to not only earn his share, but also to make sure tamarisks won't go completely extinct, fully knowing exterminating them all would make him jobless and, more importantly, without access to water.
    • Lalji from The Calorie Man is an aging smuggler, coming from a poor farm in India. He uses every opportunity to make some profit on a side, using his knowledge of the world before oil run dry and most of the crops were wiped out by seed-making MegaCorps. On top of that, he maintains a profile of a good, loyal citizen, by playing bureaucrats and security guards like fiddles.
  • Tanner Sack from The Scar, a felon sentenced to what was basically death by hard labor in the colonies, ultimately ends up being the man to turn Armada around, saving it from destruction.
  • Sharpe: Richard Sharpe is a great officer because he fought his way up from the ranks, defeating prejudice from the aristocrat-dominated officer corps who know far less about what warfare is like for the common soldier. Because of this Sharpe focuses on what he knows is important from his battlefield experience instead of getting hung up on theory like the book-taught officers. However, Sharpe has great respect for the upper-class William Lawford, who taught him how to read while they were imprisoned together in India.
  • Tales of Dunk and Egg chronicles the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall, one of the greatest knights in the history of Westeros who started as a mere Street Urchin.
  • Anequs of To Shape a Dragon's Breath is quick to inform anyone that thinks too highly of her position as a female nackie dragoneer that she's the daughter of a whaler who grew up working a farm on a island, never intends a high society life, and wants to take her education back to her people rather than integrate into upper Anglish society.
  • Trustee from the Toolroom: Keith Stewart started as a fitter. He is fond of his sister, a former chorus girl who married an aristocratic naval officer but never envied her rise in social and financial status. He loves his job as a writer for Miniature Mechanic, but knows he could have earned more as a factory foreman or as an instructor at a technical college.
  • Sam Yeager in Turtledove's Worldwar series is a minor-league ballplayer with an interest in science fiction who eventually becomes an Army colonel and the military's chief advisor on dealing with the Lizards, ultimately traveling to Home.
  • Wedge Antilles from X-Wing Series never went to an Imperial academy, and New Republic military academies didn't form until well after he became a serious Ace Pilot. Just in general his education isn't detailed (his parents ran the spaceship equivalent of a gas station/garage), but it can be inferred that he got a lot of it on the job. He doesn't look down on people who were trained by the Empire, though, since so many of his friends and comrades are ex-Imperial.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A lot of the recent Discovery/History Channel reality/documentary shows have focused on this, including Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men, American Loggers, Deadliest Catch and Dirty Jobs. The shows often emphasize the danger of these jobs to the workers, painting their struggles as epic battles for their lives, or for the betterment of ours.
  • Chernobyl: The miners refuse to be intimidated into joining the rescue operation ("You haven't got enough bullets for all of us"), but when the minister explains why their help is necessary, they willingly take part, despite knowing the danger.
  • Daredevil (2015): Matt Murdock, Karen Page, and Foggy Nelson all have working-class backgrounds.
    • Matt was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen by his father, a boxer, until he was murdered for refusing to take a dive for the mob. Then he spent his pre-teen and teenage years in St. Agnes, during which he got trained by Stick, and then got a full-ride scholarship to Columbia Law.
    • Karen was born and raised in Fagan Corners, Vermont, where her parents ran a struggling diner on the outskirts of town.
    • Foggy's family has run a butcher shop out of Hell's Kitchen since 1957, though Foggy opted to go be a lawyer rather than help his brother Theo run the shop. This disconnect actually comes to bite him in season 3, as Foggy's disconnect from his family in recent years allows Wilson Fisk to trick them into committing fraud as a means to blackmail Foggy, and it's over a year before Foggy even finds out that Fisk is blackmailing them.
  • In Doctor Who, several of the Doctor's Companions have come from Working Class backgrounds, turning them into this trope:
    • Dodo Chaplet is introduced with a working-class Mancunian accent. Executive Meddling made her start speaking RP pronto. Ben Jackson is a sailor with a broad Cockney accent, contrasted with his middle-class Implied Love Interest Polly.
    • Ace, a Companion of the Seventh Doctor, is a boisterous lower-class tomboy who got kicked out of school for having been a little too good at making her own signature homemade explosives and then somehow wound up on an alien space station because of some weird portal thing. As a character, she was inspired somewhat by the '80s Punk movement (which often embraced Working-Class Heroes to some extent), and the actress and producers have stated in the past that if they could have gotten away with her speaking a lower-class dialect in an '80s BBC production, they would have. Like many Working-Class Heroes, Ace had a very... direct approach to problem-solving; more often than not her solution to a problem was to chuck an explosive at it, and she's the first Companion with the privilege of getting to attack a Dalek of all things with a baseball bat. It actually works, since the Dalek wasn't expecting an attack from behind; Sophie Aldred has indicated that this was basically the Crowning Moment of Awesome for her whole career.
    • Rose Tyler from the 2005 revival; in contrast with most prior British Companions, she speaks with a lower-class London accent, and before she jumped into the TARDIS, was a low-level "shop girl" (retail worker), who was raised by a single mother in lower-class housing. Cassandra, when possessing Rose in "New Earth", even refers to her as a "chav" which if you know anything about British slang, says that even to snobs from the year 5 Billion, she reads as Working Class.
    • Rose's boyfriend Mickey, who later becomes a Companion as well, works as a mechanic, and the fact that he has access to a tow truck is actually a plot point in the Series 1 finale.
    • The first time we meet Companion Clara by that name anyway, she's working as a barmaid who speaks with a blatantly lower-class dialect... but she is also Living a Double Life as a part-time governess for a well-off family, because it turns out she can fake a posh enough accent to gain employment that way, too. Later episodes, after we meet the original version of her show Clara job-hopping a bit, working alternately as a nanny, a teacher, etc. That last one should imply a middle (rather than lower) class upbringing or at least some decent education, but we don't see enough to know how she got said jobs or education due to the Doctor popping in and out of her life at such intervals. It seems probable that some of her "echoes" were lower and/or Working Class too, though - at least for the culture they appeared in; for example, even the one on Gallifrey appears to either be working Security or in the Repair Shop proper, since she's the one who directs him to the "right" TARDIS.
  • Game of Thrones: Davos Seaworth is a competent commoner who learned his trade on the seas before he was knighted.
  • Most of the detectives in Homicide: Life on the Street come from working-class backgrounds. The only exceptions are Pembleton and Bayliss, who implicitly come from middle-class or upper middle-class backgrounds; in Bayliss's case, it generally doesn't lead to much conflict, but Pembleton's snobby behavior leads to a lot of friction with his peers.
  • The hosts shot up into space in Mystery Science Theater 3000 include Joel, a janitor; Mike, a temp; Jonah, basically a space trucker; and Emily, a rigger.
  • Martok from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a Klingon who comes from a low-ranking house in the Ketha lowlands and was initially denied an officer's commission by the aristocratic Dahar Master Kor. He would eventually earn a battlefield commission due to sheer badassery and rise up to become a general...and then Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.
  • The Wire has working-class Anti-Villain Frank Sobotka, a union head for a group of stevedores working at Baltimore's dying docks. Sobotka, seeing the gradual death of the Baltimore docks and other local industries, has made a desperate deal with an international crime syndicate. Frank and his men smuggle their goods into the country, and Frank uses the payoffs to lobby the local politicians into rebuilding the docks and turning it back into a center of commerce. All Frank wants is to be a working-class hero, and he essentially makes a Deal with the Devil to allow it to happen not just for himself, but his longtime coworkers and the future generations of Sobotkas that he imagines will still be working the same trade when he's gone. He sums up the slow death of the working class hero with the following, mournful quote:
    Frank Sobotka: We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket.

  • Eminem's persona (as himself) is a high school dropout who worked degrading jobs and struggled with poverty, abuse and discrimination all his life, but was able to use his incredible rapping skills to escape poverty and To Be a Master at his art. However, he also likes to blend this with his Anti-Role Model persona of Slim Shady, a Lower-Class Lout who embodies all the negative stereotypes of the white working class, an extremely violent Angry White Man who is high and drunk all the time and abuses his girlfriends.
  • Jennifer Warnes' "It Goes Like It Goes", which was made famous in Norma Rae and Covered Up by Dusty Springfield:
    Ah, bless the child of a working man
    She knows too soon who she is
    And bless the hands of a working man
    Oh, he knows his soul is his
  • The Kinks wrote many songs on the theme. Their album Muswell Hillbillies generally shows how working-class people are exploited by the state with poor housing, Conspicuous Consumption, and have no real liberty or freedom. The song "Uncle Son" is about a simple working-class man who is hypocritically exploited by the people who promise that they won't "forget you/when the Revolution comes":
    Unionists tell you when to strike
    Generals tell you when to fight
    Preachers teach you wrong from right
    They'll feed you when you're born
    And use you all your life
  • In John Lennon's song "Working Class Hero", the working class are duped into feeling like heroes but at the end of the day remain in "the working-class" and never break the glass ceiling:
    Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
    And you think you're so clever and classless and free
    But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
  • The Rolling Stones' "Salt of the Earth" is sung from the perspective of affluent liberals who lionize the working class as compliant underclasses who they have never have to interact or deal with personally:
    Let's drink to the hardworking people
    Let's drink to the lowly of birth
    Raise your glass to the good, not the evil
    Let's drink to the salt of the earth...

    When I search a faceless crowd
    A swirling mass of gray and black and white
    They don't look real to me
    In fact they look so strange...
  • Though Bruce Springsteen admits to never having worked a nine-to-five in his life, he based many of his characters on the people of the factory town of Freehold, New Jersey who he grew up around, notably his father, and his sister and brother-in-law. Some of his heroes race cars or turn to drugs to cope with the boredom of their blue collar jobs, others are forced into a life of crime to make ends meet, while others find fulfillment in their career and learn to embrace who they are.
  • "Working Class Man" performed by Jimmy Barnes (of Cold Chisel) and written by Jonathan Cain (of Journey) tells the story about an archetypal working class man and paints him (and by extension working class men generally) in a very noble way. In particular it extols the virtues of this man; referring to him as "a legend of his kind", "running like a cyclone" and with "a heart of gold".
  • A frequently seen trope in Country Music, particularly in the 80s and 90s, as the genre became associated less with cowboys and more with rural America in general, which is heavily associated with blue-collar work. This trope waned in the 2000s, but made a brief half-resurgence in the 2010s as part of the "bro-country" movement, which exalted all things "redneck" and living in "the sticks." In this case, being working class is a sign of pride, but mostly a way to finance the truck, the Satellite Love Interest, and the booze for bonfires that are the staples of songs from that era. Notable songs and artists:
    • Alabama's "40 Hour Week (For a Livin')," which calls out various blue-collar jobs by name, such as Detroit automakers and Pittsburgh steel workers, and say they want to "thank you for your time."
    • Aaron Tippin's "Working Man's Ph.D." which all but sneers at people who don't work with their hands for a living, classifying them as people who don't "pull their weight."
    • Lee Brice's "Drinking Class," which makes the claim that working class people are tougher and more resilient, and therefore deserve a good drink.
    • Brooks & Dunn: "Hard Working Man," about a blue-collar worker proud of all the skills he has and that he works hard to play hard.
    • Kenny Chesney's "Shiftwork," all about the "joys" of working shifts other than a 9-5 ("7-3, 3-11, 11-7," as mentioned in the song).
    • Ty Herndon's "Hands of a Working Man" about a factory worker who is the sole breadwinner for his family and is reassured by the routine of his job; his family doesn't have many material possessions and has a lot of worries, but "he gets what they need/from the hands of a working man."
    • Gretchen Wilson's "Work Hard, Play Harder" is a Rare Female Example, about a woman who works days as a waitress at a diner and nights as a bartender, and is proud to forgo the feminine vanities of upper-class women so she can party.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In Classical Mythology, Heracles is demigod (an illegitimate son of Zeus with a mortal human), but he grew up on a farm, and unlike other demigods such as Perseus, Achilles, and Theseus who were associated with the military and nobility, Heracles was on the margin of government and treated as a mercenary and freelance adventurer, reflecting the itinerant and uncertainty of common people in the Ancient World. Heracles is likewise famous for his "12 Labours". Cults of Heracles were always popular among the common people in Greece and Rome, and during The French Revolution, Jacobins invoked him as a Republican symbol as part of their classical fetish.
  • In Hinduism, Lord Krishna is very close to this. Although he would become ruler of Mathura and Dwaraka and, in later traditions, be regarded as an Avatar of Vishnu, a great deal of his childhood was spent as a village boy who participated in local games, flirted and teased with the local girls, protected the village from rain and generally spent most of his time performing pranks on elders. Festivals associated with Krishna's childhood, his foster-parentage with village communities are highly popular in India largely because it involved a much more common and earthy tradition than that of other figures in the Pantheon.
  • Jesus is one of the few, if not the only major religious figure who is explicitly defined as coming from a background as a carpenter/itinerant laborer. He went about challenging the more aristocratic gods of classical religions and the more intellectual scholar-based traditions of the Sadducees and Pharisees. He also identified with the outcasts of society such as the disease-afflicted, vagabonds, prostitutes, and affirmed that rich people have a hard time getting to heaven and his only violent action was driving away merchants that were doing business inside the part of a temple meant for orienting prospective converts. In fact, one of the reasons why Greek Philosopher Celsus and possibly others living in the Roman of his time were against Christianity was that it was inconceivable to them that the son of God could have been born as a peasant to a lowly common woman who in turn surely would not have been important enough to be recognized by the Lord. Celsus' admonishment of Christianity was that it was for the lower classes while an educated upper class person would have been against its theology, and as it turned out, Christianity's appeal to the common masses helped give it some traction and widespread adoption.
  • In Judaism, Samson is invoked as a hero of the common man in that he had qualities closer to that of a common man: great physical strength, love of activity and danger, and also his tragedy is his inability to think and reflect and be easily manipulated.
  • In Norse Mythology, Thor was invoked in later traditions as a common man's hero. He was generally popular among the common people and seen as the most identifiable and relatable of the entire pantheon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In 2nd Edition, there is a kit (sub-class) called Peasant Hero, which lets you play as a heroic Farm Boy. Also, there is a myriad of lower-class backgrounds in 4th edition.
    • The 5th Edition background Folk Hero also lets someone play as a hero from a small village or the poor part of a large city who's more in touch with the common folk than most other backgrounds.
  • Hunter: The Vigil: The Union are made of blue collar workers who hunt monsters, contrasting the scholarly bent of Null Mysteriis or The Loyalists of Thule.

  • Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is an attempt to make a working-class or a lower-middle-class man a Tragic Hero, dramatizing the fatal pursuit of The American Dream on the part of Willy Loman as a Tragic Dream. His son is a more straightforward example especially when he tells his father, "I'm dime a dozen, Pop, and so are you."
  • Woyzeck by Georg Büchner is considered the earliest known major dramatic work featuring almost entirely working-class characters.
    Franz Woyzeck: Us poor people. You see, Cap’n – money, money. If you don’t have money. Just try to raise your own kind on morality in this world. After all, we’re all flesh and blood. The likes of us are wretched in this world and in the next; I guess if we ever got to Heaven we’d have to help with the thunder. [Translated by Henry J. Schmidt]

    Video Games 
  • Bill McDonagh from BioShock is a working-class Self-Made Man who represents what Rapture was meant to have become. His disillusionment with Ryan and Rapture itself as everything began falling apart would lead to his death.
  • Sam from Death Stranding works as a porter, delivering cargo between settlements. After the prologue, he's also responsible for connecting them to the chiral network, allowing them to communicate much better. Fragile also works as a porter, although she works for an independent company, while Sam works for the the UCA. Igor, who we briefly meet in the prologue, is a member of the Corpse Disposal unit, responsible for taking the bodies of the dead to the incinerator outside of town (if the body isn't incinerated, it will essentially turn into a dark matter bomb).
  • The Player Characters in Deep Rock Galactic are a group of working-class miners who are constantly in opposition to the cushy jobs everyone above them holds; sometimes their paycheck is in scrip, a-la 19th century mining towns which did likewise to force employees to stay dependant on working at the mine; and the job requires a ton of heavy lifting and physical labor.
  • Corvo in Dishonored was born a son of a Serkonos tradesman and rose Up Through the Ranks to become Jessamine and later Emily's Royal Protector. His class remains an issue with some people in Dishonored 2 where Mortimer Ramsey laments taking orders from someone so lowborn. Delilah taunts Emily by reminding her that the former is also a bastard child of a commoner and royalty, just like Emily.
  • Chris and Troy from Freedom Fighters (2003) start out as plumbers. They are also an allusion to Mario and Luigi, as both are siblings, one is fat and the other is thin)
  • Barney Calhoun in Half-Life and Half-Life: Blue Shift is a humble security guard without the fancy education of Gordon Freeman or the advanced military training of Adrian Shepherd.
  • The Legend of Zelda: In the games where he is old enough to have a job, Link usually has a working-class occupation. This includes being a goat herder in Twilight Princess and a train engineer in Spirit Tracks. While there are games where he is a "knight" before the start of the main plot (such as Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild), the word seems to refer to a skilled, armored fighter rather than the more nobility-associated position of real life knights.
  • Magical Tetris Challenge: The good guys all have lower-class jobs, except for Minnie, who seems to be a stay-at-home woman. Mickey works at a factory, Donald works at a harbor, and Goofy runs a farm. This is in contrast with the villainous Pete, who is a rich man.
  • Pizza Tower stars Peppino, who is basically Wario if you replaced Wario's greed with the fear of his humble little pizza place going under.
  • In Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, a Worker on Iron Island refers to himself as a working-class hero when he challenges the player and after being defeated.
  • Sean Devlin from The Saboteur is an unsophisticated car mechanic from Ireland who takes up a secondary job as an explosives expert helping in sabotaging the Nazi occupation of Paris.
  • Scrap Mechanic features, as its protagonists, an assembly of mechanics, male and female, sent to an automated agricultural planet to maintain the robots and machines thereon. Of course, the planet happens to have had a little Robot Uprising, and mechanics have to MacGyver together vehicles and weapons to protect themselves. And hoo boy, are they good at it.
  • Ryo of Shenmue very briefly does a stint as a forklift driver at the harbour. Eventually, he sticks up for his workmates against the bullying antics of the local biker gang, winning a fight against them and driving them away for good, but costing his job in the process.
  • Mario from Super Mario Bros. remains highly original as a video game hero. Despite being the first major video game star, and living in a fantasy world that is not realistic, he stands out as a stocky, mustached plumber in working overalls whose real powers are his ability to move with his hands and legs, as opposed to video game heroes who are elites — soldiers, warriors, super-soldiers, etc. Donkey Kong, as well as the marketing for Super Mario Maker, also depict him as a construction worker, and several early games had him and Luigi work jobs like demolition, pest control, or bottling.
  • Solaris United from Warframe is a labour union of Corpus workers who juggle working with terraforming technology and fighting for their fellow workers against AnyoCorp's, their employer's, horribly exploitative policies, such as having to spend more than they earn on incredibly dehumanizing cybernetics (They even have heads replaced with them!) just to keep up with Nef Anyo's demands, having to work off their relatives' debts, or getting deeper in debt just trying to pay it off in the first place. Luckily they have the Tenno on their side, elite transhuman warriors who themselves are children of the working-/middle-class people chosen to cross the interstellar space aboard the Zariman.
  • Rex, the main protagonist of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, makes a living as a salvager, in a Scavenger World where people live on the backs of Titans that swim on a boundless sea of clouds, at the bottom of which lie the remnants of long-lost technology. Salvagers dive into the Cloud Sea, braving submerged monsters to retrieve these trinkets and sell them at market exchange points. Rex himself makes a point of not getting mixed up in salvaging weapon-based technology, in spite of the growing military tensions between the Ardanian Empire and the Kingdom of Uraya making this a particularly lucrative option for salvagers, out of a sense of idealism and refusal to support armed conflict, although he eventually gets reminded that armies need far more than just weapons to function.

    Visual Novels 
  • Akira from Spirit Hunter: NG lived in poverty before his aunt took him in, and he frequently shows his greatest assets to be his practical mind and his almost superhuman physicality, trained by underground fighting.

    Web Comics 
  • In Jupiter-Men, Arrio works part-time jobs as a Burger Fool to help his little sister and widowed dad make ends meet. He mentions using his magic powers to light his room at night so he doesn't have to switch on the lights and drive up the electric bill. The author also says that Arrio tries to cut Jessie's hair for her instead of going to a hair salon.
  • The Nineteenth-Century Industrialist from the comic of the same name considers himself to be a working-class hero. He isn't.

    Western Animation 
  • Legend of Korra: Two of Korra's friends are Mako and Bolin, introduced as two rookie pro-athletes, rising stars in the pro-bending circuit... who live in the attic of the pro-bending arena, but previously lived on the street as homeless orphans, struggling to survive and working with local organized crime rings. And being professional athletes in this universe doesn't bring in the big money, as they are still seen struggling to make ends meet (their payment for one match is immediately used up to pay for rent, new equipment, and a loan they took out from the manager for groceries), with Mako having to take an extra job at the power plant and Bolin panhandling for cash. In comparison, the other half of Team Avatar consists of Korra, who has had all her material needs taken care of by the Order of the White Lotus, and Asami, a rich heiress. This trope applies less as the series moves on to the wider world beyond Republic City, and also as Mako gets a better-paying job as a police officer.
  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson may be working-class and a lot of episode plots revolve around his struggle to make ends meet, but many other episodes showcase that he's an Invincible Incompetent Idiot Houdini who walks away from his work on a constant basis and has done some really, really crazy things in his lifetime (been an astronaut, won a Grammy...) and he has never lost his financial status when other men have lost it all. Two episodes ("Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Beyond Blunderdome") revolve around the guest character believing that Homer's incredibly simple tastes represent the common American man and grant him power to mould their projects, only to find out the hard way that that Homer's tastes, while simple, are just too damned weird for anybody else to enjoy.


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Alternative Title(s): Blue Collar Hero


General Martok

General Martok comes from a family of commoners who had served the Klingon Empire as soldiers for generations but his father wanted him to be an actual officer. Thanks to Kor, Martok could only serve as a civilian laborer and not a soldier until he earned a battle field commission when his ship was boarded by Romulans. Sadly Martok's father didn't live to see that day.

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Main / WorkingClassHero

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