Doomed Contrarian

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In stories where Anyone Can Die, there is often a protagonist who mysteriously (or not-so-mysteriously) seems to be very knowledgable about how to survive the situation. That character is often paired with this one; a Commander Contrarian who argues or disagrees with nearly every sentence he utters. It's rare that the Commander Contrarian survives the tale. If this character finally leaves the group in disgust, taking others with him, it's common that not one of the separated group survives.

Though this trope is classically associated with Disaster Movies, it can apply to any genre where Anyone Can Die. In stories with a lower body count, some or all the Commander Contrarian's supporters may survive, but only after being subject to such misfortunes that they realize that The Complainer Is Always Wrong.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Doomed Contrarian include:

Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Trope Codifier (if not the Trope Maker) is very likely the original The Poseidon Adventure, where Commander Contrarian doesn't believe that the boat has been submerged upside down and won't follow the party in what he believes is a suicide climb towards the hull. They disappear from the plot after that, and they're implied to have never been found. The 2000s remake had them explicitly get drowned to death, the lounge singer and captain even embrace tenderly as the liquid death rushed at them.
  • In the made-for-TV Disaster Movie 10.5 Apocalypse, a bunch of people get stranded in a tower after a massive sinkhole swallows Las Vegas, and the geologist tells them to climb towards the roof because the building is going to sink. The other party thinks he's crazy, and you never hear from them again.
  • In The Day After Tomorrow, this is played straight with the big group of people that ignores Sam's warnings and leaves the safety of the library. We learn later that they froze to death. It is then averted with the Dick Cheney-esque Vice President who believed that taking action to stop global warming would destroy the economy. He is seen alive at the end of the movie, giving a speech apologizing for putting short-term economic benefit ahead of the health of the planet.
  • In Jurassic Park, Genarro first disagrees with the scientists, then abandons the party. Averted in Jurassic Park 3: The Commander Contrarian grad student turns up alive in the last scene.
  • The black lawyer neighbor in the 2007 movie The Mist, based on a Stephen King short novel. As you can imagine, he didn't last long. We get a few minutes of characterization that show he's not a total jerk, but insists on leaving the supermarket against the lead's informed warnings. He and everyone in his group are politely and promptly introduced to things that were not meant to be.
    • This is later subverted by the woman who leaves the convenience store and is seen at the end to have been picked up by the military, her and more importantly her children, alive and intact.
  • In Star Wars, Grand Moff Tarkin refuses to believe that the rebels could take out the Death Star and won't let anyone evacuate. He got to carry one big Idiot Ball....
    • Well, to be fair, the rebel's chances were slim. They lost all but three fighters in the attack, and the Death Star had been moments away from destroying the Rebel Base when Luke managed to sink the money shot.
  • Roy Nord in Daylight. He decides to be a Big Damn Hero and climb out through a ventilation shaft. Then, Rocks Fall, Roy Dies (causing a Special Effects Failure, while we're at it).

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Stephen King's The Mist has a group that the protagonist dubs the Flat Earth Society. They refuse to believe that the mist is full of Eldritch Abominations, even in the face of concrete evidence. They eventually walk out into the mist and are never heard from again.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Lost had the good Dr. Artz. He pointed out everything the main characters were doing wrong, then promptly exploded.
  • Done with a twist in the Doctor Who story The Dalek Invasion of Earth when the Doctor, Ian, and another man are locked in a cell on a Dalek spaceship. There's some random objects left lying around inside the cell that the Doctor immediately deduces to be a means of escape. The other man flatly refuses to believe it, and turns out to be right, since the whole thing was an intelligence test by the Daleks to see if they were suitable to be turned into mind-controlled servants.
    • A few episodes have had the classic horror-movie "that creature is no threat to us!" character who immediately gets eaten or whatever, but often the Doctor saves the contrarians along with everyone else. The 2007 Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned" subverts it with a plot where nearly every likable character dies, but rude, unhelpful, selfish coward Rickston Slade not only survives the disaster, but turns out to have financially benefited from it.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Tragically, something similar happened on September 11, 2001, though not quite in the "contrarian" sense: information had spread about a possible air evacuation from the roof of the at-that-point-not-yet-collapsed towers, so many of the people on the top floors headed up, rather than down. The air evacuation was eventually deemed impossible as the towers became increasingly unstable.
  • Some people left Spartacus's merry men to start pillaging. They were quickly obliterated by the Roman legions.