It Sucks to Be the Chosen One

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Professor X: You're the chosen one, Peter. Without you, we'll leave the fate of this world to chance. You have no choice. You must not fail!
Spider-Man: Hey! I'm freaking 16 years old here! How much pressure are you gonna put on me?!
Professor X: You're the chosen one.

Spider-Man: Yeah, so was Anakin Skywalker! And look how well that turned out!

So you're The Chosen One. The Messianic Archetype. The one foretold by prophecy, that everyone has been waiting for. Secret knowledge and power awaits! The world will change, and it's all because of you, baby.

But wait! The Chosen One does not have it easy, oh no. Far from it. There are rules to be followed and intense training to undergo, and danger lurks around every corner. The Big Bad and The Dragon are out there, actively searching for you, trying to hunt you down before you grow too powerful. In fact, if they haven't already tracked down and killed everyone you ever knew, you may have to leave it forever behind anyways to fulfill your destiny.

And sometimes your destiny isn't all that it's cracked up to be either. The Messiah must always remember that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. A hero may find himself with a Wound That Will Not Heal, discover that his unique power has a terrible price (Especially if he can't control it!), a Sadistic Choice presented by the villains, or he may even be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. Even if he survives, he may end up with serious mental issues relating to his work. The list goes on and on. Simply put, it sucks to be the Chosen One. Often presented as a deconstruction of the standard Messianic Archetype / Chosen One tropes.

Named for this Basic Instructions strip. Strongly related to Being Good Sucks, and often leads to I Just Want to Be Normal, or even Refusal of the Call. More positive works and reconstructions might use this to allow a Chosen One to earn a happy ending, but this is relatively rare.

Examples of It Sucks to Be the Chosen One include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion shows this in Shinji Ikari, who pretty much hates his role as the savior of Tokyo 3 throughout the series. The few times he does get a little bit cocky about it, he is swiftly and cruelly brought back down to earth.
  • The magical girls of Puella Magi Madoka Magica are not happy. They have traded their freedom for a lifetime of fighting witches for a single wish, which may not even be worth it anymore. Fighting the witches systematically tears apart their social lives. And if a puella magi dies in the witch's other world, her body never appears in the real world. They're missing. Forever.
    • To add insult to the injury, anyone who becomes a Magical Girl is already dead by the time they make the contract. To be precise, a walking Empty Shell unless they have their Soul Gems with them at least 100 meters.
      • And it turns out that the Witches they were fighting this whole time? They used to be magical girls just like them. Turns out that to accept a contract and become a magical girl, you're also damning yourself to become an Eldritch Abomination and be killed by another girl later--there's no way around it, it is inevitable. Honestly, any magical girl killed in action and proclaimed missing is lucky.
  • Fushigi Yuugi. If you're the priestess, sure everyone bows down to you, you get to make any wishes you want, and you have a harem of bishounen at your beck and call. But, you have to use your wishes for the good of others (not yourself, with the possible exception of a wish to get home safely). Everyone expects you to know what you're doing, when you don't. You can't have sex or even a relationship with any member of your bishie harem as long as you're the priestess (because Sex Is Evil and will destroy your Virgin Power, and Love Makes You Stupid, or at least distracted and biased.) And worst of all, you are a Virgin Sacrifice to be Fed to the Beast; the very god who grants your wishes will devour your soul unless you can pass the Secret Test of Character. Only the most Genre Savvy should even attempt this role!
  • Kagerou Nostalgia sucks for everyone, including our reincarnated heroes. So far they haven't actually managed to save anyone, while losing their leader and sufferring betrayal from one of their own.


Fanfiction[edit | hide]

Harry: "A lot of children have to grow up too early, though, not just me; and most children like that would probably trade places with me in five seconds. I'm not going to pity myself, Professor McGonagall, not when there are people out there in real trouble and I'm not one of them."


Film[edit | hide]

  • Star Wars
  • Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She's a scared young girl who just wants to get home, and the task of saving Oz ends up falling on her just so the Wizard doesn't have to do it himself. (This is not just a Wicked-influenced comment: even if you still read the Witch of the West as pure villain, it seems awfully manipulative of the Wizard to use a farm girl to dispose of her.)
    • In the books, she gets over it later when she's able to go between Oz and Kansas as she pleases, and even more so when she is brought to Oz for good. Em and Henry are put up with a nice farm in Munchkin Country while Dorothy becomes Ozma's champion, heir, and possibly girlfriend.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian
  • Dogma. For Bethany, being Jesus Christ's ultimate descendant requires that you (a) contract a condition that leaves you barren (b) have your husband leave you (c) hang around with two stoners who want to get into your pants, and ultimately (d) become a single mom as a result of immaculate conception.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Harry Potter. He gets to be a wizard! Yay! Unfortunately for him, he doesn't get to be a normal wizard. As "the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord", the fight against Voldemort systematically gets him ostracized by his school and society, makes him face traumatic tasks pretty much every year, and kills pretty much every one of his parental figures...and his pet owl.
  • The Neverending Story
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • Though it only sucks for Frodo. Things turn out pretty well for Aragorn.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Dragon Reborn is the Chosen One, destined to wield massive power and battle the Dark One in the Last Battle. Unfortunately, he's doomed to go insane and destroy the world, too. A lot of people aren't exactly looking forward to his appearance. He'd be perfectly happy to go home and not fulfill his destiny, except the pattern of fate is literally woven around him, so there's no escape. And lots of people think he's a fake and want to kill him, or think he's real and want to kill him, or at least control him. And that's just the good guys, we haven't even gotten to the actual villains of the series, who include his past incarnation's Psycho Ex-Girlfriend and a dozen other extremely powerful sorcerers who hate his guts. And It Gets Worse. Being the Chosen One really, really sucks.
  • Thomas Covenant - who actually felt and acted this way long before things actually started to suck for him.
  • The Bible: Let's see: Job is a literal Cosmic Plaything, Abraham is asked to kill his own son, Moses never actually lives to see the promised land, and then there's Jesus... In fact one possible interpretation of The Bible is that the meaning of life is Died Happily Ever After.
    • "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." is a quote from an actual prayer of Jesus (Luke 22:42). Jesus felt dying impaled as a criminal and a blasphemer was a heavy load to bear and an affront to God. The gospel states in the next few verses that God sent an angel to comfort him. So really, even God knew It Sucks to Be the Chosen One and tried to make it a little easier on him.
    • Knowledge of this trope is why Moses did his best to talk his way out of becoming the leader of the Chosen People, burbling excuses as fast as they occur to him - "but I don't speak Hebrew", "but they won't believe me", "but Pharaoh won't listen" - until he's this close to getting smited. But he sure was right about Pharaoh, after all he'd grown up with the guy.
    • The Virgin Mary has to watch her Son be humiliated and killed...and there's not a damned thing she can do about it.
    • Hosea is chosen by God to speak to the Israelites, who have descended into corruption and idolatry. Part of this entails marrying a prostitute who runs away from him and has to be bought back from some other dude (as an object lesson from God to His people), and giving a World of Cardboard Speech to people who just won't listen.
  • The Eternal Champion.
  • Garion in The Belgariad complains about this so often, "Why me" is practically his catchphrase. It's even lampshaded multiple times. Ironically, the Prophecy driving the whole Chosen One business sets out to make sure that its instruments get rewarded, and so Garion picks up a kingship, a loving wife, and Babies Ever After. The "why me" part is mainly adolescent angst, which his friends tell him repeatedly to get over.
  • The real name of Alfred Montbank in The Death Gate Cycle is Coren, which is Sartan for 'Chosen' or 'To Choose'. The day he emerges from suspended animation and realizes that every other member of his community died while he was asleep - that he was chosen to live when everyone else was not - he comes to hate that name very, very much.
  • Tahniya Dogoro in The Path to War. Being the chosen one left her isolated, emotionally stunted and with more than a few serious regrets due to the things she did to "prove herself." She doesn't take well to being called 'Chosen One' either, refused an elaborate home and angrily rebuffed the idea of her sister's twins being given names themed after her own. It's a wonder she never says "I just want to be normal."
  • Life has gotten progressively worse for each successive generation of Ohmsfords and Leahs in the Shannara series. Bonus points to Walker Boh, of The Heritage of Shannara who's attempted Refusal of the Call totally destroys his life and sees him railroaded into serving as the chosen one.
  • Gregor in The Underland Chronicles has a bad case of this. He's fated to fulfill several prophecies which make the series go from mildly darker than standard High Fantasy to bad. Really bad.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Buffy would be an obvious example, especially in season one.
  • Carnivale
  • Heroes has multiple Chosen Ones across the series and none of them are happy about getting superpowers. Well, except one, but he got over it after some laser-guided Deus Angst Machina. Joy.
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Connor definitely seems to fit this - he and his family are constantly in danger, and he has intermittent bouts of I Just Want to Be Normal, plus at least one possible suicide attempt.
  • Chloe, from The Nine Lives of Chloe King is a good example. Like Buffy, she just wants to be normal.
  • Allie, from Steven Spielberg's Taken, who just wants to be a normal little girl.


Music[edit | hide]

  • The song "Superman (It's Not Easy)" by Five For Fighting.


Mythology and Religion[edit | hide]

  • In Classical Mythology, a number of heroes have less than idyllic lives. Odysseus ends up taking over 10 years to travel back home. After being driven insane, Heracles kills his own family and as The Atoner the guy chosen to choose the twelve tasks is doing a Uriah Gambit.
  • Many, many from The Bible.
  • As The Chosen One of Celtic Mythology, Cu Chulainn was prophetized to die very early in life. He Jumped At the Call anyway, deciding that being immortalized after death was worth the short life.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Colette in Tales of Symphonia. Chosen at birth for her genetic compatibility with the Big Bad's Dead Big Sister, she goes through one painful transformation after another, in between kidnappings which are also connected to her status. Not to mention the psychological trauma and self-esteem issues that come from knowing since about age six that she'd one day be expected to make a Heroic Sacrifice to save the world.
    • Zelos has most of Colette's psychological issues, compounded by Parental Abandonment - his father, the previous Chosen One of his world, committed suicide, and his mother was murdered in front of his eyes when he was about eight. Her last words to him were "You should never have been born", after which he decided that being the Chosen One was the only reason his life had value at all. And then the reveal comes that Martel isn't a real goddess...is it any wonder he's a Death Seeker unless Lloyd can convince him he's worthwhile?
    • Indeed, this concept (and Fantastic Racism) is arguably the entire point of Tales of Symphonia.
  • Shirley in Tales of Legendia. Has no friends, spends most of the game getting kidnapped (by a Complete Monster, no less), her first friend takes the bullet for her, and then she turns out to be a kind of Dark Messiah, is brainwashed by the entire ocean and almost commits genocide on land-dwelling humans.
  • For that matter, a lot of games in the Tales (series) fit this trope. Even when it's played straight in that it's not entirely a bad thing, there's still a catch:
    • In Tales of Eternia, Reid is a chosen one in that he can bear Fibril...but he's not the only one who can do so. Ras, Shizel, and Meredy (albeit not integrated into the gameplay or fully explained in text) can, too. Unfortunately? Nereid's Fibril can make you possessed by Nereid himself, and invoking Seyfert's Fibril before undergoing all of the trials? You die.
    • Estelle is the Child of the Full Moon in Tales of Vesperia. Must be neat to have powerful healing artes, right? Well, Phaeroh wants her dead and views her as a poison to the world, and using her powers on an Entelixea will cause them to go crazy and eventually kill them. Even if she can turn them into spirits.
    • Veigue didn't know how to control his Ice Force in Tales of Rebirth when he was "chosen" to gain its powers. So during an outburst of yelling "CLAAAAIIIIRRRREEE!", he froze her. (This actually became somewhat of a running gag; a Tales DVD shows him shouting, "CLAAAAIIIRRRREEEE!" and covering the screen in ice; and several fans were disappointed this wasn't integrated into Tales of Graces.)
    • So you're a reincarnation of a heavenly being in Tales of Innocence? Your past life is literally going to come back to haunt you.
    • Tales of the Abyss has Luke fon Fabre (both original and replica models), who is informed that he is a chosen hero Because Destiny Says So, but not what the consequences of his actions will be. Because of his ignorance, he destroys a city and starts a war, all in accordance with the ancient prophecy that controls the world, and he has to deal with the consequences for the rest of the game.
  • Final Fantasy XII
  • Final Fantasy XIII goes even further. So you're a Pulse l'Cie? Congratulations - the government of Cocoon hates you. You have to fulfill your Focus, or else you'll be turned into a Cie'th, Body Horror personified, and will be unable to think of anything but your task...or you might even turn into a living tombstone. And your reward should you complete that Focus? Immortality...as a crystalline statue. Unless, that is, the fal'Cie need you, in which case you can be continuously de-crystallized and crystallized again to complete whatever Focuses they want you to do...Focuses which are never fully explained to you. Have fun.
    • Especially for poor Fang and Vanille, who were given a rather terrible Focus. It was so bad, Vanille couldn't even bring herself to do it!
  • Shadow the Hedgehog in Shadow the Hedgehog.
  • The Trow from The Bard's Tale have a few songs about how much it sucks to be the chosen one. And considering the situations in which they sing them,[1][2] it's appropriate.
  • Ted in Suikoden I preceded everyone in the above trope. He acquires the Soul Eater Rune, is forced to runaway from the witch Windy for the next 300 years, gets his rune stolen from him 150 years after he fled from his village, and commands the Soul Eater to eat his soul just so that he won't accidentally command the soul to return the Rune back to him.
  • Zanik from RuneScape is the goblin war god Bandos' Chosen Commander, the goblin who will lead all the goblins to victory in a huge war. There's just one catch: Zanik is of the Dorgeshuun, a group of pacifist cave goblins who renounced Bandos after he ordered them to partake in a battle they had no chance of winning for no reason. There's an entire quest series devoted to Zanik basically telling Bandos to fuck off.
  • Similar to above, the Protagonist from Devil Survivor. For him, being The Chosen One means being fated to fight a series of terrifyingly powerful demons in a contest for power that will make him a target of Heaven and the demons if he goes too far out of line... not to mention being personally responsible for the lives of everybody in the lockdown.
  • The protagonist of Persona 3 also has it pretty bad. After finding out about the Dark Hour, he/she joins a group dedicated to stopping it. Only to find out that they were unwittingly played in order to bring about The End of the World as We Know It. Also, thanks to being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the harbinger of this end turned out to be locked inside of him/her. This results in him/her having to make a sadistic choice. The first option is to erase everyone's memories of the fact that the end of the world is coming, but allowing all of them to live their last days happily. The other option is to keep everyone's memories intact allowing them to futilely fight against the coming end. This first leads to a Nonstandard Game Over/Bad End. The protagonist only succeeds with the second option by performing a Heroic Sacrifice that results in him/her becoming a Barrier Maiden.
  • Golden Sun's Ivan was given up by his family as an infant to ensure he would be in the correct place to join Isaac and Garet on their quest, to fulfill his destiny of bringing about the return of Alchemy. He was raised by non-Adepts in Kalay, and so knew nothing about his powers, and was considered a Creepy Child. When he returns to Contigo, he learns that his mother's death was affected by being forced to give him up for fate, and his sole living blood relative refuses to get close to him because the prophecy's not yet fulfilled. It's even worse because up until now he didn't really even care about his powers or destiny because he was happy with his foster family. But You Can't Fight Fate...
    • In Dark Dawn, Ivan is noted to be living in Kalay, and has a daughter who mentions being grateful she doesn't have any special destiny. Earned his happy ending?
  • Sometimes being The Chosen One in an Elder Scrolls game can really suck.
    • The Nerevarine in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind definitely gets the cosmic short end of the stick. While all of the Chosen Ones in The Elder Scrolls series have to endure many hardships to accomplish their goals, none of the others get infected with a horrible mutating disease as part of their divine mission (though the Nerevarine is able to eventually remove the negative aspects of it). It also sucks because everyone around the Nerevarine is trying to manipulate him/her: the Emperor, the Tribunal, Azura, Dagoth Ur, everyone. And in the end, the Nerevarine saves Tamriel from the threat of Dagoth Ur, but at the same time unintentionally sets in motion Morrowind's destruction. It's also mentioned that the Nerevarine apparently vanished in Akavir. The Nerevarine's story ends with him/her an immortal mutated freak, most of his/her accomplishments rendered utterly moot, and vanishing off the face of Tamriel.
    • The Champion of Cyrodiil in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion doesn't have it much better. The Champion actually fails his/her mission to stop the Mehrunes Dagon's invasion and has to watch as the other Chosen One whom s/he has been helping and protecting throughout the main questline sacrifices himself to save the world. The Champion is later tapped to be the successor of the Daedric Prince of Madness Sheogorath, which entails leaving Cyrodiil behind and gradually going insane as mad gods are wont to do. YMMV on how bad it is being a god of madness.
  • This is probably the most prominent trope in Dark Souls because Continuing Is Painful. Sure, you're effectively immortal and will return to life after being killed, but all this means is that you will be dying repeatedly, each time horribly. You'll also watch as your friends and allies die and go hollow one by one.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Sasha in Greek Ninja is definitely not thrilled with her fate...


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang has enormous pressure put on him at the age of twelve. Because he was unable to handle the responsibility of being the Avatar and ran away, his entire race got wiped out, and the Evil Overlord terrorized the world for 100 years. In addition to that, he blames himself for two more crushing defeats. Basically, his entire life was planned out for him, and even his closest friends and past lives take it for granted that he's going to forsake his values and kill the Fire Lord. He doesn't, in the end, but still.
  • Homer Simpson experiences this in the episode "Homer the Great". At first it's nice being the Chosen member of the Stonecutters, but then he gets bored with it due to the lack of any challenge - everyone constantly sucks up to him and lets him win whatever games they play.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: Juniper is chosen as her generation's Te Xuan Ze: the magical protector of the barrier between the human and monster world. At first its a job she takes in stride even though she has to occasionally ditch her friends and keep it a secret from them. But then comes the real rub; she can't leave her hometown ever as there is a barrier keeping her from leaving. The only way out is for her successor to take the reigns. And as Juniper is still a child, it'll be awhile before that happens. Say the least, she doesn't take this discovery well.
    • And her dream job? Astronaut. Man.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long has a dragon assigned to protect every country. And our hero is, uh...the American one. And it leads to getting chased by a dragon-crazy teacher, training taking most of his childhood, nearly getting killed multiple times, and losing his Dragon-hunting girlfriend through a time change.
    • One episode has him shifting the burden to his little sister, who is initially very eager to accept it. In one week she's a stressed out bundle of nerves because she's sleep deprived and falling behind in school. Jack, on the other hand, is the having the time of his life as a normal kid.
  • In the Imaginationland story, in South Park, Butters is the key to stop the evil characters. He doesn't care for the role.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Human sacrifices were (of course) chosen by their gods, and in many cultures saw it as quite an honor.
  • Redvers Buller in command in South Africa in the Boer War and Elphinstone in Afghanistan in 1842. Both protested vociferously at being given a job they knew they were not competent to handle.

Notes

  1. when you find a dead chosen one and loot his armor
  2. when you find a prison full of Chosen Ones