Rebellious Rebel

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"So spake the Seraph Abdiel, faithful found
Among the faithless, faithful only he;
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal;"


Phineas-2: "Are you part of the resistance?"
Buford-2: "Yeah, and I got so good at that, I started resisting them, too!"


There you have it, a rebellion has been mounted against the oppressive nation. As long as people are mounting up, people will sure come and join the resistance. But wait, why is that nosy little kid complaining about the rebellion? Meet the Rebellious Rebel.

This character is the kind of person who sees the faults in a rebellion, whether it be that the rebels are no better than the oppressors themselves, or that they were wrong in rebelling from the beginning. He breaks off from the already existing rebellion to act against said rebellion. Often, but not always, this means appealing to their original superiors from the faction the rebellion acted against from the beginning, reasoning that the rebellion was unjustified from the beginning. Others start their own resistance, fighting against both The Empire and the original rebellion, knowing that the empire deserved to be brought to justice, but also that the methods of the original resistance cannot be justified either.

This is usually triggered by some kind of immoral action of the rebel leader who defected in the first place. Either by Character Development or just revealed to be a real bastard beneath his nice demanour, he will end up having some sort of Kick the Dog moment to make the Rebellious Rebel call this out to the leader and leave the rebellion, or depending on the setting, get killed for wronging their superiors.

Usually found in military situations, but not always. Compare Anti-Mutiny, where the leader is disloyal and his subordinates arrest him for it, and The Last DJ, whose conflicts with his superiors are chronic, who has no superior to his superiors he could appeal to, but generally faces nothing worse than Reassigned to Antarctica. Contrast Dangerous Deserter.

By the way, this is more or less the definition of antidisestablishmentarianism; those against those against the establishment of a state religion, but not necessarily associated with the government itself.

See also Anti-Anti-Christ, Enemy Civil War, Divided We Fall; this trope clearly pits a hero against a villain. Compare White Sheep.

Examples of Rebellious Rebel include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Code Geass, the Black Knights desert Zero after finding out some of his secrets, although they were manipulated so that they thought he had betrayed them.
    • This worked because the Black Knights were Too Dumb to Live to realize that if Zero had really done what they thought he had, they'd literally be incapable of even thinking about turning on him.
      • And finding out about the Special Zone?
        • The point still stands, given the only "evidence" they have is a voice recording from Lelouch basically saying "I did it" in a dull, emotionless tone. The technology to doctor something like that almost certainly exists in the Code Geass Universe, and none of the Black Knights but Kallen have ever heard Lelouch's real voice. And she wasn't even asked to comment before they made a decision! And worse yet, it was a small extract of a much longer conversation that involved Suzaku realising that Lelouch was lying to him, and they didn't bother asking to speak with Suzaku, who was the one the evidence was taken from.
          • Of course, the Black Knights were a legal organisation by this point, so they were just mutineers.
    • Also Suzaku. He rebels just about any rebellion possible until, well... he doesn't anymore and he gets with the program.
    • In the early stages of its existence, The Order of the Black Knights could already be considered this, since, like Lelouch pointed out to the first members of the Black Knights, traditional terrorism doesn't accomplish anything. This resulted in saving a number of Britannian hostages from a fellow terrorist organization as their first public appearance, so that they could declare themselves as "champions of justice" and gain public support.
  • In Chrono's backstory in Chrono Crusade, he was originally fully behind the Sinner's rebellion against demon society. However, he couldn't agree with Aion's tactics and ended up rebelling against the Sinners, and eventually joined The Magdalene Order.

Comic Books

  • X-Men and Brotherhood. One came first. The other was this trope. We're not sure which. And then there's Wolverine...
    • Xavier and Magneto worked together as a duo, then their ideologies came head-to-head and they split off from each other forming their own teams, so this may not really count as an example. Of course, with all the retcons and such, that may have changed...
  • Soames from DMZ was originally a soldier for one side in a Divided States of America situation, who intended to defect from the rebels back over to US army. On the way to do so, he got an infection, had a vision, and decided to enjoy the freedom of being on neither side instead. By the time the story begins, he has an entire squad of soldiers who have joined him.
  • Jack Frost of The Invisibles had shades of this at first, being so anarchist he rejected even the minimal and fluid authority of a cell of the Invisibles.



  • John Milton's Paradise Lost has one angel, Abdiel, in Satan's legions refuse to join his rebellion.
  • In Warhammer 40,000's Horus Heresy, Horus's attack on the Marines on Isstvan IV was motivated to prevent this. The survivors were uncommonly enthusiatic about opposing him and the rest of the treacherous forces thereafter; they bogged them down for months.
  • In Winning Colors, treasonous senior officers try to use their ship; their juniors realize the treachery and mutiny. (Leading to a very junior officer being in command.)
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 story "Renegades", when Gessart decides to take their company renegade, several Marines speak against him and are murdered. Later, another one, Rykhel, takes a saviour pod from their ship in hopes of getting back with news of their treachery; Gessart is enraged that he didn't speak up when challenged, and though they are fleeing the danger that Rykhel is going into, he claims that he fled from fear.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Roads Must Roll, when the workers are organizing their strike on the grounds that transportion being so necessary, they should use their clout for extortion, one worker objects that the terms of their employment are not actually oppressive; when the strike actually occurs, he goes to the boss to offer his help. The strikers murder him in a parlay.
    • In The Long Watch, Interplanetary Patrol Lieutenant John Dahlquist, after a superior attempts to recruit him into a coup attempt, instead makes a Heroic Sacrifice by barricading himself in the nuclear armory and manually disabling all the nuclear weapons, taking a fatal dose of radiation in the process. He dies alone, sitting by the door he barricaded. Radiation levels are so high that robots must be used to recover his body and put it in a lead coffin for a hero's funeral.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Soul Drinker, not all the Soul Drinkers are bewildered by Chaos—particularly not the young ones. Sarpedon and the others hunt them down. (Which gives Sarpedon particularly painful memories when he realizes they were right.)
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, Koris and other respected veterans argue against the manifestation and that they should remain loyal to their chapter master, which is why Stele uses sorcery to throw them into the Black Thirst and their deaths. Later, in Deus Sanguinius, Rafen fights against Arkio's claims to authority against even their Chapter Master and Chapter.
  • In David Brin's The Uplift War, the chimp forces challenge their planet's invaders to face them with equal forces. The enemy commander orders an all-out attack, contrary to the laws of warfare, and a subordinate kills him. On hearing of it, the invader's leader immediately conveys a pardon to the subordinate.
  • In a rare Lawful Evil/Chaotic Evil variant, in Ben Counter's Daemon World, the Word Bearers, traitor Space Marines, have come to the planet to hunt down a renegade Word Bearer; if they allowed anyone to leave them, their Legion would fall apart.
  • Garm Bel Iblis from The Thrawn Trilogy is an unusually mild example. He was a major part of the young Rebel Alliance and split with it because, after Bail Organa's death on Alderaan, he saw Mon Mothma as gathering more and more power to herself and her closest allies. His smaller, separate rebellion didn't get in the other one's way, but harassed the Empire on its own. Even after Mon Mothma's Rebellion won and reformed into the New Republic, he stayed away, seeing his former ally seem to consolidate power even further. But when someone from the New Republic needed rescue, he did it, and accepted the formal invitation to join. Not long after, he saw why Mon Mothma did as she did. Not for personal power, but because so few people could be trusted with the responsibility of billions of lives.
  • David Weber's Empire From the Ashes series has a variation on this trope, as applied to a mutiny. Some of Anu's mutineers rebel in horror when they realize his true, megalomaniacal motives and spend the rest of their lives trying to make right their mistake, forming a third faction that watches over the descendants over the original loyalists to the Captain (aka the Human race).
  • Early on in the Honor Harrington series, the Havenite Legislaturalist Regime is overthrown by the Committee of Public Safety. After cleaning house of all "subversive elements" in the Navy(who they blamed the rebellion on) and instituting a tyrannical rule(still labeling themselves as "rebels") they manage to upset many surviving Navy personnel. The remainder stay quiet for most of the series, but then the truth of the rebellion comes out.

Live Action TV

Video Games

  • Jim Raynor from StarCraft is a borderline case in that he only leaves La Résistance when it has already defeated The Empire through dubious means, and begins its transition into the new Empire.
    • A rare Chaotic Good example of this trope here. He rebelled against the original empire for good reasons, but only rebelled against the original resistance as soon as he found out that they were setting up a new, even more oppressive, Empire. And he doesn't really have good with relations with any of these factions, now branded a criminal by both.
    • Explanation: Raynor's planet was slaughtered when the Confederacy called the Zerg to it, provoking a Protoss retaliation. He only managed to escape because he struck a pact with Mengsk's Sons of Korhal. Then Mengsk does several morally questionable things such as: calling the Zerg to the Confederate home planet Tarsonis the same way the Confederacy did to Raynor's planet, sending Raynor's sweetheart Kerrigan to beat back the attacking Protoss forces (reasoning that if the Zerg get bogged down fighting the Protoss, the Confederate leadership might escape) then immediately abandoning her to die in a massive Zerg counterattack (which came to bite him in the ass BIG TIME later on). It was at this point that Mengsk revealed he only toppled the Confederacy because he wanted to rule the sector himself, prompting Raynor and his men to react as expected. In the sequel, Raynor and his men are hunted as outlaws by Mengsk's Terran Dominion.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Argent Dawn is an offshoot of the Scarlet Crusade, which initially split from the Church of Light because the latter was unable to deal with the undead threat. The Argent Dawn split off when it turned out that the Crusade had crossed over from Church Militant to Fantastic Racism and Religion of Evil.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Red Faction 2. You start the game as part of a mercenary group who are trying to oust the government of Mars, the corrupt political heads of what used to be the Red Faction coup in the fist game. Then it turns out that the head of the mercenary group just wants the secret nanotech weaponry/cybernetics for himself, and wants to take over all of Mars. Cue you and a couple buddies defecting to save the planet from him.

Western Animation


Candace-2: Buford, keep resisting.
Buford-2: No
Candance-2: Good


Real Life

  • In The American Civil War, shortly after Virginia voted to secede from the union, the counties in the area now known as West Virginia voted to secede from the state. Much Virginian outrage ensued.
    • The western half of Virginia had been pushing to form its own state as early as 1820, the secession just gave them the opportunity to put one of their representatives in the vacant position in Washington and declare it official.
    • One Virginia officer in the US Army at the time war broke out, George H. Thomas, remained loyal to the Union—which causes Virginian opponents to criticize his disloyalty.
    • Andrew Johnson was the only Southern senator to remain loyal to the Union. In his own words: "Though I fought against Lincoln I love my country. I love the Constitution and swear that it and the Union will be saved as Old Hickory Jackson did in 1832. Senators, my blood, my existence I would give to save this Union." As you might expect, the South reviled him as a traitor while the North hailed him as a hero (and nominated him to be Lincoln's Vice President in 1864).
      • The North stopped hailing him as a hero, though, when he wanted to "go easy on" what they viewed to be the "traitorous" South during Reconstruction. He became one of only two U.S. presidents in history to have the House of Representatives vote to Impeach him. Most historians now consider this to be a grave miscarriage of justice.
    • Near the end of the Civil War, Georgia became disgruntled with the direction the Confederate government was headed, and attempted to secede from the Confederacy.
    • Really, going into detail about every incidence of this in the American Civil War would fill up pages and pages. To summarize it, there were so many insurgents, guerrillas, and rebels in Confederate territory that, for all practical purposes, the Confederate government was only actually in control of about half of its claimed territory by war's end. There were literally hundreds of counties all across the Confederacy in open, declared rebellion, some of them as early as 1861, and that's not counting the thousands of small guerrilla bands that sprung up throughout Confederate territory. They were numerous enough that, even if the South had won the war, they likely would have collapsed into a civil war of their own almost immediately afterwards.
  • A good example of that possible scenario in the American Revolution can be seen in the tragic and prolonged cycle of the Mexican Revolution(s), in which it was usually the same band of warlords (most famously, Francisco "Pancho" Villa) rising up against the corrupt government to depose it, and placing one of their own in charge... who would eventually be seen as corrupt by his former friends, starting the cycle anew. This went on for decades.
  • During The American Revolution, about 15 to 20% of the American colonists were loyalists/Tories who remained loyal to Great Britain. When the Patriots finally won the Revolution, the loyalist losers were... not treated well by supporters of independence.
    • A third of those people left, mostly for Canada. The atrocities on both sides were overwhelmingly between loyalists/patriots and rebels/republicans, too.
    • Benedict Arnold. Of course, his reasons were feeling unappreciated and having mounting bills.
  • "If Canada is divisible, so is Quebec" was the main argument that was used against Quebec's secession plans in the 1990s. The resource-rich (and First Nations-dominated) north threatened to secede from Quebec and rejoin Canada; various other bits (mostly English-speaking communities near the borders, but noises were made in emphatically-francophone Montreal itself) did the same.
  • The conflict in Bosnia evolved this way, with Serbs wanting to go out of it after it went out of Yugoslavia. Kosovo faces the same problem.
    • Doesn't really fit this trope, since Serbs tried to kill or chase out all other ethnic groups and absorb Bosnia into a new ethnically pure Serbia. Not to mention that the reason Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia wanted to leave Yugoslavia was that it was already hijacked by Serb nationalist and Yugoslavia in name only.
  • This also happened a lot in post-USSR time.
    • And in Ukraine during World War II. Quite a number of West Ukrainians refused to fight for either the Soviets or the Nazis, instead fighting both for Ukrainian independence.
  • On a global scale in World War 2. The Empire was led by a rather weird terrorist group which somehow made good, but despised the traditions of their country and claimed it was the wave of the future. Their opponents included a state that was faux-royalist, faux-tribalistic, faux-feudalistic and extremely fond of the Ermine Cape Effect. Inside Germany were groups in the more traditional sense of the word "rebel"; dissidents were, like as not, aristocrats or clergymen. And of course the ones hated most by the Nazis are famous for glorifying tradition, law, religion, and family, not to mention wearing funny hats.
  • In The Vietnam War Montagnard and Hmong highlanders tended to fight "ally" with the South Vietnamese and the US simply because the North Vietnamese ran their supply routes through their territory making it a de facto invasion (they would probably have supported the North in the opposite situation). Green Berets and CIA agents who had better training in subtle situations than regulars got the job of Training the Peaceful Villagers, except of course these were not peaceful at all any more than any other frontiersmen. They did need help in learning technological tricks and coordinating with other members of The Alliance to operate at full effectiveness though.
  • Tribesmen of the various Eastern provinces of Russia often rebelled against the Bolshivics during the Red October. This could be because they thought the system they had before was less alien then the new regime, because they thought that the devil they knew was better, because they saw a chance for their own nationalistic causes. Or just because an increase in the number of syllables invaders used in their rhetoric did not magically cause farmers to like having their grain stolen by passing troops.