Rule-Abiding Rebel

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    These urban renewal murals are going too far.

    We're wild, reckless men, we're on a rampage again
    We drive with just one hand on the wheel
    Danger's in our soul, we're going out of control

    Swimming right after a big heavy meal
    "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Young, Dumb & Ugly"

    A Rule-Abiding Rebel is a work that portrays itself as edgy but is too conventional or safe to truly justify that portrayal.

    The work appears to be going in an interesting/unconventional/challenging direction but ends up conforming to society's accepted standards and expectations, as if the creator suddenly wimped out. For example, a character might be touted as an independent feminist role model, but ends up reliant on a man to get her out of every scrape. The story appears to be challenging, but instead breaks its own aesop to conform to the status quo.

    There are many reasons for this, but pandering plays a big part; controversy sells and being rebellious has, paradoxically, become the norm in modern creative industries. As such, some will latch on to a particular controversy or topical issue in order to cash in on being a 'rebel', only for anyone with an interest in the issue to discover that, ultimately, the emperor has no clothes. This also has the effect of transforming genuine rebellion into a cynical marketing exercise. On the other hand going too far into the rebellious spectrum can be detrimental to the work, so they ease up. They want it to sell after all.

    Rebelling, but not enough to upset any societal norms, is also an idea in sociology: The people who stray from the norms let the rest of us know where the limits are. This trope can be seen/used as a reflection of this idea, but using it this way is rather rare.

    Of course, none of this necessarily means that the work is bad; it's just not as rebellious as the hype would have you believe. Sometimes the work was truly rebellious in its own day, but since then subsequent rebellions have increased our threshold for being offended, and the older works are now paper tigers. On the other hand, if a work is aimed at children, it need only be slightly rebellious for the Moral Guardians to indignantly pounce on it.

    The precise reaction to Rule-Abiding Rebel characters will often depend on their age relative to the rest of the cast. If they are older RAR's, they're liable to be the victim of Seinfeld Is Unfunny; if they're younger people or Johnny-come-latelys, they'll instead face the Pretender Diss. Or they might just be The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. Arguably the most humiliating outcome is when the purported rebels are actually embraced by the very bluenoses they were trying to defy, maybe even being declared The Moral Substitute to the real subversive stuff!

    Often uses the Broken Aesop. Works falling into this trope often have their 'controversial' elements over-stressed. Also see Reactionary Fantasy, Fair for Its Day, Debate and Switch, Poke the Poodle and The Man Is Sticking It to the Man. A form of Hype Backlash.

    Examples of Rule-Abiding Rebel include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Magical Girls are usually described as being empowering figures for girls, yet many are ultra-feminine, docile young women whose main goal in life is to get married. However, subversions and deconstructions of this type are becoming common, though ironically towards a different audience completely. Some Magical Girl series set out to prove that you can be ultra-feminine and these qualities don't detract from one's strength; some actively turn the tools of girliness into artifacts of empowerment, and the wait for Prince Charming into an active search (and rescue, if needed).
    • The protagonists of W Juliet are a soft-spoken, elegant guy (forced by circumstance to pose as a girl at school) and a quite butch straight girl who fall in love. At first the manga seems to be about an unconventional but very romantic relationship, but our hero and heroine change and behave in more and more "gender appropriate" ways, and by the time the series ends their relationship is quite conventional, although the implication at the end is that they get married in drag ..

    Comic Books


    • Indie filmed Saved! starts off with characters being persecuted in a small town for being gay, liberal, atheist, Jewish, or otherwise different. Then at the end one of the characters has a baby and decides there must be a God after all and the Christians were right because there's no other way to describe the feeling of having given birth. Needless to say, the people who initially had seen it as a scathing criticism of Christianity were severely pissed off (while those who merely saw it as a criticism of fundamentalism didn't experience any dissonance). More optimistically, you could say that the plot managed to Take a Third Option. The "victims" don't have to remain persecuted, but the Strawman Political need not be discredited nor its practitioners humiliated and disillusioned. Both sides can learn to coexist peacefully: recall that the word "liberal" originally meant not "socially progressive" but "allowing everyone to hold individual opinions without fear of ridicule."
    • The Brave One was praised by critics for depicting a woman who becomes a vigilante, calling it "dark". However, the first two people she shoots are conveniently extremely violent criminals, and in the end the film seems to fall into a black and white morality where she was in the right, or she'll be O.K., because she just needed to kill those people for therapy.
    • I Spit on Your Grave is a film in a similar vein.
    • For all the praise heaped upon Brokeback Mountain for being "progressive", it's still a cliched forbidden love story where the more aggressive lover dies. It also expects that women are supposed to be faithful to their husbands, even if he's clearly not remotely heterosexual, but it's perfectly okay and tragically beautiful for the hubby to keep a gay lover on the side. It's also been accused of But Not Too Gay, due to the relationship between the men getting less screen time than those with their wives.
    • 1993's Philadelphia was the first big-budget mainstream film about AIDS and thus seen as a landmark. As discussed in the book Inside Oscar, it took its lumps: while it got many positive reviews and won Tom Hanks his first Oscar, other reviews complained it assumed Viewers are Morons with regards to the subject matter. It was also panned as simplistically depicting the protagonists (a dying gay man and his - at first - reluctant, straight lawyer) and antagonists (the homophobic and uncaring superiors at the hero's law firm, who fired him when he revealed his illness), and not giving enough screen time to the relationship of the hero and his lover out of fear that viewers might take offense. That said, the consensus was that if it led to greater understanding of the subjects it tackled, it served a greater purpose. Some of this also falls under Values Dissonance—by the standards of how homosexuality was commonly depicted in the mainstream during early 1990s and prior to the film's release in general, the film's sympathetic, naturalistic and humane treatment of the main character and his lover was quite unique.
    • Christmas with the Kranks starts off well with the Kranks deciding that since their daughter not going to be home for Christmas anyway and that they only really celebrated it for her sake anyhow, that they were going to boycott Christmas and use the money to do things they really wanted to do, which is a huge departure from all the typical sickeningly sweet Christmas movies that are released each year, but because their daughter decided that she just could not bear to miss a single Christmas with them as well as all the Christmas Knight Templar Neighbors pressuring them to conform to the Christmas tradition in their neighborhood, it quickly became just another schmaltzy Christmas movie with a somewhat disturbing subtext about conforming to the holiday spirit.
    • The Disney Animated Canon's deliberate attempts at more rounded female characters over the past 20 years have faced similar problems, especially where romance and physical beauty are concerned. See Girls Need Role Models.
    • Shrek, which has beautiful Princess Fiona falling for the ugly, grumpy ogre Shrek...only for this to cause her to become an ogre herself (all the time), thus rather undermining the aesop. It could probably be argued that there is no real way to do the Beauty And The Beast story without either breaking a supposed aesop, or running into serious Fridge Logic, namely the Improbable Species Compatibility.
      • On the other hand, the idea of Beauty Equals Goodness is so pervasive in our culture that for a film to subvert it, in order to deliver the message that goodness has nothing to do with appearances, is a rarity even over a decade since its release. And the sequels firmly establish that she is Happily Married to Shrek, and content with being an ogre; in fact, when she and Shrek are given an opportunity to live the rest of their lives as regular humans, Fiona willingly declines.
    • A character who doesn't like prom in Disney's Prom.
    • Mainstream American horror films, especially when compared to horror films from Asia and Europe. For all the evil that American horror icons do, they'll never go too far so as to earn it an NC-17 rating, instead relying on Gory Discretion Shots and avoiding certain acts. This is largely because the entire system of American cinema tends to yield to Moral Guardians. A film can't be mainstream if it's rated NC-17—none of the big chains will show NC-17 films, and a high percentage of the target audience would be absolutely forbidden to see it. The target audience for American horror is teenagers and young adults; were it not for this trope, the platonic ideal for an American studio would be a PG-13 horror movie. But anything that is seen to cross the line risks getting rated NC-17 because it crosses the Moral Event Horizon. Finally, if someone films a villain crossing the Moral Event Horizon in a graphic way, it is often believed that the director is crossing it as well... In short, this is why the villains of American horror movies are so often subject to Draco in Leather Pants.
    • Peter Jackson was recently[when?] responsible for a film of The Lovely Bones. There is one major difference between it and the book it's based on: the book graphically depicts the rape of the main character. The film does not because that was something Jackson was unwilling to film. (Heck, it might be illegal for a live-action film to show that in many places, since that character is underage.) Fans of the book believed that removing the scene in question removed the entire point of the work.
    • Works by Nikita Mikhalkov, which often feature profanity, violence, nudity and obligatory pro-{current government} message.
    • The Disney Channel original movie Radio Rebel. The main character is a teen radio commentator who is supposed to be seen as this cool, rebellious girl, but she doesn't really do anything anti-authority. She mostly complains about cliques and school rules being unfair but doesn't say anything that would be considered controversial or new by most people, especially teens.


    • Little Women (and its sequels) is one of those books that academics describe as "proto-feminist." Most people who read it—particularly scenes that showcase "Father" as a god-like entity to be fawned over and obeyed—may wonder if the academics are reading some other book. This is mitigated somewhat when you realise that 'Father' here is an Expy for Bronson Alcott, controversial philosopher and associate in the Transcendentalist movement with Thoreau and Emerson. His daughter did, in fact, blatantly idolise him—the sequel, Little Men, is structured entirely around his distinctly non-mainstream educational theories.
    • Likewise, while Jane Austen's works are undeniably astute and satirical, her heroines adhere to and fulfill the expectations society placed on women in real life, which might make its "feminist" reputation a little dubious to some. It is, of course, necessary to remember that she was writing at the beginning of the nineteenth century, at which time the standards of what we might view today as 'feminist' were much, much different. Indeed, for Austen's time and culture, women writing fiction to begin with was progressive.
    • Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is another questionable case. While Jane leaves Rochester when she finds he locked up crazy Bertha in the attic, she ultimately returns and marries a humbled, disabled Rochester, happy to fulfill the role of caretaking, loving wife. However, there is a lot of scholarly debate on this point, because she did it on her own terms, evidenced again by her refusal to accompany her cold cousin St. John to India. It has been read as both for and against feminism, and the debate is unlikely to ever be settled.
    • Dragonriders of Pern:
      • Anne McCaffrey's series is often viewed as being ahead of its time, featuring both gay men as significant characters and strong female leads. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the patriarchal system is alive and well.
      • The "strong females" still play second fiddle to their male partners. Weyrwomen, the riders of the queen dragons, are supposedly the most powerful people in the weyr. However, the reason for this is because their dragon decides who the male Weyrleader will be—the rider of the dragon that mates the queen earns the title (and acquires the Weyrwoman as his lover). After that, the Weyrwoman takes care of the domestic duties of the weyr, while the Weyrleader handles fighting, discipline and diplomacy. The dragons with male riders are there to fight the parasitic "Thread;" queen dragons - and by association, their riders - are mainly there for breeding purposes. As if to mitigate this inequality, the Weyrleader is only there to fight Thread. He becomes a figurehead during an Interval, which is around two hundred years. A Pass is only fifty years—an exceptional Weyrleader could be born around the beginning of a Pass and survive well past the need for fighting. The Weyrwoman's in charge of everything aside from wing drills. The position of Weyrleader itself depends on the queen dragon, whereas the Weyrwoman is in charge for life. It's not a glamorous job, but lack of food and medicine would make it hard to live to be the awesome saviors of Pern. Yet this still reflects most classically patriarchal societies: women take care of the necessities at home yet have little control over their own life, while the men ride off to take the glory in the occasional war while all their more domestic needs are catered to.
      • Women who aren't dragon riders have very little status. In fact, Lord Holders (effectively the kings of their territories) are entitled to sleep with anyone they please, while their wives must stay faithful and no girl is allowed to refuse a Lord Holder if he propositions her.
      • Menolly is frequently cited as being a prodigy even among the gifted Harpers (singers/musicians/teachers) at the Harper Hall. Yet when the time comes for her mentor, Robinton, the Master Harper of Pern, to retire, it's her husband Sebell who becomes the most important Harper on Pern. However, Sebell had been Robinton's protege/right hand man long before they'd even heard of Petiron's mystery prodigy. And, to put it mildly, the Master Harper's duties weren't limited to singing and composing.
      • While Pern is often praised for featuring gay male characters at a time when such characters were rare, they get a rough deal. Green and blue riders, who are usually gay or bisexual men, are the lowest ranked riders in the weyr. McCaffrey's portrayal of them is often unflattering. They're oversexed and irrational in the case of T'reb, whose nasty mood swings result in serious injury of main character F'nor, or foolish and reckless as with P'tero and M'leng in Red Star Rising / Dragonseye who are mainly there to provide What an Idiot! moments that move the plot along. K'lon, of Moreta, is probably the most sensible and heroic of all the blue and green riders described, but even he isn't allowed to forget that he's a "mere" blue rider: Weyrwomen Moreta and Leri find out that he's discovered the time traveling ability of the dragons, and forbid him from trying it again since the information is reserved for bronze and queen riders only, with lesser riders considered less competent, and therefore likely to die when they mess up while time travelling. Readers with a dark sense of humour might find some justice in the fact that Moreta gets herself killed... by messing up while time traveling.
      • Perhaps in recognition of this, it's been stated by McCaffery that men and women were on much more equal footing in earlier times. The plague in Moreta's time caused gender values to revert, however, since women were expected to stay at home and repopulate Pern. Your Mileage May Vary on whether this is an Ass Pull or Fridge Brilliance, however.
    • There's controversy about the outing of Albus Dumbledore after the end of the Harry Potter series. Some are praising JK Rowling for making one of the story's most prominent characters homosexual, whereas others are accusing her of chickening out by not having this fact actually in the text.
      • However, these others might do well to actually pay attention to the text, where it is heavily implied, albeit not outright stated. While Dumbledore never actually jumped out of the closet shouting "I'm not a boggart, I'm just fabulous!", the story does contain enough clues to make it obvious that it was the intention all along, if you now know what to look for.
    • These days, Djuna Barnes' book Nightwood is often called a masterpiece of "queer literature", because it's got an almost all-gay or bisexual cast, and is clearly intended to be pro-tolerance. Unfortunately, all of the characters are either Depraved Bisexuals or their victims. In fact, earlier critics saw the book as just that: a tract about how same-sex couples never end well and will destroy you.
    • Heinlein novel Farnham's Freehold had characters sent to the far future, where tables have turned and whites are enslaved by blacks. It treats the slaves and masters as the usual nasty stereotypes (listless and lazy for the former, and predatory and dehumanizing for the latter); the only difference is that the slaves are white and the masters are black. Also, the slave owners routinely neuter and eat the slaves. Heinlein's intention seems to have been to combine taking slavery to its logical conclusion (if slavery treats people as domestic animals, then...) and role reversal. Unfortunately, the result (almost certainly inadvertently) both treads into old racial stereotypes concerning cannibalism and suggests that black slaveowners would be worse than whites.
    • The Wheel of Time has been touted as the great aversion to The Smurfette Principle, shaking up the patriarchal notions still latent in fantasy literature by presenting many females in positions of authority and wisdom. But practically all the female authority figures are manipulative, hypocritical, mind-bogglingly arrogant, misandrist, and ruled by their own emotions. The women's greatest hubris is attempting to control the male Chosen One and his all-male army, which leads to many of the "strong" women being bound in abject servitude, literally unable to disobey.
    • Dune has come under similar criticism as The Wheel of Time pertaining to the Bene Gesserit and other significant female characters in its universe.
    • Feminist writer Angela Carter, well known for her rewriting of traditional fairy stories into feminist pieces in The Bloody Chamber was initially hated by all for espousing such a blatantly feminist message. Then some fairly radical feminists read the book and criticised her for abiding too much by the rules of a patriarchal society when she wrote it. (Of course, radical feminists will say that about anything and everything that is slightly less radical than they are, so.)
    • Aphra Behn was the first woman in England to earn her living as a writer. Her stuff is shockingly misogynistic. Seriously, it valourizes rape.
      • One of her books, Oroonoko, has been read as an anti-slavery tract, because the hero is an African prince who becomes a slave in Suriname and tries to start a rebellion, making him the Doomed Moral Victor. However, the book is actually basically supportive of slavery in general; it's just that Oroonoko shouldn't be a slave because he's royalty. To reflect his superiority over other Africans (whose fate does not interest Behn), he is given a European nose and lips.
    • Eliza Haywood's Fantomina has been read as an early story of female empowerment and liberation, because the female lead uses various disguises (even posing as a prostitute) to pursue the man of her dreams and engage in pre-marital sex with him. Even setting aside the obvious stuff objections, there's the ending, where she gets pregnant, has his baby, and spends the rest of her life in a French monastery. She gets punished for her transgression and quickly returned to the domestic.
    • Happens in universe in The Unidentified by Rae Mariz. In this Advert-Overloaded Future, Katey aka Kid goes to a school sponsored by Mega Corps. Students can become "branded", which is when they are sponsored by different corporations. The companies are interested in branding Kid because of her being somewhat on the fringes of society. They want to have someone who is somewhat of a "rebel", but not too much. The corporations also throw parties that seem to be typical teen parties, but are full of advertising.

    Live-Action TV

    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • It is renowned for showing the first interracial kiss on TV... except that rather than being motivated by love, Aliens Made Them Do It, so it truly means nothing beyond the surface. (And not only that, the take that finally ended up in the broadcast was a staged kiss - Shatner's and Nichols' lips never actually met onscreen.) There was a second shot though that didn't even go that far. Shatner intentionally made a face so they had to use the 'kissing' shot.
      • The main female characters on that progressive and staunchly anti-prejudice show were a phone operator, a nurse with a crush on her male superior officer, and a "yeoman" (read: secretary) with a crush on her Captain. Plus all Kirk's Disposable Women and Green Skinned Space Babes. In the final aired episode "Turnabout Intruder", it's stated that women cannot be starship captains in Starfleet! Granted, it's the Axe Crazy villain who says this, but no one corrects her and the show's creator later confirmed that he actually meant that to be the case - until the backlash caused him to Retcon his first statement out of existence. The captain of the second ever warp 5 ship, the Columbia, which pre-dates Kirk by about eighty years, was a woman—but again, we don't know this until decades after the end of The Original Series.
      • The forced Kirk/Uhura kiss and the subservient roles for women can be blamed to some extent on Executive Meddling. Gene Roddenberry originally cast Majel Barrett as second in command of the ship, but this was deemed unacceptable during test screenings (or because Barrett was Roddenberry's mistress and the executives felt that this implied a slight conflict of interest, casting-wise). It's also worth noting that even though Aliens Made Them Do It, the Kirk/Uhura kiss was still controversial enough that the show received a ton of mail about it. At that time, even kissing by couples of the same race was less usual on TV. As for Kirk's Green Skinned Space Babes some fans argue that their number, like rumours of Mark Twain's death, has been greatly exaggerated. It's also possible to point to strong female roles amongst villain characters, such as the unnamed Romulan commander whom Spock seduces in "The Enterprise Incident".
      • The kiss itself may have been forced, but the dialogue immediately before it suggests enough intimacy between the two (even if it's just friendship) that it can't be dismissed as nothing, either. Kirk is trying to comfort Uhura (it's implied that they're about to be used as a live sex show against their will in order to entertain a group of telekinetic aliens), and she says that she's not afraid, because she always feels safe when he's around. Cue the kiss - forced, but not meaningless.
      • Speaking of no prejudice, you green-blooded, pointy-eared freak... (Of course, Dr. McCoy was the only one who was like that with him. And Spock bit back. Hard.) Also, it is open to some debate how for that was just personal point scoring.
    • Hilariously invoked in Never Mind the Buzzcocks with host Simon Amstell constantly mocking Donny Tourette, a supposedly "rebellious" punk singer who is the very epitome of this trope
    • Even Captain Jack's own show, Torchwood, suffers a bit from this. Of course it's far more liberal than Star Trek, but it doesn't seem to be quite as progressive as it sometimes claims to be. The creators claim all the main characters are bisexual. But among the principal cast of the first two seasons, they're a woman who has a romantic relationship with an Energy Being in the form of a female human, a woman in a heterosexual marriage who once kissed an alien in a woman's body when under the effects of sex pheromones, a man who has a man attempt to seduce him after being exposed to similar pheremones, a man who is only gay for Jack (though possibly in denial). The only one that isn't too debatable is the omnisexual Jack.
    • While Law and Order has had quite a few plots with gay victims (and gay perps) over the years, for one of TV's longest running dramas, it never had a gay recurring character. So, one season, one of the characters finally comes out—and it's Serena Southerlyn, who's already in the minus column for a lot of the fandom, and she comes out literally twenty seconds before she leaves the series. Add to this the incredibly laughable fashion in which it happens: after DA Branch fires her for getting too involved in a case, there's a pause, and Serena asks, "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" Branch acts as an Audience Avatar by looking very confused for a few moments, before saying no. Reportedly, this was ad-libbed by the actress as more or less her way of giving the finger to the show/staff, or added last-minute by the creative staff for extra "drama" (take your pick). The very, very.. very subtle foreshadowing (read: Serena becoming extremely supportive at even the slightest whiff of a "gay cause", so to speak) didn't help things at all.
    • The Bad Girl's Guide, which was anything but....Same could in fact be said about the book series, which is fairly tame. Though this also could be a case of Misaimed Fandom.
    • Mad Men, while getting renown for dealing with the blatant sexism, racism and homophobia of the sixties, somewhat cripples that message by being a story mainly about privileged upper-middle-class straight WASP men, whom the vast majority of women on the show throw themselves at, while other minorities only flash by every once in a while. Sure, the show is very good at demonstrating prejudice, but as we rarely get to see the flipside of it (or any of the struggles for equal rights that went on in the time, for that matter), the viewer can very well go through the whole series without noticing the message. At least in early episodes, some of this could be justified by the show's early-1960s setting; while the Civil Rights movement had been active since the 1950s, the key triggers behind propelling several other such movements into the mass public consciousness (such as the publication of The Feminine Mystique, which kick-started the Second Wave of feminism, and the Stonewall riots which helped make Gay Rights movements more public to mainstream observers) simply hadn't happened yet. Which is certainly not to say that these movements weren't still active, but they weren't necessarily active on the level that WASP types such as the main characters would really have been aware or taken much notice of. It's frequently hinted that while these characters might have it good now, the longer the series goes on the more unpleasant (to them) surprises they have coming their way.
    • The "Toni's Boys" episode of Charlie's Angels is considered to be an essential feminist episode of the series. In the episode, numerous attempts are made on the lives of Kelly, Kris and Tiffany and and Charlies hires Antonia Blake and her Boys to protect them and the Angels work with them. The Angels prove themselves incompetent and need Toni's Boys.
    • Monty Python's Flying Circus had a band of criminals who never once did anything illegal. Considering the show, it was probably Played for Laughs.
    • Sex and the City frequently moralized about the prejudice faced by single women in their 30s and by sexually adventurous women, but the Happy Ending of the series involves all four characters in committed monogamous heterosexual relationships with white men, and in two cases already raising children.


    • Bowie's "She's Got Medals" is about a Sweet Polly Oliver situation with the transsexual undertones taken to, by 1967 standards, outrageous levels. A modern-day listener is likely to instead be put off upon hearing that "she got very tired of picking up girls, cleaning her gun, and shaving her curls...moved to London Town, and now she's settled down."
    • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony had 2 albums that fell into this. One was called Thug World Order, and their recent one was called The World's Enemy. The former which was supposed to be overtly violent, anti-establishment, and sociopolitical fell victim to Executive Meddling, partly due to 9/11 which happened months earlier. However, the misunderstanding of the second album is largely the group's responsibility, possibly due to people misunderstanding the title. It more or less means Defector From Decadence, although some misinterpreted it as referring to something darker, malevolent, and violent and felt the album did not deliver on this.
    • Most current rap music in general is this, In some people's opinion anyway. Especially Glam Rap artists, and the type 2 variant of Gangsta Rap. Compared to what mainstream rap used to be.
    • Black Sabbath and, by extension, Ozzy Osbourne, have been accused of this by critics and listeners. The band Venom explained their rationale of writing explicitly about the occult by calling out Ozzy, who would "sing about evil things and dark figures, and then spoil it all by going 'Oh, no no, please, God, help me!"
    • Punk Rock is even more painfully formulaic than most other genres. Think about that for a moment.It's actually been said that the only true punk band was the Sex Pistols, because of the way they imploded. Making a career out of it means stepping back from the edge, and stepping back from the edge is...this trope.
    • In spite of its occasionally being treated by the media as a feminist anthem, Peggy Lee's 1963 song I'm a Woman is pretty much all about being a traditional housewife if you look at the lyrics.
    • Parodied in Spray's "I Always Wanted To Say 'I Always Wanted To Say That'":

    Causing mayhem!
    (Albeit, quite restrained mayhem),
    Parameters rule!


    Professional Wrestling

    Tabletop Games

    • Paranoia: While all secret societies are officially treasonous (doubly so for the Communists), their actual threat to Alpha Complex varies a lot (FCCCP and the Trekkies in particular are identified as mostly harmless). The XP edition introduces a secret three-tier classification system, and reveals that some societies were deliberately created to draw in potential traitors and turn them into Rule Abiding Rebels (for every Commie and PURGEr blowing stuff up, there's ten Death Leopards who think they're Badass for putting up some graffiti).
    • Really, most player characters are this, as the majority of tabletop games feature you playing a character who bucks the trend of their society for whatever reason. (They're adventuring in dungeons rather than settling down, they're fighting the megacorps instead of working for one, they're clued in on The Masquerade, whatever.) But of course since most players want to keep the relative comfort level of the other players and good taste in mind, they're not going to get too out there in what they do.


    • The Merchant of Venice:
      • Shakespeare's play is sometimes looked upon today as extremely progressive because of how it portrays a Jewish character as basically human ("Hath not a Jew eyes?"), which was extremely rare at the time. Shakespeare allows us to sympathize with and sort of like Shylock, and he even gets a happy ending: he is forcibly converted to Christianity! Um, hooray? And even though Shylock has several speeches like "Hath not a Jew eyes?", that go some way to humanizing him, he's still an inhumane, cruel, money-grubbing, possessive, arrogant, nasty person, and an overbearing, out-of-touch father, and definitely not a figure of sympathy for the audience. And given the propensity of some actors to portray him as a flat-out villain...
      • This is a discussion that never ends. And if proof were needed, this example was once followed by a large chunk of text in which interesting arguments and counter-arguments on Shylock, his character and Shakespeare's motivation were given. It's easier to just say that opinions vary widely on this example.
    • Similarly, that are many people who interpret The Taming of the Shrew as proto-feminist, taking Kate's last speech (about how women should always obey their husbands) as ironic.
      • Pretty much any Shakespearean comedy/romance about mistaken identities operates this way. Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night is having romantic feelings for a "male" character, but it's okay because she's really a girl. Florizel and Perdita's romance in A Winter's Tale is met with resistance because of the class differences, but we know she's really royalty so it's no biggie. The Comedy of Errors lets a pair of twins be mistaken for their long-lost brothers, but each according to his station. The list goes on.
    • More Shakespeare! Othello depicts a black man (well, Moor technically but for all intents and purposes, Othello's black) who seemingly defies the stereotypes of the time - many characters (Iago mostly) say that Moors are uncouth, led by passion, and "changeable in their ways", whereas Othello is shown to be a calm, cultured and gentlemanly general of the Venetian army... until Iago starts messing with him, where his language deteriorates, his emotion overrides all logic, and his opinion of Desdemona changes repeatedly. Of course, Iago is The Corrupter and has that effect on everyone - he turns Roderigo into a brainless puppet, Cassio into a violent drunk, and so on.
    • Ibsen's plays often suffer from Values Dissonance of this sort. What many modern readers perceive as Rule Abiding Rebel behavior was in fact rule-breaking at the time - even portraying the (usually realistic) unhappy situations his plays always deal with was deeply shocking.
      • Ibsen got away with a lot by presenting multiple points of view and not outright stating which one to support. There's still argument over whether A Doll's House favors Nora's desire for independence, Torvald's desire to keep the marriage together, or neither.
    • A surprising old aversion in The Duchess Of Malfi. The Duchess becomes a widow at a young age and is thus a single woman in a position of great power. This is arguably the point of the play.


    • Valkyria Chronicles is a romance story that takes place during a fantasy World War II, focusing on a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits militia squad and its commanding officer, Welkin, and his sergeant, Alicia. The game gets a lot of praise for having a strong, capable female lead, who is not only a skilled soldier, but by and large the most powerful character in the game even without the potently destructive super powers she acquires later on, and she still gets to be the lead female in a romance story. However, that romance story requires her to completely abandon her Action Girl schtick, and Welkin's love is the only thing that stops her from flamboyantly killing herself with the force of her self-loathing; the climax itself reads like a shopping list of the most cliche JRPG love-scene lines. Similar situations happen to all but one of the main female cast, with a woman's emotions causing her to lose control of her judgment to the point of doing something that would effectively end her life, and she lives or dies depending on whether she has a male love interest to talk sense into her.
    • Muramasa: The Demon Blade has the fact that it has two protagonists, one male and one female, and considerable marketing oomph was put into showcasing that the female protagonist is a cool, sword-wielding Badass Action Girl. Turns out Momohime is possessed by the spirit of a man the entire time; when not possessed, she's typical of the sort of willowy princess-maiden type you'd expect to find in a game about ninjas.
    • In-universe example: in Dragon Age 2, the Tal-Vashoth rebels against the Qunari end up operating according to a specific set of codes about how rebels should operate. Those that can't usually end up entering human society as mercenaries or occasionally merchants.

    Web Comics

    Web Original

    Western Animation

    • Like a lot of things, mocked by Family Guy quite often. One particularly memorable example is a parody of movies about career women who learn "what's truly important in life":

    Male Lead: Over the next 90 minutes, I'm going to show you that all of your problems can be solved by my penis.

    • The Grand Finale of the 101 Dalmatians cartoon had Cruella hitching a ride with a motorcycle gang who wouldn't exceed the speed limit.
    • The Simpsons:
      • The picture above is from the episode "The Bart Wants What It Wants". It depicts the filming of a scene from the fictional movie Canadian Graffiti.
      • In the episode "Take My Wife, Sleaze", Homer pulls his motorcycle up beside Chief Wiggum in his car, who expresses his desire to put Homer and his newly formed motorcycle gang behind bars. Homer derisively points out that Wiggum can't hassle them because they're going at the speed limit.
    • In general this shows up in a lot of cartoons due to what's considered something a kid could emulate, whether a bad guy does it or not. So you might have a supervillain who breaks the law and thinks Evil Feels Good... but he'll still stop to put on his helmet before riding his Evilcycle.
      • This trope is sometimes lampshaded in some cartoons, with either the villain Breaking the Fourth Wall to sardonically note what they are doing is dangerous to an implied audience, or otherwise making some sort of comment about how what they are doing is dangerous to themselves, hence the protection.