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File:Peachicoffee 4232.png

The protagonist gets coffee thrown in his face for the last one.


 Captain! With Due Respect, you can't seriously be considering this, can you?! What kind of hero would do that? It's crazy! Cruel! Stupid! Suicidal! ... you want an alternative? What do I look like, your Number One? Oh, wait...



Your proposition may be good,

But let's have one thing understood --

Whatever it is, I'm against it!

And even when you've changed it or condensed it,

I'm against it!
Groucho Marx, Horsefeathers[1]

Commander Contrarian doesn't just carry the Conflict Ball, he holds the world hackey-sack record for keeping it aloft. His main purpose in the plot is to naysay and find flaws in the hero's plans so the other can fight physical and social obstacles. They might be legitimate concerns, but are usually spurious. This can be either because Commander Contrarian is Alpha Bitch, jealous of the hero's position (like a good aligned Starscream), a Grumpy Bear, or just a plain ol' Jerkass.

His objections can be born of stupidity, pragmatism, or politics, but will almost always be just plain wrong. Even if they aren't, he'll only rarely propose a viable alternate plan of action, and it's almost unheard of for the hero to use it and have it work. If he's persuasive, he'll get the group to split up and go separate ways. Odds are high his group will be monster chow.

When especially cliché, he will oppose anything a hero proposes. He'll wail and moan over leaving the refugees or saving the refugees. He'll be adamant about a suicidal charge or be entirely against any military action. As a character type, he's practically Schrodinger's Gun Lobbyist; no matter what the hero advocates, he's against it. Likewise, his morality and Genre Savvy will always be 180 degrees opposite the leader.

Usually the complainer in The Complainer Is Always Wrong. This can result in a Doomed Contrarian. Sometimes, however, he's doing this on purpose. This is called a "Devil's Advocate;" the basic idea is that, even though he may actually agree with the plan himself, he wants to make sure out of principle that the leader doesn't do anything he can't clearly defend against criticism, and might have missed something.

See also Rebellious Rebel. Hilarity Ensues when Commander Contrarian's companion is Like a Weasel. Contrast with Yes-Man. Compare Sarcastic Devotee. If someone with the literal rank of Commander is actually competent, that's Commanding Coolness.

Examples of Commander Contrarian include:

Anime & Manga

  • While Rei and Usagi butt heads to the point of childish bickering in Sailor Moon, the English dub by DiC elevated her counterpart Raye to become this trope. A small complaint from Rei about Usagi's need to learn responsibility (something Rei thought Luna was doing too fast) was changed in one episode to Raye trying to kick Serena out of the Sailor Scouts and escalated to Raye actively bullying an apparently spineless Amy into actually not showing up on a mission out of protest, and Luna, who you would expect would raise an objection to the most powerful person on the team being stripped of her duties and powers for no real reason, being willing to go along with it.
    • Raye was later strongly implied to have stolen Sailor Moon's Crescent Wand because she didn't trust Serena, which was altered from the original plot that actually showed Usagi giving the wand to Rei because she didn't trust herself to not give it up to the bad guys while attempting a Fake Defection to rescue Mamoru (Darien). Therefore, the scene that followed portrayed the dub's Raye being (apparently) willing to let Serena die (while Serena mentally pleaded for help) and finally backing down under pressure from her teammates, while the Japanese Rei was actually trying to keep a promise to Usagi and forcing herself to just watch (while Usagi mentally hoped they'd be strong enough not to rescue her and blow the entire plan).
  • Joe in Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, especially regarding the Bird Missiles. A rare example of a commander being this is Ken, who argues with Dr. Nambu from time to time and is actually a bit of a hothead.
    • In Battle of the Planets it's even worse, with Mark being much more wholesome and boyscout-like than Ken and Joe's tragic backstory being Bowdlerised out of Jason's character so Jason simply comes off as a hotheaded jerk whose role in battles is to argue with Mark.
  • Samson from Kimba the White Lion acts like this towards Kimba and his father when it comes to their politics.

Comic Books

  • The Dark Knight Strikes Again was a rare occasion where the protagonist fits the role. In one particular scene had Superman lecturing his daughter who wanted to use their power to rule over humans. Superman calls her out on this because he felt they should use their power to protect, not dictate. Like in every other scene in the series, Batman disagreed and calls Superman an idiot. So apparently, Batman feels Superman is an idiot for not wanting to enslave the world. Yeah.
    • IIRC, Batman's issue was more that Superman had let someone ELSE (Luthor and Brainiac) control him to do just that, take over the world, but Supes was still clinging to his own rhetoric about not abusing their Godlike power.
  • In any X-Men adaptation where Cyclops is in charge, Wolverine will always be there to snark at, insult, or generally disagree with him.


  • Decker in Star Trek the Motion Picture existed simply to be contrary to Captain Kirk. Sort of. But the script (specifically McCoy and Kirk's dialogue) suggests that it's rather an Inverted Trope - Kirk is acting contrary to Decker just to reassert control whereas Decker actually shows he has his head screwed on straight by saving the ship on more than one occasion.
    • In point of fact, all of the first officers of the Star Trek series usually act like this, especially with regard to the Prime Directive. Picard, at least, believes that that is the job of the first officer: to contradict and question the captain when necessary — which (as he notes in "Encounter At Farpoint") is why he picked Riker (who had such an incident on his record). Star Fleet captains are supposed to pick an executive officer that should have a different personality (although one he can get along with). This because Star Fleet captains have a fairly loose leash, and as such there should always be a second opinion on if the choices they make are the right ones.
      • There's also the whole "Doomsday machine" angle. The "crazy" Commodore Decker in that Original series episode (basically Ahab In Space), this one's dad.
  • Utterly, utterly subverted in Night of the Living Dead - the local exemplar of this trope sticks to his guns, and is portrayed as an archetypal contrarian. In the end, however, he is convinced to follow the protagonist's plan - and ends up making a Heroic Sacrifice when the plan turns out to be tragically flawed. The real kicker then comes when the protagonist, by following Contrarian's original plan, ends up the only survivor until he's shot by Sergeant Zombie-Hunter at the end.
    • Uh, what? Which version of Night of the Living Dead are you talking about? In the original, Harry's plan does eventually turn out to be Ben's salvation, but he makes no heroic sacrifice- in fact, his cowardice almost gets Ben killed when he locks Ben out with the zombies, only relenting and letting him in at the last second. In fact, his death comes when he tries to steal the gun from Ben and gets himself shot for it. Not to mention that Ben's plan would have worked if they hadn't been so careless with the torch.
  • Vader actually has the good kind in A New Hope. Daine Jir apparently often called Vader's judgment into question while on missions, but at the same time he was thought to be a model Imperial officer, as he could follow orders explicitly when he saw the sense in them, and he usually accepted Vader's explanation after asking him about his planned course of action.
  • Zig-zagged with Grouchy in The Smurfs.
  • Alien Cargo: Eichhorn, the first officer of the spaceship Dolphin.
  • Albert Nimzicki, the Secretary of Defense in Independence Day, fits this trope to a T, being a general prick to everyone in the movie until President Whitmore fires him after he uses the president's dead wife's name to try to get his way.


  • Zacharias Smith in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
    • Cormac McLaggen in Half-Blood Prince. He's more "ignore orders and take charge" rather than simply protest orders, but cut from the same cloth.
    • Hermione herself takes this role during Deathly Hallows, though less out malice than because she feels they should stick to the original plan (find the Horcruxes, destroy the Horcruxes, high five after).
      • Just Deathly Hallows? Most of the conflicts Hermione has with Harry and/or Ron during the series is due to her always disagreeing with them and taking actions that offend them in some manner or just playing nagging them nonstop. Her complaining of Harry during Half-Blood Prince over the book belonging to second Titular Character seems to be more out of envy for being bested in Potions than actual, reasonable worry. By the end of it, it's pretty clear she's just trying to win the argument for the sake of being right.
  • In The Thrawn Trilogy, Captain Pellaeon is Grand Admiral Thrawn's second, and often plays Sith's Advocate. He always reminds his admiral of certain things that need his attention, or might need a second thought, or when he thinks an idea is flawed - and he often does, since Thrawn tends to have strange plans, goes behind the backs of his subordinates, and likes testing him and not telling him what he's doing, instead letting Pellaeon see the results and then asking pointed questions and waiting for Pellaeon to figure it out on his own. There's mention of the two of them once getting into a barely-civilized debate over a tactic that Pellaeon thought would require far too much precision to pull off. Pellaeon's wrong often enough to let Thrawn demonstrate his genius, but he's also known to be right, and Thrawn's enough of a Reasonable Authority Figure to listen every time, even if he doesn't always follow his advice. Pellaeon, in return, comes to trust Thrawn's abilities, so even when he doubts his Grand Admiral he follows his instructions, and he knows when it's better to keep quiet. In other words, Pellaeon is the ideal second-in-command.

  "Trust me, Captain," Pellaeon said, trying hard not to smile as his mind suddenly flashed back ten years. Then, he'd been the earnest captain standing on this same deck, trying in the most diplomatic way possible to make his superior see sense in the middle of a tense combat situation. [...] And yet Thrawn had never reprimanded him for his impertinence and lack of understanding. He had merely continued calmly with his plans, allowing the results to speak for themselves.


 Ardiff: I'm, ah, sorry if I sounded--

Pellaeon: Understood, Captain. Believe it or not, I've been in your place myself.

    • In a more straight example, the New Republic High Council's Commander Contrarian is Councilor Fey'lya, a self-absorbed self-appointed Dark Side's advocate, but for the purposes of empowering himself, not improving the Council's ideas. He's a proponent of Divided We Fall.
    • Another somewhat straight example, also involving Thrawn, can be seen in Timothy Zahn's short story Command Decision. Admiral Thrawn has been exiled to the Unknown Regions along with the crew of a Star Destroyer, and its captain is very displeased with this, and how this alien, when encountering a weird new species, does not follow Imperial protocols at all. Thrawn thanks the captain for his recommendations and goes on with plans that seem to indicate ridiculous weakness. The captain and a general even speculate that Thrawn made some kind of deal and almost mutiny, though when the crunch comes he doesn't. Ultimately Thrawn asks the captain to trust him - and the captain does - and this trust is rewarded when the plan works out really, really well.

  Thrawn: "What it ultimately comes down to is a simple matter of trust. Whether you trust me personally; whether you trust the officers who approved my promotion to the rank of admiral; whether you trust the Emperor and his decision to place me in command here."

    • In The New Rebellion, General Wedge Antilles has one of these. He realizes that the opposing fleet is piloted by droids, and he knows that part of the enemy's plan, thwarted just at the start of the battle, was to have his fleet's droids take over ships and turn them against the fleet. So he issues orders for his flagship to fire on but narrowly miss their allied ships, without telling them or anyone else why.

 "What? Sir, have you gone mad?"

"Whether I'm mad or not is none of your concern. I'm your commander. You do as I say."

"But, sir, the new rules established by Admiral Ackbar state-"

"That you can force me to step down if you can prove I'm unfit. They also state that simply because the commander gives orders you disagree with does not mean the commander is unfit. Fire now, or I'll have you all relieved."

      • He is of course correct and things succeed brilliantly, but he also has to stay on the bridge, because he can sense how close his crew is to mutiny.
  • In Star Trek: New Frontier Commander Shelby realizes she's doing this when she starts acting the way Calhoun would when the more by-the-book Riker is given temporary command of the Excalibur while Calhoun is on a secret mission for Admiral Jellico.
  • Jarlaxle served this role to Matron Baenre when she was planning a war. Bear in mind that in Menzoberranzan, a matron (always a priestess of Lloth, the ruling deity) can have you put to death for disagreeing with her, or contradicting her, or if she feels like it, or if it's Thursday, and Matron Baenre is the most powerful in the city. Apparently, this is inconvenient sometimes, so Matron Baenre had to use someone who knew she wouldn't kill him (Jarlaxle is largely much off the hit list because of how convenient he is and how having him around is better than not having him) to talk her plans out with and having a sounding board.
  • Honorverse commanders take after the Star Trek inversion of this trope: the XO is fully expected to provide their dissenting opinions.
    • Though with a bit more of a nod to military discipline, they do it in private, rather than publicly bracing the captain in front of the crew. Many Commanders Contrarian forget to do this, behaving in ways that would get them in serious trouble with regulations in Real Life.
  • Flann O Brien's The Third Policeman features a man who makes it his rule to answer "No" to everything. Those who catch on can resort to asking if he refuses to divulge such-and-such information, and so on.
  • Marco from Animorphs is a rare example of this with good intentions. While he hates going on missions, he wants to make sure that whatever plan Jake has come up with is as close to perfect as it can be.
    • Cassie as well; she tends to test the morality of a given plan, where he looks at the practicality.
  • The Mist had a jerky lawyer as neighbor to the protagonist. After some humanizing exposition at the beginning, he sticks to his skepticism and leads a group of like minded people into the Ominous Fog. They all die.
  • Elinor of In the Keep of Time. When in the past, all she ever wants is to come back to the present, no matter how much Andrew enjoys the exciting adventures, Ian likes playing with the other kids, or the fact they might be leaving Ollie behind. Similarly, when they go to the future, as soon as they figure out they're not in the past and won't be finding the "real" Ollie, Elinor again wants to head home. But as soon as Andrew appeals to her sense of charity via the old blind Vianah needing their help, she changes her mind and agrees to stay. Then, when they go to Kelso and discover they are in a future After the End, Andrew is frightened and immediately wants to go home...only to have Elinor think the place is beautiful and peaceful and want to stay. It'd be annoying, if the irony and slight bit of Laser-Guided Karma to Andrew weren't so delicious.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Lord Snow finds that his council is full of these. He reflects that his father had told him it's better to have men who aren't afraid to argue with you, but their constant, predictable objections and lack of alternative suggestions makes them no more useful than if they were.
  • To some extent, the Bureau Of Sabotage in Frank Herbert's Con Sentiency stories, as it is their mission to interfere with the rest of the government to keep it from becoming too irresistable.
  • Quara in books 2-4 of Orson Scott Card's Ender Saga to the point where Jane, who tries to argue with her, finally realizes that Quara is simply incapable of "shutting up to save her own life", as Jane calmly explains that she is capable of unintentionally ending Quara's life during the next FTL jump. Quara then proceeds to threaten Jane (a Physical God). Miro then explains to Jane that Quara pays for her attitude by being lonely. After all, why would anyone try to seek her company, if they're just going to be insulted and frustrated?

Live-Action TV

  • Senator Kinsey of Stargate SG-1 is the poster child for this trope. His purpose in life seems to consist of deliberately choosing the most stupid course of action possible and self-righteously accusing anyone who disagrees with him as having ulterior motives (like his own).
    • General Bauer, who briefly takes over Stargate Command definitely comes off as this. He intentionally sets of a Naquadah Bomb on a Naquadah-rich planet against all objections on how dangerous this is, then seems suprised when it causes the entire planet to be destroyed and send deadly radiation back through the Stargate.
  • Colonel Tigh on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series was notorious for undermining other characters' plans with a well-placed "What the frak?".
    • The Quorum of Twelve and the later ship-based Quorum exists only to interfere with whoever is in charge of the government this week.
    • Jurgen Belzen, the XO of Pegasus tried to dissuade Cain from attacking a Cylon staging ground with an undermanned and partially-disabled ship. Incidentally, the show averts the Pretty Little Headshots trope.
  • Scrubs, episode "My Advice to You":

 Dr. Kelso: The point is, sometimes what's best for this hospital is what's best for the patients! I know it, you know it, and guess what, Dr. Cox knows it too, although damned if he doesn't disagree with me just because I said it.

J.D.: Sir, I don't think that's true.

Dr. Kelso: Perry! It's hotter than hell in here!

Dr. Cox: Freezing!

Dr. Kelso: Great coffee, though!

Dr. Cox: (raising his paper cup) Rat piss!

Dr. Kelso: Dr Murphy is an incompetent suck-up.

Dr. Cox: No, Bob. In fact, he's one of the finest young doctors I've ever had the good fortune of working with.

Dr. Kelso: (to J.D.) Your witness.

  • Alex Drake plays this role often in Ashes to Ashes. Particularly notable in two first season episodes - in one she tells Gene to trust his hunch even though all the evidence is stacked against it and follows through to find that the guy he suspected did pull the job. (Notable for being just about the only time Alex was right about anything..) The very next episode she is insistent that Gene shouldn't target a guy for a robbery, even though it becomes increasingly obvious he did it. She remains unapologetic at the end of the episode, even though her handling of affairs resulted in an officer getting stabbed and the suspect being brutally beaten..
  • And, of course, Monty Python's Flying Circus has The Man Who Contradicts People, as well as the Argument Clinic staffer who keeps crossing the line between argument and contradiction. (No, he doesn't! Yes, he does!)
  • House specifically wants someone to disagree with him so as to help him come up with the medical diagnosis. That's why he actually hired the black guy with the criminal record.
  • Mike Cutter of Law and Order, especially in his first season, seemed to exist solely to argue against whatever calls Jack McCoy made on a case. Tellingly, nearly any time Cutter went against Jack's orders or tried to show Jack "how it should be done", his maneuver would implode on him. Got MUCH better after his first season.


  • In The Mikado, Lord High Everything Else Pooh-Bah notes that he can not carry out the scheme he, in his capacity as First Lord of the Treasury, just proposed, since "as Leader of the Opposition, it would be my duty to oppose it tooth and nail."

Video Games

  • The Jedi Masters, specifically Vrook seemed to be flanderized into this by Knights of the Old Republic II. And it seemed to be infectuous whenever they got together in groups. Encounter a solo Jedi Master in the game, and he will agree that the Jedi need to gather together to stand against the Sith. Bring all of them together at the end, and suddenly they want to go back into hiding with no explanation as to why they've changed their minds.
    • Kreia from the same game is almost certainly an example. Whenever you take an action that nets you light side or dark side points, she calls you out for disturbing the balance.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin's story mode has you escorting a town's worth of people to an automated facility for growing crops. The town's mayor spends every second of his time on screen begging you for help, refusing to do you any favors, and opposing every decision you make.
  • The turian Councilor in Mass Effect is a rare Commander Contrarian of actual superior rank than the main character. No matter what Shepard does, the turian Councilor gives him/her guff for it. Let the rachni queen live? He calls you reckless and stupid. Kill the queen? Do you enjoy committing genocide?
    • Depends on the species, Turian.
    • And then there's also his stance on the "Reapers". They have dismissed that claim.
    • In order to provide arguments in favour of either outcome of the big moral choices in the game, your squdmates sometimes do this, with an occasional "I hope you know what you're doing Shepard." if you go against them. In the second game, however, two squadmates of similar stripe (i.e, two "Renegade" ones, like Jack and Zaeed, or two "Paragon" ones like Tali and Kasumi) will usually agree.
  • In Dragon Age, Sten is prone to questioning the Warden's actions if it has little to do with directly taking on the Blight head-on at full force. Eventually if he's at a low enough approval he may try to pull an Anti-Mutiny and will fight you for command. However during arguments he'll actually respect you more if you stand your ground rather than simply agreeing with him.
  • Your party tends to have strong opinions on certain subjects in Dragon Age 2. Most vocally insist that Blood Magic is stupid and evil, causing Merrill to take on this role and point out that all magic is dangerous. Depending on your interaction with her, you can either support her or convince her to give it up.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, General Lee Oliver is this to whatever strategic or tactical suggestions the eminently more competent Ranger Chief Hanlon makes.

Web Originals

  • Grif usually plays this role for Sarge in Red vs. Blue, though Grif is usually justified in that Sarge is an Ax Crazy Neidermeyer who makes killing off Grif his priority in his plans, no matter how detrimental it would be to the situation.
    • It's more often that Sarge is a genuine contrarion to Grif, just because he hates him, to the point that Sarge will refuse to believe basic facts if Grif mentions them.

Western Animation

  • Wheeler plays this role on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. One website mockingly referred to him as the "Dumb White Guy Who Always Says and Does the Wrong Thing," which pretty much sums up the Unfortunate Implications of using a character like this when your main characters are a Five-Token Band.
  • Eric The Cavalier in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, though his concerns were often helpful to the party as he became less of a contrarian as the show went on.
  • Rattrap in Beast Wars always doubted Optimus Primal's plans, always thought his fellow Maximals were all gonna die, and was by far the laziest of the group. Then again, he was a total Jerkass. Maybe he was just Tempting Fate to spite him and let him win.
    • Well, it worked. He was one of the only three characters to survive the entirety of both Beast Wars and Beast Machines.
    • Also, before getting into the outright betrayal he's best known for, the original Starscream seemed to exist only to tell Megatron how stupid his plan was, often without having his own idea. You get the feeling that Starscream really doesn't have his own ideas - if Megs said grass was green, Screamer would say it's purple just to spite him.
  • Cera of The Land Before Time series falls into this trope quite easily. Whether she's just making a snide remark about Littlefoot's latest plan, or getting into an all out fight with him, if there's a plan to be made, there's a flaw for her to point out.
  • Brian from Family Guy often takes this role, which is lampshaded by Lois.

  Lois: I think you just got to be in the "out" group. Whoever's on top, whoever's in power, whoever's successful, you gotta be on the other side or you don't feel like the smartest guy in the room. All you are, my dear, is a contrarian.


Real Life

  • In the Roman Catholic Church, the Devil's Advocate was an actual position, used when determining sainthood. Said person wasY specifically there to argue against the canonization. Pope John Paul II removed this position, and replaced it with the Promoter of Justice, the guy who is in charge of examining how accurate the inquiry on the saintliness of the candidate really is. Not so much "Why this is wrong!" as it is "Why is this right?" Notably, this led to a ton more people getting sainthood in a short amount of time.
    • They sort-of brought back the Devil's Advocate one time since. When Mother Teresa was up for beatification, Christopher Hitchens, one of her most vocal critics, was invited to give evidence against the process.
  • In the British Parliamentary system, the largest party not in government forms Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, whose official job description is to criticize and pick holes in everything that Her Majesty's Government proposes. The theory is that this ensures that HMG's policies are well-enough thought out to stand this kind of critical examination.
    • Many former British colonies or dominions with a Westminster form of parliamentary government work in a similar fashion.
      • In Canadian politics, the minority party will form an unofficial "shadow cabinet" (which is not as evil as it sounds) which pokes holes at and creates "Option B" type policies to whatever the majority party proposes.
    • In theory, the Three Branches of the U.S. government are supposed to do this for the other branches as part of the "checks and balances". In practice (especially lately), they tend to just vote the party line. This is why George Washington didn't want political parties.
    • Most opposition parties in democracies often go through phases of this. See the current state of the Liberals in Australia, or the Republicans in the US for that matter.
  • As mentioned in the Captain Pellaeon entry, above, pointing out things that may affect a commanding officer's orders is one of the traits of a good second in command.
  • In modern civilized courts of law, every accused party is entitled to a defender. In many cases, especially in those countries where the burden of proof in criminal matters lies with the state, the defense attorney will do his job by attacking the prosecutor's story.
    • While an "alternate theory of the crime" that shows the defendant not to be guilty can be very useful in convincing a jury, it is not strictly necessary in a system of presumed innocence. The Defense simply has to convince the court that the prosecution's version of events are WRONG, they don't have to establish what the "real" events would be instead.
      • I don't think anyone from the Defense ever put forward an "alternate theory" on who exactly could have killed Nicole Simpson for example.
    • Prosecutors and judges will sometimes do this to the police when they feel the evidence is insufficient to proceed with a case or issuance of a warrant.
  • Deniz Baykal, leader of the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People's Party, the main opposition party in Turkey) is widely regarded as this. With good reason.