Cool People Rebel Against Authority

Cobra Kai Season 4 - The Loop

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Cheer up, Cap. Old-fashioned or not, you're classic.

This is the general portrayal in fiction that any character who displays any sort of aloofness or indifference to an authority figure, for any reason, must be incredibly cool. A very common trait of the Mary Sue. Quite often the person against whom the "rebellion" is directed is an Obstructive Bureaucrat or some variant.

Expect "authority" to be heavily tainted in The War On Straw in some way or another, when the audience inevitably asks "What's so bad about the authority figure, anyway?".

Supertrope of Good Is Old-Fashioned, when coupled with Darker and Edgier. The supertrope of School Is for Losers. If the so-called rebel becomes too culturally influential, expect either Rule-Abiding Rebel or The Man Is Sticking It to the Man. See also Polite Villains Rude Heroes.

Examples of Cool People Rebel Against Authority include:

  • Speaking of which, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is another example of this trope.
    • Sorta kinda. Once Team Dai-Gurren actually win they become their own authority, and the epilogue appears to feature the kind of ultra-high-tech society (and its military) that wouldn't really get built if everyone spent their time rebelling for the sake of rebelling.
      • This is a point of the character development of Simon vs Kamina. Kamina would always have found something to rebel against, some further powa to rowrowfight. Kamina fought to fight. Simon fought to achieve a goal, and when he dug through it meant he'd emerged into a world he could live in. Team Dai-Gurren could never have become anything more than a rebellious guerrilla unit without the change of leadership.
    • Row, row, fight the power!
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. Right there in the title. Heck, Lelouch attracting followers to his rebellion through sheer charisma is a major plot point. Though it helps that The Empire he's rebelling against is only a couple steps shy of being a Nazi regime.
  • Angel Beats: The SSS. Since it's the afterlife, they can get away with quite a lot.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma Saotome has little to no respect for authority. He physically fights with teachers on a regular basis and goes out of his way to piss them off. Then again, one of his teachers disciplines him with Ki Attacks, another one tried to make him confess love to Akane during his time as a teacher, and the principal of the school is just batshit insane, so it's kind of understandable.
  • Subverted fairly hard in Robotech. Lynn-Kyle looks like he ought to be a Cool Guy. He's Tall, Dark and Handsome, the ladies drool over him. He's self-disciplined, a master of combat martial arts, and unquestionably intelligent. Some of his opinions about the situation they're all in are valid. Yet...his rebelliousness rings false, he comes across, over time, as self-righteous and selfish, increasingly so as time passes and his personal resentments against various people overcome the principles that he originally did espouse. By the end, he merely comes across as a selfish and destructive jerk.
  • Riki in Ai no Kusabi is notorious in the slums for being a very headstrong and defiant Badass Biker rebel. So much so that he's admired by people who have not ever met him but heard of his exploits. He's aware of his status and proud of it until he is Made A Sex Slave.

  • In keeping with the above picture, Captain America in the 1970s grew increasing disenchanted with America until it climaxed with him becoming Nomad for a few adventures. Fortunately, he soon realized that he can still be Cap and fight for America's ideals, rather than its government.

Mildred: What're you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny: Whaddya got?

  • The entire point of Ferris Buellers Day Off.
  • School of Rock. Even though Dewey himself starts out as a washed-up loser, this is his argument for why the kids should join his rock band. Rock sticks it to The Man, and that's what makes it cool.
  • Overdrawn at the Memory Bank: Fingal takes over the computer that controls the world's weather, causing hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards, probably killing thousands of people. The Fat Man is trying to stop him from doing so. Fingal is the hero of the movie for "fighting against the system"; Fat Man Fat Bastard is the villain.
  • Bonnie and Clyde is another movie all about this.
  • Rebel Without a Cause has it in the title.


  • Comes up briefly a time or two in the X Wing Series. In Michael Stackpole's run Rogue Squadron - who got that name in the first place purely for the coolness factor - is Mildly Military and quite happy to ignore minor directives and rules... which is usually seen as quite positive, with most people accepting it because they get amazing results, and the one who thinks they're irresponsible generally getting ignored. Then the complainer saves their skins after ignoring a rule himself - and rather than shrugging it off, insists that he be reported, because rigid rulebound discipline is all that keeps his people alive in the long run. In the end Rogue Leader Wedge Antilles has to accept this as valid.
    • During Wraith Squadron, Wedge has to train and lead a squadron of misfits that make the Rogues look rulebound, and this includes a woman with a kneejerk hostility to authority, including to him. He reflects that in the old days of the Rebel Alliance she wouldn't be considered dangerous, but just another Rebel, and eventually earns respect from her and the rest of the squadron by, when she challenges him, winning by somewhat underhanded means - proving himself still too rebellious to win conventionally.

  • Firefly has this.
  • Virtually every American TV show made in the last forty years which even mentions government might as well flash "government, bad" on the screen in neon.
  • Hawkeye from M*A*S*H might fall under this, although he usually only rebels against authority when authority is being stupid. Which is, admittedly, nearly every episode.
    • Occasionally subverted, however. On one occasion, Frank Burns was left in temporary command and decided that the medical staff were verging on alcoholism, and declares the 4077th 'dry'. By the end of the episode, despite Hawkeye's furious protests and rants, it's become clear and is portrayed as such that Frank did have a point, he just took it a bit too far. More brutally, on a later occasion Hawkeye himself is left in temporary command of the 4077th, and rapidly gains a different perspective on the sort of shenanigans he himself often pulls, to the point that he actually muses over charging B.J. Hunnicutt with being AWOL because he wasn't there when Hawkeye needed him for a medical crisis (he was responding to a different problem on his own, without authorization). Margaret even teases Hawkeye about this realization.

  • American Idiot plays this straight at first, with the main character Jimmy (styling himself "Jesus of Suburbia") leaving his town to live a punk life in the city. Then the trope is subverted when he eventually despairs and returns home to life the conformist life he rebelled against.

Meg: Hi, Craig. Umm, I was wondering if maybe you would want to, I don't know, go out sometime?
Craig Hoffman: Huh, that's about as likely as me playing by someone else's rules besides my own. Which I would never do. I play by my own rules, nobody else's, not even my own.

    • Rush Limbaugh (in a guest appearance) pointed out that Brian does this because he liked being the underdog.
  • In The Simpsons, Bart questions what the baby sitter sees in Jimbo. "What do you like about him? He's just a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules." Cue sighing of female characters present.
    • Played straight with Bart, at least in the early years. This was his appeal as a merchandising icon during that time period.
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