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When The Government or Mega Corp is a bastion of corruption, it's time to call in La Résistance to topple it, right? Well, these people had a different idea.

The Internal Reformist, rather than going through the horrors of war to topple the government, has made it their mission to change the system from within. Often they are The Last DJ, seemingly the only honest man in a corrupt system, or at least the only one willing to do something about the problem. Such people, while sometimes effective, may however end up becoming just as bad as the bureaucracy they are trying to change. They may attempt their reforms in a number of ways:

Type 1: Working the System

  • The Internal Reformist uses the system against those in power, either by guile and subterfuge to hog-tie or trick those in charge into doing what's right, or playing by the systems rules and accumulating the power to put someone with better morals in charge, who can peacefully and lawfully make the changes required. Characters which try this usually have a certain amount of authority already within the hierarchy, and/or have powerful allies and intimate knowledge of how things are done within the system. They rely a great deal on secrecy to accomplish their goals, though invariably their enemies within the system start noticing who the big trouble makers on the inside are, and start putting things in their way even if they can't prove they are up to something with any substantial evidence.

Type 2: Exposing the Corruption

  • The Internal Reformist works towards bringing the worst of the conspiracies to light in ways that will make it impossible for the status quot to be continued or the corruption to be covered up. Keep in mind that to create reform has to be the intent of the person to qualify for this Typing, if it's just a side-affect of solving some crime then it is not this trope. Those with this typing are usually in some kind of investigative field, such as a researcher, journalist, internal-affairs investigator, private-detective or law-enforcement, and rely on an illusion of being harmless to zip about and gather evidence under the noses of those in charge. This type tends to require the most secrecy of all, as particularly corrupt organizations might not having any problems with arranging an "accident" to bump them off, as these types tend to work alone or in small groups which are easy to dispose of.

Type 3: Becoming An Icon

  • The Internal Reformist in effect uses Ghandi-style peaceful protest, refusing to participate in immoral or unlawful activities and continuing to do what's right no matter how much the system throws at them in an attempt to make them give in. In some ways these types can be the most dangerous, and the most conspicuous, type of reformist as they tend to attract a great deal of allies, who come out of the woodwork once someone demonstrates that it's possible to stand up for what you believe in. Usually these types start out low on the totem pole, though usually with some advantage others might not have. They tend to gain authority quickly, either because their competency forces the system to give it to them, or those in change are trying to break or cripple them under the pressure of such authority. Sometimes these type do break under the pressure or simply lose the will to openly oppose the system and continue to live their ideals with honor but in quiet.

Usually it is possible for an Internal Reformist to think they have a chance at changing the system because the system still has to answer to a higher authority, whether it be the public, who has no clue this is going on, or some other umbrella organization or system that is on the straight and narrow. The governments also tend to more or less take care of their people in a satisfactory way, otherwise the public would suspect all the corruption within and there would be some real rioting in the street-type activities, resulting an actual Revolution.

Compare Velvet Revolution, Outside Man Inside Man and Reverse Mole. Contrast The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized. A subtrope of My Country, Right or Wrong, in this case, a loyalist who intends to make things right.

Examples of Internal Reformist include:

Anime and Manga

  • Public Safety Section 9 from Ghost in The Shell, when not taking care of terrorists and other criminals, is a type 2 with a healthy mixing of type 1. They uncover corruption within the government, forcing it in the open where the public outcry means it will get addressed.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Colonel Mustang and his allies within the military who are trying to make him the Führer are an example of a type 1.
  • From Team Medical Dragon, Dr. Akira Katou is a type 1 trying to reform the Japanese Medical System by getting on the board of directors of their hospital.
  • From Shitsurakuen, Himoto Sora is a Type 3.
  • The members of the Six Houses of Kyoto of Code Geass secretly fund resistance groups, making them a Type 1.
    • Code Geass also has Suzaku, who works for the The Empire but refuses to do things like shoot his friend who saw too much. He initially doesn't really have a plausible plan for how he is actually going to cause the empire to be reformed from the inside, but eventually comes up with some: allying with Princess Euphemia and trying to get promoted to a position where he can make changes.
      • Unfortunately when certain um... events happen, he kind of goes of the deep end and forgets about this. He ends up as a flat out The Quisling.


  • Until his fall from grace, Harvey Dent/Two-Face from The Dark Knight is a type 1, using his position as District Attorney to bring criminals to justice. Bruce wanted him to be a Type 3 as well, but yeah, we know how well that turned out. Also, Gordon, who is a type 1 and 3, doing the best he can in the existing system and refusing to participate in the corruption that other dirty cops in Gotham do even if it would mean he was safer.
  • In The Informant, Mark Whitaker starts the movie as a type 2. By the end of the movie his web of lies has become ridiculously tangled and as it turns out he had been embezzling money from the company for years. WHAT??
  • I Heart Huckabees: Brad attempts to be a type 1, saving the marshlands by giving the woods over to the developers.


  • Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a Type 1; She works for the Party to survive, but does things considered illegal when she is not being monitored.
  • In the Deryni novels, Denis Arilan functions as a Type 1 in contrast with a mixed Type 1/3 and a full Type 3: his human colleague Thomas Cardiel and his Deryni subordinate/eventual colleague Duncan McLain. Arilan is all about the rise-through-the-ranks and the secrecy all the time. Cardiel rises within the ranks (Type 1) but then leads the schism (Type 3) which helps him rise further so he goes back to working within the system (hence the cussing quotation). Duncan tries the secrecy for a while, but events and his other roles quickly prompt him to go more completely the Type 3 Icon.
  • In Jingo, Vimes briefly wonders if he should have been a Type One Internal Reformist to Rust's regime, rather than throwing down his badge and storming out, before thinking "No. When had that ever worked?"

Live Action TV

  • That 70s Show: Hyde meets a girl as rebellious and anti-establishment as he is, but she leaves because she wants to go to college so she can get a job in the government to do this. She's a Type 1.
  • In the fifth season of Angel, Angel Investigations take over the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart and attempt to do a Type 1 and use the firm for good purposes.
  • During late stages of the arc revolving around trying to depose President Clarke in Babylon 5, we meet one or two of these.
    • First is William Edgers, Garibaldi's new boss and a powerful corporate executive. Edgers feels that Sheridan's rebellion does more harm than good, since it both gives Earth an external threat to focus on and allows Clarke to consolidate his power and use Martial Law to crack down on any dissent and reform. Edgers is part of a group of powerful behind the scenes players, and his plan is to bring down Psi Corps, since it's the main base of Clarke's power, knowing that without it Clarke will soon fall.
    • A slightly more orthodox example is Susanna Luchenko, the head of the Russian Consortium. Like Edgers, she appears to have been part of a group that wanted to take Clarke down, only consisting of politicians instead of businessmen this time. She grudgingly admits that what Sheridan did was probably the right thing, but he "Did it in a way that was inconvenient" because it resulted in a Civil War that damaged much of the Earth Force Navy, and showed instability and vulnerability to alien governments.
  • Ted from Better Off Ted is a Type 1, often reluctantly. He is a company man, but is often guilted by his daughter into doing the right thing. His main job is to keep his morally dubious boss Veronica in check and protecting the people in his division from any wrong-headed corporate decisions, which are quite frequent.
  • Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation is an interesting case. A card-carrying Libertarian, he is opposed to the government butting in on the public's personal affairs, and does his part by not engaging in any government activity, letting his subordinate Leslie Knope, who genuinely cares about the public (almost to a fault), do all the work.
  • Master Bra'tac advises Teal'c to be this when the latter takes over as Apophis's First Prime in Stargate SG-1. In a flashback that takes place well before either of them thought the fall of the Goa'uld was even possible, Bra'tac tells his student that while he may not be able to save everyone he wishes to, he can bend and guide Apophis's will and blunt his oppression and cruelty.

Video Games

  • In Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright himself manages to become one via a Batman Gambit after being unfairly disbarred, using type 1 (which has a bit of type 2 as a side effect, allowing him to clear his name).
  • In Tales of Vesperia, this was Flynn's motivation for joining the Imperial Knights.
  • In Suikoden Tierkreis, Erin is a woman who works in the corrupt Order of the One True Way, which shocks her father until she tells him and the main characters that she is actually working to bring it down from the inside.
  • In Deus Ex this is the initial view of (former) General Carter ("The only way to save the agency is for the good people to stay. That's how I see it.") upon finding out just how corrupt UNATCO is. He eventually drops that view and leaves.
  • Captain Gen in RPG Shooter Starwish is either a type 1 or type 3, it isn't really clear which. Unfortunately, he is killed before he can make any lasting changes.
  • Reeve Tuesti from Final Fantasy VII, starts out as the only member of Mega Corp Shinra's board who isn't a complete psychopath, but largely goes along with their wishes. As he pilots the robot Cait Sith, which becomes part of your party, he increasingly gets convinced of the rightness of your cause and become a Reverse Mole, helping the party against the threats of both Sephiroth and Shinra.
  • Citan Uzuki from Xenogears is type 2: he's clearly worldly and well-travelled with connections to Solaris, but firmly on the heroes' side in trying to bring it down.



 Paz: The Court isn't a big monster that does as it pleases. Es a collection of people. Working to do what they think is right. And, over time, other people see what is wrong, what mistakes were made, and work hard to fix them. I cry too, when I find this place. But I ask to help. To change things and make them better.


Western Animation


 Mother: Do you still work for NASA?

Homer: No, I work at the nuclear power plant.

Mother: Oh, Homer.

Homer: Well, you'll be happy to know I don't work very hard. quietly Actually, I'm bringing the plant down from the inside. Nose Tapping

    • But he's really just incompetent.

Real Life

  • Martin Luther tried to do this to the Catholic Church. Things didn't go as planned, and the resultant mess is known as 'The Great Heresy', 'The Second Schism', and 'The Reformation'.
  • Desiderius Erasmus did this with the Catholic Church. A former admirer of Erasmus's and all-around less talented scholar, a certain German monk, made a right mess of things and he ended up having to retract many of his more progressive works and statements.
  • Metternich did this with Austria-Hungary. It kind of worked. Kind of.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev tried to be this to the Soviet Union. Things didn't go as planned and eventually it came down to implementing Stalinist-Communism or letting "Real Existing Communism" reform itself out of existence. He chose the latter, though some people in government didn't like that and tried a coup. It ground to a halt when thousands of people showed up outside the residence of Yeltsin's government as a living roadblock for the coup's tanks. Yeltsin then ended up rescuing Gorbachev from his house arrest... and then dissolving the Union altogether, removing Gorbachev from power.
  • Deng Xiaoping did this with China and its economic system. It was super-effective.