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"No man is a hero to his valet. This is not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet."
—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Quite often, a character will end up idealized when they become acknowledged as celebrities or as heroes. All his little quirks and flaws will be overlooked by the general public because anyone who's that famous must be a great person, right? As a result, most people, especially the hardcore Fanboys and Fangirls, will simply assume that the character is, if not a paragon of virtue, at the very least someone who is better than they are.
But there is always at least one person (and sometimes a small group of people) for whom the character's fame and heroic reputation mean nothing. It might be that the person has known the character from childhood, and thus remembers when they were an annoying nose-picker. It could also be that the character wronged them somehow, and the person's resentment makes them immune to the fame. Whatever the case, they refuse to be sucked in to the hype surrounding the character. Quite often, this person will be one of the character's friends. Sometimes, they will be the one person the character feels he can "be himself" with, because the character knows that the person is reacting to the person and not the hero.
- Richard/Kogoro from Detective Conan is a revered detective; but that's because most people don't know he actually sucks at it compared to Conan and Conan solves almost every mystery that Richard/Kogoro is attributed to have solved.
- Inverted in Superman For All Seasons. Clark Kent is an Ace Newspaper Reporter, but he lives in a city full of them and most of his friends are also ace reporters. When he goes home to Smallville, though, he discovers that everyone is incredibly proud of his accomplishments as a reporter, and that Smallville is the only town in Kansas that gets the Daily Planet every day.
- Alfred Pennyworth has a relationship similar to this with Batman; while he remains unfailingly loyal through thick and thin, he also practically raised Bruce from childhood and taught him several of the tricks he would later come to use as Batman, with the result that he never fails to vocally criticise Batman to his face when he thinks it's needed and is practically the only person Batman cannot intimidate with his usual tricks.
- Alfred from The Dark Knight qualifies in some scenes.
- Inventor of the Warp Drive in Star Trek: First Contact Zefram Cochrane is a skirt-hunting drunkard who did it for fame and money, not the visionary renaissance man as the future paints him, though he later becomes the visionary.
- His junior partner and head engineer Lily certainly never seemed to take him very seriously.
- In Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory Alternate History General George Armstrong Custer goes on to be a famous, heroic, and long-serving general still in combat command during the Great War. His adjutant, Major Abner Dowling, allows the reader to see Custer's many flaws. Later, after Custer's death, Dowling has to admit that it was because Custer was a stubborn Glory Hound that he was able to bring a faster, victorious end to the Great War during the Barrel Roll Offensive for the United States.
- Of course, as Dowling also notes, if Custer hadn't been such a glory hound, he might well have been able to advance on the Confederates without barrels, as happened in the RW war by French "infiltration" tactics.
- Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain is a Fake Ultimate Hero and among the most successful. Inquisitor Amberley Vail, his long-term associate and (apparently) lover, is perhaps the only person who can see past his sterling reputation. However, she herself thinks that he is too hard on himself, and possesses many heroic attributes.
- On the other hand, Cain's own adjutant/bodyguard Jurgen thinks the world of him. He deliberately cultivates a good appearance among the soldiers under him, partially because it makes them more effective, partially to avoid Unfriendly Fire. On the one hand, he tries to play up this reputation whenever possible, but on the other hand he earned it by genuinely caring about them (for whatever reason).
- Sasha doesn't seem to think all that highly of the great playwright and diplomat Aleksandr Sergeyevich Griboyedov. Definitely the "knew him from childhood" version. The abuse interpretation of this trope works pretty well too, even though Griboyedov still considers Sasha his closest friend.
- Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day is a study in this trope: Stevens must come to grips with the fact that Lord Darlington, what with consorting with the Nazis and all, was very much not a wrongly-oppressed hero.
- Hatsumomo from Memoirs of a Geisha is beautiful and popular among men, but Sayuri, Mameha and some others know that she is cruel, selfish and an all-round Jerkass.
- In the Wheel of Time series, Seanchan nobility have truth-speakers, high-ranking servants who are expected to see their masters objectively and cut them down to size when necessary.
- Sirius Black, to the family house-elf Kreacher. While Sirius is kind and respectful towards house-elves in general, Kreacher doesn't get it so well from his master, as Kreacher is just another reminder of the Big Screwed-Up Family Sirius hated and whose house he's being forced to hide in. To sum up, Sirius fits because both parties are assholes; Sirius is strained because of his situation and either won't or can't find a constructive way to deal with his frustration, while Kreacher provokes Sirius by being disrespectful, hateful, and bigoted towards all present.
- Albus Dumbledore is The Obi-Wan and The Greatest Wizard Ever to practically every non-evil character in the series, except for his own brother Aberforth Dumbledore. Aberforth knows all about Albus's Dark and Troubled Past in which he didn't exactly come off as a hero, but these events are largely forgotten due to Albus's in-universe Historical Hero Upgrade.
- One of the points of Lamb the Gospel According To Biff is that Biff just doesn't believe in miracles, beacuse he saw them performed from childhood on.
- In Death: Summerset is not only Roarke's butler, but he raised Roarke when he was a boy. Portrait In Death makes it clear that Summerset knows the best, the worst and everything in between of Roarke.
- In the Heralds of Valdemar series, Companions can be that friend to their Heralds. On top of everything else they do to assist Heralds (without actually doing their jobs for them), each Companion remembers when his or her Herald was just a confused teenager, and no matter how much the populace may admire or fawn over Heralds, their Companions help keep their heads out of the clouds. The Monarch's Own Herald also has the official job of being this for the Monarch (in addition to the Monarch's Companion) by becoming the Monarch's best friend, knowing them personally, and providing unflinchingly honest criticism when necessary.
Live Action TV
- One of the best examples of this was Rochester, Jack Benny's Valet, no one else on the show could deflate Jack faster.
- River Song, The Doctor's... whatever constantly undermines his brilliance, at one point flying the TARDIS flawlessly (when the Doctor seems to think six pilots are required for that) and informing him its characteristic landing sound was due to his leaving the brakes on. She does mention him teaching her at one point which might suggest that he's simply less practical than her.
- The autonomous car KITT is usually like this with his driver Michael Knight.
- In Merlin, Prince (later King) Arthur is no hero to his manservant, who just thinks he's a prat. And a clotpole.
- Somewhat subverted in that Merlin really does think Arthur's a great man and does (eventually) believe he'll lead the kingdom into a golden era. He just sees no reason to fawn over him the way other people do.
- Gwen (Guinevere) also turns into this after some Character Development.
- Although it's not really brought up directly, when Dave Rossi first joins the cast of Criminal Minds, most of the team is in awes of him, except Hotch. It's explained as Hotch having known Rossi for years. The rest of the crew does eventually become more comfortable around him.
- Delenn in Babylon 5 is an aversion. She absolutely is a heroine to her valet.
Mythology & Religion
- Jesus was never really accepted as a prophet in his home town (including pretty much his whole family save for his mother). He says rather dryly that while he's a known as a great teacher and healer everywhere else, to his own village he's just the carpenter's son.
- Mark 6:4 and Matthew 13:57. Considering he also says that 'he who is greatest among you shall be your servant' (Matthew 23:11) Jesus makes this one Older Than Feudalism.
- Protagonists in many of Shakespeare's comedies do not treat their servants well. This is played for laughs.
- This comes straight out of Commedia del'Arte, where abuse of those of different classes was standard. Note, too, that it cuts both ways in that tradition; the upper class characters heaped public, physical, verbal abuse on the lower, while the lower class replied with secretive practical jokes, snarky replies, sotto voce backtalk, and conspiring to manipulate events to their own favour.
- In Peter Pan, after his children leave, George Darling blames himself for tying Nana up in the yard, and takes upon himself the Cool and Unusual Punishment of living in her kennel--even riding it to work. Before long, he's become a celebrity of sorts, with crowds following his cab through the streets and girls scaling the kennel to get his autograph. His wife is as supportive and patient as ever, but their servant, Liza, becomes a full-blown Servile Snarker.
- Ratcheted up the the logical conclusion in Metal Gear Solid 2, where Snake not only works diligently to dispel Raiden's "legendary mercenary" conception, but also ends up showing that he's really a Jerkass. With a heart of gold, perhaps, but no less Jerkass.
- Tales of Symphonia has Mithos, who Kratos and Yuan (and later the main characters) know is no ancient hero, but a boy who wanted to save his sister. In the same way, this same group know that his sister, Martel, was no goddess.
- Perhaps most importantly, Martel is also well aware of this, and tells him so when he finally revives her. Unfortunately, since he was already unstable enough to try the whole scheme in the first place, this just makes his brain snap clean in half, rather than set him straight.
- In a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic, Don Quixote kills the last dragon, who was hiding in a windmill. When Sanchez praises him for his heroic deed, Don rebukes him. Sanchez proceeds to write Don Quixote as the senile lunatic we know and love.
- Roy Greenhilt is more than a bit of a dismissive ass when dealing with NPCs who are serving only a "trivial" purpose to him. Not that he doesn't have that streak anyway.
- A skit in Mr. Show about old-school entertainers was based on a documentary David Cross watched about Al Jolson, in which old business underlings talked about what a bastard he was in real life, but seemed to completely forgive him because "boy could he sing!"
- Averted by the autobiography of Charles Smith.
- Really, most secretaries/executive assistants/personal assistants are like this with their bosses. The recently-appointed VP of a major corporation may have gotten their position by singlehandedly saving the company billions of dollars or closing a deal on an international trade agreement with a foreign investor, but to their assistant, they're just "boss."
- Family. The woman who changed your diapers, the man who taught you to play catch, the girl who stole your toys... It doesn't matter how important these people are (or become), they're still defined by those characteristics.
- In Scotland, "Ah kent his faither" ("I knew his father") is a saying which indicates "...so I know his background and therefore I'm not overly awed by his fame." And given that it's a small country with a lot of social interconnection, it's still pretty common that ordinary people *do* know relatives of famous Scots.
- Monarchs and Jesters. The Jester was the only one that could mock the king and get away with it, so when the King made a bad decision and his vassals fawned over him about it, the Jester stood up and called him an idiot.
- Theodore Roosevelt so completely averted this trope that his valet wrote a book called "Theodore Roosevelt: A Hero to his Valet."
- Alfred Pennysworth form Batman: The Animated Series is an excellent example.
- Kif Kroker from Futurama knows all too well that Zapp Brannigan is nothing more than a cowardly braggart whose "exploits" are sewn wholesale from a lavish blend of sending wave after wave of his own men to their deaths, turning any mission into a death sentence and outright lies. Any such comment from Zapp is inevitably met with snark and a depressed sigh.
- On The Venture Bros, Captain Sunshine's butler seems pretty unimpressed with him. This may have something to do with the fact that he was the original Captain Sunshine, and the current Captain was the first Wonderboy, his sidekick.
- However, we later find out that he didn't teach her a thing - she was taught by the TARDIS herself. No wonder she's so good!