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In fiction it's very common that a character's life drastically changes after they get superpowers. The first thing most people do (after dealing with the person bullying them throughout act 1), is strap on their shiniest cape or nicest dog-kicking boots and become the local hero or villain. That's not the life for this character, though.
When this character gets superpowers, the first thing they do is... not much. They use their powers to marginally improve their lives, and simply do what they feel like. They don't care about the typical Good vs. Evil struggle (unless their mother gets kidnapped by the Evil League of Evil, or is staked by the local Knight Templar). Their behavior is probably how most ordinary people would act if they got superpowers. They aren't particularly mean, nor especially kind. They are just ordinary people given extraordinary powers. Often this is how characters in shows on the center-right side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism act before the plot shows up.
If there are other characters that have chosen to become heroes or villains, they (more often than not) will tell this character that they are either selfish or wasting their potential.
While plot-wise most characters are given superpowers for the purpose of beating up other guys with superpowers, this kind of characters can be used in Slice of Life situations and make a plot interesting without an antagonist that must be beaten.
Anime and Manga
- In Dragonball Z. While Future Android 18 is definitively a very evil villain, Present Android 18 uses her powers only for personal gain and fun. She more often than not only cares about monetary gain, and hardly ever gets involved in the Good vs. Evil struggle.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this is Kyoko's attitude after becoming a Magical Girl. Though initially an idealist like Madoka and Sayaka, after ruining her life, she decided to only use her powers for her own benefit.
- Nao from My-HiME uses her powers as part of her schemes to trap and rob perverts.
- When Makoto in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time discovers that she has the ability to, well, leap backward in time, she uses it almost entirely for things like singing karaoke for ten straight hours and having a dinner she likes instead of one she doesn't. On the other hand, the more significant the change she makes to the timeline, the more it tends to backfire on her dramatically. Both of the two other characters in the film who have experience with time travel separately say that it's a good thing that she used the ability almost exclusively for small things.
- Peter Parker, at first. It was only after a thief he could have stopped killed his uncle that he named the opposite trope and became Spider-Man.
- Something akin to this was invoked, however, in a short story about Spider-man as if Stan Lee had never existed. The moral becomes "With great power comes hot chicks and money from wrestling".
- The entirety of ClanDestine. The family lives a very wealthy, comfortable lifestyle and stays relatively quiet about their abilities. It's only when the youngest twins decide they want to become heroes that the family is exposed.
- The four practically define this trope in With Strings Attached. After they get empowered, all they want to do is play with their magic, and they could have happily spent the rest of the book doing so (with a side trip to rescue Lyndess), except that the C'hovite gods decided to put them to use.
- The trope name is uttered almost word-for-word by Ukyou Kuonji when she is empowered by a dragon pearl in chapter 9 of Gregg "Metroanime" Sharp's Featherbrite's Tale:
"With great power comes great responsibility, not to mention fringe benefits."
- Lest you think Sharp was referencing the trope name, the passage in question was written in 1999, which just might make it the Trope Namer.
- In Bruce Almighty: After Bruce got the powers of God, he immediately began to use them for fun, to improve his romantic life, and to become more successful as a reporter.
- In Jumper, the main character spends the time between finding out he has powers and the plot jumping around, seeing the world, and occasionally leaving IOUs in emptied bank vaults (but with the serious intention of one day paying them back).
- In What Women Want, the main character got the power to read minds thanks to lightning. He uses these powers to improve himself on dates, to bond with his daughter, and manipulate women.
- He also uses it to be better at his job, by stealing ideas from his boss and female coworkers.
- In Mystery Men, it's heavily implied that Captain Amazing became a millionaire after becoming a hero thanks to, basically, being a walking advertising board (imagine a Nascar racer fighting crime). His problems at the beginning of the movie stem from waning interest in his heroic persona, meaning the companies are about to cut funding, ending his rich lifestyle.
- It was also mentioned he was a successful lawyer, so if anything may have merely wanted the attention.
- Chronicle features this in spades; after three high-school guys are given telekinetic powers by a mysterious artefact hidden at the bottom of a crater, they mainly use their newfound abilities to waste time in increasingly spectacular ways, from playing pranks on customers at a department store, to playing football several thousand feet off the ground. Unfortunately, a very nasty combination of Abusive Parents and bullying at school eventually turns one of them into a supervillain.
- The Faust legend, and how it's depicted in Doctor Faustus is all about this, and would qualify as a darker take on this. After making his Deal with the Devil, Faust behaves in a quiet similar manner to Bruce Almighty and uses his power to pull pranks and satisfy his whims of the moment. While this kind of thing makes the audience laugh, it amounts to him wasting the true potential of the deal and he ends up eternally damned without a lot to show for it.
- And also there are his apprentices, who use his magic books for even wackier shenanigans.
- In Wearing the Cape even the superheroes are working for big paychecks, and the more successful ones are idolized, with their own merchandise lines, fan-clubs, even TV shows fictionalizing their adventures. This doesn't mean they're all in it for the perks—just that a superhero career can be financially remunerative.
- In The Scent Of Magic by Cliff McNish, when one girl gets magic all she does is read a book by the light of her spells shining from her eyes.
Live Action TV
- At the start of No Ordinary Family only the father wants to be a superhero. The mother uses her Super Speed to get her chores done and is more interested in the scientific implications. The son uses his super learning to get good grades in school and the daughter uses her telepathy to find out if a guy is a jerk.
- Merlin in Merlin uses his magic to do his chores in several episodes.
- In Aberrant, this is essentially what every nova does with their newfound powers. Granted, there are a few who use their powers in the classical superhero way, but even then they only do it for the fame or the money. Justified, as Aberrant is more or less a deconstruction of the superhero genre.
- Likewise, in the Paragons setting for Mutants and Masterminds, you'll get just as many heroes who use their powers for personal fun times as do for altruistic aims. One sample NPC is Gourmand, who has the ability to teleport anywhere on Earth... and uses it to visit her favorite out-of-the-way restaurants across the globe (the fact that she has Immunities to gastric distress and weight gain help).
- Pretty much the whole point of Minus. The title character is basically a Physical God, but only uses her powers to have fun. Justified in that she is a child, and doesn't have any ambitions.
- Both Spinnerette and Sahira use their powers to take care of minor chores, such as doing the cleaning with six hands at once.
- Cecilia Rogers of the Whateley Universe can control fabric. She could become another Yomiko Readman or Magneto with her amazing powers. She chooses to be a really good tailor.
- Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes
- Zig-zagged with Hank Pym who is able to control ants, become a giant and shrink down to ant-size...and uses them For Science! until his girlfriend (see the Wasp, below) convinces him to become more proactive.
- Subverted by Wasp. She starts out following this pattern, then got bored and decided to convince Hank Pym that they should become superheroes.
- In The Simpsons, there is an episode where both Lisa and Bart get superpowers. After getting his powers Bart declared "I must only use these powers to annoy!".
- Except that they both become superheroes instead.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, as shown in the page image. Admittedly, it must be hard to sew when you don't have hands.
- Also a minority fan theory about cutie marks. Common fanon holds that a pony's cutie mark is what they're good at, full stop, and everything else is mediocre at best. The alternative theory is that each mark has a key talent, plus a whole host of Required Secondary Powers which have applications far outside the specific domain of the mark-represented talent.
- There is also that the specific example doesn't really apply for this trope — every unicorn in Equestria (i.e., approximately one-third of the entire population) has telekinesis. It's a generic racial trait for unicorns. Rarity's only distinction is that she's highly skilled at using it for precise manipulation... and that's simply because she's spent more time than average practicing that particular skill.
- Phineas and Ferb are pretty much boy geniuses, capable of making anything, even if it defies logic, time and indeed, physics. Mostly this is used for their own amusement. Some examples: Humungous Mecha used for their treehouses and cold-fusion reactors used to power a merry-go-round.
- Admittedly, they've shown a couple instances of averting this trope: they once became a superhero called "The Beak", used their inventions to fight off an evil army of robots, and they made their city's water reservoir (it was originally a giant bath-tub.)