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Batman: You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things because I'm not a hero, like Dent. I killed those people. That's what I can be.

Lt. Gordon: No, you can't! You're not!

Batman: I'm whatever Gotham needs me to be.


Often preceded by "You're a hero!" The Hero will respond: "I'm not a hero. I'm _____!"

Can be used in a variety of ways, including:

A subtrope of I Am the Trope. Compare I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder. Contrast The Chosen Zero.

Examples of I'm Not a Hero, I'm X include:


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Anime and Manga

  • In Code Geass, Lelouch has one of these moments right after Euphie ended up going on an unintentional killing spree because of his Power Incontinence, when a dying old lady asks him as Zero to save them.
  • In the Fishman Island arc of One Piece, none other than Luffy himself has one. Specifically, Jinbei asks him to be the "hero" of Fishman Island, to which Luffy informs him that he's a pirate, not a hero, and has no desire to be one. Luffy then gives an analogy about how a hero would share his meat with everyone, while a pirate would simply feast on it. He ends up agreeing to help anyway when Jinbei promises to give him some meat.
  • Jack from Pandora Hearts is very insistent that he's not a hero. It only ends up making him appear humble and sweet, not to mention more tragic and cute.


Comic Books

 Ray Palmer[1]: Have you ever had a sinus headache? So torturous you thought your head would explode? What if I shrank to microscopic size, entered your skull, then began to grow. Imagine how that would feel.

Killer Moth: You're heroes, you don't act that way.

Ray Palmer: (points to another Atom) He's a hero. I'm Ray Palmer. Welcome to pain.


Fan Works

  • Kairi Niko in the Knights of the Old Republic Fanfic Destiny's Pawn adamantly insists that she's "just a translator." Even after the Jedi all but shove a lightsaber into her hand, she's done some heroics looking for the Star Maps, and assembled the Ragtag Band of Misfits, she still considers herself Bastila's aide. Queue massive Heroic BSOD when the truth comes out...
  • Played straight in the Tamers Forever Series

 Daemon: "Why can't you be a good boy and give up!"

Chaos: "I'm a Virus, Daemon. I'm not a good boy."

  • Also played in Harry Potter fanfic "The Apothecary Knows Best". Severus Snape claimed to be just an apothecary when Harry called him a hero for having defeated a "Jester". (This fanfic's Dark Lord has his followers known as "Jesters" instead of "Death Eaters". Yes, this fanfic's Dark Lord is Albus Dumbledore. Long story)


Film

 Peter: I think you've made a mistake. We're not heroes!

Susan: We're from Finchley!

  • In the film, Twilight, Edward uses this trope to warn Bella to stay away from him.

 Edward: What if I'm not the hero? What if I'm the bad guy?

Bella: You're not.

  • In The Dark Knight, Batman delivers the page quote to reveal his Zero-Approval Gambit.
  • Something similar is done in the movie version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. "I can't be a wizard! I'm just Harry! Just Harry!"
  • A variation of this occurs in in Spy Kids 3D. After exiting the video game, Arnold's, Rez's, Francis's, and Juni's respective secret, non-virtual identities. Various types of this trope occur in the conversation that ensues:

 Juni: Hey, wait a second. What happened to Francis the Brain, Arnold the Strong, and Mister Cool?

Francis: Well, in the real world I'm not that smart.

Arnold: I'm not strong.

Rez: I'm not cool.

Juni: Reality Check!

Arnold: So, who are you out here in the real world?

Francesca: (to Juni) Special ageent, we need you.

Rez: Whoa!

Juni: I'm Juni Cortez.

    • The above declaration by Juni is also a reference to his facade as "The Guy," which was revealed shortly before the group's exit from the game.
  • Near the end of Pulp Fiction, when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are robbing the coffee shop, and the manager attempts to cooperate:

 Pumpkin: I don't know, Honey Bunny. He looks like the hero type to me!

Honey Bunny: Don't take any chances. Execute him!

Manager: Please don't! I'm not a hero. I'm just a coffee shop...manager...

    • Naturally, his character according to the credits was "coffee shop."
    • Of course, the robbers' definition of "hero" is "anyone stupid enough to make trouble for us." Criminals are funny like that.
  • In Team America: World Police, Gary decides "I'm not a hero! I'm a dick!" after a mission results in the deaths of innocent bystanders. A drunk he meets at a bar gives him a pep talk about dicks, pussies and assholes that makes him feel a little better.
  • He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!
  • Variation in The King's Speech: "I'm not a king! I'm a naval officer."
  • In the film adaptation of Jumper, Griffin calls Davy this; In his experience, Jumpers don't have the power to save anyone, as the Paladins are willing to kill entire families as collateral damage in killing Jumpers. The best Griffin's ever accomplished is escaping with his life after killing his enemies.

 Griffin: You're not a hero! You're a Jumper! Don't you get it? You don't save the girl! You lose her!

Literature

  • In Gone, this attitude plays a huge role in the character of Sam, the Designated Hero of the FAYZ. Phrases reminiscent of the trope are consistently repeated throughout the books.
  • In Twilight, Edward uses this trope as an attempt to warn Bella to stay away:

  What if I'm not a superhero? What if I'm the bad guy?

 Ron: I'm sorry. I'm sorry I left. I know I was a -- a-- (trails off)

Harry: You've sort of made up for it tonight. Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.

Ron: That makes me sound a lot cooler than I was.

Harry: Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was. I've been trying to tell you that for years.

  • Mat "I'm no bloody hero!" Cauthon from the Wheel of Time, usually said after he does something heroic. He is the variety that thinks he can ignore the call, even though he's actively doing heroic things.


Live Action TV

 Giles: ...[Buffy] couldn't take a human life. She's a hero, you see. She's not like us.

Ben: ...us?

  • Giles smothers Ben to prevent Glory from ever returning*
  • In Doctor Who, Donna Noble frequently puts herself down by saying "I'm nothing special; I'm just a temp from Chiswick". As it turns out she's destined to become the Donna-Doctor to stop the Daleks from exterminating reality
    • Done again in "The God Complex". In order to save Amy Pond, The Doctor must break her faith in the idea of him as a hero.

  The Doctor: I stole your childhood and now I’ve lead you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is, I knew. I knew this would happen. This is what always happens. Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain, because I wanted to be adored. Look at you, glorious Pond. The girl who waited for me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are. Amy Williams. It’s time to stop waiting.

  • In the DS9 episode "Empok Nor", Garak (under the influence of drugs) has been twisting the knife about Miles O'Brien's participation in an incident which occurred while he was serving under Captain Picard; O'Brien led an attack on a Cardassian encampment and was dubbed "the Hero of Setlik III".

 Garak: Maybe it's true... maybe you're not a soldier anymore.

O'Brien: You're right. I'm an engineer.

    • This doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome, when O'Brien then saves himself by activating the improvised bomb that his soldier instincts had called for and his engineering skill had built.
  • Sherlock has a particularly scathing example in the third episode.

  Sherlock: Don't make people into heroes, John, heroes don't exist; and if they did, I wouldn't be one.

    • This gets amped up to eleven in the series 2 finale.
  • As Richard Alpert attempts to convince her to join "Mittelos Bioscience", Juliet Burke, who is going through something of an emotional breakdown, tells him: "Whatever you think I am, I'm not. I'm not a leader, Mr. Alpert. I'm a mess."


Music

  • The Dark Knight soundtrack has a piece titled "I'm Not A Hero" and correlates with the scene in which the page quote is delivered.
  • "I'm not a hero! I'm not a savior! Forget what you know/I'm just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control." Styx's "Mr. Roboto" definitely fits. "The modern man/Who hides behind a mask" indicates this is probably the Tomato in the Mirror usage.
  • Josh Groban 's "In Her Eyes:" I am not an hero/I am not an angel/I am just a man...
  • My Chemical Romance's Welcome to the Black Parade uses this.

 I'm just a man, I'm not a hero

Just a boy who wants to sing his song

Just a man, I'm not a hero

And I don't care

  • Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road": "Well I'm no hero, it's understood/All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood/With a chance to make it good somehow..."
  • Nickelback's song Hero: "They say that a hero could save us; I'm not gonna stand here and wait... And now that the world isn't ending, it's love that I'm sending to you. It isn't the love of a hero, and that's why I fear it won't do..."
  • Kiss' "Just A Boy" from Music From "The Elder": "But I'm no hero, though I wish I could be..."


Religion and Mythology

  Obadiah: I'm not a prophet. I'm a farmer.


Video Games

  I'm no hero. Never was, never will be.

  • Hercules exhibits the "loss of confidence" variant by the book in Kingdom Hearts II.
  • Eddie Riggs is just a roadie.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, after Auron saves Sora, Donald, and Goofy from Hades, this exchange occurs:

 Sora: You're really good? Are you some kind of hero?

Auron: No. I'm no hero. I'm just an…

Sora: Huh?

    • After which he then gives his name.


Web Original

 Baron Samedi: "We both know you're not going to kill me. You're a hero."

Battlecat: "Not tonight. I'm not a hero tonight. I'm a husband. I'm a father. That's what I am tonight."

Baron Samedi: "No... wait!" (followed by a long drop and a sudden stop)


Western Animation

 Graveheart: I'm not the man to lead this alliance.

Jade: Aren't you?

Graveheart: C'mon, Jade, look at me! I'm just a miner.

(lengthy clip show with Graveheart saying "I'm just a miner" over and over and over and over)

Jade: You have no idea how tired I am of hearing you say that.

Notes

  1. Ray Palmer is the Alter Ego of the Atom. His superpower is the ability to shrink.
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