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Literally "new rich" (pronounced noo-voh reesh), less literally "new money," this is the negative take on the Self-Made Man--or any character who unexpectedly came into money. The Nouveau Riche are characterized as rude and tacky, and frequently contrasted with the good breeding of aristocratic characters.

How they made the money depends where they come from and when the work is set. If British, expect them to be from either Oop North (with wealth made from industry) or more recently, London/Essex (with wealth from the financial sector). If American, expect them to be fat Texas oil barons, cattle tycoons, or even a cotton-pickin', slave-whippin' Fat Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit.

Often paired with Conspicuous Consumption, and can lead to A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted. Old money, in contrast, are usually much more restrained in both taste and spending, as they have no need to flaunt the wealth they've always had and no wish to piddle away the family fortune on trivial pursuits.

A common method of playing with the trope -- and one more common in modern works where traditional aristocracy and 'old money' aren't quite as revered as they used to be -- is to have the Nouveau Riche character despite their lack of 'class and breeding' be a lot more likeable and down-to-earth than the Blue Blood types, usually because they know exactly how lucky they are now and how unfortunate they were before. In this depiction, expect the 'class and breeding' the Blue Bloods and old-money types obsess over to be codewords for snobbery, arrogant entitlement and stuffy, fusty over-adherence to pointless tradition.

Compare Idle Rich.

Contrast Impoverished Patrician.

Examples


Anime & Manga

  • In Gankutsuou, Danglars is the epitome of greedy new money with no class- this is well represented by the fact he always wears a golden suit.
  • Kazuya and his family in Hana Yori Dango, though Kazuya himself is a more sympathetic example.
  • Haruka Suzushiro's family in Mai-HiME, apparently. Her best friend Yukino, in her special, reflects on a time when her family was not nearly as wealthy.


Films -- Animation

  • Victor's family in Corpse Bride, who have very recently come into mass fortune after inventing canned fish, and are determined to shove their way into the blue-blooded world.


Films -- Live-Action

  • Many James Bond villains, who are contrasted with Cultured Badass Bond.
  • In Layer Cake, the London Gangster Jimmie Price is a rather vulgar, crude jerk and is contrasted with his old friend Eddie, who is the Magnificent Bastard to Jimmie's Smug Snake, and has managed to make himself Wicked Cultured, despite coming from the same background.
  • Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) in Caddyshack.
  • Thornton Melon (Dangerfield again) in Back to School. The bad guy of the film actually calls Melon's son a "crude, obnoxious, nouveau riche little phlebe".
  • As in Real Life, Molly Brown from Titanic, played by Kathy Bates. Subverted in that the only people who seem to dislike her for being Nouveau Riche are the other upper-class women. The men (and of course Rose) all seem to like her just fine.
  • Steve Martin's character in The Jerk, along with his girlfriend, complete with looking like idiots in a fancy restaurant, A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted and Conspicuous Consumption, though not in that order.
  • Max Shreck, the crooked tycoon in Batman Returns. He actually turns the stereotype on its head by mocking Bruce Wayne for having inherited all his money, while Max had to work hard (and break the law) for all of his. (Sharp-eyed viewers will note that Max and his son wear fur-lined overcoats, which were once the preferred fashion of this social group.)
  • This is how Franco Zeffirelli depicted the Capulets (Juliet's family) in his version of Romeo and Juliet. This is emphasized through Color Coded for Your Convenience: the Capulets and their retainers are dressed in loud, bright colors, while the Montagues (the older and more respected family of Romeo) favor more conservative clothing hues.
  • The Spanish movie Hay Que Educar A Papá shows two families: Rich, aristocratic High-Class Glass -wearing Count De Ronda versus hard-working Self-Made Man Severiano Paredes who lacked social graces but made money with his work. Their children want to marry. Paredes's daughter convinces her dad to become a Nouveau Riche on purpose to impress De Ronda.


Literature

  • The murder victim in Murder on the Orient Express.
  • Really, this trope is very common in Genteel Interbellum Setting mysteries. In particular, Jews and American businessmen are almost always presented this way -- although the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Whose Body? subverts both of these.
  • Pride and Prejudice plays with this trope.
    • The Gardiners are an aversion, as they are literally Nouveau Riche who made their money in trade but are genteel, educated "people of fashion".
    • The Bingleys also made their fortune in trade, but -- for reasons Austen never gets into -- the youngest generation moves in the upper circles of the landed gentry, and Bingley's two sisters are snobs who look down on people like the Gardiners.
    • Also played with by Lady Catherine de Burgh, who is a member of the landed gentry and of old money, and fancies herself a classy Blue Blood -- and yet is rude, ill-mannered, snobby and, compared to her (untitled) nephew, completely lacking in class as much as any stereotypically Nouveau Riche character. The point clearly being made is that a fancy title and the length of time someone's family has had their money has no bearing on a person's character.
  • The antique Roman author Titus Petronius in his satirical novel Satyricon (c. 60 AD) has Trimalchio, a freed slave that has come to untold riches, and who is an exemplary "Nouveau Riche". Petronius has him throw an exorbitant party, and the meticulous description of it is almost entirely dedicated to this trope (for comical effect). The "Feast of Trimalchio" is quite a famous piece of literature, and the trope therefore Older Than Feudalism.
  • Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby is an interesting take on the trope, inasmuch as his tackiness is presented as tragic, or at worst pathetic, more than anything else. Incidentally, F. Scott Fitzgerald considered titling the novel either Trimalchio in West Egg or simply Trimalchio, as a Shout-Out to Petronius and his Satyricon; however, he was persuaded that most readers wouldn't get the reference (and they wouldn't).
  • She may not necessarily be tacky per se, but Lina Broud of the Luxe series uses this trope as the reason for her rise in status (rather than the truth, which is that she's just a maid that used deceit to get what she wanted).
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, the villainous Danglars is described as a stereotypical Nouveau Riche, with an appearance as repellent as his personality. In contrast, the Count is himself Wicked Cultured despite having spent most of his life as a humble sailor and prisoner. It seems that the lowborn will only develop shallow tastes in response to riches if they're bad people to begin with.
  • In Vanity Fair, the three main families, the Sedleys, Dobbins, and Osbournes all made their money in trade. The Dobbins kind of fall into the "lack of class" version, being very recently wealthy, but the novel has its contempt overwhelmingly for the Osbournes, who reached high society slightly before the others, and have become snobbish [1] jerkasses.
  • The Way We Live Now has Melmotte, an Ambiguously Jewish Corrupt Corporate Executive and an equally crooked American business partner, and the novel has a lot to do with the idea that those people would form alliances with the impoverished aristocracy and would be at extreme advantage over them.
  • Deconstructed in Matthew Reilly's Jack West series, when the House of Saud is dismissed by the Royal Houses of Europe as "new money" because they made their fortune by selling oil to the West. However, they are shown to be very similar (but not in a good way).
  • Frederick Winterbourne's main problem in Daisy Miller is that his aunt and every other American in Europe keeps telling him that the titular heroine, whom he is falling for fast, and her family are this.
  • Although there aren't really any characters who fit the type, Night Watch contains several references to the New Russian described below, particularly their use of bodyguards and participation in shady business, as well as their ostentatious use of wealth.
  • Referenced in a couple of Discworld books, mostly to play up the aristocrats as terrible snobs. Although Seldom Bucket in Maskerade ("You may think I'm just big man in cheese who wouldn't know culture if he found it floating in his tea.") comes close to an actual example.
  • In the Sweet Valley High books, Lila Fowler's family was looked down on by Bruce Patman's family because they were considered this.
  • Alec D'Urberville in Tess of the D'Urbervilles fits this trope almost perfectly. By contrast, the eponymous Tess is (very distantly) an Impoverished Patrician.


Live-Action TV

  • In Gilmore Girls, the Gilmores have been a well-respected and wealthy family for over a hundred years — but they're still considered Nouveau Riche trash by the Huntzbergers, who have been rich for centuries. Even by the gold-digging, former bar waitress matriarch who (it was implied by an angry Emily while chewing her out) only managed to marry into the family because she got pregnant.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies
  • In the third Blackadder series, it looks like the Prince Regent will have to get married for the sake of his finances, and since none of the traditional aristocratic options are available and/or suitable, he ends up pursuing the daughter of a Nouveau Riche industrialist. It transpires that the industrialist isn't actually as rich as he pretends, and is just trying to get at the Prince Regent's supposed wealth.
  • The Harry Enfield character Mr Considerably-Richer-Than-You. Loadsamoney is the same sort of character on the way up.
  • A Royal Pains episode features a couple who's this trope. They are from Nebraska and have won the lottery. The husband becomes Hank's Patient of the Week because he has gout due to all the expensive food his wife made him eat.
  • A few show up in Midsomer Murders. Like everything else.
  • The entire premise of Kath and Kim.
  • The Chilean Soap Opera Marron Glacé:
    • Clo Villagra, the mother of the two romantic female leads, became this due to a very succesful catering business that she built with the money coming from her dead husband's inheritance. What Clo and her family didn't know, though, was that said riches came from dirty businesses. Which brings the male lead Octavio into their lives, as he's an Impoverished Patrician whose family was the main victim of said tricks and lost their own wealth due to them.
    • Clo's sister and business partner Leonor also was this, but she was portrayed as so incultured that Chilean slang coined the derisive nickname "cuicante" (mesh of the words "cuico" and "picante", which can mean "snobbish" and "vulgar" in Chile) specifically to refer to nouveau riche.
  • Also the Sa-Sa (Salinas Sánchez) family from the more recent Chilean soap Brujas, who won the lotto and turned into this. They were mostly Played for Laughs, though, so they became the Ensemble Darkhorses of the series and even got their own Spin-Off.
  • Castle has a Victim of the Week who became this after winning the lottery, though he mostly just spent money on anything that caught his eye and was a decent guy otherwise. Castle actually sympathizes with the guy since he was still in college when his first book became a bestseller and he also spent his new fortune on all kinds of stuff without a second thought.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, black Prohibition gangster Chalky White was born to an uneducated poor family, but made millions through his criminal enterprises. He wears fine suits, drives a ostentatious car, and has married a light-skinned, classically educated wife. Their children are raised from birth to be wealthy. He's called out for being uppity by both black and white characters and suffers from culture clash within his own family.


Professional Wrestling

  • Perhaps the most famous example in wrestling was John "Bradshaw" Layfield, former Texas hick turned millionaire thanks to his job outside of wrestling as a stock-market consultant. Interestingly, he held the WWE Championship at the same time that the World Heavyweight Championship was held by the Cultured Badass Triple H.
  • It is not known whether "Million-Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase fit this trope exactly, but he certainly acted like it. (His son has taken a more low-key road.)
    • The kayfabe explanation for his purported wealth was due to a massive insurance settlement after his father "Iron" Mike Di Biase Died In The Ring, so this trope definately applies.
  • The Fabulous Moolah, greatest Women's Champion of all time.


Theater

  • Invoked by name in Im Getting Murdered In The Morning.
  • In Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The Would-Be Noble), Molière acidly criticizes this trope through Monsieur Jourdain, the pretentious and snobbish bourgeois main character. He takes the chance to throw pot shots at aristocrats as well, though.
  • The Hubbards in The Little Foxes remind William Marshall that they are not aristocrats but traders as they close a deal with him that will make them definitely rich.
  • Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier, who is willing to strain his failing health to arrange the marriage of his daughter to a real aristocrat.
  • The title character of Giacomo Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi is a member of the Nouveau Riche.


Video Games


Western Animation

  • Happened in an episode of DuckTales, which also spoofed Romeo and Juliet. With a Cave-Duck Romeo (who had been adopted into Scrooge's "old-money" family) and a modern duck Juliet (whose family had just won the lotto).


Real Life

  • "New Russians" was the Russian term for this in the early post-Soviet years for Russians who were suddenly incredibly wealthy, but perceived as terribly uncultured (i.e. unfamiliar with upper-class culture) and boorish. Extravagant spenders, they were the subject of a lot of typically great Russian humor, like these jokes:

 Two New Russians were arguing at a bar over which had the fancier car, house, bling, etc. One says "See this necktie? Imported silk, cost me one thousand dollars American!" The other replies, "Bah! I know a place where I can get same necktie for ten thousand dollars!"

 A New Russian crashes his brand new car. When he wakes up in the hospital ward, the nurse informs him of what happened. "No! Not my new Mercedes!" he whinges. The nurse goes on to say, "And unfortunately, your left arm was also crushed in the impact." To which the New Russian moans, "No! Not my new Rolex too!"

  • Parvenu -- "upstart", 1802, from French parvenu, "said of an obscure person who has made a great fortune," noun use of past participle of parvenir "to arrive", from Latin pervenire, from per- "through" and venire "to come", used as a derogatory term by nobles who judged them undeserving of their new wealth. There's also the closely related arriviste, "pushy, ambitious person," 1901, from Fr. arriviste, from arriver "to arrive". The notion is of a person intent on "arriving" at success or in society, and means more "ambitious and unscrupulous".
  • While we're on this linguistical bent, there is also Hobnob, from the Old English, which carries similar connotations of transgressing social strata.
    • And "tufthunter", which referred to college students who tried to hang out with the nobility (who wore distinguishing tufts on their caps).
  • A late 1890's (English) newspaper editorial complained that the English nobility was losing its class, what with all the penniless aristocrats marrying off their sons to the daughters of filthy rich American cattle-barons and tycoons.
  • Donald Trump, to a degree. His father was a very successful low income housing developer in NYC, he sent Donald to Fordham, so his family was doing very well before. Donald just took his love of construction and everything else Up to Eleven.
  • Molly Brown, best known for surviving the sinking of the Titanic and demanding that her lifeboat return to the ship to search for more survivors.
  • Mark Hotchin.
  • Much like the "New Russians," we now have half a million recently-minted Chinese millionaires, most of whom are former "Little Emperors". As one might expect, they are reported to have rather crass tastes; the most disgusting (to purists) is the oft-repeated tale of mixing different fine wines in a punchbowl.
    • The children born to the first generation of post-reform entrepreneurs are known as the "fu er dai" (second prosperous generation), and are notorious for spending huge amounts of money (given to them by their parents, of course) on fancy European cars, designer clothes, and trips abroad. Lots of Chinese publications decry that the fu er dai, unlike their parents, have all the lavish benefits of economic reform, but never had to work or suffer hardship for any of them.
  • The Kennedys, often mistaken for Boston Brahmins, were actually excluded from that society for their Catholic faith. Family patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. was born into relative wealth, but made a fortune mostly in bootlegging.
  • The 'white shoe brigade', a group of businessmen in Queensland, Australia who had close ties with the state premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
  • Anna Nicole Smith - although the degree to which she fit this trope was embellished quite a bit by just about everyone responsible for promoting her cult of personality, including Anna Nicole herself. It is true that Anna (known as "Vickie" at that time) was living a working-class existence when she posed for Playboy in the spring of 1992, but that was largely by choice: she was raised in a comfortably middle-class household, got expelled from high school for delinquent behavior, and simply entered the job market rather than trying to complete her education.
  • Inverted with the original snobs. The snobs were early non-noble students at Oxbridge, who would have s.nob. (for sine nobilitate or "without noble title") put down in their entry papers. The snobs would act as sophisticated as they possibly could as a way of flipping the high-borns who looked on them the bird.
  • Some of the etiquette expected at today's classical concerts would have condemned modern audiences as this by the nobles who heard these works at their premiere. Concerts were intended as a place for the upper classes to socialize. Sometimes the audience's chatter would even drown out the orchestra, much to the annoyance of the conductor. In a letter, one 19th century nobleman complained about a commoner who sat quietly listening to a concert, calling him a slack jaw yokel. Bringing pastries to eat during the performance would have also been considered perfectly acceptable.

Notes

  1. in fact Thackeray himself coined the word snob, and his meaning had the connotation of someone who is new money and gets above themselves — in contrast to a nob, who is an old money aristocrat
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