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Lots of cultures have a special ceremony that marks the transition from teen to adult. It's both a celebration of a major life landmark and an acknowledgment that the celebrant is a part of the mystical society of grownups. In cultures without such a ceremony, other major life landmarks are celebrated instead. May include a Meaningful Rename.

Sex as Rite-Of-Passage is a subtrope. For other kinds of rites and rituals that earns you membership into a group of people, see Initiation Ceremony.


Fictional Rites

Anime and Manga

  • The decision of gender in Simoun.

Film

  • Flash Gordon (1980). A young Arborean man is initiated into adulthood through the "test of manhood", which involves sticking your arm into a stump and hoping you don't get stung by the monster inside.
  • Star Wars gives us a glimpse of what an Apprentice needs to go through in order to become a Jedi: in the Empire Strikes Back, Luke makes a journey into a cave and strikes down Darth Vader, but is surprised to find that the face beneath the Dark Lord's mask is his own. The Expanded Universe explores this in detail.
    • In The Phantom Menace Amidala has to prove her capability as queen and even wears a debutante ball-gown like dress for the parade scene.
  • The Warriors has a gang whose members must first get punched out without flinching or screaming.
  • The Na'vi of Avatar climb to the top of the floating mountains where the banshees live, and subdue and bond one of them, to become hunters and adults.
  • Star Trek Generations features a ritual where the Enterprise-D crew impersonate 19th century British Naval officers aboard a holodeck simulation of a wooden ship, charging Worf in a staged court martial with "performing above and beyond the call of duty on countless occasions," and "having earned the admiration and respect of the entire crew," before Picard "sentences" him with promotion to Lieutenant-Commander. Worf then had to jump from a plank to grab an officer's hat on a rope above his head. Riker comments to Picard that no one else had succeeded in doing so before. When Worf succeeds, Picard answers, "If there's one thing I've learned, Number One, is never underestimate a Klingon."

 "Computer, remove plank!"

Literature

  • Alexei Panshin's SF novel Rite of Passage. 14-year-old children on a starship must go through a Trial before being considered adults: surviving on a hostile colony planet for 30 days with minimal equipment.
  • In The Giver, getting assigned a job is an important rite that determines the rest of a person's life; being assigned the unusual job of Receiver is what marks Jonas as special in the community.
  • In the Farseers trilogy, mention is made of a ceremony.
  • In Dune, Fremen must be able to steer a sandworm before they are considered adults.
  • In the Liveship Traders books, girls aged thirteen or fourteen "come out" (no, still not like that) at the summer ball, which is pretty much a debutante ball. After this, they are expected to act (and allowed to dress) like adult women.
  • In the Earthsea Trilogy novel A Wizard of Earthsea, the mage Ogion the Silent gives Duny his True Name of "Ged" in a coming of age ceremony.
  • In the Women of the Otherworld series, witches much undergo a special ceremony after their first period, but before their second to unlock their full power. Failure to do so leaves the witch with the same power levels she had as a child. Unfortunately for Paige, in Dime Store Magic, she learns that the rites she was taught was actually a nerfed version of the real thing. The clear implication was that, somewhere along the way, the witch elders intentionally altered the ceremony to ensure none of their number could grow too powerful, hence bringing unwanted attention on the rest. She uses the real thing on her ward, Savannah.
  • In the novel Nation by Terry Pratchett when a boy comes of age he is left on an island and must construct a canoe and get back to his village as a rite of passage, to receive his adult soul so the tribe believes. Mau is on his way home when the tsunami hits, which is why he's the only survivor.
    • Nation has a notable twist to this trope; while many similar 'rites of manhood' stress self-reliance, Mau's rite stresses community; when he is left alone on the island, he discovers that the tribe left behind tools to complete his task, along with a large stone bearing the inscription, "Men help other men."
  • Quite a few in Warrior Cats. Becoming an apprentice marks the end of childhood; getting a warrior name is a recognition of adulthood and the clan's trust. Becoming a mentor is also an awaited event, showing the clan's trust in the wisdom and responsibility of a warrior, and allowing a cat to become a deputy.


Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: Klingons who reach the Age of Ascension must walk through a gauntlet of warriors who jab him with pain sticks.
  • Example from Community, according to Pierce, being punched in the face is one for men.

Tabletop Gaming

  • Forgotten Realms as a highly developed setting have such cultural details:
    • Drow has The Blooding. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • Rashemen has dajemma or darjemma -- the quest or wandering a year or more long that young Rashemaar people take in early adulthood. It's not an absolute requirement: e.g. it's cancelled in the times of war. Obviously some end up dead or lost, but those who return has a valuable out-land experience.

Toys

  • The Vortixx race in Bionicle must climb "The Mountain", one pair at a time. Said large rock is actually a sentient but immobile animal who eats one of the climbers, allowing the other to finish. Roodaka even went through the passage twice, just to prove how much of a Badass she is (not that she really needed to).

Video Games

  • Mass Effect has two: the turians undergo a period of compulsory military service to earn citizenship, while any quarian you meet outside the Flotilla is likely undergoing their Pilgrimage to earn a place on a ship's crew and a Meaningful Rename.
    • And the sequel introduces the Krogan rite to establish themselves as a true warrior. It's tradition, and you get to go through the process with Grunt if you choose to take on the side-mission.
  • In Dragon Quest VI, the heroes must help Prince Holse complete his Rite of Passage by acting as his bodyguards. While he starts out a Dirty Coward, the heroes' courage really effects and inspires him, enabling the rite to bring out the best in him and prove his ability to succeed his father as future ruler.
  • Dragon Quest VIII, on the other hand, has Prince Charmles, who also needs help to complete his rite: obtaining the heart of an Argon Lizard. Unlike Holse, Charmles quickly proves himself to be a complete and utter Jerkass, as well as an Entitled Bastard who learns nothing from the rite. Although he appears to get away with this at first, his disrespect for the ritual comes back to haunt him in the long run, as it eventually costs him his right to the throne and to marry Princess Medea.
  • SaGa Frontier 2 - For future rulers of the Finney Kingdom, there's the Firebrand ceremony, where the child holds a special sword which will glow to indicate the presence of magic. (In fact, Gustave XIII's failure to induce magical glowing is what kicks off the plot to his entire character arc.)
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Great Khans are required to take a beating from the other members of the tribe before becoming a full fledged raider, and the New Canaanites (What Mormons became in the Fallout 'verse) learn how to shoot with a .45 Auto Pistol.

Webcomics

Western Animation

  • The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" introduced the kahs-wan, an ordeal in which Vulcan children must survive in the desert for 10 days by themselves with no supplies to prove their courage and strength. For young Spock, it becomes even more when his companion selhat, I-Chaya, who had followed him against his wishes, was mortally wounded and the attending vet could only give Spock two choices, an extended life in agony or putting him out of his misery; Spock made the mature and logical choice to put him down.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has "ice-dodging," where young Water Tribe members have to navigate a boat through a field of icebergs. Sokka, Katara, and Aang perform the task through a field of rocks, being too far north for icebergs.
  • Every Lord of the Thundercats has to endure a series of trials before they can be crowned. For Lion-O this meant five different trials spread over five episodes.
  • For the wolves in Rocko's Modern Life, the rite of passage is to bring an elk home for dinner. Heffer, being an adopted steer, misinterprets this and brings over a living, female elk home as a date.
  • Francis X. Bushlad's tribe has three options, equally valid: either the ancestral strategy of slaying a mighty and dangerous beast, or the slightly more contemporary options of buying out a major corporation in a hostile takeover, or amassing a stock portfolio worth $500,000.

Real Life Rites

Anime and Manga

  • The "red beans and rice" meal is referenced in Kodomo no Omocha when Sana reassures an adult that she's old enough to know shame.

Comic Books

  • During Dan Slott's brief run on The Thing, Ben Grimm chose to re-affirm his Jewish heritage. His rabbi allowed him to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah on the thirteenth anniversary of the rocket flight that first turned him into the Thing. No word on whether or not this involved a circumcision.

Fan Fiction

Film

  • Sixteen Candles.
  • In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett scandalizes everyone at the debutante ball by showing up in a red dress instead of virginal white.
  • Ditto the titular Jezebel,
  • The new Starsky and Hutch movie has the heroes pretending to be a performer at a Bar Mitzvah in order to infiltrate a suspect's home.
  • In Keeping the Faith, the preparation leading up to a Bar Mitzvah is shown as well as the Mitvah itself.

Literature

Live Action TV

  • A debutante ball happened on Gilmore Girls.
  • Spike TV's Manswers once did a "what rite of adulthood is most likely to kill you?" segment focusing on these kinds of ceremonies. (Answer: strapping a bamboo tube filled with fireworks to your crotch and hoping you don't lose a limb or worse.)
  • For Kunta Kinte's tribe in Roots, there is a series of rituals that include wrestling, hunting, and at the end, genital mutilation.

Western Animation

  • In Kim Possible, Ron was upset when he discovered that his rabbi forgot to sign off on his Bar Mitzvah certificate, fearing that it meant he wasn't really a man. Hilarity (along with an Aesop) ensues.
  • An episode of King of the Hill had one of Hank's co-workers planning a Quinceañera for his daughter. Bobby complained that he doesn't get a rite of passage like that, so he comes up with the idea of a "Sweet Fourteeno".

Real Life

  • Japan has the Coming of Age Day for reaching twenty and the eating of Red Beans And Rice for a girl's first menarche.
  • America (and other parts of the western world) has the Sweet Sixteen; less formally, getting your first car (representing freedom and responsibility), turning the age of consent, losing your virginity, turning 21 (or being old enough to legally drink), and graduating from high school and/or college are also seen as major steps towards adulthood.
    • Patton Oswalt has joked that the proper ceremony for turning 18, being the year one gains the ability to vote and/or buy a gun, should be to shoot a bullet through a ballot.
  • Women of high society mark their first formal debut in high society with debutante balls. The Pimped-Out Dress is an important part of this. Also called a coming-out party.
  • Latin American girls get the Fifteen Years ("Quinceañera" in the USA, "XV Años" elsewhere) and the Catholic rituals (see below).
  • Cultural and Ethnic Jews have the Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah at the age of 13, to symbolize that the celebrant is old enough to understand the Torah (the Books of the Law). Being roped in as a performer at a Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is seen as one of those jobs you have to do to make ends meet, but not a dignified gig, just barely above being a birthday party clown.
  • Catholics have Confirmation, to, well, confirm that the baptism they were given as infants has led to becoming a full member of the church. Unlike some of the others, it isn't tied to a specific birthday; it usually happens somewhere between eighth and twelfth grade depending on when the bishop can come. Other Christian denominations have similar rites.
  • Stone Age societies (real or fictional) are presented as having ridiculously frightening rites of passage involving stinging insects, piercing of nether regions, psychosomatic drugs, and so on and so forth.
  • For many Western teenagers, a first job is a rite of passage. The job is often babysitting (usually exclusively female), life-guarding, waiting tables, or other menial service-type jobs.
  • Many military institutions have this as a welcome-of-sorts. Even if they dont have it, most of the "last tests" that must be passed in order to be accepted look like this. Also, most of the time, they're not pretty.
    • A good example of the latter is the British SAS acceptance tests. The last one? You have to resist interrogation for 36 hours straight.
  • An almost universal rite is when you get your first own set of keys, showing that your parents trust you both to be home alone, and to assume partial responsibility for the safety of your home.
  • Some people consider being bullied at school as something you have to deal with and learn how to defend themselves instead of always running to an adult for help and by standing up for yourself, you grow up and learn to be independent when being threatened. This may have been fine decades ago, but with the rise of social networking and the aggression in children and teenagers rising, adults can't brush off bullying as a rite of passage anymore.
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