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It's a simple question, really. What if someone were a god? Being God in Human Form or Deity of Human Origin would probably be much harder than one would think. For starters, there's a very good possibility you'd not be omnipotent; in fact, your powers may be very, very limited. For another, there's the whole "human psyche" aspect to worry about. What happens when the powers of a god are encased in a mortal shell? Even if only perceived as such, and not a god in actuality, what would the psychological ramifications be? Would you use this for power, for justice? Would you even care, or would you revile the idea?
The ramifications generally break down into one of nine psychological archetypes:
- The Savior: You follow the creed of With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility and devote yourself to helping others outwardly, hoping you will have a greater effect on society.
- The Despot: You flaunt your power over others, declaring A God Am I and using this power for personal gain and satisfaction.
- The Shepherd: You know the truth, and must show the world the true path, the righteous way; you shall teach men to fish, and they shall be fed for a lifetime.
- The Prince: You will rule over all you see, for only you are capable of preventing these wretches from drowning themselves in their own filth.
- The Reluctant Messiah: You will do what you must for the greater good, but why you?
- The Rebel: You are you, god or not; you are flesh and blood, and will decide your fate for yourself. If that means becoming the opposite of what you were intended to be, then so be it.
- The Self-Denouncer: You are not a god, nor might there even be a god at all; you wish people would believe in themselves and others, rather than worship you and some fairy tale.
- The Nietzsche Wannabe: You are a god. Fine. Then how are mortals or their morals and troubles any concern of yours?
- The Oblivious: You haven't the faintest idea that you are a god, or even anything other than human. You may not even notice all the odd things that tend to happen around you...
Note that this describes the psychology behind any character and their motivations who possess god-like powers or positions, and not the repercussions or actions taken because of his status.
Not related to One of Us, unless you have a very high opinion of yourself.
Given the nature of the trope, examples are likely to be spoiler-heavy. You have been warned.
- Of all people, Jesus of Nazareth is presented as a Reluctant-Messiah-type in The Last Temptation of Christ.
- Some of the gospels had him showing hints of this also, notably in the garden of Gethsemane. He asks God if they could avoid the whole crucifixion thing, but then says that since its the big guy's will, thats okay too.
- Superman, Pre Crisis, is a clear-cut example of a Savior-type. Post-Crisis, however, he is a combination of a Reluctant Messiah and Self-Denouncer type - he hates being called a god, but wishes he were the god people make him out to be.
- Light Yagami of Death Note is a perfect example of The Prince. He uses godlike powers to kill evildoers and those who stand against him, so as to gain the fear and admiration of the weak populace as a true god, all to ultimately bring order and peace to the world - with him as God Almighty reigning over it, of course.
- The plot of Bruce Almighty. Starts as The Despot, tries to be The Savior but isn't up to the task.
- The Gods of Arr-Kelaan has examples of all these types. Ronson is the Self-Denouncer, Aldman is the Savior, Salsmen is the Despot, Mike is the shepherd and so on.
- The entire premise of the Haruhi Suzumiya series is that Haruhi is The Oblivious. She's bored with ordinary life, so she regularly goes out of her way looking for interesting things, or trying to imagine mysteries where none exist, but she doesn't even realize some of her friends are aliens or time travelers, who may or may not exist because she wished them into existence.
- Lain of Serial Experiments Lain starts out as The Oblivious, but becomes aware of her true nature by the end of the series.
- Arguably, one of the central themes of Exalted is to explore this question. Given that there are several thousand of them, the titular Exalted tend to run the gamut of archetypes presented here, with the possible exception of Obliviousness--Exaltation is hard to miss.
- In Baldur's Gate, the PC is The Oblivious for much of the game. In Baldurs Gate 2, the ending determines whether he will be The Despot, The Savior with shades of Rebel, or Rebel and leave the mantle on the floor.
- Arguably, Pain is an example. He is basically human but possesses God level powers (or something like that) and tries to use them. The category... he probably thinks of himself along the lines of a savior but is more a prince type. But you can probably argue about that.
- Kamichu! Yurie fits the bill for Relcutant Messiah.
- Joan Osborne's song "One Of Us", the Trope Namer, wonders what type of One of Us God is, tending somewhat to the "Reluctant" type.
- Mata Nui, who was worshiped as (and had the powers of) a god, then became a "normal" with some abnormal powers, then temporarily returned to a god status, after he's done re-uniting the shattered parts of Spherus Magna and fulfilling his destiny, left his friends and people in a Self-Denouncer fashion, claiming he would never want to fail them again, so they'd best stop worshiping him and form a new society on their own. His ignorance is what caused a lot of suffering for them in the first place, you see, but still, he kept them alive... now, he doesn't ignore them any longer, but above that, he's barely of any help in his Soul Jar of a mask.
- Doctor Manhattan is essentially a god, and is explicitly called that by one character. Because he sees everything at its molecular level, and all time exists at the same time for him, though, he's become The Ubermensch. In flashbacks (such as the Vietnam War), he's more of an Extreme Doormat who doesn't fit any of the archetypes, though he tries to be The Savior.
- In The World Ends With You, Joshua shows elements of The Prince and The Shepherd, trying to erase all of Shibuya, shooting Neku twice, and using him in a pawn in his game. On the other hand, -he- also keeps the Game running as a means of judging the dead and refining their Imaginations, and Neku, Shiki and maybe Beat seem to have grown from their experiences in it. Hanekoma, meanwhile, seems to be a straight example of The Shepherd.
- Devil Survivor: The Main Character in the King of Saints ending is the Prince, with some Shepherd-like characteristics. In the King of Demons ending, he acts like he's The Ubermensch, but this is actually a smokescreen: he's actually The Savior in a somewhat twisted way. In the other endings he gives up or fails to attain the power of Bel, though an argument could be made for him acting as The Shepherd and The Self-Denouncer in Atsuro's route, as he gives power to humanity instead of seizing it for himself. Gin's route is pure Rebel, while Yuzu's is an unusual Rebellion in that the MC simply drops the problem and runs away rather than fighting to save the world.
- Jodie in American Jesus starts out the The Saviour, though later moves towards The Shepherd.
- The Lord Ruler of Mistborn combines elements of the Despot and the Prince though he probably sees himself as more of a Reluctant Messiah- and despite being the object of the state religion he's not a real god, just a human with immortality and godlike magical powers.