Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

(Moved out of the main entry)

//Ungvichian - Wasn't this also the case with many '60s family shows, where the main kid character didn't really have a family?

//Looney Toons: Like which ones? Nothing that matches your description comes to mind.

//Ungvichian: The likes of Flipper and Lassie.

//Looney Toons: Hm. Yes, the ranger's family in Flipper was clearly motherless. But "didn't really have a family"? No. And the Martins in Lassie certainly had both parents. Even if they were a closer match, I still don't see a pattern in American television. Whereas the examples listed above all come from approximately the same decade and are simply the ones I could rattle off off the top of my head without much thought. If you could point out a few more American shows from a similarly narrow period of time, I might buy it.

//Devil's Advocate: The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, Gidget. Interesting to note that all of the single-parent sitcoms (at least the ones I can think of) from that era are single fathers, not single mothers.

//Red Shoe: Conspicuously absent parents is a common feature in fantasy/adventure where the lead character is a child. Often, the quest to find/avenge the missing parents is used as the MacGuffin for the show. It figured into Gallidor, So Weird (though in this case, the lead character is trying to make spiritual contact with her deceased father), Veronica Mars, the movie Spy Kids, and, I think, The Brady Kids. And, of course, in the entire history of Disney movies, there has been only one character who had both parents survive the film.

Looney Toons: Who would that be? Because I can think of two right off the bat — the children from Mary Poppins have both their parents, and never misplace either of them before the end of the film.

Red Shoe: I'll amend that to "Disney Cartoons". I recall it being a "big deal" at the time that Mulan was, supposedly (I've never seen it, so this may be totally wrong) was the first Disney cartoon leading character to have both parents by the end of the film. Though I suppose that the status of the parents in Peter Pan is unknown.

BT The P: I'm pretty sure both of Sleeping Beauty's parents are alive at the end.

Gus: There is a Chosen Family entry in all this that I wish I was smart enough to write.

osh: Worth a mention from the Economic Casting page. Mulan having two parents is only a big deal for those knowing this trope. Her mother's role in the movie is pretty negilible compared to her father's.

Ununnilium: Watching the movie, I didn't even realize that was her mother.

See Jerry Griswold's excellent book Audacious Kids: Coming of Age in America's Classic Children's Books. For decades it was fairly standard to make child heroes orphans or half-orphans, or to have one parent alive but absent (like Mr. March in Little Women, or Hans Brinker's brain-injured father). WRT Disney features: Aurora/Briar Rose has two living parents, but she was reared by three foster-mothers. Both the Darling parents are alive at the end of Peter Pan, but Peter himself is still parent-free.

Ununnilium: Do they ever actually say Ash's father is away on a business trip? The only reference to him I recall is Ash's mom saying his father would be proud of him in the first episode.
Your Obedient Serpent: The orphan thing also pops up a lot in American superhero comics, though the details are distinctive enough that it might well be its own trope — Triggering Tragedy, or somesuch. It's often involved in the Super Hero Origin: Thomas and Martha Wayne, Uncle Ben Parker, Jor-El and Lara — but even characters who don't have that core tragedy are often parent-free.

Note that when Superman was first created, his foster parents were deceased — and it wasn't that unusual for someone in that period to have lost his parents before 30. In the early Silver Age, Superman kept the Kents at an emotional distance, saving his mourning for his biological parents and, well, his planet of origin. The Post-Crisis Reboot kept the Kents alive, anchoring Superman as Clark First, Kal-El second, and moving Jor-El and Lara far into the distant background.

This came to mind while watching Smallville, and realizing, with the departure of Pete Ross, all four of the central characters have lost one parent or another: Clark has lost his biological parents (have they ever mentioned Lara by name?) and Pa Kent, Lana was orphaned in the meteor shower, Lex lost his mother as a child, and has a paternal relationship that is arguably worse than being orphaned, and Chloe's mom has been in an asylum since she was 8.
Khym Chanur: Ukyou's mother is implied to be dead, and she has been actively rejected by her father until she either kills or marries Ranma. So this actually happens in the anime? I abandoned the anime in favor of the manga by the end of season 3, and thought that this was merely a bit of fanon.
Meta4: I'm curious as to why this is just an anime trope. Isn't it common enough to be listed under tropes in general?

Wiki: Yeah, that happens a lot here. Can't be helped, this place is pretty much run by guys who've thrived on Neon Genesis Evangilon, Death Note, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

((SKJAM!)) The manga of Yu-Gi-Oh! actually does feature Ryuji/Duke's father in his introductory storyline—he's an evil clown who Yugi's grandfather defeated in a game, causing him to age hideously. Ryuji basically dumps his father after it becomes clear that the old man deserved what he got.
Semi-Known Troper: I somewhat confused by the Kingdom Hearts example, was it every stated whether or not Roxas was given parents in the digital Twilight Town? If he wasn't depicted as abandoned there then I don't think this counts.

Meta4: Seeing as we now have pages for characters only missing one parent, I've moved this blurb to the Missing Mom article: "If this is done at all straight, missing a mother is usually treated more seriously than losing a father. This is somewhat related to the cultural idea mothers are a stabilizing force in a family."

Jisu: Isn't this just supposed to be where the parents barely appear, as if they don't exist? It's quickly becoming a place for real orphans, as well.
Midonin: We have a problem. The image isn't showing. It wasn't uploaded to the server either. I remember it was a Batman "My parents are dead!" one. Hopefully it can be restored.

fleb: I found a copy on Flickr that I uploaded. For reference, the no-longer-working image Midonin's talking about was at

ccoa: There is currently a proposal to rewrite or merge this trope. See the forum thread for more detail.