Created By: Clevomon on July 14, 2012 Last Edited By: Clevomon on June 1, 2013
Troped

Little Brother Is Watching

An amoral character or one with a bad habit decides to change after realizing someone younger who looks up to him could copy his behavior.

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Trope
LAUNCH NOTICE: This trope now meets the Three Rules of Three and has five hats. Unless there are any further objections, it will launch within 24 hours of Saturday, June 1, 2013, 11:04 PM EST.

As of October 7, 2012, the voting is called with one in favor of the motion and seven against. The title Little Brother Is Watching stands as the title of this proposal.

Earlier: This trope's title is disputed on the grounds of snowclone-ness. A crowner on the subject can be found here.

It's been said before that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. However, what if the behavior in question really shouldn't be complimented? Children Are Innocent, but sometimes that Ambiguous Innocence leads them to copy behaviors from their role models that are less than ideal. While some, like the Card-Carrying Villain, may appreciate this, and others, like the Anti-Role Model, may not care, some others do care and don't necessarily like where it leads. Some Evil Parents Want Good Kids, after all.

It's one thing that they're being evil and damning their own souls. It's another when they're teaching children who look up to them to do the same. Realizing this, they may try to keep their bad behavior a secret from their children for a while. However, others take a different path. Realizing that their secret will inevitably come out, or perhaps simply unable to answer why they're doing something they don't want youngsters to ever learn to do, they perform a Heel–Face Turn. No more evil for him!

This trope doesn't just encompass evildoers, however. One of its most frequent uses in stories about drug use and quitting. The fundamental idea is that the parent, sibling, or role model does something that he doesn't want another to find out, not because it will ruin his life - most people probably already know - but because he doesn't want to influence the younger person to do the exact same thing. In order to make sure that doesn't happen - or sometimes upon discovery, although it's more often used as prevention - he quits the bad behavior.

Often, this is to avert Corrupt the Cutie.

Sub-Trope of Morality Pet. Parent trope to Not in Front of the Kid.

Not to be confused with Big Brother Is Watching, where the government makes sure you are responsible by being ready to punish any immoral acts.

---

Advertising
  • There's an above the influence (anti-drug use) ad that provides a solid example of this trope: as an older sister lights up, the flame reflects in the eye of her younger brother, who is spying through the keyhole. The implication is that the girl should/will change her behavior, as she seems to notice her brother at the end of the ad.
  • About eleven years ago, there was an anti-marijuana PSA that played this trope. In it, a teenage basketball player's little brother watches him win a streetball game. After the game, the teen meets up with some friends and one (the token female in the group) offers him some pot with the PSA's voiceover saying, "Some people think smoking weed makes you cool." His little brother is then shown looking at him in awe, and the voiceover asks, "But what about those who think you already are?"
  • In an infamous anti-drug PSA a father is yelling at his son about the marijuana he found. "Where did you learn to do this stuff?" "From you, alright? I learned it by watching you!"

Anime and Manga
  • This trope is discussed more than anything in the Fishman Island arc of One Piece. A recurring theme throughout that arc is the Cycle of Revenge and central characters of the arc not wanting to pass their prejudices regarding humans on to the next generation, even when some of them could not let go of that hatred themselves. Arc villains the New Fishman Pirates are a case of Corruption of a Minor because that prejudice was passed down to them.

Film
  • In American History X, Edward Norton gets out of prison for murder and has to convince his little brother to stop imitating his white supremacist life style.
  • At the end of Angels with Dirty Faces, Jerry tells Rocky that the boys in Jerry's care look up to Rocky and stand a chance of becoming criminals themselves because they idolize Rocky so. When Rocky is finally taken to the electric chair, instead of acting tough like he bragged about, he screamed, cried, begged for his life and "died yellow". It's ambiguous whether he truly panicked or just acted that way to discourage the kids from thinking he was cool. (Perhaps a bit of column A, a bit of column B?)
  • In the film Boys Town Mickey Rooney plays the younger sibling; he idolizes his older brother, who is in prison for murder. Older brother contacts Father Flanagan, asking him to take in his little brother so he won't follow the same path.

Literature
  • In Little Lord Fauntleroy, the Earl of Dorincourt becomes less selfish and more considerate, because his grandson Cedric thinks about him as a kind-hearted, generous man and looks up to him, and the earl doesn't want to disappoint the boy.

Live-Action TV
  • A early Full House episode had Joey giving up on his comedy career only to find out that DJ has quit trying to play the guitar as a result. A few seasons later there was a similar episode. Jesse has quit going back to school so Michelle quits learning to tie her shoes.
  • Ian and Lip in the US version of Shameless make their little brother Carl wear earmuffs at night so they can talk about various illegal activities openly. However, Carl is naturally more sociopathic than either of his older brothers.

Music
  • The country song "Watching You" by Rodney Atkins is about a man who realizes that his four-year-old son is learning from him when he curses under his breath and then hears his boy immediately repeat it, saying he wants to be just like his dad. When they get home, the dad goes alone (or so he thinks) to the barn and prays, hoping that in the future he'll try to be a better example for his son. That night, at bedtime, the little boy prays before climbing into his bed, and says that he wants to be just like his dad.
  • The third verse of the song "Hero" by Superchic[k](it starts around 2:10) is about an older brother who makes some bad choices, unaware that his nine year old brother "who wants to be him" is following his example, and that his choices will change his little brother's life. Whether he tries to be a better example is left up to the listener.

Theatre
  • The song "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods warns parents that children will copy their behavior.

Video Games
  • In Episode 8 of Asura's Wrath, after beating Kalrow's minions, Asura mercilessly beats on a surviving Doji, his Burst Gauge filling with every punch. But when he sees The Girl beating the corpse of another Doji with a rock and crying, his Burst gauge empties.

Web Comics
  • Weregeek: Brian and Alice and their kid will not spoil a good game:
    -- Does this mean we'll have to watch our language and all that stuff?
    -- Um. You've met Alice, right?
  • When Wigu and his father Quincy stumble upon a stash of illegal drugs, Quincy considers selling them and has a Good Angel, Bad Angel moment. The good angel wins out by showing him a vision of Quincy in jail and Wigu looking unhappy.

Western Animation
  • In Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, what finally persuades Mikey to clean up is Corey reaching for his box of drugs.
  • In the Arthur episode "The Last Tough Customer", Binky's former gang of bullies have decided to change their bullying ways, except for Molly, as she feels being a bully is her demand for respect. Seeing her little brother James start bullying other kids as well, and saying he got it from her changes her perspective, and realizes how not nice bullying really is.

Community Feedback Replies: 64
  • July 14, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Ian and Lip in the US version of Shameless make their little brother Carl wear earmuffs at night so they can talk about various illegal activities openly.
  • July 14, 2012
    Clevomon
    Do they stop doing the illegal activities in order not to influence him?
  • July 14, 2012
    fulltimeD
    No it's more like this trope is played with rather than used straight; Carl is more sociopathic than either of his older brothers.
  • July 14, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Snowclones are problematic enough when it's a Sister Trope or Sub Trope, but this has almost nothing to do with Big Brother Is Watching. This should have a better name.
  • July 14, 2012
    Clevomon
    Fine with me - I'm up for suggestions. Although for what it's worth (not much, I know), I came up with the name first, since unlike Big Brother Is Watching, it's literal, realized the wordplay second.
  • July 14, 2012
    robinjohnson
    I like the title! I don't think it is a snowclone of Big Brother Is Watching - in fact, I was unaware that was a trope. I saw it as a play on the slogan from Nineteen Eighty Four, which is culturally embedded enough to be recognisable. And it works well as an inversion of that concept - rather than checking your bad behaviour because of fear of authority, you're checking it because of fear of the authority you hold over smaller people.
  • July 14, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the film Boys Town Mickey Rooney plays the younger sibling; he idolizes his older brother, who is in prison for murder. Older brother contacts Father Flanagan, asking him to take in his little brother so he won't follow the same path.
  • July 15, 2012
    LordCirce
    This trope was just played in the webcomic Evil Inc. Lightning Lady ended up playing a hero because of a little girl that looked up to her. This turned out to be a set-up by Amazing Amazon to frame Lightning Lady to look like a hero.
  • July 15, 2012
    unitingswine
    There's an above the influence (anti-drug use) ad that provides a solid example of this trope: as an older sister lights up, the flame reflects in the eye of her younger brother, who is spying through the keyhole. The implication is that the girl should/will change her behavior, as she seems to notice her brother at the end of the ad.
  • July 15, 2012
    cygnavamp
    At the end of Angels With Dirty Faces, Jerry tells Rocky that the boys in Jerry's care look up to Rocky and stand a chance of becoming criminals themselves because they idolize Rocky so. When Rocky is finally taken to the electric chair, instead of acting tough like he bragged about, he screamed, cried, begged for his life and "died yellow". It's ambiguous whether he truly panicked or just acted that way to discourage the kids from thinking he was cool. (Perhaps a bit of column A, a bit of column B?)
  • July 15, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Okay, so it wasn't meant as a snowclone, but it will look like it, and some will just find it confusing.

    Do Not Want To Be A Bad Influence?
  • July 16, 2012
    Heylir
    In Little Lord Fauntleroy, the Earl of Dorincourt becomes less selfish and more considerate, because his grandson Cedric thinks about him as a kind-hearted, generous man and looks up to him, and the earl doesn't want to disappoint the boy.
  • July 16, 2012
    TBTabby
    In Episode 8 of Asura's Wrath, after beating Kalrow's minions, Asura mercilessly beats on a surviving Doji, his Burst Gauge filling with every punch. But when he sees The Girl beating the corpse of another Doji with a rock and crying, his Burst gauge empties.
  • July 16, 2012
    WannabeDamselErrant
    This is just my two cents for a name, but maybe Not In Front of The Kid?

    ...Then, of course, that could get confusing, since I just realised that's a quote from the Lion King.

  • July 16, 2012
    peccantis
    I don't see what's wrong with the title. It works without needing to parse any snowcloned meaning, it's nice and short, it's fun.

  • July 16, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "It works without needing to parse any snowcloned meaning"

    You do have to parse the meaning. That's why snowclones are considered bad now.
  • July 16, 2012
    abk0100
    • In American History X, Edward Norton gets out of prison for murder and has to convince his little brother to stop imitating his white supremacist life style.
  • July 17, 2012
    LordCirce
    I don't believe that this is a snowclone. A snowclone relies on someone reading the original page for the second page to have meaning. While this articles title is similar, it doesn't rely on people having read the Big Brother Is Watching page before they read this one, and it can stand on its own. The title is expressive of what this page is about.
  • July 17, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ It's close enough to look like a snowclone, and trust me, that will matter. Plus the trope is not that the kid is watching, but that someone wants to avert being a bad influence that the kid watching would do.
  • July 17, 2012
    LordCirce
    Here are some titles for if we do get forced to change the title. Being A Better Influence, The Children Are Watching, Improving Role Model

    I still don't feel that this should fall under the realm of a snowclone. If there were a large number of articles with similar titles, then it would be a problem, but, in this case, it just doesn't make sense to have to not use a good title, just because it sounds like another trope that is already on the sight. Such nitpicking is shortsighted at best.
  • July 17, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "I still don't feel that this should fall under the realm of a snowclone."

    The title is objectively all but one word off from another trope, and the one word out is an antonym. So it doesn't matter whether it should as much as whether it does.

    I'm not trying to be difficult here. I'm trying to save this trope some later TRS issues, or even being cut (which has happened with titles that looked like snowclones).
  • July 17, 2012
    abk0100
    People are more familiar with the phrase "big brother is watching" then they are with the trope.
  • July 17, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • The country song "Watching You" by Rodney Atkins is about a man who realizes that his four-year-old son is learning from him when he curses under his breath and then hears his boy immediately repeat it, saying he wants to be just like his dad. When they get home, the dad goes alone (or so he thinks) to the barn and prays, hoping that in the future he'll try to be a better example for his son. That night, at bedtime, the little boy prays before climbing into his bed, and says that he wants to be just like his dad.
  • July 18, 2012
    Waterlily
    A early Full House episode had Joey giving up on his comedy career only to find out that DJ has quit trying to play the guitar as a result. A few seasons later there was a similar episode. Jesse has quit going back to school so Michelle quits learning to tie her shoes.
  • July 18, 2012
    Waterlily
    Real Life: Apparently, this was why notorious hockey goon Dave Schultz quit hockey fairly young. His son was getting old enough to know what his dad did for a living.

    So I've heard anyways.
  • July 18, 2012
    LordCirce
    ^^^^^ I understand, I just think the whole idea of a snowclone is not needed. If one trope is a lazy derivative of another, that is a problem, but just having similar names being a problem is lazy editing.

    Anyway, Monster's Inc. has Sully change his behavior after meeting Boo and seeing the negative effect that it has on her.
  • September 22, 2012
    Katie80
    In Cartoon All Stars To The Rescue, what finally persuades Mikey to clean up is Corey reaching for his box of drugs.
  • September 23, 2012
    robinjohnson
    I agree with what ^^ Lord Circe (and others) said.

    Snowcloneness should be about the trope itself, not the title. In this case, the trope is not derivative, and the title is a clever and fitting play on a well-known slogan - which, pretty much unrelatedly, happens to be the name of another trope. That doesn't make this trope a snowclone of that one.
  • September 23, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "Snowcloneness should be about the trope itself"

    It doesn't matter what something should be about. What matters is if the mods and admins are okay with a name.

    But even then, the name isn't not indicative of the trope. Being a play on a well-known phrase makes it seem like it's based off that phrase, which implies little brother is being a dictator.
  • September 25, 2012
    LordCirce
    ^Which in a way it is. The whole idea of this trope is that some younger innocent sibling is watching the character, and the character decides to change. When Big Brother is watching, a sense of fear keeps you in line, when Little Brother is watching, a sense of responsibility keeps you in line. It is very similar, but not enough to say it is a snowclone.
  • September 25, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ That's not being a dictator.
  • September 25, 2012
    cygnavamp
    • The song "Children Will Listen" from Into The Woods warns parents that children will copy their behavior.
  • September 25, 2012
    Waterlily
    I think the Dave Schultz example should be removed for now. I heard it from somebody and that's not always the best source for whether or not it's true. He wrote an autobiography which would probably explain why he quit hockey at a fairly young. I'll try to get ahold of it but until then it probably shouldn't be here.
  • September 26, 2012
    lilliterra
    I don't think this is a snowclone. The explanation that several people have given makes sense, and "Big Brother is Watching" is a common enough phrase aside from the trope name.
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ The phrase refers to a tyrannical government, that is keeping tight watch on the people. It doesn't matter if it's common. It also has a common meaning, that will confuse this trope, as the title here is literal (and only indicates half the trope), while the common phrase is metaphorical.
  • September 27, 2012
    johnnye
  • September 27, 2012
    Clevomon
    ^ This is when the threat of that causes the actor to change his behavior.
  • September 27, 2012
    sgamer82
    Not entirely sure if this would count or not, but:

    • This trope is discussed more than anything in the Fishman Island arc of One Piece. A recurring theme throughout that arc is the Cycle Of Revenge and central characters of the arc not wanting to pass their prejudices regarding humans on to the next generation, even when some of them could not let go of that hatred themselves. Arc villains the New Fishman Pirates are a case of Corruption Of A Minor because that prejudice was passed down to them.
  • September 29, 2012
    LordCirce
    Western Animation
    • This trope showed up in the episode of Family Guy "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington." Peter is in charge of speaking in congress about how smoking is harmless and how his toy company should be allowed to make toys that promote smoking. However, when he sees Stewie smoking a cigarette and coughing he changes his tune and calls for the cigarette industry to be fined.
  • September 29, 2012
    Omeganian
    There is also Children Raise You.
  • September 29, 2012
    Clevomon
    ^ That sometimes involves this, but often the character involved in this won't be directly in charge of the child (for instance, an older brother or sister). And Children Raise You doesn't necessarily involve this, as the reasons the adult changes could have just as much to do with things like the deleterious effects of neglect as worry about kids copying them.
  • September 30, 2012
    Clevomon
    I'm getting close to calling the vote, having let it go for about a week, unless anyone has anything to add. The current tally is 1 vote for changing the title and 7 against.
  • September 30, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ It's not just about the votes. It's that no one has shown why this doesn't look like just variation on the phrase from 'Nineteen Eighty Four''.

    Did any of you know about what "Big Brother is watching" actually referred to?

    THAT is why it looks like a snowclone.
  • September 30, 2012
    Clevomon
    ^ I'm not going to take it upon myself to reply. I've kept a stance of neutrality on this and am more than happy to change the name. Indeed, I didn't vote in the crowner myself. However, when it's only one person in favor of the change, it's very difficult for me to see going against the votes. If even two wanted the change, then yes, I could see going against the final vote on the assumption that some people may have had their minds changed by the debate and simply hadn't bothered to switch their vote. That's part of the reason I'm giving people with objections one last chance to say their peace. In order to find anyone besides you who agrees to it. I'm also more than happy to reopen the crowner if someone else comes in later with a similar objection. As it stands now, with only one hat, this isn't getting launched any time soon.

    Please understand that I'm trying to be as fair about this as I can.
  • September 30, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ I know.

    But even if more like the name here, all it takes is one admin or cutmaster to think this is a snowclone. And that can't be outvoted.
  • October 1, 2012
    LordCirce
    ^And there is the problem, because it isn't an adin or cutmaster who has taken offense, it is you, and you alone. I would hope that, if an administrator disliked the name on grounds of snowclone-ness, they would give the creator an opportunity to change it. If not, well, I guess Big Brother Is Watching indeed.
  • October 1, 2012
    TBeholder
  • October 1, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "because it isn't an adin or cutmaster who has taken offense, it is you"

    You think they only state their problems on ykttw? They can do this after pages are launched. I know this, because I've had to deal with some of the pages I launched getting cut or changed due to those issues. So even though it's just me right now, that's because I've experienced good reason to be concerned.

    "I would hope that, if an administrator disliked the name on grounds of snowclone-ness, they would give the creator an opportunity to change it."

    Yeah, it doesn't work that way. Plus you are assuming those people are aware of all potential ykttw pages with issues. If you think they would have a problem, it's best to find some and ask (via private messages), not just "hope" they won't have a problem.
  • October 2, 2012
    owlwarrorforaslan5
    • The third verse of the song "Hero" by Superchic[k](it starts around 2:10) is about an older brother who makes some bad choices, unaware that his nine year old brother "who wants to be him" is following his example, and that his choices will change his little brother's life. Whether he tries to be a better example is left up to the listener.
  • October 9, 2012
    LordCirce
    ^^If this really means that much to you, then provide a decent title. You have thus far only given one alternate title, which is honestly too long. I have given three that could be substituted if necessary and, if I have to, I will relaunch this trope with one of those titles. Thus far, you have not managed to convince anyone that this is a snowclone, you have only claimed that it is one, and pushed aside any argument to the contrary. The litmus test for snowcloneness is "Always assume that yours will be the first page on the Wiki that someone reads." This page does not rely on anyone having read the trope Big Brother Is Watching before they read this page, or even being aware that their is such a trope, and that is all that matters. If I was to make a trope titled "Four Score and Seven Beers Ago", it would not be a snowclone unless their was a trope titled "Four Score and Seven Years Ago" already on the site. If someone was to later make a trope titled "Four Score and Seven Pizzas Ago", unless their was a substantial difference between them, the new trope would be an obvious snowclone of the last.
  • October 11, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I agree that "Little Brother Is Watching" is a perfectly understandable title on its own merits - a lot of people know what it's like to have a younger brother admiring them, and/or being told to set a good example for them.

    (And DQZ, you know that "snowclone" is not an officially recognized problem with title - it might indicate a deeper problem with the name, but the resemblance of title A to title B is not a problem in itself; remember how I Know Mortal Kombat was a snowclone of I Know Kung Fu?)
  • October 12, 2012
    Topazan
    Is it only if they're worried that the person who looks up to them could copy them, or does it count when they're worried about disappointing that character?

    • When Wigu and his father Quincy stumble upon a stash of illegal drugs, Quincy considers selling them and has a Good Angel Bad Angel moment. The good angel wins out by showing him a vision of Quincy in jail and Wigu looking unhappy.

    EDIT: Huh, no page for Wigu? It goes in the webcomics category.
  • October 13, 2012
    MartyD82
    About eleven years ago, there was an anti-marijuana PSA that played this trope. In it, a teenage basketball player's little brother watches him win a streetball game. After the game, the teen meets up with some friends and one (the token female in the group) offers him some pot with the PSA's voiceover saying, "Some people think smoking weed makes you cool." His little brother is then shown looking at him in awe, and the voiceover asks, "But what about those who think you already are?"

    Come to think of it, it's actually a pretty standard trope in anti-drug/anti-smoking PSA's (see: Teens Are Monsters).
  • October 14, 2012
    StarSword
    Under Video Games:

    • Thane Krios' loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2 comes about because he discovers his son Kolyat is following in his footsteps as an assassin, and doesn't want that life for him.

    As for the name, I'm for Little Brother Is Watching. Categorize it under Just For Pun (it's a play on another trope name), and put a note in the trope description that it's not the same thing as Big Brother Is Watching.
  • October 14, 2012
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Note>

    The name is fine, but you need to add a not to be confused with line for Big Brother Is Watching if you're going to use it.
  • October 14, 2012
    Clevomon
    Thanks, Shima. I'll make sure to do that on my next update (I usually wait until the proposal goes off the screen and then update in order to bump it back up).
  • October 20, 2012
    TBTabby
    This may be covered by Not In Front Of The Kid.
  • October 21, 2012
    LordCirce
    I would say that Not In Front Of The Kid is actually a subtrope of this one, as that trope deals primarily with swearing and people saying things in front of children, while this trope involves people making life choices that are based on the influence they will have on children. Also, Not In Front Of The Kid is a piece of dialog from Lion King, and it has become frowned upon recently to use dialog as titles, though that title in particular stands on its own pretty well.
  • March 2, 2013
    Noah1
  • March 3, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an infamous anti-drug PSA a father is yelling at his son about the marijuana he found. "Where did you learn to do this stuff?" "From you, alright? I learned it by watching you!"
  • March 5, 2013
    Frank75
    Five hats, enough examples, been around for a long time... @Clevomon, launching this one?
  • March 5, 2013
    Clevomon
    I will in a bit. Thanks for reminding me of it. Juggling a bunch of stuff around.
  • June 1, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    This trope is a specific subtrope of Morality Pet. The "little brother" in question is influencing another character to become more responsible because the "older brother" doesn't want their pet to imitate them. Not In Front Of The Kid, in turn, is a specific subtrope of this trope, where the bad behavior being avoided is vulgar language. Not to be confused with Big Brother Is Watching, where the government makes sure you are responsible by being ready to punish any immoral acts.
  • Western Animation
    • In the Western Animation/Arthur episode "The Last Tough Customer", Binky's former gang of bullies have decided to change their bullying ways, except for Molly, as she feels being a bully is her demand for respect. Seeing her little brother James start bullying other kids as well, and saying he got it from her changes her perspective, and realizes how not nice bullying really is.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4xc5hmun36ad3262b1yj6p39&trope=LittleBrotherIsWatching