Created By: LordGro on May 9, 2013 Last Edited By: LordGro on March 8, 2016

Good Stepmother

A stepmother acts as a protector or mentor towards her stepchildren.

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Trope
The trope that stepmothers are prone to loathe and mistreat their stepchildren can be found in fairy tales and folklore all over the world. So common are Evil Stepmothers that inverting that trope will make things interesting.

Cue the Good Stepmother, a stepmother who ends up making the life of their stepchildren better. Far from plotting to get her stepchildren out of the way to secure the family fortune for herself, she instead acts as a mentor or protector to her stepchildren and shows genuine affection for them. Plots usually feature Good Stepmothers as supporting characters who help their fosterlings (the protagonists) succeed in life and "make their fortune".

To fill this role, the Good Stepmother is exceptionally clever and resourceful. Often there is even something supernatural about her, making her somewhat similar to a Fairy Godmother. This tale type also likes to take elements of the well-known Wicked Stepmother stereotype and turn it on its head—for example, the Good Stepmother is quite frequently an actual witch; but one who uses her powers for the benefit of their stepchildren.

The stepchildren do not have to be actual children. More typically they are teenagers or young adults. Because of that, the Good Stepmother is not always a Parental Substitute.

If the stepmother has children of their own, they will get along well with the children of the first wife, and may even form a team.

Good Stepmothers are also the norm in dom coms which feature a blended family. Often, there will be an episode dealing with how the stepchildren fear or expect their stepmother to be wicked, and are then proven wrong.

Compare and contrast Happily Adopted, which involves an adoptive family, not just a stepmother.

Examples:

Fairy Tales
  • For some reason or other, this seems to be popular in Icelandic fairy tales:
    • "The Horse Gullfaxi and the Sword Gunnfoder" takes a premise that is typical for Wicked Stepmother stories and completely subverts it: A widowed king marries a new wife who is actually a half-troll. Eventually, the new queen's full-troll sister lays a curse on the king's son, Sigurd, which he then succeeds to lift with the help and advice of his stepmother. In the end, Sigurd rescues his stepmother from being burned at the stake under false accusations of murdering her stepson.
    • In "Hild the Good Stepmother and Princess Ingibjorg", Ingibjorg's (real) mother puts a Dying Curse on her own daughter. Her father's new wife, Hild, befriends Ingibjorg until she reveals the cause of her despondency, and with Hild's resourcefulness the two women eventually lift the curse.

Film
  • In The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), Helen's love for her 8-year-old stepson Jacob convinces the alien Klatuu that humanity is redeemable after all, which is why he desists from destroying humanity.
  • Addressed in Enchanted: Morgan is fretful about the prospect of getting a stepmother because her only knowledge of them comes from fairytales like "Snow White" and "Cinderella". However, both her father's initial girlfriend Nancy and new love interest Giselle are very friendly and supportive of her.
  • Stepmom is all about a woman trying to bond with her boyfriend's leery children and to make peace with his former wife.
  • In Nanny Mcphee, Evangeline is the Brown family's scullery maid who settle's fights between his children. The children and Evangeline talk about why they're acting out and she tries to help. Their father, Cedric Brown, hasn't paid attention to them since their mother died but they don't want a stepmother because of the fairy tales. By the end of the movie Cedric and Evangeline marry.

Literature
  • When her stepsons Erik and Agnar are killed by king Eystein Beli, Aslaug of The Saga Of Ragnar Lodbrok weeps a single tear of blood for them (which is a lot, as she never cries), and afterwards persuades her biological sons to avenge their stepbrothers. She even personally leads and army against Eystein, which eventually defeats and kills the latter.
  • In book 5 of Gesta Danorum, the sorceress Kraka, second wife to a Norwegian lord, cooks a meal for both her stepson Erik and her own son Roller, but prepares Roller's share with the slaver of a magical snake which will make him smarter and luckier. But Erik and Roller swap plates, and the spell is upon Erik instead. Rather than being angry at Erik, Kraka decides that from now on, Erik should be the leader of the brothers. She also promises that her magic will aid Erik whenever he calls her name, and helps him in outwitting King Gotar of Norway. When Gotar's assassins attack Erik in his bed, he calls out his stepmother's name, whereupon a shield happens to fall from the rafters, covering his body and saving his life.
  • In the Old Icelandic Saga of Bosi and Herraud, the brothers Bosi and Smid are after their mother's death raised by their father's magically skilled concubine, Busla. When Bosi incurs King Hring's wrath and awaits his execution, Busla persuades the king to let Bosi live by demonstrating her magic powers and threatening to lay a terrible curse on the king. Later, when Bosi and Smid are hard-pressed in battle against the sorcerous King Harek of Bjarmaland, Busla comes to their aid in the shape of a giant bird, saving her stepsons again at the cost of her own life.
  • The child protagonist of the children's book My Wicked Stepmother, having grown up with "Wicked Stepmother" tales, is determined to consider his new stepmother wicked, but she's actually a genuinely nice person who tries her hardest to win him over. — needs more context
  • In The Orphan's Tales by Catherynne M. Valente, Magadin becomes her stepmother's favourite and adores her in return. — needs more context
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Rainbow Valley, the minister's motherless children are told by another child that all stepmothers are wicked, it comes with the role. Nevertheless the youngest goes to persuade a woman to marry her father because her father is so miserable since she rejected him. And in Rilla of Ingliside it is clear that she is a perfectly lovely stepmother.
  • In Doris Gates' Blue Willow, the stepmother is a good woman with an excellent relationship with the protagonist, Janey. — needs more context
  • In Dirge for Prester John, Hagia practically adopts Anglitora as her own daughter. — needs more context
  • In The Babysitters Club books, this trope was used pretty abundantly; Elizabeth was a good stepmother to Karen and Andrew, Sharon was a good stepmother to Mary Anne, and Carol was, eventually, a good stepmother to Dawn and Jeff. — needs more context

Live-Action TV
  • On The Brady Bunch, Carol did such a good job raising the boys, the fact that she was a stepmother was never even mentioned except in one episode (season 1, #10) when Bobby, after watching Cinderella on TV, and being told to clean out the fireplace, convinced himself that Carol was a Wicked Stepmother. His use of the word "step"mother eventually provoked this reply:
    Carol: The only steps in this house are those (points to staircase), which go right up to your bedroom.
  • Raising Hope: Once Jimmy and Sabrina marry she is this to Jimmy's daughter Hope. Eventually she adopts Hope. — needs more context
  • While there was some clashing between the white collar Fosters and blue collar Lamberts in Step by Step, it was usually restricted to the siblings, while the adults' status as step-parents instead of biological parents was unproblematic. — needs more context
  • In Once Upon a Time, the Evil Queen, who was previously Snow White's evil stepmother, adopts a baby named Henry and raises him as her own. While she never goes beyond becoming an Anti-Villain, her love for Henry brings out her redeeming values and plays a large role in her eventual Enemy Mine truce with Snow White.

Western Animation
  • In Phineas and Ferb the wife has two children and a stepson, but they act like regular siblings and she treats them as if they're all hers. — needs more context
  • In Rugrats, Chuckie worries that Kira will be like the stepmother from "Cinderella". She's actually quite nice and adopts him.

Community Feedback Replies: 55
  • May 9, 2013
    LordGro
    This is a pretty rare trope. These three are the only instances I am aware of, so I am curious if there are more.
  • May 9, 2013
    SquirrelGuy
    On The Brady Bunch, Carol did such a good job raising the boys, the fact that she was a stepmother was never even mentioned. Except in one episode, where the youngest children just finished watching Cinderella. Bobby is feeling neglected for other reasons, and Carol asking him to clean out the fireplace didn't help. When "step" parents are mentioned toward the end of the episode...
    Carol: The only steps in this house are those (points to the famous staircase), which go right up to your bedroom.
  • May 9, 2013
    sgamer82
    • Little House With An Orange Roof, like The Brady Bunch, features two individuals with children having to live together. While it takes a while for the Will They Or Wont They resolve, throughout the series Shoutarou and Natsumi essentially become surrogate parents for the others' children, ultimately averting this trope when they do eventually get together.
    • While there's always some level of clashing between the white collar Fosters and blue collar Lamberts in Step By Step, it was usually restricted to the siblings so the adults' status as step-parents instead of biological parents didn't often drive a conflict.
    (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about Step By Step, I don't remember a lot of episodes about Frank or Carol being step-parents being an issue though).
  • May 9, 2013
    Duncan
    In Bill And Teds Excellent Adventure, Bill's Dad has married Missy, in a May December Romance. The only bad thing about her is that Bill has a crush on her. in the sequel, she's divorced Bill's dad and married Ted's dad.
  • May 9, 2013
    lexicon
    This seems to be the norm when it comes to blended families.

    • In Phineas And Ferb the wife has two children and a stepson but they act like regular siblings and she treats them as if they're all her's.

    It can be a bonding over missing parent thing.

  • May 9, 2013
    NateTheGreat
    In The Princess Bride novel Prince Humperdinck has stepmother that he calls evil because all fairy tale stepmothers are. In reality she's very nice, the most beloved person in the kingdom (perhaps second only to Buttercup).
  • May 9, 2013
    Karalora
    Addressed in Enchanted--Morgan is fretful about the prospect of getting a stepmother because her only knowledge of them comes from fairytales like Snow White and Cinderella. However, both her father Robert's initial girlfriend Nancy and new love interest Giselle are very friendly and supportive of her.
  • May 9, 2013
    littlemissmuffet
    • The film Stepmom is all about a woman trying to bond with her boyfriend's leery children and try to make peace with his former wife.
    • In Rugrats, Chuckie worries that Kira will be like the stepmother from Cinderella. She's actually quite nice and adopts him.

  • May 11, 2013
    LordGro
    Updated examples and fiddled with the description.

    @sgamer82: I don't quite get your Little House With An Orange Roof example: You write that they "ultimately avert this trope when they get together": Does that mean she turned out a Bad Stepmother in the end? (It wouldn't count for this trope, then.)

    @Duncan: I don't quite see from your example how Missy is a Good Stepmother. I think she would have to play a more important role to qualify. Not being a Wicked Stepmother is not enough.

    @lexicon: Which film The Day The Earth Stood Still do you refer to, the 1951 or the 2008 one (or both)?
  • May 11, 2013
    lexicon
    2008 and it should be added that maybe the reason that she cared about him so much is that they both missed the boy's father who was dead.

    The page for Wicked Stepmother is a good place to find examples for this when it says that it's played with.

    • In Nanny Mcphee, Evangeline is the Brown family's scullery maid who settle's fights between his children. The children and Evangeline talk about why they're acting out and she tries to help. Their father, Cedric Brown, hasn't paid attention to them since their mother died but they don't want a step mother because of the fairy tales. By the end of the movie Cedric and Evangeline marry.

    This is also an example of Single Parent Seeks Parental Substitute (in YKTTW).
  • May 20, 2013
    LordGro
    I read up the plot of The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) on Wikipedia, but I'm not sure if I got it right. Does the example as written sound about right?

    I copied a few examples that were more than Zero Context examples over from Wicked Stepmother.
  • May 20, 2013
    Melkior
    Literature:
    • Plot summary of an incidental story from an old children's book: "Billy" is a very young boy who has two questions, "Where's mummy?" and "When is she coming home?" but nobody seems able to answer him. After a while, he hears rumors that someone special is coming to stay. Billy decides it must be mummy coming home at last, but when his father comes in the front door, it's with a different woman. Billy is horribly disappointed, but then the woman treats his feelings seriously and gently, telling him that if he likes, she will try to be his mummy until "mummy comes home, or you go to her". Some years later, Billy has learned that she is a "stepmother", and when another boy says that stepmothers are always horrible, Billy wants to fight him!
  • May 20, 2013
    totorolover33
    Literature
    • In The Babysitters Club books, this trope was used pretty abundantly; Elizabeth was a good stepmother to Karen and Andrew, Sharon was a good stepmother to Mary Anne, and Carol was, eventually, a good stepmother to Dawn and Jeff.
  • May 25, 2013
    LordGro
    @Melkior: Do you remember the name of the book?
  • May 26, 2013
    Melkior
    ^ It was either "Rainbow Annual" or "Tiger Tim's Annual" from around the early 1950's or 1940's. They were essentially the same publication since Tiger Tim was a character from Rainbow, an old children's combined comic book and story book with puzzle pages. If I can find the book (I'm sure I still have it somewhere), I'll post the title and the year.
  • February 18, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Would Giselle from Enchanted count? She's more played up as a Love Interest to Robert, but she and his daughter do get along well.
  • February 18, 2014
    HellKillUsAll
    • The Disney film Man of the House has a newly married stepfather (played by Chevy Chase) trying to click with his new stepson.
  • February 19, 2014
    Elfkaiser
    • Bell-Mère from One Piece is a Mama Bear who sacrificed her life to protect her adopted daughters Nami and Nojiko.
  • April 4, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Examples? Hats?
  • April 7, 2014
    eowynjedi
    • Duchess Winnamine from Daughter Of The Lioness is Duke Mequen's Second Love. She was also his first wife's best friend, even though Sarugani (and thus her daughters Sarai and Dove) was a member of the deposed and despised native royal line. Winnamine is very conscientious of her stepdaughters' grief and sensitivity to their mother being "replaced." She's also a Reasonable Authority Figure who's more of a realist than her husband, and while she did forbid Sarai from fencing lessons, she rescinds it once she realizes that it's too dangerous for them to be "ladylike" delicate.
  • April 7, 2014
    DAN004
    Launch plz.
  • April 7, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Firstly, I don't believe Averting the Wicked Stepmother is a trope. I can accept subversions as a trope, sufficiently distinct from Wicked Stepmother because sometimes it requires Invoking that trope in the first place, most notably in the Sit Com category.

    Secondly, the Matilda example is wrong, because adoption is not the same as "step-hood". Honey is Matilda's adoptive mother, not her stepmother.

    Third, I think the first Islandic story is a Defied Trope to "Wicked", and the second is an Inverted Trope.
  • April 7, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Pulling a hat until crazysamaritan's issues are resolved.

    • In Juno, Juno gets along with her step-mother just as well as she does anyone else. She also takes Juno's Teen Pregnancy incredibly well, though her father does as well.
  • April 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ speaking of subversions, it'd be related to Sheep In Sheeps Clothing
  • April 7, 2014
    Waterlily
    Why does this only include stepmothers and not stepfathers? It would basically be the same trope anyway. You could even include good stepsiblings.
  • April 7, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    ^^^ That's exactly the kind of example I'm talking about: the aversion of Wicked Stepmother isn't a trope, any more than "is nice to women" is a trope. If something in Juno would set up the idea that stepmothers are seen as wicked, then it would be a narrative convention. Without that setup, it's the same as "brunette women get along well with their children".
  • April 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ again, it'd be a subtrope of Sheep In Sheeps Clothing
  • April 8, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    After visiting the page, I'd have to say "no". They would be related tropes, but certain Inversions and Invoking of Wicked Stepmother wouldn't involve Sheep In Sheeps Clothing. The Defied version (see the troll stepmother in the Icelandic folktale) would also not qualify.

    That trope is specifically a subversion of Bitch In Sheeps Clothing, and therefore needs to set up the idea that the stepmother must be nasty (not evil) before qualifying. If this draft was only subversions, you'd be correct, but inversions and defied versions distance the two.
  • April 8, 2014
    LordGro
    Right, averting Wicked Stepmother is not a trope.

    I was actually thinking of a specific fairy tale type, in which stepmothers help their stepchildren to "make their fortune". These kind of stepmother always has some magic power or extraordinary knowledge, and her role resembles that of a Fairy Godmother. There is often a subplot about the stepmother being unjustly accused of having bad intentions (like a Wicked Stepmother), but that is optional. The tale may be set up as a subversion of Wicked Stepmother, but a Good Stepmother is more than a subverted Wicked Stepmother. Her support of/care for her stepchild surpasses even that of an average mother and is a central plot point.

    This is indeed the inversion of Wicked Stepmother, but inversions can be tropes in their own right. See Opposite Tropes.

    I was actually surprised by the examples I got; I didn't anticipate the draft going this direction. I feel it's hard to judge all the "modern non-magical setting" examples, as I don't know most of these shows. The description definitely needs a rewrite, but I'm somewhat uncertain about the range of this trope now. I tend to think that a "nice, loving stepmother" in itself is below the trope threshold; the point is more that the unusual bond between stepmother and stepchild is stronger than what their society would expect between people that are not blood-related, and plays an essential part in the plot.

    I didn't include stepfathers, because I don't know of any such examples and because I expect this trope to be gender-specific, considering Wicked Stepmother is gender-specific too. Stepsiblings don't fill a parental position, so they fit even less.
  • April 13, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    "the point is more that the unusual bond between stepmother and stepchild is stronger than what their society would expect between people that are not blood-related" — I don't think that is a storytelling convention. It might be "a thing that happens".

    As I said before; inversions, defying, and subversions of Wicked Stepmother sounds like a good trope. The "modern day" examples have been split between aversions (Not A Trope) and subversions (characters are afraid of the Wicked Stepmother, before discovering she is actually a nice lady).
  • April 13, 2014
    Earnest
    Made for TV movie.

    • In Deadly Invasion, one subplot has a little girl resent her soon-to-be stepmother. When a truly massive swarm of killer bees show up on their wedding days, stepmom Takes A Level In Badass by closing her vail and rescuing her stepdaughter who was being stung.
  • April 13, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Made For TV Movie goes in Film. It is OK to Red Link work pages that haven't been made yet.
  • April 13, 2014
    Earnest
    ^Kinda curious on that one, thanks. I seriously doubt the article will get made though, it's a mid nineties 90's disaster flick that aired on the Hallmark channel, so odds are there's maybe two people on this wiki who've seen it. Heck, I had to google the movie's name for 10 minutes.
  • April 13, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    As long as it is in the proper Name Space (Film/DeadlyInvasion), tropers can find it, and the wicks, encouraging them to build the page.

    Also, I think you mistook "Took a level" for Lets Get Dangerous.
  • April 14, 2014
    jatay3
    Cordelia Naismath/Vorkosigan to little Emperor Gregor in Vorkosigan Saga.
  • July 31, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • December 12, 2015
    Gamermaster
    Web Animation
    • In RWBY, Yang described Summer Rose as a super mom, until she failed to return from a mission Yang had been under the impression that Summer was her birth mother, but found out soon after she was really her stepmother.
  • December 13, 2015
    Pichu-kun
    • Chuckie from Rugrats received a step-mother in the second movie, along with a step-sister. Kira is never presented as anything but a sweet and caring mother to both her children.

    Wait... Someone already listed Kira.
  • December 13, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    • In Sofia The First Sofia's mother Miranda marries King Roland II and is a kind and loving stepmother to his children Amber and James. Though she acknowledges there aren't many stories with good stepmothers, so it drives her to be as good as she can.
  • December 13, 2015
    Koveras
    • In Triangle Heart 3 and the Lyrical Nanoha Spin Off series, Nanoha is Momoko Takamachi's only biological daughter: Kyouya Takamachi is Momoko's husband's illegitimate son from an earlier relationship, while Miyuki Takamachi is, in fact, Kyouya's cousin who has been given a new identity to protect her from assassins who wiped out her own family. Nonetheless, Momoko cares equally about all three of her children and is shown to be a loving and understanding mother to them.
  • December 13, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    • Mercy Thompson who is beloved by Jesse, the daughter of her hot, werewolf neighbor Adam. Jesse looks up to Mercy like a Cool Big Sis, and likes Mercy even more when Adam and Mercy end up dating and then marrying.
    • Not official yet, but Cady, from the Arcadia Bell Series by Jenn Bennet has a great relationship with her boyfriend Lon's teenage son, Jupe, who sees her like a Cool Big Sis.
    • Man Of The House (1995) is about a good Step-Father who goes out of his way to gain his step-child's trust and acceptance. In the film, lawyer Jack proposes to Ben's mother some time after her husband ran off with his secretary, disillusioning Ben and making him distrustful of male figures in his life. Through joining the Indian guides (a boy-scout knock off) which they initially both find to be dumb and stupid, as well as fighting off a pair of goons who are after Jack's head because he's prosecuting their boss, the two bond as a step-father and son and Jack is allowed to marry Ben's mother.
  • December 13, 2015
    DAN004
    Subtrope of Good Parents.
  • December 13, 2015
    Pichu-kun
    Is this an Always Female trope or are step-dads allowed? If not...

    • Halfway into As Told By Ginger Lois begins dating a doctor. Carl gets quite attached to Dave easily. His older sister Ginger is a bit more apprehensive, at one point had a fairy-tale Imagine Spot where he was a sicked step-father and later Miranda tries to instill worries in her about Dave being her new father. Lois and Dave eventually end up engaged and the finale is about their wedding.
  • December 13, 2015
    DAN004
    Dunno tho, this was made as a counterpart trope to Wicked Stepmother. Stepfathers tend to be not so wicked.
  • December 13, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    ^Wicked Stepfather is an existing redirect for Wicked Stepmother. Step-Parents are just universally seen in media as "meh" at best, usually they aren't well liked. One shown to be unambiguously good is kind of rare, I think.

    Wicked Stepfathers are less common because for some reason it's more acceptable/likely for the actual "Real" biological father to be an Abhorrent, Evil Parent than the "Real" mom to be. Because no one can imagine a mother being evil to her real children. So they get around that by making her a Step-parent.
  • March 3, 2016
    LordGro
    A new beginning ...

    I've rewritten the description to be more plot-heavy. The Good Stepmother acts as a mentor or protector who helps their stepchildren overcome difficulties and "succeed". "Is a real nice person" is not enough. I've marked the examples that need more context.

    I'm actually not sure if we should count the standard dom com plot "stepchildren think they are getting a wicked stepmom, but stepmom is actually nice" as the same trope.
  • March 3, 2016
    Lord-Jaric
    WebAnimation

    In RWBY Yang described to Blake her and Ruby's mother, Summer, as being a "Super-mom - baker of cookies and slayer of giant monsters!" however after Summer's death Yang found out that Summer was Ruby's birth mother but not hers. Her mother, Raven, left shortly after she was born.
  • March 3, 2016
    DAN004
    ^^ What do you think about Good Parents not being limited to such scenarios, then?
  • March 3, 2016
    Koolkev
    Anime And Manga

    • In Death Parade, Yousuke's mother was very abusive and neglectful to him and when she eventually abandoned him and his father, his father remarried and Yousuke's stepmother was a very kind and loving parent in contrast with his real mother. Sadly, Yousuke never accepted her and became depressed to the point of suicide. In fact, in the afterlife, his biggest regret was that he never got the chance to call his loving stepmother, "Mom".
  • March 4, 2016
    LordGro
    Not a subtrope of Good Parents. A Good Stepmother is something more specific than just a "new mother" (and she is not necessarily as close to their stepchildren as a mother). The father does not factor into the trope. Often he is quite out of focus.
  • March 4, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ maybe you wanna change the title. I'm just afraid of the misuse.
  • March 4, 2016
    LordGro
    How is Good Stepmother inviting misuse?
  • March 5, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ name is broader than what you intend the trope to be.

    Some tropes get renamed because of misuse, you see.
  • March 8, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    • Min-Seong from The Friendly Winter is a boy who lives with his step-mother Seo-Ha. He thinks she's the sweetest and most beautiful woman on the planet.
  • March 8, 2016
    DAN004
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=614ovbydp7qq6492sa17mbpu