I don't know what it is, but when I kiss you, it's like kissing my brother.
While it can be flattering or pleasing to be the target of romantic attentions from someone else, this is usually not the case when your admirer is actually a blood relative who is ignorant of who you really are in relation to them. This trope involves a character unknowingly falling in love with a parent, offspring, sibling or other relative. It differs from Surprise Incest
in that the object of affection is well aware of the consanguinity, and generally the audience is too. This sets up a potentially delicate situation rife with Dramatic Irony
if the target is compelled to keep the blood relationship a secret and tactfully ward off the romantic advances.
There are many possible reasons for this situation. Sometimes the two relatives begin the story in a normal family relationship with a significant age gap, and then something happens which interferes both with their age gap and with one's ability to recognize the other: maybe one has travelled back (or foward) in time
to when the other was (or will be) of a similar age, or maybe they have undergone a Fountain of Youth
or Overnight Age-Up
, so that these previously age-separated family members are now interacting as peers, but only one is aware of their familial ties. Alternatively, Applied Phlebotinum
may have altered the appearance of one to the point of being unrecognizable, or amnesia or a Separated at Birth
scenario may be involved.
The upshot is that one of the two people sees the other person as a potential mate and consequently unknowingly falls for their own relative. Thankfully, this crush generally remains unrequited, but if the two of them do end up having and consummating a relationship, it may lead to My Own Grampa
. If Time Travel
is involved, then this will be an incestuous Time Travel Romance
Why, and for how long, the target keeps the familial ties a secret varies between stories, but in Time Travel
or Applied Phlebotinum
situations it generally has to do with not wanting to change the future or mess the other person up psychologically. The blood relationship may never even have to be revealed, especially if the object of affection can walk out of the other person's life and revert to their original situation.
A variation on this trope trope can also occur when a third party who is likewise ignorant of the two characters' kinship is encouraging them to get together
The Trope Maker
is Back to the Future
, in which Marty McFly accidentally travels back 30 years in time, where his teenaged mother falls for him. Compare Surprise Incest
and My Own Grandpa
Anime & Manga
- In Galilei Donna, Galileo falls in love with Hozuki (his descendant) who accidentally traveled in the past. Unlike most examples she isn't horrified by this.
- One of the strips from 2000 AD involves a Chronocop who got arrested by his partner for attempting to marry his own grandmother, inverting this trope.
- Back to the Future is the Trope Maker and one of the most famous examples. After Doc invents a time machine and he's testing it out with Marty in 1985, Marty accidentally sends himself back in time to 1955, where he meets his mother as a teenager by way of accidentally displacing his father in the scenario that had previously led to their first meeting. The rest of the film revolves around Marty fixing things so that Lorraine is dissuaded from her crush on him and gets together with George McFly so that Marty and his siblings won't disappear out of existence.
- One result of Mike O'Donnell getting to be 17 Again is that he has multiple teenage girls chasing after him, including his daughter Maggie.
- Played with in Meet the Robinsons. Lewis time travels to the future with Wilbur Robinson and likes Wilbur's family so much that he wants Wilbur's parents to adopt him. It then turns out that Wilbur's dad is Lewis, with the mom as his future wife. She then meets him as a young girl around his age at the science fair. Despite the fact that Lewis had spent a good amount of time thinking of Franny as, and hoping she'd agree to become, his mom, he presumably doesn't do anything to fight the possibility of romance between them. Thankfully, they aren't blood related, but still.
Live Action TV
- Time Enough for Love: Lazarus Long goes back in time to when he's a young boy and ends up having an affair with his mother. It starts when she flirts with him, not knowing that he is her son. He is well aware of this fact, but is perfectly willing to accept and return her attentions in this manner.
- A short story by Edgar Allan Poe called "The Spectacles" plays this for Black Comedy. The narrator sees a beautiful young woman at the theater and subsequently falls hard for and marries her. Once he puts on the eponymous spectacles, though, it turns out that she is a toothless old woman. It is further revealed that she is his great-great-grandmother. Fortunately, though, the wedding ceremony was a fake one.
- In "A Clash of Kings" from A Song of Ice and Fire, Theon Greyjoy meets and falls for his sister Asha, who is disguised as a shipwright's wife, and who flirts with him mischievously simply to find out how time has changed him.
- In Johnny Tremain, the protagonist has a crush on the beautiful and haughty Lavinia Lyte. Later on she reveals that he is related to the Lytes through his mother, making her his aunt. Johnny realizes that he can't have a crush on his own aunt, and it immediately poofs out of his mind.
- In one episode of Dollhouse, a woman's personality was uploaded into a much younger Active's body so she could solve her own murder. As she looks nothing like her real self, her own son tries to make out with her. However, it is subverted when it turns out that the son knows that his mother was imprinted in Echo's body, and still wanted her.
- In the Doctor Who serial "Father's Day", Rose goes back in time and meets her father, Pete, while he was still alive (and while the original Rose was just a baby). She reacts with horror when he flirts with her.
Rose: I think he left me.
Pete: What, a pretty girl like you? If I was going out with you...
Rose: Stop right there.
Pete: I was just saying…
Rose: I know what you're saying, and we're not going there. At no point are we going anywhere near there. You aren't even aware that there exists. I don't even want to think about there, and believe me, neither do you. There for you is like, like the Bermuda Triangle.
Pete: Blimey, you know how to flatter a bloke.
- Star Trek DS9 Trials and Tribbleations: Bashir identifies a woman as his great-grandmother by her surname, and wants to get intimate with her to ensure his own birth. Partly played straight in that she seems to be flirting with him, but it's more of an inversion because he is the one who is more clearly eager for them to get it on.
O'Brien: You're being ridiculous.
Bashir: Ridiculous? If I don't meet with her tomorrow I may never be born!... You saw the way she looked at me. You can't just dismiss this.
O'Brien: I can try.
Bashir: All right - fine! But I can't wait to get back to Deep Space Nine and see your face when you find out that I never existed!
- The eponymous character of American Dragon Jake Long time travels to his parents' high school years and accidentally causes a falling out between them. When Jake meets his grandfather in the past, his grandfather is so pleased that his daughter Susan brought home a Chinese boy rather than a white boy like Jonathan that he eagerly suggests that she date Jake rather than Jonathan. Neither are keen on this idea (Susan because she still has feelings for Jonathan and Jake because of the whole Parental Incest thing)
- The main character of Futurama, Fry, goes back in time to Roswell, New Mexico as it was in 1947. He meets the people he's known his whole life to be his paternal grandparents, Private Enos Fry and his fiancee Mildred. Fry does everything possible to ensure Enos's survival and procreation with Mildred, only to accidentally cause his death. After Enos dies, Mildred becomes attracted to Fry because he reminds her of Enos. Fry correctly deduces that since Enos died without impregnating anyone with his father, then Enos is not his grandfather. He then decides that because Enos is not his grandfather, Mildred is not his grandmother, and starts having sex with her without any qualms, subverting this trope. It turns out to be a double subversion, as Mildred is indeed his grandmother and Fry has conceived his father with her, making himself his own grandfather in the process.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Bulma quickly develops a crush on her future son Trunks when he time travels to the past, much to his private horror.
Indices: Incest Is Relative
, Time Travel Tropes