Created By: HelloLamppost on October 6, 2011 Last Edited By: HelloLamppost on August 13, 2016

Hiding ET From The Grown-Ups

Kinds encounter fantasy stuff and instinctively keep it a secret

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In almost any work of fiction where children encounter some weird fantasy element, the default assumption is that it has to be kept secret from all grown-ups, at any cost. There is rarely any reason given for this, not even a simple reason that a young child might have. It's just a universally accepted genre convention (the same way that if you get super-powers, you instinctively know you have to keep it secret, put on a mask, and start finding muggers to beat up.)

This is justified if all the grown-ups around are clearly untrustworthy, but that's rarely the case. Usually the kids love their parents very much, but still have enormous fun keeping this world-shattering secret from them.

Sometimes this is done at the fantastic beings' request, in order to perpetuate The Masquerade or to honor the Prime Directive.

Alternately, the kids may be Genre Savvy enough to recognize that The World Is Not Ready for whatever they've discovered, and it's best kept under wraps lest it fall into the wrong hands.

This can take on an extremely creepy vibe if the trusted alien buddy is secretly evil and the child doesn't know it. However, this is rarely the case.

In reality, the main reason this trope exists is almost certainly because these stories are a metaphor for childrens' games of "Let's Pretend," in which there would be no reason to tell the details of the game to an adult.

Naturally, this overlaps with many instances of child Super Heroes, who have the standard Secret Identity problems to deal with, regardless of their age.

This trope does not apply in situations where the obvious parental figure is a Secret Keeper, such as Ma and Pa Kent to the Pre Crisis Superboy or Grandpa Max to Ben 10. It does, however, still apply in situations where a less obvious adult is let in on the secret, such as Hogarth Hughes telling Dean about The Iron Giant, but not his mother.

Compare to Wunza Plot, which often involves an adult trying to keep some wacky supernatural thing a secret from the world.

Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • October 6, 2011
    You're also leaving out the other three reasons kids keep stuff like this secret:
    • Adults Are Useless so there's no help to be had if the alien buddy needs it.
    • Adults will freak out and get overprotective or take away the alien buddy.
    • You are keeping an alien from another dimension in your closet? You Are Grounded!

  • October 6, 2011
    This is a good trope. It almost approaches omnipresent territory in kid/fantasy fiction.

    Related Tropes: Parental Obliviousness, Not Now Kiddo, and even Invisible To Adults.

    Other examples: Danny Phantom and Dexters Laboratory
  • October 7, 2011
  • October 7, 2011
    • Inverted in Planet51 where the alien kids have to hide the human from the alien government.
  • October 7, 2011
    ^^ That reminds me, exactly along what lines are the tropes distinguished?
  • October 7, 2011
    The entire movie Aliens In The Attic
  • October 7, 2011
    Actually, The Outer Limits—"The Special One" triple subverts it. The alien teacher is secretly evil; the parents find out about this and try to warn the kid; and it turns out the kid knew all along that the alien was evil and was tricking him into defeating himself.
  • October 7, 2011
    I fail to see how Planet 51 is an inversion. An inverse of this trope would be adults keeping something a secret from the kids. I believe in Planet 51, the kid did try to keep the secret from his parent in addition to the government, so I still think it's played straight.
  • October 7, 2011
  • October 7, 2011
  • October 7, 2011
    Madoka Magica creepy version where the fantastic being is ripping out their souls and leading them on the path to death. Did I mention this show was based on Faust?
  • October 7, 2011
    Originally played straight on Sesame Street, with Big Bird's "imaginary" friend, Mr. Snuffleupagus. Every time the grownups would show up, Snuffy had just conveniently disappeared, so everyone thought Big Bird was making him up. That is, until the producers worried that this sent the wrong message to kids (i.e., even if you're telling the truth about something, if the adults don't see it, they're not gonna believe you). Reasoning that this might reinforce the "it's our little secret" thing that often results in some kids hiding things like abuse, they finally let the grownups see that Big Bird had been telling the truth all along.
  • October 7, 2011
    All of those examples are One Word Examples and therefore invalid, they need descriptions. Also Needs A Better Title.
  • October 8, 2011
    Fixing the one-word examples:

    • Ace Lightning: Living video game characters kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Captain Marvel: Subverted. Billy is an orphan, so he has no parents to tell. He actually does share his secret with the closest authority figures available to him-- His radio station boss Sterling Morris in the Golden Age, and Superman in the Modern Age.
    • Chalk Zone: Living chalk drawings kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Denver The Last Dinosaur: Rock n' roll dinosaur kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Dial H For Hero: Super-power granting device kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Digimon Tamers: Digital monsters kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Dinosaucers: Space dinosaurs kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Dragon Tales: Dragons kept secret from grown-ups.
    • ET The Extra Terrestrial: Alien kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Fairly Oddparents: Fairies kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Figure 17: Aliens kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Five Children And It: Fairy kept secret from grown-ups.
    • The Indian In The Cupboard: Magic gizmo that can bring toys to life kept secret from grown-ups.
    • The Iron Giant: Giant robot kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Little Monsters: Parallel universe kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Madoka Magica: Creepy version where the fantastic being is ripping out their souls and leading them on the path to death. Did I mention this show was based on Faust?
    • Melvin And His Monster: Supernatural creatures kept secret from grown-ups.
    • The Outer Limits episode "The Special One": Triple subversion. The alien teacher is secretly evil; the parents find out about this and try to warn the kid; and it turns out the kid knew all along that the alien was evil and was tricking him into defeating himself.
    • Planet 51: Inversion because it's a fantasy creature hiding a human from other fantasy creatures, instead of a human hiding a fantasy creature from other humans.
    • Power Pack: Super-hero identities kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Sigmund And The Sea Monsters: Sea monsters kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Sonic X, in the early episodes. Extradimensional talking animals kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Spider Man, in his younger days. Super-hero identity kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Star Stuff: Device that can communicate with the future kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Static Shock: Super-hero identity kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Three Two One Penguins: Space penguins kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Word Girl: Super-hero identity kept secret from grown-ups.

    Oh, and Big Bird is more of an inversion. He was constantly trying to tell the grown-ups about Snuffy, but he could never prove it, and they didn't believe him. It still counts, though.

    Here's another reason kids might keep things secret: If they know they have no way to prove their wild claims (such as with a creature who is Invisible To Adults), they may decide there's no point embarrassing themselves by talking about it. Poor Amy Pond could have saved herself a lot of grief by going that route.

    Any suggestions for a different title? Or stick with this one?
  • October 8, 2011
    Tropes Are Flexible.

    This can be covered by Batman In My Basement.
  • October 8, 2011
    I don't think so. That's more about literally hiding something important, and the kid may or may not have any association with it. This trope is more of a plot-related trope and refers to the story as a whole. For instance, The Iron Giant is listed as an example there, but not for the reasons that it's listed as an example here.
  • October 8, 2011
    If kids don't necessarily have to do with it, Then state it in the trope description.

    I see where you are trying to go with this, but you need to make some clear distinctions from other tropes.
  • October 8, 2011
    Sometimes the trope is protected by the Cassandra Truth effect:

    • When Rod Albright, compulsive truth-teller, plays host to aliens, he naturally keeps it a secret from his parents. But when they break down his homework to fuel their food generators, he has no choice but to explain to his teacher, "Aliens Ate My Homework", gets in trouble for lying.
  • October 8, 2011
    As it stands, Batman In My Basement is a much narrower subtrope of this, referring specifically to hiding someone; and it does not specify that the hider is a child, or that the hidden person is anything other than a Muggle. An old woman hiding refugees from the Nazis would still fall under Batman In My Basement.

    This trope refers to any situation where a child is keeping the existence of some weird, fantasy-or-sf-related thing a secret: a portal to a magical land out in the woods, the fact that an old wizard gave him superpowers yesterday, that all the toys in her dollhouse come to life every night, that he has a secret laboratory behind the wall, that his dreams sometimes predict the future, whatever. In a very large percentage of kids' fiction, the kid who discovers this stuff will keep it secret, or at least a secret from their parents and most of the authority figures in their lives, and will often not have much reason for doing it except genre tradition.

    The "adults kept out of the loop" should apply primarily to Muggle adults, and especially to those adults closest to the child. It doesn't count that Billy Batson shares his secret identity with the old wizard Shazam, since Shazam gave him his powers in the first place.

    If the child and his whole family unit are not Muggles themselves, this trope can still apply if the child discovers something weird that is unrelated to his family's unusual nature and keeps it secret. For instance, if Franklin Richards discovered a ghost in living in the attic of the Baxter Building and kept it a secret, it would still count.

    More examples:
    • The Tomorrow People: A group of super-powered kids are the next step in human evolution, and are waiting for the right time to reveal their existence to the outside world.
    • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Time travel powers kept secret.
    • Beezbo: A children's video teaching politeness and manners. An alien disguises himself as a little boy, and some other children agree to help him learn human customs (that is, manners). Naturally they don't tell anyone he's an alien.
    • Jeannie: Hanna Barbera cartoon based loosely on I Dream Of Jeannie, about a teenage boy with a cute genie.
    • The animated version of Punky Brewster has a magical pet... um, thing named Glowmer.
    • Most incarnations of the Power Rangers keep their identities secret; as well as the Rangers' various Captain Ersatz shows like Big Bad Bettleborgs and VR Troopers.
    • Rubik The Amazing Cube: Weird, wish-granting cube kept secret from grown-ups.
    • Young Bucky Barnes is secretly the sidekick of Captain America! Or he was until he got retconned into having been a grown-up himself all along.
    • For years, Rick Jones was the only person who knew Bruce Banner was The Incredible Hulk. Of course, like Billy Batson, Rick was an orphan and didn't have any close adult confidants to tell anyway.
    • The Weird Science TV series, about two teenage boys and their secret computer-generated "genie."
    • In Tenchi Muyo, Sasami and her whole family are alien royalty, but she hasn't told them that she's secretly a goddess names Tsunami. She mistakenly thinks that means she's not the real Sasami, and that if she tells them, they won't love her any more. She's wrong on both counts.

    Can overlap with: Parental Obliviousness (when the grown-ups have Weirdness Censors, so keeping a secret isn't very hard), Batman In My Basement (when you're hiding somebody), Secret Keeper (when you're keeping somebody else's big secret), Secret Identity (when you're a super-hero), and Invisible Parents (when adult authority figures never even enter into the story). Compare to: Invisible To Adults (when showing the grown-ups what you've found isn't even possible) and Cassandra Truth (when you do tell, but no one believes you).

    For a new name, how about "Kid Conspiracy," "Kiddie Conspiracy," or (dare I say it), "Kidspiracy." I like Kid Conspiracy best, myself.
  • October 13, 2011
  • October 14, 2011
    • Fairly Oddparents is only partly this trope. If anybody finds out about the fairy godparents they get taken away forever, even other kids (except if the kid who finds out has a godparent(s) of their own).
  • October 15, 2011
    No, the godparents only get taken away if someone who doesn't know about the fairies finds out. Timmy and Remy Buxaplenty both know about each other's godparents. Not only that, there was an episode where they got to compete with other kids who had godparents. Finally, the whole issue with Mr. Crocker. He's seen (and even caught) Cosmo and Wanda multiple times, but since he knew about fairies prior to those incidents Timmy doesn't lose them.
  • October 15, 2011
    Timmy and Remy both know about each other's, but Da Rules indicate Timmy couldn't ask directly if Remy had a fairy and Cosmo and Wanda could not tell directly. Timmy resorted to "I wish you'd tell" to force Wanda to tell them about Wandissimo. Remy was jealous that Timmy had two fairies to his one, which is why there was a fight where loser lost his fairies (although Remy later got his back). Crocker's mind has been wiped repeatedly (usually along with the rest of the world due to Timmy wishing it so after defeating him). But he's obsessed with them, so even with the mindwipe he remains convinced about Timmy's FAIRIES!!!!!. Plus fairykind knows Crocker is an enemy to Timmy, so he needs his fairies to be safe from him (and Vicky and Dark Laser).

  • October 17, 2011
    Hmmmm ... I'm not sure if there's also a trope the flip side of this where the kid tries to tell his parents, but they don't believe him. Oh yes, Parental Obliviousness and many others, already noted. (slightly face palms)
  • October 17, 2011
    FWIW, Mr. Snuffalupagus wouldn't count, as Big Bird was constantly trying to tell adults about his friend: they just didn't believe him.
  • October 18, 2011
    • In Pod People, the kid hides Trumpy from his mom.
  • August 13, 2016
    Bump, this is interestinf