Created By: ElectricNova on April 5, 2013 Last Edited By: ElectricNova on December 18, 2013
Troped

Invented Invalid

Character creates an imaginary sick, invalid or otherwise disabled relative who is used as an excuse to go off somewhere

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Algernon: I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may go down into the country whenever I choose.

Visiting a sick or injured relative is commonly accepted as a valid excuse to miss an event. If it's a close enough relative, you might even get out of work for that hospital visit. But who says you're really headed to the hospital?

So this trope comes into play When a character, often a rich aristocrat or Millionaire Playboy makes up a sick or invalid relative in order to escape their daily life/obligations, excusing to others their going out to town or to the country for example as a visit to said relative.

This can be played several ways. The "visit" could be an alibi to let that character visit The Handler, or an excuse to get out of sight before the full moon rises. Or, most likely, the character just can't face going out to dinner with the Obnoxious In-Laws, and invents a cousin on the other side of the family to explain his absence.

A subtrope of Invented Individual.


Help with examples please!


Anime and Manga
  • Whenever Vice Admiral Vergo in One Piece is going away, he claims it as "visiting his sick little sister". What he actually does is meeting his boss Doflamingo and/or his associates.

Film
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin mentions that he would often claim his mother was ill as an excuse for his frequent absences, since he didn't want anyone finding out he was a werewolf and needed to be away from the school during his transformations.

Literature
  • In later Discworld watch books, the City Watch gives an allowance of days off for three grandmother's funerals per year.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Elizabethan novels, Rhoslyn excuses her regular absences from attending on Mary Tudor by saying her brother has a chronic illness. (The brother is real, the illness isn't.)
  • In Belisarius Series the hunted runaway princess Shakuntala escaped the evil empire's city by dressing in the finery of-well-a princess-but a generic one rather then the one that they were looking for(to make sure anyone would be to intimidated by her awesome authority to question), and traveling in an ostentatiously princessly caravan to what she claimed was a dying father. Presumably that was felt needed to explain why a woman would be traveling in early medieval India.

Live-Action Television
  • Castle: When Castle's ditzy first ex-wife comes back into town, she at one point tells their daughter Alexis' high school that her grandmother has died so can she please be excused from classes. She neglects to mention that said grandmother died several years ago; she really just wanted to take Alexis shopping.
  • In Brit Com The Brittas Empire, Helen Brittas, the semi-sane and barely functioning wife of the idiot Gordon, uses this excuse to get away from the husband who is driving her mad. she claims she is going to nurse an invalid elderly uncle for two days, but as she is seen in stockings and suspenders and dressing to kill, the audience is primed to doubt this... she does pack a "nurse's outfit", though.
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Leonard makes up a story about going to a symphosium to keep from going to Penny's recital. Sheldon feels that story is insuficient and makes up a more elaborate one that involves going out of state to visit a cousin in rehab, even going as far as hiring an actor to play said cousin.
  • On MASH Klinger tries many times to get out of the army, including presenting the Colonel with a letter from home saying his mother is dying. The Colonel pulls out Klinger's file filled with letters from home saying his mother is dying, father is dying, sister is dying, sister is pregnant, sister is dying and mother pregnant, etc.

Theatre
  • This trope was codified, if not made by Oscar Wilde's 1895 comedic masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest, in which one of the main character's, Algernon, admits to inventing an entirely fictional invalid friend going by the name of 'Bunbury' whom he "visits" whenever "Bunbury" is "sick"; actually as an excuse to leave town and set off to do whatever he may please. A similar scheme is also used by his friend who goes by the name "Ernest", (actually one Jack Worthing) which, under similar circumstances to Algernon's "Bunbury", is a character Jack has invented to allow himself the excuse to visit town from his country home. When in town, he adopts the Persona of Ernest so as to keep up appearances.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy's mother calls in saying that she has to visit a sick aunt, whose name she invents on the spot. She does this along with the mothers of Timmy's other friends so they can go on a relaxing ski retreat alone.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Meg knocks on the door of the boy she was going to go to the prom with. He answers, then goes back into the house for a minute. We hear a gunshot, and he comes back out crying that he can't go because he must attend his brother's funeral. He didn't "make up" his brother's condition, but presumably created it by shooting him—so this could be the trope taken up to a pretty twisted eleven.)

Real Life
  • On April 5th 2013, a British social worker, Rachel Miles, was struck off the professional register for conduct unbecoming, in that to avoid difficult clients and get extra time off work, she invented a series of spurious deaths in the family and other calamities to claim compassionate leave. In quick succession, her father "died", her mother went insane with grief necessitating professional intervention, her mother then died of a broken heart, and similar deaths and indignities "happened" to her son, daughter, nephew, cousin and several other extended family members. Her curious employers made enquiries, unbelieving that so many deaths and critical illnesses could happen to one family in so short a time. Only to find them all fit and well... struck off for misconduct
Community Feedback Replies: 58
  • April 5, 2013
    StarSword
    Sorry, Trope Namer Syndrome is in full effect here. And I quote, "A general insistence that some work of fiction "deserves to be" a Trope Namer." Whether or not a possible trope naming work is obscure is not relevant. Whether the name clearly defines the trope is what matters.

    That being said, "fictional sick relative as an excuse" is a valid trope.

    TV:
    • Castle: When Castle's ditzy first ex-wife comes back into town, she at one point tells their daughter Alexis' high school that her grandmother has died so can she please be excused from classes. She neglects to mention that said grandmother died several years ago; she really just wanted to take Alexis shopping.
  • April 5, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    As not everyone has seen or read The Importance Of Being Earnest, calling Trope Namer Syndrome on this is still valid. Needs A Better Name.

    Perhaps Imaginary Invalid Relative Excuse?
  • April 5, 2013
    Duncan
    We already have Invented Individual, which was previously known as The Bunbury.
  • April 5, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Not the same thing.
  • April 5, 2013
    Astaroth
    • In Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Lupin mentions that he would often claim his mother was ill as an excuse for his frequent absences from Hogwarts, since he didn't want anyone finding out he was a werewolf and needed to be away from the school during his transformations.

    Edit: Wait, maybe I didn't understand this trope and the example's not valid; does the relative have to be invented, or just the sickness?
  • April 5, 2013
    ElectricNova
    Well I won't object to a change in name, though I feel that it is a bit unfair that Firefly, which is a obscure show that ran for 14 episodes before cancellation, deserves 6 while a classic and well known work of English literature does not. But this is probably irrelevant so i'll be quiet now.

    But I won't protest against a name change, because in the end it isn't the name that's important really, and I will go with the consensus of T Vtropes. And I don't want to be a jerk about it.

    Any ideas for better names?
  • April 5, 2013
    porschelemans
    It's true. I don't see how an obscure series like Firefly deserves multiple trope namers when something like The Importance Of Being Earnest, which (in the UK at least) EVERY TEENAGER READS IN ENGLISH CLASSES AS PART OF THE CURRICULUM.

    Trope Namer Syndrome is not in effect. This is a perfectly valid name.
  • April 5, 2013
    aurora369
    People watch Firefly all around the world. People have various literature curricula in different countries. Mine, for example, consisted of mostly classical Russian literature. So I know what Firefly is and don't know what The Importance of being Earnest is.

    More to the point, about the trope. I think "real relative, made up illness" is valid, too.
  • April 5, 2013
    AgProv
    Live Action Television

    In Brit Com The Britass Empire, Helen Britass, the semi-sane and barely functioning wife of the idiot Gordon, uses this excuse to get away from the husband who is driving her mad. she claims she is going to nurse an invalid elderly uncle for two days, but as she is seen in stockings and suspenders and dressing to kill, the audience is primed to doubt this... she does pack a "nurse's outfit", though.
  • April 5, 2013
    AgProv
    Real Life

    On April 5th 2013, a British social worker, Rachel Miles, was struck off the professional register for conduct unbecoming, in that to avoid difficult clients and get extra time off work, she invented a series of spurious deaths in the family and other calamities to claim compassionate leave. In quick succession, her father "died", her mother went insane with grief necessitating professional intervention, her mother then died of a broken heart, and similar deaths and indignities "happened" to her son, daughter, nephew, cousin and several other extended family members. Her curious employers made enquiries, unbelieving that so many deaths and critical illnesses could happen to one family in so short a time. Only to find them all fit and well... struck off for misconduct
  • April 5, 2013
    porschelemans
    People I've seen on the internet who've seen Firefly:

    • About a third of the Tropers
    • The guy who writes XKCD

    People I've seen outside of TV Tropes who've even heard of Firefly:

    People I've met who've read or seen The Importance Of Being Earnest:

    • Every single British person I've ever met over the age of 13

    This is irrelevant. But my point stands.

    I'm sure there was an episode of some cartoon I watched when I was a kid where this happens, but I can't remember which. Any help?
  • April 5, 2013
    porschelemans
    Perhaps we should change this to be called An Elder Relative Suffering From Bunbury Syndrome?
  • April 5, 2013
    StarSword
    Firefly gets away with it because of the Grandfather Clause: those tropes were named before Trope Namer Syndrome was identified and the rule instituted, and only a couple of them have TNS: I Call It Vera, for instance, demonstrates the trope definition of giving a personal name to one's weapon. Likewise The Verse is derived from Firefly in-universe slang, but is also a preexisting suffix applied to discussions of fictional settings.

    There's entirely too much importance given to whether something names a trope; you'll notice Trope Namers is categorized under TRIVIA now, and we're gradually moving all Trope Namer entries on work pages to Trivia subpages. How popular or well-known something is is immaterial to whether it should have a trope named after it. There's a reason the rule of thumb for trope titles is Clear Concise Witty, not Witty Clear Concise.

    In short, if you can find a way to name this after The Importance Of Being Earnest and demonstrate the trope at the same time, I'll agree with it. I will not agree with the current name.
  • April 5, 2013
    ElectricNova
    Well it's going to be changed, but to what I dont know
  • April 5, 2013
    StarSword
  • April 5, 2013
    porschelemans
  • April 5, 2013
    ElectricNova
    Porschlemans, please stop this. It's clear that there is going to have to be a name change, and this us starting to look like trolling slightly
  • April 5, 2013
    porschelemans
    But people not aware of the genius of Oscar Wilde don't deserve opinions...


    Umm... Anyway... A new name... Maybe we shouldn't have Bunbury in the title, but it should probably still be noted as the Trope Codifier... I doubt there's a better example...
  • April 5, 2013
    ElectricNova
  • April 5, 2013
    porschelemans
    Perhaps Conveniently Ill Fictional Relative Would be better suited to the trope described
  • April 5, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical
    Before we decide on a name, I think we need to decide if this is even tropable. I think we may have it covered as a combination of Invented Individual and Wild Card Excuse. And I don't think we have enough examples so far to justify a new trope. Out of the four non-real-life examples, only two deal with making up sick people, while the others make up sicknesses for real people, either healthy or deceased. The description either has to be broaden to include these other examples, or have the proposal discarded entirely.
  • April 5, 2013
    porschelemans
    I think it's still a trope. I've seen it in a fair few works, although I couldn't name any off the top of my head.

    I'd say it's a subtrope of Invented Individual, although I don't see anything particularly that makes it a Wild Card Excuse. When played straight and used on unknowing individuals it's a perfectly valid excuse, albeit an untrue one. It may be a lie, but it's not a Blatant Lie.
  • April 5, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical
    ^ A Wild Card Excuse is an excuse that a character always relies on to cover for anything. It has nothing to do with Blatant Lies, although it could be. Whether or not an excuse is valid or not does not keep it from being a Wild Card Excuse. In this case, if the character is constantly disappearing, and the excuse is always to go visit the sick relative, then it qualifies.
  • April 6, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Western Animation

    In an episode of Family Guy, Meg knocks on the door of the boy she was going to go to the prom with. He answers, then goes back into the house for a minute. We hear a gunshot, and he comes back out crying that he can't go because he must attend his brother's funeral.

    (He didn't "make up" his brother's condition, but presumably created it by shooting him--so this could be the trope taken up to a pretty twisted eleven.)
  • April 6, 2013
    porschelemans
    Why don't we just call it Conveniently Ill Invented Individual?
  • April 6, 2013
    AmyGdala
    All pages named after Firefly also suffer from Trope Namer Syndrome. We will never allow any new pages to be named after Firefly.
  • April 6, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Everyone is missing the obvious Invented Invalid.
  • April 6, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    I can see "I have to visit a sick relative" and the relative doesn't exist. Can the definition include attending the funerals of three dead grandmothers per year?
  • April 6, 2013
    AmyGdala
    ^^ Win.
  • April 6, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    Thirding Invented Invalid.
  • April 6, 2013
    porschelemans
    I'd say Invented Invalid is a good name. Should I change it, or should it be up to whoever created the YKTTW?

    Yes this can include three Grandmother's funerals.
  • April 6, 2013
    ElectricNova
    Yes, it seems like a good name. I'll change it to that for now, just a work in progress.
  • April 6, 2013
    TonyG
    On The Big Bang Theory, Leonard makes up a story about going to a symphosium to keep from going to Penny's recital. Sheldon feels that story is insuficient and makes up a more elaborate one that involves going out of state to visit a cousin in rehab, even going as far as hiring an actor to play said cousin.
  • April 6, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    In an episode of The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy's mother calls in saying that she has to visit a sick aunt, whose name she invents on the spot. She does this along with the mothers of Timmy's other friends so they can go on a relaxing ski retreat alone.

    In later Discworld watch books, the City Watch gives an allowance of days off for three grandmother's funerals per year.
  • April 6, 2013
    StarSword
    Add another vote in favor of Invented Invalid. Short, clear, and clever.
  • April 7, 2013
    porschelemans
    I think this is going to need a better description... Any volunteers?
  • April 10, 2013
    Antigone3
    Literature: In Mercedes Lackey's Elizabethan novels, Rhoslyn excuses her regular absences from attending on Mary Tudor by saying her brother has a chronic illness. (The brother is real, the illness isn't.)
  • April 10, 2013
    XFllo
    I like the trope and the name Invented Invalid. I see examples cover both invented ill people and fake funerals. I think it's ok, since Tropes Are Flexible, but I think the problem might be that people are not going to add examples with invented funerals because they often don't read descriptions and just assume they know a trope by its name.
    (Just to note: I'm perplexed by the discussion and the heated emotions. I know and love both he Importance of Being Earnest and Firefly. However, remember that Trope Namer is not a badge of honour. Tropes named after Firefly are comprehensible without ever seeing it. For instance, I Call It Vera is clearly a thing named as a person.)
  • April 10, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On MASH Klinger tries many times to get out of the army, including presenting the Colonel with a letter from home saying his mother is dying. The Colonel pulls out Klinger's file filled with letters from home saying his mother is dying, father is dying, sister is dying, sister is pregnant, sister is dying and mother pregnant, etc.
    Col. Blake: Klinger, aren't you ashamed of yourself?
    Klinger: Yes, sir. I don't deserve to be in the army.
  • April 10, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^As I said. Trope Namer Syndrome =/= "no new Trope Namers". It just means "make the trope name comprehensible without having to have seen the work you named it after". The two conditions aren't necessarily mutually exclusive (I managed to get a trope about cussing parrots named after Neverwinter Nights 2 because my idea followed those rules), but clarity takes priority.

    At least that's how I interpret it. Amy Gdala and I seem to disagree on that point. But we're getting sidetracked again.
  • July 17, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Bump!

    What needs to be done here?
  • July 18, 2013
    DAN004
    Anime And Manga
    • Whenever Vice Admiral Vergo in One Piece is going away, he claims it as "visiting his sick little sister". What he actually does is meeting his boss Doflamingo and/or his associates.
  • July 31, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Name Spaced and italicized a bunch of examples. Also, linked the examples to their own pages if they weren't already.

    By the way, you should either move that Harry Potter example to Literature section or link it to the film page (Harry Potter). It's a bit illogical that the example is in the Film section but links to the page for the book.
  • August 1, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Allow me to offer this page quote, (which might be considered in the nature of a peace offering to those who are appalled to learn that Oscar Wilde isn't as widely read as people thought):
    Algernon: You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to town as often as you like. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bubbury, in order that I may go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at Willis's to-night, for I have been really engaged to Aunt Augusta for more than a week.

    I think the description needs to be broadened a bit. It need not not be wealthy people using this sort of excuse, and it is essentially an excuse to cover an absence from work/school/social obligations.
  • August 1, 2013
    arbiter099
    Would Norman Bates' mother from Psycho count?
  • August 1, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Hard to say. Strictly speaking, I'd say not (especially since her corpse is in the work). OTOH, presumably Klinger had a mother and a father, even possibly a sister. Perhaps this one is flexible enough to include excuses involving actual relatives as well as fictional ones.
  • November 14, 2013
    ElectricNova
    Um, well no one has posted a reply for several months, but I still feel this has potential. Sorry for the necro.

    Needs a few more examples.

  • December 11, 2013
    Antigone3
    Suggested description rewrite:

    Visiting a sick or injured relative is commonly accepted as a valid excuse to miss an event. If it's a close enough relative, you might even get out of work for that hospital visit. But who says you're really headed to the hospital? Invented Invalid is when a character uses a fake story about poor sick Insert Name Here as an excuse to head off elsewhere.

    This can be played several ways. The "visit" could be an alibi to let that character visit The Handler, or an excuse to get out of sight before the full moon rises. Or the character just can't face going out to dinner with the Obnoxious In Laws, and invents a cousin on the other side of the family to explain his absence.

    A subtrope of Invented Individual.
  • December 11, 2013
    robinjohnson
    Correcting the second 'whom' in the The Importance Of Being Earnest example. (If you're interested, "who" is the nominative and "whom" is the accusative; it maps to I/me, he/him, etc. It's totally okay these days just to use "who", but an incorrect "whom" is likely to drive pedants to violence.)
  • December 11, 2013
    Jallen
    Really? You guys chose "Invalid"?

    I'm not terribly PC and I get that it's alliteration, and you've already had some naming issues, but that might cause offense to some.
  • December 11, 2013
    jatay3
    In Belisarius Series the hunted runaway princess Shakuntala escaped the evil empire's city by dressing in the finery of-well-a princess-but a generic one rather then the one that they were looking for(to make sure anyone would be to intimidated by her awesome authority to question), and traveling in an ostentatiously princessly caravan to what she claimed was a dying father. Presumably that was felt needed to explain why a woman would be traveling in early medieval India.
  • December 11, 2013
    DAN004
    Maybe Invented Ill Individual work better.
  • December 12, 2013
    ElectricNova
    ^^^^^Antigone3, I integrated your rewrite into the original description. I kept the original bit because I felt it helped to sum up the trope well, but with your section it flows more smoothly and is more humorous.
  • December 14, 2013
    porschelemans
    May I suggest that we use the quote as suggested by 69BookWorM69, but shorten it to:

    Algernon: I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may go down into the country whenever I choose.
  • December 14, 2013
    JonnyB
    In the MASH episode, "Mail Call", Klinger tries to get sent home by claiming he just received word that a family member was dying.
    [Klinger reads Henry a letter from his mom that says his dad's dying]
    Henry Blake: The father dying, right?
    Klinger: Yes, sir.
    Henry: [takes out a stack of papers and reads them:] Father dying last year. Mother dying last year. Mother AND father dying. Mother, father, and older sister dying. Mother dying and older sister pregnant. Older sister dying and mother pregnant. Younger sister pregnant and older sister dying. Here's an oldie but a goodie: Half of the family dying, other half pregnant.
  • December 14, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^The standard formatting is:
    "I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may go down into the country whenever I choose."
  • December 18, 2013
    ElectricNova
    Honestly I think this has a decent enough amount of examples. One more hat and we should be able to launch it.

    If anyone has any more examples (or a hat?) though they would be appreciated.
  • December 18, 2013
    DAN004
    I kinda disagree with "Invalid".
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=oq260xb9m1s746dp15ork3l1