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In fiction, aliens with advanced technologies and societies
are oftentimes able to travel faster than light
, blow up entire planets
, and other such feats. However the Puny Earthlings
have one major advantage over these nearly all-powerful beings: parental skills.
For some bizarre reason, many aliens, especially Starfish Aliens
, seem to utterly lack skills in parenting. They will oftentimes give their offspring away, subject them to Training from Hell
to make them "Space Spartans"
, or sometimes just eat them. Never mind the fact that most of the brainier animals on the planet all give some level of parental care, the idea never seems to sink into sentient races unlike humanity. There appears to be no logical
reason for this, except to accentuate the differences between the aliens and humans
, and give the humans in the story or reading the story a reason to dislike the aliens.
This trope isn't just limited to aliens and other interstellar beings. The trope also pops up in non-human races that are distinctly Terran in origin. This trope can lead to Freudian Excuses
for the aliens' actions and may even lead a race to be Always Chaotic Evil
See also No Blood Ties
Anime & Manga
- Before the events of Dragon Ball Z, the Saiyans send their infants off to fend for themselves... and destroy planets. Without Frieza's influence, though, the last Saiyans left alive do care about their young.
- The Technarchs, ladies and gentlemen. Best known as the race of Warlock of the New Mutants, every child of this creche-raised techno-organic species has to face their parent in single combat to the death. This really sucks for Warlock because his "mutation" means he has a conscience. He is the only member of his race that thinks this is messed up. Oh, and his father is the Technarch leader the Magus, the most powerful Technarch alive who is big enough rip apart stars. And Warlock was supposed to fight this guy by himself. No wonder he ran.
- Invincible and his father Omni-Man are a variation. Omni-Man is a wonderful, loving father... until he reveals to Mark that he's an alien invader and he wants Mark to join him in subjugating the planet. When Mark refuses, a Curb-Stomp Battle ensues and Mark is nearly killed. Viltrumite society is rather violent in general, with the weak being killed at birth and half of the population weeded out by a planet-wide brawl.
- How do they have a self sustaining population?
- Subverted and played straight with the prawns in District 9. While a good chunk of the prawns just raise their young and abandon them to fend for themselves in the grime of the eponymous District, Christopher Johnson is a very loving father to his son.
- It's implied to be a mix between they just can't raise their young due to being so poor, and just not caring. But it is clear in Christopher's blog that many do care for their young.
- It's also implied that the MNU are just flat out lying to the people of Earth, in order to make them seem less likable to the people of Earth, so no one bats an eye to how bad the prawns have been treated in the eponymous district.
- On the other hand it's implied that the prawns have a Hive Caste System and most of them are stupid workers or warriors while Christopher (who is quite visibly smarter than most of the others) and his son are some sort of leader or scientist caste.
- The Martians in Mars Needs Moms! have their offspring pop out of the ground every twenty-five years and are raised by nanny-bots programmed with the fatally extracted memories of abducted human mothers. Or rather the females are, the males are dumped down the garbage chutes where they've formed a tribal society that actually does care for their children. And it turns out that the Supervisor is entirely responsible for their Brave New World-esque society, and once she's overthrown they start forming nuclear families.
- Possibly the Martians in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. They plug their kids into learning machines to educate them, meaning the children never have any sort of fun, and are described as just being small adults. Then the parents wonder why they just sit there emotionlessly staring at the TV-equivalent all day. The parents do care about them and are seeking a cure. Having a fat man enter the room and laugh at them for thirty seconds seems to do the trick.
- Martian culture doesn't seem to know what fun is, bar one ancient and eccentric hermit. It's mentioned that the children didn't start acting depressed until they started watching Earth TV, which seems to have taught them the concept.
- In the A Sound of Thunder spinoff books, Struth's people give their eggs to other sapient dinosaurs, and have them raise them instead.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs:
- In the John Carter of Mars series, the Green Martians shuffle their eggs upon laying, in order to avoid emotional attachments to them, seeing as their society actively disdains love and kindness. Their society actually punishes parents who try to be nice to their adopted children.
- From the same author, the Coripies of Pellucidar.
- One of Tolkien's attempts to justify the Always Chaotic Evil-ness of orcs uses this trope as an explanation. Tolkien had a hard time reconciling the notion of an inherently evil race with his belief in free will.
- The Yuuzhan Vong of the Star Wars Expanded Universe give their offspring to workers to be raised in caste-specific creches. It seems Yuuzhan Vong know perfectly well who their parents and children are - they just don't care. And then, it's repeatedly made clear that Domain (the Vong term for extended family or clan) loyalty is one of the pillars of their society. They may not be raised by their parents, but as a rule they're very devoted to their families as a whole.
- Neimoidians (like Nute Gunray) are even worse, they just dump their kids in grub farms and leave them there to fend for themselves. They are given little food and have to fight each other to survive, only the strongest live, and the weak starve. One Duros (species of whom Neimoidians are a Lost Colony of) expresses disgust at this custom after being mistaken for a Neimoidian, stating that "at least we take care of our young".
- The Taxxons in Animorphs are a race of giant centipedes who, if they so much as get a paper cut, they will be devoured alive by other Taxxons. Taxxon reproduction is not mentioned in the series, but given their habits one could probably make a pretty good assumption at the leading cause of death among Taxxon babies.
- The Andalite Chronicles mentions Taxxons naturally having (sentient!) hives, so maybe they have a queen or something?
- From the same series, the Yeerks. They reproduce via a three-slug orgy, after which they die, and from their mashed up ball of flesh comes many baby Yeerks, so that Yeerks never know their parents. (Interestingly, though, they do retain sibling relationships afterwards, even though they're all just a bunch of slugs swimming around in a pool.)
- Except Visser Three, who goes out of his way to sabotage any attempt his twin makes at gaining any sort of power. But then again, he's Ax-Crazy anyway, and not that good of a representative of his species.
- "Sibling relationships" don't necessarily imply good ones. Though there's a passing reference to him hanging out with his twin in The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, so they may have gotten along better before either was high enough on the totem pole for power to be an issue.
- The regul from C. J. Cherryh's Faded Sun Trilogy treat all children as expendable slaves; the survival rate to adulthood is less than one in a hundred, and most pre-adult regul are killed, often quite casually, by adults of their own kind.
- The extremely alien aliens from David Brin's Uplift universe practice every variation of this trope. The underlying message appears to be that each species has evolved its own way of ensuring reproductive success. Galactic politics, while opportunistic at best, usually tends to shake out into the "have few offspring but invest as much in each as you can" species versus the "have lots of offspring and cull the weak" species when push comes to shove.
- The Baby Eaters from Eliezer Yudkowsky's short story "Three Worlds Collide." They evolved from a species that lived in a resource-poor area and practiced cannibalism to survive, although they obviously don't eat all their babies, just enough to prevent starvation. They have evolved a culture where eating babies is considered the basis of all morality and the word for "to be ethical" is the same as the word for "to eat babies." The Super Happy People from the same story consider humans to be Abusive Alien Parents because we do not use genetic engineering to remove our children's ability to feel pain.
- In Frank Herbert's ConSentiency series (The Dosadi Experiment, Whipping Star, etc), the Gowachin "tads" (an obvious derivation of "tadpole", ie, their youngsters) are pursued in their ponds by the adult Gowachin, with the very clear implication that the slow ones are eaten by the adults. This is said to form large parts of the Gowachin psyche.
- The Monsters of Morley Manor has a brief sequence in which the narrator reanimates the corpse of an alien Child Soldier, and experiences all of that soldier's memories, beginning with a time he was left alone on a mountain overnight to toughen him up. (He also mentions, but refuses to describe further, a time when four children were left alone in a room with only enough water for two of them to survive until the day they were scheduled to be released.)
- Averted in the book-length ''Rocheworld''. The Flouwen are shown to be very kind to an offspring 'born' after the humans reach their planet. (It's complicated.)
- The Doctor in Doctor Who has stated that Gallifreyan children are shipped off to the academy at age eight, and forced to look into an untempered time vortex. This is what reputedly created the Doctor's evil foil, the Master.
- The Slitheen are also hinted to have this style of parenting in some episodes; with Blon Fel Fotch being threatened with death if she didn't continue the family tradition. It should be noted that the Slitheen are not a species, but a family. We have no idea how the average Raxacoricofallapatorian parent treats their kids.
- In Star Trek: Voyager a reptilian Delta Quadrant race seems to abandon its young on a planet with no apparent caretakers. While the parent does come to check up on it, it was still left unguarded in a cave.
- Subversion: another race seems to do something similar, but in reality the children are actually the elderly, who turn into children again before finally disappearing forever.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Changelings sent Odo and many others like him out into space as new-made infants, without much if any concern over what might happen to them. Although this was supposedly done as an experiment to see what cultural values the group of infants would absorb in being raised by alien species, as a way of learning about these species before making official contact.
- Not necessarily species-wide, but in V (2009), Anna crushes one of her own eggs to make a point, and subsequently has her daughter's legs broken for the sake of a publicity stunt.
- Farscape. Depends on your definition of abuse, but Sebacean children born into the Peacekeeper ranks never meet their parents and are put through military training from a very young age. At the very least, they rob the kids of any sort of childhood.
- Additionally, parents are severely punished if they ever try to contact their child which turns out to be a pretty good deterrent against any "good" parenting. Aeryn's mother, Xhalax, visited Aeryn once, when she was a very young girl. For this infraction, Xhalax was demoted and forced to kill Aeryn's father.
- The Teletubbies are supposed to be toddlers (around the same age as the show's Target Audience), but they have no parents. They get food from machines in their hill house thing, and they have an apparently sentient vacuum cleaner to clean up after them. The closest thing they have to any sort of parental guidance is the "voice trumpets." (Which, like human toddlers, they aren't always inclined to listen to.)
- My Parents Are Aliens in which two clueless aliens arrive on Earth and seek to blend in by taking on human form and adopting children to bring up. This is more benign neglect combined with misunderstandings, although the Social Services Does Not Exist trope is averted - Social Services takes a close interest, and this adds further hilarity.
- In one episode of Andromeda Tyr, a member of a Human Subspecies known for being protective of their children, objects to the crew dealing with an alien merchant of a species known for eating their young.
- Nightsiders on the other hand will toss their larvae in an ocean and watch as they eat one another.
- The Drow in Dungeons & Dragons, punished like crazy when young to make them paranoid, cunning, and cruel. In fact the wholesale treachery and slaughter inherent in their race has gotten to the point where the only reason they survive is because their batshit insane goddess, Lolth, has willed it.
- The Illithid mind flayers begin their lives as tadpole like larvae living in the pool containing the Illithit Elder Brain. The Brain excretes material that the larvae eat, but will also attempt to catch and eat any larvae it can. Only a very small percentage of the larvae reach the stage where they can become full-grown Illithids. And if the full-grown Illithid avoids getting itself killed by an adventurer or something, its brain will be eaten by the Elder Brain anyway. It gets them coming and going.
- Beholders will select a few of the newborn Beholders that look most like themselves and eat the rest. They don't take care of the remaining ones either, just give them enough time to get away from them.
- Sahuagin seal up their hatchlings in nesting chambers, then don't let them out until the strong ones have eaten all their weaker siblings. If a hatchling survives, but emerges with a missing limb or other serious injury, the parents eat it.
- The Elder-Spawn in GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy have one parent that is an Unspeakable Madness from Beyond Reality and another that's insane.
- Inverted by Teenagers from Outer Space: there, there was no rebellious teenage culture until Earth was found.
- Downplayed with the Tau of Warhammer 40K: breeding is a matter of scientifically-controlled eugenics and caste systems, so the parents mostly contribute genetic material before the kid gets sent to the appropriate educational complex. However, it's not unheard of for the parents to take an interest in their offspring's progress.
- Zuul in the Sword of the Stars series, apart from members of the Liir-Zuul alliance in the second game, release their children into the wild to fend for themselves into adulthood, justified by a "weed out all but the strongest" mentality.
- Sam's species in Freefall has elements of this, but its more or less justified as members of his species die after reproduction, like Earth octopi. Other members of the species then choose from the offspring, which is said to be like "picking out puppies."
- In Alien Dice the Rishan tend to be abusive towards their children (sometimes leading to Parental Abandonment). Justified because as slaves, Rishan were not allowed to raise their children, so many didn't have parents to learn proper parenting techniques from. May also qualify as Social Services Does Not Exist since Rishan are technically human.
- Some of Homestuck's trolls play this trope straight - each troll on birth is adopted by a lusus naturae, which acts as their custodian. Some are colossal morons. The standout example is Vriska's lusus, which is a spider larger than her house that feeds on young trolls.
- Which is nothing compared to Feferi's lusus, an Eldritch Abomination at least seven miles long that requiures other lusus to feed, and kills all the trolls in the entire galaxy except the twelve protagonists.
- Also trolls are not precisely adopted at birth by a lusus; first they have to pass a series of dangerous trials. It's only the kids who manage to survive long enough to pupate from larva to humanoid sub-adult and then get out of the brooding caverns that get any kind of parenting at all.
- Adult trolls are even worse. Adult trolls will kill younger trolls because they might be a threat to them someday. The only reason Feferi avoided being targeted by the current Troll monarch is because her Eldritch Abomination of a surrogate mommy could kill every other troll in the galaxy in an instant if provoked.
- Culture clash ensues when the trolls encounter the human protagonists and are confused and horrified that human children are raised by older relatives instead of lusii, with the exception of Jade who was raised by her dog because in the past Tavros had mistaken her grandfather for an interloper and convinced the dog to kill him, thinking he was protecting Jade.
- Karkat's crab-like lusus isn't as murderous as Vriska's but it's pretty mean too. Karkat has to fight it every time it gets pissed off which is often.
- Gamzee's lusus isn't so much an Abusive Alien Parent as a neglectful one - it has spent basically his whole life doing other things (it's never mentioned what, exactly), so he's never learned not to sit on his ass eating sopor slime pies all day.
- In one episode of Ben 10, Grampa Max's psychic lizard alien girlfriend (It Makes Sense in Context) comes to Earth, and is confused by human parental habits. Apparently, on her planet children are left to fend for themselves as soon as they are born.
- In Futurama, the people of Omicron Persei VIII leave their children undefended on alien planets with nothing to indicate there are sentient beings down there, and then act surprised when aliens come and eat them. They are justifiably angry when they find out that people are doing so, but no one noticed for months that people were coming to the planet and eating the kids. Why weren't there any early detection systems or defense systems?
Leela: I hope you'll always think of me as your mom.
Jrr: When my species grows up, we eat our moms.
- There is a "Nanny-Cam Satellite" that takes video of Leela eating the first Popplers. This implies that the camera was there to half-assedly monitor whoever was supposed to watch the kids. It seems to be a case of "too busy to care" and "phony reassurance through technology." When you consider that all Omicronians do is watch thousand-year-old Earth TV and invade Earth, combined with the parental cannibalism...
- In Fear of a Bot Planet, Zoidberg orders "one of your young on a roll." The kiosk attendant's response? "We're out of rolls".
- The Decapodeans are a weird subversion: one episode establishes that parents die while mating, yet Zoidberg repeatedly alludes to being raised in a nuclear family and having various living relatives.
- Flashbacks to his childhood have the woman raising him mention his parents "rolling over in their graves" at one point. They're clearly dead.
- He also once mentions being the child of three, indicating that Decapod 10 may have a sort of surragate parent thing going on.
- And the only relatives he mentions are siblings, aunts, and uncles, never parents or grandparents.
- It actually all makes sense when you think about it, and the Decapodians aren't particularly abusive at all- many members of the species choose to remain celibate, while the ones that reproduce produce lots of young that are adopted by the celibate members of the species, which form their own family units that don't necessarily adhere to a human idea of relationships.
- Don't even need to involve the celibate to explain it. They just have kids too young for the mating, but old enough to take care of kids—think babysitters. There's also the bit in the fountain of youth episode where we find out that one of their larval stages is a sort of sea sponge/coral thing from which multiple adults- including Zoidberg's brother Norm- bud off.
- Even split on Kif's species; they go though a period as a tadpole, swimming unsupervised in a primordial swamp, and then are implied to have a childhood where they are raised by their parents in a family environment ten years later, conveniently allowing Kif and Amy to delay settling down by another decade.
- Invader Zim: "I love you, cold, unfeeling robot arm!"