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Billy Elliot Plot
"...I hold my head up high and I'm proud of who you are, so bring the crown on home. I know it's not an MVP of football or baseball; hell I'd be glad to set this one up on the mantle. Bring it on home, and I love you."
—Recorded message from Drag Queen Alyssa Edwards' father, from RuPaul's Drag Race

A stock plot that crops up in film to relatively high degree. It's all about "being true to who you are".

A teenage boy has or discovers a passion for a "girly" hobby (e.g. ballet, cooking, singing, double-Dutch), however his father is pushing him to follow a different "manly" one (e.g. baseball, basketball, banking, boxing...). The boy is torn between his love of his father along with his masculine appearance to his friends and his love of his newfound secret hobby. In the end his dad finds out and eventually comes around to the idea (or it's revealed he doesn't have a problem with it) and the boy either gives up the "manly" hobby for the "girly" one or he does and enjoys both.

As a subtrope of Coming of Age Story, generally stars teenagers since that's generally when people start to find their way as individuals. It's also common for these boys to be motherless. If she's around, however, she's likely to support the hobby, which could lead to tension with her husband.

Is similar to the Coming-Out Story, except the boy doesn't have to be gay—his secret hobby is a great way to meet girls, after all. But if he is, it could add another layer to the dilemma since this tends to be what the father fears all along. It's also a rough Spear Counterpart to You Go Girl, though the latter generally lacks the friction with parents, hence why Gender Flips (ie, a girl taking up a "manly" hobby to her mother's objections) are allowed here.

Openly embracing their passion may result in I Am What I Am.

Contrast with Jackie Robinson Story. For the Gender Flip version, see Stay in the Kitchen and You Go Girl.

Examples:

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    Advertisement 
  • One US commercial for the Real Yellow Pages featured the short tale of a tattooed, mohawked punk rocker who grew dissatisfied with his friends, because while he enjoyed hanging out with them, it was an incomplete life. One quick check of the phone book later (we don't see the page he consults very clearly, but the book is opened to the N's), and the punk rocker is grinning in quiet satisfaction as he practices his needlepoint skills, alongside the other members of the needlepoint club (all gray-haired old ladies, who seem to take the punk's presence as if people like him join their club every single day) that he found and contacted by way of the phone book.

    Anime and Manga 
  • It could be argued that this is a major plot in the Ranma ˝ manga and anime - Ranma being compelled by his parents to be a "Man Among Men", while his Magical Curse compels him to be female part of the time. By the end of the manga, he seems to have pretty much accepted that he changes from one to the other and has even learned to enjoy the perks he can get in his female form, like cooking, wearing nice clothes, even tricking other guys into doing his bidding. That said, he still considers himself to really be a man, and will still leap at the possibility of a cure, even running away from Akane in the final wedding to try and grab a cask of Nanniichuan.
  • Ruby from Pokémon Special has a passion for contests and a revulsion for battling. Oh yeah, his dad is a Gym Leader. Interesting case in that one, Ruby hates his dad, and two, his dad was going to let him do so anyway, so running away pissed him off so much that he pretty much beat the shit out of his son.
  • The entire point of the manga series Otomen. Up to Eleven in that the main character like ALL girly things. Slightly subverted in that it's the mother that's pushing her son to be manly, out of fear that he might become a transsexual like his father.
  • Inverted, as in the Monty Python example below, in Macross Frontier, but played for drama (mostly): Alto wants to be a fighter pilot; his father wants him to be a female-impersonating Kabuki actor.
  • In Digimon Adventure, part of Sora's backstory (and quite a bit of her Angst) is due to this. Sora is a Tomboy and wants to go out and play football (soccer)and her mother wants her to be a "proper" young lady, stay in and learn flower arranging. As such, Sora came to believe her mother was disappionted in her and didn't like her (hence the angst).
  • This forms a recurring subplot in Kekkaishi where Yoshimori wants to get good at baking cakes, even enlisting the help of the ghost of a recently-deceased pastry chef to help him; his grandfather, naturally, disapproves. The coming-out story elements don't really factor in, though; Yoshimori is doing it mostly to impress Tokine.

    Film 
  • Named for the film Billy Elliot where this makes up a good deal of the first half of the movie. The "girly" hobby is ballet, the "manly" one is boxing. After Billy's dad gets over this, he sells the last of Billy's deceased mother's things and almost becomes a scab during the miners strike to support Billy's professional dancing dream.
  • There are a few Disney Channel Original Movies which make use of this plot:
    • Arguably the most well known is High School Musical with Troy. The "girly" hobby is singing, the "manly" one is basketball, and it doesn't help his dad is also the basketball coach, There are also elements of this with Gabriella but her mother doesn't oppose the singing, it's more that her friends want her to help them win the Scholastic Decathlon instead. They both manage to do both.
    • Eddies Million Dollar Cook Off mildly plays with it. The "manly" hobby is baseball, the "girly" one is cooking, but only his brothers poke fun at Eddie for him. The others are more annoyed regarding the devotion (Eddie being the best player) between the two hobbies.
      • This one even goes as far as to have one for both gender roles. The main plot above and a subplot with one of his female teammates hiding her baseball activities from her mother, claiming to be the team's cheerleader, for fear of not being girly enough. The mom suspected it and was fine with it.
    • Jump In!. The "manly" one is boxing (unlike Billy, Izzy is good at it), the "girly" one is double dutch.
    • Ice Princess is this but with a Gender Flip and the "girly" hobby is still "girly" (figure skating) but the "manly" one is replaced with a "brainy" one (math). Although, it's her knowledge of physics and math that helps her be a great figure skater.
    • Mo's father in Lemonade Mouth dislike her teenage looks, loosened-up attitude, and breaking from traditions, along with her involvement in the band. They also see it as a distraction from her studies (she's a straight-A student).
  • Run with a Gender Flip in Bend It Like Beckham, with a teenage British Indian girl taking up football against her mother's wishes.
    • Likewise in She's The Man, the female lead character is more interested in football (soccer) than the debutante ball.
    • And again in Whip It, where the female lead joins a banked track full contact women's roller derby team, while her mother coaxes her into attending beauty pageants.
  • A tragic version of this plot is one of the driving forces behind Dead Poets Society. More exactly, the subplot with Neil Perry and his dad: Neil wants to become an actor whereas his father is adamant that he pursue a career in medicine. Neil ends up Driven to Suicide
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer plays with this trope, but never goes full hog with it, as Josh Waitzkin's dad, Fred, realizes after playing one game of chess with his son that it would be better to let his son play a brainy boardgame than try to force baseball onto him. And when one of his teachers tries to discourage Josh from playing chess, Fred tears her a new one.
    Fred Waitzkin: "I want you to understand something. He's better at this than I've ever been at anything in my life. He's better at this than you'll ever be at anything. My son has a gift. He has a gift, and when you acknowledge that, then maybe we will have something to talk about."
    • Ironically, the real Josh Waitzkin eventually gave up chess for martial arts.
  • Subverted in Kinky Boots with the Drag Queen and his father, a boxing lover who rejected his son even on his deathbed. However, the queen turns out to be very good at boxing in addition to performing.
  • Played straight in Connie And Carla with a Drag Queen, except it's his brother trying to come to grips with it.
  • In a way, the relationship between George Banks and his children Jane and Michael play out this way in Mary Poppins. George wants them to eliminate their childish notions, and grow up as proper English bankers like their dad. He is incensed at the example Mary sets for them, and finds the children's adventures and playfulness frivolous and chaotic. He does eventually come to in the end.
  • Bring It On has a similar case to the Ice Princess example. Torrence's mother hates that her daughter is a cheerleader and instead wants her to be an honours student. When Torrence announces that she's been made captain, all Mom does is complain that she's not taking an extra lab.
  • How to Train Your Dragon takes this in a fairly interesting direction with the relationship between Hiccup and his father Stoick. Hiccup starts out as a bookish Non-Action Guy who struggles in vain to live up to the expectations of uber-manly Viking culture, while his father looks on and wonders just how on earth that talking fishbone came from his genes. Hiccup discovers that, while he does not have what it takes to kill dragons like the perfect, tough Viking son, he is a pretty fair hand at a somewhat less "masculine" activity - befriending and training said dragons. This results in a bit of friction with his father, who considers dragon-slaying as both the courageous thing to do and the only proven, effective way of defending his clan's village. At the end, Hiccup gives up on neither ideal, utilizing dragon-training as a means of defending the village, essentially becoming the most Bad Ass leader the clan has ever had while still remaining true to himself...his father is just as bewildered as he is proud.

    Literature 
  • There are about a zillion children's stories with this theme. One of the best known is Charlotte Zolotow's fairly Anvilicious 1972 story William's Doll, which was adapted into a song number in the TV special Free to Be...You and Me in 1974 and a short film in 1981. Rifftrax got hold of the short, and Mike, Bill, and Kevin act as if they're as disgusted by the idea of a boy with a doll as some of the characters are.

    Live Action TV 
  • The whole Maxxie / Bill Bailey subplot on Skins features Maxxie, a Straight Gay Club Kid who wants to become a dancer being pushed by his dad into becoming a builder. Somewhat ironically though, Bailey's character is already a dancer (albeit the manlier "line dancing with dogs" rather than the tap / modern dance fusion Maxxie's into).
  • Inverted by Monty Python's Flying Circus' "Northern Playwright" sketch, in which the prodigal son the Yorkshire coal miner comes back to his old homestead in London to visit his father the theater playwright — the whole scene is written like the aftermath of this sort of setup gone wrong, only with the actual jobs reversed.
    Ken: One day you'll realize there's more to life than culture. There's dirt, and smoke, and good honest sweat!
    Father: Get out, you LABOURER!
    • Even better is that the father is dressed like a working-class man, living in a working-class house, and the son is wearing a suit and tie...because that's the only thing he has to wear apart from his overalls.
      • Arguably the Python sketch reflects a long-standing trend both in fiction and reality in Britain in the 20th century as a select few members of the working-class managed to break into occupations traditionally reserved for higher classes. One good example of this would be DH Lawrence in the beginning of the century, and by the 1950s there was a whole swath of "Angry Young Men" trying to reconcile their working-class backgrounds with their new educations- leading to the Kitchen Sink Drama.
  • An episode of Cold Case features a wannabe (motherless) dancer, younger brother of a wrestler, who ends up dead, but amusingly not because his father disapproved of his choice but because he believed he would. For good measure, by becoming a dancer, he scored a seriously hot girlfriend, avoiding the Ambiguously Gay zone.
    • On the other hand, his father was at least ambivalent... until he saw his son dance. He cared about excellence, not the form it took.
  • On Glee Finn is the football quarterback but is also interested in glee club. He is notably fatherless rather than motherless. The main people opposing him in the glee club are his jock friends, especially his best friend Puck, who ends up joining the club himself in episode 4. It's averted with the Camp Gay character Kurt who, despite having a blue-collar father and dead mother, actually enjoys playing football and his father is supportive of him being gay and in glee club.
    • Mike is a variation. His father couldn't care less about his interest in sports or performing, and wants him to be a doctor. His mother, however, pushes him to follow his dreams. His father eventually does, too.
  • A variation occurs on The Brady Bunch. While Mike doesn't have a problem with Peter enjoying the glee club, his football teammates sure do and their jeers nearly cause Peter to quit the club. It takes a well-timed visit from guest star Deacon Jones to not only give Peter a lesson in Being Himself, but to nip the other boys' old-fashioned perception of "manly" in the bud by telling them about how he and several other tough football superstars love to sing in their spare time.
  • Subverted on Spaced. Brian actually pretends to be a lawyer to his parents so they won't know he's an artist. They then express disappointment that he didn't become an artist.
  • The aftermath is shown on The House Of Elliott, the 1990s BBC costume drama about fashion in the 1920s. Daniel Page is engaged to marry Evie Elliott, and she insists on meeting his parents, a family of ordinary farm labourers. His father is bitter about him leaving them to go to art school, but he comes round eventually on meeting with Evie and attends their wedding.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race is full of contestants with less-than-supportive parents, the revelations of such being quite the Tearjerker. The quote at the top of the page was a recorded message to Alyssa Edwards from her Texas redneck father, who tearfully apologizes for his past homophobia. There wasn't a single dry eye in that back room.
  • An episode of House has (not a spoiler, since the viewer finds out in the cold open before the opening credits) a person born with ambiguous sexuality who had surgery to appear, and has been raised, as a boy. The "boy" was interested in ballet; his dad was okay with this, but his mother pitched a fit when she found out and make him go out for basketball instead, which he doesn't feel he's good at and isn't particularly excited about anyway. This is not quite this trope exactly, since the boy himself doesn't know that the "vitamin" shots his mom's been giving him are actually testosterone to make up for his lack of natural hormones, and he has a bit of a meltdown when he finds out the truth.
    • This is a confusing one as the 'boy' was technically a girl as well. He also claimed he was interested in a member of his baseball team, which is also ambiguous.

    Video Games 
  • Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 suffers from this trope somewhat, with the exception that he hasn't got a father and is instead pushing himself towards trying to be overly masculine, because his passion for sewing is a source of his mental insecurities (along with the fact that he is Ambiguously Gay).
  • Parodied in Team Fortress 2: The Sniper's parents do not approve of his job, not because he's an assassin, but because in The Verse of the game, Australia underwent Testosterone Poisoning and the males there are expected to be muscle-bound mustachioed macho men who solve their problems with their fists. Sniper 1) is skinny as a rail, 2) keeps his facial hair in Perma Stubble, and 3) kills from afar.
    • They also think he's kind of crazy.
    Sniper: [on phone] Dad, I'm not a crazed gunman. I'm an assassin.
    [Beat]
    Sniper: ...The difference being one's a job, the other is mental sickness!

    Western Animation 
  • Inverted and Parodied on South Park—the High School Musical spoof involves a boy named Bridon who wants to try out for basketball, but has an abusive, Camp Straight father who forces him to sing and dance instead.
  • Spoofed (sans the father element) on The Simpsons: Bart is forced to join the ballet class after all the other PE activities had been taken, and to his surprise turns out to really enjoy it. On his first recital (in front of the entire school) he performs in a Paper Thin mask to conceal his identity. When the other boys are moved by the performance, Bart reveals himself. The others then rush the stage to beat him up.
  • This trope, or a variation on this, is a common conflict between Bobby and Hank on King of the Hill. The page quote on the show's page is "That boy ain't right" for a reason.
    • Lampshaded in one episode where Bobby wanted to be a model. He brought up a TV show with a Billy Elliot Plot that they'd both watched, only to have Hank reply, "That's different, Bobby. I'm not an alcoholic, and you're not a figure skater."
    • In one episode, Peggy is the one who disapproves of Bobby taking Home Economics, because he proves to be a better homemaker than she is. Hank for once is content to sit back and reap the rewards.
    • Peggy's Drag Queen friend has a mother who is so supportive that there is genuine annoyance and upset that she doesn't disapprove even a little.
    • Another episode has Bobby deserting the football team to the soccer team to Hank's dismay.
  • In an episode of Arthur, Arthur learns to knit during a storm and finds he actually enjoys it, but doesn't want anyone, save for Buster, to know that he knits because "it's for girls". In the end, when he's found out, no one but Binky teases him about it, and even then Arthur's piano teacher rebuttals Binky by commenting on how beautiful his performance was...in Swan Lake.
  • In Angela Anaconda, an episode features Gordy Rinehart making strawberry souffles, even though his football-coach dad wants him to be a football player. Eventually, Mr. Rinehart decides it's better for Gordy to just be himself...and that he really likes the strawberry souffles.
  • One episode of Fat Albert revealed that Rudy took home economics instead of gym because he loved to cook.

    Real Life 
  • This can happen to many in the Periphery Demographic fans of even the best tv shows if it's for children in general and/or targeted at one gender specifically.
  • Leonard Nimoy's parents were not exactly pleased when he decided to become an actor.
  • Sir Patrick Stewart was mocked by some of the more elitist members of British culture scene when he went from being a Royal Shakespearean actor to take the role of Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
    • Before he was Picard, he'd been in (among other things) Excalibur, Dune, and Lifeforce ... all while still with the Royal Shakespeare company. So it shouldn't have been a huge surprise to anyone.
  • BRIAN BLESSED averts the trope. His father, who was a coal miner, was overjoyed when Blessed began acting professionally. Blessed's father wanted his son to do anything except work in the mine.
  • Elton John was also discouraged by his strict military father from playing rock music, and when Elton's parents divorced, he sent Elton's (rock music-encouraging) mother a letter telling her to tell Elton to "get that rock n' roll nonsense out of his head" and get a respectable job. Elton later confided he related the Billy Elliot movie to his own relationship with his dad, which was partly the reason for co-writing the songs for the musical.
  • Match Game host Gene Rayburn was known to take up needlepoint to occupy his time on the six-hour flights from New York to Los Angeles (where his show taped). When Richard Dawson brought a 50s picture of Rayburn practicing his craft, it was a laugh riot. Gene even lampshaded it a few times on the show.
  • Rosey Grier, a big lineman for the NY Giants and LA Rams, would do needlepoint on the sidelines.
  • As a child, serial killer John Wayne Gacy loved gardening, but his abusive father would not let him do anything he thought of as "girly".


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