Kids will be kids. They like to have fun and don't tend to give a lot of consideration to how adults feel about it. The entire world is their playground, pretty much, and they generally don't mean any harm, even when their playing gets out of hand.
Most adults are understanding, or at least willing to be tolerant of kids getting a little rambunctious.
Then there's the Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult
. Maybe they're a Child Hater
, or they can't remember what it was like to have been young, or they have some other Freudian Excuse
for their behaviour. Whatever the cause, they feel that children should be seen and not heard, and that their fun is noisy, disruptive, dangerous, offensive, annoying, and otherwise undesirable. In their opinion, most other adults are far too lenient with those rotten kids and let them get away with too much. While this Cranky Neighbor
type can't control the whole world or whole neighborhood, they can
and will exert complete tyranny over one area — their own lawn.
Any child whose toy or plaything ends up on this adult's property — lawn, roof, backyard, pool — the Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult
will triumphantly declare something along the lines of "It belongs to me now!" and make off with the plaything, which may end up forgotten in a box in the garage, or put in a trophy room of sorts — or worst of all, the garbage
. Such an adult may have a vicious Angry Guard Dog
to chase away any children brave enough to try retrieving their belongings.
There's a Sadistic Teacher
variation too, who will snatch whatever they catch a student using that they disapprove of. Sometimes they will give it back at the end of the semester — or the school year. Sometimes they consider it theirs from that point forward. Such a teacher may have a sniveling suck-up student helping point out targets.
The most common resolution to the trope involves some Kid Hero
or another hatching a plan to get in and get all the stuff back, returning it to its happy and grateful owners. Occasionally, the kids will run to a parent, and the parent will confront the confiscator.
The most common subversion to the trope tends to be when the kids finally work out a plan to get their stuff back, only to discover that the adult in question isn't actually fun-hating and hasn't actually confiscated it. In cases like this, it's most likely some kind of misunderstanding. They're usually just a lonely old person who keeps to themselves, and they've just been holding onto it, waiting for the little darlings to come for it.
For practical meta-reasons, this trope is common to family and children's fare. The Moral Watchdogs
tend to frown on shows involving children facing the types of more serious and deadly dangerous villains that turn up in media targeting an older or adult audience. This trope allows both kid viewers and adult viewers to dislike the villain, as (a) they are showing disrespect to the child and the child's property, and (b) the parent is usually the one who paid for or gifted the child with the toy being confiscated.
When the Confiscator is old, expect to see such tropes as Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!
, When Elders Attack
, and Grumpy Old Man
Anime and Manga
- Yu-Gi-Oh! manga: A teacher not only confiscates a toy from Yugi, but threatens him, Jonouchi and Honda with expulsion if they can't find where he hid it within a time limit. Other Yugi triggers the toy's beeping, which reveals that the vain teacher hid it under his wig. And reveals to everyone that the teacher is actually bald.
- Justified and subverted in Monster House: Mr. Nebbercracker cultivated the "scary, cranky old man" image, and would snatch the toys that ended up landing on his lawn to protect kids from trying to retrieve them, because his house was sentient, possessed by the vengeful spirit of his wife who had big issues with nasty, pranking hooligan children and couldn't tell them from non-malicious children being playful. The truth is that he was a kind-hearted sweet old man who was happy to give the toys back once the danger was over.
- The Sandlot has one. He even has an Angry Guard Dog called The Beast; this ends up being a subversion as neither is really as bad as the children originally believed.
- Mr. Strickland in the Back to the Future trilogy.
- Ms. Stout from The Search for Santa Paws hates Christmas for no explained reason and will confiscate any toys or Christmas decorations the girls in her Orphanage of Fear have. She actually goes a step further by throwing them in a furnace.
- Filch from Harry Potter had a room full of things confiscated from students, including the Marauders' Map, which the Weasley twins liberated and then gave to Harry.
- There was an episode of Crossing Jordan where the Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult in Jordan's childhood neighborhood had recently died and a skeleton was found in the baseboards of her floor soon turns out that it was the remains of her husband who she killed several years ago to protect her mentally disabled son. This trope was played with in the sense that over the course of the investigation, she was shown to be a more of a human being. Though they did find the cedar chest where she kept all of the toys.
- Saturday Night Live: Cheri Oteri's recurring character Rita DelVecchio, who would tell kids "I keep it now! It's mine now!" when their football/novelty flying disc/etc. would land on her lawn or porch.
- The Troop: Jake and Phoebe each have something confiscated by their neighbor. Jake's takes advantage of the neighbor having been temporarily petrified by a Basilisk to get their stuff back from his box of confiscated toys.
- Brent and Hank of Corner Gas lived near one of these as kids, and as middle-aged men they raid his shed to get their toys back.
- Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was reported to be like this: children who kicked a soccer ball over the wall would not receive it back (as bin Laden was paranoid that fingerprints belonging to him or his close associates could be lifted from the ball). (The guards usually paid the children for the ball—often handsomely—instead.)