Ashes (ashes!), dust (dust!)...
My children were a bust.
They shall inherit nothing.
My legacy is too great
To throw away on ingrates.
A successful bigwig, be it in business, politics, magic or even world conquest, is growing old, and in preparation for an eventual retirement/death looks to their children to see who among them can take up their mantle
... and is faced with incompetence, disinterest, or a Corrupt Corporate Executive
in the making. These are by no means an exhaustive list of possible shortcomings, indeed just about anything that can make a parent ask "Why Couldn't You Be Different?
" is grounds for this trope. Special mention should go to times when the Inadequate Inheritor is not good/heroic enough, too evil
, or not evil enough.
Whatever the case, the prospective retiree doesn't think they deserve their potential inheritance... at least, not as they currently are.
Cue an Impossible Task
, search for a non standard heir from outside the family (who has a statistically abnormal chance to be an orphan/bastard child of the retiree), or otherwise trying to reform their potential heir or forcibly change them one way or another. Results vary: the heir may become worthy, rebel against their "benefactor" (which may be what they always wanted)
or fail outright and prompt the retiree to switch to plan B, become immortal.
Expect this to be a knife through the heart of any children who just want their parent to say
"I'm So Proud of You
" but have been passed over. In the most extreme cases, they might get an actual knife in the heart
to make way for a more suitable candidate. Especially nasty when an iron-handed Patriach
crushed their spirit into Nice Guy
and The Dutiful Son
and now despises them for it — with bonus points if he had used the threat of Passed Over Inheritance
to help crush them.
May be related The Wrongful Heir to the Throne
. If the inadequate inheritor actually gets the position, through guile, lack of other candidates or sheer luck, they may either turn into a surprisingly good leader once actually in that position, or they will become a Sketchy Successor
. Compare Game Between Heirs
. Contrast Superior Successor
. Sometimes (particularly in Feminist Fantasy
), a girl will be seen as this because of her gender, and/or be passed over in favor of a less competent male.
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Anime and Manga
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, Gozaburo Kaiba was heavily disappointed in his son Noah because he wasn't dedicated enough to be heir of his company (not to mention the fact that he was dead). So instead he adopts an orphan and gives him some Training from Hell to make him just such a ruthless manager as he himself is. Not his brightest idea, since this one is competent and evil enough, and takes over his adopted father's company quite rapidly, driving him to suicide.
- Gozaburo Kaiba considered downloading Noah's mind into Seto's body but gave up because he believed Seto was more adequate than Noah to inherit.
- In a flashback in Naruto, Hiashi states that he's disappointed with Hinata's performance and notes that the clan doesn't need a weak heir, but never goes so far as to openly disinherit her. This, however, is before Hinata Took a Level in Badass, and the two have not been seen interacting in canon since, so fan works have several interpretations over whether Hinata lost her right to inherit the clan back then, and whether she would be considered worthy to inherit the Hyuga clan when the time came.
- Post-timeskip, they are seen together as he observes her training in the clan fighting style to the point of exhaustion. No dialogue specific to the matter of inheritance is provided, but he seems to be more approving and proud of her determination despite her lack of natural talent.
- A Rumiko Takahashi short story focused on a variation of this. Under insistence from her boyfriend Susumu, a woman named Nozomi pretends to be her dead best friend Noriko in order to claim an inheritance from Noriko's long dead grandmother. It helped that the last time Noriko's family saw her was with her mother when she was a little girl. Nozomi winds up receiving help from the grandmother's spirit, on the condition that the first thing she does with the money is provide a proper burial for Noriko (Nozomi was extremely offended that Susumu suggested such a ruse, but conceded because they have massive debts). Eventually, Nozomi learns that her Noriko's mother had nearly been disowned by the family for eloping with a man, and only came back once when Noriko was a child to meet grandmother. It's implied that the grandmother didn't like the family any more than Noriko's mother did, as she made it clear that no one other than Noriko could touch the property registry. It's also implied that the family might have killed the grandmother themselves.
- In Anatolia Story, while Prince Arunwanda is not an idiot, his physical weakness make him inadquate to reign over the Hitite Empire. One the King dies, he tries to cope with the responsability via having his more capable brothers help him run the kingdom. He eventually chooses the male lead Kail as his succesor, as he has no children of his own. And few later, he's murdered.
- Golgoth, a villain who took over the world in Empire, has been grooming his daughter who is an innocent princess lookalike, to take over after him. He discovers she actually killed his wife because she was holding him back and did several other very, very bad things. Following his example. He snaps her neck. Sadly, of course.
- In The DCU, Darkseid is known to take a dim view of any of his lieutenants actually being able to control his empire after he dies... especially his son Kalibak.
- Of course, when he so much as disappears for a few days they immediately descend into declaring open war on each other, so it's probably a justified view.
- Subverted in Watchmen with Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt, he was more than capable of inheriting his father's wealth, but instead gives it all away and builds his own financial empire.
- There are hints (but nothing overt) that this was also largely influenced by the fact that his parents had been Nazis. Adrian changed his name and left any connection to them behind.
- Also subverted with Night Owl II. His dad was a successful banker/financer who, despite never really getting his son's obsession with birds, left him the money he uses to pay for his crime fighting career. Additionally, the original Night Owl was more than happy to let him carry on the name and costume-theme after he retired to be a mechanic.
- Batman foe Ra's Al-Ghul has stubbornly clung to life for centuries via Lazarus Pits and body snatching from beyond the grave since he doesn't believe any of his children are worthy of taking over his criminal empire. He first crossed paths with Bruce Wayne because he thought he could convince Bruce to become his heir with the temptations of power (his empire) and love (his daughter Talia).
- Another example is Damian Wayne. It's shown that, in the future, he will become Batman after he accidentally causes the death of Dick Grayson (The first long-term, accepted Batman successor). Bruce calls him out on this immediately, and Damian himself even admits that he can't measure up to Bruce or Dick, but will try anyway, because he promised to protect Gotham. And so, he cheats, making a deal with the devil so that he cannot die, and even then, he is still inferior. Bruce sees a vision of this future and thus tells Damian that he can't ever become Batman.
- Scrooge McDuck eventually named Huey, Dewey and Louie as his heirs because (in part) the miser feared Donald would squander his fortune given the opportunity and considered Gladstone too lazy to deserve the inheritance. Not to mention Donald's (lack of) business skills.
- The decision has been made in Carl Barks story "Some Heir over the Rainbow". Taking advantage of the legend of a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, Scrooge made a Secret Test of Character. In order to test his potential heirs' skills, he wanted to give one thousand dollars to each one of them without them knowing the money came from him. Using three rainbows and three pots, he managed to give one thousand dollars to Huey, Dewey and Louie; another thousand to Gladstone and the last one to Donald. Donald spent the money on a down payment for a new car; Gladstone saw no immediate need for the money so he decided to hid it somewhere; and Huey, Dewey and Louie used their money to help a man search for a treasure. Before Donald's nephews had a return from their investment, Scrooge would, despite considering an "awful injustice" to allow Gladstone to inherit his fortune, choose the Lucky Bastard over Donald for being the least likely to squander it.
- In Harry Potter fanfic A Different Dursley Family, Vernon Dursley was expelled from Smeltings and attended a public (comprehensive in the UK) school, where he learned to be open-minded. Unfortunately, his father didn't like it so he cut Vernon from the will.
- In "Harry Prongs Tatum", James Potter's father realized James was a spoiled brat not ready to take over the full inheritance. Because of that, he set a list of conditions James had to fulfill otherwise he'd just inherit a portion. Harry inherited the task.
- Dr. Evil and his son Scott in the Austin Powers films. Dr. Evil is rather disappointed that his son doesn't want to follow in his footsteps, though Scott was heading in that direction in the second movie and becomes a near copy of his father in the third. The irony is that by that point
Dr. Evil "Dougie" had reformed.
- The King of the Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a bluff Yorkshireman who has built the strongest castle in all England in the middle of a swamp, after several failed attempts to do so. In contrast, his son, Prince Herbert, is an anaemic weed with a penchant for show tunesnote ; after attempting to escape from the castle by climbing from a window, the King cuts his rope, sending him to an almost certain demise.
- In an attempt to gain a new heir, the king then has Prince Herbert's bride-to-be's father murdered so that she might consider him as a father, then claims he's going to marry her off to Sir Lancelot, who had only just showed up and murdered half the party guests. Before this can get anywhere, though, it's revealed that Herbert survived, much to the king's annoyance.
- Gladiator has the emperor favor Maximus over Commodus because he considers his son too corrupt for the job, wanting instead a humble reformer to take the helm. Pity one of his son's "virtues" was Ambition.
- In Repo! The Genetic Opera, Rotti is disgusted with his children's depravity. Perhaps not so much with because they're all out of control monsters (he himself is a master manipulator and murderer) as that they aren't qualified to lead his company.
- The title character in Yellowbeard is extremely disappointed in his son Dan for being a nice guy: he wanted Dan to be a vicious, murderous pirate like himself.
- This the entire plot of Billy Madison. Billy wants to inherit his father's hotel chain upon the announcement of the latter's retirement, but is deemed unworthy because he's uneducated, obnoxious, an idiot, and sometimes an ass. Billy tries to remedy this by trying to complete the education he never truly received to avoid having his father hand over the reigns to corporate sleezebag Eric Gordon.
- Subverted in Inception, where Fischer believes himself to be this in the eyes of his dying father, and the only part he could understand of his dying words was disappointed, even though he always tried his best to be like him and make him proud. The protagonists first think about using this to implant the idea that he wants to terminate the family business to get back at his father. But Eames points out that they have a much better chance at making him believe that his father regretted being such a poor example as a greedy and unethical businessman and wishing that his son doesn't become like him, and that this would motivate Fischer to break the trillion dollar monopoly the company has. Convincing him that his father was a good man deep inside and hoped his son to be a better man than he was is something Fischer would much rather want to believe than seeing his father as an evil man who despised him.
- It also has the benefit of giving the protagonists a goal which doesn't put them over the Moral Event Horizon. Who would want to root for a team of crooks whose goal was to drive a man to hate his father so much that he destroyed his inheritance? Its much more sympathetic to try and achieve their objective by giving him a positive relationship
- While he begins as the celebrated heir to the throne, Thor becomes/demonstrates-himself-as an inadequate inheritor through his arrogance and rashness in attacking the Frost Giants. The rest of the movie is his path back to worthiness.
- The end of the second film has Thor considering himself as this. While he's demonstrated he's earned the position, he doesn't believe he has the necessary ruthlessness required for the job, and he doesn't want to be like that.
- Prince Edward in Braveheart is seen by both his father and the people as a weakling. It seems to be part of Longshanks' motivation to permanently put down the Scottish rebellion before he dies, since he's certain his son isn't up to the task.
- Young Frankenstein: Dr. Victor Frankenstein's father had this opinion of him. Victor's father believed the only way Victor's grandson Frederick could avoid being this would be by becoming a doctor on his free will and earning a measure of esteem on his field.
- Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Mary Gloster".
- The son of ibn Sabbah from Alamut.
- In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, the king of Stormhold is highly disappointed his sons haven't all killed each other to reveal an heir before being on his deathbed. He throws the royal topaz (ruby in the film) and tells them whoever fetches it first is the new king.
- In Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic, a powerful evil wizard is so concerned with this, that he becomes undead, watching over his children until one is powerful enough to beat the others.
- In Heroes Adrift, the main characters are sent to look for a long-lost bastard descendant of the queen as an alternate heir. Both the queen and the heir end up hating this idea once they actually meet.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- This is the reason Samwell Tarly ends up joining the Night's Watch. His dad wants a warrior and a lord for a heir, and Sam is soft-hearted boy of some obesity. When, after a long series of miscarriages and daughters, a second male heir is produced, his dad offers him a choice: join the Night's Watch, thereby forsaking all claims to land and heirs, or experience a Hunting Accident.
- Jon Arryn's six-year old, sickly and mentally stunted son Robert. Arryn tries to arrange for the boy to be sent away to be fostered in a more healthy environment - since his mother's over-protectiveness is a factor in his inadequacy - but dies before getting the chance. In response, King Robert takes away the title of Warden of the East from House Arryn.
- Tyrion's father Tywin Lannister tells him that he has no intention of letting him inherit, since he despises his son for his dwarfism and because his mother died giving birth to him. Tyrion is the second son of Lord Tywin, however his older brother Jaime is a member of the Kingsguard, and therefore has forsworn his rights to inherit, which Tywin is furious at him for.
- Speaking of, the current membership of the Kingsguard itself is considered this by its veteran members. Lord Commander Selmy considers most of the others utterly unworthy; Jaime for breaking his oath and the rest for their lack of skill (in his early 60s, he claims to be capable of killing the five of them as easily as a dagger cuts through cheese, and they believe him). Things go downhill once he's kicked out. Jaime replaces him as commander, and tells one of the new guard that a member he had served with prior to the start of the series would have been able to cut through the six new members "with his left hand, while taking a piss with his right." This is especially evident in A Clash of Kings, where two of the Kingsguard are killed, one by an angry mob and one by a squire.
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei was said to have instructed Zhuge Liang to take stewardship of Shu if his son, Liu Shan proved inadequate. Though Liu Shan wasn't as capable a leader as his father desired, Zhuge Liang never took power for himself.
- Kate Blackwell struggles with finding a proper heir in Sidney Sheldon's Master of the Game.
- Her son Tony wants to be an artist. She manipulates his career in painting to fail. Then she seems to encourage him to marry a Texas oil man's daughter; instead, his attempt to rebel sends him into the arms of an heiress to the company Kate REALLY wants, and soon she's pregnant with potential heirs. Unfortunately, there's a Death by Childbirth, and when Tony learns the extent of Kate's manipulation, he goes mad and tries to kill her. He ends up institutionalized and lobotomized.
- The resultant granddaughters are twins, but Alexandra has no interest in the company, and Eve is far too evil to inherit it. Eve manipulates herself into Kate's good graces again, but winds up with a Fate Worse than Death.
- Alexandra has a son, and at book's end Kate is already making plans to mold him into a suitable heir at last...
- And Another Thing... introduces Constant Mown, the free-spirited, paperwork-hating, protocol-neglecting son of Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz.
- The Shadow of the Wind has Don Ricardo, a rich industrial who thinks his son Jorge unfitted to take over his business, so he seeks out the woman he impregnated fifteen years earlier, trying to groom their son Julián into his heir, glad he was not aborted as Ricardo had ordered the woman. He's not so glad about it later on.
- In the first Joes World novel, the world's richest businessman decides that his children are unfit to inherit his fortune, so he has them all murdered. Then he does the same thing with all of his grandchildren. One of his great-grandchildren does prove himself suitable, by putting a hit on his great-grandfather. This whole thing turns out to be for naught, as the heir is murdered by one of his cousins, and the entire estate gets spent on death taxes, hiring assassins to kill rival heirs, and legal fees. In the end, all that's left is one bottle of brandy, which is given to the butler.
- In the Heralds of Valdemar series, the story told of the founding of the country of Valdemar says that its first king, although confident in his son's ability to succeed the throne and rule well, feared that sooner or later one of his descendents would fall into this trope. That fear led him to pray to every god he knew of for a solution, a prayer answered by the arrival of the first three Companions and the quick adoption of a law requiring that the country's monarch must also be Chosen by a Companion in order to be eligible for the throne.
- Even with that, the trope is a subject of some concern in Arrows of the Queen, albeit to a lesser degree: Queen Selenay's daughter Elspeth is such a Royal Brat that her mother and the royal Court fear she won't be Chosen and a suitable Heir will have to be selected from among the other Heralds. One of Talia's first responsibilities upon being Chosen as a Herald is to attempt to civilize Elspeth enough that she might be capable of becoming a Herald.
- In Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, E.D. Lawton is a power-hungry Corrupt Corporate Executive, who has gained enormous economic and political power thanks to the titular event, influencing many politicians in Washington using his Perihelion Foundation lobby firm. He has groomed his son Jason (a young genius) to be his successor. However, eventually, Jason realizes that his old man is more interested in money and power rather than studying and trying to stop the Spin. Meanwhile, E.D. becomes convinced that Jason has become corrupted by Wan Ngo Wen and tries to find ways to sideline his son and take charge. Jason is the one who ends up getting his father pushed into temporary obscurity and takes control of Perihelion, although his actions end up spelling the end for the foundation. Jason is content with Perihelion being disbanded, as its purpose has been fulfiled, while E.D. is angry, as Perihelion was his life.
- In The Curse of Chalion, this is doomed to be Iselle and Bergon's fate if the curse is not lifted. Brilliant, brave, and good-hearted they may be, but all their dreams for the future of their countries will be lost in heirs "murdered, betrayed, mad, dead, and exiled." Fortunately Cazaril is able to short-circuit this future by lifting the curse.
- Safehold has Hektor the Younger of Corisande, his father would rather have his daughter Irys as heir, due to Hektor's inadequacy and his brother Daivyn's young age, but unfortunately for him, women cannot inherit under Corisandian law.
- In Shards of Honor, terminally ill Emperor Ezar of Barrayar is aware that his only child Serg is so Axe Crazy that becoming a puppet of the aggressively expansionist political factions he favored upon taking the throne was the best case scenario. Fortunately for the Imperium and the Galaxy at large a healthy grandson and sane prospective regents meant that there were ways to deal with such problems.
- On Haven, Police Chief Wuornos tried various ways to to get his son Nathan ready to take over for him and be able to deal with the deadly "Troubles" on his own, aiming to make his son tougher because he'll need to be. (The main result of this, unfortunately, being to irrevocably sabotage Nathan's relationship with his father.)
- Played with in an early episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Grand Nagus Zek proclaims Quark to be his successor, and promptly dies soon afterward. Quark becomes Nagus and Zek's son makes several attempts on his life so that he can usurp the title. Turns out Zek's not really dead, and it was all a ruse to test to see if his son was ready to be Nagus. Zek determines that he isn't due to his impulsive attempts to simply kill Quark instead of subtly amassing power and support before getting rid of him. Quark himself was not in on the ruse and was not very happy to find out his life was endangered just to teach Zek's son a lesson. When the Nagus really does retire in one of the last episodes of the series, the successor ends up being Rom, a new kind of Nagus for the new Feringinar.
- One episode of The Twilight Zone, "The Masks," is about a group of greedy, selfish in-laws who visit a dying man only because they want a part of his large inheritance. The man gives them the condition that they can only inherit his fortune if they wear a set of hideous-looking masks until midnight. They succeed in fulfilling this condition (and as it turns out, the old man dies at the very stroke of midnight), but the man gets the last laugh on them as it turns out that the masks have permanently disfigured their faces to make them more suitable for their personalities.
- Drives most of the plot of Downton Abbey. On the death of his heir, on the Titanic, the Earl of Grantham's estate is all set to pass to...a solicitor. Gasp. Of course, the real issue is that Grantham would much rather leave his estate to one of his actual children (but can't, because they're all girls) than to a distant relative he's never met, who could potentially throw his daughters out onto the streets with nothing when the time comes.
- Justified has Detroit mafia don Theo Tonin and his son Sammy, a spoiled, weak-willed mob prince who hides behind his father's reputation. As Theo's son, Sammy is the logical inheritor of the crime syndicate, but neither Theo nor Robert Quarles has a high opinion of him. Quarles was himself considered a potential heir to Tonin's criminal empire but his psychotic nature caused him to become too much of a liability and he was exiled from Detroit. He tries to regain favor with Theo by turning Kentucky into a major source of illegal prescription drugs but his plans are foiled and Theo ends up putting a reward on his head. In season 5 Sammy becomes acting don and it takes him only four months to wreck the criminal empire his father has built.
- In season 2 Mags Bennett and her oldest son Doyle are planning to go legit and it is made clear that only Doyle and his family will get the money from a crooked land deal. She disinherits her other son Dickie but gives him her marijuana business as consolation. However, she explicitly gives control over all her other criminal enterprises to Boyd Crowder. Later, when she finds out that Dickie has been arrested and Doyle killed, she chooses to kill herself rather than try to help Dickie. In season 3 when Dickie gets out of jail he goes looking for a stash of money that his mother left behind. Turns out that she gave all the money to Loretta, a girl whose father she murdered, rather than let Dickie have it.
- Before the start of the series everyone assumed that Bo Crowders's son Bowman would take over his father's criminal enterprises. Then Bowman is killed and Bo looks to his other son Boyd for help in controlling crime in Harlan County. However, Boyd is going through a weird Heel-Faith Turn so instead Bo turns to his nephew Johny Crowder. This is short lived and when Bo starts favouring Boyd again, Johny betrays Bo and partners up with Boyd to take down Bo's meth business. When this blows up in Johny's face, Bo decides to clean house and exiles Boyd and tries to kill Johny. Bo is then killed and Boyd ends up taking over anyway, much to Johny's resentment.
- In the re-imagined Flash Gordon series, Ming views his daughter Aura as this, believing that she is too soft to rule Mongo. In his mind, Mongo can only be ruled by an iron fist covered by a velvet glove. In one episode, Aura ends up unintentionally causing Ming to be put into a temporary coma. When Ming wakes up, he's mad that he's still alive. After all, a capable and ambitious leader would have ensured that Ming wouldn't wake up. As such, Aura is unworthy. In the final episode, as Ming is being led to the gas chamber, he looks at his teary-eyed daughter (who was part of the coup and ordered Ming's execution) and tells her he can be finally proud of her.
- Ming's son, Terek, had it worse, almost killed at birth due to being a mutant. But he somehow escaped and became leader of the outcast "Deviates" and officially led the rebellion. Apparently succeeding his father.
- Brazilian TV show "Você Decide" (You Decide) had one episode where a wealthy man didn't want to leave his children (his son and his daughter) anything more than what was required by law. (Brazil is one country where one cannot completely disinherit one's children) He made a will bequeathing everything else to a center of medical research. It also includes a case of Loophole Abuse. When his children (even as adults) kept mooching off him, he had them sign IOU notes for any money he gave them. (According to Brazilian Law, anything a father gives his children while he's still alive is considered early inheritance).
- In Heroes, Hiro is in line to inherit his father's company, but doesn't really want to, and his sister is far more talented in that regard anyway. His sister comes up with the idea of having him tell his father what he'd do with the company once he's in charge, which convinces his father to allow her to inherit it.
- In the Ravenloft setting, Azalin's son Irik was considered an unsuitable successor by his Lawful Evil father due to actually being a decent guy. Azalin eventually executed his own son for rebelling against him, and with no "suitable" heir, was "forced" to become a lich.
- King Henry in Shakespeare's Henry IV parts one and two believes his son Hal to be this, since instead of being a proper, honorable prince, Hal spends his time drinking, stealing and chasing skirts with the commonest of lowlifes. Henry eventually confronts his son about his behavior, and in the 2012 BBC production, Hal's rather flippant response earns him a slap in the face.
- Dragon Quest:
- Dragon Quest VII: The current Pendragon of Gorges struggles with this, as his mother disapproves of... well, just about everything he does. Like his insistence on using the BlissRock to make their lives easier. Or pretending his daughter Firia is 'just adopted', refusing to recognize her as his daughter by blood because she was born without wings.
- In Dragon Quest VIII, Prince Charmles (the obligatory "Prince Charmless" pun is made early and often), heir to the throne of Argonia, is fat, lazy, spoiled, and dishonest, despite his father King Clavius' attempts to encourage, prod, or shame him into making something of himself. In the post-game content it comes out that the Hero is a Hidden Backup Prince, the son of Clavius' older brother, and therefore has a better claim to Argonia's throne than either Charmles OR Clavius. The matter of succession is never definitively dealt with, however.
- In the backstory of Team Fortress 2, Zepheniah Mann, seeing his sons Blutarch and Redmond as idiotic and incompetent, gives them both half of his empire to squabble over (minus his company, Mann Co, which he gave to Saxton Hale's (grand?)father). The two proceed to go to war with each other via an army of mercenaries, a war that continues to the 60's.
- Saints Row 2: Shogo Akuji leads the Ronin in Stilwater. He proves so inept at his job, though, that not only does his father has to fly in from Japan to take the reigns, but he ends up favoring Shogo's lieutenant over him.
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: The king in this game's legend, who thought his successor wasn't good enough to have the Triforce and so he hid one part until a worthy person appeared.
- Crusader Kings: One of the main challenges is making sure your dynasty's position doesn't go do a drunken hedonist imbecile. Removing them from the succession is easy, ensuring the next heir is one of yours is more difficult.
- Laharl is seen as one by some of his father's former vassals. Everybody else doesn't even know who he is.
- This is the backstory to The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, and through it, most of the setting — the intro narration even begins by reciting how "The unworthy heirs of the Septim Dynasty have allowed the bonds of the Empire to weaken and crack..."
- In Ace Attorney, Franziska von Karma accuses Edgeworth of disgracing her father's family name due to his losses at the hands of Phoenix Wright. She's flummoxed when he doesn't care about the insult, since he's had Character Development and learned there were more important things than a perfect winning streak. And because von Karma was a murderer who killed Edgeworth's father and tried to get him accused of murder, but that issue is never really brought up.
- Shinji in Fate/stay night is a total loser who thinks he's a genius. Except he really does recognize that he sucks and isn't even a magus. That's why Zouken Matou adopted Sakura into the family. Nobody even bothered to tell Shinji that he was now entirely obsolete until a decade after she arrived. The fun part is that the inadequate inheritor and the inheritee? Lose big time to the 'substitute magus.'
- Only in one route though. In the other two, Shinji loses big time to Shirou instead, after Sakura gave Rider to him. And, of course, Sakura has spent the last eleven years being horrifically abused by both of them, so she's hardly won either....
- Shiki in Tsukihime is disinherited because he is extremely sick after an almost deadly accident, and even after recovering is still too bad as a result. Also, he is not a real Tohno, only was fooled - and thus fooled the others - in believing to be. The real Tohno SHIKI was killed, and even after coming back to life he was too mentally unstable.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, wealthy head of the Ushiromiya family Kinzo is dying. His heir, Krauss has made several bad investments and lost a lot of money. The second oldest, Eva, is intelligent and ambitious, but not very personable and is border line crazy. The third oldest, Rudolf, is just a womanizer. The youngest, Rosa has an illegitimate daughter. So what does he do to remedy the situation? Teach them to be better heirs? No. Because he's been dead for over a year before the series begins anyway. In EP7, an Alternate Timeline shows who Kinzo would have considered his ideal inheritor: Lion, the child of his unholy union with his illegitimate daughter, who he gave to Krauss and Natsuhi to raise as their own.
- Quain'tana from Drowtales is not necessarily a villain, but has been disappointed by at least three daughters looking to succeed her before settling on Ariel who is really her granddaughter.
- Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "replacement", Strong Bad wonders who will take up his email-answering mantle after he retires. He's so disappointed with all the candidates that he resigns himself to "checking e-mails and kicking Cheats 'til the day I die."
- Bruce Goodkind, the richest man in the Whateley Universe and head of the mutant-hating Goodkind family, seems to be having this problem. Oldest son? Came out as a Transsexual and left the family. Oldest daughter? Left to be a movie starlet a la Paris Hilton. Second daughter? Not good with business and won't make an adequate businesswoman. He's left with three sons: one is a brat, but might make good (if he doesn't become a mutant, which is incredibly unlikely at this point), one who is doing a decent job, and the second-youngest, who is a complete genius who would have been an amazing heir had he not become a mutant and thus been thrown out of the family.
- Prince Zuko of Avatar: The Last Airbender is a prime example, right down to being shooed away with an Impossible Task while his younger, female sibling is groomed discreetly for the actual succession to Firelord. Admittedly, this had a lot more to do with the boy's failure to emulate his father's sociopathy than his relative shortfalls in skill, cunning, and levelheadedness.
- In Kim Possible, Señor Senior, Sr. is a classic Affably Evil Villain whose greatest disappointment is his Cloudcuckoolander / Minion with an F in Evil son, Señor Senior, Jr. He is constantly lecturing his son on how a 'proper villain' must behave.
- This doesn't seem to bother Junior all that much, however. If anything, it only annoys him. Also, it's clear that Señor Senior, Sr. loves his son and fully intends to make him his heir, he's just a little frustrated.
- Also, Camille Leon entered a life of crime after her father disinherited her.
- Ron, taking on the mantle of the Fearless Ferret.
- In Evil Con Carne (The segment that used to air side by side with The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy) Hector Con Carne's future son isn't the least bit evil, much to Hec's chagrin. Though in the end, the Card-Carrying Villain is okay with it, and naturally, the son is okay with both of his parents being on the opposite side of morality.
- Beezy on Jimmy Two-Shoes is nowhere near the level of evil that his father Lucius wants him to be, even though he's to be the next ruler of Miseryville. He'd rather hang out with Jimmy and his girlfriend, Saffi.
- In The Simpsons episode, Burns, Baby Burns, Mr. Burns' son, Larry, is considered to inherit Mr. Burns' fortune, but has a tough time fitting in.
- In Adventure Time, the rightful heir that Princess Bubblegum creates in her laboratory turns out to be a failure, and kind of... "special," to put it nicely: her Frankenstein's Idiot, Lemongrab, is a horrible ruler, because he's dysfunctional, socially inept, mentally unadjusted, overly-sensitive, obnoxious, and... well, a butt.
- It gets VERY worse. Bonnibel then tries to give Lemongrab an equally insane little brother, so that they'll scream at each other and like it. This works for a time, but eventually they degrade into full-sibling rivalry (complete with cannibalism) over their "son". As for her daughter, Goliad gets the wrong idea about how to be a good ruler (not helped by her God Save Us From The The Queen psychic powers) and tries to be a ruthless dictator, so she has to be psychically imprisoned. So far, Bonnibel's best chance at an heir is Lemongrab junior...junior-er, Lemonhope.
- In ThunderCats (2011), almost everyone in Thundera thinks young prince Lion-O isn't as worthy an heir to the throne as his adopted brother Tygra, since Tygra is Always Someone Better and Lion-O is viewed as eccentric for believing in the stories of "technology," and defending the supposed rights of other, lower Animals. His refusal to conform to Thundera's cultural paradigm of Might Makes Right and species dominance doesn't help his case either. It's only when Thundera is invaded that Lion-O is vindicated, and proves his worth.
- In Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats, a wealthy woman left her entire fortune to her niece because she hates her other relatives. No reason for this hatred has ever been mentioned.
- In South Park episode "Cartmanland", Eric Cartman inherited his grandmother's money. She mentioned in her will that she left her money to him because she feared her other relatives would have spent it on crack. While he bought a failing amusement park so he could have it to himself, only to sell it back after unintentionally making it profitable again (he hated letting other kids in to pay for everything) then lose the money to back taxes and lawsuits. So yeah, the Cartman's aren't exactly the best gene pool.
- In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, the original Mandarim set up those tests and hid the rings because he felt all his children to be the trope.
- One-shot character Arkady Duvall from Batman: The Animated Series. Compared to his father Ra's Al Ghul, who is a suave, charismatic leader, Arkady was nothing but a self-obsessed sociopath, who had the definitions of a budding Caligula. Not surprisingly, he's passed over as a successor.
- Stunt Dawgs: Badyear is a billionaire's disinherited nephew.
- Phantom Limb of The Venture Bros.. His family of costumed adventurers rejected him because severe birth defects left him unable to take on a life of adventuring. He gained his superpowers during a botched attempt to make himself whole and take on "the mantle of his forebears". He later confirms to Dr. Girlfriend that he was disinherited at a young age and forced to work his way up from nothing, unlike the supervillains who fund their evil acts with trust funds.
- Troy Hammerschmitt from Titan MAXIMUM might be The Ace, but his father still plans to leave control of the corporation to his nerdy sister, since she has a better head for business. Troy merely taunts how his sister will get to do the boring work while he gets to be a test pilot. It's a ruse though: Troy is so mad at his father for passing him over that he pulls a Cavalry Betrayal, handing his state-of-the-art Humongous Mecha over to the Big Bad.
- This is always eventually the long run outcome in polygamous cultures. As the patriarch will have a multitude of sons with different wives and concubines, the question of inheritance eventually collapses into an all-out elimination game between the sons. The one who inherits the patriarch may not necessarily have the most ability but rather most cunning, backstabbing skills (sometimes literally) and callosity. This was the cause of the collapse of Assyrian and Mongol empires and the reason of stagnation of Turkey into the "sick man of Europe".
- JT, the crack gang leader made famous for letting grad student Sudhir Venkatesh stick around with his gang. Venkatesh writes about how, toward the end of his career, JT tried to rebuild his gang in new areas but was largely thwarted by prospective gangsters being more interested in whether they can get a new bicycle if they join the gang than in JT's dreams of power and wealth.
- Inverted by Louis XIV and his eventual successor Louis XV. On his deathbed, Louis XIV told his young great-grandson that he would be a great king, and warned him to avoid making war as much as possible, describing it as the "ruin of the people". Unfortunately, Louis XV ignored his great-grandfather's advice (possibly because he was only four at the time) and proved to be a woefully inept king before passing the throne to the even more incompetent Louis XVI, who proceeded to run France into the ground and lose his head in the French Revolution.
- Lenin wrote a document which would be known as "Lenin's Testament", where he criticized all potential successors to his leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, including Stalin and Trotsky (He even suggested the former be removed from his post as General Secretary. The fact Stalin was rude to his wife didn't help). However, he wrote this as his health was beginning to fail; After his death, a power struggle ensued. Which was won by, ironically enough, Stalin.
- This has been the pattern for the majority of famous ancient leaders. Basically, the good leader gets power, has a lot of kids, establishes an elaborate court in which said kids spend all of their time squabbling and enjoying the facilities instead of governing. Examples of this include Yaroslav the Wise, Suleiman the Lawgiver, Akbar the Great, Mansa Musa II, Asoka, Chandragupta II, Emperor Qin...
- A built in feature of statistics. Anyone who is remembered for being great is likely to have a certain mix of genetic traits combined with a certain kind of character. Their offspring will be less likely to have such extremes built in. Their children have a high probability of being closer to average than the parent. Fortunately, it cuts both ways: a person of low character and talent should have children who tend to be closer to average. This is called a regression to the mean. In short, Picasso's child is likely to be less talented than Picasso himself.
- The Freakonomics podcast went into several cases of this trope in the business world, such as Busch Beer's financial troubles until it was eventually sold. Investors and companies seem to overvalue the "family line." Japanese culture has a strong tendency for the father to be succeeded by his son in the family business, with some families having run a particular business for dozens of generations. The Japanese would often adopt individuals (in the past, almost always men) into their family just to avert this trope if the son didn't seem worthy.
- This is still the case in the modern world. This has left Japan as the country with the highest adoption rates in the world, as well as the highest average age of the adopted (adoption is also used as a replacement for gay marriage, which is illegal in Japan, but that is neither here nor there).
- To state the obvious, an observation that is true of populations is not true of particular individuals.