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And I gotta get a meal ticket To survive you need a meal ticket To stay alive you need a meal ticket Feel no pain, no regret When the line's been signed You're someone else Do yourself a favor, the meal ticket does the rest
Basically the target of a Gold Digger. Someone the digger pretends to love for the ticket's money, power, or some other thing the digger wants. Usually the meal ticket is wealthy, but they may simply have a dependable income that's enough that the gold digger won't have to worry about supporting themselves.
If a rich man is over 50, and the wife is under 40, this is the second most common type of fictional relationship after a May-December Romance. Shows up regularly with Ugly Guy, Hot Wife.
Modern examples usually place a man in the position of Meal Ticket, but from Elizabethan to Victorian times, it was just as likely that the Meal Ticket would be female and an heiress, with a male Gold Digger (or diggers!) in pursuit.
In some cases, the digger might grow to love the ticket, but it's rare. Expect fawning until the marriage, and then neglect or even abuse afterward. A happy ending is a toss up. Male Meal Tickets have a high chance to come across the Black Widow and have their lives quickly shortened.
The name has varied and vague origins from the 19th century to either this trope or to actual tickets used to get meals in places.
Suffice it to say, Truth in Television, but No Real Life Examples, Please!.
Compare Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor. See Christmas Cake for the (usually) gender-inverted equivalent.
In Berserk, Princess Charlotte is this to Griffith, and in Berserk Abridged he actually refers to her as a meal ticket once.
In Gungrave, Harry admits he needs Sherry Walken to become the head of the Syndicate. It's not clear whether he really loves her or not, until the last episodes.
Princess Flora is the female meal ticket of Honey Honey No Suteki Na Bouken, and rich men from all over the world show up at her birthday party to ask her hand in marriage. It annoys her to be treated as a prize, so she tuckes her diamond ring into a cooked fish and chucks it out the window, where it is eaten by a cat (Honey's kitten Mimi) on the ground. She then says anyone who can retrieve the diamond ring will marry her, which kickstarts the plot.
Kanae Ohtori in Revolutionary Girl Utena is this to Akio, since as her fiance he's able to have control over the school and perpetuate his plan with the duels. Since the entire series is a deconstruction of prince and princess tropes, in this case Kanae's situation represents how little power many princesses actually have when they're used this way, and late in the series it's heavily implied that Akio poisons her with the help of Anthy.
Uncle Fester was this to Debbie Jellinsky, the villainess in The Addams Family Values.
The father in every version of The Parent Trap. Why is she interested in him? "I can think of a million reasons, and they're all in the bank."
In Robin Hood, Robin is asked to act as Sir Robert Loxley, including with Lady Marion. So when he introduces Lady Marion as his wife to his Band of Brothers, they applaud his luck with a "Well-played, Robin!"
Rita in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, who dosed Lord Zedd with a love potion so that he'd marry her, forget about banishing her and let her get back to terrorising Earth. A later episode has Zedd's Dragon Goldar try to reverse the potion's effect, only to find that they'd actually fallen for each other anyway.
Veronica Mars: Kendall Casablancas, a young hot ex-professional cheerleader marries the elder Dick Casablancas, and when he flees the country to avoid prosecution for real estate fraud, she tries to make her casual sex relationship with her step-son's rich friend more of a sugar daddy thing, despite his being several years younger than herself. Didn't work.