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Paid-For Family
Jane: There's something you should know. My parents died when I was six. I'm an orphan.
John: ...then who was that lovely gentleman who gave you away at our wedding?
Jane: Paid actor.
John: I said, I said I saw your dad on Fantasy Island!

Something like The Paid-For Harem, this is when a character pays people to act as though they were his warm and loving family. A rather extreme form of I Just Want to Be Normal, if the character in question is incapable of founding a "normal" family, or a way to show said character's Freudian Excuse. Sometimes played for laughs, such as for keeping a I Want Grandkids parent at bay. See also The Beard, for when the character pays someone to act as his Love Interest.

Examples:

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     Comic Books  

  • XIII: In the comic, we learn more about the Mongoose's backstory, including that he pays prostitutes to act like women who want him to join their family for Christmas.
  • Batman: One origin story (can't remember the comic) for Robin had Bruce intend to adopt Robin after the death of his parents, only for an uncle of Robin's to show up, preventing adoption. It later turns out that this was all a ploy orchestrated by Robin, who paid a guy to act as his uncle so he could keep his freedom. When Batman finds out (of course he finds out, he's Batman), he tells Robin he's so proud of him he could cry.
    • Because labyrinthine scheming is encouraged in that household over telling people who care about you what you really feel. (This storyline was presumably inspired by the original early Batman story where Dick Grayson's real uncle turned up and sued for custody, but only so he could force Bruce to bribe him to give it up. This was back when Alfred was a humourously incompetent fat man, and he accidentally saved the day with one of the Penguin's old umbrellas.)
  • The Authority: In a decidedly creepy variation, in one story that has The Authority replaced by Sociopathic Hero Captain Ersatz versions, the Engineer has all her nanomachines removed and is brainwashed, then placed in a "family" of evil children and an abusive husband (all actors), that she will be conditioned to never leave or go against despite the abuse they heap on her. Her escape is a definite Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
  • An issue of Superman, when they were trying to keep Post-Crisis continuity (so Lex Luthor's parents were killed when he was a boy) but also trying to mimic early Smallville as much as possible (so they needed a Lionel Luthor character), had Young Lex hire an actor with a striking resemblence to John Glover.
  • The Flash: Captain Boomerang in one appearance, pays two elderly con artists he knows to play his aged parents. They testify to Boomer's good character to deflect Barry Allen's suspicions.

     Film  

  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Mr. Smith learns his wife was an orphan, so when he asks about her parents at the wedding, she replies "Paid actor".
    Mr. Smith: I said, I said I saw your dad on Fantasy Island!
  • In the Steve Martin movie Housesitter, Goldie Hawn's character uses a local homeless couple to act as her parents at a reception.
  • Shows up a couple times in the Japanese horror film Noriko's Dinner Table. The main character ends up working for a group that provides people to pretend to be family or even a lover or spouse. Sometimes, they're even killed as an act of revenge against the real family member.
  • The movie The Joneses (as in "keeping up with the") features a slight variation: a marketing firm hires some professionals to move into a wealthy neighborhood pretending to be a family to promote products by inserting them in their daily routine and hoping people will decide to mimic them.
  • In National Lampoon's Vacation, Clark Griswold tells The Girl in the Ferrari (Christie Brinkley) that Ellen, Russ and Audrey are his brother's family and he borrows them to pose as his family when he wants to check out the hotels in his chain(s).

     Literature  

  • The Count of Monte Cristo: As part of his plan, the Count hires an old Italian major to play the role of estranged father to the escaped murderer (and illegitimate son of Villefort*:the man who had Edmond thrown into jail for possibly knowing too much) Benedetto and Benedetto the dutiful son, as prince Andrea Cavalcanti, son of the very rich Count Bartolomeo Cavalcanti. This in order to get Danglarsnote  to get Andrea fianceed to his daughter (by breaking up with Morcerf'snote  son), expose Andrea as Benedetto on the day of the contract signing, and then expose Benedetto as Villefort's bastard. The Count takes his vengeance seriously.

     Live Action TV  

  • The Odd Couple: When Oscar's rival for City Council shows up for an appearance with his family, Campaign Organizer Felix hires minority actors to play Oscar's loving family.
  • Midsomer Murders has a very strange episode in which various women prostitute themselves, catering to various fetishes: one does domination S&M, another is a woman "caught" in a bear trap, waiting to be rescued by a passing hunter, and yet another is a smiling housewife awaiting her husband's return with a warm meal. The murder victim even tells her he'd want to marry her... for real.
  • One episode of JAG has a marine refusing to testify in his own defense, because he believes it will dishonour the memory of a dead friend. Vic, his lawyer, brings in the dead friend's father, who reads a letter his son sent him about how the thing that killed him was an accident waiting to happen, which gives the marine courage to tell the truth about how his friend died. Both the father and the letter were fake— Vic hired an actor to encourage his client to take the stand. Of course, this action being morally suspect at best, the lawyer does get called on it by his superiors.
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney pays a pair of actors (for several years) to play his wife and son... so that his mother will believe he's happy and has a family.
  • Pushing Daisies has an episode where the murder victim is a professional friend.
  • This is the central premise of Sons Of Tucson. The Gunderson boys hire Ron Snuffkin to pretend to be their dad.
  • In an episode of Halfway Home where the characters' families came to visit them, drug runner Carly's family is eventually revealed (to the viewer) to be actors - her real parents pretty much act as though she never existed.
  • Kenan & Kel: Afraid it was to tell something bad the principal wanted to meet Kenan's parents, he hired a couple of (rather lousy) actors to pose as them. Kenan had to entertain the principal and his fake parents to dinner at his house and, obviously, it ended with Kenan's real parents appearing in the end.

     Video Games  

  • Damien later admits that his parents are really just a couple of his servants, ordered to raise him. It's unclear on whether or not he had a happy childhood or not, since the only information you have on the matter comes from Damien himself - and he is more than willing to twist the facts to make himself look sympathetic.

     Web Comics  

  • Referenced in Questionable Content - Hanners once admits that she's secretly worried that the rest of the cast are just skilled actors paid by her (ludicrously wealthy) parents to give her the illusion of a normal life. Faye's response: "Well, if we WERE, we wouldn't be allowed to admit it, so there's not much point in worrying about it, is there?".
  • A strip in Mac Hall has Ian accuse Micah of having character actors play the part of his parents, in order to deceive him from the fact that he may be an old man in disguise who has been stalking him all his life. Just another ordinary day at the college.

     Western Animation  

  • An episode of Recess had a parent/teacher conference where Spinelli was too embarrassed to have her family come so she paid a couple of people who did a really bad job.
  • Invader Zim: When Zim used his Irken technology to build a replica of a human house, it also built robotic replicas of a stereotypical Fifties-style "Mom" and "Dad." Usually, they're in the background, but when Zim has to modify them and bring them to Parent-Teacher Night at his school, Hilarity Ensues.
  • One episode of Bob's Burgers had the Belchers' landlord promises them several rent-free months if Linda, Tina, Gene, and Louise will pretend to be his family. Why? The One Who Got Away is coming to dinner and Mr. Fischoeder knows she will only be interested in him if she thinks he's taken. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Con Heir" we find out that for many years Stan had hired an actor to play his father. The truth comes out after the actor dies and Stan's real father shows up.


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