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Characters may often claim that others are their relatives when they have no relation to them, often to justify a character spending time around them without looking suspicious, or to mention why a character has suddenly appeared in their lives
. They may also invent an entirely fictitious relative to get something done, often disguising themselves as said relative.
Such excuses are generally not very believable and tend to rely on the listener not knowing enough about the subject or the so-called relative to be able to discredit it, but few characters even consider seeing through them. It's also possible that someone might see through it, but really don't want to call them on it. (Are YOU going to tell the vampire his "brother" does not look anything like him?)
Compare Blatant Lies
, which is more general. May often lead to Undead Tax Exemption
in a situation where paperwork would be required. May be a form of She Is Not My Girlfriend
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Anime & Manga
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, after Hayate summons the Wolkenritter and wakes up in the hospital after fainting from shock, tells her doctor that they are her foreign relatives. She later goes on to refer to them as her family.
- In Death Note, Light introduces Matsuda (who is at that point going under an alias) as his cousin when investigating Aoyama and using some friends to prevent him from standing out.
- In the Bount arc of Bleach, Renji is thought to be Ichigo's cousin while attending his high school. In the Reigai arc, Nozomi claims to be Rukia's cousin— Rukia's been living at Ichigo's place long enough that the Kurosaki family takes Nozomi in with no further questions.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, when Negi uses some magic pills to age himself into a teenager, he identifies himself as his own cousin. Naturally, this creates a whole new set of problems when one of his students falls in love with his "cousin". Similarly, Kotaro is passed off as Natsumi's little brother to explain why he suddenly started living with her and her roommates.
- In Higurashi: When They Cry, this is Rika's explanation for Hanyuu (as a cousin). Not too far off - she is related. Just her great grandmother from at a bare minimum eight generations back.
- Rito tells people Lala is a distant relative in To Love-Ru. No one really pays any attention to this fact, seeing as she loudly declared that she was his bride, and it's not like she's subtle in her affections either, subverting the whole point of the lie. (As an excuse to why they are living together.)
- In Superbook, a Bible character who met Chris and Joy when she was younger remarks about this, and they claim to be their own descendants, rather than explain that they have this book that sends them back to different points in Bible times.
- In the Beach Episode of Mayo Chiki!, the cast members who aren't in on Subaru's secret make an unexpected appearance and the main characters, in trying to deflect the question of why Subaru is in a bikini, introduce her as "Subaru's cousin Punyuru". Jirou immediately lampshades the ridiculousness of this explanation (or, at least, the name), but the others buy it anyway (well, most of them).
- In Haiyore! Nyarko-san, Mahiro's entire Unwanted Harem pretend to be related to him, despite not looking like him at all. They did this one by one, making it seem even less likely.
- In current DC Comics "Conner Kent" is Clark's cousin who is being raised by Martha and Jonathan following his own parents' deaths, and "Linda Lang" is Lana's neice. Likewise when he and Lois adopt Chris, they claim that he's the son of Clark's cousin. Or...Lois' cousin? Dang it, where are those forged papers again? Superman might count as well - rather than the usual adoption route, current continuity has the Kents being snowed in for a few months after finding the rocketship, and claiming Martha was pregnant but hadn't told anyone.
- In Spider-Man Peter and his clone, Ben Reilly, claim to be cousins with a Strong Family Resemblance. "Reilly" is Aunt May's maiden name.
- When the Runaways moved to Malibu and had to deal with neighbors, Xavin posed as their father. Even for a Super-Skrull, it was a stretch.
- In Getting It Right, Rukia claims to be Orihime's cousin to explain why they've started living and going to school together. On the same day, Ichigo starts up the lie that he learned swordsmanship from an uncle that lives in town (actually Urahara). He probably only gets away with it because his "uncle" is never around.
- Superman (1978). After the Kents find baby Kal-El in the wreckage of the Kryptonian starship, Ma Kent suggests that they tell people that he's the recently orphaned child of her cousin in North Dakota.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day. John introduces the Terminator to Enrique as "Uncle Bob".
- Monsters Inc, when Mr. Waternoose finds the disguised Boo:
Waternoose: Ah, James. Is this one yours?
Sullivan: Ah, actually, that's, uh... my cousin's... sister's... daughter, sir.
Mike: Yeah. It's uh, "Bring An Obscure Relative To Work Day".
Waternoose: Hmm. Must have missed the memo.
- Also done rather humorously in a deleted scene:
Hey, Sully, is the kid yours? Sullivan:
No! She's, uh... Mike:
She's his...brother's niece! Sullivan:
* Which makes her my daughter.
- In Back to the Future, Marty McFly introduces Doc Brown to his teenage mother as his "uncle."
- In Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Wendy tells everyone at school that Shen is her cousin.
- In Princess Protection Program Carter has to pretend that Rosie is her cousin.
- In Chicago, Roxie tells a neighbor that Fred Casely is her brother.
- In Kill Bill, the Bride tries to pass her ex-lover Bill off as her father when he unexpectedly shows up at her wedding. He smiles and plays along, but his reaction when asked to "give her away" suggests he sees like salt in the wound.
- In Aladdin, Aladdin saves Princess Jasmine from getting her hand cut off for accidental thievery by jumping in and claiming that his "sister" gets confused sometimes.
- Jumpin Jack Flash. A (white) woman is trying to sneak Whoopi Goldberg's character into an embassy party, and claims she's her sister, getting some odd looks until she quickly adds, "By marriage."
- In Rush Hour, Carter goes to a Chinese restaurant where the criminal mastermind Juntao is supposed to be holed up. When confronted by Juntao's people, he claims that he's Juntao's half-brother. Carter is black. Juntao is an Evil Brit.
Carter: I'm Blackanese!
Live Action Television
- In The Sarah Connor Chronicles they pretended Cameron was John's sister.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Better Than Life", when Arnold Rimmer meets Napoleon: "Could you just sign this for me. Make it out to my good pal Arnie from your dear chum Napoleon Bonaparte. It's not for me, it's for my sister Alison. ...we call her Arnie."
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Rascals", Picard pretends Riker is his father (after having been turned into a child in a transporter accident), so the Ferengi who've captured the Enterprise won't think it's weird that they're spending time together.
FRED: Um, hi. Um, yes. I'm looking for a patient — a man. He was brought in Thursday, named Stover.
NURSE: Are you a family member?
FRED: Am I—? Yes. I have a family. I'm a member. He's my brother. Father. My father's brother.
NURSE: (looking at the computer) I have a Stoller.
FRED: Half-brother. Uncle. Half-uncle.
- In That '70s Show, the gay couple who move in next door to the Foreman's mention that in their last place they lived they had to claim to be brothers. (Doubles as Actor Allusion since the gay couple is played by Barry Williams and Christopher Knight, aka Greg & Peter Brady from The Brady Bunch.)
- The Big Bang Theory: In "The Loobenfeld Decay", Sheldon invents a drug addicted cousin as an excuse to avoid attending a show of Penny's. This spirals out of control and Sheldon ends up employing a lab assistant to play his cousin Leo.
Religion & Folklore
- The Bible has Abraham withhold the fact that Sara is his wife, and just saying that she's his sister in Egypt and Gerar (which is in his case, only bending the truth, as she is also his father's daughter), because he fears he would get killed out of jealousy by the king. When his son, Isaac, says the same thing about his wife Rebekah, however, she's actually his second cousinnote .
- In Rent the lesbian couple claim to be sisters on occasion. Keep in mind that they are of different races. And that it once happened immediately after they made out. ("We're close.")
- In The Yeomen of the Guard, when Fairfax is masquerading as Leonard Meryll, Wilfred presents Phoebe as his long-lost sister, telling him to watch over her faithfully, with particular attention to her need for "indiscriminate caress." Fairfax repeatedly kisses his alleged sister in the ensuing ensemble.
- The 1919 Broadway musical Apple Blossoms had a song about this excuse titled "Brothers."
- The Rose Tattoo:
Miss Yorke: You are talking about the Hunter girl's brother, a sailor named Jack, who attended the dance with his sister?
Serafina: "Attended with sister!"—Attended with sister!—My daughter, she's nobody's sister!
- The Adding Machine:
Mrs. Six: But who was the charming lady, Mr. One?
One: Now don't you go makin' trouble for me. That was my sister.
Mrs. Five: Oho! That's what they all say.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Torg claims that Sasha is his sister to prevent Oasis from killing her out of jealousy.
- In one Pv P strip, Francis disguises himself as an old man who is returning a game for his (non-existent) grandson, and exchanges it for a copy of the same game. He then comes back as himself to return the unopened game for a full refund.
- El Goonish Shive: Ellen is Elliot's magically created Opposite-Sex Clone. She adopted the cover identity of being Elliot's twin sister, who had been in foster care most of her life.
- On Danny Phantom, Dani claims to be Danny's second-cousin some-odd-times removed, when she is actually a younger Opposite-Sex Clone. The two refer to each other as "cousins" afterward, apparently just for simplicity's sake.
- Played with in one episode of Futurama, when Fry tries to deflect attention from what the Professor is saying by claiming that "Grandpa" is a bit senile. The Professor then angrily points out that he's not Fry's grandfather, Fry is actually his great-great-etc.-uncle from a thousand years in the past...which of course, just makes Fry's lie seem more accurate.
- "You're his uncle, stupid! He takes after you! Oh, no...that means I take after you too! AAAAH!"
- Actually, the Professor is descended from Fry himself, thanks to Fry being his own grandfather.
- One episode of King of the Hill has the desperately-lonely Bill invent a visiting uncle just as an excuse to go with his friends to the airport.
- American Dad!
- In the two-parter where the family goes to Saudi Arabia, Haley is going to be arrested for being outside her home without a man when a random Saudi man comes forward and claims to be her brother. Possibly based on the Aladdin example above, especially since he winds up being her Boy of the Week.
- Some of Roger's personas are often said to be a relative of the Smiths usually a cousin.
- In Code Lyoko, after Aelita is retrieved from the virtual world, she had no known family or history that can be freely divulged without breaking the masquerade. To deal with this, the crew passed her off as Odd's cousin. She also had a Fake-Out Make-Out with Odd in a later episode, but the issue was never addressed beyond that.
- In Sym-Bionic Titan, Lance and Alana pretend to be brother and sister and that Octus is their father.
- Mr. Hyunh on Hey Arnold! tries this in order to get a job promotion, tricking his boss into thinking Granpa Phil is his dad, Arnold is his son, Oskar's wife Suzie is his wife and the rest of the people living in the border house are related to him... of course, it doesn't work in the end - plus the fact that he's asian and no one else in his supposed family is.
- The Ugly Americans episode "Attack of Mark's Clone" has this occur when Grimes finds Mark trapped in his closet, only to have Clone Mark (who had imprisoned him there and taken his place) walk in. Clone Mark briefly and very unconvincingly tries to claim Mark is his brother "who lives in the closet" but quickly gives up and shoots Grimes in the leg.
- Young Justice:
- Green Arrow claims that Artemis is his niece to justify her being his new protege. She actually just wanted to hide the fact that her real family are all villains. Red Arrow figures it out right away (he was, after all, Green Arrow's foster son), and a few other Team members figure it out before she reveals the truth.
- On a mission with Haley's Circus the Team claims to be a family of performers; someone lampshades the fact that they don't look alike.
- Played with: Red Arrow and Guardian claim to be nephew and uncle. In reality they're both clones of Speedy, but don't realize it themselves.
- In the tie-in comic Marie Logan introduces M'Gann as her daughter. It seems quite plausible, since M'Gann's human disguise is based on what Marie looked like as a teenager.
- Carl Squared: In "Clone Scene Investigation," Lorna catches Carl and C2 (Carl's clone) together. To make certain the secret doesn't get out, Carl says he has an identical cousin.
- On an episode of Doug the eponymous character is hoping his crush Patty will ask him to the Bumpkin Day Hoedown. However, Connie asks him out instead, and it doesn't help that at this point, anyway, Connie is plain and pudgy. So Doug tells her he can't go to the dance because he has to take care of his sick cousin Melvin. These being his friends, of course, they believe him and decide to go bring flowers and comics to "Melvin," so he has his sister Judy climb into bed and fake the part. (And of course, Judy spontaneously decides that "Melvin" has a miraculously recovery and wants to go to the dance too.)