Peter: "They're responsible for this..." Adam: "Parents sin, children suffer."
— Peter Petrelli and Adam Monroe, Heroes, "Truth and Consequences"
The act of exacting revenge (even when positioned as "just retribution") upon the descendants of the one who originally did the wrong in question, due to them being already dead or out of reach at the moment.
This one's really popular with immortal or undead antagonists, such as vengeful ghosts, liches, vampires, dragons, and the like, as well as many a Sealed Evil in a Can, whose first order of business upon getting out of said can is often meting out some very nasty payback on the descendants of the people who put it in there to start with. As said descendants have typically (though not always) done nothing wrong other than be descended from the people who originally wronged the villain, the result is often a monstrous injustice that a hero will have to set to rights, usually by taking down the villain in question. Or a villain may curse a family, with it descending to generation after generation of innocents. On the other hand, if the descendant in question is carrying on their ancestor's role in whatever annoyed the attacker in the first place (for example, fighting evil demons like their ancestor did), it makes a lot more sense.
Frequently a Bewildering Punishment for the victim, though this trope is more likely than most to have the villain explain the offense to the victim.
Sometimes an Anti-Hero will do this to a villain's children, in hopes of drawing on their parental feelings and dragging said villain out of their fortress.
A variant is the "hereditary prison", when children of prisoners are born in prison and stay there for the rest of their life, and so on.
The villain may justify it on the grounds that the children profited by the original crime. Particularly when they own something that belonged to the villain. Do not expect the villain to be deterred by questions such as how he came into possession in the first place, whether the children knew of the provenance of the item, or if they might give it back if they knew. (On the other hand, the children, aware of the tainted source, may attempt to Buy Them Off but refuse to restore, which tends to move the situation out of the scope of this trope.)
Contrast Revenge by Proxy, where the target is the child or other associates in preference to the character who actually wronged them, even though that character is available, in order to make that character suffer more. Revenge Through Corruption is when the method of revenge is trying to effect a Face-Heel Turn upon the offspring of one's enemy.
The trope name comes from the ancient saying, "The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon their children."
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In the eighth Dragon Ball Z movie, Paragus and Broly lured Vegeta into an elaborate ruse in order to take revenge on him for his father's actions towards them. Fearful of Broly's power, he ordered the Saiyan child to be executed, then tried to kill Paragus for the crime of pleading for his son's life.
Aleister (Amelda in the original Japanese) from Yu-Gi-Oh!, with the subversion that he actually has a point. He hates Kaiba Corp because he believes Gozaburo Kaiba responsible for the death of his family (though it was actually Dartz, Aleister's boss) and objects to Seto and Mokuba Kaiba living comfortably off of blood stained riches. Although the Kaiba brothers weren't responsible for the wars that Gozaburo financed (and there were genuine ones), they're certainly willing to benefit from them.
Semi-used in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Duke Devlin/Ryuuji Otogi's father lost a Shadow Game to Solomon/Sugurokou Moto, so he makes Duke/Ryuuji battle Yugi.
Also played with in the anime, where Rebecca Hawkins wants to battle Yugi because her grandfather lost a game to Yugi's.
Yami Bakura sought revenge on Pharoah Atem because he believed Atem's father (in reality, it was his father's brother Akunadin) was responsible for the slaughter of his village.
Yusei Fudo of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds has definitely born his share of suffering and guilt because of his father designing/discovering Momentum, which was responsible for Zero Reverse and all sorts of problems thereafter.
In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Evangeline A. K. McDowell was spurned, has the bulk of her power sealed, and ended up trapped within a Japanese Elevator School by Nagi Springfield some fifteen years ago. When ten year old Negi Springfield showed up to teach in the class she was attending... she was not happy. Justified by the fact that she also wants Negi for his blood, as it mitigates his dad's curse.
Also, the supported theory that the Megalomesembrian Senate were responsible for launching the attack on Negi's village solely to kill Negi, because he is the son of their old foe Arika Entheofushia and Nagi Springfield.
Ranma ½'s title character Ranma Saotome usually has to deal with the problems his dad created in the past. Of course this isn't because his father is dead, he's just a big coward.
This is sort of what happens in Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru: Mizuho lives in the room that his late grandfather arranged for him, when in fact, the very same room belonged to his Missing Mom during her school days and it is also the very room where his mom's devoted kohai died of exhaustion while waiting for her to return. Things ain't that grim, however, as it turns out that said kohai survived as a (rather cheerful) ghost and it is Mizuho's task to make amends to her for his mom's untimely leave 22 years ago.
This seems to be a very big theme in the One Piece world. Unsurprisingly, one of the Central Themes of the series is that heredity doesn't matter and family is who you choose.
Ace is the son of Pirate King Gold Roger and was hunted by the World Government even before he was born in an attempt to rid the world of the bloodline. One of his captain's men, Squardo, even turns on Whitebeard after this reveal as his crew was previously wiped out by the man. Whitebeard calms Squardo down and states that it's hardly Ace's fault that his father had committed these deeds.
Luffy suffers from this as well, due to being the son of Revolutionary Dragon. Though only Admiral Akainu seems to care. When the knowledge becomes public, Garp shrugs it off, saying Luffy's notoriety has gotten to the point it doesn't matter who he's related to.
Luffy also gets it in the Dressrosa arc from Don Chinjao. In this case, it was Luffy's grandfather who wronged him by injuring Chinjao in such a way that he could no longer reach a treasure he coveted. Chinjao considers what happened so unforgivable that he's perfectly willing to take it out on Luffy once he realizes who Luffy is. This is completely undone when Luffy injures Chinjao in such a way that restores his ability to reach his treasure. Chinjao is so grateful that he wants to pledge Undying Loyalty to Luffy.
Also during the Dressrosa arc, the female gladiator Rebecca suffers from this due to being the granddaughter of the previous, hated Dressrosa king who Doflamingo deposed. When she entered the arena, the audience jeered and booed her.
In Mobile Suit Gundam, Char plots the deaths of the Zabi family - including youngest son Garma, his best friend from military academy - because he's convinced their father, Sovereign Degwin, murdered his father. It starts out as Revenge by Proxy, with Char killing the Zabis to make Degwin suffer, but he continues on after Degwin's death (at the hands of eldest son, Gihren), pushing him into this territory.
It should be noted that, outside of Garma, the only Zabi Char directly killed was Kycilia, which he did more to end the Zabis' reign of terror as opposed to avenge his father. Dozle was killed by Amuro at the Battle of Solomon, Degwin was killed by Gihren's "accidental" firing of the Solar Ray and Gihren himself was killed by Kycilia in the middle of A Bao A Qu. In that sense, Char only invoked the trope with Garma (which ironically was enough to torment Degwin, who loved Garma the most, to his grave), whereas the rest were casualties of war (Dozle) or just had it coming over their own sins (Gihren, Degwin and Kycilia).
Also, played with in G Gundam. Rain's father was one of the conspirators involved in the Government Conspiracy brewed by Ulube Ishikawa inside his Gambit Roulette, which more or less directly involved the destruction of the Kasshu family. This shames his daughter so much that, after learning of such things, she decides to leave her boyfriend and partner Domon Kasshu over it... and it makes the poor girl the perfect coreunit for the Devil Gundam, which comes in possession of Ulube.
This is Rau Le Creuset's justification for nearly destroying humanity in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, as well as the source of his hatred toward Kira and Mu. To summarize, Rau hates Mu because he (Rau) is a faulty clone of his father (whose reason for creating Rau was to create a successor in his own literal image), he hates Kira because his father was the geneticist in charge of the project (which he used to fuel the Ultimate Coordinator program) and he hates everybody else because he feels humanity condoned his creation through the rampant genetic engineering of the Cosmic Era.
Played with and mixed with Cloning Blues in Gundam Seed Destiny. Rey Za Burrel goes along with Durandal's Destiny plan because he believes that he needs to atone for Rau Le Creuset's Omnicidal Maniac plans in the previous series. He thinks Rau's crimes are his crimes because both of them are clones of the same man. When Kira finally meets him, he manages to convince Rey that Rau's sins were his own and that Rey can make his own choices. Rey ultimately shoots Durandal to save Kira when he realizes that he doesn't really agree with the Destiny Plan after taking some time to actually think about it as a person rather than as Rau 2.0.
Sailor Moon's Black Moon Clan. They're both versions of this trope. They're descendants of criminals Neo-Queen Serenity banished to Nemesis rather then killing, as she does not kill humans (or human aliens) if she can avoid it. They originally wanted to move to Earth peacefully but are manipulated by Wiseman to blame Serenity and seek revenge on her and all of earth.
A truly atrocious example in Rave Master. Lucia, who is all of six years old, is thrown in a maximum security prison as a precaution since his father was... er... not a very well liked person.
Getter Robo Armageddon: Genki Saotome, the child of a Mad Scientist that practically destroyed the world, was almost killed by others in a fallout shelter. Thankfully, Genki's guardian, Benkei, saved the by convincing the others he was Genki's father.
The source of much of the bile and bitterness between Daisuke and Clair in Heat Guy J. Clair's father killed Daisuke's father under orders from Daisuke's evil uncle.
In Mawaru-Penguindrum, the Takakura parents turn out to be members of a terrorist organization that bombed the Tokyo Subway 16 years before the action took place. One of the victims was a little girl named Momoka Oginome... the childhood girlfriend of Shoma and Kanba's teacher, Keiju Tabuki, and the older sister of Shoma's friend/prospect Love Interest Ringo. Shoma actually spells out the trope while revealing to Ringo what he knows about said tragic incident as well as referring to his sister Himari's almost-definitive death that follows as "a curse befalling on the family... as punishment"; he then goes further via cutting off all contacts with Ringo, since he's so wrecked with guilt and self-hate that he simply can't believe that Ringo refuses to hate him and his family for Momoka's demise. It takes Ringo quite the effort to even try convincing him otherwise and let her hang out with him and Himari.
Invoked again when Tabuki himself snaps, kidnaps Himari and tries to stage a cruel Hostage Situation as revenge for what happened to Momoka.
In Hell Girl, Ai Enma tries to Mind Rape Tsugumi Shibata and make her send her father Hajime to Hell because he is either a descendant or the reincarnation of the cousin that betrayed her.
Fullmetal Alchemist's plot boils down to Edward and Alphonse cleaning up a mess that their father Van Hohenheim created. They have to stop an evil man who looks just like their father. As it turns out, the man, "Father", was born of Hohenheim's blood, and used his progenitor as an Unwitting Pawn in his gambit to become immortal, consuming Hohenheim's home country of Xerxes in the process; now, he intends to repeat the same act on the Elric brothers' home country of Amestris, a country he designed from scratch for this very purpose. Fortunately, Hohenheim is working to make amends for his mistakes, and joins his sons in their counterattack late in the game.
In the 2003 anime version, things are much different. They have to stop the machinations of Dante, a spurned lover of Hohenheim of Light's. The two were lovers a long time ago, but when one of the two fell deathly ill, the other successfully transferred the soul from the dying body to another living human's. Seeing the potential of this action, both proceeded to body-snatch and effectively live forever, but as the side effects of these actions - their bodies rejecting the souls and visibly rotting, mainly - started to kick in earlier and earlier, Hohenheim eventually relented and settled with Trisha, while Dante manipulated the entire government to enable this scheme even further. This Hohenheim is also repentant, but isn't quite as effective - he makes an attempt to confront Dante over her plot, but is promptly banished beyond the gate, and spends the rest of his life on our Earth, unable to have an effect on Dante's plans any longer.
Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life: in the past, Arceus gave a part of his powers (the MacGuffin Title) to a human, Damon, in hopes that Damon would use it to help Damon's homeland back into prosperity. Some time later, Arceus returns to reclaim the Jewel of Life, only for Damon to seemingly betray him. In the present, when Arceus returns to exact revenge, Damon's descendant Sheena believes it's her job to return the jewel to right Damon's wrongs.
In one arc of Omamori Himari, Shizuku tries to murder the last known descendent of the demon-hunter clan that had genocided her race over a century before. Said descendant was from a branch line that had renounced demon-hunting long before her birth, and happened to be totally ignorant of her ancestor's crimes. Shizuku is eventually talked down before she can actually do it.
Asumi from Twin Spica gets bullied and ostracized because her father was on the development team for the Lion, which ended up crashing in a major city and causing lots of casualties which wasn't even his fault, as he was pulled off the team right before major budget cuts to the project. One of her teachers with a grudge against him even tries to get her to quit Tokyo Space School because of it.
In Soul Eater, Black Star and Tsubaki try to help a village against Masamune, but the villagers hate Black Star and refuse to trust him. It turns out that Black Star's family had massacred the village in the past. Black Star declares he doesn't care what his (now deceased) family did and helps save the village. He and Tsubaki leave, with the villagers still hating him.
The backstory of the Batman foe Bane uses the 'hereditary prison' variant. The child of a foreigner who aided a failed revolution in a South American country, the as-yet unborn Bane was sentenced to life in prison for his father's crimes. He was born and raised in the unescapable prison.
The first arc of Runaways Volume 3 used this. A group of Majesdanians come looking for Karolina, hoping to prosecute her for her parents' role in starting a war between their species and the Skrulls that devastated both. The fact that Karolina had no control over any of that, and even went through with an Arranged Marriage to try and bring peace, doesn't stop them - their species is almost extinct, and they need someone to blame.
In Volume 1, Alex invokes this trope when threatening to hurt Karolina, due to her and Molly's parents planing on betraying the others at the ceremony the team interrupted.
In another example, Superman is put on trial by an alien tribunal chiefly due to the fact that one of his ancestors inadvertently caused the destruction of Krypton.
A Carl Barks story featured a man named Foola Zoola, who wanted revenge against Scrooge McDuck. Unable to reach the old miser, Foola Zoola decided to settle for Donald under the belief a wrongdoer's sins can be atoned by his next of kin.
While many of her fellow Teen Titans assure her otherwise. Raven has often had this problem herself. Though when your father is a demon lord, it's not so surprising if you think about that every now and then.
In UpliftedNazi Protagonist Joachim Hoch, an ardent SS man since he was eighteen and apparently a supporter when he was younger, had his Mentor and Father figure Gerald Langer cover up his Father's Communist ties, his Mother's Socialism and Anti-Nazi stance. It is all unraveled in Uplifted: Intervention It is unraveled when he is shot in the face by his dead Brother's ex-fiancee -A runaway Jewish woman.
Under hard questioning by Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Langer admits the ties of his family. The result is not pretty. By Uplifted Revolution, Joachim has spent two months in the care of the ever hospitable Gestapo. The results are not pretty.
In Mass Effect Human Revolution, as Garrus and Jensen get integrated into Hein's unit, the former gets into a heated argument with Edward Grey over the events at Shanxi. They were stopped by Hein, who pointed out that, unlike himselfnote Hein was a Wanzer pilot at the time and notably killed General Desolas Arterius, neither of them were actually present for the events and should put it past them.
Film — Live-Action
In the 1999 version of House On Haunted Hill 1999, the vengeful ghosts arranged the guest list for the party specifically to include the descendants of five members of Vannacutt's staff who didn't die in the long-ago fire so they could kill the descendants of the staff who tortured them decades ago.
Subverted when the last survivor in the house reveals that he's adopted, so is therefore spared by the ghosts. Although why someone who was adopted by a descendent is any less eligible to become a proxy-victim than someone who's genetically related raises still moreFridge Logic issues about the injustice of this trope.
In Lindsay Lohan's version of Freaky Friday, Anna's teacher subjects her to unfair treatment - simply because, when the teacher was younger, Anna's mother turned down a date with him.
In Hook, the eponymous villain tries to get revenge against Peter Pan by corrupting his children into recognizing him as their father. In the climax, in order to goad Peter Pan into fighting him, Hook threatens to hound Peter's children and their children's children for eternity.
In "Sharpe's Peril", Sharpe discovers that Barabbas is actually the son of the man that killed Sharpe's wife. Sharpe then tries to kill him for the sins of his father, but he is stopped by Harper. Later, Sharpe asks Barabbas for his forgiveness, which is given, and at the end Barabbas saves Sharpe's life.
Used in both versions of The Fog, and directly cited in the remake.
Alluded to in Thirteen Days - one of the several things that dog President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert as they try to navigate the Cuban Missile Crisis is the fact that their father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was a major advocate of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler on the eve of World War 2. Several officials (both military and civilian) push for a stronger response, despite the risk that it could start a nuclear war.
Dean Atcheson: Let us hope appeasement doesn't run in families. I fear weakness does.
Severus Snape in the Harry Potter books belittles, sneers at, and generally treats Harry unfairly (to the point of trying to get him expelled) because Harry's father James bullied him at school and married the girl Snape was in love with. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that he has just as important a role to play in Voldemort's downfall as does Harry and plays that role when needed, even when killing Dumbledore.
Murtagh from Eragon is imprisoned by the Vardens due to the crimes his father did.
Also because he grew up under the eye of their ultimate enemy Galbatorix.
The two (separately) "cursed" families in Holes - "You and your children and your children's children..."
A particularly ironic variation happens in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities where Dr. Manette was unjustly imprisoned by two twins after he flubbed to the police about them raping a peasant girl and killing her brother. He is unfortunately imprisoned in the brutal Bastille, which eats away at his sanity. He writes a journal describing how he got there, but due to amnesia, forgets all about it once freed. Later in the book, Charles Darnay, his son-in-law, is up for trial in the crazy revolutionary France. When Dr. Manette asked who testified against him, it turns out Darnay . . . is the son of one of the twins that imprisoned him, and they know all about it thanks to the recovery of Dr. Manette's journal. Ultimately, at the end of the journal, he condemns all the posterity of the twins that imprisoned him, saying "I, Alexandre Manette . . . denounce to the times when all these things shall be answered for. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth." As thus, he ultimately wound up testifying against his son-in-law because of this trope.
The Book of Lord Shang advises that, if one charged with maintaining the law is to break the law, then he should receive the death penalty, and his children and grandchildren also be punished.
Which would come back to bite Shang in a big way when he and his family received this very punishment, which was among the reforms that Shang himself made to Qin law, after he was convicted of treason against King Huiwen of Qin. Family execution in general was known as the "Nine Exterminations," referring to the nine groups the offender's relations were categorized into (parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings and siblings-in-law, uncles, and the criminal himself) and in Ancient China, it was reserved for rebellion and treason, the worst capital offenses of the period.
In Melinda Metz's Fingerprints, one villain's mother was murdered. The villain wants revenge; and, because the murderer has since died of unrelated causes, decides to kill her daughter instead.
In The Death Gate Cycle, the Sartan Alfred flatly states that he refuses to accept responsibility for the crimes his ancestors committed against the Patryns, saying that he has a hard enough time dealing with the consequences of his own sins.
Invoked by the villain in Aunt Dimity Goes West: an immigrant Polish miner sells his claim to a mine for five thousand dollars, and the wealthy buyer makes $200 million from the mine. Not only does the miner himself sabotage the mine, his great-grandson sets a bomb in the same mine, under the cabin built on the site by the still-wealthy descendants.
In Stephanie Burgis' A Tangle of Magicks , Lady Fotherington attributes Kat's behavior — on which she puts the most malicious interpretation — as stemming from her mother's wrongdoing. (She had lost out in a Love Triangle of her, Kat's mother, and Kat's father.)
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Sansa Stark is held prisoner in King's Landing because her father tried to take the throne from King Joffrey. In reality, Joffrey is not the true heir to the throne and Lord Stark went about the wrong way trying to correct the situation. She's also physically abused whenever her brother wins a battle against Joffrey's men.
After Robert's Rebellion, the Targaryen children are killed/hunted because Rhaegar kidnapped Robert's betrothed, Lyanna Stark, and Aerys murdered Rickard and Brandon Stark, as well as to eliminate the threat they posed to Robert's legitimacy as king. Viseys, the oldest, was only eight years old when this all started.
Theon Greyjoy was taken from his home and spent most of his life as a hostage because of his father's failed rebellion against the Iron Throne.
Happens in the Dune prequels. After Abulurd Harkonnen is accused of treason following the Battle of Corrin, he is exiled to Lankiveil. It takes a very long time for the Harkonnens to return to prominence once again, as everyone remembers the shame, even though Abulurd's descendants had nothing to do with it. By the same token, Abulurd's descendants vow revenge on the descendants of Vorian Atreides, which is how their feud started.
Additionally, the official excuse for the enslavement of the Buddhislamics is "your ancestors chose to flee instead of helping us fight the machines". The real reason is the fear of any sort of machine, requiring the use of manual labor. However, no one wants to pay fair wages to workers, so slaves are used instead.
In the Silver John story "The Desrick on Yandro", John witnesses a flock of Fearsome Critters dealing out vengeance to the grandson of Joris Yandro, who abandoned a backwoods witch named Polly Wiltse.
Star Trek: The Next Generation explores this in an episode actually named "Sins of the Father." Here Worf's late father, Mogh, is accused of treason, but only to cover up the fact Duras' powerful clan was responsible to avoid civil war. The Klingon High Council figured that since the only relation they knew of to that Klingon is Worf, a Federation citizen, then he would be safe from any punishment this judgement would bring. Unfortunately, they didn't know that Worf has a brother, Kurn, and that both would care about their family so much that they would risk everything to travel to the Klingon home world to challenge the judgement.
Played with in the case of Duras. Worf clearly wants revenge on Duras, for Duras' father framing Worf's father for treason. He does not directly challenge him, as with Duras dead, Worf would never have the proof to regain his honor. Then Duras kills Worf's mate (and Alexander's mother), K'ehleyr... And Worf promptly shoves a Bat'leth through his chest in single-combat.
Subverted in a later episode, when Klingon Chancellor Gowron offers Worf the opportunity for Worf to execute Duras' son, when the House of Duras' treachery comes to light and Worf's family honor is finally restored. Worf declines, pointing out that unlike his grandfather, father and aunts, he has committed no crime.
It is also mentioned in a couple episodes that the dishonor for certain crimes in Klingon culture is passed down for a certain number of generations. Worf actually lies about the heritage of the children of Klingon POWs that he discovered because allowing oneself to be captured shames the family for three generations, meaning that said children, and any future children they might have, would be tainted in Klingon society for their parent's perceived sins.
In LOST: Ben intends to kill Penny Widmore because her father's hired psycho killed Ben's daughter Alex.
Merlin also had an episode named "Sins of the Father", where Uther's Back Story and Arthur's birth comes to light. It ain't pretty.
In Sharpe's Peril, Sharpe happens to run into the bastard son of his late nemesis Hakeswill, currently under arrest for a theft he didn't commit. Sharpe beats the poor guy up until Harper stops him, but in the end Hakeswill Jr. saves the day and Sharpe and Harper's lives.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: One episode had the killer of the week hunting down and executing the grandsons of the men responsible for her grandparents' deaths.
The Centauri start Babylon 5 as the targets of this from the Narn. Later they start doing their own sins.
It doesn't help that the Centauri won't admit to having occupied Narn, claiming that they were helping to uplift the Narn savages and got attacked for their trouble.
An episode shows a trial where a human accuses a Vree of his/her grandfather abducting the human's grandfather. Of course, the Vree have never abducted anyone. The likely candidates would have been the Streib. The Vree just happen to look like your typical Greys and fly around in flying saucers. Some material indicates that they have indeed visited Earth in the 20th century on a routine survey mission. They find the fact that this had a big impact on human culture hilarious.
An episode of Law & Order: SVU had a whole plot centered around this. A teenage girl is found dead and about two or three months pregnant. At first, the detectives suspect her music teacher...but then it turns out he never touched her, only let her and her boyfriend use his apartment to have sex. It's then revealed that the baby has 62% of its DNA from the mother, meaning that the father is related to her. It turns out that her boyfriend, who fathered the baby, is her half brother since her mom's boyfriend (and her biological father) is her boyfriend's father, married to another woman. He is not happy to find out about this.
Happens in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Suprise Party", with a side of Laser-Guided Karma. A man murders his father so he can inherit a house, which hosts party goers who are eventually revealed to be the vengeful spirits of people his father had burned to death several decades ago. They'd been wanting to return the favor, but since the father is dead, they settle for getting revenge on the son instead. They even reenacted the night of their murder, just to confirm that he deserved to die for his father's crime. The son acted exactly like his father.
Hilariously averted in an episode of El Chapulín Colorado where the hero got involved in the Romeo and Juliet story. Romeo asked Juliet's father if there was anyway the two families could reconcile. The reply: "I can forget your grandfather killed mine. I can forget your great-grandfather killed mine. I can even forget your great-great-grandfather killed mine." What Juliet's father would never forget is that the two families root for different sport teams.
In 2 Broke Girls Caroline is hated by many people because her father run a Ponzi Scheme that cost thousands of people their life savings. While Caroline did not know about the fraud, her lavish lifestyle was funded by the stolen money.
On Smallville, this is Harry Bollston's whole M.O. After originally being sent to prison for murdering the son of a teacher who recommended someone else for a prestigious scholarship, he gets out and starts plotting to kill the children of the jurors from his trial.
An episode of the original Battlestar Galactica involves a prison populated by descendants of the original criminals. None of them have proper names and are instead called "<insert crime here> <number of generation>" (e.g. Thief 10). And yes that includes things that aren't even considered criminal in our society (e.g. adultery). A running gag is the prisoners wondering what sort of crime starbucking is.
In Haven, nearly everybody in Haven, Maine hates Duke Crocker because of his deceased father Simon. Simon (and before him, his father Roy) had the power to erase a Trouble by killing one person who had it, so he went on a killing spree of Troubled people, trying to wipe them out. Duke was completely ignorant of the Crocker ability and doesn't learn that he has inherited it or of his father's deeds until the episode "Sins of the Fathers". In season 4, Duke's brother Wade comes into town and many people also associate him with Simon while he is completely ignorant of what Simon has done. Unfortunately, Wade eventually becomes just like Simon and Duke is forced to kill him to defend Jennifer.
Likewise, for Catholicism, Mary is born without any sin and some hypothesize this happened to John the Baptist.
In The Bible, the penalty of breaking #2 of the Ten Commandments (worshiping an idol or a false god), is that God will descend his punishment unto you, and your descendants up until the fourth generation. However on the flip side, glorifying him in a manner God finds acceptable, means blessings for a thousand generations. This was later overturned in the book of Jeremiah, since it was no longer having the intended effect (people thought only descendents would be punished).
God did prohibit the execution of the wrong generation for the sins of a member of one generation, decreeing that each is to die only for their own sins. King Amaziah of Judah lays down this law when dealing with the two men that murdered his father (who had in his later years morally degenerated, but still).
Once, Noah... overindulged a little on the wine made from the first grapes produced after the Deluge. He got naked...and passed out. His son, Ham, noticed and decided to point and laugh before informing his brothers (who covered him up averting their eyes all the while). When he woke up and found out, Noah blessed his two other sons...and cursed Ham's grandson, saying that those descended from him would be destined to serve those of Ham's brothers. Later tradition identified Ham's descendants with black Africans, because Egypt had a long-standing practice of importing slaves from further up the Nile (who happened to be black)note This is how the ancient Egyptians would see them; Ancient Egypt's vice wasn't racism but rather xenophobia and exporting them around the Mediterranean. To this day many super-traditional ultra-Orthodox Jews often think of black people as people who are supposed to be slaves to non-black people; one rabbi even went as far as saying Obama is ‘a slave when he reigns’note A Hebrew expression from Proverbs 30:22, meaning ‘a lowly person who is suddenly given undue authority’, with a clear reference to something other than his political talent. Naturally, many Jews—including many Orthodox—complained loudly.
There are two other interpretations of this event: the literal, saying he just told his brothers what happened, and the traditional Jewish one, saying he rapedhis own father (since "uncovered his nakedness" is sometimes taken as a euphemism for "had sexual intercourse with").
Later on, many Christians adopted this view at least as fervently as the Jews...and when black slavery became ingrained in the American antebellum South, the Southern defenders of slavery used the story of Ham as an excuse/justification for continuing the practice and as religious support for their more "scientific" theories of why blacks were inferior and not really even people.note The only descendants of Ham consistently identified with black people in the Tanakh are Cushites, who were allies of Israel more often than not. God's orders toward the Canaanites were annihilation, not subjugation and had nothing to do with Noah's hungover ramblings. Timothy 1:10 also places slave traders among the evil people who were the reason the law of Moses was given in the first place (to control their excess) if you do not recognize why this is all a stretch.
According to modern researchers, the traditional concept of punishment was that people were punished and rewarded according to their ancestors’ sins, but then the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles came along, and people thought, ‘Screw it, we’re screwed either way,’ so the interpretation changed from an inherited punishment to a personal one. This change accounts for the massive variation in the story between Kings and Chronicles (the former was written shortly after the exile, the latter was written shortly after the Jews were allowed back into Canaan). Interestingly, the verse cited when Amaziah laid down the law on his father's assassins is an actual verse from the Torah, Deuteronomy 24:16.
And we have David's son in 2 Samuel, conceived by Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers, and pulling a Murder the Hypotenuse in the bargain. God opts to make the newborn infant waste away over 7 days to teach David a lesson. In His mercy, though, He then allowed them to have a legitimate son–Solomon, who would eventually succeed David on the throne.
A common ancient Greek moral concept, as exhibited in several myths. Tantalus was a vile murderer and cannibal, but his cursed descendants included innocent people forced to suffer for their ancestors' crimes.
The story of Pandora's Box is even more this. Pandora was sent to punish all humanity, forever, because the generation alive at the time accepted fire from Prometheus. The gods introduced old age, disease, and a variety of other nasty curses to humans, which their innocent descendants would have to suffer. Hesiod includes among those curses the existence of females, and rants about why women are an unmitigated curse to men. Ancient Greeks weren't sexist at all! The gods at least included Hope in the box to help humans endure the curses.
Possibly subverted by the Necrons of Warhammer 40,000. Their original enemies, the Old Ones, are now more-or-less absent from the galaxy, but the Necrons don't seem to go out of their way to kill the creations of the Old Ones, and indeed seem to mostly ignore the Eldar and Orks except when they happen to run into each other.
It's not like the Orks to complain about an inexhaustible source of fresh battle, and they also avert this trope for the same reason, and more so: killing Orks makes them release a lot of spores, that might otherwise come out only much later, if ever. Don't expect them to thank you, though,except withMore Dakka.
Played straight with the Eldar. By default, the soul of any Eldar who dies without their soulstone on them (or if their soulstone gets destroyed - which can happen quite easily) is automatically consumed and tortured for all eternity by Slaanesh. Why? Because their ancestors were hedonists who squicked him (her?) existence. Although Slaanesh isn't targeting Eldar souls to punish them so much as because they taste good.
In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, players can choose a flaw for their characters that has them hunted for the misdeeds of an ancestor, either by one extremely longlived being (which are a dime a dozen in the WoD) or by a line of hunters passing down the hunt over the generations. It makes a little more sense in the WoD, as werewolves can channel their ancestors' spirits.
Werewolf: The Forsaken has the Pure doing this to the Uratha. According to their creation myths, six of Father Wolf's children took out their aged, weakened ancestor; three of them held back, and when everything went to pot, blamed the six for it. The Forsaken's tribes have the spirits that killed Father Wolf as their totem spirits, while the Pure have those that stayed out of it for theirs, and the Pure are very interested in holding that grudge.
Ganondorf's entire existence is due to this. In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordDemise's last act before being sealed in the Master Sword forever was to curse Link and Zelda's reincarnations to always face an incarnation of his hatred: Ganondorf.
Ace Attorney, Manfred von Karma. Whoo boy. Gregory Edgeworth made him receive a penalty in court, the tiniest blot on his perfect record, and von Karma murdered him while he was trapped in an elevator. He then adopted Edgeworth's ten year old son Miles and raised him to be a ruthless prosecutor who cared only for finding defendents guilty, letting Miles believe that he was the one who'd accidentally shot Gregory Edgeworth. A few days before the statute of limitations ran out von Karma framed him for a related murder, waited until Miles was cleared, and then reaccused him of his own father's murder. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling defense attorneys.
Final Fantasy X. The main antagonist of the story is literally a gigantic Sin of the Father conglomerate monstrosity.
First, Sin was originally created after Zanarkand lost a War against Bevelle. The ensuing destruction brought by Sin caused Machina to be all but abolished, and caused the Descendants of everyone else to forever live in terror of Sin. This then starts the primary ruling order by the Yevon Clergy, which is basically around desperately trying to atone for their Sins of Machina so they don't all get obliterated by Giga-Gravitones ever again. This lasts for a total of 1000 Years, more or less.
Even worse, Sin couldn't care less about the peoples' attempts to atone. Sin's only purpose is to protect Dream Zanarkand's Fayth cluster and its summoner Yu Yevon (what's left of him). The frequent attacks on Spira's population centers are meant to stunt Spira's growth as a civilization to prevent anyone from endangering the Fayth cluster.
There's a quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion where you must prove that the father of two characters you helped in a previous quest was a thief and recover what he stole. Here's the quest on the UESP Wiki.
In Baldur's Gate 2, Firkraag torments you partially to take revenge upon your foster father, Gorion, who injured him in a battle many years previously: Gorion died in the beginning of the first game, so he's had to settle for the second best thing. He himself admits that it wouldn't really bring him any closure or anything, but he can do it and thus he did.
Gaz: The sins of our fathers... Griggs: Heh. Ain't it a bitch?
Dragon Quest VIII. Rhapthorne, through his various proxies, hunts down the descendants of the seven sages who sealed him in the sceptre, many of whom are quite surprised and know literally nothing about him. Admittedly this was also pragmatic, since he had to kill them all to release his full power.
In Devil May Cry 3, Beowulf lost one of his eyes in battle with Sparda at some time in the past. When Dante arrives, Beowulf recognizes him as Sparda's son by his scent and goes on a rampage. Dante takes out his other eye, and Beowulf vows revenge on him as well. Unfortunately for Beowulf, he doesn't know Sparda had two sons, and he gets killed by Vergil.
The anime series gives us a demon who was once Sparda's apprentice and whom Sparda abandoned before or after his Heel-Face Turn. Naturally, he wants revenge on Dante since Sparda is long dead at that time.
The Taiidan Empire also uses this trope to wipe out the Kushan Homeworld. They broke a 4000 year old treaty forbidding the development of hyperspace engines...a treaty said descendants knew nothing about. This act so disgusted their citizens that it started a rebellions.
Inverted in the third Myst game. Saavedro attempts to visit the sins of the sons upon the father, after Atrus' children nearly destroyed his home "Narayan" and then cruely imprisoned him for 10 years alone on another Age. Saavedro reasons that with all the Lesson Ages he wrote, Atrus should have taught his sons better... and now intends to put Atrus through his own class.
Then inverted again in "Revelation", when Atrus acknowledges his past failings with his sons, in time for his youngest daughter Yeesha, to be kidnapped by her elder brothers. They want revenge for being imprisoned by their father, for over 20 years in seperate Prison Ages, barely habitable, and completely alone.
Her other brother Achenar, however, actually reformed, and was trying to protect her from Sirrus, who if anything, has gone even more crazy during his incarceration.
In the first Gabriel Knight game, appropriately subtitled...Sins of the Fathers, the main antagonist wants to exact revenge on Gabriel because he comes from a family of "shadow hunters", that is, hunters of the supernatural, and one of his relatives had angered the local undead voodoo priestess.
In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, the Isle of Despair is a prison colony that no one ever escapes from. Men and women are sent there, and the women who don't flee to the Women's Camp become property in the men's camp. As do their female children.
The Gravemind in Halo appears to blame the Forerunners for the almost-extinction of his species millenia ago. Humans are descended from the Forerunners, therefore....
"Child of my enemy, why have you come? I offer no forgiveness. The father's sins pass to his son."
This time, It's Personal. It would please the Gravemind to no end to prove the Forerunners wrong about their trust in humanity filling their shoes.
The Forerunner Saga clears some stuff up. Apparently, humanity was once an interstellar superpower on par with the Forerunners. They encountered the Flood first, and came up with a way to defeat it and drive it away (although it resurged later). The Gravemind's belief that the Flood consuming the galaxy will bring unity ("no more sadness, no more anger, no more envy...") puts his "who is victim, who is foe?" comments into perspective: he thinks he's helping, and humanity and the Forerunners are evil for stopping him.
Halo: Silentium includes a more straight example. The Precursors, beings so advanced that you might as well call them gods, created all sentient species millions of years ago, including Forerunners. However, they deemed Forerunners "unworthy" for unexplained reasons, and slated them for extinction. The Forerunners, understandably reluctant to accept this judgement, waged a war against their creators and managed to wipe them out... mostly. The remnant decided that if their creations wanted to cause them pain, the creators might as well return the favor: their new purpose is to cause endless pain and suffering for their creations for all eternity. The first step: allow their twisted descendants, the Flood, to wipe out the descendants of those that carried out their destruction, countless generations down the line.
In Mass Effect, Ashley's military family is looked down upon by the higher-ups because her grandfather surrendered to the turians in the First Contact War, despite the fact that he had no other options besides letting his troops starve. (The surrender marked the first and only time human territory was surrendered to aliens, since first contact was only 26 years before the events of the game and humans have since gotten along well with aliens.) If she dies in the first game, she's hailed as a hero, removing the stigma. If she survives, then in Mass Effect 3, she's been promoted to Lieutenant Commander, defying the stigma by being just that kick-ass.
And the quarians in general, who suffer from racism and are repeatedly treated worse than dirt by the Citadel Government for the whole Geth Uprising that occured 300 years earlier. Possibly justified; Asari can live over a thousand years, so many of them probably remember the Geth uprising firsthand.
Tali references this trope after getting drunk, in response to Miranda killing her father. She had discovered her own father had gotten himself and everyone else on a research vessel killed trying to reprogram the geth, endangering the entire Migrant Fleet in the process, leading her to ask "When do we get to stop reacting to our parents and start living for ourselves?" when asked if she sees a bit of herself in Miranda's confict with her father.
In Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, Nathaniel Howe is attempting to Atone for his father Arl Rendon Howe's sins. A disturbingly high amount of players opt to have him killed in retaliation for his father's crimes despite the fact that Nathaniel hasn't seen his father since he was a child. Back in Origins, the Warden can promise to exterminate Arl Howe's family for his crimes on confronting him near the end of the game, which Howe brushes off at the time.
Also comes into play in the "Nature Of The Beast" quest: The werewolves' ancestors were human barbarians who were responsible for raping and killing Zathrian's children, so he set upon them a werewolf curse that continued down upon their descendants. One of the ways to convince Zathrian to break the curse is to show him how his actions are hurting victims innocent of the original crime.
Casteless dwarves are known as "criminals and the children of criminals" - in dwarven society, people can be stripped of their social rank and barred from all legitimate occupations for committing crimes, and their descendants will be likewise cast out of society. It goes way over the time in terms of punishment when you realize that casteless dwarves have literally no way to join or re-join a caste.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic the player is sent to a Republic prison planet that is experiencing riots and uprisings among the prison population. One of the rebelling groups is composed of descendants of prisoners. They are very angry that they are imprisoned on the planet even though they are not guilty of any crimes themselves.
In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the black dragon Wrathion makes it clear that he will not be held accountable for the crimes of Deathwing and the black dragonflight.
Sins of a Solar Empire has the Trader Emergency Coalition being punished by the return of the Advent, whom their ancestors cast out in exile. Now the Advent are coming back for revenge.
In RefleX, the Raiwat invade Earth in order to get back at the Yuda clan, who fled the Raiwat homeworld centuries ago for Earth, leaving the Raiwat at the mercy of the deadly ZODIAC units.
In ''Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, this concept is attacked, possibly as an act of social commentary and cultural criticism by the author. The reason why Satako and Satoshi Houjou are shunned and rejected are due to things their parents did. This trope becomes a major plot point in Meakashi-hen and Minagoroshi-hen.
There's a big ceremony in the offing in Lumia'sKingdom and Lumia needs a dress. So some brain genius goes and hires the best seamstress in all the land to make it for her. Unfortunately, this was an incredibly stupid idea because the best seamstress around is a psychotic cannibal who has a blood grudge against Lumia's mother and any descendants thereof (oh shit) because Lumia's mother is the only person to have ever survived a fight with her. As long as she doesn't know who Lumia is, she's safe. So naturally, no one bothers to take the time to explain why she shouldn't bring up her parentage, and Lumia accidentally lets the cat outta the bag.
Ilias has to deal with the possibility of this in Shadowhunter Peril. He is the bastard child of Oblivion (a Physical GodHero Killer who killed Kyle's father and Puriel's friend, as well as torturing and severely wounding other characters before finally being killed), and Anahita, Nicholas's mother and Bezaliel's lover. Basically when Ilias arrives nearly everyone hates him on sight, and it doesn't help he looks exactly like his father. Then it turns out that Oblivion is Not Quite Dead after all, and wants to kill Ilias too. So he's basically alone because everyone he knows either hates his guts because of his father's crimes, or wants him dead. But most of them have both feelings.
In Jackie Chan Adventures, one of the one-shot villains in a troll named Spring-Heeled Jack, who was imprisoned by a wizard, and after being accidentally released, sets out to EAT the wizard's family!
To elaborate; that was the season that dealt with Mary Jane's father, Harry's father, Peter's parents, and Felicia's father. It might have even mentioned Alistair Smythe's father. Peter's parents were found out to be spies. At first, Peter thought they were Russian spies, but they turned out to be double agents working for Nick Fury. Harry was dealing with his dad being the Green Goblin, and he became the Green Goblin for a while. Felicia's father turned out to be a Classy Cat-Burglar who had the super soldier serum memorized, and taught Felicia all he knew in being a burgular after giving her the serum.
And then there's Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) and his son, Richard. Kingpin's backstory involves him taking a prison sentence to avoid implicating his father in a robbery gone south, and taking his revenge later. Naturally, Richard ends up going to prison to save Kingpin, who's left wondering how long it will take for history to repeat.
And to add to that, Kingpin also killed Matt Murdock's father to keep him from spilling the beans about his toxic waste smuggling operation.
Static Shock: Richie Foley never had his friends visit him because his father was a racist. When Virgil's sister pointed out how often Richie visited them and that Virgil never visited him, Richie had no choice but to schedule a visit and hope his father wasn't around. He wasn't so lucky. Fortunately Virgil didn't hold it against Richie and Mr. Foley eventually changed his mind.
The 2007 motion capture 3-D movie adaptation of Beowulf had this for the eponymous Broken Ace with his illicit affair with Grendel's mother leads to the birth of a half-demon (dragon?) golden-skinned son. When the truce between him and the female demon is broken, she sends out their son, who attacks a village in its dragon form, sparing alive a horribly burned survivor so that he would relay these exact words to the now king Beowulf: The sins of the father are visited upon the sons. It's also shown that the same thing happened with Beowulf's predecessor, who fathered Grendel, the monster who then attacked his hall, killing many of his men before Beowulf killed him.
The Slave Trade. Far too often, an apology is made which goes something along the lines of "I'm sorry that my great-grandfather enslaved your great-grandfather."
The punishment for high treason in Imperial China is referred to as the "nine exterminations" — execution of the criminal along with all of his relatives down to the ninth degree (by Chinese reckoning).
Americans will sometimes gloat that, unlike the French, neither they nor the British surrendered. Well, neither of those peoples share hundreds of miles of border with Germany.
Perhaps worse if you're Japanese, which is why they tend to pretend the whole thing never happened.
The Turkish have a similar case were they pretend the Armenian genocide never happened.
In North Korea an offense that results in exile to a prison camp means not just the offender is sent off, but so is their entire family. Not only that, but any children born in a prison camp remain there for life, as do their children. 60 Minutes interviewed a defector who had been born in a labor camp, to parents imprisoned there due to his grandfather's supposed offenses, which occurred in the Korean War.
America's actions in the Cold War were caused by the Congressmen decades ago, where they rose ruthless dictators to power in nations to just oppose the Soviets. As anyone that's watched the news the past decade has seen, that didn't turn out well.