Successful Sibling Syndrome
Simply put, this is what happens when you have a famous or otherwise successful person with a sibling that feels overshadowed by his or her success.
The feelings may or may not be justified. It is possible that all siblings involved are equally popular, but one of them simply feels
as if they are getting shafted. Even if they get all sorts of media attention, they could constantly complain about their perceived "more famous" relative.
And on the flip side there may be times where this is justified, because the character doesn't have the same amount of success or the army of adoring fans. They will either remain loyal to their brother or sister despite being insecure (it will help if they have a close relationship) or they may be overcome with intense jealousy and will plot to get themselves the same amount of attention, with varying degrees of success.
It could also be a simple case of a character who is expected by everyone to follow the same path as their (often, but not always older) sibling, whether they want to or not, and are under intense pressure to honor the "family legacy" as a result.
If the parents have been in a similarly successful position this is called Generation Xerox
, which will only add to the character's insecurity.
This situation often causes Sibling Rivalry
, and in worst case to a Cain and Abel
situation (i.e. the less successful sibling murdering the successful one).
For more generalized examples of this see: Lesser Star
, Stuck in Their Shadow
, Overshadowed by Awesome
. Compare "Well Done, Son!" Guy
, which occurs when a famous character seeks the approval of a relative, rather than a less successful person seeking attention from the general public. Also compare Stronger Sibling
- The Little Mermaid 2 introduces Ursula's sister Morgana as the Big Bad. As The Unfavorite, she despises her elder sister, and her plan to take the trident isn't motivated by mere revenge. Instead, she wants to rule the ocean as a proof she was better than Ursula in the first place.
- Averted in The Game; the main character is a wealthy and arrogant businessman, but he is miserable and unstable thanks to recurring nightmares about his father committing suicide when he was a child. In contrast, his brother (who he thinks of as a deadbeat) doesn't have much, and yet is happy as a clam, and just wants to help his brother learn to be happy.
- Eagle Eye: Many characters in the film (including his parents and the Sinister Surveillance Master Computer) compare main character Jerry Shaw to his twin brother Ethan, and keep banging on Jerry's (minor) Berserk Button of thinking of him as a dead-beat next to his over-achieving Air Force member of a brother (this comparison goes, if the info provided by the computer is right, probably as far back as them being babies). Because they keep expecting him to be a failure next to Ethan, Jerry simply decided to stop trying.
- Stu Redman feels this way to a point in The Stand. His brother left home and by the time of the book's opening was a successful big city computer guy while Stu was still a small town blue collar guy. Inverted a bit too, as Stu thinks that Bryce might feel a bit of shame about him as well.
- Ron Weasley from Harry Potter suffers from this. His resulting inferiority complex sometimes complicates his relationship with Harry, due to the latter's status as The Chosen One.
Ron: I'm the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I've got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left — Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy's a prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they're really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it's no big deal, because they did it first.
- Warrior Cats has Ivypool, who felt invisible and useless compared to Dovewing, her sister, who was getting all the attention and doing all the heroic stuff. Her insecurities over this drove her to join the Dark Forest and train with Hawkfrost, and she took chances to criticize and insult her sister in order to make herself look superior. The two sisters did make up eventually, but not after a lot of Sibling Rivalry and moral issues to overcome.
- This is revealed in Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers as one of the many sources of Rimmer's neuroses. Another is that his parents agree:
Mrs Rimmer: My boys. My clever, clever boys. Johnny the captain, Frankie the first officer, Howie the test pilot and Arnold... Arnold the chicken soup machine cleaner. If you could sue sperm, I'd sue the sperm that made you.
- Even Stevens. Revealed to be the case with Louis, the youngest child in the Stevens family. His father is a prominent attorney, his mother is a high-profile State Senator, his older brother Donny is a star high school athlete, and his older sister Ren is a highly intelligent over-achiever. His crazy antics in the show are his way of establishing his own identity.
- The Big Bang Theory: Leonard, who is an experimental physicist with a Ph. D., is the least successful person in his immediate family. His mother doesn't let him live it down, making it quite clear how disappointed she is in him.
- In Mad About You Jamie's sister Lisa is much less successful than Jamie is and is insecure over it - all the more so because Jamie is the younger sister.
- In the first season of Blackadder, Prince Edmund is jealous of his more successful sibling, Prince Harry, who is also the heir to the throne. This leads to Princeling Rivalry.
- An episode of Hannah Montana has Miley jealous of her grandmother's constant doting of Jackson, and later it turns out that she was trying to make him feel important because he himself is jealous of Miley's success as Hannah.
- In Wonderfalls, main character Jane, who's stuck working a dead-end job in a souvenir shop, greatly envies her older sister, who is a successful lawyer.
- Downplayed in House of Anubis. Piper Williamson is a polite, intelligent and talented musical prodigy. Patricia, her twin, is just a relatively untalented Deadpan Snarker, who admitted jealousy at her sister's talents and also seemed worried that Piper was intentionally trying to move in on her friends and make Anubis House her house, "Just like always". It's implied that Patricia herself gets no attention in the family thanks to a throwaway line in season one (where her mother accused her of making a "bid for attention" when she thought Joy was dead) and it's believed by fans that this is because of Piper being more talented. However, it then turned out that Piper herself saw Patricia as being the successful one, due to having friends and free time, and not being afraid to fail at anything. They made up, and it seems that neither feel inferior anymore.
- Robert Barone, the Unfavored in Everybody Loves Raymond.
- The Andy Griffith Show. Otis's brother Ralph was always held in such a high standard by their mother that Otis always felt he would never amount to anything like Ralph would, especially considering Otis ended up becoming Mayberry's town drunk. Otis, however, had convinced his family that he was one of Andy's deputies, and when they come for a visit, Andy actually lets him pose as one to impress them. When Otis learns that Ralph is actually his town's drunk, he feels ashamed of his brother.
- Played with in Complications, where Ingrid envies her big sister Gretchen for being able to hold down a respectable job as a nurse while she herself is in and out of rehab. She is unaware that Gretchen is neck-deep in criminal activity.
- This is the driving plot in the series The Grinder, as Stewart, who is an actual lawyer, feels bitter about being overshadowed by his brother Dean, an actor who played a lawyer on a popular long-running television show. Stewart is shocked by how often people take Dean's word over his own, despite the fact that, in Stewart's opinion, Dean's show was not in any way an accurate portrayal of lawyers.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Trojan", following on from the description of Rimmer's brothers above under Literature, we meet "Howie the test pilot", and discover that they're Not So Different; Howard is also a vending machine repairman who lies about how well he's doing and resents his brothers (including Rimmer) for "actually" being successful.
- Lampshaded in Episode 2 of the Youtube series Stupid Mario Bros. Mario and Luigi are playing a game of Wii Tennis, with Mario mocking Luigi after he loses. Luigi then storms off with Mario yelling that it's Super Mario Bros. Luigi however, says that without him there is no Super Mario Brothers. Luigi then surrenders himself to Wario (who is under orders from Bowser to bring the two back to the Mushroom Kingdom) saying he is tired of Mario always taking the glory for himself. Fortunately, Mario realizes his mistake and feels horrible, and Wario ends up letting Luigi go because Luigi wouldn't stop annoying him with his constant talking.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All introduces us to Franziska von Karma. She is not upset at Phoenix for ending her father's winning streak (by proving him to be a murderer), but because he stole her chance to defeat Edgeworth. They may not be formal siblings, but they grew up together since Edgeworth was mentored by her father.
- Averted in RWBY; Ruby is a fifteen year old prodigy student who has been accepted personally by the Headmaster of Beacon Academy two years sooner then she normally would have been accepted. At the same time her seventeen year old sister Yang has also been accepted. The two ended up being on the same team to which Ruby is named the team leader. Not only does Yang not mind that she has to follow her younger sister, but she is very proud of Ruby.
- Doug. Heavily implied to be the case with Chalky in one episode. Chalky is a popular, athletic, and smart over-achiever. However, when Doug discovers he was the one who cheated on an English test (he copied Doug's answers, thus making the papers exactly the same and raising suspicion from the school faculty) Chalky confesses by saying that he was under a lot of pressure. Then Chalky's dad reveals why by showing Doug a huge trophy room full of Chalky's awards. Mr. Studebaker then says that Chalky still has a "long way" to go to catch up to his older brother.
- In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Daphne has at least four (possibly five) older sisters who all graduated college by the time they turned 13, and who have all gone on to have highly successful careers. They are shown to be a model, doctor, race car driver, and Marine respectively. Poor Daphne feels inferior and is under enormous pressure from her parents to live up to her sisters reputation as she is in her senior year of high school. However, in the series finale, the timeline is altered and now it's the complete reverse situation. Daphne is now considered the most successful sibling by everyone and her sisters are under-achievers who are no longer successful and live in her shadow. They are the only residents of Crystal Cove whose lives were not improved by the timeline reset.
- A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. One episode had the kids take a case at an amusement park which was owned by the Jipner family, which has a lot of brothers and sisters. Their prime suspect is the oldest sibling, Bart, who is estranged from the rest of his family and has opened up a much less.....good..."amusement park" next door that consists solely of a set of rotating tire swings. After catching the Monster Clown, they find out it is actually Joey Jipner, the sibling who served as the park's manager. He wanted to scare his siblings into giving up their shares so he could own the whole thing by himself. After his arrest, the other siblings reconcile with Bart and welcome him back into the family, even making him the park's new manager. He thanks the kids by giving them free passes to enjoy the rides as much as they want.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has
- Sokka, who started out having no respect for Katara's waterbending, but once Toph joined making him the only non-bender, eventually took up swordfighting so he could feel like he had something to contribute to the team.
- Zuko is the firstborn, but only had his mother's favor. Their father, the Fire Lord, gave favor to younger prodigy Azula. Zuko's empathy was disdained while Azula's cruelty and ruthlessness rewarded. In the end, though, Zuko ends up the successful one, and Azula ends up mentally damaged when her world falls down around her ears.
- Hey Arnold! has Helga Pataki, who is just as smart as her older sister, but not as pretty or popular with her peers or family. So she is jealous of her elder sister on two axes.
- Rev Runner of the Loonatics Unleashed couldn't stand taller in his father's eyes after building a popular interactive toy, despite getting oodles of help from Tech Coyote. Rev's younger brother, Rip, has only his father's disdain, to the point of not bothering to try. When Rip tries on an alien psionic headpiece, it amplifies his grudge against his family, transforming him into a supervillain.
- Gravity Falls
- Dipper and Mabel Pines play with the trope, because each of them feels like the other is the successful one in one way or another. Mabel desires to be smarter and wiser like her brother Dipper while Dipper desires to better understand people and socialize like Mabel.
- Stanley and Stanford Pines Essentially they were Brains and Brawn, and the family doted on the brainy one, leaving the brawny one to his own devices. The brawny one only got by with the help of the brainy one, so when the brainy one turned his back, the brawny one was alone and had to make his way in the world through cunning, deceit and chicanery after the family threw him out. This is arguably rendered even more tragic, as Stan is shown throughout the series to be intelligent in his own way, having pulled off schemes such as stealing several drums of nuclear waste single-handed that could easily qualify him as a borderline Diabolical Mastermind, but none of his family ever acknowledged this or cared enough to notice in the first place.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog. Eustace has always hated his older brother Horst because, as Horst was quite the successful huntsman and explorer who always brought home big game, and was apparently more loved by their parents than he was. In flashbacks, we learn that Horst's cruel nickname for Eustace was "Useless."
- Phineas and Ferb. This trope is part of the issues Heinz Doofenshmirtz has with his brother — Roger is more popular and also more successful in his career (politics) than Heinz is in his (being a mad scientist and taking over the world). The other part is of course that their parents always preferred Roger over him.
- Bret Hart and Owen Hart had an on-and-off feud over Owen resenting that Bret gets all the attention and championships while Owen, who believed himself the better wrestler, was stuck in the mid-card.