That Thing is Not My Child!
"I'm telling you that that thing upstairs isn't my daughter. Now I want you to tell me that you know for a fact that there's nothing wrong with my daughter except in her mind. YOU TELL ME YOU KNOW FOR A FACT THAT AN EXORCISM WOULDN'T DO ANY GOOD! YOU TELL ME THAT!"
A trope common to Speculative Fiction
, in which a victim finds their genes, DNA, soul, or "essence" taken or copied without their permission, resulting in an offspring which is either unnatural or unwanted—or both
. This being could be a Clone
, Half-Human Hybrid
, Humanoid Abomination
, or a Designer Baby
created by a Stalker with a Test Tube
. Sometimes, the villainous party may take what they want from the character's real
offspring instead, twisting it with Body Horror
, Demonic Possession
or The Corruption
, prompting the parent to now consider it a different entity entirely and deny any kinship. In any case, the clear message is that the parent DOES NOT WANT
Things can get even Squickier
if the "offspring" is a full-size, adult clone. In Real Life
, monozygotic twinning (identical twins) is as close as you can get, so most would consider a copy that's close to their age (or even older) a "sibling" rather than a "child". …Although that's moot if this trope is played straight, of course, as the reaction will instead be "That Thing Is Not My Sibling."
This can become the progeny's source of angst or their Freudian Excuse
for turning evil. For this trope to be in effect, it has to be clear that the "child" is considered a new creation outside of the "parent's" control (i.e., rape, cloning, or some sort of freak accident). If the parent willfully mated, cloned themselves, or did brutal experiments
on their own child, only to disown them later, that is a different matter.
This trope is often the result when The Bad Guy Wins
in a story with a Stalker with a Test Tube
, or after a character catches a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong
. A common reaction is But I Can't Be Pregnant!
, and sometimes happens in Real Life
with a Child by Rape
. See Half-Breed Discrimination
for what happens to children that live with this stigma.
Do not confuse with I Have No Son
, in which the parent disowns a disappointing child. See also Clones Are People Too
, in which a person doesn't actually consider said clone family, but nonetheless respects their right to live.
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Anime and Manga
- This seems to be much how Guts reacts in Berserk, after Casca miscarries and gives birth to a hideously deformed child after the events of the Eclipse where she was raped by Femto. Unlike most examples on the list, it actually is his child, but merely corrupted by events outside of his control.
- In a particularly heartbreaking example, Fruits Basket features Momiji's mother reacting this way (using the almost exact quote) upon discovering that her child turns into a rabbit when she holds him because he's under the zodiac curse. Momiji's father had her memory of her son erased to aid her failing health brought on by the emotional stress of all this.
- A major element of Historia/Krista's backstory in Attack on Titan, being rejected and denied by a mother unable to find the courage to kill that "thing".
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha eventually reveals this is how Precia feels about Fate due to her not being a perfect clone of Alicia, her first daughter.
Collectible Card Games
- Magic: The Gathering's Innistrad set has a card named Cloistered Youth with the ability of transformation.note When transformed, it becomes Unholy Fiend.
"I heard her talking in her sleep, pleading, shrieking, snarling. It was not my daughter's voice. That is not my daughter."
- This is a clear Shout-Out to The Exorcist (see below). Many cards in Innistrad are based on horror movies.
- Cable's reaction to the "son" which was sired when his identical clone Stryfe raped his wife. Ironically, Cable himself is the son of Madelyne Pryor, aka "The Goblin Queen", the Evil Clone of Jean Grey. She handled it better. Considering her husband/his father abandoned him in Alaska to explore his feelings for her, it's the least she could do.
- Averted with Superboy in the comics, whom Superman initially accepts as an ally and successor, and then as a cousin. However, he never explicitly sees him as a son. (Although an in-universe newspaper article written after Superboy came Back from the Dead states that Superman felt Superboy's death was "like losing a son".) Even averted with Lex Luthor, who created the boy and donated the other half of the DNA, and considered him more of a son than even Superman did… at first.
- Averted with Batman and Damien Wayne, the fifth Robin, who may or may not have been the result of a Stalker with a Test Tube.
- Played with between Peter Parker and his clone, Ben Reilly. The two eventually resolve their differences and come to see one-another as brothers... even if half the time they aren't even sure who the original is.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter was even tricked into believing an artificially aged clone of himself was his father. He was not pleased when he learned the truth... nor was his "dad", who was a Manchurian Agent and didn't know about it himself.
- Spider-Girl averted this with a clone of May Parker who started calling herself April - Peter and Mary Jane decided take her in as a second daughter, though officially they claimed she was an identical cousin.
- The roles are reversed with Graydon Creed; he feels this way about his father, Sabretooth, and frankly, having a guy like him for a father may well be why he grew up to hate mutants.
- Invoked in Avengers Academy. Ant-Man was replaced by a Skrull which copied him "to the genetic level" and, during an affair with Tigra, impregnated her. As such, the child is genetically Ant-Man's. Later, the real Ant-Man returns, and Tigra insists that he has no parental claim to the baby. He agrees, but she then asks him to be the child's godfather instead.
- Defied in a Weird Science story. The children on a new colony are systematically taken from their mothers at birth, and the mothers aren't allowed to see them. The women's leader eventually forces the head doctor to admit why this is happening: The children are malformed and mutated, and the medical staff was trying to protect the mothers from the horror and trauma. The women basically storm the nursery, and accept the children with open arms. The leader turns to the head doctor, and with a mix of pity and contempt says to him "Did you truly believe we could not love our own children?"
- The mother in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence reacts this way to the robotic "child" her husband brings home.
- This may have been the motive for the Cobblepot family from Batman Returns to throw baby Oswald over a bridge in its wicker bassinet.
- In Inception, Mal and Cobb both react this way when they're faced with children they believe to be fake, while they may or may not be dreaming. The jury's still out on which interpretation, if either, was correct. Word of God has a strongly implied conclusion and a definite final answer.
- In the B-Movie It's Alive, this is a major plot point for the father of a killer mutant baby.
- The father of conjoined twins from Basket Case has a similar reaction to Belial, the deformed parasitic twin.
- This is how some parents react to the silver-eyed children in Village of the Damned and its remake.
- In Rosemarys Baby, the title character turns out to be not the child of Rosemary's husband but rather that of the Devil. Upon seeing her (off-screen) baby for the first time, Rosemary exclaims, "What have you done to it? What have you done to its eyes?" Ultimately averted, as she decides to take care of it anyway.
- Inverted in the 2004 version of The Phantom of the Opera. In the graveyard ("Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again/Angel of Music Reprise/Swordfight"), Raoul says to Christine, "This man—this thing—is not your father!" (The Phantom had been posing as the Angel of Music—the ghost of Christine's late father.)
- Towards the end Repo! The Genetic Opera when Rotti Largo is dying Amber comes up to him after her face fell off from too many cosmetic surgeries and he says to her and her brothers, "Don't come near me, any of you. You're disgusting, you're not my children. You're nothing."
- Played straight in Duumvirate. Luke agrees with this sentiment when killing his parents.
- Averted in the Vorkosigan Saga. In Brothers in Arms, Miles discovers that a Komarran terrorist cell has cloned him as part of a Byzantine plot. Miles immediately declares the clone his brother, informs him of the automatically-determined Dead Guy Junior name Vor tradition gives him (Mark Pierre), and goes out of his way to protect and support Mark. His mother Cordelia does the same when she meets Mark. His father Aral is more skeptical; he feels a sense of responsibility, but also admits that he doesn't love Mark the way he does Miles. Eventually even Aral acknowledges Mark as a son. (Rather heartwearmingly, in fact— somebody comes complaining to him about 'your son' and he asks "which one" completely offhandedly.)
- Miles himself was not as lucky: His grandfather disowned him and demanded that Miles not get a Dead Guy Junior name from him after learning that the severely damaged fetus was being artificially brought to term.
- In The Marvelous Land of Oz, Tip, a boy who's "small and rather delicate in appearance," creates a huge pumpkin-headed scarecrow man named "Jack Pumpkinhead" to frighten a witch, who uses magic to bring it to life. This leads to Tip being very uncomfortable with the creature calling him "Father", although he does consider Jack a good friend. At the end it turns out that Tip is a girl, Princess Ozma, who's been under a spell since she was younger to protect her identity. After being changed back into Ozma, she's thrilled that Jack Pumpkinhead can no longer refer to her as "father".
- The Exorcist: Trope Namer. "Father, you show me Regan's identical twin: same face, same voice, same smell, same everything down to the way she dots her i’s, and still I'd know in a second that it wasn't really her! I'd know it! I'd know it in my gut and I'm telling you I know that thing upstairs is not my daughter!"
- The Metamorphosis: After Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to find he inexplicably transformed into a giant cockroach in the middle of the night, (don't ask) his family slowly stops believing the bug was ever their son to begin with and eventually just leave him to die alone in his room.
- In The Demons Lexicon the protagonist's mother spent his whole life hating and fearing him because her magician husband had a demon possess their unborn child before he developed a soul. She tried to drown him at birth and before her death makes it clear that she believes her real child died before it was born and the one she raised is a demon in its body (which is technically true).
- A similar case occurs in Mortal Instruments, when Jocelyn's husband Valentine injects her with demon blood while she's pregnant, causing her to give birth to a demonic child whom she's convinced is monstrous and evil. She turns out to be right, since Jonathan grows up to be a sadistic psychopathic murderer.
- Misquamacous in the The Manitou series, twice attempts to return to the mortal world by hijacking a foetus in the womb, and once as a tumorous growth like a conjoined twin, that gradually sucks all the life out of its host before being "born".
- Happens in Eva Luna, to Eva's Parental Substitute La Madrina. She gives birth to a deformed stillborn kid, and tosses the tiny corpse to the trash. What follows is a MASSIVE media circus that drives her further into insanity.
Live Action TV
- In "The Doctor's Daughter", the Doctor originally reacts this way to his "daughter", actually an Opposite-Sex Clone.
- In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Riker kills the still-in-development clone of himself produced by the colony that reproduced by cloning (their initial population was too small to provide adequate genetic diversity). Riker cites some "diminished my uniqueness" excuse, (and the fact this was done without his permission). Later, a transporter-accident clone fares better, being recognized as much as Riker as the one on Enterprise. The two act... like brothers.
- Stargate SG-1: Vala Mal Doran eventually develops this attitude towards Adria, the Orici offspring implanted in her by the Ori.
Vala: Let's get something clear. She's not my daughter, Daniel. The Ori impregnated me against my will and forced me to bring her into the galaxy. I was an incubator. A shipping crate. And nothing more.
- Played with in Tin Man where the Queen tells Azkedellia that she is "not my daughter." At the time, you think it's just because of Az's bad behavior. She's really addressing the Evil Witch that has possessed Azkedellia.
- In The Flesh: Bill Macey kills his son, Rick, unable to accept him as resurrected.
- In the Eureka episode "Many Happy Returns," the real Susan Perkins doesn't even want to see her clone's child. By the end of the episode, she does anyway.
- In Person of Interest, Harold goes back and forth on this with regards to the Machine. He deliberately maintains a distant, businesslike relationship with it - its sentience was something he'd done everything in his power to avoid - but to Root, he compares the dreams of code he had when he was building it to a mother dreaming of her unborn child's face. And then there's the conversation he has with Arthur about whether the Machine (and Artificial Intelligence in general) is a wonder, or something comparable to the atomic bomb:
Arthur: Everything slides towards chaos. Your creation... it brings us poor souls a cupful of order. Your child is a dancing star.
Finch: It's not my child, it's a machine!
Arthur: A false dichotomy; it's all electricity. Does it make you laugh? Does it make you weep?
Arthur: What's more human?
- This was what led Lord Soth of Dragonlance and Ravenloft fame to commit his first supreme act of evil, one of several that would ultimately make him a Darklord of Ravenloft. He and his wife, Lady Korrine of Gladria, had been trying to produce a son to be his heir, and Korrine had consulted a witch about the problem, who had agreed to help them, but had warned her that the child would be a representation of Soth's soul. Unfortunately, Korrine didn't know about the wicked deeds that her husband had done, including ordering the murders of his half-brother and sister by his seneschal Caradoc, else she would have known what would eventually transpire of the birth and would be of a mind to curse the witch. When she gave birth to the son in question, it had a face similar to that of dragon-kin with two arms on one side and a leg on the other, with the last leg placed at the bottom of the buttocks as if it were a tail. To say that Soth was pissed about this was a massive understatement, and thinking that she had cheated on him with some kind of demon, Soth murdered Korrine and the monstrous child.
- In the original Black Box edition of the Ravenloft setting, one example of how curses could be used in adventure-design had a treacherous nobleman who'd been cursed so his firstborn offspring would be a monster: a miniature spirit naga (evil, human-headed magical serpent) that grew rapidly in the hours after its birth.
- Done in the stage adaptation of Wicked. Elphaba's father undisguisedly loathes her with a passion and dotes on her younger sister Nessa merely because Elphaba is green. The moment she's born he screams "TAKE! IT! AWAY!" at the nurse before angrily storming off. Although, he isn't Elphaba's real father anyway.
- In Batboy: The Musical, a woman has twins by different rapists from the night of a Freak Lab Accident with pheromones. She loves one baby, because the father isn't so bad (yet); the other is a Half-Human Hybrid, prompting her to shout, "Kill it!" But her attitude changes when she meets him again years later.
- The Phantom of the Opera—Inverted in the graveyard scene, where Raoul tells Christine that "This man—this thing—is not your father!" Played (implicitly) straight later on, when Erik reveals that his face "earned a mother's fear and loathing."
- In Yosh!, when Kate was changed into a Cat Girl by the Weirding, her mother couldn't admit it was still her and had her thrown out. Her father couldn't handle the guilt and eventually set out to correct this.
- Generally averted in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! Jean has no fewer than three such accidental "children" — Molly, Galatea, and Djali — and she has never disputed her title as their "mother" or that she therefore has obligations to them. Molly is the only one she's actually had the chance to raise as a daughter, however.
- This is Superman's reaction to Superboy in Young Justice. Though he's at least nicer than most examples of this trope— he never blamed Superboy or considered him a "thing," but he also clearly didn't want to consider him his child. He's also rationalized this as a way to avoid giving Superboy Cloning Blues, claiming that it would be better if Batman or someone took on a mentoring role instead. It also may have been because he was just not ready for fatherhood. After the timeskip he's fine calling Superboy "little brother" and "Kon-El" and treating him very nicely.
- Like the above, this also occurs in the animated film Superman: Doomsday, when the Clone Superman states that he is the authority figure to the world and has the primary say on what's good for humanity. Cue Martha Kent stating flat out "That is NOT the boy that I raised". She's right.
- In Gargoyles, Xanatos created a clone of Goliath, who reacted in disgust, calling him a "thing" and an "abomination". Elisa immediately pointed out that "Thailog" could be considered his son, and Goliath reluctantly agrees they should help free him from Sevarius. Unfortunately, Thailog had already learned a few tricks from his other daddies...
…resulting in an inversion — it really only takes Goliath about a few minutes to admit that Thailog is his son, but Thailog refuses to accept Goliath as a parent, claiming he's too weak for him to admire. He rejects Xanatos and Sevarius too, but that's more because his own ambitions oppose theirs (though he's eventually willing to work with Sevarius, who is the least like him of his three "fathers" and therefore the one least in direct competition with him).
- Averted with Danny Phantom when the title hero meets his "cousin" Danielle. He's at first untrusting and suspicious of her until learning what she is and accepts his new cousin.