Trophy Child

A Characterization Trope where children are looked at as their parent's status symbols.

Maybe their parents thought that having kids would somehow aid their social standing. Maybe they're stage parents, who use their kid's looks or talent as a means of getting wealth and fame. And, sometimes, they're just selfish and want children who are just as "perfect" as they see themselves to be, regardless of the stress it puts their kid under.

Whatever the reason, these children grow up being viewed as status symbols, rather than actual children. In many cases, there's emphasis is on the child learning to climb the social latter themselves, but at the cost of their emotional and psychological development; looking perfect on the surface is more important than being stable on the inside as far as these parents are concerned. It may cause them to be neglected or outright abused, especially if they are expected to be perfect their entire lives in public and in private; such a child can end up a Lonely Rich Kid, as their parent will frequently be willing to pour money into making them look well-provided for, but neglect anything else required to keep them happy. It can also cause a major case of needing approval, if the character doesn't just start Calling the Old Man Out from being treated like an object their entire lives.

Compare and contrast Trophy Wife.

Can be Truth in Television, with many narcissistic parents. As with the Abusive Parents page, however, there's no need to say more than that, due to how sensitive the topic is.

Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, Karolina's parents initially only conceived her in order to boost their profiles as actors.
  • In Secret Six, Cheshire had sex with Catman for the express purpose of conceiving a child so that she could blackmail him.

    Literature 
  • Warrior Cats:
    • This was the circumstance surrounding Breezepelt's birth. His father, Crowfeather, only agreed to have kits with his mother, Nightcloud, to prove himself a loyal warrior to WindClan after he ran off with Leafpool, the medicine cat of ThunderClan. Throughout the series he was seen as a lousy father who was a neglectful parent at best and an Abusive Parent at worst, while Breezepelt didn't handle the treatment very well, joining the Dark Forest with this as a Freudian Excuse.
    • Implied with Rainflower, as after her favorite child Stormkit breaks his jaw and becomes Crookedkit, she begins to ignore and insult him based solely on his imperfect looks compared to his brother Oakkit. This was after she neglected Oakkit in favor of Stormkit, originally having seen him as the stronger and more attractive of the two. This attitude continues even after she dies, where she doesn't give him a life during his leader ceremony.
    • Played with, with Bluestar's kits. As being a pregnant queen prevented her from being considered for the deputy position, which she needed to take to keep Thistleclaw out of the leadership position, she gave up her kits to live with their father in RiverClan. There they were raised lovingly and well to be strong warriors, but Bluestar always regretted that she had to give them up for her own ambition.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mad Men. Don and Betty Draper seem to be the living embodiment of the wholesome 1960s nuclear family with a professional dad, a stay at home mom, and two perfect kids, one girl and one boy. However, the Drapers are more in love with the idea of marriage and children than their actual spouse and kids. Neither spends much time with their children and the emphasis is placed on the children looking immaculate and behaving well at all times. Once Don and Betty have their third child and divorce, the kids are used at chess pieces to punish each other with most of the child care falling to nannies and respective step-parents. In one episode, both Don and Betty and their respective spouses spend most of the episode thinking the other is taking care of the kids while the kids are actually in Don's apartment with a house burglar who is pretending to be an old friend of Don's while actually robbing the place.

    Video Games 
  • Life Is Strange: Before the Storm suggests that Rachel Amber is either this, or her father James Amber is a Knight Templar Parent, depending on how you interpret his motives for cutting Rachel's drug addicted biological mother from her life (to the point of letting her assume his second wife is her biological mother), and trying to have Damon arrange for her to relapse on drugs to stop her seeing Rachel after getting clean (Damon certainly assumes he's more worried about his image than actually protecting Rachel). By the time of the original game, when she's disappeared her parents don't seem to care much (with Chloe being the only one searching for her).

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Nicholas Schnee single-handedly created a powerful legacy as the world's leading supplier of good-quality Dust, a mined substance that forms the basis of all technology and combat capability humanity possesses. He passed this inheritance on to his son-in-law, Jacques, who only married Nick's daughter to obtain control of the Schnee Dust Company and the prestige of the Schnee name. He has no interest in being a husband to his wife or a father to his three children, as they exist solely to service his public image. When the Kingdom of Atlas is framed as an instigator of the invasion of the Kingdom of Vale, Jacques recalls his daughter from studying in Vale. He isn't concerned about her welfare and safety, he wants to engage in a PR stunt to protect the SDC's profit margins: he forces Weiss to sing at a benefit concert to raise aid money for Vale just to remind the world that a Schnee fought on the front lines in the defence of Vale. When she loses control of her Semblance in public, he protects the SDC's reputation by indefinitely confining her to her bedroom and stripping her of her inheritance to make his son the sole heir to the company. Weiss is forced to break out of her own home and go on the run, attempting unsuccessfully to find her oldest sister, Winter, who broke free of their controlling father years ago by joining the Atlesian military. Weiss's brother, Whitley, strongly implies to her that the only way to deal with their father is to allow him to mould them into exactly the same kind of monster he is.

    Web Comics 
  • Dreamkeepers: Tinsel conceived Namah in order to blackmail the Viscount with an illegitimate child, whom she left on his doorstep.

    Web Original 
  • This is how Jeff and Liu's parents act in the 2015 remake of Jeff the Killer. When he and his brother get in trouble for standing up to the local bullies, their parents take the side of the cops, refuse to listen to their children about what happened even when in private, and even send Liu away as punishment. This is all because the bully, Randy, is the son of their father's new boss, and they'd rather look good to their new neighbors than support their children. After Jeff is in the hospital for being hit with a flare gun, his mother is more concerned with how he'll look than if he'll be okay mentally or physically. All of this makes it no wonder they die in this version of the story.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Mei's parents raised her to be perfectly behaved, with her opinions and emotions hidden, in order to help her father's political career. In return, she got whatever she wanted, though she wasn't interested in material wealth and rebelled against them later on.
  • Gravity Falls: Pacifica Northwest was neglected and abused by her parents, who favored their own social lives and status over her, and scolded her for the most minor mistake. In addition, she was taught to see herself as above everyone else, while still being conditioned to obey and be inferior to them.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: This seems to be the case with Diamond Tiara's mother, Spoiled Rich. In the episode she was introduced in, "Crusaders of the Lost Mark", it was revealed that Diamond Tiara's Alpha Bitch status was largely due to her mother putting her under extreme pressure to be perfect and above everyone else, while teaching her that anyone not of their status was to be looked down upon. She tells Diamond Tiara to "always think of your social standing" and berates her for making, what she considers to be, mistakes.
  • The Simpsons: Defied in the episode "A Fish Called Selma". Troy McClure marries Selma to be his Beard, which she's actually OK with because even if they don't love each other, it benefits her as well. However, when Troy's agent suggest they have children to improve his image even more, Selma balks (even at Troy's suggestion to adopt).
    Selma: Look, I'm sorry. A loveless marriage is one thing, we're not hurting anybody. But bringing a child into a loveless family is something I just can't do.
  • The Family Guy episode The Peanut Butter Kid involves Lois and Peter exploiting Stewie after his success in a peanut butter commercial, so he could become a child star and they could make money. They went so far as to keep him drugged and stimulated so he can rehearse non-stop.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TrophyChild