Our hero may be a perfectly Nice Guy, respectable, successful, a loving husband and a good father. But what he really wants is for this one guy to acknowledgethis.
Most often, that one guy is his emotionally distant father, though it can also be The Ace, The Obi-Wan, an Aloof Big Brother or especially that Always Someone Better individual, usually as an old friend of the hero. Almost always a Special Guest, and often a Large Ham as well. When it's a recurring character, usually a controlling parent.
A Fawlty Towers Plot will often ensue as our hero tries increasingly more convoluted schemes to convince the "Well Done, Son!" Guy of his worth.
In the end, one of two things happens. Rarely, the "Well Done, Son!" Guy will turn out to have some kind of massive character flaw, and our hero will realize that it's been a mistake to weight his opinion so highly. This may result in the betrayed hero Calling the Old Man Out. Most of the time, though, everything comes to a head when the "Well Done, Son" Guy finally asks the hero why he's gone to such ridiculous ends. The hero fesses up, and the "Well Done, Son!" Guy explains that he's respected the hero all along, and assumed the hero already knew (You Didn't Ask). If the "Well Done, Son!" Guy is the hero's friend instead of his father, he'll often also explain that he'd always desperately wanted the respect of the hero as well (hell, sometimes the father wanted the kid's respect, especially if there's something big and nasty in his past, probably either ignored by or unknown to the hero).
Cue the Full House Music.
In other genres, this can be a bit more understated, with the "Well Done, Son!" Guy simply giving our hero an approving nod from a distance (or saying, "That'll do, pig"). If the "Well Done, Son!" Guy is a Trickster Mentor or Zen Survivor, they may have a very long and painful road ahead of them to get even that. May be part of an Inadequate Inheritor plot. The Fantasy-Forbidding Father usually inspires this sort of feeling. This dynamic is usually father-son. Mother-daughter and father-daughter are not too unusual, but mother-son is rare (unless it's the Jewish Mother scenario, which is almost always Played for Laughs).
A really unpleasant variation is when the "Well Done, Son!" Guy is already dead, which in most cases means the approval and emotional bonding will never happen.
Contrast So Proud of You. Also see "Well Done, Dad" Guy which is the inversion of this trope.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
In the anime Grappler Baki, the mother/son version of this trope is in full effect, as the protagonist Baki devotes his formative years to martial arts, in order to defeat his father in combat, in the hope that victory would gain him his mother's love and respect.
The Mazinger trilogy treated this trope in a pretty tragic fashion:
One of the reasons Sayaka from Mazinger Z could be so prideful, impulsive, hard-headed and obsessed with showing off was to get some measure of praise and acknowledgement from her Married to the Job, caring-but-emotionally-distant father. Unfortunately it did not work very well. In spite of all times she risked her life, Gennosuke Yumi rarely gave praise.
The case of Tetsuya Tsurugi from Great Mazinger was much worse. He was an orphan with a ton of abandonment and self-confidence issues. He constantly and gleefully risked his life on a daily basis by riding a Humongous Mecha to fight ancient, giant monsters from Beneath the Earth so his adoptive father approved of him. Kenzo actually was proud of him, but he hardly thought of telling Tetsuya that, being more concerned with disciplining him when Tetsuya did or said something stupid (and since Tetsuya was a Jerkass Woobie and an Idiot Hero, it happened frequently). Because it, Tetsuya was always deadly frightened of losing his father if he was not good enough, and he got a breakdown at the end of the series when he thought it might happen.
Subverted in UFO Robo Grendizer. Minister Zuril -one of the Co-Dragons- had a son obsessed with proving his worth to his father, even jeopardizing his life. However, Zuril was proud of him and tried to make him aware of that fact and he did not want him risking his life. Unfortunately, his son did not listen. He kept being obsessed with earning his father's approval, and finally he commited a Heroic Sacrifice to save his father's life. Zuril became very cold and fatalistic because it.
Unusual example in Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi really wants his father's approval and in volume one even uses the exact words "well done" when talking about what he wants to hear from his father. On the other hand his father is a Disappeared Dad rather than emotionally absent.
In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji Ikari is desperate for any kind of approval from his father Gendō who seems not noticing or not caring. Finally, in the movie End of Evangelion it is revealed that Gendō actually cared about Shinji — but he was as afraid of his own son as Shinji was of him. His last words before his head gets chomped are "sorry [for all that crap I put you through], Shinji.")
Gendo does praise Shinji once — just once — over the phone. "Good work, Shinji." That one tidbit of approval is still ringing in Shinji's ears episodes later.
Asuka is a Gender Flip of the trope. As a young child, she desperately sought her mother's approval of her being selected as an Eva pilot. The problem is that by that time, her mother was too insane to even recognize Asuka as her daughter, much less give her praise. This is because much of her personality was transferred to EVA-02, where her will only really gets to manifest itself through Humongous Mecha action; Asuka catches on, but only near the bitter, bitter end, where otherwise nothinggoodis happening to her...
This trope is still obviously present in Rebuild, although Gendo and Shinji are shown to actually try to reconnect. They've made only a bit of progress (with Shinji being stunned by the first bit of praise he's ever received from his father), but it's Eva, so even this much is significant.
Reporter Takashi Jo from the manga Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President also frequently tries to meet the challenges that his long-lost father, Democratic presidential candidate (and Zen Survivor of the Vietnam War) Kenneth Yamaoka, poses to teach his illegitimate son the way of the Magnificent Bastard. Takashi's attempts to understand Yamaoka conflict with his resentment over Yamaoka's abandoning his mother — and the suspicion that her recent, suspicious death was no accident...
Naruto is absolutely rife with this. A few examples:
As a child, Sasuke constantly pushed himself to be the best in his class and get his father Fugaku's attention until, you know, his brother killed his entire family. His relationship with said brother is also like this — even after Itachi was believed to have slaughtered the entire clan.
Hinata Hyuuga, resident Shrinking Violet and Unfavorite of her clan, also desperately seeks approval from her father. She gets her 'Well Done Daughter' at the end of Part I and seems to be held highly by the Hyuuga Clan in Part II.
And for the last few: Naruto constantly seeks Sasuke's approval; Rock Lee seeks the approval of Might Guy, who seeks the approval of Kakashi, who seeks the approval of his dead friend Obito. Young Gaara started out seeking the approval of anyone who would give it to him, but nobody did. During the Chunin Exam arc, it seems like at least half of the characters are trying to get some teacher or rival to acknowledge their worth, and the rest are trying to get their crushes to acknowledge their worth.
Naruto got his "Well Done, Son" Guy from Minato and Kushina, his parents. To their credit, they both had a perfectly legitimate reason for not giving their approval sooner...
Toshiki in Get Backers brainwashes Kazuki, steals his soul and nearly murders the kinda-hypotenuse because he feels Kazuki never paid attention to him when they were younger. In actuality, Kazuki watched him for years, and knows both him and his "beautiful dance of a fighting style" very well. Subsequently, Toshiki joins Juubei as Kazuki's right-hand man and protector for the rest of the series.
A female example is found in Layla Hamilton from Kaleido Star, who after losing her mother, swore to not ever disappoint and make her father sad. She couldn't keep her promise when she chose the Stage over a filming career, but did reconcile with Dad later
Bleach: For all that they're estranged because of Ryuuken's rejection of the spiritual world, Uryuu Ishida clearly still desires his father's approval. In fact, in a flashback to his childhood Uryuu tells his grandfather that he wants to become very strong in order to prove the worth of their family heritage to Ryuuken. It's strongly indicated that Uryuu's misunderstanding his father's behaviour and Ryuuken's encouraging him to do so for unexplained reasons.
Gender-flipped in Fushigi Yuugi. In the manga (the anime only hints at it), Miaka Yuuki was portrayed as seeking her Education Mama's approval constantly before she was spirited to the Four God's Universe. The manga explained such a conduct as a side-effect of her parents' divorce: child Miaka saw her mother crying often after Mr. Yuuki left and vowed to not make her cry.
In the Mobile Suit Gundam original series, Prince Garma Zabi is handsome, well-intentioned and charming. However, he's also extremely inexperienced and knows he got his spot in the Zabi hierarchy only because he's Sovereign Degwin's favorite son, so this soon leads to an obsession with proving his own worth to his older and more competent siblings (especially Lady of War Kycillia) and his best friend Char Aznable. Which brings him to his downfall.
Another very dramatic example in the Gundam series, more exactly Gundam 00. After her whole family is brutally killed, Louise Halevy joins the A-Laws to avenge them. When she does get her revenge by killing their murderer, she has an Heroic BSOD where she pleads for their souls to acknowledge her worth, then cries.
In After War Gundam X, Olba Frost is a cocky and arrogant young man and Gundam Pilot whose only family is his older brother and partner, Shagia. He's the only person Olba respects and cares for, so he deeply strives to be seen as a worthy person by him.
Athrun, from Gundam SEED/Gundam SEED Destiny, seems to acquire this in some form during Destiny (in regards to both his late-father and his father's successor, Gilbert Dillandal). And more than anything, his almost blind faith in ZAFT, which his father founded. It's the basis of most of his actions in the early part of Destiny.
In Gundam Wing, Quatre Raberba Winner grew up believing that his distant father had him created in a lab like his twenty-nine older sisters and that he was just a disposable commodity. When he is brought home by after a period of floating injured and unconscious in space, his father lives long enough to reject him once more before rebelling against the colony government and dying. Quatre's mental breakdown triggers the next major arc of the series.
Asemu Asuno, the protagonist of the second generation of Gundam AGE, deeply loves and admires his father Flit and spends a lot of time and angst trying to win his praise and be as good of a Gundam pilot. Unfortunately his lack of X-Rounder aptitude and Flit holding him at an ever-increasing distance once Asemu joins the military changes this into What the Hell, Dad?, and Asemu begins looking towards Woolf as a mentor instead.
Future Trunks from Dragon Ball Z kind of got to have it both ways. Despite being repulsed by his father Vegeta's evil behavior, he still wanted his approval and often behaved deferentially. Vegeta, being Vegeta, considered this a weakness and mocked him for it. He was surprised (and more than a little pissed off) when Trunks actually followed through on his threat to attack him if necessary to prevent Cell's transformation, even though that meant giving up all hope of winning his approval. When Trunks later died at Cell's hands, Vegeta found himself experiencing guilt for probably the first time ever, and went APESHIT on the murderer. Realizing that, after Trunks was revived and returned to his own timeline, Vegeta gave a small but powerful farewell salute.
Present Trunks also has this towards his father, but Vegeta seems to have learned a small lesson, and shows pride in his son from time to time. This generally takes the form of 'land a punch on my face and we'll go to the park for an hour'.
Flashbacks in Skip Beat! show the heroine Kyoko as a child doing everything she can to make her cold mother proud of her, such as by working herself into the ground to get perfect scores on her tests (a habit that continued even though they were apart for years when she tried to finish high school).
As a kid, Guts of Berserk wanted more than anything to please his adoptive father Gambino, the leader of a mercenary band that took him in. Unfortunately, as this is the Berserkuniverse, things turn out badly for him. VERY badly. Turns out that Gambino was a complete asshole who blamed Guts for the death of his lover Shisu from the plague, and who went as far as to have him raped by one of his men because he considered Guts "disgusting" and he did not feel that he could be "raised to be loyal like a dog." It all comes to a head when Gambino, having lost a leg in battle, gets drunk and heads into Guts's tent in order to murder him, and Guts has to kill him in self-defense.
A fairly bizarre example occurs in The Day of Revolution when an intersexed schoolboy opts for gender reassignment surgery largely because he hopes becoming a girl will mend his broken relationship with his cold and distant father (fortunately it's not his only reason.)
Arata Kangatari has a rare mother-son example, with Yorunami and his deceased mother.
In Soul Eater, Kid appears to have his father Shinigami as this. It's mentioned several times that he's Death's heir and as such a lot is expected of him. If he's worrying about something that isn't symmetry, it's being good enough as a death god himself, and his father's where he gets his ideals and expectations from. Would certainly explain his reckless determination to chase after Mosquito, one occasion where his idiocy could not be blamed on his OCPD-likething. Unlike some other examples, Shinigami has a casual and positive attitude towards his son, the main problem here is that the two rarely talk. Medusa is also this to Crona, being the one person the child 'relies' on and wants to please. Unlike Kid and Shinigami, it's never going to work.
DECONSTRUCTED: It worked and backfired spectactularly much to Medusa's delight apparently.
Inverted example with Spirit and Maka. Spirit wants his daughter to think he's cool. She has numerousreasons to disagree.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Mokuba Kaiba was this initially. It's why he tried to murder Jonouchi and Yugi. (He also had issues with solving all his problems with money and/or cheating at this stage.)
The second (main) anime condenses Kaiba's early character arc down to almost nothing, but in the manga Mokuba first appears when he forces Yugi to play a rigged game of Capsule Monsters to avenge his brother's honor, Seto having been mindcrushed earlier. He loses, naturally, and reappears in the lead-up to Death-T to challenge them to a rigged game of poison-food roulette. Yami makes him eat the poison, since he had the antidote on him. It was all still in support of his brother, but it's not played too sympathetically.
In the climax of the Death-T arc his character finally reaches its familiar plateau, when he plays Yugi again in the second-to-last stage, and loses, and Seto subjects him to the Mind Rape penalty box of torture. To reiterate more simply: Seto.Tortures.Mokuba.
It's also explicitly that he's pissed Mokuba tried to avenge him, since if he lost, that was just dragging the name further in the dust, but if he won Seto would never have recovered from the humiliation. Still a serious dick move no matter what.
After Yugi saves Mokuba, the kid explains their backstory with the orphan thing, and after Seto's second, more thorough Mind Crush he gets back his Big Brother Instinct and then they're a regular devoted pair of Morality Chains for the rest of the series, but until Seto turns up to rescue Mokuba at Duelist Kingdom, Mokuba still didn't know if he was ever going to get anything more than that "You'll never be anything but a loser".
The main character from Kimba the White Lion has this relationship towards his father who was killed before he was born.
A female example is found inElfen Lied with Nana who sees Professor Kurama as her father, whom she calls "Papa," because she needed something to keep her from going insane during the torturous experimentation, believing that she is making him proud. Kurama, in turn, sees her as his own daughter and cares very much for her.
Subverted in Men's Love. Everyone who knows just who Daigo's father is assumes this is why Daigo works so hard. Actually, he just wants to take care of his mom and doesn't even view his dad as a parent, just a difficult employer.
In Tsukigasa, Kuroe starts crying when his dad unexpectedly forgives him for running away.
Inversion: In Tiger & Bunny, the only person who Kotetsu really cares about winning the respect and approval of is his daughter, Kaede. Later on, Barnaby starts feeling this way in respects to Kotetsu.
Barnaby: I just aspire to be someone worthy of his trust.
This is a major plot point in the one-shot manga Vitamin. Sawako wants her mother's praise, so she tries to finish school and get into a good career.. However she becomes bullied by her ex-friends and refuses to go to school, causing problems.
Confidential Confessions has this in Volume 3. Kyoko's father graduated from Tokyo University, so naturally she's expected to match up not just by him, but everyone. This, combined with her own weight issues are what drive her to drugs. In an unusual variation, it's not Kyoko, but her father who realizes (after some soul searching) that he screwed up and drove her to the drugs in the first place.
InuYasha: Sesshomaru has this trope written all over him. Younger half-brother Inuyasha never knew their father, and doesn't care much either way. However, he also fits this trope because he's always wanted Sesshomaru's approval. And, considering Sesshomaru feels like The Unfavourite and Daddy's dead, this is something of a problem. However, by the end of the manga, this does in fact get resolved. For both brothers.
In Umi no Misaki, Shizuku puts her all into being a proper cape maiden to try to get her mom - a previous cape maiden - to approve of her.
One Piece: A younger Luffy wanted to be friends with Ace, the older kid living with him, and Ace's friend Sabo, who found him to be a weak, annoying crybaby, and lead him into tons of deadly situations to escape him, but he kept coming back. Eventually, Luffy shows how tough he really is, and they become brothers.
In Girls und Panzer, Maho's motivation for following the Nishizumi style of tankery seems to be to please her and Miho's mother. It's actually so that her sister won't feel pressured to serve as heiress, and so that Miho can live her life her own way. Miho, on the other hand, shows no desire to live up to her mother's standards, and even states in a "World of Cardboard" Speech near the end of the Little Army manga that her reasons for doing tankery are not "for the sake of (her) home)".
Mako Reizei is implied to not only be afraid of angering her grandmother, but also genuinely wanting her approval, possibly motivated by her guilt over her mom dying after their last conversation was an argument. Her character song makes reference to this ("I don't want to disappoint that person I love").
In Saki, Nodoka's father seems to disapprove of her playing mahjong, saying that it's nothing more than a game of luck and that the friends she makes are of no use in a "hick town" like the one she lives in. She seems to want him to approve of her playing mahjong, at least to the extent that he will allow her to continue attending school at Kiyosumi.
What Sophie Montgomery from Lady actually wants from her mother Jeanne; as she is very desperate for her mom's love and approval, but unfortunately, Jeanne is using her as a pawn as a way to getting inheritance to the Montgomery family fortune and she threatens to send Sophie back to France if she fails to do so.
Batman, being the emotionally reclusive obsessive vigilante that he is, is generally shown as not showing gratitude, approval, or any emotion towards his adoptive sons (a.k.a., the Robins), at least for anything short of saving his life. However, they've known him so long that they've can tell when a small nod and an urge to get back to work really means "I'm proud of you." And it often does (how touching).
It also helps that he does tell them when they've done good work. He won't gush, but he'll say it. When they have been exceptionally resourceful, he isn't above saying so either:
Batman:(to Huntress) This is good work.... No. This is outstanding work.
Batman: Good work, Huntress.
Nightwing: Rest easy, Huntress. That's his highest praise.
One of the reasons Jason Todd is so messed up (among many) is that he wants Batman to approve of him, while at the same time believing that Batman never did and wanted to replace him.
Soon after the introduction of Damian Wayne, Tim Drake had been feeling somewhat overshadowed, leading him to go out solo in search of information on a recent case — after getting into trouble, Batman bails him out, and immediately tells him "You have nothing to prove to me."
Batman is sometime portrayed as torn between wanting people to carry on the fight after he croaks or retires, and wanting something better for his "kids". One of the reasons he's slow with the praise and quick with the criticism is that part of him wants his adoptive children to reject his lifestyle and go on to live normal happy sane lives. That and he's a (self-admitted) bundle of issues. They wisely refuse to take the hint.
Dick Grayson in particular is adept at seeing through Bruce's rather irrational attempts at bullshitting a stern, authoritarian persona. For example, when Bruce gives Dick papers that would make Dick Bruce's legal son, he spews a long stream of flimsy qualifications, explanations that it was just a courtesy, and reassurances that Dick doesn't have to do it if it insults the memory of the Graysons. Dick interrupts him mid-sentence with "I get it — and I love you too."
History repeats itself when Bruce offers to formally adopt Tim Drake some time after Jack Drake's death in Identity Crisis. He gives Tim the exact same speech he gave to Dick, and reassures Tim that he isn't trying to dishonor Jack Drake's memory or replace him as a father. Tim responds with a tearful hug.
In a way, Batman also has this with his own father. On several occasions one can catch him wondering if his parents are proud of him and would approve of his decision, and Depending on the Writer he may or may not hold himself responsible for the circumstances of their death. His dad in particular plays a large role in his psyche, as he was by all accounts a smart, brave, noble Renaissance Man who divided his time between being a successful businessman, generous philanthropist, world class surgeon, and devoted husband and dad. Bruce is sometimes depicted as somewhat ashamed that, though he is a heroic crimefighter on the one hand, on the other he is also a violent vigilante who dresses like a giant bat. When he compares himself to his dead father, he generally puts himself down.
He sometimes asks Alfred if his father would be proud or ashamed of him....and sometimes he asks Alfred if he is proud or ashamed of him. Alfred almost always responds that both of them are proud of him, sometimes even if he never asked. Alfred, after all, has always seen Bruce as a son, just as Bruce has always seen Alfred as a second father.
This is how Damian views Bruce, and the core of their relationship in the New 52. It's not that Bruce doesn't appreciate Damian, but he has no idea how to be an actual father to Damian, and has difficulty trying to express his feelings to him, both as Robin's mentor and as Damian's dad. Alfred is trying to help him figure it out.
Amoung his other insecurities, Oswald Cobblepot "The Penguin" really wanted his mother to be proud of him.
In Marvel's (and now Devil's Due's) G.I. Joe continuity, Storm Shadow felt unwanted and underappreciated after his uncles praised Snake-Eyes's abilities above even his own. However, in a subversion, an assassin uses this resentment, which is by that point out in the open, to frame Storm Shadow for killing his uncle—Storm Shadow himself would never have considered such a thing.
Ajak from Marvel's Eternals used to be the only Eternal who could directly communicate with the Golden Celestial. Ajak took this as a sign of favoritism and did all he could to learn about the Celestials. After the series had a reboot, it was revealed that Makkari was the Celestial's favorite. Ajak did not take the news well.
Ajak was made to talk to the Celestials whenever they show up, it's just this one isn't like the others and likes Makkari (and Iron Man) better.
In Superman comics, Lois Lane has something like this going on with her father, Major Sam Lane. Her sister Lucy appears to have it even worse in recent appearances.
Subverted in the furry comic, Associated Student Bodies, where one of the main characters told the story of his childhood being physically abused by his drunken father so badly that he was driven to drink himself, stealing his father's booze. Eventually, the wolf cub grew up tall and strong enough to fight back effectively enough give his father a furious beating. However, even while he was lying in a pool of blood, his father's only comment was an admiring one, "'Bout time you were a man." For his part, the cub was completely disgusted by this perverse admiration of bloody violence and left his father to enlist in the military as soon he could.
Even more so in the Ultimate Spider-Man line, where Norman considers Peter Parker 'my boy' rather than Harry. Yet, he stops his rampage when the Ultimates bring Harry to confront him.
Most incarnations of Quicksilver are this with Magneto, but Ultimate Quicksilver has this in spades - Magneto repeatedly condescends towards him, and requests that Cyclops call him 'Father' in Quicksilver's presence - until finally Quicksilver betrays his dad after being 'treated like dirt under your shoe his whole life', then puts on that iconic helmet in private after thinking that Magneto really died. He does the helmet thing all over again at the end of the Ultimates series.
Plus getting it on with his sister Scarlet Witch (hot or squick, YMMV)... When Magneto returns, he shoots out both of Quicksilver's knees (not for betraying him, but for sissyfying his organization), but later seems to show concern over his son's condition.
Kalibak lives for the approval of his father Darkseid. Darkseid repays Kalibak's devotion by constantly snubbing him in favor of Orion and giving Kalibak the Omega treatment whenever he fails to meet Darkseid's impossible standards — or just for the sheer hell of it. Darkseid's affection is limited to reviving Kalibak in order to give him another chance to prove himself and that's likely only because Kalibak's late mother Suli was the only person Darkseid ever truly loved.
Darkseid's other sons don't share Kalibak's desire for approval. Orion loathes his father and is a sworn enemy of Darkseid and Apokolips. Grayven constantly tries to escape his father's shadow one way or another — no easy task considering Grayven is a pale imitation of Darkseid in every possible way (weaker variant of Darkseid's Eye Beams, same skin tone, similar physique...).
All Fall Down has IQ Squared and his father, IQ. He gets his dad's respect in the end, but for something he didn't actually do.
Spider-Girl wants her father to be proud of her. That said, after some initial (very justified) reluctance to seeing his daughter taking on the role of superhero, he IS very proud of her.
Pops up on occasion in both The Incredible Hercules and The Mighty Thor, with the eponymous heroes having similar troubles in pleasing their fathers, Zeus and Odin. Neither are particularly driven to distraction by it but it can be pretty irksome when you're one of the greatest warriors to have ever lived (a distinction that gets alot more mileage in Marvel than it does in real life) and the best they can get out the old man is, "Is that the best you can do?"
Ironically, this is the same for their arch-enemies (and brothers) Ares and Loki respectfully. One of the key issues each villain has with the heroes is being The Unfavorite and seeking to earn their father's approval. Attempts to destroy their fathers are often a result of this as well: "Love me or die?"
Cyclops to some extent with Xavier. In most versions and for a large part of his publication, Scott was motivated by a desire to impress his surrogate father. In fact, a large part of the reason he shifted so much in personality following Jean's (second) death was from him realizing how terrible a father Xavier truly was to him, and then experiencing fist hand why he was like that.
A stunningly dark subversion in Garth Ennis' Preacher series. Jesse Custer breaks the back of the man who shot his father in front of his eyes, then later killed his mother (or so he thought) and generally acted like a world-class sociopath... all the while teaching Jesse to ride, shoot, fight and fix engines. What are Jody's last words to him? "Prouda' you, boy..." Custer reacts by snarling out "DIE!" and strangling whatever life is left in him.
Heavily implied in X-Men fanfic Mutatis Mutandis by Artemis's Liege for Rogue toward Mystique. The latter appears to be the one person the former respects and the reason she bothers to try at her new high school. Unfortunately, though she does care, Mystique sees Rogue as ultimately an agent of the Brotherhood of Mutants for her to brainwash and use against the government.
Given the importance of this trope to the source material, one can hardly fail to mention Nobody Dies. Asuka is the gender-inverted version of this trope turned Up to Eleven, to the point where Kyoko is an outright Abusive Parent, but it also remains a facet of Shinji's relationship with his father; Gendo might be a lot less messed up with Yui still at his side, but he isn't prone to overt displays of emotion and it's not always obvious that yes, he does love his son. They spend a fair chunk of the story working through this.
Several characters in Yu-Gi-Oh! Forever suffer because of this. The most blatant is Natasha, Zane Truesdale's daughter who is introduced in the final arc; her father has been very stoic toward her despite her desire to win his approval, and this combined with her older brother's blatant hatred for her because he blames her for their mother's Death by Childbirth has turned her into an extreme case of Shrinking Violet, leading to a full-blown Heroic BSOD after said brother defeats her in the arc's tournament. Alexis calls Zane out on it, and fortunately he makes an effort to do better.
Lightning Dust towards Spitfire in the Reading Rainbowverse. She just wants to show her mom she's Wonderbolt material! Interestingly enough, it's implied that Spitfire disapproves of her action because she thinks that she's not a good enough mother for Lightning, and disowned her after Lightning was seriously injured primarily to break the obsession and keep her safe.
Spur of Tales from the Fleet is the daughter of the Pint of Bitter's captain. Not only does this put serious pressure on her from everyone else, but she barely sees him and he's not even allowed to praise her for a job well done.
Spur: Captain can't play favorites.
In Empire after getting out of Azkaban Sirius reconciles with his mother.
Elizabeth has issues of this nature toward her famous father, Allan, in The Private Diary Of Elizabeth Quatermain. Since the series takes place after his death, this never gets fully resolved, although she does make a sort of peace with it in time.
In Jericho, Jericho himself has this is shades. How much of it is actually true is unknown, since he occasionally remarks that it his father was cruel because he never forgave Jericho for killing his own mother in childbirth, and sometimes he'll randomly say things like "Oh God, this is worse than that time I got laid as my highschool prom. And I was homeschooled. By myfather."
This is lampshaded by the level-up perk Jericho receives in chapter 12
New Perk: Daddy Issues—Daddy never hugged you enough. This gives you a Freudian excuse to misbehave. Oh, and you now do +5% bonus damage to mothers, fathers, and expecting fathers. But you also do +10% bonus damage to expecting mothers, because you’re a giant cunt and you sicken me.
Cards has so much of this that it gets sad and then funny and then sad but ultimately funny again. It culminates with Cards being forced to bludgeon her own mother to death. Because Jericho is all for Black Comedy, this too gets made fun of:
Companion Quest Perk Added: Born of Barren Womb — What, you didn’t know that murdering your own mother gave you special quasi-supernatural powers? Well, it’s true! (If your name is Cards and your were forced to beat your mother to death, that is.) With this perk, Cards does 15% more damage with blunt weapons. She will never be able to hit someone in the head without ever thinking of her mother now, haha!
Even Lightning Dust has this, having always worked hard trying to earn the respect of her abusive, alcoholic father.
“I… I loved my mother, but not my father. For him, I have a begrudging, hateful respect. He told me he didn’t want me to be stuck in a dead-end life like he was in, with nothing of value in the world. He told me that the only way to get anywhere in life was to be better than everypony else: better, faster, stronger. Leave others in the dust… the lightning dust... In a way, I should thank him. His constant… efforts to be a father got me to the top, I had my dream so close I could smell it. And in the end, because I listened to my father, I lost everything I ever had—” she looked at me, shaking her head “—and ever wanted. And sometimes we don’t ever get a second chance.”
Basically, everyone in Jericho. Because the author is a sociopath who enjoys making characters suffer.
Maho: But what about (Miho's) happiness, mother? She loves you and you cast her out... don't you see how much that has hurt her. She wants to make you proud... why do you think she persisted in sensha-do as a freshman? You have hurt her, mother.
In Disney's Tarzan, Tarzan is constantly seeking the approval of Kerchak, who refuses to accept Tarzan as a member of the gorilla pack, much less as his adopted son. That all changes when Tarzan comes back to save them. Sadly, it doesn't last that long, as Kerchak receives a fatal bullet wound from Clayton. After Clayton's death, Tarzan kneels over Kerchak, who passes on leadership of the pack to Tarzan and acknowledges Tarzan as his son with his last words.
The direct-to-DVD movie Kronk's New Groove is focused around Kronk desperately attempting to impress his father — who expects Kronk to have a big house on the hill and a beautiful wife. Kronk isn't even looking for verbal praise, but simply wants one of his father's elusive thumbs-up.
In Kung Fu Panda, part of Tai Lung's motivation is feeling betrayed by his de facto father, Shifu, for not standing up to Master Oogway when the turtle refused to dub him Dragon Warrior after working so hard to impress him. Conversely, Shifu feels profoundly guilty for having raised such a bully and only finds peace in training Po, who effectively becomes a new son for him. For his part, Po grows to see Shifu as a second father and strives to live up to his hopes, although Po loves his (obviously) official adoptive father no less.
And true to form, while the pride Po's father has for him is mostly implied by his acceptance of the panda as a Kung Fu warrior instead of a noodle-maker, Shifu actually comes right out and tells Tai Lung that he was always proud of him, that he'd had his respect all along (then he had to go and ruin it by turning evil).
Also, it is implied that Tigress has been training her entire life to earn Shifu's approval, but he has been too guilty over his failure with Tai Lung to give it to her.
This is explained in the Short film Secrets of the Furious Five — Shifu actually adopted Tigress from her orphanage. She is his daughter for all intents and purposes.
There is more than that. Tigress clearly sees herself as an unloved, unpraised, second-rate Replacement Goldfish for Tai Lung and blames Tai Lung for breaking Shifu's heart and making him the jerkass he is in the beginning. Funny that Tai Lung accuses Shifu of exactly the same lack of love and approval (except that being the Evil Counterpart he actually snaps as a result). While they are wrong about Shifu, the latter's parenting techniques clearly suck.
This is Master Thundering Rhino's old motivation for street-fighting, and later for taking Master Oogway's offer of a bandit-capturing job, in the Short Secrets of the Masters; all he wants is his father's - Master Flying Rhino's - words of pride.
In an interesting variation, happens twice to Simba of The Lion King (though with decidedly less subtlety the second time around). Although anything but an emotionally distant father, Mufasa is often preoccupied with the duties of the throne, and little Simba certainly sees him as a hero, worshiping the ground his paws tread upon. But there is no indication Simba ever doubts he has his father's love or respect...until Scar convinces him he is to blame for his father's death. Then, overcome with remorse and believing no one could ever forgive him, he voluntarily goes into exile. It is Mufasa's ghost, reminding him of his place in the Circle and telling him "You are my son and the one true king," that sets him back on the right path again. And with a simple, single word, "Remember..." he lets his son know he is very proud of him indeed.
Simba's Pride, however, has Simba forgetting this moving testimonial and unable to get over his past, refusing to trust Kovu or see him as anything but a reincarnation of Scar, all in the mistaken belief that this is what his father would do (and therefore, would make Mufasa proud of him). Luckily Nala, as usual, is the voice of reason while Kiara, with typical bluntness, makes it quite clear to her father that he is not and never will be Mufasa. And just to hammer the point home that Simba does not have to emulate his father's reign (or his perception of it) in order to receive his love and pride, Mufasa's ghost actually says the words, "Well done, my son" after the prides are united and peace is declared.
Nuka constantly seeking his mother's approval also qualifies and receives it only when he dies trying to impress her by killing Simba. Zira's pained expression is probably the most "human" moment she has.
While they don't actively dislike her, it's obvious that Mulan's parents don't exactly...understand her. The last words she speaks to her father before running off to join the army are... strained. At the end of the movie, though, he changes his tune. Beautifully.
Fa Zhou: The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter.
In Pixar's Up, this trope is revealed to be a central motivation for Russell and his obsession with earning all his Explorer patches: his estranged father has been ignoring him and Russell is clinging to a thin hope that if he earns all his patches and makes Senior Explorer, maybe his father will come for the promotion ceremony. As it is, when the boy finally makes it home and gets that promotion, his father fails to show and the boy is heartbroken. However Carl, who now sees Russell as the son he never had with his wife Ellie, comes to play the father's role in the ceremony and gives Russell his most prized possession, the bottle cap badge Ellie gave him when they first met as children.
Carl: For assisting the elderly, and services above and beyond the call of duty, I give you... the Ellie badge.
Some of Russell's interactions with Carl also follow this trope. Carl himself is trying to make his dead wife proud, feeling that he failed her in her dreams to have an adventure, until he discovers that nothing meant more to her than having a life with him.
In Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ash may be a sullen brat in the beginning, but he also tries to live up to his father's fame, only to then be hopelessly overshadowed by his unbearably perfect cousin, Kristofferson, whom his own father can't stop praising. However, at the climax of the story, Ash has grown to like the goodhearted Kris after all and accepts his own limits; only then does he stun his father with an act that deeply impresses him.
In Despicable Me, Gru had difficulty trying to impress his mother as she keeps on saying "eh" on his accomplishments. In the end, she does say that she is quite proud of her son. Also, in a lesser sense, we have Vector and his father Mr. Perkins.
Again from Pixar, Remy from Ratatouille tries his best to show his father that he can be a chef and get along with humans, despite both these things seeming impossible due to them being rats.
In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint wants his father's approval, and finally gets it with the help of a monkey translator. Revealing he was always proud of his son, he was just unable to say it.
Both Fred and E.B. (the Easter Bunny's son) in Hop
In Epic it first seems like this when it's revealed that Mandrake is Dadga's father, but it's averted in the next second.
Most of Sulley's arrogance in Monsters University is revealed to be insecurity on his part since the Sullivan family placed a huge amount of pressure on him to have a scare major like his father.
Boiler Room revolves entirely around Seth going to work at a brokerage firm (which he later finds out is in fact an illegal operation) to earn enough money to impress his Supreme Court Judge father Marty. It actually endangers his father's career when the FBI's Financial Crimes unit catches wind of it.
In Kick-Ass, Red Mist wants desperately to prove he can be as much of a gangster as his father.
In The Breakfast Club, Andy explains in his breakdown scene that he hates wrestling but is into it to get his very competitive father's approval.
Brian studies so much because his parents refuse to accept anything less than perfect grades.
Bender lives down to his parents' expectations.
The Master is this to Chang Lee in Doctor Who: The Movie, although this was more apparent in the novelisation than the film.
Emperor Commodus in Gladiator is a very odd example of this. He murders his father to become Emperor — and he wants to become Emperor in order to prove to his father that he's a worthy son.
In Hamlet 2, most of protagonist Dana Marschz's hang-ups and neuroses (which are presented in a not-at-all-subtle fashion in the titular play) can seemingly be directly traced back to his difficult relationship with his father. Curiously, in this example the father doesn't actually appear; as such, Dana appears to have adopted the tight-ass principal of the high school where he teaches as something of a warped substitute, going so far as to screech "You never believed in me, Daddy, I hate you!!!" in the middle of an argument with him completely out of the blue, and then having the principal kidnapped and forcibly made to watch the play so that he can get his approval.
In Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, Kumar isn't interested in being a doctor like his father is, despite having perfect MCA Ts. He even uses his medical textbooks as paper to make joints. He has an epiphany at the end of the first film and decides to give it a shot anyway.
Indy's relationship with his own father, Henry Jones Sr., as shown in Last Crusade. Papa Jones always made Indy feel like, to use his own words, people who had been dead for centuries were more important to him than his own son. By the end of the adventure, however, Indy knows for sure just how much his dad loves him and how proud of him he is.
Toyed with in Austin Powers in Goldmember. Austin is partially wrong in his assumptions about his father, Nigel- he does respect Austin, and loves him, but he spent Austin's childhood trying too hard to be Austin's best friend, when he should have been trying to be a father. He even sings a song about it: "Daddy Wasn't There."
Used straight in The Karate Kid. In this film, Mr. Miyagi is so well-developed as a father figure for Daniel that in the final scene, the thronging crowds or the trophy pale against the sight of the Old Master's face, beaming with pride at his student's triumph.
Faramir and Denethor in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, especially The Return of the King. Even though Denethor clearly doesn't deserve his son's respect, it obviously breaks Faramir's heart when his father tells him he wishes he had died instead of his older brother Boromir. Somewhat improved when he thinks his son is dead and proceeds to suffer an emotional breakdown...though still played rather dark as Faramir was clearly just unconscious, but he's too messed up to acknowledge this and tries to cremate himself and the "body" while Gondor is in the middle of an orcish invasion. Then played more nicely when Faramir opens his eyes and he is visibly shocked, but relieved, that his son really was okay (but catches fire and dies himself anyway). Still, Faramir seems more cheerful for the rest of the movie, perhaps partly knowing that his dad- while crazy and dead- in the end really did love him.
This was visible in the books, too, but much less so, as Denethor was considerably less of a scumbag and more of a tragic figure whose pride allowed Sauron to destroy him.
This is made even more pronounced in the extended editions of the film, with an extended scene in The Two Towers devoted to Faramir trying, and failing, to win his father's approval.
In The Quick and the Dead, all The Kid wants is the respect of his evil bastard father. As such, he enters a gunfighting competition, eventually facing his father down. The father tries to talk him out of the duel. It doesn't work, and the father shoots him dead.
Obi-Wan and Anakin share such a moment in Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin expresses his anger over being allowed on the Jedi Council while not being advanced to being a Jedi Master. Obi-Wan expresses that his skill and talent is what got him on the Council in the first place, and not to be distraught over the disapproval of the other Jedi. Unfortunately, this doesn't help.
The Phantom Menace had a scene where Obi-Wan apologized Qui-Gon for criticizing his sometimes peculiar actions (taking Jar Jar with them and betting their ship on Anakin winning the Pod Race). Qui-Gon quickly praised Obi-Wan for his willingness to learn and told him he would someday become a greater Jedi than Qui-Gon himself ever was. The novelization added other moments where Qui-Gon was critical of Obi-Wan's callousness (making jokes during combat) and lack of foresight (forgetting to turn his lightsaber battery off before jumping into swamp water), as well as the fact that Qui-Gon was known for seeking the "will of the force" over the immediate issues.
In Son of the Mask, Loki, the Norse god of mischief, is hunting down the Mask because his dad, Odin the All-Father, thinks it has caused too much trouble in the human world. Odin and Loki hate each other, but at the end of the movie, are taught An Aesop by the main character about the importance of getting along with your family.
Emphasized in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, where it seems like every failure or achievement Johnny experiences, he challenges his father about it. This is a bit of Flanderization though, if you compare the source material The Man in Black.
Spoofed in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, in which Dewey's father's response to anything his son does since accidentally cutting his brother in half with a machete is to growl "Wrong kid died!" He ends up engaging in an attempt at Offing the Offspring.
The reboot of the franchise (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) subtly implies the same relationship. M is constantly berating Bond and, in the first movie, severely doubts his abilities while doubting his sanity in the second. However, Bond himself says that the Big Bad tried to kill someone very close to him (the attempted murder of M at the beginning of the movie), to which Camille asks if it was his mother. Bond replies "She likes to think so." Then, at the very end of the movie, M tells Bond that they need him at MI6.
It's more or less explicit in the third film of the reboot, Skyfall.
Raoul Silva: She sent you here knowing you were not prepared, knowing you would likely die... Mommy was very bad.
Linus Caldwell in the Oceans Eleven trilogy: Danny hooks him in the first movie by promising that after this heist "dad'll be trading on his name"; in the second movie he's upset that his mom helps to bust him out of prison and that his dad knows this, as he will never let Linus live it down and in the third movie he finally gets a part in on one of his dad's schemes after being doubted by him through the whole movie. Then again, it's pretty hard to outdo an experienced thief who's legitimate/cover job is an FBI agent.
In The Thin Man Goes Home, Detective Nick Charles seems to have a casual (almost indifferent) relationship with his critical father, Dr. Charles, who has never forgiven Nick for not going into the family business. Nick is obviously downhearted by the fact that the old man has never been proud of him, so his wife, Nora, schemes to shake up the neighborhood in hopes of uncovering a mystery that Nick can solve in front of his father, and so gain the praise he silently longs for.
A female version is Casey Seeger from An Officer and a Gentleman. She pushes herself to be the Navy's first female aviator because she wants to win the approval of her father, who had wanted a son. She suffers a Heroic BSOD when Drill Sergeant Nasty Foley calls her out on it during training.
The catalyst for the plot in Hot Rod is that Rod has to earn the money for his stepfather's heart transplant so that he can defeat him in a fight in order to win the man's love and respect.
George W. Bush is desperate for "Poppy's" approval in W. (the political life was apparently meant for brother Jeb), and a nightmare shows how terrified W is:
Dream!Poppy: A hundred years it took to build up the Bush name and you single-handedly destroyed it!
In The Greatest Game Ever Played, Francis Ouimet wants to prove to his disapproving coal-mining father that he's able to play and win the U.S. Open against all the upper-class golfers, even though he wouldn't get any money for winning since he's an amateur. Results in a major Tear Jerker when Francis wins the U.S. Open and his father shows up in the crowd to wordlessly congratulate him.
In Babe, the relationship between Pig and his owner has shades of this. "That'll do, pig. That'll do."
In Amadeus, Mozart felt tremendously guilty for living a life that his father disapproved of. Mozart's rival, Salieri, was able to use that guilt to "haunt" Mozart to death by dressing up in a costume his late father had worn and then goading him into composing a requiem mass (a mass which Salieri hoped to steal and take credit for).
Blank Check has Preston seeking the approval from his capitalist father, who looks down upon him for not having a job. The kid is around ten years old. His father does get the message, late in the movie, and Preston forgives him.
Robert Fischer of Inception, giving him full woobie qualifications from the get-go. Made worse in that his father expressed his disappointment with his dying breath. Naturally, the plot relies on exploiting his Daddy-related insecurities mercilessly.
In Ever After ("Cinderella" remade as a historical drama), Drew Barrymore played Danielle, who desperately tried to win the approval and love of her Wicked Stepmother, the Well Done Daughter Gal Rodmilla de Ghent, the only family she had left. After she destroys any hope of Danielle being with her prince, Rodmilla taunts her relentlessly until finally Danielle asks if she had ever loved her at all. De Ghent cruelly replied, "Who could love a pebble in their shoe?" before selling Danielle into slavery. The next time they meet, Danielle is betrothed to her Prince Charming, while de Ghent and her equally nasty older daughter are stripped of their status and forced to work as servants in the castle. Danielle happily announces at that point, "I want you to know, that after this moment I will forget you and never think of you again. But you, I am quite sure, will think of me every day for the rest of your life."
The step-mother is given some rationale for her hatred/resentment of Danielle. As her beloved husband lay on his deathbed, he all but pushed her aside in favor of his daughter from his previous wife. You can see the hurt and pain on her face turn into anger and resentment for the little girl.
In Thor, Loki's motive behind the villainous acts he committed (bringing Laufey to Asgard to assassinate Odin, but then killing him to make it look as if he had saved Odin) was solely to gain his father's pride and affection. Tragically, Odin was already very proud of his son, although he was dreadful at communicating this fact.
Loki: I never wanted the throne! I only ever wanted to be your (Thor's) equal!
George V to his sons in The King's Speech, being a bit of a Jerk Ass towards his own children when they were young. However, unlike most instances of this case, he does approve of the adult Albert (though still frustrated by his speech problems), much more than his oldest son. In real life, he expressed preference for Albert and his nine year old granddaughter Elizabeth over Edward for the throne near the end of his life.
October Sky has Homer Hickam, who does want his father's approval, and his mounting frustration when his father fails to see the worth of his achievements until the last rocket is launched. He also earns it when he goes to work in the mine to support the family, but loses it when he quits.
Billy in Buffalo 66 hates both of his parents but still thrives to impress them, going so far as to kidnap a beautiful woman so he can pretend she's his wife.
In The Guardian, rescue swimmer trainee keeps trying to earn the respect of the class instructor, Ben Randall.
Zoolander — the title character's father, being from a long line of miners, doesn't know what to make of Derek's job as a male model at first, but once Derek unveils the ultimate look "Magnum", he's more than proud to tell everyone "that's my son!"
In Pusher 2, Tonny's motivation for most of the film is to make his father proud of him. It doesn't happen.
A large chunk of the plot in Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins is that successful TV talk show host Roscoe (Martin Lawrence), The Unfavorite, still can't get his father (James Earl Jones) - or anyone in his family except for his mother - to recognize and/or congratulate him for his accomplishments while still showering love and praise on his cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer) for his car dealerships.
Actually role reversed in the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma in which Dan Evans (Christian Bale) desperately wants to earn the love and respect of his bratty, ungrateful son William (Logan Lerman), thus inspiring him to take criminal Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to the train that will take him to prison (which will also provide him with some extra cash as a reward).
In Mr. Brooks, Tracy Atwood inherited millions, but is still devoted to her career as a hard-working homicide detective, all because her father was very disappointed that she was born a girl, and he let her know it, so she has spent her whole life trying to prove him wrong.
Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter. Throughout the series Neville is the Butt Monkey, the lamest, most pathetic wizard in existence. All he wants is to live up to his parents' legacy, and it's mentioned how his grandmother was so ashamed of his clumsiness. Then after his actions in both The Battle at the Ministry, and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, his grandma finally tells him how proud she is of him, and how he's just like his parents.
Also, to some extent, Ron Weasley. He's always been overshadowed by his brothers and simply wants to be set apart, and earn the recognition of his parents. However, the Weasley family is an extremely loving one, so while he doesn't necessarily feel "special" in their eyes, he does know that he's loved.
Also Draco Malfoy, although more so in the films than in the books. Draco obviously worships his father and is constantly trying to live up to his considerable reputation.
Variation: In Orson Scott Card's Homecoming series, protagonist Nafai longs for the love and approval of his eldest brother, Elemak. He knows this isn't very rational, as Elemak is an openly bullying Jerk Ass who sees Nafai as a useless mama's boy responsible for ruining his life, and would happily crush his head with a rock.
Odile in Mercedes Lackey's retelling of Swan Lake (The Black Swan) is one of these. When she finally realizes Baron von Rothbart is only using her for her magical potential, she turns on him.
In the Last Herald-Mage trilogy of The Heralds of Valdemar, Vanyel gets a great helping of this, as a great deal of his life is spent in trying to be heroic enough to get his father to accept him as a person, thanks to his "flaw" of being gay.
Lena Marchand is a female example, desperate for her father's approval. It doesn't help that Master Bard Tobias Marchand is an egotistical Jerk Ass who doesn't even recognize Lena when they accidentally run into each other at the beginning of Intrigues.
Princess Andromeda spends most of One Good Knight as a Well Done Daughter Girl. As it turns out (and as anyone with a passing knowledge of mythology will know), Queen Cassiopeia is not a nice person.
Tywin Lannister plays this role in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire; the desire to please him pushes Tyrion and Jaime, though neither would admit it. As is typical of the series, Tywin never provides validation, especially for Tyrion. Well, not the typical form of validation. This leads to him contracting an unfortunate fatal case of crossbow-bolt-through-bowels at the hands of, naturally, his son Tyrion. Even after that, it serves to motivate Jaime, to the point that one aunt has to point out to him that Tyrion is much more Tywin-esque than Jaime.
Theon Greyjoy seems to have a case of this towards his father Balon. His feelings toward surrogate father Ned Stark are even more conflicted, which is unsurprising given Theon's dual role of hostage/ward. He at times finds himself wondering what Stark would say to some particular deed and then becomes angry with himself for caring.
In a very twisted sense, Joffrey Baratheon is like this towards Robert, irritating Tywin immensely as he had been given to understand Joffrey did not care for Robert and is pissed the little brat shows some pride at being a Baratheon rather than a Lannister.
Lovable Coward Samwell Tarly spends an undue amount of time thinking if any of his actions will wind up netting him some small measure of approval from his father Randyll, who believes A Real Man Is a Killer and is deeply disappointed Sam isn't.
In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, when Horus tells Fulgrim that the Emperor intends to become a god and dispose of them, Fulgrim speaks of how he has longed for his love and respect.
In Steve Perry's Black Steel, it's revealed that the brash revolutionary Sleel is the son of the two most famous botanists alive - who are both Absent Minded Professors who care only about their work. Sleel's father in particular is very dismissive of everything his son has ever achieved, since it doesn't involve botany or genetic engineering. Sleel has known all this from childhood, but can't help trying to get their acknowledgment and approval when visiting them during the course of the book.
In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, the captain of the Eisenstein comments on how the Astartes strive to be independent of the Emperor as if he were their father — and yet crave his approval.
Prior to the storyline Captain Nathaniel Garro had craved validation from Mortarion but finds himself moving away from his primarch's ideals at the time the book starts and Solun Decius is desperate to live up to Garro's expectations despite the cancer from hell (pun intended) infecting his body. By extension this trope probably applies to most of the Deathguard, considering that those who sided with Mortarion are known for worshipping Father Nurgle.
Jochi in the Conqueror books is constantly trying to gain some small measure of the respect his father, Genghis Khan, showers on his younger brothers. No matter how successful as a warrior and general Jochi is, he never gets more than a reluctant, grunting acknowledgement that he's done something right.
Breezepelt. The ironic thing is, Crowfeather only had Breezepelt so his Clanmates would accept him.
Bluestar, whose father Stormtail was just distant from his kits.
Crookedstar. His mother Rainflower doted on him and his brother, but when he broke his jaw as a kit ruining his "handsome" appearance, she became outright abusive, rarely visiting him in the medicine cat's den and refusing to let the other kits visit him to keep his spirits up, renaming him from Stormkit to Crookedkit, making him sleep alone in the nursery, and frequently saying that he would never be as good as his brother. One of his goals in life was to make her proud of him.
Tallstar, whose father wants him to be a tunneler like him. When he gets chosen to be a moor-runner, Sandgorse starts ignoring him in his worst moods or trying to get him to be like him in his best moods. So Tallstar wants to be a tunneler like him so that he could be proud of him.
In Simon Spurrier's Warhammer 40,000Night Lords novel Lord of the Night, Sahaal remembers how the Night Haunter had been this, and the Emperor had treated him with contempt. Thus justifying, in the Night Haunter's eyes and Sahaal's own, his revolt against the Emperor.
The title character Adeline from Chinese Cinderella is this trope cranked Up to Eleven. She constantly tries to get approval from everyone in the household. Feeling honored to play with her siblings, anyone?
In Maximum Ride, Jeb's son Ari becomes this in the second book, hanging out with the copycat Max to make Jeb mad, and also coming up with a plan to take Max for his own. The plan eventually gets Jeb to notice him, which makes him happy enough to go out and steal a Game Boy. So...
Plenty of the demigods in Percy Jackson and the Olympians long for their god parent to acknowledge them. Especially Percy. Grover even says it when he tried to deny it.
You're glad that your dad is alive. You feel good that he's claimed you and part of you want to make him proud. That's why you mailed Medusa's head to Olympus. You want him to notice what you'd done.
Luke took this even more seriously. Many children of Hermes tend to feel very ignored, considering they get put with all 'the others', meaning those who aren't claimed. Furthermore, Hermes accidentally caused Luke's mother's mental deterioration and left the boy to be raised by her. Eventually Luke became so bitter that he changed sides and tried to take down the gods. Although eventually he had a last minute change of heart and sacrificed himself it shows just what an effect this trope can have. Percy even makes it a rule that all gods and goddesses must claim their children so that less of this kind of thing will happen. Considering that in this series, Winston Churchill was actually the son of Poseidon, it means he got a double-dose: both his biological father, and his step-father, as seen below.
Miles Vorkosigan started out an odd variant of this. It is not so much his father Aral's feelings of contempt or disapproval that he strives against as his feelings of guilt (Aral blames himself for the sequence of events that led to his son's prenatal poisoning and resultant physical disabilities). Miles's grandfather Piotr has enough disapproval for both Aral and Miles to go around. If he didn't Aral and Piotr are such towering giants of Barayaran history Miles nearly kills himself trying to measure up
The title character of the Donald Barthelme novel The Dead Father is this in spades.
Inverted in one of the two third Red Dwarf novels (it's confusing), Last Human. Arnold Rimmer is understandably dejected when his long lost son has been sorely disappointed to learn that the heroic feats of his father were a fiction invented by his mother and that the reality is that his father is a sniveling coward. Then, in the end, Rimmer performs an incredibly brave (if a bit reckless) feat; even though he kind of screws up the execution (though it does accomplish the intended end) his son, looking on, is incredibly proud of the act. Seeing his son beaming with pride, Rimmer is finally freed of the neurosis that have plagued his entire existence which ultimately leads to him selflessly volunteering for a Heroic Sacrifice.
In Trickster's Choice of the Tortall Universe, despite knowing her mother loves her, Aly feels that her mother doesn't understand her and underestimates her abilities. However, through one of her dreams where she can see what her mother is doing, she realizes that Alanna does understand and trust Aly and knows she has the talents to survive.
There's a bit of an inversion in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. After he dies, Anakin Skywalker becomes a Force ghost. He appears briefly to Luke in Return of the Jedi but says nothing; a hundred twenty years later, in Star Wars: Legacy, he speaks to a wangsty descendent, but in the meantime he's only been written speaking to one person - Leia. He wants to apologize to her, tell her how proud he is of her, and be forgiven. However, she is furious and horrified at the sight of him, doesn't want to know that any part of him survived, still considers Bail to be her real father, and doesn't believe that redemption equaled death at all. Even after he fades out she's angry and deeply disturbed; by the end of the book she hasn't changed her mind, but decides that if he wants to be proud of her, fine.
Later in the EU she doesn't quite forgive him, but she does come to terms with who he was; she names her third child "Anakin" (who, for his part, was not too happy for being saddled with such a name, but it sort of helped keep him from the Dark Side).
One could also say that Heather Acosta from the Sammy Keyes books qualifies. Heather's relationship with her mother and father is a far cry from what Sammy has with her grandmother. Her mom seems to be going through some sort of mid-life crisis and her father admitted that he'd want a retraining order against her. The fact the Casey seems to be their father's favorite has led to some problems (among other things) between the siblings. It's been hinted in the series that this maybe the reason why Heather act's out — to gain attention.
Will in His Dark Materials grew up never knowing his father, and states outright in The Subtle Knife that he wants to find his father so that he can hear the words "Well done, son." When they finally do meet, his father is killed within seconds of Will realizing it's him. However, Will finally gets his wish in the third book when he meets his father in ghost-form.
Also Lyra, who is extremely annoyed at having saved Lord Asriel by warning him about the wine and bringing him the alethiometer and he didn't even thank her. Their relationship just goes downhill from there.
Michael in the Knight and Rogue Series struggles in the first book to try and stave off his father's disapproval for the life he chose. When his father has him marked as an unreedemable criminal to try and force a 'better' life on him in the second book he claims that he's stopped caring, but in the third book when trying to escape death one of the things that unlocks his 'needs' driven magic is his desire to prove to his father that he can make it.
The relationship dynamic between Chris and his father in The Pale King. Chris is fully aware of how disappointed his father is of him, but is usually too stoned or selfish to care. It's not until his father dies that Chris feels guilty enough to change his life.
This is made depressingly clear when the father comes home early to find Chris and his buddies in his living room, high out of their minds, surrounded by discarded Taco Bell wrappers, and their feet resting lazily on one his prized pieces of furniture. The father doesn't yell; he simply says, Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!, walks into his bedroom and shuts the door.
Will from Ranger's Apprentice grew up an orphan; his father-figure is Halt, his mentor. Gaining Halt's approval means more to Will than anything - even just a small smile from Halt means more to Will than any amount of praise his friends and his king laud on him.
In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie senselessly pursues both his parents after he becomes a genius, hoping that they'll be impressed by his newfound intelligence and finally acknowledge him. He's ashamed of this, but it's deeply embedded in his personality, since he always thought that his parents would love him if he became "smart".
Lt Armstrong from Phule's Company is revealed to have been that. By the start of the series his father is long dead and it's clear to Armstrong that the approval never was an option, but he's already so set in his by-the-book ways that he has long become a caricature of an officer. He ends up in The Omega Company.
In The Mortal Instruments Jace spent most of his life being this - until he found out who his father really was. And even then....
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr..: Brisco gets his "Well done, son" moment after an encounter with the ghost of his father (who was murdered in the first episode of the series).
Against The Wall: Has both Donnie and Abby searching for ways to gain their father's approval and pride during different parts of the show. Abby in particular has strained relationship with her senior uniform-cop father since joining the Internal Affairs division as a detective.
Wesley goes through the same rigamarole with what turns out to be his father's Evil Imposter. But the impersonation was perfect, because Wesley's real father is that bad both as a father and as a ruthless bastard. It was previously mentioned that he locked Wesley under the stairs. And let's not forget their phone conversation in Angel season 2; Wes calls up his dad, hoping for his approval now that he's become the leader of Angel Investigations, but dear ol' Dad only cares about when, what, and how he'll screw up next.
Angel himself clearly feels this about his father.
Angelus later sired an enthusiastic but unimaginative protege named Penn who re-enacted the murder of his family over the centuries over the issue.
In a deliberate parallel to Angel, Kate Lockley is implied to have had a strained relationship with her father. While not a cruel man, her father never showed her any approval or affection after her mother died — Kate recalls that as a child, she found more parental affection in the mother of one of girlfriends. Her father never even told her "a beautiful lie" (ie: Heaven) to comfort her after her mother's death. It's implied that she became a policewoman to follow in his footsteps, but rarely received more than curt acknowledgement from him.
The Sensitivity Training Guy with his magic stick causes her to have a breakdown and express her feelings about this at his retirement party. He finds this deeply embarrassing and files it under 'We Shall Never Speak Of This Again.' Later he dies without ever having formally approved of her. This is not in the least Angel's fault, for once, but it involves vampires and puts the final nail in the coffin of his friendship with Kate until After The Fall.
The former episode throws in a weird perspective on Angel's issues re: this trope. This is before the flashback, but Sensitivity Training Guy says "tell me about your parents" and Angel snarls "They were delicious." Sounds like the kind of smack he talks when trying to scare bad guys and actually seems to lower the probability that he killed them, but then it turns out he did, and can make jokes about it. Sick puppy even at his best.
Used almost straight, in which Michael is constantly trying to get his father—who tried to "toughen him up" by shouting down all his ideas—to recognize his accomplishments, while GOB is sick of being in Michael's shadow. Michael gets his father's approval (although it would have been a more touching moment if he weren't on the lam); GOB doesn't and doesn't deserve to.
Michael is so busy trying to save the company and get his father's approval he doesn't notice his own son's attempts to gain his approval.
Batman: Legs in "The Greatest Mother of them All"/"Ma Parker."
Flashbacks in the finale of the rebooted series revealed that Dr. Gaius Baltar, resident narcissistic genius, not only tried to overcome his shame of having been born on a farm planet as son of a farmer, but had taken his old senile father with him to Caprica and secretly visited him every day, desperately trying to please the cranky old man.
The show also features the less common mother-daughter variant of this trope, when Kara Thrace goes to see her mother after earning her commission as a Colonial officer - the first in her family to do so - only to be berated for not graduating higher in her class. The fact that her mother was frequently abusive during her childhood in the belief that Kara had a "special destiny" means their relationship was already....strained.
Leonard wants his mother's (near impossible to receive) approval and affection. He's not at all helped in this area by the fact she's more likely to thank his roommate for picking her from the airport when Leonard is the one driving and she views Leonard's (actually very complex) work as the embodiment of laziness and ripping off others (he works in designing experiments to test theories and validating experiments). To a lesser extent, Penny has some Daddy approval issues, feeling the need to lie to him about still dating Leonard (the only one of hers boyfriends he's ever approved of) and feels like he less accepting of her because she's not a boy and rejects a lot of the tomboy activities she was involved with as a child. Although it's implied that she over blows it a bit and compared to her siblings (who from what we know from mentioned noodle incidents include a brother that makes meth and a sister that once shot her husband) she might just be the golden girl of the family.
It also does not help that Leonard's mother is a Distaff Counterpart of Sheldon, making any form of emotional reciprocation practically impossible or done in a way that Leonard did not expect.
Boy Meets World: Frankie Stecchino. One episode even revolved around him faking a love of wrestling just to bond with his father.
Breaking Bad: Though they're only father and son on a more symbolic level, Walt can be this for Jesse. He has complimented Jesse all of once, and that was to say that his meth is as good as Walt's. It was enough to get Jesse to partner up with him again. Basically, anytime Walter compliments Jesse, especially in later seasons, it's nothing more than a manipulation tactic to keep Jesse on his side.
The Closer: Whenever Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson delivers a rare compliment, whichever member of PHD is being complimented lights up like a supernova.
Stephen Colbert makes occasional vague references such as "the fathers we can never seem to please." His need for paternal approval appears to have been mostly displaced onto substitutes such as "Papa Bear" Bill O'Reilly .
Ironic since Colbert fears and hates bears — a hint at the actor's real opinion of Bill.
Combat Hospital: Has trauma surgeon Major Rebecca Gordon, who accuses herself of daddy issues in a group therapy session.
The Daily Show: One segment of "Even Steven" concerning the Elián González debacle dealt with Steve Carell's daddy issues. In a weird reversal, considering the aforementioned Colbert Report example, Stephen Colbert roleplayed as Carell's father.
Debra Morgan had this kind of relationship with her father Harry, even following in his footsteps as a cop to gain his attention. It's not that he wasn't proud of her, but honing her brother Dexter's extra-curricular activities (to which Deb wasn't invited for obvious reasons) meant that he couldn't spend as much time with his daughter. Likewise with Christine Hill, the daughter of Arthur Mitchell/Trinity, who even killed Frank Lundy to gain her father's approval. After she accidentally put him at risk of being discovered, he disowns her. She doesn't take it well.
Dexter, too. Everything was to live up to Harry's expectations. When he realizes that a) Harry was using him as an outlet for his own vigilante impulses and b) Harry was deeply revolted by what he'd made him into, to the point of suicide, he...takes it pretty hard.
Doctor Who: Rory seemed to have a mild case of this with his father Brian Williams, as seen in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship". While Brian clearly loved his son, their banter during the episode implied that Brian thought Rory wasn't "manly" enough (didn't carry a trowel in his pockets, was a professional nurse). He also implied that Amy was a better wife than Rory deserved. During the course of the episode, as Brian is accidentally whisked along into one of his son's adventures with the Doctor, he starts to respect Rory more.
Elementary: Played with in the case of Joan Watson and her mother. She shows hints of this which Sherlock is quick to point out she's dressing for a job interview rather than a brunch with her mother. Subverted in that Joan's mother isn't criticizing her current job occupation because it's not as respectable as a surgeon but because it doesn't make Joan happy. Joan's mother is actually glad that Joan is working with Sherlock because this does make her happy.
Frasier: The relationship between Frasier, Niles and Martin has echoes of this; much of Frasier and Niles' Sibling Rivalry exists as a result of their attempts to gain Martin's favour, which given the near-insurmountable differences in taste and personality between father and sons to begin with, was a difficult task in itself.
Gilmore Girls: Variation: Lorelai has long since resigned herself to never earning the respect of her Meddling Parents, though she's pleasantly surprised to finally get it from her father after she helps him set up his new business. In a total reversal, though, she's actually horrified whenever she earns the respect of her mother.
Blaine too. In "Sexy", he mentions to Kurt's father (who at this point has a healthy, supportive, relationship with his son) that he isn't exactly close with his father, and that he felt the reason his father once had him help rebuild a car was because his father thought it would make him straight.
Both Mohinder Suresh and Elle Bishop have seeking the approval of their fathers as their driving motivation. Mohinder is try to prove the theories of his deceased father, while Elle's father sends her out to kill people for him.
For all of his wacky murderous brain-stealing shenanigans, it seems all Sylar really wanted from life was the approval of his parents. Then again Sylar has a lot of problems, obviously. So he could have either mommy issues, daddy issues, neither, or both. Though in the past few episodes he has apparently developed his dead mother's personality, going so far as to shapeshift into her (and use her voice) when he's talking to himself. Clever camera angles make this hard to determine but when he's with another character Michah the camera shows him change back and forth. Creeeeeepy.
Mohinder and Sylar twitted one another about their daddy issues back in season two. Specifically vis-a-vis Chandra Suresh, whom Sylar had temporarily adopted as a surrogate father figure.
In the episode "Son of Coma Guy", House reveals that all he wanted to hear from his abusive, non-biological father were the words, "You were right. You did the right thing."
Additionally, Chase fulfills the trope to the extent that a UK advertising campaign for the show used "What price approval?" as his tagline. In typical Housian fashion, he finally got it as he was being fired.
Chase had issues with his own biological father, who left him when he was a kid and never voiced any approval of him. He did not even tell Chase he was dying of cancer, and it is speculated this caused Chase's need to get approval from House at any cost.
It was revealed that the six words Robin wants to hear her dad say are "Robin, I'm proud of you, eh."
This is a huge issue of Barney's, as multiple episodes show, most notably "Showdown" and "Cleaning House", and he doesn't even know who his father is. And now that he has met his father, and after getting radically worse, he may actually be getting better.
iCarly: Spencer Shay in during the episode iHire An Idiot, but with his grandfather.
It Runs In The Family: This TV movie aired on the Disney Channel in the '90s. Set in the summer months circa 1940 and taken from Jean Shepherd's "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" (the same source material as A Christmas Story). During the movie, Ralphie and the Old Man (Charles Grodin) go fishing every weekend, but fail to catch anything. Until one day when Ralphie is hauling in one huge fish after another, while his father, who didn't get a nibble, looks on in genuine surprise. After awhile, other boats on the lake start to crowd Ralphie and his dad. Jean Shepherd narrates at this point: "My old man never said in so many words, 'I'm proud of you, Ralphie,' but somehow he always let me know that he was proud of me." The Old Man then stands up and shouts to the other boats, "Hey, get lost, we've got a fisherman at work here, give him some room!"
Jack's father, Christian, has, in his own words "sacrificed certain elements of [his] relationship" with Jack in order to mold Jack into a great surgeon. An emotional conversation in which Sawyer relays Christian's last thoughts about his son to Jack gives him some closure...but it's not until the series finale that Jack encounters his father in the "flashsideways," subsequently revealed to be the afterlife, and they have their true reunion.
Jack almost follows in his father's footsteps when dealing with his own son, David...except David doesn't exist and is a creation of Jack's afterlife used to help him with his father issues.
Luther: In addition to the relatively normal tactic of serving in the military to follow in his father's footsteps, the killer in the second episode is so desperate for his father's approval that when the latter, behind bars for killing a cop, orders him to embark on a terror campaign against the police to get him released, he obeys without question.
May as well be subtitled "How our horrible childhoods have ruined our adult lives". Exhibit A: Walking inferiority complex Pete Campbell, whose father died in a plane crash before giving Pete the validation he craves. By season five, it's clear that no matter how high Pete rises at the agency, he's never going to feel he gets the respect he's owed.
Exhibit B: Peggy Olsen busts her back trying to get Don Draper to say things like, "Good work, Peggy", or "I'm proud of you." Eventually, his failure to do so leads to her leaving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce entirely... which may have actually been necessary before he finally could say it, in the season 5 finale. This is a doubly-rare case: it crosses gender lines (the approval-seeker is a different gender from the one she's seeking approval from - and, to Mad Men's credit, they never even bat an eye at that aspect) and the approval-seeker isn't genetically related to the "father" figure at all (but she definitely considers him a mentor, and says so when she's giving notice from SCDP).
M*A*S*H: Margaret Houlihan seeks validation from her distant father.
Merlin: Throughout the series, Arthur (yes, that Arthur) attempts to gain his father's approval, frequently risking his life in order to impress him/follow orders. His success is decidedly mixed. Uther may not show it overtly, but he loves Arthur, and willingly risks his own life several times to save him, such as drugging Arthur and taking his place in a duel with an undead knight. And if you're wondering, he did that because the undead knight could not be defeated and would cut down anyone in his way to kill Uther (then and only then would he go away), and unless Uther took his place, Arthur was the one in the way.
Mock the Week: Parodied in a "Scenes We'd Like To See" round. "I've just climbed Mount Everest without any food or survival gear. (Beat) NOW DO YOU LOVE ME, DADDY?!"
Modern Family: Phil is sometimes seen wondering why Jay does not like him. He is also sometimes seen having to remind Jay of the few manly things he does. For example, in the episode "The Kiss", as one of the running plots, Phil attempts to fix Jay's printer with the hopes of impressing him. When it finally does get fixed, Phil consistently reminds Jay of it in subsequent episodes when Jay calls Phil's manhood into question.
Tony's real dad appears in an episode originally aired in January 2009. Yes, that Dad — the one who left him in Maui by himself for a week when he was a child. By the end of the episode, it's fairly clear that while Tony nevertheless loves his father and would still like his approval, he doesn't need it as badly as he once did because he has Gibbs.
In season nine episode "The Penelope Papers" it is revealed that McGee- has almost exactly same issues with his own father. Since before it has also been clear that Ziva was brought up with a authoritarian father, seeking his approval.
Only Fools And Horses: Even after her death, it's very clear that everything Del does is because he wants to make his Mum proud.
Shawn appears to have spent most of his life either trying to live up to his strict, not-easily impressed father Henry's expectations or actively rebelling against Henry's attempts to mold him. For his part, Henry isn't exactly shy about letting Shawn know when he's disappointed with him. Henry even arrested at east once.
This has changed over time: Henry and Shawn have a much better relationship and have shown a great respect for each other.
Red Dwarf: Subverted Trope in the episode "Better Than Life", when Rimmer reflects he never heard his father say he was proud of him, before entering the titular Lotus-Eater Machine. In the fantasy world he is an incredibly popular and successful figure, but when his father appears, it's to fulfill the Cat's fantasy of hearing him call Rimmer a total smeghead. It's after this point that Rimmer's subconscious rebels against him and converts the fantasy world into a horrible nightmare. Subverted again in the episode "The Beginning", when Rimmer learns that his father is actually the gardener, and is instantly freed of the crusing weight of expectations upon him.
Revolution: Jason Neville's relationship with his father Tom Neville is...dysfunctional. In the episode "The Song Remains The Same", Jason asked his father, "What'd I do wrong? I did everything you asked me to. I hurt people. Killed people. For you." The sad thing is that before the blackout, their relationship was happy and normal, as shown in a flashback in "Soul Train".
Lex's (arguably) main reason for becoming evil is the fact his father never gave him any credit. So one of the richest men in the world, who created an army of clones, studied spaceships and had a prison for superhumans, was unhappy, all because his father (Lionel) wouldn't say "Well done, son." And then he kills Lionel in Season 7. Talk about messed up.
Considering what kind of father he had, that last action makes a whole lot of sense.
Actually, the worst thing is that, after a lifetime of trying to get Lex to be a good evil strong worthy successor, Lionel went and had a Heel-Face Turn right after Lex finally crossed serious lines, and wound up as a replacement father figure to Clark by way of the Jor-El AI, meaning that the same person he always envied for having an incredibly supportive father he could never get to accept him (Jonathan Kent) now had his father, the one who'd put him through so much. Too cruel.
Stargate SG-1 has an interesting example with Vala and her Dark Messiah daughter, Adria. Adria is an unrepentant Big Bad, but she won't harm her mother and tries repeatedly to convince Vala to join her side. Vala, and the rest of her team, try to figure out how to use Adria's need for her mother's approval to their advantage, but Adria is extremely hard to manipulate since she has fancy mind-reading powers.
Vala: She has the knowledge of Ascended Beings, twisted as it may be, but I sense that there is a part of her that is just like any other kid, that wants her mother's approval. So I'm hoping I can use that somehow. I mean, why else would she care what I think, right?
In the episode "Journey to Babel", it's revealed Spock has this problem with his father who disapproved of his decision to enlist in Starfleet instead of following his father into the Vulcan Science Academy. Spock even refuses to give a blood transfusion to his father because he's trying to be the perfectly logical vulcan his father would expect him to be (the ship is in danger, the captain is incapacitated, and if Spock is confined to Sickbay, the ship will be without both its commanding officers during a time of crisis). Kirk has to fake recovery to ensure Spock gives the transfusion that will save his father's life. The audience does learn that Sarek is actually proud of Spock (he just won't admit it to Spock) and at the end of the episode he does indicate approval of Spock.
In the episode "Final Mission" (the one where Wesley Crusher departs), Wes confides that everything he's done on the Enterprise was to make surrogate father figure Captain Picard proud. Picard states at the end that he's always been proud of Wesley (despite never having said so). Cue the Full House Music.
Will Riker doesn't get along with his father. As it turns out, his father is the kind of jerk who would cheat at playing games against his own son.
When Picard is near-death, Q conjures a vision of Picard's father, a winemaker, who apparently never wanted his son to join Starfleet. It is unclear if Picard's dad really disapproved, or if Q was just being a dick as always.
Expanded Universe novels suggest the senior Picard really did disapprove, greatly, of his son joining Starfleet.
Enabran Tain is first introduced in Series 2 as The Spymaster who controlled the Obsidian Order, recruited and mentored Garak. Over the next few years of the show it becomes clear that Garak will bend over backwards to do anything Tain asks of him even though Tain both exiled him and tried to assassinate him. Despite this guaranteed loyalty, Tain always criticises Garak and treats him quite harshly. Only when Tain is on his deathbed is it revealed that Garak spent his entire life seeking a moment when Tain would treat him like a son instead of a subordinate or a protégé. The last thing Tain ever does is give him that approval.
Despite their antagonistic (and definitely non-biological) relationship, this seems to be what Quark seeks from Odo. Quark's final comment on the relationship is "That guy loves me — it's written all over his back."
Odo had a strained relationship with the scientist who was assigned to study him when he was first discovered and with whom he does have a sort of parent/child relationship with since Dr Pol was responsible for Odo learning how to shapeshift and take humanoid form in particular. At one point, an alien infection does make Odo lash out at Pol, bringing Odo's desire into the open - even for Odo himself, who hadn't realised just how deep his own feelings ran. They are eventually reconciled.
Jadzia Dax spent years fearing that she didn't live up to predecessor Curzon's expectations, especially because he washed her out of the academy programme and never explained why he allowed her to re-apply. Only by Calling the Old Man Out does she finally learn the truth. He let personal feelings for her get in the way of his job by throwing her out of the academy to avoid temptation (something he felt deeply guilty for doing) and her successful re-application let him off the hook.
Dukat's relationship with Sisko is, in part, a twisted variation of this. Despite all differences, Dukat respects his opponent, to the point of calling him an "old friend", and expects Sisko to behave the same way towards him (without much success). This culminates in a long discussion in "Waltz", where Dukat is desperately trying to force some kind of approval out of the Captain:
Dukat: I don't think you're being entirely honest with me, Benjamin. You're not a man who hesitates to make snap judgements when the situation calls for it. It's one of the signs of a good commander. Now I'm asking for your opinion of me and I find it hard to believe you don't have one.
Dukat also seemed to be somewhat obsessed with what Kira thought of him, that getting her to "understand" what he did (including to her) in the occupation would somehow vindicate him. Sort of like an abusive parent trying to justify themselves that way, years later.
This is the plot of the episode "Life Line". The Doctor, an artificially intelligent hologram, learns that his creator (and the man whose image he's based on), holographic genius Dr Lewis Zimmerman, is dying. The Doctor pleads with Captain Janeway to be transmitted back to the Alpha Quadrant, assuming Zimmerman will be proud of how he's exceeded his programming... only to find his creator is a cantankerous jerk who believes he's an obsolete model better suited to scrubbing plasma conduits on waste transfer barges. Needless to say, much angst and hilarity ensue before the two are reconciled.
Tom Paris's father Owen Paris was a Starfleet admiral and Tom never felt that he could live up to his reputation. Things were strained between them and only became worse once Tom had joined the Maquis and then ended up in a Federation penal colony. It was only after the Voyager got lost in the Delta Quadrant and later established communications to Earth that the two re-connected, especially once Tom and B'Elanna became a couple and had a child. In the novels, things became strained between them again due to circumstances in part beyond Tom's control and Owen died in a Borg attack.
Dean has gotten so little show of his dad's approval despite always following his orders and being a good hunter that in the Season One Finale, when his dad (possessed by the Big Bad) tells Dean how proud he is that Dean brought the Colt and used a bullet to save Sam's life, Dean realizes he's possessed and puts the gun on him—correctly thinking that the real John would have been furious instead of proud. Even when Dean gets an attaboy and sign of trust from his father, it comes with a Dark Secret that endangers his relationship with his brother, and then his dad dies for him. Since Dean just wants his family to be with him and happy, that's about the worst sort of fatherly recognition he could get.
Sam feels the same need for his father's approval, but acts out against his father's wishes instead of trying to act as the perfect son Dean struggles to be. Mainly because Sam feels like his flaw is what he is, and not something he can change, whereas Dean thinks that if he just does enough, he can earn approval.
Castiel's devotion to his Father leads him to start rebelling against fellow angels and siding with humans, whom he thinks of as his father's "works of art". He undergoes death by explosion, eventual power loss, and various human indignities during his exile from Heaven, but he seems to be taking it all in stride—until he hears from Joshua that his father doesn't give a crap about any of it, and would rather stay away and let the Apocalypse happen. Castiel then gives up, drinks a liquor store, and begins his downward spiral. At the end of Season 5, however, God does show some kind of intervention and raises Castiel from the dead a second time, and a re-angelfied Castiel flies back home at the first opportunity. Come Season 6, he's still carrying out his father's wishes by leading one faction of Heaven against the archangel Raphael. And that's since Gone Horribly Right...
Lucifer, despite his rebellion, is basically a kid throwing a temper tantrum because he wanted Daddy to notice him again and return his affections. Michael's relationship with God intentionally parallels Dean's with John, except Michael is perfectly willing to kill what used to be his favorite brother if he believes that's what Daddy wants. Raphael has retreated into nihilism ("You're living in a godless universe.") and Gabriel into hedonism, and that's the four that have ever actually "met the Man."
Uriel's faction have actively given up and want to side with Lucifer. Anna is probably the closest to indifferent to God's opinion of any angel appearing on the show; it's fitting she's also the only one with a consistently female appearance.
Joshua is so Zen it's creepy, but then he's the only one god actually talks to. He may also be Jesus. Zachariah comes down somewhere between Gabriel's hedonism and Raphael's nihilism, but less tastefully, and it's harder to link to God as such. He may just genuinely be a self-interested racist dick, though his preoccupation with making things play out in accordance with divine prophecy, the only thing God left behind for his children, may indicate issues of this type. Angels were created to serve and He gives no feedback for thousands of years, how are they not going to be legions of daddy issues?
The demon Azazel, original nemesis of the Winchesters, evidently had this with Lucifer, based on his desperately devoted behavior in the convent flashback, and his whole program was geared toward getting Hell open to free Lilith so she could bust out Lucifer, in both cases using the 'very special child' Lucifer told him to procure; i.e. Sam, but Lucifer doesn't betray any awareness that he died for it. He in turn encouraged this from his own 'children,' such as the demon known as Meg.
Often the entire premise behind this show, where Christopher is always ready for his father's condescending remarks. Hilariously done in the first episode, while joking role-playing Titus recalls every proud moment he had being shot down by Papa Titus (graduation, first job, becoming a manager, etc.) When he finishes with "I opened my own car shop and now I make more money in one year then you ever made in any year of your life, what do you think about that?!" The real Papa Titus appears behind him, cracks open a beer and says, "I think without me pushing you boy, you never would have made it."
Reiterated in the stand-up show Norman Rockwell is Bleeding (the Anti-Dad! part), ending with
Christopher: I have my own TV show and production company! Dad: And that shit got cancelled, didn't it!
"The Two Bartlets", Toby points out that the President is haunted by the need to make his father like him.
"Two Cathedrals," where it's pretty strongly implied that Bartlet's impassioned rant in the National Cathedral is directed more at his father than at God.
President Bartlet may not have been able to get his own father to love or approve of him, but his real "well done, son" guy is his chief of staff, Leo McGarry- (played by the late John Spencer). Just before a debate between Bartlet and the Republican candidate, Leo gives Bartlet a beautiful smile and says "There's no such thing as too smart. There's nothing you can do that's not going to make me proud of you."
Josh has strong tendencies of this but not towards his real father (who is deceased and, by all accounts, was very proud of him). Instead he craves the approval of Leo McGarry, who became a father figure to him after his own father's death. At one point one of the characters notes that Josh is not afraid of losing but he is afraid of letting Leo down.
Agent Dana Scully spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove to her parents, but especially her dad, that her decision to join the FBI was a good one. She doesn't find out how proud of her her dad actually was until he's dead.
Agent Spender had this going for the Cigarette-Smoking Man, his biological father, of all people. Well, at least until he tried killing his mom.
Young Dracula: Ingrid. Her father gives Vlad all the attention, even though Vlad doesn't even want to be a vampire and she does.
One of the recurring parental issues of The Sopranos. Tony goes out of his way to please his contemptible mother, who resents her children for being happier than her. At the same time, Chris, Tony's nephew, and A.J., Tony's son, try hard to earn praise from the old man or just live up to his perceived expectations, only to get frustrated when he doesn't give them any real credit.
And said Emperor living a horrible half-life powered only by constant psychic sacrifice to allow him to stave off the abominations of the warp from destroying all life in the universe (The best case scenario involves them "only" killing everyone). All the while humanity goes on to commit daily atrocities in his name.
Which is made even better by the fact that the Imperium is held together mostly by the efforts of the Imperial Cult, worshipping the "Immortal" God-Emperor - who originally made agnosticism part of the Imperial Truth when he first launched the Great Crusade to reunite mankind.
Happy is still like this, but to a slightly lesser extent.
Cory from Fences, full on. Even remarked on almost by name:
Rose: Everything that boy do... he do for you. He wants you to say, "Good job, son." That's all.
The Kid, from I Wanna Be the Guy, a game whose extremely peripheral story involves nothing more than an incredibly hard quest to become The Guy. The Kid wants to become The Guy. The Father of The Kid is The Guy. The Kid is sent on his quest by Former Grandfather The Guy, who was replaced as The Guy by The Father The Guy, who The Kid now seeks to replace in turn to become The Guy. It doesn't get much more "Well Done, Son" Guy than that.
The Prince in Katamari Damacy seeks nothing but the King of All Cosmos' approval, and for good reason: disapproval means More Dakka eye beams.
In later games we find out that the King had a similar relationship with his father.
In the Tekken series Lee and Jin (a "Well Done Grandson Guy") all at some point or another felt this way towards Heihachi. Eventually they learn that doing this won't get them anywhere and thus went off their own way.
Kazuya started this way as well. Heihachi throwing him off a cliff kind of ended that dream, though.
Adopting Lee into the family was actually supposed to induce this emotion in Kazuya, giving him someone to compete with and pushing him to achieve. Again, though, the cliff thing derailed that.
For most of the game, Gwendolyn is constantly trying to prove herself as a warrior so that her father King Odin would be proud of and love her - a fact which Odin repeatedly uses to manipulate her. Eventually Gwendolyn wises up and gives up on her father in favor of choosing to be with Oswald, who earnestly cares for her.
Before the final boss of Velvet's book, it's revealed that the destruction of Valentine was caused by Ingway, who tampered with the Cauldron in order to save Odin from being killed in battle against Valentine's superior forces and didn't anticipate the scale of the reaction that would result. In the aftermath, Odin claimed the cauldron with nothing but a callous "Well done, traitor" for Ingway, inspiring Ingway to go to rather extreme lengths to call him out for it later on.
Even though he hates his father, Tidus from Final Fantasy X desperately seeks to measure up to him, especially after realizing he's following his exact same footsteps. Likewise, Yuna wishes to make her own father, High Summoner Braska, proud of her own pilgrimage. In the end, they exceed both of their parents, by destroying Sin rather than just delaying it until next time.
Braska obviously loved Yuna, and she just didn't want his death to be in vain.
Revisited in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, where Jecht was specifically chosen as the villain representative of Final Fantasy X due to his emotional connection with the hero. It's especially visible in the cutscene after Tidus beats him:
Tidus: I hate you. I hated you so much. I've always wished you'd be gone. But deep down what I really wanted was just... your approval. For you to... tell me that I've grown strong.
Jecht: Looks like the kid will never grow up.
Tidus: That's not my fault. I can't help it. I'm your son, after all.
Jecht: Hehe... I guess you are.
Jecht: Hey, cry-baby... You've grown strong.
In an example of the hero's friend, Sora reveals at the end of Kingdom Hearts II that he's always striven to be as good at everything as his best friend, Riku. This was hinted at in the beginning of the original game, as well. In true form, Riku also reveals that he was always jealous of the way his friend lived his life.
Speaking of Fire Emblem, Prince Zephiel. Ever dutiful, ever charismatic Prince of Bern whose wish is just for his family to reconcile, by having his father acknowledge him. Poor kid doesn't know that his father is very much a jerkass who really wants him dead. When Zephiel learns it the hard way, take a wild guess what Zephiel turns into.
Another Blazing Sword example is Nino. All she wants is to earn Sonia's love and approval, and agrees to go on a dangerous mission in which she would very well be killed just for the reward of her mother holding her hand and stroking her face.
A less harsh example is Erk towards his mentor and adoptive father Pent, especially in their B support.
While not his father, Richard from Suikoden V is wicked attached to his father figure, Mueller, and is always trying to get his attention, impress him, and make him happy. Seriously, this kid's entire world revolves around Mueller, so much that he's willing to carry any Idiot Ball if it's for Mueller and it embarrasses Mueller.
An observant or min-maxing player might notice that Richard's stats and skills make him the most powerful character in the game. Presumably not a coincidence.
A straighter example is Suikoden IV's Snowe Vingerhut, who longs to please his powerful, manipulative father. He even calls his sword 'Daddy Blade'.
In Psychonauts, Raz's "inner demon" is a manifestation of his father, constantly taunting him for being a disappointment and a psychic. Eventually his real father, who looks nothing like the twisted monster that is Raz's internal interpretation of him, enters his mind and tells him that he just wanted Raz to be happy and safe.
It's actually even nicer than this - Raz believed the entire time that his father hated psychics and that he would hate Raz if he knew that Raz was psychic - when in fact his father is a psychic himself, and didn't want Raz displaying his talents, not out of resentment but out of fear that ACTUAL psychic haters would persecute or harm him.
In Guilty Gear XX, this discussion can occur when Kliff Undersn fights his adoptive son, Testament:
Testament: Father... I... Kliff: You've grown to be a fine man.... I have no further regrets.
Various dialogue in Neverwinter Nights 2 shows that the player character is frustrated at his foster father's lack of praise and emotional reactions. However said foster father (Daeghun Farlong) has emotional problems of his own and did spend months looking for the player character after he vanished after the battle with the king of shadows.
There is...quite a lot of this in Mass Effect. To start with, there's Garrus, whose father is a standard, by-the-book military-minded turian. Garrus feels that rules are good and all, but following them to the point of blindness will let the bad guys get away with worse stuff, so it's necessary to break the rules every once in a while. This leads to his eventually uncomfortable position as a Cowboy Cop on the Citadel. Then there's Tali, whose father is a member of the Admiralty Board which controls the Quarian Flotilla, and the quarian race. Accordingly, everyone expects her to bring back some massively important gift from her Pilgrimage, and she hopes doing so will get her some notice from her otherwise distant father. No pressure. And then there's Liara T'Soni, whose mother is an extremely important spiritual figure. Her mother apparently mated with another member of the same species, which is a big no-no in their culture, so she's been ostracised nearly her entire life, leading her to run away from home and go on archeological digs in the hopes of being known for something other than being her mother's daughter. That's the first game.
Wrex, who attended a Crush (meeting of tribes) at his father's request despite knowing that it was most likely a trap. (Granted, Wrex got to resolve his father issues by killing him, but Wrex spends the rest of his life fighting against his father's policies and beliefs, which most Krogan still share.)
It would take way too long to list all examples from the second game. Suffice to say, there are few characters who aren't on either the giving or the receiving end of this trope to some degree.
At the very least we have to mention Thane and his son Kolyat. Thane's whole loyalty mission is him trying to stop Kolyat from following in his footsteps and becoming an assassin, and in the end convincing his son that he was always proud of him is what really turns him away from it in the end. There's a reason it's called "Cat's in the Cradle."
Thane: I've taken many bad things out of the world. You're the only good thing I ever added to it.
Meanwhile, if you have the spacer background, Commander Shepard gets to have a nice friendly chat with his/her mother.
David Anderson in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC for the second game is revealed to have this relationship with his own son due to Anderson's workaholic nature estranging him from his family.
It may be easier to mention the characters who don't have fathers like these: Shepard, due to his/her parents being either dead, absent, or in the military themselves, Jack, who never knew her parents, but makes up for it in other ways, Ashley, who was very much Daddy's Girl before her father died and is more concerned with general family honor, and Kaidan, who seems to get along with his. Samara and Thane are this to their children, the rest have daddy issues except for Legion, who's a robot. This trope is lampshaded and mocked when Shepard talks with EDI in the third game.
Shepard: How's your focus, EDI? Any big questions? EDI: No. Shepard: Any small questions? EDI: No. Shepard: Any lingering issues? EDI: About what? Shepard: An imperfect designer who could be seen as a warped father figure, maybe? EDI:Definitely not. Did something prompt this line of questioning? Shepard:I've just learned you have to ask about these things.
The Geth are a race of robots who suffer from this. It turns out that the Quarians initiated the Robot War and the Geth only fought back to defend themselves, with every time the Geth attempted to lay down arms, the Quarians took advantage of the situation by opening fire, thus leading the Geth to believe they would never back down. Despite this, they don't want to hurt them and still desperately want their creators' approval.
In Mass Effect 3, Shepard sees a recording of a Geth in the middle of being dismantled by a Quarian engineer, desperately asking to know what they did wrong? What did it do that was so terrible, you might wonder? Ask if it had a soul.
A comic has Garrus remembering how his father taught him to shoot. This fast-forwards to his days as the Archangel on Omega to the point of his one-man stand-off against three gangs. He calls his father to have one last chat. When asked why so urgent, Garrus calmly states that there are too many targets. His father tells him to forget the final father-son conversation and gets all business about Garrus's assets and ammo, insisting that he survive so that he can come back to Palaven and talk things over. Garrus takes another look in the scope and sees the N7 logo on an armor. He tells his dad that the odds just went up before ending the call.
Dragon Age isn't quite as...overwhelming with its parental issues (though there's no shortage of missing or dead ones). Dragon Age II has a few examples.
Saemus Dumar, the rebellious and idealistic son of Kirkwall's Slave to PR Viscount, is the standout.
Aveline is the daughter of an Orlesian chevalier exiled when his patron was killed. He raised her to be a knight and sold everything they had so she could join King Cailan's army. Instead, she grew up a principled but very pragmatic soldier, and eventual City Guard.
Sebastian was a Spare To The Throne who tactfully describes his parents as "rather traditional". He acted out by turning into a womanizing hedonist, and was given to the church in his teens to prevent further embarrassment. He ended up liking it there, but his parents were assassinated not long after.
In Assassin's Creed II, after Vieri de'Pazzi is assassinated, Ezio acquires a letter where the writer informs Vieri's father Francesco that all the young man wanted was his father's attention and approval.
Xenosaga Episode I and the first bits of Episode II have M.O.M.O. obviously trying to get approval from Juri Mizrahi. Since she looks so much like her big sister, Sakura, Juri is less than accepting, if not outright frightened of the girl, giving her manipulative bitch status when she told M.O.M.O. that they can live together only to keep her stabe during the Y-Data analysis. It's sad when Ziggy shows more parental love for the poor thing who went through being kidnapped, mind-raped, possibly raped for real. and helping save Second Miltia. It takes Ziggy's advice and M.O.M.O. shutting down her mind to prevent Albedo from grabbing the Y-data to wake Juri up. By III, it seems M.O.M.O. and Juri have finally become a real family.
Team Fortress 2: According to the "Meet the Sniper" video, the Sniper's parents do not care for the Sniper's career choice. He spends quite a bit of the video speaking on the phone to his unseen father, who seems to think that the Sniper's some kind of crazed gunman.
The Demoman's mother, on the other hand, disapproves of the fact that he only works three jobs and hasn't yet rid himself of more than a single eye.
The reason Mama Degroot(Once herself a Demowoman) chases after her son to make as much money as possible is because she knows that he'll eventually be blinded in the line of duty and unable to work.
Mama Dergroot: Mark me, Boy! No Demoman worth his sulfur has had an eye in his head past thirty!
Mondo Zax of Wild Star had a terrible, terrible childhood, being the #13 of 13 children, tiny, and constantly looked over by his father. The mysterious disappearances of all 12 of his siblings (which he had no part of) was helpful in trying to get his attention, but unfortunately, "a heated argument over engineering principles led to a familial schism between the two - one that was left unresolved when Mondo's father was inexplicably vaporized during a routine bot recalibration."note From the official WildStar blog post about Mondo Zax and Victor Lazarin.
The Ace Attorney Investigations game focusing on Miles Edgeworth shows that this is most likely true for Franziska. In the fourth case, 13-year-old Franziska competes with Miles, presumably to receive her father's attention. Considering he barely seems to acknowledge her skills compared to Miles, this explains a lot about how caught up she was in Manfred's worldview.
Natsuhi, Kinzo's daughter-in-law, also has this attitude towards him, perhaps even moreso than Eva. So much so that when he dies of natural causes, her attempts to cover up his death combined with the stress from upholding the Ushiromiya family name causes her to snap, and as a result she imagines his ghost as a kindly figure who supports and encourages her. In EP5 Bernkastel tells Natsuhi, using the red truth, that Kinzo never actually thought she was good enough.
Fate/stay night: If Tohsaka had just been a little bit less of a bitch to her sister Sakura and a bit more supportive instead of, say, threatening to kill her (even if she's just insecure herself), then Sakura wouldn't have snapped and tried to destroy the world.
Shizune is looked down upon by her father FOR her deafness, Jigoro thinks he gave life to a faulty human being who will never match his own standards.
The plot of the "So What IS a McNinja?" arc in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dan and Mitzi McNinja are very disappointed in their son for becoming a Doctor rather than an assassin. Interestingly, the Doctor realizes that gaining his parents' respect with his medical skills is a hopeless task, so he decides to show them that he's "a damn good ninja!" as well.
Meanwhile, his younger brother Sean still has "Well Done, Son" Guy as a major motivation, hiding his technical wizardry behind a mask of misused slang. When a ghost wizard puts Sean in his ultimate fantasy world, his Dad is hugging him, saying, "Computers are pretty cool, son. They are pretty cool." He's brought to tears.
In DDG Zip, it turns out, feels this way towards 'Netta since she see 'Netta as a surrogate mother and could never get validation from her own mum.
Klaus: Erk. Please, don't make me laugh. Owch. No. No more tests, my son. The time for such things is over.
Gil made it to the age of ten or so completely ignorant of his heritage, and Klaus only revealed it when he broke into his own records and found the embarrassing decoy story. This was probably primarily to keep him safe, but combined with all the tests later on it instilled in Gil the conviction that he had to earn the right to be Gilgamesh Wulfenbach.
That said, they have a strong mutual affection and Gil never seems to doubt that his father cares, or even that he wants him...it's just that he can't be completely sure Klaus won't kill him or set him aside if he has to for the good of Europa. On the other hand, Klaus frequently looks down on the kid, but hasn't tried to shape his personality for anything but generic 'strength;' his lab at the beginning of the story contained no weapons whatsoever. (Subsequent events have required him to develop a more militant bent. Klaus seems to have been relying on the Spark to bring those qualities out when they were actually needed.) The closest to a healthy version of this trope you can get, considering there's an empire involved and both parties are congenitally insane.
In The Order of the Stick, the reason Roy Greenhilt took on the story's main quest was to prove his worth to his egocentric, self-centered father. He eventually comes to realise that his father simply isn't worth it, and that nothing he can say will ever make him change. He gives up on him entirely, not even bothering with Calling the Old Man Out, and goes so far as to make his father promise not to ever visit his family from the afterlife — which his father does easily and casually without a single worry — to have the privilege of helping Roy.
Nale also feels this way to his Evil Overlord father. Nale wants to prove that he can be even better Big Bad material than the old man, and he wants him to acknowledge that. Of course, in this case it's less "I want your approval" and more "I can take care of myself, get out of my life"
Kazuo of Red String wants his father's approval so badly that he dumps his girlfriend that he loves dearly, resigns himself to an arranged marriage with a childhood friend he doesn't love that way, works at a job he hates, stops doing any of his hobbies—including cooking, which he actually wants to do as a career—and seems to be developing a drug problem to cope. Even when Kazuo shows some weak defiance, he always goes back to groveling for his father's love soon after. As of this writing, all his father's done in response is slap him repetitively, call him worthless, and point-blank tell the boy he's only good as a bargaining chip. And driven Kazuo to attempt suicide. Luckily, he survives.
In The Specialists, Henry. He's a jerk, a bigot and a Casanova Wannabe — but you still feel sorry for him.
It isn't something that Dave Strider of Homestuck likes to talk about, but he's clearly very deeply invested in following in his Aloof Older Brother(who turns out to be his genetic father) and father-figure's example.
Rosa Fiametta and to a lesser extent her sister Frankie of Survival of the Fittest have this type of relationship with their father, who has pretty blatent favouritism for their brother Ilario and doesn't seem to care very much about his daughters. Both want acknowledgement/attention from their father, neither is exactly going about getting it in the right way.
Jobe Wilkins of the Whateley Universe. He's still trying to get his father's approval, even though at fourteen he's already one of the greatest bio-devisers on the entire planet. His dad is the supervillain Gizmatic, who only approves of deviser stuff that's mechanical, so lots of luck on that one.
In the Drunk History series, Ben Franklin is said to have acted this way toward his son William, calling him "my bastard son" and at one point sitting under an umbrella while William conducts the famous kite experiment in the rain, unenthusiastically cheering "Good job, William....you're my kid."
Tacoma Narrows from Demo Reel. All he's ever wanted to do is make somebody proud, and as he sent his dad to jail and his mother hates him, he finally gets it in bromance buddy/boss/best friend Donnie.
Rebecca too. Her parents openly criticize her every chance they get, from sexual partners to jobs to interests, but she still tries to make them happy and get their approval.
Donnie ends up taking the cake, as he beats himself up over not being able to be as hopeful as his mother who died from suicide.
In Abridged On Titan, when Carla blurted out before she died that her adopted child Mikasa was her favorite, Eren ends up with such a raging inferiority complex because of it that he actually hallucinates his mother belittling him and taunting him about how Mikasa is better than him. His motivation for killing the Titans is less about avenging her death and more about proving to Carla and Mikasa once and for all that he is the best.
A Running Gag on Cracked is that the columnist's parents (and sometimes grandparents) are excessively disappointed by their offspring being nerdy, pasty internet writers instead of getting real jobs.
The primary motivation for all the desperate lengths that Prince Zuko goes to, and the terrible decisions he makes, is to get the approval of the father who burned, scarred, and exiled him under the pretext of a Snipe Hunt. Eventually Zuko is allowed to come home and receives his father's approval, only to discover that it is not as fulfilling as he had expected, precipitating his Heel Face Turn. Occasionally, he shows traits of this towards his uncle Iroh. After his Heel-Face Turn, he accepts Iroh as a Parental Substitute and becomes this full time.
Sokka also wants his father to accept and acknowledge him as a warrior. When he does finally meet up with his father, he gets a You Didn't Ask type answer when his dad asks him, "Why do you think I left you in charge of the village?" Furthermore, when Fire Nation forces appear, Sokka's father orders his men to prepare for battle; when Sokka asks what he should do, his father warmly responds to him, "I said 'The rest of you men prepare for battle!'," which is the most thrilling thing Sokka could have heard.
A similar setup is played for tragedy with Fire Lord Ozai and Princess Azula. She took on the Avatar and his teachers armed with nothing but a knife for the man, while he hid out in his bunker during the eclipse. Even as a Magnificent Bastard who's aware that the opponents are Technical Pacifists, that's devotion right there and the poor girl's only fourteen years old. When Ozai announces she will replace him as Fire Lord it's only because he's going to conquer the rest of the world and become the Phoenix King, thus making 'Fire Lord' an impotent title. Her mother Ursa clearly favored Zuko, being a nice person and feeling rejected by both of her parents and her friends, Azula descends into an epic Villainous Breakdown.
Eventually, this wound up repeated in The Legend of Korra with Aang's kids. Aang plays favorites with Tenzin, being he's the only Airbender among the three and the only way for Aang to continue the legacy. This leaves the other two feeling like they were disappointments to their dad for being "born wrong," especially Bumi who wasn't even a Waterbender like Kya. To compensate, Bumi wound up a general and Kya spent many of her years traveling the world (tellingly coming back home only after Aang died). Even Tenzin wound up hurt by this as he feels the burden of being the carrier for the Airbender culture, and being picked as Aang's successor means he's the one with the monumental task of filling his shoes.
On Darkwing Duck, the character Goose Lee fills this role for Darkwing. He was Darkwing's sensei in the art of quack fu, and he perpetually refers to Darkwing as a disappointment, for his reliance on crime-busting gadgets and machines, his poor judgment around ninja, and his inability to master the all-important quack fu technique, the belly bounce.
Family Guy parodies this mercilessly, with Peter even hiring a band to play the sappy Sitcom music. Subverts the usual ending when his father admits, "Of course I love you. I just don't like you." "Nah nah nah, keep playing, I think this is as close as it's gonna get," Peter tells the band.
In a later episode, he at least earns his biological father's respect.
A similar example happens in another episode, but with the daughter Meg instead. She gains Peter's respect at the end of the episode and he reveals to her that he actually does love her, despite his inexplicable abuse. He tells her that when they're alone, he'll be nice to her, but he'll be a jerk to her whenever anyone else is around.
Jonas Venture Sr. in The Venture Bros. is the quintessential "Well Done, Son" Guy, and he's even more impossible to please because he's dead. Dr. Venture can never be as smart, powerful or well-liked as he believes his father was, and his super-science business mostly consists of repackaging his father's old projects and cheating off his father's old notes. All of Dr. Venture's insecurities, shortcomings, and bad habits come (or so Dr. Killinger says) from one childhood incident in which he saw the size of his father's penis.
Somewhat repeated with the boys. Although the fact they are mostly retarded doesn't help. Hank has this towards Brock mostly, but both of them often show the desire to be praised by their cold, uncaring, jerkass dad.
Episodes in the third season revealed that Jonas Sr. was a complete jerkass. An episode in season four reveals that the dads or caretakers of boy adventurers seem to be terrible in one way or another. However by the end Rusty decides that for all his faults he's better off than others who shared his fate.
Harry of The Spectacular Spider-Man is The Unfavorite (even though he's an only child) and is constantly trying to prove himself to his dad. That explains why he steals the Globulin Green performance-enhancing drug, and consequently develops a Superpowered Evil Side, the Green Goblin - he wants his father to be proud of him. It doesn't work.
The short-lived edutainment show Histeria! suggested this as a motivation for Alexander the Great in one sketch where the conqueror was receiving therapy from Sigmund Freud. This, after suggesting mother issues, pushed Alexander's Berserk Button.
Philip of Macedon: Pretty good, Al. Not great; pretty good.
Invader Zim: Zim's feelings toward the Almighty Tallest. He'll do anything to gain their favor or attention.
On King of the Hill, this is basis for a good half of Hank Hill's personality. In one episode, Hank has a hallucination involving his deepest desires while in a steam room and the entirety of the vision is his father happily saying he's proud of him (with a firm handshake to boot).
This shows up quite a bit. One wonders if Mike Judge might have an issue on this front. Hank is a bit of one of these for Bobby, as Bobby is all too aware that he's artsy, comedic, lazy, and generally not the kind of son his father wanted. Peggy's mother absolutely refuses to identify any good her daughter ever does, even when Peggy goes so far as to save her mother's ranch from foreclosure. Also, Kahn wanted a boy, so he named his daughter Kahn Jr. (everyone calls her Connie). Almost nothing she does is good enough for him, except when he needs to brag about how much better he and his family are than his hillbilly neighbors.
Hank's dad did admit at one point that Hank was the better father.
The final episode has Bobby discovering a gift for grilling, something that Hank can finally approve of. An earlier episode also had Bobby taking home economics, with Hank at about the halfway point of the episode coming to enjoy what Bobby was able to create with those skills.
Shoot, the first episode he appeared in was called "Father's Day".
A daughter example with Helen and her dad in The Goode Family. Charlie frequently ridicules his daughter's liberal belief and insults her in any given opportunity. Helen is so desperate for his approval that she even let an ugly animal he adopts stay with her.
The only person who ever got under the skin of David Xanatos and the only one whose criticism of his amorality he seems to take seriously, is his father. His infinite wealth and feared reputation may not get him his father's approval, but his Papa WolfDeterminator attitude when Oberon comes after his own son does.
Xanatos's wife Fox completely inverts this trope: her father just wants her to show the slightest respect for honor, morality, respect for other people's property rights, and he'd give her his full approval and mega-corporation in an instant. Instead, she tries to bankrupt him so her husband can buy the business, because she considers corporate espionage and sabotage more fun.
Goliath and Angela get a moment of this when he finally acknowledges her as his daughter - not because he hadn't approved of her, but because gargoyles in his clan traditionally didn't keep track of who is whose offspring ("...the children of the entire clan") and he doesn't like abandoning or changing 'the gargoyle way'.
Poor Grim! He pretended to become a country rock star just to please his father, only to discover later that his father would have preferred having the Grim Reaper for a son (and now will not believe Grim to be the Reaper).
In The Simpsons, it's been often implied through flashbacks and certain episodes that Homer very much had a relationship like this with his father Abe, which would explain why Homer has such a numb and uncaring sentiment towards his dad now during Abe's old age. This was particularly looked at in the episode "Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy".
Ulrich Stern from Code Lyoko, especially in Season 1.
Rameses in The Prince of Egypt stubbornly refuses to let the Hebrews go because he believes his father, Seti, would view this as a sign of weakness. "I will not be the weak link!"
Jake Morgendorffer in Daria has a case of this that borders on the pathological—he bends himself over backwards to be a supportive (read: embarrassing) father to Daria and Quinn because his own father, who is presumably dead, encouraged emotional repression. This created a desperate sense of emotional neediness in Jake that in one episode gave him a heart attack!
Something that Danny, the titular character from Danny Phantom wants. His parents are ghost hunters, and his alter-ego is the ghost Phantom that they hate and want to 'rip apart molecule by molecule.' He's understandably afraid of this, and tries to make them grow to respect his ghost-half.
Surprisingly, Superman in Young Justice to Superboy, his clone. Superboy desperately craves some sort of attention and affection from Superman, who wants nothing to do with him and actively avoids him until Superboy saves his life and the Justice League in the season one finale.
Subverted with Robin. While he does want Batman's acknowledge, he does not want to be the Batman since he isn't able to pull off a Good Is Not Nice mindset in "Failsafe".
Batman himself averts this trope because he makes it clear to the Justice League in "Agendas" that he doesn't want Robin to be like him and took Robin in as a partner because he wanted to give Robin a chance to avenge the death of his parents. It's especially sad because as stated above, Robin feels that Batman wants him to take up his mantle.
Wonder Woman: So he'd become just like you?
Batman: So he wouldn't.
In Phineas and Ferb, Norm the robot feels this way towards Doofenshmirtz, who created him. He wants to be acknowledged as his son, but Doof simply thinks of him as a servant.
Which is nothing compared to Doof's feelings about his own Abusive Parents.
"So, what am I gonna do with the Least-Likely-Inator, you ask? Make my daughterobey me, make my father love me? No, and double-no! Well, maybe later."
To a minor degree, Django Brown wants to be an artist like his father, but feels his drawings can't be compared to his dad's work (who makes giant sculptures). His father didn't get to see the giant version of his drawing, but he does like the normal sized version.
Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is this not toward her parents, but her mentor Princess Celestia. She values being a good student and the idea of not being able to send a letter about what she's learned about friendship in time during "Lesson Zero" is enough to give her mental breakdown. She doesn't seem to understand that Celestia's approval isn't as conditional as she thinks it is. She also show signs of this towards her brother Shining Armor during the two-parter episode, "A CanterlotWedding".
To a lesser degree, Sweetie Belle is this toward her older sister, Rarity.
Scootaloo is revealed to be this to her idol, Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash hugs her and makes it feel all better.
Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The only thing that genuinely worries her, is disappointing her master, Anakin. Well was, until the Season 3 finale.
Head dog catcher Lenard McLeish in the 2010 version of Pound Puppies. His mother Agatha is extremely rich and lives in a mansion. Lenard... is not as successful. Whenever she visits, McLeish pines for some sort of affection from her, only to be denied every time.
Oddly enough, Starscream (yes, that one) has been suggested to have a certain level of this mixed in to his usual treacherous shenanigans in Transformers Prime. The character's as pathologically treacherous as ever, perhaps even more so because he doesn't suck at it quite as much as his previous incarnations, but there is the odd implication that he waffles on if being in command or just being acknowledged by anybody as worthy of respect is more important to him.
Agent Fowler: He can't seem to decide if he wants Megatron's job or his approval.
There are several PJ-centered episodes of Goof Troop that have this as a major part of the conflict. Over the course of the series, he has felt neglected and like a complete idiot when his father Pete favored his best friend, struggled with keeping the family business afloat and felt inadequate at doing so, been actively used as an unwitting spy when Pete pretended to have a change of heart and let him be on his team, worked himself much harder than he already was (which is saying a lot) when he thought a new baby was going to get all the attention, and felt like a complete and utter failure for not being able to live up to Pete's unrealistic (and hypocritical) expectations. He is shown to be hurt in the first movie when Pete offers to give him a high-five and takes it back and in the sequel when Pete becomes impatient for him to move out. Pete deliberately exploits this the majority of the time.
In Dogstar, all Dino really wants is his father's respect.
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: Commander Nebula is this for XR and XR's predecessor XL. (Both see him as their father because he signed the work orders for their construction).
The case of Alexander III and Nicholas II, the last two Tsars of Russia before the Russian Revolution put an end to the monarchy. Alexander had nothing but contempt for Nicholas, his son and heir, deriding him as weak and worthless and demeaning him to his face. He also did little in the way of actually preparing Nicholas for the heavy responsibility of ruling the Russian Empire, leaving the young man woefully unprepared for the job when Alexander died in 1894. Throughout his reign, Nicholas proved timid and indecisive, and lacked strong leadership or political skills. Nicholas was a devoted father and husband, and an all-around family man... but in large part thanks to his father, he simply wasn't cut out to be a king, and couldn't manage his own autocracy. Later Alex Kerensky took over, and, well....
Political commentary and biopics tend to paint George W. Bush as suffering from this trope.
Winston Churchill's early life was driven by a desire to form a close relationship with his aloof and uninterested father, Lord Randolph; Churchill envisioned quickly getting to Parliament as the best means of being able to work closely together, father and son, a dream that was shattered when his father died young.
James Hetfield of Metallica, if the lyrics of "The Day That Never Comes" are to be believed.
"The Unforgiven" has elements of this as well.
Depression and other fun psychological issues often manifest from this.
All the traditional Eastern martial arts seem to be based on this: your seniors might occasionally be encouraging, but Sifu (or Sensei) will at best give you a little "That didn't stink quite so much" nod.
Similarly, some schools of Eastern philosophy, particularly Zen, have long traditions of tricking, befuddling, and abusing students in ways that resemble practical jokes more than anything. See if you can tell which of the following examples are traditional Zen koans and which are just someone being a dick.
Daughter example: though exceptionally well-educated and provided for, as children Mary I and Elizabeth I were desperate for attention and approval from their misogynistic father, Henry VIII, which had a lot to do with their respective styles of ruling and general personalities. That, and the way he treated their mothers.
Judging him by modern, Anglospheric cultural standards. Wherein multiple divorces are not uncommon, as is having numerous children by such short-lived pairings. He was a pretty good fellow for his day. Seriously. Of all England's sexually active Kings, he may well have had the fewest bastard children (of them, only Henry Fitzroy survived to adulthood - dying childless and of a fever).
Queen Victoria, according to several biographers, had this type of relationship with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess's evil advisor, Sir John Conroy. The only thing of value the Duchess "owned" was her daughter, the heiress presumptive to the throne, and in order to capitalize on the fact, they demanded that Victoria be perfect. Nothing was ever good enough, which Victoria's diary entries show caused her a great deal of angst.
Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal about how she wanted her mother to love her. She realized that her writing would never be hers until she stopped writing for her mother's approval and started writing for herself. This eventually worked out well for her.
Plenty of 2nd and 3rd generation wrestlers can fall into this. Some overcome this and can even become bigger than their fathers, like The Rock and Randy Orton. Others like Michael McGillicutty and Ted Dibiase, not so much.
As Japan was tearing apart the film Tales From Earthsea by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki (who had a long-term rift with his son and was skeptical of his son's filmmaking abilities) unexpectedly came to its premiere. Then he wrote a note to his son. "It was made honestly. I liked it."
It is claimed most family enterprises fold at third generation. The reason is usually an over-domineering father who has inherited the enterprise from the founder (his father) and who does not prepare his own sons to handle the business.
Kellin Quinn from the band Sleeping With Sirens, if the song "A Trophy Father's Trophy Son" is anything to go by.
Actually the song was written about/from the point of view of his stepkids whose father basically abandoned them and Kellin's wife. This may or may not be a subversion of the trope because Kellin is a very loving father towards them and their half-sibling Copeland.
Henry Fonda was described by his famous children, Jane and Peter as cold and detached.
The traditional dynastic model for much of the Muslim world is that formulated by the fourteenth-century North African historiographer Ibn Khaldun, which assumes that dynasties are formed generally by the leader of some powerful nomadic people conquering a settled region and replacing the current rulers while leaving everything in place. It holds that the first generation is still savage, but very strong, the second generation is adapted to civilized living, and inherits his father's connections and vision, the third generation begins to be soft, arrogant, and insufficiently political, and from the fourth generation it's all downhill until the new conquerors come.
ThisWall Street Journal piece argues that the last four presidents, including Obama, all have daddy issues: They either have a hero figure as their father and a privileged background or no relationship to their father at all: '"No recent presidents can boast paternity that seems ordinary or normal, finding middle ground between the intense expectations of a powerful, prominent parent and the disasters of badly broken families with absent birth fathers." Makes you wonder if that explains their political decisions. Oh, and all 2012 current candidates as well as many candidates from the previous elections (e.g. Al Gore, John McCain) also fall into this pattern ...