"Better a serpent than a stepmother!"
The Wicked Stepmother, the woman hostile to her stepchildren, is a perennial trope. Older Than Feudalism
, she appears constantly in legends and folklore around the world, and is the villain of many a Fairy Tale
. She seldom appears played straight in modern works, except when they are retelling Fairy Tales
, but the number of retold fairy tales (especially "Cinderella
", "Snow White
", and "Hansel and Gretel
") gives her a number of straight appearances. Many psychologists hypothesize that she is an Archetypal Character
, devised by children to contain all they hate in their mothers so they can continue to regard Mother as perfect. Sadly enough, Truth in Television
; children are vastly more likely to be abused by stepparents (and people cohabiting with the parent are even worse). For any or all of these reasons, even decades (centuries?) of subversion
have not transformed her even into a Discredited Trope
; she can still be played straight or subverted. Shout Outs
are commonplace whenever dealing with a stepfamily.
She generally favors her own children — whether from a previous marriage or this one — over her stepchildren. Not that that causes this trope, because it's kind of natural. It's just another symptom. Sometimes her economic motives
are made clear: there is only so much to go around, and she wants it for herself or her own children. An equivalent male figure is the Evil Uncle
— because inheritance is generally through the male line, the uncle can inherit his brother's children's estate. Envy
is another common cause; the Wicked Stepmother either wants to be Fairest of Them All
or to have her daughters be so. A special subtrope deals with those with grown stepsons; she may wish to marry him off to her own daughter, and thus make a victim of her step-daughter-in-law, or she may attempt to seduce him and then accuse him of rape
when she fails.
On the other hand, the stepsiblings or halfsiblings can but need not be hostile to the hero(ine). If they are hostile, Youngest Child Wins
is trumped by the older child's stepchild status.
is seldom a factor. If not dead
(which is common), he will nevertheless never intervene
on his child's behalf.
Her tactics vary widely. She may simply oppress the heroine, keeping her in rags and slaving at household work
— sometimes going as far as assigning the Impossible Task
. As a Wicked Witch
, she may transform
the child(ren) into animals
. She may drive or send them off. She may act violently
toward them and even kill
them (and perhaps cap that by cooking them up and serving them to their father
The stepchild(ren) may succeed in defeating her through help from their real though dead mother
— the Grimms' version of "Cinderella", "Aschenputtel
", has Aschenputtel get her gowns from the tree planted on her mother's grave. Talking Animals
may also feature, as can a Fairy Godmother
. These figures can do everything from performing the Impossible Task
on behalf of the child to ensuring that She Cleans Up Nicely
despite the dirt and rags she is reduced to.
On the other hand, writers sometimes Bowdlerise
fairy tales by transforming a cruel mother
into a wicked stepmother. Grimms' original tales of "Snow White" and "Hansel and Gretel
" both featured a cruel mother.
Given her status as a villain, the Wicked Stepmother's chances of surviving the ending are not good. The Happily Ever After
ending of most fairy tales often dwells with more detail on how the Wicked Stepmother and/or her children were punished
than on the hero and happiness. On the other hand, stepmothers who are not disposed of often return; when she is not executed at the wedding
, she may, for instance, try to kill the heroine when she gives birth and replace her with her own daughter; so the Fairy Tale
doesn't end (happily or not) until she's dead.
Sometimes preceded by a Guess Who I'm Marrying?
scenario. Can involve a Missing Mom
; older stories usually do, often caused by Death by Childbirth
A common subversion is the jealous Daddy's Girl
regarding any stepmother as a Wicked Stepmother.
The Red-Headed Stepchild
is a particular victim.
The Wicked Stepmother is always defined in relation to a surviving father's children. A man is never the Wicked Stepfather to his second wife's existing children, and stepsibling relationships are never reciprocal, although it is almost impossible for one Step to exist without a counterpart. Wicked Stepsisters are always the Wicked Stepmother's children, as viewed by her husband's children.
Subtrope of Evil Matriarch
. Note that the Magical Nanny
often becomes a stepmother, but never a wicked one. Department of Child Disservices
is a modern organized variation. Usually, Social Services Does Not Exist
in stories with a Wicked Stepmother
No Real Life
examples, please! It is sufficient to say they do exist
and this trope is all too often Truth in Television
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Anime and Manga
- In Elfen Lied, Mayu is raped by her stepfather until she eventually runs away
- Similarly Hinako's rapist in Bitter Virgin is her stepdad. She even was impregnated twice by him, the first being a stillbirth and the second resulting in a baby boy whom she gave up for adoption to Give Him a Normal Life.
- In Fruits Basket, when they realize how woefully miscast the characters are in a "Cinderella" play, they rewrite the play, titling it "Sorta Cinderella" . An Elegant Gothic Lolita Cinderella is impervious to her Wicked Stepmother's demands; but she loves her sweet and innocent stepsister, who suffers at the mother's hands because she wishes to marry her off. The entire play runs along the same lines; flat and emotionless Cinderella calmly asks pretty-boy Fairy Godparent to burn down the palace, ignores the Prince while obsessing over the meat dishes at the ball, plays matchmaker to the Prince and stepsister... Curiously enough, the cruel and domineering wicked stepmother is the only cast member who takes naturally to her role.
- In Ghost Hunt, a little girl's possessed doll told her that her stepmother was evil and trying to poison her.
- Prétear, being a mixture of "Snow-White" and "Cinderella" turned into a Magical Girl anime, does provide the main character with a stepmother, clearly aiming to invoke this trope, but then subverts it — sure, Natsue is strict, but not evil, and she is so much in love with Himeno's father Kaoru she'd rather spend her time with him instead of lecturing Himeno. In the original manga, Natsue is more cruel, but still obsessed with Kaoru, to the point of not caring not only for Himeno, but also for her own daughters. And in this continuity she was possessed by the Big Bad, so it's not entirely her fault...
- In Petshop Of Horrors Tokyo there is an inversion in one story in which the stepmother is the protagonist and the stepdaughter is wicked and is tying to make sure that she is left penniless by tricking her ill father into divorcing the woman. Little does she know is that her father is not as ill as he seems.
- In Ranma ½, the secondary character Konatsu has a Wicked Stepmother (who bears a remarkable resemblance to late actor Edward G Robinson) and two Wicked and UGLY Stepsisters. Konatsu's entire life story is a direct and unabashed ripoff of the Cinderella tale's backstory (except for the cross-dressing ninja part).
- Shigeko from Pieta does her best to marginalize and shove Rio to the side, so that she doesn't interfere with her picturesque family life.
- Gyokumen. Big time towards Kougaiji. Made even worse when it's revealed she doesn't even like her own daughter.
- Gojyo's stepmother despised him for being both her husband's bastard and a half-youkai. She was constantly abusive to him, which came to a head when she tried to kill him with an axe and her own son killed her to prevent it.
- The queen of Estgloria, Christina's stepmother in Shina Dark. Not only does she live extravagantly while the kingdom starves and falls apart, she arranged for the assassination of Christina's mother (not because of jealousy due to her position as royal concubine, but because she was a filthy commoner, and therefore unworthy of being treated as royalty), and she also slowly poisoned Christina for YEARS so it would look like she died due to bad health instead of a long, drawn-out and painful assassination.
- Kallen Stadfeldt's stepmother from Code Geass hates Kallen because she is the child of her husband's former mistress, who is also Japanese.
- In one story of The Tarot Cafe, a young girl named Fey is implied to be the child of a prostitute and a wealthy man who had some brief relationship with her mother. When the mother dies, Fey is sent to live with her father, and his wife and son. The father is cold and dismissive of her, but dies pretty soon in and doesn't have much of a presence. The son eventually befriends Fey and enjoys her company. The stepmother, however, hates Fey and believes that the girl is cursing the family to die. The stepmother has various people come in to beat and abuse Fey, and eventually dies while trying to whip Fey herself. It's also revealed that the stepmother threw Fey's music box (the last thing she had of her mother) down the well.
- Anatolia Story:
- Kail's stepmother Queen Nakia is very wicked, to the point of being the Big Bad of the series. Notably, Nakia has pretty much no love for any of her family, biological or otherwise. It's revealed from the start that she wants to use black magic to kill off her stepchildren so that her own son Juda can take the throne, but it's also hinted that her love for Juda is centered around her desire to have her bloodline rule Hattusa in revenge for her having to be forced as the king's new bride. She shows no affection for her husband and, when her brother is horrified to learn the various things she's done, she coolly threatens to kill him if he reveals her plans. She also kills her own niece, just to try to frame Yuri.
- This trope is averted by Kail's mother Queen Henti, who besides loving her own sons was also a good stepmother to the son of the king's previous wife) as well as Kail's other stepbrothers (one is the son of a concubine, another was the child of a royal maid).note
- Higurashi: When They Cry gives Rena one. Once Rena reveals to her that she knows about her desire to get her father's money, the stepmother drops her facade and tries strangling her.
- In Tokyo Ghoul, Kaneki's aunt seemed to have been following the Evil Stepmother handbook. After being partially responsible for her sister's death from overwork, she turns her resentment on her newly-orphaned nephew — accusing him of purposefully making her own son look bad by getting good grades. Kaneki recalls that she slowly phased him out of all family interaction, first reducing the amount of food he was given at meals before finally just leaving him minimal funds to purchase his own food. She also threw his father's books, while pretending she was doing him a favor by "cleaning his room". By the time of the story, she has long since stopped having any contact with him.
- Invoked by Layla Miller of X-Factor Investigations. She asked a client why did she think her stepmother could have done something terrible, aside for the "stepmothers are evil trope".
- In Nightmares and Fairy Tales, one story flips this on its head with a sweet nurse marrying the husband of the woman she looks after, after said wife dies. The man's daughter with the first wife hates the nurse and then seemingly is drowned in the ocean by the first wife. The husband is sure the nurse did it, and she ends up in a mental hospital. It's left uncertain whether or not the ghost of the first wife really was framing her, or if she seriously was that unhinged.
- Averted by Nathan Summers' (Cable) step-mother X-Men Jean Grey who cares for Cable as if he was her own. It was his biological mother Madelyne Pryor who tried to kill her son in Inferno, but before she suffered her breakdown she truely loved her son.
- In The Brothers Grimm's "The Juniper Tree", the stepmother kills her step-child, cooks the body, and serves the dish to the boy's father. The stepmother's motive was that she wanted her daughter to get the family's money instead of the son. The girl is extremely distressed with the death of her half-brother. He gets better.
- In Joseph Jacobs's "The Rose Tree", the stepmother kills her step-daughter out of pure jealousy of her beauty, cooks the body, and serves the dish to her husband. In most versions, the child gets better. (The half-sibling in these stories is invariably on good terms with the stepchild.)
- In "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", the stepmother enchants her stepson into a bear out of revenge because he would not marry her daughter.
- In "The Boys with Golden Stars" the stepmother tries to kill her stepson's children, again because he had chosen a bride other than her daughter.
- In "The Twelve Wild Ducks", the stepmother is jealous of her stepson's bride's beauty and tries to have her killed.
- In "The Three Little Men in the Wood", the stepmother sends her stepdaughter into the woods on an impossible task to kill her. When she returns, having won magical rewards with her good manners, she sends her daughter after and is furious when her ill-tempered daughter is justly punished. When the stepdaughter marries the king, she tries to murder her and replace her with her own daughter.
- In "The White Bride and The Black One", after a similar distribution of curses, the stepmother tries to murder the stepdaughter en route to her wedding and replace her with her own daughter.
- In "Brother and Sister" the stepmother drives off the title characters with her cruelty, tries to enchant them into animal forms (and, in the case of the Brother, succeeds), and tries to murder Sister after her marriage and replace her with her own daughter.
- In "Vasilissa the Beautiful", the stepmother sends Vasilissa to Baba Yaga's hut.
- In "The Wonderful Birch", a Wicked Witch turns the heroine's mother into a sheep and by shapeshifting takes her place; she has the sheep killed and feeds it to the woman's husband, although the daughter does not eat and manages to bury the bones. Then she does everything described in "Cinderella" and then enchants her stepdaughter after the wedding and puts her own daughter in her place.
- The stepmother in "The Green Knight" persuades the heroines to get their fathers to marry them, and then abuses her.
- The stepmother in "Cenerentola" persuades the heroine to get their fathers to marry them, but then abuses her.
- In "The Hearth Cat", a woman persuades the girl to tell her father to marry her... and becomes an evil stepmother.
- In "The Well At the World's End", the stepmother sends her stepdaughter to the title well with a sieve and then, out of sheer nastiness, forces her to obey the frog.
- In "Katie Woodencloak", Katie flees her stepmother in fear for her life.
- In "The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh", the stepmother, out of jealousy at her beauty, turns her stepdaughter into a dragon; the spell is broken by her brother.
- In "How Ian Direach got the Blue Falcon", a stepmother's curse turns her stepbrother into a falcon.
- In The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen, the stepmother plays a game of cards with her stepsons so she can force them go to on an impossible quest. The youngest wins against her but decides to go with his brothers.
- In "The Ridere of Riddles", the stepmother tries to poison her stepson. Her son, however, loves his brother, warns him, and then flees with him.
- In "Kate Crackernuts", the envious stepmother has her stepdaughter Anne's head turned into a sheep's head. Subverted in that the Katie of the title is her own daughter, who sees what she's done and sets out with her stepsister Anne to break the evil spell and restore her to normal.
- Subverted in "The Horse Gullfaxi and the Sword Gunnfoder", one of the few fairy tales with a good stepmother.
- Subverted in "The Tale of Hildur, the Good Stepmother". However, she doesn't become a stepmother until the end.
- In "Alphege, or The Green Monkey", the stepmother of the protagonist Alphege tries to drive him out and put her son on the throne. She gets what she wants when an unrelated incident turns Alphege into a green monkey. (Luckily, the younger son turns out to be a much better person than his mother.) Alphege eventually comes back to reclaim his throne.
- In "Snow White", the queen is jealous of her stepdaughter because she wants to be the Fairest of Them All.
- Story 25 of "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio", seen here; as a summation doesn't do this story justice, just read the whole thing. However, the Stepmother is the only one denied a Happily Ever After.
- A rare fairy tale with a Wicked Stepfather is "The Gold-bearded Man", where the mother of the hero marries a cruel man who usurps the throne from his stepson.
- Another example of a Wicked Stepfather in a fairy tale is "The Little Bull-Calf".
- In "Biancabella and the Snake", the hero Ferrinando's Wicked Stepmother orders her men to kill Biancabella after she marries her stepson; they don't, but they gouge out her eyes and cut off her hands as evidence that they have. Biancabella has to go through a Break the Cutie process to get her place in the family back.
- In "The Witch", the Wicked Stepmother intentionally sends her children to a Wicked Witch.
- In "Geirlaug the King's Daughter", the stepmother is a witch who poisons three of her husband's guards.
- In "Graciosa and Percinet, Graciosa's stepmother Grognon repeatedly tries to get rid of her, has her beaten, and even imprisons her. Percinet rescues Graciosa from Grognon's repeated attempts on her.
- "The Blue Bird" by Madame d'Aulnoy (who also wrote the above) starts with Princess Florine's father marrying a widow with a daughter named Truitonne. The stepmother is jealous of Florine's beauty and tries to marry Truitonne off to King Charming, whom Florine had fallen in love with, by locking Florine in a tower. Despite the stepmother's role in the story, it is the stepsister Truitonne who is the primary antagonist, as the stepmother dies halfway through, and Truitonne continues to antagonize Florine until she is punished at the end.
- Some version of "Hansel and Gretel" have the father only sending the kids out after the stepmother convinces him to do it.
- Aoife in The Children of Lir transforms the Badhb the Red's children into swans. This is just the start of her evil, and suffering a Fate Worse Than Death can't stand in the way of her plans.
- Many versions of "Cinderella".
- "Rapunzel" had a Wicked Witch for an adoptive mother, but when you consider that her real mother was basically a drug-addict who sold her own daughter to get her next fix, she was probably better off that way. In the original Grimm version, the witch was actually Rapunzel's godmother.
- Played with in "Blondine, Bonne-Biche, and Beau-Minon". Blondine's first stepmother Fourbette is a straight example. Fourbette later dies. At the end of the story, Blondine meets the fairy Bienveillante, who had once been Blondine's friend Bonne-Biche the deer. Bienveillante brings Blondine back to her father. The fairy marries the king, becomes Blondine's second stepmother, and averts this trope. Inverted for Blondine's half-sister Brunette, whose mother was the wicked Fourbette and her stepmother the good Bienveillante.
- The Japanese legend The Mirror of Matsuyama plays with this trope. The stepmother isn't very kind to her teenaged stepdaughter, but that's because she fears that the girl hates her so much that she's secretly cursing her, and lashes back under that belief. At the end of the story, the father finally steps in and asks for his daughter to explain everything; she says that she was actually just looking at a mirror, which was the last thing her dead mother ever gave her. note Upon hearing this, the stepmother realizes that she was wrong, begs for forgiveness and apologizes for being cruel, and once she's forgiven the family lives together happily after that.
- That is not to say the figure of the Wicked Stepmother is foreign to Japanese folklore. Some variants of Hachikazuki (the princess who had to wear a wooden-bowl on her head) has the heroine driven from home by one after years of abuse.
- Japanese just-so stories often explain the mole was once a beautiful woman who was turned into such an ugly creature as punishment for abusing her stepchildren. In one variant, this was a karmic punishment for burying her stepdaughter alive (though she ended up rescued).
Film - Animated
- Almost played straight with Lorelei in the Polly Pocket feature Pollyworld. Fortunately, Lorelei unwittingly revealed her true colors in public, catching the attention of John Pocket, who promptly called off the engagement.
- Rachel, Elizabeth's stepmother in The Legend of the Titanic, who helps the villain's Big Bad plot to sink the Titanic.
Film - Live-Action
- Lady Rodmilla de Ghent of Ever After.
- Subverted in Labyrinth, where the stepmother complains that Sarah treats her like this figure. Sarah's Character Development in the movie reveals the real problem is Sarah's jealousy toward her stepmother and new half-brother. Her stepmother isn't exactly a saint either, though; she spends her one scene being snappish and insensitive, implying it's acceptable to take Sarah for granted because, being a loner and a bit of a geek, she doesn't date. Sarah's Character Development can be read a few different ways, in particular the idea that what she learns isn't that she needs to get over her baseless jealousy (which, based on the way her stepmother acts, may be justified) but that life isn't fair, and maturity means not pitching a fit over it.
- In the manga sequel to Labyrinth, Return to the Labyrinth, Irene is evil even with her own biological child, Toby. She goes as far as not even showing up to his play and going out with his father instead, and Sarah has to make him dinner.
- In Juno, Juno's relationship with her stepmother is not too bad and it also improves greatly throughout the film. Her biological mother is estranged.
- It has a scene where Giselle happily explains that Prince Edward's stepmother, Queen Narissa, probably is an exception, although she hasn't met her. Narissa is a Wicked Stepmother, but Giselle was too just too optimistic to suspect anything foul.
- Giselle ends up becoming a stepmother by the end of the movie, but she averts this trope.
- There's a Shout-Out where Morgan is worried that Nancy will be a wicked stepmother. The fact Nancy's surname is "Tremaine" probably doesn't help at which point Giselle says that most are aversions. "I've met many stepmothers, and most of them are very nice."
- The Night of the Hunter has an evil stepfather.
- Pan's Labyrinth has an evil stepfather. For Captain Vidal, "wicked" is putting it mildly.
- The Sound of Music:
- Maria's rival Baroness Ilse is clearly aiming to be a Wicked Stepmother; she's already planning to pack the children Off to Boarding School. But it's subverted near the end, when the Baroness pulls a I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, willingly ending her engagement with Captain von Trapp after he had realized that he loved Maria.
- Subverted by Maria the Magical Nanny, when she marries Captain von Trapp. The children loved her before the marriage and only loved her more after the marriage. There's a very sweet scene with Maria and Liesl, the eldest child, after Maria and the Captain return from their honeymoon; Liesl calls Maria "Mother" and they both agree they like that a lot.
- Fiona of A Cinderella Story.
- Played with in The Uninvited (2009), where Elizabeth Banks's character is the father's new girlfriend, after his wife died in a fire. Throughout the movie, Anna keeps seeing ghostly images of her dead mother seemingly accusing the girlfriend (who was her nurse) of setting the fire. In fact, Anna was the one who accidentally set the fire, killing her mother and sister, and blocked it out with the memories manifesting as ghostly images. The girlfriend was simply trying to be nice to her.
- A Tale of Two Sisters, the Korean movie on which The Uninvited is based, plays the scenario very similarly although it seems a lot more likely that the stepmother did in fact have a hand in the mother's death. Given the Mind Screw that is this movie, it's hard to be sure.
- Played with in Nanny McPhee. Lily says that she does not want a stepmother because of all the wicked stepmothers she has read about in books. Averted by Evangeline having a good stepmother. Played straight by Selma Quickly, who would have become a very nasty stepmother to the kids...had she married Mr. Brown. Subverted by Evangeline - whom the kids adored - becoming the kids' stepmother in the end!
- Wicked stepfather in Mystery Team.
- Sucker Punch has Baby Doll's stepfather, who in the first scene flies into a drunken rage after learning that Baby Doll and her sister are their mother's beneficiaries rather than him. He then proceeds to try and rape the girls, then commits Baby Doll to a Bedlam House after she fights back (accidentally killing her sister), bribing the corrupt head orderly into giving Baby Doll a lobotomy.
- Sleepy Hollow has Lady Von Tassell, who offs her husband and tries to off her stepdaughter, the local weird girl Katrina, in order to inherit the family fortune. She's also implied to have killed the first wife while posing as her nurse.
- It Takes Two has Clarice Kensington, who almost became one except that Alyssa's father called off the engagement.
- In The Parent Trap (both the original and the remake), the twins almost end up with an Evil Stepmother. The one in the remake is especially egregious, since the girls' father is a millionaire and the stepmother-to-be is a bona fide Gold Digger.
- In Double Indemnity, Phyllis Dietrichson is generally a wicked person, having arranged the murder of her husband and (probably) having murdered his first wife to take her place, and so can't be expected to be anything like congenial to her stepdaughter Lola, especially since she's the only one who sees through Phyllis.
- The antagonist of the body-swap comedy 18 Again! is a wicked step-grandmother — the trophy girlfriend of an elderly millionaire playboy (played by George Burns). She reveals her true character early in the film when she comes on to her would-be step-grandson, whom the protagonist will later switch souls with via a car accident. We later learn that, prior to the events of the film, she convinced him to change his will so she would inherit everything, and is planning to take him off life support as he lies comatose with his grandson's soul inside of him. (Of course, she has no way of knowing that, but still.)
- Hinted at, though not played at all straight, with Gayle in "Save Me". She isn't literally the stepmother of the men at Genesis House (if anything, she's more like a foster mother, since many of them are there because their families have insisted on sending them or straight-up won't have them in the house), and she's certainly much more sympathetic than most examples of this trope, to the point where she's nearly a deconstruction. But the fact remains that she doesn't treat the men at all equally — Mark, who reminds her of her dead son, is a favorite from day one, whereas she never likes or trusts Scott despite the fact that he goes out of his way to be honest with her and puts as much effort into the program as anybody.
- A Gender Flipped example with Dean from Kingsman: The Secret Service. He has no problem threatening Eggsy, making good on said threats, or saying lewd things about Eggsy's mother to his face.
Live Action TV
- The Brady Bunch: Averted; both Mike and Carol are good stepparents, to the point where the boys call Carol "Mom" and the girls call Mike "Dad."
- In the season 1 episode "Every Boy Does it Once," Bobby's insecurity over his relationship with Carol is explored after he watches a children's TV presentation of "Cinderella'' and somehow comes to the conclusion that all stepmothers and stepsisters are wicked and evil. This is reinforced when Marcia and Jan make fun of Bobby getting his older brother's hand-me-downs, then Carol – unaware that something was bothering Bobby – asks if he'd like to help sweep out the chimney flue. (Carol makes the girls apologize, and Carol eventually gets Bobby to admit he is apprehensive about his place in the family.)
- Step by Step: Somewhat averted, to where there are no major issues between the stepparents and their stepkids, even if the transition is not as smooth as The Brady Bunch. However, there are some major points of contention that are dealt with:
- Al's relationship with stepmother Carol, when Al objects to Carol's obsessive orderliness ... to the point where (in an early episode) she threatens to move in with her grandmother or find her biological mother; Al relents by episode's end, and realizes Carol will do fine filling the void left behind when her biological mother chose to leave.
- Dana, with both stepbrother, J.T., and stepfather, Frank. Dana and J.T. rarely got along, especially in the early years, and freely traded insults ... but later gained a grudging respect and would help each other out when one truly ran into trouble. As for Frank, Dana thought he was an oaf, but grew to appreciate his help when it was needed.
- ABC Afterschool Special: "Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale," from 1985, averts the wicked stepmother trope in this tale of a teenaged girl, the title character whose widowed father had gotten re-married, dealing with deep insecurities. Cindy fears that her stepmother, Janet, is putting on an act, but Janet is eventually able to prove that she loves and accepts Cindy as her own daughter ... unlike Janet's own spoiled daughters (Lizzie and Laura), who fit the "wicked stepsisters" trope perfectly. Helping Cindy accept Janet as her new stepmother: A homeless lady armed with a shopping cart ... that turns out to be her fairy godmother. (The fairy godmother was played by Pearl Bailey in one of her last roles, prior to her illness and death.) In the end, the fairy godmother deals quite severely with Cindy's evil stepsisters – literally blowing them away(!) while Cindy gets the handsome prince, snaring him at an elegant party held by her father and stepmother.
- The '80s Sitcom The Charmings, which was about Snow White, her husband, their two kids, and her stepmother in a modern setting.
- In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hera, Queen of the Gods, acts as this towards her husband's bastard son Hercules. This is in keeping with original myths of their relationship, as Hera was responsible for the majority of hardships the hero faced in his life.
- In the LOST episode "Abandoned," we learn Shannon is how she is partly due to her stepmother, who cuts her off after Shannon's father's death. Like many tellings of "Cinderella", this is stated to be due to her jealousy of Shannon's relationship with her father.
- The MST3K episode Jack Frost is based on a Russian legend of a Cinderella-esque girl who must endure abuse from her standard issue Fairy Tale Wicked Stepmother and stepsister. The girl's father is alive, but is so browbeaten that he doesn't object even when told to dump his daughter in the forest in the middle of winter.
- Sarah from Strangers with Candy is definitely a wicked stepmother.
- On Port Charles, Caleb Morley was tricked and turned into a vampire by his stepmother (whom he had actually trusted, which is why his father used her).
- Supernatural did an episode called Bedtime Stories that involved the Winchester brothers investigating a series of murders that resembled fairy tales. Fittingly, the spirit causing the murders was that of a comatose girl who'd been poisoned by her stepmother.
- In one episode of Seinfeld, Jerry had a girlfriend whose stepmother was obsessed over her stepdaughter's speed dial, and she did not want to lose her spot to Jerry. Jerry's girlfriend finds out about her stepmother's plans, and throughout the rest of the episode, the two women take the speed dial more and more seriously.
- In Carrusel, Mario's stepmother Natalia starts out like this. She does become nicer, though.
- The stepmother in the Korean Series Shining Inheritance performed insurance fraud, kicked her stepchildren out into the cold, abandoned her stepson out in the sticks, and lied to her friends and employees about her personal circumstances.
- In one episode of Bones, the Villain of the Week was the victim's stepmother, who killed him so her own son would get the whole inheritance. Since she sacrificed her medication to be able to poison him, she died in no more than five days after being discovered. (she didn't care about dying as long as her son got the money) Because her son wasn't guilty of any crime regarding the inheritance, he ''did'' get it all but wasn't comfortable with the means. The bad guy being the stepmother, who got what she wanted (her son getting her stepson's inheritance even if it costed her own life) and her victory being pyrrhic because he didn't approve her means.
- The Adventures Of Shirley Holmes episode "The Case of the Rising Moon" featured a princess from an eastern land being targeted for murder. The princess, whose name means "Rising Moon", believed her stepmother was behind this because, with the princess dead, the stepmother's son would be the next in line for the throne. It was later revealed the stepmother was innocent and the conspiracy had been engineered by sexists who didn't want a woman as a ruler.
- In Once Upon a Time, it turns out that the Evil Queen who poisoned Snow White was actually Snow's stepmother.
- Played with on Revenge- although not technically Amanda's stepmother, Victoria was deeply in love with Amanda's father, David, and planning to run away with him to start a life together. She instead frames him for terrorism and institutionalizes Amanda to protect her own interests. When Amanda returns to the Hamptons as Emily, Victoria forms an antagonistic and abusive relationship with her almost-stepchild, believing her to merely be her almost-daughter-in-law.
- Siobhan Martin in Ringer, while not cruel to her stepdaughter, is definitely a wicked stepmother.
- Tracy Quartermaine starts out as this to Lulu Spencer, even being called "Stepmonster" in General Hospital, but the trope is slowly subverted as the two get to know each other. Tracy even asked Lulu to be her maid of honour at her wedding to Luke, and Lulu told Tracy she was honoured to have Tracy as a stepmother.
- Married... with Children subverted the trope in the story arc where Al left Peggy and she dated a rich man. The reason Bud and Kelly considered him wicked? He wanted them to get jobs and be independent.
- Played with in Flashpoint where a corporate robber was so desperate for an emotional connection that he falls in love with a teenaged girl claiming that her stepfather was abusing her. What the robber didn't know was that the "girl" was actually a teenaged boy altering his voice and wanted his stepfather dead. But from what was seen, the stepfather at worst was neglectful due to his work.
- The Empress in Princess Returning Pearl.
Mythology and Religion
- Averted with Jesus, who had a kind, pious, and all-round good stepfather in Joseph the carpenter. Joseph is deserving of extra praise since he was Mary's first husband, and Jesus was conceived (virginally by God) while Joseph and Mary were engaged. (Even worse: in that time and culture, "engaged" was "married but not living together yet.")
- In Jewish custom of the time, marriages were consummated a year later. So, when Mary turned up pregnant, Joseph had every right to consider divorcing her. Fortunately, they both got the news of Who had fathered the child.
- Emphasizing Joseph's kindly character, before Gabriel told him how Mary got pregnant, he was planning to hush everything up, and not, for example, to denounce her publicly.
- In Ramayana, Rama is exiled from the kingdom as a result of plotting by Kaikeyi, who's not his mother but another one of his father's wives.
- Sort of subverted, though. Kaikeyi was under a spell, and after Rama is exiled she spends the next five years fasting, praying and repenting for her actions, so when Rama returns, she is nearly unrecognizable.
- Medea, when she goes to live with Aegeus, tries to have him kill his son Theseus (before Aegeus realized that Theseus was his son). He fared better than her own children with Jason, though.
- Svipdag, in Norse mythology, was sent on a quest by his wicked stepmother.
- Hera sort of personified this trope. Hercules/Heracles is already mentioned, but Zeus' other demi-god offspring, who were quite numerous, tended to face similar treatment. Her actions ranged from simple murder to transforming the children into mindless beasts. The fact that Zeus is Hera's brother also makes her an Evil Aunt to all these children.
- A notable example was Hera's harassment of Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis. While Leto was still pregnant with Zeus' progeny, Hera cursed Leto so that no land would accept her and set a serpent to stalk her in the oceans. Zeus had to set an island adrift so the serpent would finally stop chasing her.
- It should be noted however that Hera usually did not actually fulfil the part of step-mother since the mothers of the children in question in most cases stayed alive long enough to raise their children or they were given away to other people to raise. Only in two or three cases did Hera actually act as a step-mother proper: When Alcmene abandoned the infant Heracles to placate Hera's wrath, Hera ended up nursing the baby (it's usually described as by deceit and trickery). And before that she had also nursed the infant Hermes, with whom she got along fairly well afterwards. Hermes' birth-mother, the minor goddess Maia, was also one of the few of her husband's paramours whom Hera did not give trouble and who even was able to protect Arkas, Zeus' son by Callisto, from Hera's wrath. Finally, Hera also raised Thetis as a kind of adoptive daughter.
- In Rudyard Kipling's The Love Song of Har Dyal, one of the narrator's pleas is that she is suffering from this.
- Gioacchino Rossini subverts it in La Cenerentola, a retelling of "Cinderella" casting a stepfather as the villain. His motives are economic as so many fairy tale stepmothers; if the heroine does not marry, he can afford larger dowries for his own daughters
- Engelbert Humperdinck subverts it in Hänsel und Gretel; the stepmother sends the children out into the forest to gather strawberries, unaware of the dangers there.
- She is also the children's birth mother, as in the Grimm's original manuscript.
- In Euripides's Alcestis, Alcestis references this when pleading with her husband not to remarry after her death; he must spare her children any possible stepmother.
- In "The Black Crook," believed to be the first musical, the heroine Amina is abused by her foster mother.
- Originally, Odette in Swan Lake was enchanted by her stepmother, with the help of the demon, Rothbart. Later productions avert this and make Rothbart the lone villain.
- In Dorothy L. Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, Constantine's wife tricks him into killing his son by his first wife.
- In John Milton's Comus, this is the Back Story of a magical herb, created for a girl fleeing this.
She, guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit
Of her enragéd stepdame, Guendolen,
Commended her fair innocence to the flood
That stayed her flight with his cross-flowing course.
- Naturally, Evil Stepmother from Big Bad is implied to be this. Although it seems she's decided to change for the better, since she tells Wolf she needs to talk to her stepdaughter before the final verdict is delivered.
- Dragon Quest V has the Queen Consort of Coburg, who plots to put her own son on the throne over his stepbrother, Prince Harry. She is entirely transparent about her planning this.
- Inverted in BioShock 2: Eleanor Lamb much more favors her monstrous, but kind to her, adopted father over her own uncaring, emotionally detached mother and resurrects him to save her from her mother's imprisonment and becoming a tool in her mother's mad plan.
- Otacon's stepmother in Metal Gear Solid 2 was revealed to have seduced him, causing his birth father to commit suicide and mentally scaring his step-sister who nearly drowned that day, when he was suppose to be watching her. If the stepmother regerts these actions or anything is unknown but she sure didn't mind seducing him. Not to mention that Hal was 14 at the time, and it's strongly suggested she did it to get back at her husband for neglecting her.
- Queen Protea of Radiant Historia.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni plays with this. Battler gets along with his stepmother, Kyrie and his half-sister Ange despite leaving home for six years due to his father remarrying Too Soon after his mother's death. Then later arcs reveal that Kyrie hated his mother, Asumu. A lot. To the point where she flat out states that if Asumu hadn't died on her own, she would have killed her. Then the penultimate arc reveals that she doesn't even care for her own daughter. Oh, and it turns out that Kyrie is actually Battler's real mother. How much of this is true is... Debatable.
- The main character's stepfather in Spellcasting 101 is abusive to the point that the kid runs away to join a wizarding school (Does This Remind You of Anything?). Bonus points for being revealed to be the game's Big Bad Evil Sorcerer.
- In Rise of the Snow Queen, the third installment of the Dark Parables games, an in-game storytelling device talks about how Snow White's father was riddled with guilt over having been unable to protect her from her evil stepmother. Said stepmother is a Posthumous Character during the game itself.
- In Crusader Kings II, expect stepmothers (and other wives or concubines of the same husband) to try to get rid of their husband's children by other women to make room for their own. Family politics can get very messy in this game.
- Persona 4 plays with this trope. The protagonist's Temperance Social Link centers around a stepmother named Eri Minami, who is having trouble with her stepson, Yuuta. Yuuta is convinced that his stepmother hates him. In turn, Eri is convinced that Yuuta hates her. Both of them do care for each other, but it takes some help from the protagonist to get them to express it.
- So and So has one in Teen Girl Squad. Hers looks similar to the Arrowed Guy.
- Chui-Bi is this to Hong-Ryeong in Divine Bells.
- YU+ME: dream : Fiona has one, whom we realize is rather wicked once we learn that her affair with her now-husband is what caused Fiona's real mother to be Driven to Suicide. However It is subverted as in the real world Elizabeth is extremely kind and Fiona is the evil stepdaughter.
- Subverted with Kevin & Kell. Lindesfarne considers her stepmother Kell to be her mother, and Kell considers Lindesfarne her daughter, rather than a stepdaughter. Lindesfarne's original adoptive mother, however, is a Jerk Ass who largely ignored her during her childhood, and desperately tries to win her over, at one point making Lindesfarne allergic to Kell, partly motivated by wanting to get back at Kevin. At Lindesfarne's graduation, she gives her a hug- albeit with a blood transfer bag on hand- and a document saying that she waives all claims to custody of Lindesfarne as she has now come of age.
- Subverted in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , Alexsi (Dan's half-sister) considers her stepmother Dee to be her mother, and Dee considers Alexi to be her daughter. However the wicked part still seems present before Dan's birth at least.
- The wicked part comes back later, as Destania (Dee's original Cubi name) is plotting war with the dragons, and when Alexsi starts a relationship with one, Destania sees her as a traitor and expendable.
- In Alice!, Alice hates her father's new girlfriend, who ends up in this role in Alice's Calvin and Hobbes-esque fantasy sequences. In actuality the girlfriend is a fine woman (if soppy), while the normally amiable Alice is being a complete dick to her. Alice does have a Freudian Excuse for reacting in such a way Her birth mother divorced her father when she was young, her stepmother died in a car crash, so Alice lost not one but two mothers. and learning to accept that Joan is not in fact a Wicked Stepmother is part of Alice's Character Development.
- Homestuck: With the death of Colonel Sassacre, his adoptive children Nanna and Grandpa were left in the care of Betty Crocker. Initially it just seems to be the typical negative opinion one would expect children to have in such a situation, but it turns out that Crocker was/is an inhuman Chessmaster who had a hand in Gamzee's swandive off the deep end, and is later revealed to be Her Imperious Condescension herself, the tyranical troll Empress. And now she's gone and taken over the Alpha Derse on the orders of Lord English.
- Off-White: Jera and her love for singling out Iki call to mind this trope, though she is not evil.
- Rare Male Example from Welcome to Night Vale. Its eventually revealed that Cecil's hatred of Steve Carlsberg stems from him being one of these to his niece Janice, citing too much drinking and gambling. Potentially subverted, however; Steve genuinely seems to love his step-daughter, shows up to every PTA meeting, and angrily explodes when a villain threatens to 'fix' her.
- Pound Puppies (1980s):
- Katrina was evil to Holly, despite being her aunt. "Aunt" or "uncle" can be used as a term of endearment to an adoptive parent, which is probably what the show meant.
- The cartoon even have a "Cinderella" parody featuring a Fairy Dogmother.
- Chuckie imagines that Kira will be evil, complete with a Cinderella-esque Dream Sequence. Kira subverts the trope not only by being very nice, but also by legally adopting Chuckie in the same episode.
- But almost played straight with Coco LaBouche. Fortunately, Chuckie's dad noticed how "wicked" she was just in time to dump her at the altar. It took the babies escaping from being locked up in a storage room, piloting a Mecha-Reptar Stu had built, and Angelica spilling the beans as payback for a The Cake Is a Lie incident that pressured Coco into confessing that she's only doing it to keep being a Reptar franchisee. It gets worse for her naturally; the creator of Reptar was discreetly attending the wedding.
- Used in Winx Club 's season 3 arc about Stella's dad planning to marry an evil countess, who was evil even before she made the deal with Valtor. Quite a few fans complained about the show resorting to such an old chestnut, and the fact that the plot unfolded in an almost completely predictable (and uninteresting) manner didn't help matters either.
- Completely averted on Phineas and Ferb, to the extent you have to pay close attention to notice that Linda and Lawrence qualify as "stepparents" to any of their children. All three of them call both parents "Mom" and "Dad."
- Referenced in Drawn Together, where Clara (being based on the Disney Princesses) has an evil stepmother who cursed her privates, turning them into a hideous tentacled monster.
- And then of course Clara has a heartfelt discussion with her stepmother where it's revealed Clara rejected her first because she thought she was trying to replace her dead mom, and the stepmother cursed her because Clara never gave her a chance. They air their grievances, her stepmom tells her how to break the curse, Clara moves on past her mom's death, and their relationship is mended. Naturally, this is all Played for Laughs because it's Drawn Together.
- Subverted on Wheel Squad, where Mr. Rotter, the only character who qualifies as somebody's stepparent, treats his stepdaughter Emilie like a real daughter. Even on the Cinderella parody he was just strict and punishing her for a prank that could have gotten herself and her victim seriously hurt (and for not keeping satisfactory grades).
- Bart's teacher, Edna Krabappell, was dating Ned Flanders in one episode of The Simpsons. Not liking the idea of having her as a neighbor, Bart tried to make Ned's sons, Rodd and Todd, afraid she'd be a Wicked Stepmother who'd force them to do all the household chores. It backfired because Rodd and Todd enjoy doing them.
- Sofia the First: Queen Miranda lampshades the trope by acknowledging there aren't many fairy tales with the good and loving kind of stepmothers. However, she strives to be one to her stepchildren.
- In Daria's TV movie "Is It Fall Yet?," Daria, having been forced to work at a summer day camp, mentors a Mouthy Kid named Link. At one point he quips that his mother "threw his father out for being a jerk, and then went and married a bigger one." We never actually see any of the adults involved, though.