Follow TV Tropes

Disappointing Older Sibling

Go To

An older sibling lets down his younger siblings

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Lawman592 on Apr 7th 2018 at 6:23:11 PM
Last Edited By:
Lawman592 on May 9th 2018 at 11:52:46 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Terry Malloy: You was my brother, Charley. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.

According to family dynamics, the oldest sibling is usually supposed to be the next one down in authority from the parents. In a worst case scenario, this sibling might have to step into the parent's shoes. Thus, he or she is often expected to serve as a role model and look out for the welfare of the younger siblings. Yet, there are times when the older sibling proves unable to fulfill these tasks leading to the younger siblings completely losing respect in him or her. This can happen for a number of reasons. The oldest sibling could be an emotionally and physically abusive jerk who regularly tyrannizes the younger brothers and sisters. Other times, it's because the older sibling is the Black Sheep of the family, dull-witted, immature, irresponsible, self-centered, weak-willed, a doormat, or ineffectual. Whatever the cause, one result is the older sibling's attempts to exert authority will be ignored by the others. Another result is sometimes the older sibling's spot on the family leadership chain will be supplanted by a younger sibling (who will, in some cases, bully and humiliate the older sibling just to show him who's boss). If things really get out of hand, a Cain and Abel scenario can occur.

The Disappointing Older Sibling trope may overlap with Broken Pedestal if the older sibling was initially held in high regard before doing something that led to the younger sibling's loss of respect. This is something that can occur when they are still children or after they've grown up.

Compare Spartan Sibling, Aloof Big Brother, and Sibling Rivalry. Contrast with Knight Templar Big Brother and Big Brother Worship.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • In an anti-marijuana PSA, a little girl comments at length that her older brother doesn't do anything bad... before finishing with "he doesn't do anything at all", and showing the brother getting high.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Peanuts, Sally sees her older sibling, Charlie Brown, as a flop as a big brother due to his wishy-washy nature and consistent record of failure in nearly everything.
    • Another Peanuts example; like his older sister Lucy, Rerun Van Pelt is embarrassed by his older brother Linus' habits, such as his Security Blanket, sucking his thumb, and waiting for The Great Pumpkin every October. Rerun has even admitted to Snoopy that he is unable to look up to Linus as a role model because of these habits.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Fredo Corleone from The Godfather is older than his brother Michael but proves to be too weak, feckless, and incompetent to take over for the eldest brother, Sonny, after his murder. Thus, Michael has to usurp Fredo's place in the family hierarchy.
  • During the "I Coulda Been a Contender" scene in On the Waterfront, Terry Malloy calls out his big brother Charley for not protecting him and undermining his boxing career.
  • In Step Brothers, Brennan's younger brother goes on to become a wealthy executive while Brennan becomes an unemployed outcast.

    Live Action TV 
  • As a child, Richard from Caroline in the City lost the respect of his younger sister when she saw him run away from a beach bully in cowardice.
  • Scrubs has J.D.'s older brother, Dan, who was a cool guy in high school, but became an underpaid bartender and attic dweller while J.D. went on to become a doctor.
  • In Supernatural, it is established that all the angels are related, but some are older than others. Castiel is a lower-tier angel, meaning the archangels are his older brothers. Castiel rebels against his older brothers' plan to bring about the end of the world believing they are disobeying God's command that they protect humanity. Castiel's disappointment in his older siblings is clear whenever he encounters one of his older brothers face to face, but is most noticeable when he's forced to interact with the youngest of his four older brothers, Lucifer.
  • In the early seasons of Party of Five, a recurring plot was oldest brother Charlie promising to do something for one of his siblings only to forget or be distracted by his own personal wants or needs. It's understandable as Charlie is in his early 20s and responsible for his four minor siblings, but it often leads to a disappointed younger sibling who was really counting on him only to be let down.

     Manga 
  • Naruto: As a toddler, Hanabi adored her older sister Hinata and thought she was strong. When Hanabi herself is able to beat Hinata in a duel, Hinata gets out on a Broken Pedestal. By Shippuden Hanabi has come to recognize Hinata's improved strength and the pedestal gets repaired. They're shown to be good friends as teens and adults.

     Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • D.W. Read from Arthur does not have a high opinion of her titular older brother. She views him as someone who makes so many mistakes, that whenever she wants to do something right, she does the exact opposite of whatever he does. This is despite the fact that most of the time, Arthur is more mature and level-headed than D.W. is, and most of the arguments between the two are D.W.'s fault in the first place.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy, a big deal is made about Eddy's older brother, though we never see him on screen. He's often treated as a "mythical" figure by the kids of the cul-de-sac. Come the movie, we finally do get to meet him, and he's a douchebag bully, and everyone gets disillusioned by him.
    • Another Ed, Edd n Eddy example: Sarah can't stand her older brother Ed. Even when he's not around, she refers to him as "my stupid brother". In fact, even before the movie, she's the only one who doesn't idolize Eddy's Cool Big Bro because, in her own words, "all brothers are stupid".
  • On The Simpsons, Lisa Simpson sees her older brother, Bart, as an immature and poorly behaved underachiever. Marge and Homer agree and even put her in charge of babysitting him one evening (which, unsurprisingly, does not go well).

Feedback: 14 replies

Apr 8th 2018 at 4:38:10 PM

Western Animation

  • D.W. Read from Arthur does not have a high opinion of her titular older brother. She views him as someone who makes so many mistakes, that whenever she wants to do something right, she does the exact opposite of whatever he does. This is despite the fact that most of the time, Arthur is more mature and level-headed than D.W. is, and most of the arguments between the two are D.W.'s fault in the first place.

Apr 9th 2018 at 12:27:08 AM

There was an anti-marijuana PSA where a little girl comments at length that her older brother doesn't do anything bad... before finishing with "he doesn't do anything at all", and showing the brother getting high.

Apr 9th 2018 at 5:06:55 PM

I though PSA usually falls into the "Advertisements" folder

Apr 15th 2018 at 7:04:57 AM

Western Animation

  • Lisa Simpson sees Bart as a poorly behaved underachiever. The Simpsons

Live Action Television

  • In Supernatural, it is established that all the angels are related, but some are older than others. Castiel is a lower-tier angel, meaning the archangels are his older brothers. Castiel rebels against his older brothers' plan to bring about the end of the world believing they are disobeying God's command that they protect humanity. Castiel's disappointment in his older siblings is clear whenever he encounters one of his older brothers face to face, but is most noticeable when he's forced to interact with the youngest of his four older brothers, Lucifer.
  • In the early seasons of Party Of Five, a recurring plot was oldest brother Charlie promising to do something for one of his siblings only to forget or be distracted by his own personal wants or needs. It's understandable as Charlie is in his early 20s and responsible for his four minor siblings, but it often leads to a disappointed younger sibling who was really counting on him only to be let down.

Apr 15th 2018 at 9:50:23 AM

Video Games

Apr 16th 2018 at 1:42:47 AM

Apr 17th 2018 at 3:53:03 PM

Scrubs has J.D.'s older brother, Dan, who was a cool guy in high school, but became an underpaid bartender and attic dweller while J.D. went on to become a doctor. A variation in Step Brothers, where Brennan's younger brother went on to become a wealthy executive and Brennan's an unemployed outcast.

Or, are we talking about something like Richard from Caroline In The City, who ran from a beach bully in cowardice, and found out his sister had seen the whole thing, for his humiliation?

Apr 25th 2018 at 4:49:36 PM

^ All three examples apply. This proposed trope is about a younger sibling's loss of respect for an older sibling and that can come when they are still children or after they've grown up.

May 4th 2018 at 7:24:41 AM

  • Naruto: As a toddler, Hanabi adored her older sister Hinata and thought she was strong. When Hanabi herself is able to beat Hinata in a duel, Hinata gets put on a Broken Pedestal. By Shippuden Hanabi has come to recognize Hinata's improved strength and the pedestal gets repaired. They're shown to be good friends as teens and adults.

May 4th 2018 at 7:22:32 AM

Western Animation

  • In Ed Edd N Eddy, a big deal is made about Eddy's older brother, though we never see him on screen. He's often treated as a "mythical" figure by the kids of the cul-de-sac. Come the movie, we finally do get to meet him, and he's a douchebag bully, and everyone gets disillusioned by him..

May 6th 2018 at 9:45:28 AM

Comic Strips

  • Another Peanuts example; like his older sister Lucy, Rerun Van Pelt is embarrassed by his older brother Linus' habits, such as his Security Blanket, sucking his thumb, and waiting for The Great Pumpkin every October. Rerun has even admitted to Snoopy that he is unable to look up to Linus as a role model because of these habits.

May 7th 2018 at 3:04:16 AM

Another Ed Edd N Eddy example: Sarah can't stand her older brother Ed. Even when he's not around, she refers to him as "my stupid brother". In fact, even before the movie, she's the only one who doesn't idolize Eddy's Cool Big Bro because, in her own words, "all brothers are stupid".

Top