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Trophy Child

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A child (or children) born or raised to aid their parent's social standing, while often being abused in the process.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
WarJay77 on Mar 5th 2018 at 12:00:20 AM
Last Edited By:
Njein on Apr 2nd 2018 at 4:21:17 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

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

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

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

Compare and contrast Trophy Wife.

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


Examples

    open/close all folders 

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

    Film-Animated 

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

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

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

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Powerful bureaucrat Jacques Schnee married his wife and had three children with her (one being protagonist Weiss Schnee) just to usurp his father-in-law's company and to cement his status as a powerful figure in the community. He makes sure his children go to prestigious combat schools and join military and Huntsmen organizations so that they may help uphold his family's status.

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

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

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: This seems to be the case with Diamond Tiara's mother, Spoiled Rich. In the episode she was introduced in, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S5 E19 'Crusaders of the Lost Mark', it was revealed that Diamond Tiara's Alpha Bitch status was largely due to her mother putting her under extreme pressure to be perfect and above everyone else, while teaching her that anyone not of their status was to be looked down upon. She tells Diamond Tiara to "always think of your social standing" and berates her for making, what she considers to be, mistakes.
  • Gravity Falls: Pacifica Northwest was neglected and abused by her parents, who favored their own social lives and status over her, and scolded her for the most minor mistake. In addition, she was taught to see herself as above everyone else, while still being conditioned to obey and be inferior to them.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Mei's parents raised her to be perfectly behaved, with her opinions and emotions hidden, in order to help her father's political career. In return, she got whatever she wanted, though she wasn't interested in material wealth and rebelled against them later on.

Feedback: 21 replies

Mar 5th 2018 at 1:20:56 AM

You defined the trope as "parents have children for status reasons". Did Jeff and Liu's parents have them for status reasons, or did they "just" neglect them for status reasons?

Mar 5th 2018 at 9:44:48 AM

Good point, I'll redifine the trope as it doesn't necessarily have to be children born for status reasons but simply children looked at more as trophies than children.

Mar 5th 2018 at 10:46:28 AM

Compare and contrast Trophy Wife.

I can't think of any examples, but if more get added, I'll toss on a hat.

Mar 5th 2018 at 12:46:21 PM

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

Mar 6th 2018 at 7:35:36 AM

Good idea for a trope. Agreed with Miss_Desperado - I'll hat this draft when there are more examples.

Mar 10th 2018 at 10:47:05 AM

Any more examples at all?

Mar 11th 2018 at 11:54:24 AM

  • Web Animation/RWBY: Powerful bureaucrat Jacques Schnee married his wife and had three children with her (one being protagonist Weiss Schnee) just to usurp his father-in-law's company and to cement his status as a powerful figure in the community. He makes sure his children go to prestigious combat schools and join military and Huntsmen organizations so that they may help uphold his family's status.

Mar 11th 2018 at 2:14:55 PM

Sounds like the offspring of Stage Parents, too.

Mar 11th 2018 at 3:12:26 PM

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

Mar 11th 2018 at 5:38:03 PM

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

Mar 11th 2018 at 10:41:59 PM

Comic Books

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

Mar 12th 2018 at 1:03:08 AM

Such a child can end up a Lonely Rich Kid, as their parent will frequently be willing to pour money into making them look well-provided for, but neglect anything else required to keep them happy.

Mar 13th 2018 at 11:51:31 AM

Is there anything this draft still might need before I can prepare for launch? It looks good to me, but I've never launched before.

Mar 15th 2018 at 10:52:50 AM

Any quotes or anything?

Mar 16th 2018 at 1:36:19 PM

If nobody has anything else to add, I guess this means I can be launching soon?

Mar 16th 2018 at 3:05:27 PM

I think "Trophy Child" should be the title and "Trophy Children" should be the redirect.

Mar 16th 2018 at 4:40:20 PM

^ I can see what you're saying there, I'll change it

Mar 16th 2018 at 6:34:24 PM

You should probably change the intro, since this draft isn't about the Good Parents, Abusive Parents, or Parental Neglect trope, but about the characterization of Trophy Children. I'd suggest replacing the current first paragraph with this, "A Characterization Trope where children are portrayed like trophies of their parents."

Mar 16th 2018 at 7:36:48 PM

^ I've been thinking about that, I just haven't done it yet because I can't think of a good introduction. I'll change it when I can think of something, maybe I'll use yours, maybe I'll come up with something else.

Mar 20th 2018 at 12:23:10 AM

Hope to launch by Saturday, any more examples or criticisms before then?

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