Follow TV Tropes

Mutually Unequal Relation

Go To

A character's relation to another is completely different in the other's view.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Chabal2 on Jul 5th 2018 at 3:48:37 AM
Last Edited By:
Chabal2 on Aug 3rd 2018 at 2:03:57 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Two (or more) characters have entirely different ideas on how they are perceived by each other. Can lead to Cringe Comedy when the truth gets out.

Compare Master of Delusion, Small Name, Big Ego, Psychological Projection.

Break the Haughty / Break the Cutie, Was It All a Lie? or "The Reason You Suck" Speech are likely outcomes.

Subtropes:

Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Ooku: Arikoto believes the shogun Ietsuna sees him as an doddering old fart, painfully oblivious to the fact that she loves him romantically. Absolutely everyone else can see it and repeatedly inform him of this (the fact that he was her father figure for most of her life doesn't help).
  • Overlord (2012):
    • All of Nazarick (especially the Guardians) see Ainz as their godlike master and ruler and have no greater joy than to serve, even if it requires their death. Ainz, on the other hand, sees them as the only link to his former friends in the guild (as they were custom-designed NP Cs before gaining sentience), and the idea of one getting killed is akin to the death of a child placed under his supervision.
    • Ainz wants to rule Nazarick the way he'd have wanted an ideal Japanese corporation to be run and be a Benevolent Boss. Everyone else sees him as an undead monstrosity of incalculable power who can kill thousands with a thought (not exactly inaccurate). Thus when Ainz is fighting in the Empire's arena, he thinks of Jircniv as a fellow ruler and doesn't understand why the Emperor is rooting against him, and never seems to get that people are genuinely afraid of him (or that the Guardians are more than happy to kill people for what they perceive as insults to Ainz or Nazarick).
    • One of the Kingdom nobles believes he has a good chance of seducing Albedo and inheriting the Sorcerous Kingdom through her. Albedo already hates humans and has difficulty in restraining herself from splattering the idiot all over the walls. The other humans coerced into working for Albedo (and having witnessed firsthand how they treat potential enemies) get stomach ulcers from having to deal with such monumental arrogance and being unable to correct him.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy and Law agreed to ally their pirate groups with each other. The thing is that Law merely sees it as a means to an end, while Luffy thinks this means they're friends - and if you've watched the series, you'll know how far Luffy would go to protect his friends.
    • At first, Luffy isn't interested in the idea of becoming the boss of other pirate captains, in this case Cavendish, Bartolomeo, Sai, Ideo, Leo, Hajrudin and Orlumbus. But they decide to pledge loyalty to him anyway, without his consent. Thus the Straw Hat Grand Fleet is born. The exact deal becomes "the captains can go anywhere they like, but whenever Luffy needs help, they'll come to his aid".
  • This drives much of the relationship humor in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.. Some of the other students all insist on befriending Saiki because their relationships with Saiki are something else entirely to what they actually are. Saiki himself initially just sees them as school acquaintances and just wants to be left alone, although he evidently does start caring about them.
    • Nendou thinks Saiki is his best friend.
    • Kaidou thinks Saiki is his Bumbling Sidekick in the (completely imaginary) fight against the "Dark Reunion". In Kaidou's daydreams, Saiki is drawn with softer features and has a higher voice to emphasize this.
    • Teruhashi is in denial that Saiki is immune to her beauty and charms, and is convinced that he's secretly in love with her like all other men. Similar to Kaidou, in Teruhashi's daydreams, Saiki is drawn as a ditzy, bumbling love interest.
  • The Legend of Sun Knight: An odd version with the current Sun Knight and the Earth Knight: Each strongly dislikes the other, but because every new generation of the Twelve Holy Knights is forced to reenact the personalities, appearance and relations of the original, they have to act as though they're best friends (the Earth Knight is a womanizer, the Sun Knight is forbidden to have relationships; both of them enjoy playing Moment Killer to each other). The people only know the original legends and see the public facade the Knights put up, so they believe Sun and Earth really are friends. Meanwhile, Sun's actual best friend is the Judgement Knight, when they're supposed to be archenemies.

Comic Books

  • Joker has Johnny Frost, a naive getaway driver who thinks being the Joker's Number Two is his ticket to becoming a respected criminal overlord. Actual criminal overlords who know the Joker don't bother hiding their contempt because they know what's in store for him. At one point Frost tries to get Killer Croc to finish eating faster, thinking working for the Joker gives him the Joker's authority. Croc hangs him on a meat hook, letting Frost see what Croc is eating. Frost ends up killed by the Joker shortly after realizing just how little he (or human life in general) means to his boss.
  • The Punisher: Soap thinks he's Vitriolic Best Buds with Kevin the bartender, Kevin thinks he's a whiny, annoying little shit (and while the audience sees his point, he also does things like not tell an oblivious Soap he's hitting on a man or a drag queen). Things come to a head when Soap attempts to commit suicide in the bathroom, and Kenny is disgusted with him... because of the inconvenience it'll be to clean out the bathroom afterwards. Soap snaps, grows a spine, puts Kevin back in his place and goes out to confront the Punisher at last. It only lasts long enough for Frank to tell him to go away, which Soap does, finally finding a more fulfilling career as a porn star.
  • Runaways has fun with this:
    • Alex has always hated Chase since they were kids. Chase was unaware of this, and thought that they were best bros.
    • Karolina had a longstanding crush on Nico. Nico completely missed it, thinking that Karolina was just really friendly.
    • Molly assumes that because she and Gert were the two youngest members of the original team, they would naturally be best friends. Gert find Molly annoying.
    • After they started dating, Gert and Chase each suspected that the other would eventually leave them. Gert feared that Chase would dump her for either Nico or Karolina because they were more conventionally attractive, while Chase thought that Gert might dump him for Victor, who was smarter and closer to her age.
    • Xavin constantly frets that Karolina might not really love them. Karolina, for her part, seems to at least care about Xavin enough to stay with them and try and work out any differences the two might have.

Film - Animated

  • The Emperor's New Groove: Kuzco believes his adviser Yzma is actually happy to serve him, oblivious to her traitorous scheming or that she's the one responsible for turning him into a llama. When he finds her, he looks overjoyed only for his face to fall as he realizes she's talking about killing him.

Film - Live Action

Literature

  • Discworld: Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler, a get-rich-quick schemer suffering from Perpetual Poverty when his plans inevitably backfire, acts as though he's best buddies with Chrysoprase, the head of the Braccia. Chrysoprase's expression makes it clear Dibbler is going to be very sorry afterwards.
  • Parker Pyne Investigates: One Operation: Jealousy goes spectacularly wrong when the husband falls for Pyne's employee Madeleine for real, when he's just another customer to her.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In "The Musgrave Ritual", Holmes theorizes that this is what happened to the butler, who was found dead in an underground vault. Brunton had a history as The Casanova, and had previously been affianced with a maid, but soon took up with another girl. Howells was seen acting strangely on the day Brunton was reported missing, and disappeared herself soon afterwards. Holmes believes Brunton thought Howells was still devoted to him, got her help to enter the vault, and only when she realized her chance for revenge (it's implied he got her pregnant) was right there did she slam the door on him.
    Holmes: This girl had been devoted to him. A man always finds it hard to realize that he may finally have lost a woman's love, however badly he may have treated her.
  • Harry Potter: Dumbledore theorizes some of Voldemort's followers believe themselves to be his True Companions and closest friends. Voldemort is of course entirely unattached to them and given his views on love, would certainly not want them as friends.
  • Warrior Cats: Bluestar believed Tigerclaw to be her faithful deputy despite Fireheart's warnings that he was evil. Tigerclaw just saw her as a weak leader who needed to be disposed of to get himself the leadership.
  • Redwall: At the beginning of Salamandastron, Mara thinks she's found a friend in Klitch, as both are confident young beasts feeling oppressed by their fathers. Unfortunately, Klitch's father Ferahgo the Assassin is the warlord of a vermin horde, and the only reason Klitch feels oppressed by him is because he thinks he can rule it better than his father, and only maintains his friendly facade with Mara to get information from her.

Live-Action TV

  • Midsomer Murders has an episode with a school headmaster telling everyone about how he was childhood friends with one of the school's boardmembers, to his irritation (he seems to have viewed the man as The Team Wannabe).
  • Kaamelott: Several characters believe themselves useful members of society, despite being some variation of The Millstone.
Despite being told how useless they are to their faces, it just bounces off, and any self-awareness they might have is gone by the end of the episode.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40K:
    • One planet is a backwater that was colonized millennia ago by the Imperium, with the natives living in hope that the Emperor will return one day and they can be part of the galaxy-spanning civilization of mankind again. Chaos forces who raid the planet take sadistic glee in demonstrating just how little they matter in the galaxy and how long-forgotten they are by the Imperium.
    • The average citizen of the Tau Empire is generally certain that the Imperium will either willingly place itself under the Greater Good's banner or be destroyed by them, because they are kept carefully ignorant of just how much the Imperium outnumbers them (the Tau's expansion can be measured in star systems, the Imperium in percentage of the galaxy). The Imperium considers them a threat, but a relatively contained one that serves as a useful buffer between them and several other enemies the Imperium would rather see blunt their teeth on the Tau first (and have collaborated with the Tau in the past against Always Chaotic Evil threats like Tyranids).
    • Beasts of Nurgle are acid-sweating giant slugs with the personality of a Big, Friendly Dog, who love nothing better than to run and frolick and wrestle with the little creatures they encounter on the battlefield, who also seem to love to play keep-away. Unfortunately, their new friends get tired very quickly, so the beasts have to find new playmates.

Video Games

  • Team Fortress 2: Everyone is terrified of the Pyro because of his/her lack of speech, lack of face, and obsession with setting people on fire. From the Pyro's point of view, his teammates and fairies are all childlike fairies he plays with, and his flamethrower dispenses rainbows.

Web Original

  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Goku believes that he and Vegeta are best buddies after saving him from the Ginyu Force, while it's made pretty clear that Vegeta hates him and only hangs around with the desire to get stronger than him.

Western Animation

  • Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob generally respects his neighbor Squidward and thinks he's a good friend. Squidward thinks of Spongebob as an annoying Manchild who bothers with his life a lot.

Feedback: 15 replies

Jul 5th 2018 at 7:58:26 AM

Does Big Bad Wannabe count? And an example that may have its own trope:

  • One Piece:
    • Luffy and Law agreed to ally their pirate groups with each other. The thing is that Law merely sees it as a means to an end, while Luffy thinks this means they're friends - and if you've watched the series, you'll know how far Luffy would go to protect his friends.
    • At first, Luffy isn't interested in the idea of becoming the boss of other pirate captains, in this case Cavendish, Bartolomeo, Sai, Ideo, Leo, Hajrudin and Orlumbus. But they decide to pledge loyalty to him anyway, without his consent. Thus the Straw Hat Grand Fleet is born. The exact deal becomes "the captains can go anywhere they like, but whenever Luffy needs help, they'll come to his aid".

Jul 6th 2018 at 8:34:46 PM

  • Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob generally respects his neighbor Squidward and thinks he's a good friend. Squidward thinks of Spongebob as an annoying manchild who bothers with his life a lot.

Jul 8th 2018 at 4:55:01 PM

Vitriolic Best Buds may sometimes be this, if the vitriol is one-sided.

Jul 11th 2018 at 6:56:21 PM

Comic Books

  • Runaways has fun with this:
    • Alex has always hated Chase since they were kids. Chase was unaware of this, and thought that they were best bros.
    • Karolina had a longstanding crush on Nico. Nico completely missed it, thinking that Karolina was just really friendly.
    • Molly assumes that because she and Gert were the two youngest members of the original team, they would naturally be best friends. Gert find Molly annoying.
    • After they started dating, Gert and Chase each suspected that the other would eventually leave them. Gert feared that Chase would dump her for either Nico or Karolina because they were more conventionally attractive, while Chase thought that Gert might dump him for Victor, who was smarter and closer to her age.
    • Xavin constantly frets that Karolina might not really love them. Karolina, for her part, seems to at least care about Xavin enough to stay with them and try and work out any differences the two might have.

Jul 16th 2018 at 4:22:17 AM

I don't think Aloof Ally, Big Bad Wannabe, and Who Needs Enemies are subtropes of this — misunderstanding the relationship can happen, but it's not a necessity for the tropes themselves.

  • This drives much of the relationship humor in The Disastrous Life Of Saiki K. Some of the other students all insist on befriending Saiki because their relationships with Saiki are something else entirely to what they actually are. Saiki himself initially just sees them as school acquaintances and just wants to be left alone, although he evidently does start caring about them.
    • Nendou thinks Saiki is his best friend.
    • Kaidou thinks Saiki is his Bumbling Sidekick in the (completely imaginary) fight against the "Dark Reunion". In Kaidou's daydreams, Saiki is drawn with softer features and has a higher voice to emphasize this.
    • Teruhashi is in denial that Saiki is immune to her beauty and charms, and is convinced that he's secretly in love with her like all other men. Similar to Kaidou, in Teruhashi's daydreams, Saiki is drawn as a ditzy, bumbling love interest.

Jul 16th 2018 at 10:57:50 AM

I think Aloof Ally fits, as the gist seems to be "rest of the cast thinks he's one of them, he thinks he's better than the rest of the cast".

Jul 16th 2018 at 10:24:35 PM

  • Warrior Cats: Bluestar believed Tigerclaw to be her faithful deputy despite Fireheart's warnings that he was evil. Tigerclaw just saw her as a weak leader who needed to be disposed of to get himself the leadership.

Jul 19th 2018 at 12:27:59 AM

Also, I think you can add The Friend Nobody Likes as a subtrope, since usually the disliked friend isn't aware of their status. Also Mad Love, perhaps.

Jul 19th 2018 at 8:10:01 PM

In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku believes that he and Vegeta are best buddies after saving him from the Ginyu Force, while it's made pretty clear that Vegeta hates him and only hangs around with the desire to get stronger than him.

Jul 22nd 2018 at 1:50:27 AM

...is there something new?

Aug 2nd 2018 at 10:10:58 PM

Number of hats mostly.

Top