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Adoption Diss

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"He's not even a real kid. He's adopted."
Lucy Henderson, Problem Child, about Junior.

A character refers to another character as being adopted as a put-down, often with heavy implications of "this is why your birth family gave you up" or to call out the lack of blood relation between themselves and their adopted family. This can be played dramatically, especially if it's a case of Oblivious Adoption. In that case, expect Tell Me About My Father to occur.


Usually used to portray the character using the insult as a Jerkass, since it's a low blow and good Kick the Dog material. If a parent does this to a child during an argument they're likely a Resentful Guardian, and may have a My God, What Have I Done? moment later. A sibling is often particularly prone to this if their adopted brother or sister was given an inheritance or another status over them, in which case they're likely to be The Resenter. It's also sometimes used as an insult towards someone who isn't even adopted, especially if the person slinging the insult has no way of actually knowing this, and is a favored tactic of The Bully. Often this is a setup for a Your Mom joke, the speaker clarifying that they are not talking about "their mother". The usual comeback to this insult is that an adopted child's family specifically chose them, so clearly they were wanted.


The underlying assumption behind the insult, mainly that someone is inherently inferior as a result of being adopted, is at this point pretty much a Dead Horse Trope but does still sometimes crop up played straight. As a result, when seen nowadays it's often Played for Laughs or used in a Crosses the Line Twice manner when it's brought up apropos of nothing.

Compare Red-Headed Stepchild, which historically had some relation to this trope as in mixed Italian-Irish families in the late 19th century the red-headed child would be obviously not related to one of the parents, which could lead to this, and Chocolate Baby, where the lack of physical resemblance to at least one parent is the result of infidelity. Related to Foster Kid, whose main source of drama comes from being separated from their birth family.


Contrast Happily Adopted, when the adopted character has no problem with being adopted. Related to Adoption Is Not an Option, where a couple who wants children refuses to even consider adopting with no reason given, leaving the viewer to infer this trope being at work.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bakemonogatari, the fact that Tsubasa Hanekawa isn't actually related to either of her legal guardians (who are, respectively, her stepfather's second wife and the man she in turn married when her first stepfather died) is a huge part of why they're so abusive to her, including not allowing her to have her own room so she has to keep all of her belongings and her bed in the hallway and at least one occasion where her stepfather punched her in the face until she bled. And it turns out that her step-parents don't even like each other, and are planning to divorce once she reaches the legal age to avoid the scandal of abandoning an orphan. They're also implied to verbally abuse her because of her biological mother's promiscuity, which means she has no idea who her biological father is.
  • In Berserk, Guts' adopted father Gambino allowed his lover Sys to adopt the baby Guts after they found him beneath the corpse of his hanged mother mostly so Sys, who earlier had suffered a miscarriage, wouldn't go mad with grief. Once Sys contracted an illness and passed away Gambino felt guilty that he had been unable to by her side as she was dying while Guts had, and made no secret of his hatred for Guts and the circumstances of them finding him, which he believed caused Sys' death, and put him through brutal Training from Hell, including selling him to pedophile soldier Donovan for three silver coins.

     Comic Books 
  • Batman: Damian Wayne, the fifth Robin and Bruce's biological son regularly insults on his adoptive brothers Jason Todd and Tim Drake, the second and third Robins, by calling them adopted and himself real. In fact, it's his go to insult for Tim, and he's used it pretty much any time he's in the same room as him. Noticeably, he has never used it on Dick Grayson, the first Robin, whom he has a much better relationship with. He's actually acknowledged Dick as his brother too.
  • In a Titeuf comic, Jean-Claude says to Titeuf that he's adopted as an insult, Titeuf take it a bit too seriously and wonder who his real parents could be.

    Fan Works 
  • In Knowledge is Power Bellatrix Lestrange kidnaps Harry and Hermione's adopted daughter.
    Joan: You have no idea what you've just done, you're in so much trouble because my family are so gonna kick your ass all over this graveyard.
    Bellatrix: Listen, kid, your chances of still being alive at suppertime tonight are not great so don't give me any of your lip. You don't have a family, you're adopted!
    Joan: That just makes my family all the more special, mum and dad actually picked me to be their daughter, your parents didn't get a choice.
  • Hair-Tai is a RWBY oneshot where a 12 year old Ruby tries to dye her hair blonde due to bullying. She has black hair like her deceased mother but her sister and father are blonde, so kids tease her and tell her she's adopted. Ruby's dad Taiyang convinces her to stop. He later dyes his hair black.
  • ER. Inverted in a series of stories that follow Doug and Carol's life after they move to Seattle. It's their adopted daughter who dislikes the son they have after adopting her.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ambulance: Papi refers to Will as Danny's "fake brother". Both let it slide at the time since they're in the middle of a standoff. But after defeating Papi's mooks, it comes back as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    Danny: "He's not my fake brother. He's my REAL brother."
  • In Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), Mark is nicknamed "FedEx" by his siblings, who say that the Fed Ex truck dropped him off at the house to imply this trope (with no evidence that he actually was adopted, mind you). It's this nickname getting used one too many times after a Trauma Conga Line that ultimately causes Mark to try and run away.
  • A minor case occurs in The Godfather, when Tom Hagen, The Consigliere and adopted son of The Don, and elder son Sonny are discussing how to approach the proposal of a drug dealer who had ordered a hit on The Don.
    Tom: If your father dies... you make the deal, Sonny.
    Sonny: Y'know? That's easy for you to say, Tom. He's not your father.
    Tom: I'm as much a son to him as you or Mike.
  • The Bollywood movie Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham has this as the catalyst of the story. Rahul breaks off his engagement with a woman his adopted father, Yash, arranged for him to marry Anjali, who came from a lower class background. In a fit of rage, Yash disowns him by explicitly bringing up his background as an adopted child.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: played with in regard to Loki
    • Played for Laughs and done straight in The Avengers where Thor is at first defending Loki, then promptly does a Verbal Backspace.
      Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
      Thor: Have care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother.
      Black Widow: He killed eighty people in two days.
      Thor: ...He's adopted.
    • Played for Drama in Thor: The Dark World. During his trial, Loki attempts to appeal to his birthright as a son of the king, and Odin retorts that his birthright (as an abandoned child whom Odin adopted) was to die.
    • Played for Laughs and Inverted in Thor: Ragnarok. This time around Loki, who has gained the favor of the Grandmaster, says he is adopted to distance himself from Thor, now the Grandmaster's slave.
      Loki: I've never met this man in my life.
      Thor: He's my brother!
      Loki: Adopted.
  • During the first Problem Child, Lucy Henderson, the little girl at the birthday party Junior is taken to, is a complete jerk to Junior, and at one point says to her friends, "He's not even a real kid. He's adopted." When she denies Junior the chance to come to her magic show, Junior decides to take revenge by ruining her birthday party.

  • In Rita Mae Brown's novel Rubyfruit Jungle, Molly Brown's adopted mother uses this during an argument, specifically bringing up how Molly was the daughter of the town whore while she's at it.
    "You ain't so fine as you think you are, and you ain't mine neither. And I don't want you now that I know what you're about. Wanna know who you are, smartypants? You're Ruby Drollinger's bastard, that's who you are. Now let's see you put your nose in the air."
  • Harry Potter gets this treatment from Vernon and Petunia Dursley, the people who were strong-armed into adopting him, usually to remind him how unwanted he is.
  • Wuthering Heights: After being randomly adopted, Heathcliff is resented by people ranging from his adoptive mother, neighbors, and others in the community, but by none more severely than his adoptive brother Hindley. He constantly reminds Heathcliff that he isn't really part of their family despite what his doting father may think. After their father dies, Hindley really makes this point clear by depriving Heathcliff of an education and demoting him to a lowly farmhand, against his late father's wishes.
  • In If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday, Bart repeatedly states he doesn't see Cindy as his real sister because she was adopted. This is, at least particularly, motivated by jealousy, as he thinks his mother loves her more than him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted with All My Children's Kendall Hart. Despite all evidence that she was dearly loved by her adoptive parents, it's she who ran away from them to seek out Erica Kane, her birth mother, feeling robbed of the glamorous life Erica has and being determined to ruin it as punishment for giving her up.
  • An identical scenario played out on General Hospital's Carly Benson.
  • In Generation Kill, Ray Person takes a jab at his team leader Sgt. Brad Colbert by mentioning the fact that he was adopted. Colbert coolly unleashes an eloquent stream of insults.
  • In Lost Ollie Billy's arm was twisted by his bully Micheal since he didn't say Momma wasn't his real mom.
  • Played briefly on Mystery Science Theater 3000 when they watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. In one scene, a Martian robot captures the children and Voldar orders it to crush them. Crow quips "You were adopted."
  • In the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia (biologically the daughter of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala before being adopted by Senator Bail Organa and Queen Breha Organa) gets slammed by her haughty older cousin for not being a real Organa. Bail quickly assures her that she is his daughter.
  • In Please Like Me while teasing each other Josh jokingly calls Arnold an "orphan" for being adopted, and everyone, especially Arnold’s non-adopted brother, find it distasteful, the only exception being Arnold himself.
  • In Star Trek: Discovery, any time Michael Burnham refers to herself as Spock's sister or anyone else refers to her as such within his earshot, he cooly corrects them by saying "foster sister" or pointing out that they're not related by blood. It is later revealed that the two were once quite close, considering each other brother and sister. But out of fear that he'd be hurt or killed by the logic extremists who'd already tried to kill her, she destroyed their relationship by calling him a "weird little halfbreed," knowing that Spock's mixed heritage has always been a lifelong sore spot for him. Despite claiming he sees the logic in her actions, they are estranged. When forced together by their Starfleet duties, he rejects any and all attempts to make amends and rebuffs all claims of familial ties, reminding her she is his father's ward, not a biological member of their family.

  • This is how the title character in Oedipus the King learns about the horrible fate to which he's doomed: a drunk guy at a feast mocks him for not being the son of the people he believes to be his parents. Upset by this remark, he goes to the oracle to find out the truth but is told only that he will kill his father and marry his mother, spurring him to leave home and thus unwittingly encounter his biological parents and fulfill the prophecy.

    Video Games 
  • Portal:
    • GLaDOS insults Chell by saying she's adopted during the Boss Battle (right after saying she's loved by nobody, too). By Portal 2, it becomes one of her favorite ways to insult Chell (along with passive-aggressive comments about her weight).
    • In Portal 2, when Wheatley gets on the act, GLaDOS asks what's wrong with being adopted. Then, while he sputters, she tells Chell, "For the record, you are adopted, and that's terrible. But just work with me." An advocacy group took umbrage with Valve Software over this, thinking it was reflecting badly on adopted families and playing this trope straight, but Valve's response was that it was obviously too over the top to be taken seriously and it was coming from the mouth of a villain.
  • In Borderlands Marcus's lemony voiceovers in "The Zombie Island of Doctor Ned" bring this up with the child who keeps asking questions about the story and interrupting.
    Child: Is any of this going to be true?
    Marcus: Yes. Probably a lot of it. You're adopted.
  • Played for Drama in BlazBlue: the fact that Jin is adopted to the noble Kisaragi family and yet he's chosen as the heir makes his siblings resent him, especially the legit Kisaragi-blooded ones.
  • In Senran Kagura, Ikaruga is adopted to a prestigious ninja family for her talent and replacing their not-good-being-ninja son, Murasame, as the heir. This makes him resent her so much that he repeatedly tries taking back the family heirloom, the nodachi Hien, from her. He later softens, though.
  • The Dunkmaster Darius skin in League of Legends re-imagines the game's resident no-nonsense bloodthirsty general as a trash-talking basketball star. Among other things, his taunts against other champions become a LOT more toxic, including toward his own brother:
    "Hey Draven! Momma said you were adopted!"
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Rean Schwarzer was subjected to this by Patrick, and Rean feels it's his fault that the other nobles are talking behind the Schwarzer's backs.
  • This was a big part of the reason Azura in Fire Emblem Fates had such a Dark and Troubled Past prior to the game. She and her mother Arete were taken in by King Garon in Nohr after the death of his first wife Queen Katerina and both faced severe verbal abuse from Garon's concubines due to her mother being seen as a a subpar replacement for the beloved deceased queen and Azura not being a blood-related member of the family. While Garon himself always treated her well, her Nohrian step-siblings were told by their mothers to avoid interacting with Azura because of her adoption (though they weren't happy about that). This left such scars on her that she seems to expect this trope from her Hoshidan adopted siblings, telling Ryoma and Hinoka that they don't have to pretend to love her anymore now that their "real" sibling, Corrin, is back, and she apologizes to Corrin in their Birthright supports for "stealing" their birthright from them. However, Ryoma and Hinoka tell her their familial love for her was never fake, and Corrin assures her that they don't blame her at all.
  • In Dota 2, the sisters Lina and Rylai (Crystal Maiden) do not get along, and if by any chance Rylai manages to kill Lina, she can leave out one insult before she inevitably respawns.
    "You were adopted...!"

    Visual Novels 
  • In Dandelion, Jiwoo found out how unloved he was by his mother when she passed him up as the family successor, citing his never matching up to her standards and his being adopted as a reason. This hits especially hard as that was the way he found out that he was adopted to begin with.
  • In Fate/stay night, Sakura Matou is the adopted heir of the Matou family, which causes her adopted brother Shinji to resent her, to the point of raping her daily since the reason she was adopted from the Tohsaka family was because Shinji was completely unable to use magic and thus wouldn't be able to participate in the Holy Grail War on the behalf of the family.

  • In Housepets! while Bailey and Tarot are fighting as Pete and Spirit Dragon's avatars, Pete tells Bailey to test her "taunt" move.
    Bailey: You're adopted!
    Tarot: So are you!
    Bailey: I don't think that worked.
  • In Drowtales, Quain'tana outright tells Syphile that adopting her was a mistake on her part since while her mother was a good soldier Syphile has none of her strength or conviction. Quain does eventually admit that Syphile Grew a Spine, immediately before killing Syphile after her attempted assassination of Quain fails miserably and Syphile gave her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. In this case, Quain has no issues with adoption itself, since she had formally adopted two (adult) members of the clan as a way to honor them and is quite pleased with both of them.
    • Zala'ess Vel'Sharen also heavily resents her adopted daughter Vy'chriel, but not for the usual reasons. Mainly, Vy'chriel was originally Yaeminira, the adopted protector twin of her blood daughter Vy'chriel, but killed her sister for not towing the Sharen party line and being favored despite her behavior. Zala'ess was then forced by her own older sister to adopt Yaeminira, who took her deceased sister's name and rank. Zala'ess eventually arranges for the new Vy'chriel to die during a botched invasion to avenge her real daughter.
  • Attempted by PamJee's classmate in Something*Positive, but he's shut down when PamJee points out that adoption isn’t an easy thing, and the fact that her parents adopted her PROVES they wanted her.
    • Apparently a running issue with her, though she clearly knows how to handle it.
  • Played for laughs in Stand Still, Stay Silent, when Tuuri meets the three Västerström children and they immediately spoil their first impression by calling her fat. She responds thusly:
    Tuuri: I heard your parents say that one of you is adopted and they don't love that one as much as the other two.

    Web Original 
  • In ASDF Movie this is used in a Crosses the Line Twice manner by showing a shot of a smiling, panting dog, then a "You're adopted!" followed by a shot of saddened dog accompanied by piano note.
  • In Ask That Guy with the Glasses, the Guy says that his parents told him they should have left him in the garbage where they found him, along with far, far worse abuses.
  • Yami does this to Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, which clearly hits a nerve. Kaiba also assumes that Joey is doing this when they compete for third place at Battle City, as Kaiba cuts him off in the middle of an insult starting with "At least I'm not ad—", but Joey was actually trying to say, "At least I'm not a dork."
  • Homestar Runner:
    • An Easter egg in the Strong Bad Email "hiding" features an argument between two different Robot Me versions of Strong Bad, the Back-Sassing Animatronic Strong Bad introduced in this episode and the Grape Nuts Robot from "personal favorites", where the Grape Nuts Robot plays this card.
      Animatronic Strong Bad: Dad loves me more!
      Grape Nuts Robot: You're adopted.
    • In the toon "Career Day", the narrator addresses the kids, represented by a boy who reacts accordingly, leading up to this.
      Narrator: Kids, have you ever wondered who that mysterious man in the picture your mother hides under her pillow is? [laughing] No, it's not your real father! [Space Captainface walks in and pushes the boy aside] Why, it's SBASAF's First Lieuteneral Space Captainface!
    • In the sbemail "caffeine", Strong Bad spikes Strong Sad's orange juice with heaping spoonfuls of Sanka and studies its effects on him. When the caffeine wears off and Strong Sad crashes, Strong Bad uses all this to conclude that Strong Sad is adopted.
      Strong Sad: That's not true either!
  • LOLCats has Surprise Adoption Cat, a picture of a cat jumping out of a cake with a banner saying "You're Adopted!" in front of a crying girl.
  • Done for comedy in Power Star 4.5 when Luigi claims that Mario was adopted in order to end the scuffle between them, causing Mario to commit suicide and Luigi to laugh disrespectfully in front of his brother’s grave. Then it turns out Luigi was fibbing when he said Mario was adopted.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Words", Gumball's ultimate proof to Darwin that words can hurt people is telling him "You are not my brother. You are just a pet! Who grew legs!" He takes it back after he makes his point.
    • In "The Disaster", Rob tries to take revenge against Gumball by tearing apart his family. He gets Darwin to run away by making him think Gumball sees Darwin as a "glorified pet" whose adoption is the reason the Wattersons are in Perpetual Poverty.
    • In "The Inquisition", Superintendent Evil finds it necessary to refer to Darwin as "Darwin Watter-adopted-son".
  • The Back to the Future episode "Go Fly a Kite" has this kickstart the plot. Jules, who doesn't get along well with his younger brother, tells Verne that given that he doesn't resemble Doc, Clara, or Jules (especially in personality), it's clear he's adopted. This is an unusual case in that the insulting remark isn't true — Verne is Doc and Clara's biological son — but the idea obsesses him to the point that he runs away to look for his real father. Of course, Doc and Clara are very displeased with their eldest son. This may also count as Values Dissonance, given that the episode was aired in the 1990s; a hero implying there's something wrong with being adopted might go over much worse today than perhaps it did then.
  • Inverted on Camp Candy. In one episode, Vanessa reads a note from her parents which seems to reveal she was adopted. (She wasn't. She only got to read part of the note which actually said her parents adopted a puppy.) After she runs away, Nurse Molly explains that she should be happy to have been adopted since it means that her parents picked her out themselves. Upon hearing this, Iggy laments that his parents were stuck with him.
  • Throughout The Critic, the Sherman family butler, Shackleford, always addresses Jay as "Adopted Master Jay" with heavy emphasis on the word "adopted". He gets upset in one episode when Jay tells him his adoption jabs can't hurt him anymore.
  • In Hey Arnold!, the class is participating in competitions for Parents' Weekend, with Helga and her father and Arnold and his grandparents dominating the competition. At one point, a frustrated Bob yells at Helga that he doesn't plan to lose to "some orphan boy and his ancestors," which visibly upsets Arnold and leads to a Tell Me About My Parents scene later. (Helga, for her part, was ticked off enough that she throws the very last competition the next day.)
  • In "Homer's Triple Bypass" from The Simpsons, Homer, before undergoing heart surgery, tells his children some encouraging words in case he dies. However, he's no good at speeches, so the kids themselves help him out. Bart takes advantage of this by tricking Homer into telling Lisa, "You're adopted, and I don't like you."
  • In We Bare Bears: The Movie, Agent Trout, when told the Bears are brothers and shouldn't be separating, snarkily replies that they don't look alike.
    • Also happens in We Baby Bears, where a photographer is skeptical when the Bears say they're brothers and, while photographing another family, calls the Bears' family situation strange and notes they don't look alike. He makes up for it later on, though.


Video Example(s):


Fatty Fatty No Parents

A character insults someone for being adopted (and being fat) in order to demonstrate incivility.

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Main / AdoptionDiss

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