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Affair? Blame the Bastard

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So your spouse cheated on you, and it resulted in a child. Ouch, that's rough. What can you do now? Despite it all, you still love your spouse, but at the same time, you've got a lot of hurt and anger about this.

Here's an idea: Take it out on the bastard child. Of course it's not their fault—they weren't even born until nine months after the infidelity—but they're the embodiment of the affair, and you're going to punish them for that. This way, you can distance your feeling about the betrayal from your love of your spouse. This is one of the major reasons for Bastard Angst, and may be how they turn into a Bastard Bastard.


Usually this trope crops in in medieval or medieval-ish works, where men are more or less allowed to have a bunch of bastards, and their wives are expected to roll with it. It can be played many different ways, from bitchy and hypocritical, to unfair yet sympathetic, or as some mixture.

Related to Wicked Stepmother, but with one major difference: These people typically aren't stepparents. Stepmothers—whose stepchildren were born before she got with their father, and weren't the result of cheating—are generally expected to treat said stepchildren with basic decency, and perhaps even be motherly toward them. However, in this trope, these women are not socially considered stepmothers. These children are bastards, the result of their spouse (i.e can be either husband or wife)'s cheating. And this trope gets really ugly if the kid is also a Child by Rape.


Usually a female trope due to the classical Double Standard that women get in more trouble for adultery, but can apply to a man whose wife had a child from an affair with another man. Usually discovering they aren't their child after raising the kid for some time as their own, and turning into an abusive (non-biological) father or simply becoming cold towards their supposed kid. It can also apply to the legitimate half-sibling if they feel contempt for their bastard half-sibling for "ruining their parents' marriage" by being a symbol of the affair.

For another version of blaming a child for the circumstances of their birth, see Maternal Death? Blame the Child!.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bokura no Kiseki: Glen is the bastard child of the head of the noble Belbania family and a servant, but because his stepmother is dead during his childhood, it's his older brothers and other nobles who feel disdain for him and his mother. The truth is more complicated, as he's actually a Child by Rape by another noble, and his adoptive father made up the cover story to protect him and his mother. The stepmother knew this and feels nothing but sympathy for them.
  • Maid-Sama!: Takumi Ushi is treated with contempt by his legitimate half-brother Gerard Walker, primarily because he's an illegitimate child due to their mother's affair with the butler, along with blaming him for his mother's death. He warms up to Ushi later on, but Ushi still has a strained relationship with his biological family.
  • In Saiyuki, 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.
  • Subverted in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: After Catarina ends up getting engaged to prince Geordo, her father adopts the son of a distant relative named Keith to act as his new heir. Catarina's mother, not knowing of Keith's origins, comes to the wrong conclusion that he is actually her husband's bastard child (though she is right about him being illegitimate, as his mother was a prostitute). In the original timeline, this led to her becoming verbally abusive towards him. Thanks to Catarina having thrown everything Off the Rails in the story proper, she learns the truth rather quickly and instead acts as a loving mother for him.
  • Subverted in Summer Wars. Wabisuke is the Black Sheep of the Jinnouchi clan, but he was actually Happily Adopted by his father's wife, Sakae, after his birth mother died. The falling out came later, when he stole some of the family's money to finance his career. Digging a bit deeper, though, it turns out that he did this in the hopes of making back their full fortune—something that he perhaps felt was necessary to "prove" that he was a worthy member of the family.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash: George Harkness, the first Captain Boomerang, had a frosty relationship with his father who always treated him badly, which he blamed for his Jerkass behavior. At his mother's funeral Harkness' father reveals he was actually the result of his mother cheating on him, and that's why he never liked him. Harkness proceeds to decapitate his "father" over the reveal.
  • Played with in Gene Luen Yang's post-TV-canon Avatar: The Last Airbender comic The Search. For some time, Zuko, Azula, and the reader believe that Ozai's cruelty to Zuko was because of Ursa's confession that Zuko wasn't his son. The ending reveals that Ozai knew all along that Ursa lied (he always knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Zuko was his, calling the lie "obvious"), but that he doubled-down on abusing Zuko in order to get back at her. The chronology makes it clear that Ozai was really just that terrible of a person, and was ready to kill Zuko immediately after his birth due to believing he wasn't a Firebender— years before Ursa told that lie in the hopes of proving he was intercepting her mail and hurting him the way he hurt her and Zuko.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: In their youth, Wismerhill and Ghorghor Bey were both raised by men who did not father them, and abused them horribly for it. In Wismerhill's case, his mother had an affair with a demon lord disguised as a handsome elf prince. In Bey's case, his mother was raped by an ogre. They both get their revenge eventually; Wismerhill by personally murdering the man, Bey by leaving him to die as their town is besieged by another ogre raid.
  • This is why Laurie/Silk Spectre II from Watchmen had a bad relationship with the man that was legally her father. She always knew that he wasn’t her biological father because he never let her forget it.

    Fan Works 
  • Played with in Bastard!!: Gil Alien is born after his mother's brief affair with Gilderoy Lockhart, and his mother's husband Jonathan (whom Gil refers to as "stepfather") vents his rage about the fact at Gil all the time. However, when Gil gets stuck in the past with no hope of return, he realizes Jonathan didn't hate him as much as he seemed to, acknowledging Gil as his son legally, raising him as carefully (if more angrily) as his own children, sending money to Gil's Gringotts account so that the boy wouldn't be penniless when he comes of age, and giving him a dangerous but exciting job that Gil thoroughly enjoys.

  • Subverted in Creed, Adonis is Apollo Creed's illegitimate son from an affair. When Apollo's widow, Mary Anne, finds out about him and learns that his mother is dead and Adonis is at the start of a downwards spiral through foster care and the juvenile detention system, she takes it upon herself to adopt and raise him.

  • Conqueror: Genghis Khan is racked with insecurity and doubt over the paternity of his son Jochi. Jochi may have been conceived while his wife was abducted and the prisoner of a rival; his wife maintains Genghis is the father and she was treated with honor and decency while she was a hostage and was neither raped nor unfaithful. Genghis has doubts and this sours his relationship with his son, who tries to be loyal and faithful, but who eventually rebels and deserts him.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: In Westeros, it is considered more or less acceptable for men to have bastards. It's also acceptable for their wives to abuse said bastards.
    • Lady Catelyn Stark resents Jon, her husband Ned's bastard son. Catelyn can live with the fact that Ned had a bastard back then—theirs was a last-minute Arranged Marriage, and they only spent one night together (their wedding night) before he had to go off to war. But she is very bothered by Ned insisted on raising Jon alongside Catelyn's trueborn children, giving him the same education and upbringing, and treating him better than most bastards in their world are treated. She perceives the way he treats Jon as a reflection of some ongoing love and loyalty to Jon's mother. The fact that Ned absolutely refuses to talk about it, or tell her anything about Jon's background compounds this. Despite it all, she treats Jon a lot better than most other women treat their husbands' bastards. By modern standards, she was still very cold to Jon, but by Westerosi standards, she went above and beyond the call of duty by letting her husband raise Jon the way he did, and not interfering with Jon having close relationships with his father and half-siblings.
    • It also really doesn't help that Southerner lore is full of stories about bastards trying to overthrow their trueborn siblings, meaning that Catelyn can't help but see Jon as a threat to her own children. To make matters worse, Jon is a dead ringer for Ned Stark, while Catelyn's children mostly share her features.
    • In the Shield Islands, Lady Hewett made her husband's bastard daughter a servant for her and her own daughter.
    • Cersei is a zigzagged example, is that her husband having bastards doesn't make her hurt or jealous—her marriage is a loveless one, with both of them cheating on the other, and both of them having bastard children. She doesn't mind that, really—all the sex he has with others means less Marital Rape License for her. What bothers her is when her husband's bastards were too visiblethat is a slap in the face, a blatant disrespect toward her. For example, when he had a bastard in her hometown, she found it humiliating and had the bastard killed.
    • Possibly inverted with King Aegon IV the Unworthy and his son and successor, Daeron II. The two never got along because Daeron was responsible compared to Aegon's hedonistic and inept rulership, and it's said he may not have been his biological son, rather being the product of Queen Naerys's affair with Aemon the Dragonknight. However most historians believe that Aegon made up the idea Daeron was a bastard born out of his wife's affair because he already hated him, and wanted to disinherit him since he preferred his own bastard Daemon Blackfyre to him.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Pereden and his half-sister and consort Distan—Timmon's parents. We don't meet Distan until after Pereden dies, but they seemed pretty happy together—at least, Distan clearly adored him. He Really Got Around though, and that clearly hurt her. She takes it out on his bastard son Drie, making him the whipping boy for her son with his father, Timmon.
  • This is mentioned in The Camp Half-Blood Series, where demigods are the result of extramarital affairs by default. (See Classical Mythology below.)
    • True to form, Hera despises her husband's demigod daughter Thalia, although her Roman form Juno is more forgiving towards Thalia's brother Jason.
    • Nico apparently has a strained relationship with Persephonenote , given this exchange:
      Persephone: [coldly] We had a little family spat.
      Nico: Family spat? You turned me into a dandelion!
    • Surprisingly Averted with Percy's stepmother, Amphitrite. She acts cold when they first met, and Percy can't really blame her for it. She apparently warms up to him pretty soon, however, as the tie-in book Percy Jackson's Greek Gods mentions that she bakes him cookies when he stays over. It's possible that her initial rudeness came from the stressful circumstances of their first meeting, as Poseidon's family was about to go to war with Amphitrite's own grandparents.
  • In Everworld, Senna and April are half-sisters born three months apart, with Senna being the product of their father's affair. In the first book April says that her mom never treated Senna any differently after she came to live with them—however, Senna's own book paints things differently, with both parents still treating April as the favorite. She also notes that when her stepmother gave her The Talk there was more emphasis on abstinence than April apparently got, because after all, which one of them is the daughter of the whore who seduced her husband?

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Crash Landing on You Se-ri has a difficult relationship with her stepmother, who doesn't accept her husband's betrayal and the fact that Se-ri is more talented than her son. Eventually they manage to patch up their relationship.
  • Mad Men: Don Draper is the Son of a Whore that his father and step-mother were made to take care of when she died. His step-mother was heavily emotionally abusive because she was mad at both the affair, and that her pregnancies resulted in stillbirths. The father was just as, if not more, abusive.
  • Completely averted in Queen Sugar. Charley is furious and horrified when she learns that her ex-husband had been hiding an illegitimate daughter named Tia for most of their marriage, but directs all her anger at him for cheating. She doesn't want to close relationship with Tia, but encourages her son to bond with his half-sister.
  • General Hospital: Helena Cassadine loathed Alexis Davis, the result of her husband's affair, and blackmailed her into doing her bidding, threatening to kill her if she didn't.
    • Alan Quartermaine refused to bond with his son AJ, believing him to be the result of his wife Monica's affair. By the time it was learned that AJ was his son, crucial bonding time had been lost and the two were never able to repair their relationship.
  • Game of Thrones, like the books it's based off of, has Catelyn being cold to her husband Ned's bastard son Jon, although Show Catelyn is slightly kinder toward him than her book counterpart (e.g. not telling him that he should have been the one who fell from the tower, rather than Bran), and once wonders if the trouble befalling her family stems from her going back on a promise she had made to her gods to love and accept Jon if they healed his illness. Ultimately, it turns out that Jon is not Ned's son, but the son of Ned's sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen, meaning that Ned lied about Jon's parentage to protect him from Robert. This is revealed long after Catelyn's death, so it's not known how she would have reacted to hearing this.
  • Supergirl (2015): Lillian admits she took out the fact Lena's her husband's child with another woman hard, and treated Lena coldly as a result. She apologizes for this, saying it was wrong.

  • Classical Mythology: Zeus Really Gets Around, and has a lot of bastards. It really bothers his wife Hera. She's the goddess of marriage and childbirth, making every one of Zeus's affairs a stain upon her domain. She can't do much against Zeus himself due to his position and power outranking her, so she takes it out on his lovers (going so far as to victim blame women who Zeus raped!) and bastards. Take Heracles for example: Zeus names him Heracles (literally, "Glory of Hera") specifically to try to appease her and defy this trope... but she's not having any of it, and basically spends Heracles' whole life screwing him over.
    • Hephaestus divorced his wife, Aphrodite, after learning that she was having an affair with his brother, Ares. Later, Ares and Aphrodite's daughter Harmonia gets married, and Hephaestus, the Ultimate Blacksmith, gives her a beautiful necklace as a wedding present. She maybe should have thought harder about accepting it, because it turns out to be an Artifact of Doom that brings misfortune to her and everyone who inherits it.
  • The Book of Judges has Jephthah, who was born out of an affair between his father and a prostitute. His father's legitimate children drove him away from home, leading him to become an outlaw before he was appointed as Israel's judge and deliverer.

    Visual Novels 
  • Shining Song Starnova: Nemu Akimoto is the illegitimate child of the heir of Amaterasu Television. When her biological mother died her father's wife Haruna treats her with scorn for being a reminder of her husband's infidelity, and won't let her follow in her mother's footsteps by becoming an Idol Singer.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, it's explained that Arl Eamon's wife Isolde treated Alistair like crap because she thought there was some truth to the rumors that Alistair was actually Eamon's illegitimate son, and she eventually pressured her husband to send Alistair away to the Templars. Whether there was any truth to Isolde's fears about Eamon sleeping around behind her back or if she was just a Clingy Jealous Girl is never made clear, and it's revealed early on in the game that Alistair's father was actually King Maric so either way she was in the wrong.

    Western Animation 
  • The Family Guy episode "Peter's Two Dads" has Peter's dad Francis die, and Peter learn his real father is an Irish drunk called Mickey McFinnegan from an affair his mother had in Ireland. Francis has been a general Jerkass to Peter throughout his life, and it's implied this was one of the main reasons for it.


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