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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 up 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!. Compare Blame the Paramour for when the other lover is blamed instead (though the two may overlap) and Unbalanced By Rival's Kid.


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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.
  • F: Gunma Akagi was born of Souichiro's affair with his mother, and being a famous politician, he left them behind to avoid any scandal and to get a proper family. After the death of Gunma's mother, Souichiro finally adopted him, but he doesn't consider Gunma as a real son but as a shame to his last name, which led to Gunma becoming a Bastard Bastard.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable: The main character Josuke is a rare self-blaming bastard. When Jotaro informs Josuke of his heritage, he apologizes for causing problems for the Joestar family. This surprises Jotaro, as he expected Josuke to be mad at Joseph and take out his anger on him.
  • Maid-Sama!: Takumi Usui 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 Usui later on, but Usui 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 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 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Played with in The Search. It's revealed that sometime before her disappearance, Ursa told Ozai that Zuko was the result of an affair she had, leading the gang to believe that Ozai's cruelty to Zuko throughout his childhood was because of this. The ending reveals that Zuko really is Ozai's son; Ursa was sick of his abuse and control over her and Zuko, and knew that he always intercepted her mail, so fabricated the lie in hopes that he'd be hurt by such a revelation. Not only did it not work, but Ozai doubled down on the abuse as punishment for even attempting such a deception.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Watchmen: This is why Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II 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 (Harry Potter): 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.
  • The Cliff: Wotan repeatedly cheated on Fricka, fathering all of the Valkyries with Erda. Naturally, Fricka vents her frustration upon said daughters.
  • In Fragile Thread, Ryuko was the result of her mother having an affair with Satsuki's father. After her mother was Driven to Suicide, Satsuki's father was forced to take her in, resenting the constant reminder of his infidelity.
  • With This Ring: Paul points out to Wonder Woman that Superman, of all people, is more or less reacting this way to the discovery that Lex Luthor cloned him — mixed with Lex's own DNA — to make Superboy.
    Wonder Woman: I know that he was gravely concerned about the work that was being done at the Cadmus labs.
    Paul: Right, and if he'd heat visioned the whole place to ash, then I'd've understood. But it seems like he's taking it out on the only guy at Cadmus whose fault it wasn't.

  • 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 downward spiral through foster care and the juvenile detention system, she takes it upon herself to adopt and raise him. It's mentioned in Creed III that Mary Anne's biological children, Adonis' half-siblings, played this straight.
  • Played with in Red Riding Hood. Cesaire killed Lucie in a violent rage in his wolf form when he realized she was actually the product of Suzette's affair. Interestingly, when he confesses this to Valerie, he actually seems regretful, saying he feels sorry for her and that it was a momentary lapse of control. He certainly didn't let Suzette or her lover off the hook, either.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the character Armitiage Hux is a villain who, in the comics and novels, was the victim of this type of abuse. His father, Brendal Hux, had an affair with a kitchen maid who gave birth to Armitiage. He frequently beat him, and publicly humiliated him to the point that Armitiage and Captain Phasma conspired to kill his abusive father.

  • In Ave Xia Rem Y lu mei (one of the main characters girlfriends)is one. As she was conceived in an attempt by her mother to divorce her then failing husband. The mother cheated on the husband with one of the most powerful people in the story but in the end the scheme didn't work out as the husband managed to advance leading to the mom not being able to leave. Thus leaving lu mei as someone that is at the same time very valuable but no one wants to see.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Life of the World to.Come, one of The Company Novels by Kage Baker, Dr. Zeus invokes this dynamic in Nicholas and Edward's upbringing by staging their births to make them.appear to be noblemen's bastards, in order to give them a psychological need to atone for existing. It worked really well. Trying to invoke the same trope for Alec goes sideways for Dr. Zeus when the two people they chose to frame as his biological parents turned out to be not actually having sex.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • In Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Madam Jin was always harsh with her husband's bastard son Jin Guangyao, and she starts venting out her anger over her husband's infidelity on the latter after the death of her own son. In one of the extras, Jin Guangyao is noted to have a bruise from her mostly hidden by his cap, and in another instance, it's implied that an old head wound is from her as well.
    • Madame Yu probably doesn't believe that Wei Wuxian is actually Jiang Fengmian's illegitimate child with Cangse Sanren, but the rumours that he might be are enough to make her hate him.
  • 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. In the original timeline, Catarina's mother, not knowing of Keith's origins, assumes that Keith is actually her husband's bastard child and becomes verbally abusive towards him. Thanks to Catarina throwing everything Off the Rails in the new timeline, she learns the truth rather quickly and becomes as a loving mother for him instead.
  • The Scholomance: In the third book, this is part of Liesel's backstory. She's the bastard daughter of a member of the Munich enclave council and was kept his dirty secret all her life in exchange for a seat at the Scholomance. His wife (who also happened to be the daughter of Munich's Domina) found out about her anyway and went after Liesel and her mother, damaging the latter so badly that she only just made it to her daughter's induction day before dying. Liesel's only goal since then has been revenge on her father and his wife for her mother's death.
  • 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 to seal a four way alliance, and they only spent one night together (their wedding night) before he had to go off to war, a war which started because her original intended Brandon Stark (Ned's elder brother) and Rickard Stark (Ned's father) were murdered. But she is very bothered that 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 and is pretty much a stereotypical Stark, while Catelyn's children mostly share her Tully features.
    • In the Shield Islands, Lady Hewett made her husband's bastard daughter Falia a servant for her and her own daughter. This backfires really badly on the Hewetts; when the Shield Islands are conquered by Euron Grejoy, Falia becomes his lover and fully supports him tormenting and enslaving her family, even suggesting her stepmother and half-sisters be forced to serve the ironborn naked at a feast, nor does she intervene when some of them are raped.
    • 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, since all the sex he has with others means less Marital Rape License for her. What bothers her is when her husband's bastards are too visible. That 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. note 
    • 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 Daeron may not have been Aegon's 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 and wanted to disinherit Daeron in favour of his bastard son Daemon Blackfyre.
  • The Stranger In Our Home by Sophie Draper provides a truly tragic example of this. The protagonist, Caroline, is born as the result of an affair between her father and a younger woman who died in childbirth. Her father took custody of her, but his wife, Elizabeth, despised her (despite not being shown to have any ill will to her husband, who had the affair), and always punished her for being bullied by Danny, her older half brother, after her father died when she was three. After an eight-year-old Danny, while bullying her, was accidentally killed when she stood up for herself (at age six), it caused a mental block in which she couldn't remember that or anything before it. Since due to her condition, she couldn't be legally punished, Elizabeth spent the rest of Caroline's life until she moved away making her miserable, and not letting her know why.
  • A subplot in the Romance Novel Whisper To Me Of Love is that Julian Devlin has never understood why his father Stephen, the Earl of St. Audrie's has always been so hostile to him. Towards the end of the book, after learning that the heroine Morgana Devlin is his cousin, via his late uncle Andrew, Stephen cruelly informs him that Morgana is actually his half-sister, because Julian is also Andrew's son, via an affair that he had with Stephen's wife. Stephen promptly had Andrew murdered both for revenge and to gain his title and inheritance, then spent the next two decades treating his son—or nephew, rather—like garbage, punishing him for his parents indiscretion.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed (1998): Averted with fourth sister Paige who is introduced as the result of Patty Halliwell's affair with her Whitelighter. Victor, who is father to the other Halliwell sisters, never shows any resentment towards her, and is every bit as protective of her as he is of his own daughters. Paige actually seems to be closer to him than she is to her biological father who's not very reliable about being present for her.
  • In Crash Landing on You Se-ri has a difficult relationship with her stepmother, who doesn't accept her husband's betrayal or the fact that Se-ri is more talented than her sons. Eventually, they manage to patch up their relationship.
  • In Family Law (2021), Daniel Svensson is the product of an affair between Harry Svensson and his then-receptionist Zina. Joanne, Harry's first wife, is rather noticeably cold towards him whenever they interact, as Harry left her to marry Zina so that Daniel would not be born out of wedlock.
  • Game of Thrones, like the books it's based on, 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 spared him from a life-threatening 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.
  • 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. He made a similar mistake years later with another wife, Lucy, believing that she'd cheated him, to the point that he refused to console her when she miscarried, nor mourn the child himself. Even worse is that her supposed lover lied to him, meaning that he was punishing Lucy and their unborn child for something that didn't even happen.
  • Mad Men: Don Draper is the Son of a Whore whom his father and stepmother were made to take care of when she died. His stepmother was heavily emotionally abusive because she was mad about the affair, but also because her own pregnancies resulted in stillbirths. The father was just as abusive, if not more.
  • In the Mini Series Alex Haley's Queen, based on the book of the same name, young Queen is the daughter of a slave in the pre-Civil War south, and is brought to live in the mansion house as a maidservant to her owner's daughter. She doesn't understand, as she grows up, why the master and his mother treat her kindly but the master's wife clearly hates her. Only when she's a teenager, and the master leaves to fight in the Confederate army, does she learn the truth: she's the result of a long-term affair between the master and her mother, which began long before his Arranged Marriage, and that's why his wife hates her so much.
  • 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 a close relationship with Tia, but encourages her son to bond with his half-sister.
  • Supergirl (2015): Lena is the daughter of Lionel Luthor with another woman. His wife Lillian admits she took this very hard and treated Lena coldly as a result. In a subversion, 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Alfred Hitchcock - Vertigo, after learning that his wife Maddy had an affair that produced their daughter Jenny, John Miller deliberately crashes his car while all three are inside, killing both Maddy and Jenny. He then jumps off a bridge a few days later.
  • Cats and the Other Lives: Shannon is not fond of her half-sister Dawn, seeing her as a reminder of the affair that produced her.
  • 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. Worse, it's revealed early on in the game that Alistair's father was actually Eamon's brother-in-law, King Maric, so either way she was in the wrong.
    Alistair: [Isolde] was never too fond of me; I think she resented the rumours that pegged me as Eamon's bastard. They weren't true, but of course they existed. The Arl didn't care, but she did.
  • Haurchefant Greystone from Final Fantasy XIV is the illegitimate child of a Count and one of the servants. The Countess found out about him after his mother died - he was allowed to live in the family home, but she refused to allow him to use the family last name (Greystone is the usual surname for bastards in their setting), restricted who he was allowed to talk to, and generally didn't treat him well. She also never slept in the same bed as her husband again, though, so it's not like he got entirely off the hook.
  • Twelve Minutes: The mother of the player character's wife treats a baby that's still in utero this way the moment she realizes that they're the result of an affair, constantly calling them a "monster".

    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. Or so Nemu thinks, anyways; in truth, Nemu's biological mother went batshit insane and Nemu inherited her form of psychosis, and Haruna fears that the stresses of the idol industry will cause Nemu to undergo Sanity Slippage.

    Web Animation 

    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.
  • Maya and the Three: Big Bad War God Lord Mictlan intends to sacrifice the protagonist Princess Maya. While this is to gain more power, a large part of his desire to kill her is because she is a product of her wife Lady Micte's affair with a mortal king. By contrast, Maya's step-mother lovingly raised Maya as her own and while initially mad at her husband for cheating, she managed to forgive him.
  • Velma: Due to the show treating Aman and Sophie's relationship like an affair and not getting married, Amanda like her parents are targeted for contempt by Diya and Velma, who don't mind locking them all out of the house so they can live alone together.

    Real Life 
  • In his autobiography, Franco Zeffirelli wrote about how a woman came up to him on the street, yelling, "Bastardino! Bastardino!" When he asked his mother about it, she told him that that was his father's wife.