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Age-Appropriate Angst

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I can make it, I know I can
You broke the boy in me
But you won’t break the man
John Paar, “St. Elmo's Fire

Sometimes, the age of a character can be the deciding factor on whether a scenario is "pathetic but funny", "kind of sad", "upsetting" or "gut wrenching."

Broadly speaking, viewers have more sympathy for young characters. We expect children to have an emotional response to everything, and so we expect them to experience the emotion more acutely. "Staying true to yourself" is more important to young characters than "maintain your dignity at all times", so it's acceptable — even appropriate — for children to burst out into tears in situations where adults would get a funny look for doing the same.

The audience may feel mildly betrayed when a young character suffers a tremendous tragedy. Children are supposed to have an idealistic outlook on life; their parents should be there to protect them, they don't have to worry about money or jobs, and their daily trials and tribulations should be minor. Of course, it doesn't feel like "no big deal" when you are a child, and many children could tell you that this blissful interpretation of childhood does not match up with their experience. In general, though, kids aren't expected to have too many worries. So when kids get whacked over the head with Break the Cutie in the form of divorce, bereavement, illness, poverty, etc., it seems like a betrayal of the child's inherent trust in the world. Adults, on the other hand, are supposed to know that it's a tough world out there and not be too surprised when bad things happen (and people wonder why Growing Up Sucks).

An adult that suffers the same problems isn't "meant" to be as badly affected, especially if those problems relate back to their parents and siblings. If a child's parents divorce, it's a tragedy, and all but the most Jerkass characters will be sympathetic and allow them to vent their feelings. If a twenty-five-year old receives news that his parents are divorcing and makes his feelings on the matter known, his various friends and family will tell him to "grow up" and probably throw in "your parents don't have to answer to you any more; they've got their own lives to live." Because the effects are less immediate, since the adult probably doesn't live with their parents (and those who do are often Acceptable Targets), they lose their "right" to be upset.

In extreme cases, this can be the difference between comedy and tragedy. A grown up unfavourite is usually a pathetic loser who blames all his problems on his childhood; a young unfavourite is a tragic woobie.

However, in other cases, a situation will be seen as devastating to an adult when they're shrugged off as a minor issue for children/teens. A thirteen year old who's heartbroken after breaking up with her first boyfriend will get a talk with her mum in which she's told that it's part of growing up, and she'll get over it — she's too young for boys anyway. A twenty-something woman who breaks up with her love interest will have her friends rallying around to support her (and often a parent who'd just love to introduce her to a more "appropriate" partner).

The clincher is often material security. Children (usually) live with their parents and siblings, so divorce, Parental Favoritism, moving house, and the death of a parent have a major impact on their lives — these issues affect their living conditions, and, moreover, they don't really get a say in what happens to them. If Mom decides they're moving to a different country so that she can chase a promotion, the kids' interests are usually glossed over.

Conversely, issues affecting employment, dignity, independence, and romance hit adult characters harder than kids. A teenager loses their Burger Fool McJob and it's no big issue — they've still got their parents to support them. An adult with kids loses their job though... that's a problem, since they're the one that's doing the supporting, especially if they were a Burger Fool too, as it means money was probably already tight. Children are also portrayed as being able to "bounce back" from attacks on their self-esteem, such as bullying or social embarrassment, while these can have a long-reaching effect on adults. Psychoanalysis might rather disagree on that point, of course...

The most glaring difference turns up in instances involving grief. An adult who loses a parent gets less time to grieve than a child who loses a parent. The adult will be given one episode to cope with their loss, after which the parent is forgotten by the plot; the child will never really get over it, and the deceased parent will be frequently mentioned. An adult who loses a child, though, will probably be defined by that loss; outliving your own offspring is unnatural and grossly unfair.

Often Truth in Television. Keep in mind, also, that this trope is extremely culturally subjective, and affected by Values Dissonance.

See also Harmful to Minors, and Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Pet Shop of Horrors, the death of Ms. Orcot has a bigger impact on her second son, Chris, who she died giving birth to, than her oldest son, Leon, who was eighteen when she died. Chris mentions his mother often, while Leon only really talks about her once or twice (although, arguably, a scene where an unconscious Leon dreams of speaking to his mother suggests he wasn't so much "unaffected" as "doesn't like to talk about it"). The manga makes some justification of this though; Chris feels the guilt of having "killed" his mom after his cousin accuses him of it, even though she realizes she went too far and feels badly for it. The fact that he never really knew her makes her an almost mythical figure in his mind. Leon, however, has his own, genuine memories of his mother, giving him an advantage over Chris.
  • The pain of characters losing someone close to them is a key theme in Chrono Crusade, particularly in the manga. For Satella, Rosette, and Azmaria, the pain comes from lost parents and siblings. For the much-older Chrono? His lost loved one is his friend and possible love interest, Mary Magdalene. This is averted with Aion, who is also mourning his family members (his mother and twin brother) in a way.
    • Sister Kate is another good example —being an older character, their greatest personal tragedy in the manga is a demotion due to their trust in a character that later proves incredibly destructive, and in the anime it's the loss of Rosette Christopher, who they're something of a surrogate parent to.
  • Negi Springfield of Negima! Magister Negi Magi is an odd case. He's ten years old and witness his entire remaining family in the village he grew up in turned to stone at age four, now frequently ending up in life-threatening situations, including being run through with a sharpened rock spear and having his left arm sliced off (he had it reattached with magic medicine). Despite it all, he shrugs off everything that happens as a way of overcoming weakness and still likes to remain happy with his True Companions. The rest of the cast tell him he should act more like a kid and stop putting himself in such dangerous situations. He acknowledges his friend Anya as being stronger in this regard than him, given her fiery personality.
    • Later, he is taunted by Kurt Godel into attacking him by telling him that he caused said destruction of the village. Negi then enters a pseudo evil side with which he curbstomps Godel in a massive display of rage by using his black magic (which is also deadly for him). Just watching it is disturbing, because it is completely justified and could really happen. After all, he has at that point become massively powerful, and it was implied throughout his training that he has a little "too much" affinity for his black magic. He only stops attacking Godel when his friends hold him back (and after one of them slaps him to humorous effect).
  • Some speculate that this has contributed to some of the hatedom for Shinji Ikari (who is 14) in viewers of the English dub of Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the original Japanese version, he is voiced by a woman, Megumi Ogata, and his voice sounds like that of a prepubescent child. In English, he is voiced by a man, Spike Spencer, and sounds more like a mid-puberty teenage boy. The theory is that audiences are more tolerant of angst when they hear the voice of a child than that of a more masculine, older-sounding voice, even though the scripts between the two versions don't differ significantly in their portrayal of the character.
    • In the Rebuild of Evangelion English dubs, recorded more than a decade later, Spencer pitches his voice noticeably higher. It's especially apparent when comparing his lines in the first scenes with their equivalents in TV episode 1, when the English VAs were just getting the feel of the characters.
  • Gakuen Babysitters:
    • While both are saddened at their parents' deaths, Ryuuichi misses them more as he grew up with fond memories of them, compared to Kotarou who is a toddler and doesn't remember his parents as much. In addition, Ryuuichi has to suddenly cope with being a Parental Substitute to Kotarou as he is the only living relative Kotarou has.
    • Hayato has issues with his distant father when their father left when Taka was still a baby. Taka didn't even know he has a father and quickly gets over the fact he doesn't need one. Hayato however regularly sees his father and even gets berated by his father for calling him "Dad" during work hours.
  • Hungry Heart: Wild Striker: Arguably, protagonist Kyousuke Kanou's issues at the start of the story stem from learning as a teenager that he was an adopted child, which coupled with living under the shadow of his very talented brother Seisuke were low blows to his self-esteem and led him to become estranged from his family. Things get better once he gets the chance to learn the truth about his biological family, and that, adopted or not, the Kanous love and are proud of him nonetheless.

    Comic Books 
  • A variation: Batman, though an adult, is defined by his single great childhood trauma. It's what drives him for the rest of his life. He never had to worry about security, because his parents were billionaires who left him everything, but he was still eight, and his only remaining parental guidance came from someone who was as much servant as authority figure. In one comic, on a date, his date was tiptoeing around the issue... and the art is laid out in such a fashion that when he says he "got over it", even if it this weren't a Batman book, the reader would know he was lying. Also, unlike most modern rich characters' parents, who tend to be distant in order to grant as much sympathy as possible to the character in question (or at least excuse the fact that they're a raging Jerkass), young Bruce Wayne's parents appeared to be very involved in his upbringing, ensuring he would become a good man. Bruce's aloof nature tends to be more of a defense mechanism (and it's implied that he has seen a lot of the darker stuff on his path to becoming Batman.)
    • Comics about the Robins often has them deal with problems like first love, school bullies, and arguments with their parents (whether Bruce or, in Tim's case, Jack Drake) as well as supervillains. The typically older Batgirls likewise have deal with college, romance, and their parents.
    • When he made his debut, ten-year-old Damian was torn between his split-up parents and wanted to impress his father (or, in his absence, his eldest brother who is old enough to be Damian's father) by proving his maturity and skill. He also had a vicious Sibling Rivalry with seventeen-year-old Tim, who in spite of his protestations, was obviously jealous of the new "baby" who showed up right after his own adoption.
  • Berrybrook Middle School: Most of the conflicts in each story stem from situations that typical middle-schoolers would take very seriously. For "Awkward", it's the school clubs. For "Brave", social anxiety and the school paper. For "Crush", it's dealing with, well, a crush, as well as being one of the cool kids.
  • Old Superboy comics tended to share equal concern between Superboy trying to save Smallville/the Earth from destruction, and Clark managing to save the local bake sale.
  • Being a child in an adult's body, Captain Marvel can come across as having very child-like emotional sensibilities, even if he does have the Wisdom of Solomon. This can be heartbreaking at times, but more often, it just goes to reinforce his compassionate nature as an All-Loving Hero.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Teenage angst overwhelms Penny on a few occasions.
    • "The Walk" sees her upset with regard to a bad relationship breakup and her not fitting in well at school.
    • The 16-year-old's first sexual experience ends unhappily in "The Cameo."
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail focuses on ten-year-old Chloe Cerise, who feels like she doesn't know what to do in her life and how she is being bullied by how everyone is pushing her into following her father's footsteps. It doesn't help that ten is the starting age that children like her can become Pokémon Trainers — something that she doesn't want to be — and it makes her feel like she can never be who she wants to be as long as everyone sees her as "the daughter of the Professor".

    Films — Animation 
  • Inside Out:
    • Moving can be a stressful event for both adults and children but for different reasons. Riley is an 11-year-old girl and, at such an age, a child can understand why she has to move but still struggle a lot to cope with a new life in an unfamiliar environment. For example, she's anxious about not being accepted in her new school and worries that her best friend is replacing her. She, represented by her emotions' behavior, also lacks the emotional maturity to understand it's okay to be distressed about it. On the other hand, her parents' problems concern issues with the moving company and noticing (and not knowing how to deal) with their daughter being unhappy about the changes. They try their best to be supportive and cheer her up and are scared to death when Riley runs away.
    • Growing up brings new problems that younger children simply don't have to deal with, the biggest one being the wreck that is adolescence. This is signaled by the apparition of a "puberty" alarm on the emotions' console when Riley turns 12. In this case, it's left implied in an "And the Adventure Continues" way.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Everything Everywhere All at Once, each of the characters in the Wang family has some baggage appropriate to their stage in life.
    • The twentysomething daughter, Joy, is coping with her first serious relationship (a lesbian one at that) and the strain between her and her mother, exacerbated by Evelyn's homophobia.
    • The mother, Evelyn, is middle-aged and has been pigeonholed into caring for her aging father. Evelyn is preoccupied with the fear that she's wasted her life. Her husband, Waymond, is planning on serving divorce papers in a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage.
    • Gong Gong, the grandfather, is at an age where he needs constant care — care from the very daughter and son-in-law he rejected, no less. He's perpetually vexed and petulant.

  • The Ramona Quimby books are driven by this trope. Throughout the entire series of books, the things that Ramona goes through really are appropriate things for her to angst about, like being afraid of being called a copycat in a class project when it was Ramona who was being copied, having to deal with a big scary dog, and being late for school after reading the clock wrong. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 also averts Death by Newbery Medal, as despite winning the titular award, the book is lighthearted humor, and nobody dies.
  • The Harry Potter series is particularly impressive in its usage and slow transition out of this trope: in the first book, being shunned by the student body over losing 150 points for being out of bounds at night is one of the most devastating pre-climax things to happen to the heroes, and them running back to their dorm while being chased by the caretaker is a heart-thumpingly suspenseful sequence. Fast-forward to book five, where no one gives a flying fuck about points, Harry is shunned by the student body for being on the wrong side of a massive political propaganda campaign due to impending war, and a full-blown La Résistance is taking place within the school walls. The emotional weight and narrative significance given to those events, in their respective books, is roughly the same.
    • Given a lampshade earlier when Moody shows Harry a picture of the Order of the Phoenix back when Harry's parents were still alive, which rekindles his hate for Voldemort. Harry wryly notes that a few hours ago he was simultaneously disappointed and happy that Ron, not Harry, was made Gryffindor prefect.
    • Also addressed when dealing with boggarts: a creature who changes its appearance to look like its target's greatest fear. Harry and his classmates meet them in their third year (before Voldemort's return) and by-and-large they take the appearance of things a child fears: scary teachers, giant monsters and the like. Some students even get mockery over what they fear, and everyone is encouraged to face that fear in order to defeat the boggart (which is accomplished by getting the boggart to take a form of something amusing instead; in other words, look for the funny side). But later in the fifth book after the war has begun anew, Harry comes upon an adult who ran into a boggart and came face to face with her greatest fear: all of her children lying dead before her eyes. She's huddled on the ground weeping, completely unable to defeat it. But nobody thinks any less of her for it, knowing that certain fears can never be dismissed or made humorous.
  • In The Casual Vacancy Mary's whining about Barry's death is understandable because he, well, died. Still, sometimes she gets this treatment since the audience get the feel that the book is about months in the people's life, not mere weeks. Definitely Colin, what with being kind of an anxious crybaby for a grown-up man.
  • Something of a subversion in The Lord of the Rings, where Faramir's position as The Un Favourite is presented as a legitimate source of angst. But there, he's still under his father's authority, who is coping with his grief by ladling difficult and dangerous work onto Faramir. All the work that both Faramir and Boromir used to do, which is noticeable enough to be commented on in the streets. Plus, he's lost a beloved brother, and his father's actual disfavor (as opposed to being the less favored) is new.
  • Subverted at the conceptual level by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, who ages in reverse.
  • IT plays with this trope. Derry is a town that has regular periods where the local Eldritch Abomination eats kids. The main characters end the killing spree twice. When they're kids, they recover quickly from all the scares, and they don't get caught up in angsting about all the dead kids. When they're adults...
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss shifts between not taking her situation seriously enough and angsting over the small picture things. Whenever reality starts to sink in, she suffers a Heroic BSoD. The common reaction by readers is that she's being moody or whiny. True, adults should be able to adapt to even the most dire circumstances. But she's only 16, and her life as she knew it has essentially been over since the first chapter, making her lack of sanity justified.
  • In Galaxy of Fear, Tash and Zak Arranda are thirteen and twelve, respectively. Their home world was Alderaan. The loss affects them deeply, profoundly, even when they're not outright thinking about it. Leia Organa, who's had the same experience but is six or seven years older, cameos at a few points in the series. We know from other parts of the Star Wars Legends that she's affected too, but she's more focused and together than they are - she was older, and had a sense of purpose and control, not to mention other friends and supporters, off of Alderaan.
    • In Planet Plague, Tash starts getting pimples and moans and dramas about them in a very teen-aged way.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer does this a lot, especially in the early chapters; Mark Twain makes a point of noting that Tom's apparently trivial struggles (being tattled on by his younger brother and getting in trouble with his aunt, for instance) are as weighty and difficult for him "as a man's are to a man's". Later chapters alternate legitimate concerns (the possibility of being murdered by Injun Joe) with lesser ones (Tom's rejection by Becky), giving them the same weight.
  • In TimeRiders, Maddy, Sal and Liam are all just teenagers, a valid reason for all of them being driven to tears at least once over the course of the series. Dealing with figuring out the Agency's secrets proves to be even worse for them than the much older Foster, who is already angsty enough as things are.
  • Great Expectations comments specifically on this in its opening chapters as the young protagonist Pip deals with the burden of living as a largely ignored and undervalued orphan:
    In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter.
  • Referenced in the first Prince Roger book, where everyone knows that 22-year-old Roger's whiny and immature behavior is a reaction to being his mother's unfavorite all his life, and they sympathize to a degree, but still dearly wish he'd suck it up and take responsibility for himself. One character notes it was probably quite heart-breaking back when Roger was just a sad little boy unsure if his mother loved him, but now he's an adult he's running out of excuses for his Spoiled Brat antics (especially as he's a headache for everyone, not just his mother, and it's mostly servants and innocent bystanders who have to put up with him). If the story had begun during Roger's childhood he'd likely be a Woobie. As it is, he's not unsympathetic by any means, but he's very much presented as a petulant and self-absorbed young man who needs a firm kick up the ass (and he promptly gets several.)
  • In Hermann Hesse's novel Demian, Emil recounts an incident during his childhood when he was blackmailed by another boy about a petty theft, and was faced with the unpleasant prospect of confessing the whole thing to his very strict parents. He acknowledges that this probably seems like a trivial situation to the reader (the novel is clearly aimed at adults), but that at the time it caused him a level of misery and stress equal to many of the more objectively serious misfortunes that befall him as an adult.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In various Red Dwarf flashbacks, we see a young Arnold Judas Rimmer, The Un Favourite of his family, who is bullied by his brothers and classmates, alternately abused and ignored by his parents and who is schooled in a pretty draconian environment. We first meet Rimmer as an adult, however, when all these factors have already taken their toll on his personality, resulting in a military-obsessed neurotic with an authority complex but very little actual ability. Rimmer is viewed by many fans as the funniest and most complex of all the Red Dwarf cast, but if the audience had first met him as a youngster, he would have been tragic rather than comic.
  • Dog training show At The End Of My Leash featured a daughter unable to control her Great Dane pet. According to the dog trainer, this was due to a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. When all the surveillance footage showed was the daughter's mother screaming at her, berating her, and ordering her out of the house, most viewers could take a guess as to just why the girl had low self esteem. The trainer "cured" her by... screaming at her, insulting her, and accusing her of invading her parents' privacy. Why? Well, she was thirty, and had just moved back in with her mother and stepfather — thus, an acceptable target. Apparently, living with your parents is a far more serious offense than treating your adult offspring like dirt, since the dog trainer never even mentioned the mother's attitude. Needless to say, if the daughter had been fifteen years younger, any child behaviour expert would have been having a heart attack and accusing the parent (and perhaps the trainer) of psychological abuse.
  • In Scrubs, Elliott's emotionally abusive parents are a large explanation for why she is so neurotic. In addition to this, J.D.'s hero worship and need for a father figure in Dr. Cox was due to Dan being a lackluster older brother and their father, while a good man, not exactly being the best role model. Despite this, the whole family, especially their dad, was proud of J.D. and his accomplishments and J.D. was crushed when Dan comes to tell them that their dad died (while revealing a Doria tradition of buying cake when there is bad news, presumably as comfort food.)
    • JD's brother, Dan, actually spells this out to Dr Cox in his first appearance. He acknowledges that he was always a terrible big brother when they were kids and its too late now for him to change that and be someone JD looks up to. But JD does look up to Dr Cox, so he had better take that responsibility seriously or he'd have to answer to Dan.
    • The positions are reversed in the episode when JD's father dies. Despite Dan trying to improve and put his life back together, he sinks into a well of grief and Dr. Cox is... lackluster in trying to help JD deal with his grief, Dr. Cox acknowledges that both he and Dan are "emotionally-crippled narcissists", but still need to work together so they could help J.D., something which Dan agrees with.
  • Inverted in Sports Night. Jeremy learns that his father has been having an affair for decades and his parents are divorcing, and tries to be stoic while the rest of the cast is supportive and wants him to let it out. Jeremy ends up throwing himself into a work project, projecting his feelings into it until he hits the breaking point.
  • Supernatural's Sam and Dean have never really got over the loss of both their parents. Although this could be because they feel like it's their fault. After all, Mary only died because the demon was gunning for a six month old Sam and John died (and stayed in hell for a whole season) in a deal to save a comatose Dean's life. Also, the mother burned to death in a very graphic grisly inferno, and they spent their entire childhoods being carted around the country by their father on a revenge quest, dealing with horrific monsters and violence no child should have to contend with, all the while Dean had to be the substitute parent for his younger brother since he was just four years old. These aren't exactly normal childhood issues, so it's no wonder they continue to have some degree of impact.
    • Also, while the brothers undeniably go through far worse in their adult lives - up to and including literally going to Hell itself - it's not uncommon for fans to despise John more than any other character, because while it's definitely awful that Sam and Dean had to go through those things as adults, the fact that they were routinely neglected, brought into very dangerous situations, and even implied to have gone hungry at some points (and that's not even the end of it) as children really goes beyond the pale.
  • Subverted in an episode of NCIS, where it's touched upon that bullying and other things children are supposed to get over fairly quickly can, in fact, have lasting effects. McGee is interrogating a high school kid of a pretty clear bully stereotype. He notes that the two boys who led him to this particular young man seemed pretty afraid of him, and tells him that while he'll forget them quick as anything, those two will remember him for the rest of their lives. He goes on to have a disarmingly personable conversation about what fun it is to pick on those little geeks, especially when they cry or soil themselves. Then, just as the kid is starting to think this interrogation will be smooth, silky cake, McGee gets right up in his face and tells the kid what fun he'll have, because he used to be one of those little geeks, but guess who's in the position of power now?
  • This is sort of subverted in Full House, where the deceased mother is hardly mentioned, and whenever she is, the father is often more affected by the loss than the kids. Of course, the girls were all rather young when she died, so only DJ, the oldest, might have any really strong memories of her.
  • In Torchwood: Children of Earth, Ianto Jones expresses resentment of his father for breaking his leg while playing too roughly in a park. However, because the incident happened when he was a child and Ianto is almost in his thirties, it becomes part of a bizarre shame of his family that is gradually revealed as the series progress.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawn's whininess and kleptomania are considered severely obnoxious, but when you consider she's a 15 year old girl whose mother and sister died, and then her sister comes back completely depressed and incapable of taking care of her, and then her pseudo foster moms (Willow and Tara) break up, and then one of them DIES and the other tries to kill her, her behavior seems rather understandable. This is compounding the fact that her parents divorced when she was 8 or 9, she knows her sister is going to die young, she lives with the fact that she could easily become demon prey to fuck with or bait Buffy, Buffy seems to not give a damn about this, and more. The icing on the cake is that at 14, she finds out that she's a magical construct who's only existed for six months, that all of her memories are false, and that the people she loves the most knew this and didn't tell her. The fact that she hasn't snapped and killed them all or become a serial killer is actually pretty surprising.
    • Ditto for Connor on Angel. Most fans hate him as they found him whiny or obnoxious but, really, let's recap his story: He was kidnapped as an infant and raised in one of the worst hell dimensions imaginable and trained to be a killer from a young age, he was raised to have a psychotic black and white viewpoint about vampires and demons, he was made to believe that Angel murdered Holtz when Holtz killed himself and made it look like Angel killed him to get revenge from beyond the grave, he falls in love with Cordelia, who ends up in a coma and he is forced to kill Jasmine, whom he deeply loves, to save the world. Honestly it's no surprise the kid ended up so messed up or why he was suicidal before Angel helped him.
  • Roundly averted in How I Met Your Mother, where Marshall's dad dies at the beginning of season six and the character in question is allowed to continue grieving about it for the entire rest of the season. The grieving is also presented from an adult perspective, since it prompts him to wonder if he's doing something meaningful with his life.
    • Also averted with respect to Barney's parent issues — what would, on other characters in other shows, seem pathetic, is a source of sympathy for the otherwise Jerkass Barney. Namely because a lot of his issues seem to stem from a lack of any father figure in his life (with other problems coming from later issues such as dealing with jerks in school.) One poignant had Barney having dinner with his dad and his new family, including a preteen son and thus, Barney's younger half-brother. It becomes painfully evident that despite Barney's supposed disinterest in the familial life presented, he dearly wishes he had that as a kid.
  • Noah's Arc: Brandon's reaction towards Ricky's lack of any meaningful interest in him beyond sex, though its fairly subdued compared to most examples of this trope.
  • This is oddly and consistently subverted in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Consistently, when children lose one parent, they almost never grieve or even seem to notice, but their parents are broken up about it. The most notable and baffling example is Alexander, Worf's son, who grew up not knowing his father and lost his mother soon after meeting Worf for the first time. He lost the only parent he had ever known, left the home he had grown up on (Earth), and met a stranger who was supposed to be his father; Worf lost an old girlfriend. Regardless, Worf cried/howled-with-grief, and Alexander comforted him.
    • It may not be quite that cut and dry. Worf and Alexander experience constant struggles to get along, especially when he first comes aboard. This is mostly played up as Worf having trouble adjusting to being a parent, but Alexander could also be seen as acting out because he misses his mother but doesn't know how to acknowledge those feelings. An episode of the spin-off Deep Space Nine later makes note (when Worf is grieving for Jadzia) that Klingons typically have much shorter grieving periods than humans, its not indicated whether this is simply cultural or has a basis in their neurobiology.
    • "The Bonding" plays this straight and even involves Counselor Troi pointing out how Star Fleet children are trained to try and avert this if/when they lose a parent in the line of duty. A single mother dies in an accident while on away mission under Worf's command. Her young son, Jeremy, tries to remain stoic, but the incident profoundly affects both Worf (who was himself orphaned at a young age) and Wesley Crusher (who is reminded of the loss of his father under similar circumstances on a mission led by Captain Picard). However, the presence of an Energy Being alien (which has taken on the form of the dead mother) forces the crew to make him acknowledge that his mother really is dead. In order to help the boy face his own emotions, Wesley admits that for years he hated Captain Picard for surviving when his father died, but that in time he understood that it wasn't Picard's fault, let go of his anger, and was able to grieve properly for his father. Jeremy confronts his feelings of grief and anger but accepts Worf's apology and his offer to perform a Klingon ritual (the titular Bonding) that makes him part of Worf's family (not that Jeremy is ever mentioned again).
  • Dana Brody of Homeland was accused of Wangst by people who saw her scenes as boring teenage drama that distracted from Brody and Carrie's espionage thriller plotline. This is a girl who was a young child when her father went to war, and in her mid-teens when he came back, a changed man, capable of being remarkably supportive and understanding one minute (more so than he is towards any other member of his family), and secretive and emotionally distant the next, and whose family is being torn apart by his political aspirations and the accusations of his being a terrorist. What teenager could be expected to cope with that?
  • An episode of CSI both uses and inverts this. The episode Lady Heather's Box begins with Catherine and her ex-husband Eddie watching their daughter Lindsey perform in a school play. Lindsey is proud of her role in the play, but when her parents begin fighting during the performance, she runs off stage and is seen being upset and angry with her mother later. This is presented as understandable from a young girl. However, the B-plot of the episode has Eddie getting shot, Lindsey seeing it happen, and Eddie's car getting driven into a lake with Lindsey inside. This doesn't appear to affect Lindsey as much as it affects Catherine, and while Catherine's angst is excusable, Lindsey doesn't seem fazed by what she went through at all. To top it off, at the end of the episode Catherine is crying in bed over the loss of her ex-husband and Lindsey is seen comforting her, even though Lindsey's pain at losing a parent should be equal to, if not more than, Catherine's.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Changing of the Guard", Professor Ellis Fowler, who is in his seventies, fears that he has no legacy to leave behind and has done nothing with his life.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "There Was an Old Woman", Hallie Parker is an author of children's books in her 60s who believes that she has grown obsolete because her books don't appeal to the "video generation." She intends to retire and live a quiet life in Arizona with her sister Ellen as she feels that she has nothing left to contribute. However, Hallie learns just how important she and her books are when she is visited by the ghosts of Brian Harris and about a dozen other children who want her to stay and read to them.

  • On Our Miss Brooks, the dating concerns of teenagers Walter Denton, Harriet Conklin and Stretch Snodgrass are usually played for laughs. Miss Brooks' problems in her pursuit of Mr. Boynton are often played for laughs, but she elicits considerably more sympathy as well. Miss Brooks finally marries Mr. Boynton and gets her Happily Ever After in The Movie Grand Finale.

  • Played with in Hamlet: Shakespeare waits until the last act to tell you that Hamlet is actually 30, making his previously understandable angst seem a little more odd; in the beginning he comes off as more of an adolescent. There's an alternate interpretation for the line that gives his age, making him 16 instead. And then there's the theory that Shakespeare only threw in that line in the first place because the actor playing Hamlet was older. So that leaves us... somewhere ambiguous. If that is the case, it does serve to show how he's been screwed over even worse by Claudius — Hamlet really should be on the throne and Claudius' "hey, I'll totally replace your dad! So get over it right now!" lines are just salt in the wound. Emphasised in the RSC production with David Tennant. To be fair, it could be said that Hamlet isn't on the throne because he was too busy studying abroad. However, this effectively makes Claudius a regent who was unwilling to turn over his power to the rightful ruler when he became able to rule, so Claudius still screwed Hamlet over.
  • The teenaged cast Spring Awakening is almost all subject to this thanks to the score of useless or outright abusive adult figures. Moritz has it really rough: The nonexistent sex-education of 1900s Germany means he's woefully ill-equipped to deal with his brand-new hormones, so his shaky grades and the eventual failure of his final test sets off his strict father. He reaches the Despair Event Horizon when he writes a letter to his best friend Melchior's mother, who tries to talk him down from running off to America. He wanders into the forest, burns her letter, and shoots himself. Moritz's personality is heavily tragic and plays on parents' fears of unwittingly harming their own children and Outliving One's Offspring. And since his teachers framed Melchior for it, they invoke another fear: corrupt authority figures screwing up your family's life.

    Video Games 
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Aloy is an extraordinary young woman with skills, wisdom, and empathy far beyond her age, but she is ultimately a young adult who was largely raised in isolation. Several times throughout the game, she angsts over the fact that she doesn't feel any closer to discovering the truth of her origin (and, ultimately, that she doesn't like that origin), even as she's discovering ancient secrets that would shake the foundation of the world. Sylens, who couldn't care less about her origins, repeatedly calls her out for this.

  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, as a child, Fructose Riboflavin witnessed his bandit father's death at the hands of the emperor's guards. He'd given Fructose a device to prevent this, but Fructose was too little to use it right. The Emperor was then a complete callous jerk ass to the newly orphaned child. Fructose screamed that he would become emperor one day, ran away, and then spent almost two thousand years seeking revenge against the Nemesite royal family.
  • In Shifters most of the main cast are in their late teens and attending High School. The drama this causes in their lives is, at times, worse than the supernatural problems that they contend with.
  • One of the main characters from The Angel with Black Wings Ray de Luz has the angst befitting of a teenager.

    Web Original 
  • One of the reasons Survival of the Fittest can be so heartwrenching is that it covers situations that no teenager should ever have to experience (the murder of close friends, occasionally rape, etc).

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in Adventure Time. Apparently, Marceline's asshole-ex Ash expected her to be totally cool with him selling her beloved doll Hambo for a magical ingredient. Instead, she flips out, breaks up with him, and kicks him out of her house. Justified, since because Marceline is a vampire/soul-sucking demon, and thus doesn't emotionally mature like a human would despite being extremely old. Also, Hambo is the only reminder she has of her surrogate father, Simon, who helped her survive the apocalypse after her mother died/abandoned her and who has since gone insane. Hambo is all she has left of him. It's clear that Ash is supposed to be the jerk here, for both carelessly selling his girlfriend's doll (which he was clearly aware meant the world to her, as that is in fact the reason he sold it to the witch in the first place) for his own selfish desires, and having the gall to say she was being unreasonable for breaking up with him over that and the rest of his emotional and psychological abuse of her.
  • In the sequels to The Land Before Time, Littlefoot seems to have come to terms with his mother's death, put it behind him, and has been able to maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle. Understandable when considering that accepting loss was one of the major themes of the original movie. However there are hints that he still remembers her very fondly such as his segments of the "Always There" song.
  • The Simpsons: Seen in the very first Treehouse of Horror special when Lisa reads "The Raven", a dark gothic poem where the horror comes from evoking the sheer finality of death, and the idea of truely never seeing your loved ones again, as the narrator is forced to confront to the point of madness by the titular bird. The kids, too young to have experienced true grief yet, can only conclude that people must have been easier to scare back in Poe's day. Homer, a man with a wife and children of his own to lose, and old enough to understand the poem's message, is reduced to a terrified, teeth-chattering wreck.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Face the Music," Ruberiot's song reveals that there is a major emergency going on that the King and Queen have been hiding from both the people and their own allies, and also that Star is in love with her best friend. Star, a teenager, considers these two reveals to be of equal importance.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Boba Fett has not come to terms with his father's death and tries to murder someone in order to avenge it.