Follow TV Tropes



Go To

<I just... It's really complex, you know? I have to work against the stigma of stealing a starship and getting away with it, then I have to deal with being Tanis's daughter. Half the time I can't tell if I'm being judged by one of those two things, or by my actions.>
Cadet Cary Richards, Aeon 14: The Scipio Alliance

Nepotism is a longstanding practice whereby people with personal connections to authority figures are elevated in position regardless of, and often despite, their actual level of competence. The practice is so well-known, and so commonly hated as a form of corruption, that some honest authority figures have been known to swing too far the other direction to avoid any possible appearance that they might be unduly favoring their own kin and friends.

While on the one level Anti-Nepotism generally shows the practicer's bonafides as a Reasonable Authority Figure and/or Honest Corporate Executive, it's hard on the people on the receiving end. They may feel their own ambitions are being stifled by their powerful relative, breeding resentment. Or they may become increasingly desperate to please the relative and take greater and more dangerous risks. Or it might just be fodder for grumbling to their friends but not significantly affect their personal relationship to their powerful relative.

A Defied Trope form of Nepotism. See also "Well Done, Son" Guy. Compare Limited Advancement Opportunities, where out-of-universe concerns prevent a character from getting deserved promotions.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, the aristocratic Captain Byakuya forbade anyone from promoting his sister, Rukia, to the position her strength would normally merit. The reason is that (in Soul Society) Captains and Lieutenants are expected to fight on the front lines, against any enemies too tough or unfamiliar for the rank-and-file to handle, and he didn't want her to get hurt. Rukia's Captain begrudgingly acceded, but it all came to nothing when plot events got her involved in dangerous stuff anyway. Byakuya seems to have eventually changed his mind, as Rukia becomes a Lieutenant after the Time Skip, and is a Captain in the Distant Finale.

    Comic Books 
  • Lucky Luke: The 20th Cavalry Regiment is headed by a colonel whose son is also in the regiment, and is punished for just about every single thing he says by the colonel to avoid any accusations of nepotism. The son finally snaps back at the colonel, who is stunned that his son is finally a man. Of course, old habits are hard to break, and at the end of the story, the son is punished for speaking out of turn (that is, saying "Goodbye, Luke" without asking Permission to Speak Freely).

    Fan Works 
  • Played for Laughs in Anyone Can Become A Hero when Gyro finds out Johnny Joestar didn't vote for his as class president.
    Johnny: Sorry, but I don't support nepotism.
  • Subverted for laughs in Son of the Sannin when Jiraya tells Naruto that, while he may be qualified to become a Chunin, he can't actually promote him due to the fact that it may be taken as nepotism (since he's the Fifth Hokage and Naruto is his adopted son) and Naruto will just have to wait until he retires. After ANBU gets a chance to take a picture of Naruto's shocked expression, he admits that it was a joke and gives him his promotion.
  • In Wilhuff Tarkin, Hero of the Rebellion, the narration mentions that admiral Motti, commander in chief of the Imperial Navy and an in-law to Grand Moff Tarkin, got his post for valor in battle, and the only help he ever had by Tarkin, command of a gunship during the Clone Wars, was because they were short on officers for a battle and a trusted captain had vouched for him.

    Film-Live Action 
  • In Knives Out, Harlan Thrombey (a Self-Made Man and best-seller author) decides to leave absolutely nothing of his massive inheritance to his family and instead leaves it all to his nurse. While he believed, very deep in his heart, that it was him giving them one final bit of Tough Love and telling them to make their own fortunes, the truth of the matter is that calling them "layabouts" is being kind and an understatement, considering that one of said crappy children was the orchestrator of Harlan's murder and kills the maid later on in the film when she figures out who did it and tries to profit from it.
  • McLintock!: George Washington McLintock at one point tells his daughter Becky that he intends to will most of his estate to be made into a park, leaving a small spread for her. Not much, but it's more than her parents started out with.
    "Some folks are gonna say I'm doin' all this so I can sit up in the hereafter and look down on a park named after me, or that I was disappointed in you, didn't want you to get all that money. But the real reason, Becky, is because I love you, and I want you and some young man to have what I had, because all the gold in the United States Treasury and all the harp music in heaven can't equal what happens between a man and a woman with all that growin' together. I can't explain it any better than that."

  • Aeon 14: After their daughters Cary and Saanvi steal a ship to "get in on the fun" of the Battle of New Canaan in Orion Rising and are both nearly killed ramming an enemy carrier, Tanis and Joe Richards (respectively the then-governor and main protagonist, and the Commandant of the Intrepid Space Force Academy) promise to put the two of them through the wringer as cadets. In The Scipio Alliance Cary spends a couple pages complaining to their friend Jill and Artificial Intelligence half-sister Faleena about the treatment.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, Miles Vorkosigan is an agent of Imperial Security with a public persona as a low-ranking military officer assigned to courier duties. When people ask why he has such a low rank when his father is the Emperor's most trusted advisor, he tells them that it's because his father is the Emperor's most trusted advisor and also a rigidly honorable man who bends over backwards to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Though at the same time, Miles frequently claims to be the beneficiary of nepotism to explain how he got his cover-position in Imperial Security.
    • Miles also has to deal with this problem from the other end in 'Diplomatic Immunity', as the merchant fleet he needs to get out of impound is mostly owned by the empress' family. He can't be seen to be showing special favoritism to them, lest it reflect badly on the emperor, but the Emperor also wants to keep his in-laws happy.
  • Honor Harrington: An actual, noted-in-universe character flaw for Michelle 'Mike' Henke, who stands very close to the royal successionnote . She is noted in her personnel jacket as psychologically unable to accept accelerated promotion for her actions because she'll perceive it as nepotism. After the title character — who also happens to be her best friend — more or less reads her the riot act about this, she pretty much gets over it and subsequently shoots from Captain to Rear Admiral in less than two years.
  • The Hands of the Emperor: Cliopher Mdang, head of the imperial bureaucracy is absolutely incorruptible and would never favor his family or home province. He sometimes over-does it: he is especially stern when dealing with his nephew Gaudy who is also in the civil service and initially ignores a problem that his family tells him about in his home-province until it nearly boils over – after all, if he learnt it through his family and not through any official channels and other provinces don’t have that possibility.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bar Rescue: Rita Cappovici, owner of Club Platinum, swore to make this an Enforced Trope toward her hospitality-trained daughter. In the end, when it went from being marked a "gentleman's club" to a "gentlemen's club," she agreed to having her on board.
  • In Beauty and the Beast (1987) episode "Promises of Someday" Devon Wells, who grew up in the tunnels with Vincent, was the Un Favorite of Father, who filled the paternal role for almost all the tunnel children. It turns out Devon was his son, and he'd been trying to avoid showing favoritism towards him but overshot the mark considerably.
  • In later seasons of Blue Bloods, Jamie Reagan starts to feel increasingly that his father, Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, is making life difficult for him in an attempt to avoid the appearance of nepotism, noting that most of his academy classmates have already made detective while he's still a (increasingly decorated) beat cop. He eventually decides to embrace that role and become a squad sergeant rather than go detective.
  • The George Lopez Show: In one episode, Ernie complains to George about not naming him "Employee of the Week", and George reminds him that he can't because it will make everyone think it's because he's his best friend.
  • Mahabharata: In BR Chopra’s television adaptation of the original epic, Ashwathama is upset that his father Dronacharya the royal combat instructor is devoting a lot of attention to the prince Arjun instead of his own son. Dronacharya tells him that in their house, as his son, Ashwathama has Dronacharya’s undivided attention, but at the school, the best pupil must receive all the special attention. Ashwathama demands a chance to prove his skill at archery, which leads to Dronacharya setting up the famous “spot the toy bird in the tree” test. Which everyone except Arjun, fail.
  • Station 19: Andy is more than qualified to be a fire lieutenant and has had exactly the same training and background as Jack, who was promoted to the role months prior. In the first episode, she is pushed to question why she hasn't got the promotion herself and the Chief, who is her father, explains that he was deliberately holding her back for several reasons, one being that he doesn't know if he has a bias with her or which way it would sway.

    Video Games 
  • In Act 3 of Dragon Age II, Aveline, who is the Captain of the Kirkwall Guard by then, is accused of "coddling" her husband Donnic, also a guard, by allegedly assigning his unit to the safest patrol routes. To disprove these allegations, she asks Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall by that point, to accompany her on a nighttime patrol inspection, so they can interview the guards personally and later vouch for her fairness and strict adherence to the law.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: In the setting of Fodlan, the noble classes are born with "crests", which the Church of Seiros teaches are blessings from the goddess Sothis that grant powerful magical abilities. Those born without crests are considered beneath those who are born with them. Edelgard, the heir to the Adrestian Empire, was captured as a child and underwent torturous experiments to give her two crests, at the cost of a drastically-reduced lifespan. Her traumatic experience thus motivates her to start a war against the Church of Seiros, which is revealed to be a false religion and the crests were in fact not "blessings" but power stolen from an ancient race called the Nabateans by the ancestors of Fodlan's ruling class. Edelgard's ultimate goal is to destroy the Crest system and abolish a system where birth determines one's class, instead creating a nation of "pure merit".

    Western Animation 
  • Ensign Beckett Mariner in Star Trek: Lower Decks is the daughter of the captain, something both she and the captain keep secret in the first season, and is given no special treatment and is sent to the brig regularly. In "Moist Vessel", Captain Freeman does give Mariner an undeserved promotion, but only in the hope that she'll find being a lieutenant so boring she'll transfer off the ship (after giving her Punishment Detail didn't work). After the truth is exposed, they briefly experiment with Freeman cutting Mariner some slack, but decide this simply isn't their relationship.

    Real Life 
  • Helena Bonham Carter has said that Tim Burton always made her and Johnny Depp be above-and-beyond in their auditions, to make sure that they definitely earned the part, so they could all feel comfortable refuting that they got the parts because of their relationship and friendship. Obviously, they still got all the parts.
  • Nicolas Cage, who was born Nicolas Coppola, deliberately changed his name legally because he didn't want to appear that he was exploiting his relation to his uncle Francis Ford Coppola in order to get a part in one film he was directing.
  • Emilio Estevez, the son of Martin Sheen (born Ramón Estévez), similarly uses his real last name rather than one based on his father's stage name, to avoid the appearance of riding his father's coattails. (The same applies to Martin Sheen's brother, Joe Estévez.) Awkwardly, Emilio's brother Charlie Sheen (born Carlos Estévez) doesn't seem to share his principles.
  • Oliver Reed refused to appear in any works connected to his uncle Carol Reed, a well established director, until he was a respected actor in his own right, whereupon he appeared in his uncle's production of Oliver!.
  • J. Bruce Ismay joined the White Star Line as an apprentice while his father was still running the company. However, Thomas Ismay insisted that his son receive no special treatment, and even admonished him in public if he did something another employee wouldn't do.