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Anti-Smother Love Talk

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Marlin: I promised him I'd never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hmm, that's a funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well, you can't never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

Parents are supposed to look after their kids, and to a certain degree, a mother and/or father who tries to keep their children from danger is admired. But in some cases, it can really get in the way. It may happen in the case of a Kid Hero whose parent finds out what they've been doing and reacts exactly the way you'd expect a parent to — with panic and prohibitions against further heroic activity. It may happen in the case of a kid who has always been smothered by a parent who is determined to safeguard their beloved children against any and all dangers. Whatever the reason, it's seriously affecting the kid's life.

At this point, someone steps in. In some cases, it may be the other parent. In cases where both parents are panicking (or one is dead or non-existent), it may be a close friend of one of them. In some cases, it may even be the child themselves. The person steps in and points out to the parent that "they're not going to be your little kid forever" and that they have to let the child branch out into riskier activities. They may point out that the parent won't always be able to be there and that a better use of the time would be teaching the child what they need to know to protect themselves. In some cases, they may appeal to something the parent said earlier. After this talk, the parent usually gives in, if with a little trepidation.

In many cases, this is portrayed as being the right decision, and the child is absolutely fine. Now with the approval of their parent, they're able to continue their quest for identity, world-saving, or whatever they were trying to do beforehand. In some works, though, the parent's protectiveness turns out to be all too justified.

Let Her Grow Up, Dear and Boyfriend-Blocking Dad are related, but they deal with romance rather than personal safety. Calling the Old Man Out is related but usually done by the child themself.

This trope is especially common in cases of My Beloved Smother. The Open-Minded Parent is unlikely to need this talk.

This may be used in a Declaration of Personal Independence.


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    Fan Works 
  • A Dovahkiin Spreads His Wings enjoys giving these to Ned Stark, who still believes his bastard son Jon would be happier to be back in Westeros and close to his family. At least three people point Jon is actually quite wealthy, powerful, and happy in Skyrim, so it would be better to let him live his way as he pleases.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Trixie and Cheerilee give Ditzy one of these in "Exam Jitters", after Ditzy goes in smother mode when Dinky gets lost during the rain, and even talks her out of potentially applying for a prestigious school via emotional blackmail. They eventually manage to get through to her.

    Films — Animation 
  • Finding Nemo centers around a clownfish named Marlin, who becomes severely protective of his son Nemo after losing the rest of his family in a barracuda attack. Nemo's attempts to get out from under his father's fin result in him being kidnapped by a diver and Marlin having to make a cross-ocean odyssey with a blue tang called Dory to get him back. The movie contains two instances of this:
    • A turtle, Crush, talks to Marlin about letting children do things on their own. When Marlin asks when will he know if the children are ready, Crush responds, "Well, you never really know, but when they know, you'll know, you know?"
    • At a low point in the journey, Marlin murmurs, "I promised I'd never let anything happen to him." Dory's response serves as a low-key rebuttal to Marlin's overprotectiveness and helps him understand why Nemo tried to rebel against his precautionary measures.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon (2010), Hiccup's father Stoick and his right-hand man Gobber are having a discussion about Hiccup's tendency to get into trouble. Gobber suggests Stoick put him through dragon training along with the other teens. When Stoick objects that Hiccup gets into enough trouble without being required to be face-to-face with a dragon, Gobber bluntly reminds him that he can't be Hiccup's only shield against danger.
    Gobber: You're not always going to be there to protect him. He's going to get out there. He's probably out there now.
  • In Turning Red, Jin personally sees no harm in letting Mei go to the concert, but unfortunately his wife is having none of it and he struggles to make himself heard.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Toward the end of Mirrormask, Helena faces the Dark Queen, who has been ravaging the world in search of her daughter whose escape from said world is causing it to collapse. Helena tries to convince the Queen to treat the princess like a human being instead of a kind of plaything, leading to a moment that teases a Heel Realization and then defies it:
    Helena: She's not a pet! She's not even a child anymore! You have to let her grow up.
    Dark Queen: You mean... let her choose her own food, her own clothes, make her own decisions... love her, but don't try to possess her?
    Helena: Yes, that's exactly what I mean.
    Dark Queen: Absolutely out of the question.
  • In My Dog Skip, Willie's dad protests often that he does not want his son to get the dog he's been begging for. Willie's mom buys him one anyway for his birthday and they have this conversation.
    Dad: Helen, dogs die, they get sick, they run away from home. They're just a heartbreak waiting to happen.
    Helen: So you want to shelter him from life. For how long?
  • Wonder Woman: When Hippolyta chastises her sister for training Diana, her sister retorts that they both know it's only a matter of time before Ares returns and Diana has to be ready. Hippolyta then relents (in fact telling her that she can train her ten times as hard as any other Amazon), but tells her that Diana must not know the truth about herself.

  • In Leia, Princess of Alderaan, sixteen year old Leia Organa is eager to help the fledgling Rebel Alliance in any way she can, to the terror of her adoptive parents Bail and Breha. Fighting against The Empire, they know that if they're discovered there will be major Disproportionate Retribution and hope that if their daughter is truly innocent she will be spared. Within hours of having this talk with them Leia is aware that the Empire is not going to be that reasonable regardless. Breha comes around first, knowing that Leia's generation will be pivotal in the struggles to come, and reluctantly proposes sending her on relatively safe assignments to start. Bail doesn't take this talk well and has a major moment of Anger Born of Worry where he says he would do anything to protect Leia and if Breha won't then clearly he doesn't know her like he thought he did and storms away. An unhappy Breha says he needs space to cool off and see reason, and he does eventually agree.
  • In The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, a rich Indian father hires detective Mma Ramotswe to track his daughter and find the man that she's dating. Mma Ramotswe figures out that the boyfriend doesn't exist; the daughter just made him up as a way to rebel against her too-controlling father. So Mma Ramotswe advises the father to give his daughter some more freedom, and he reluctantly agrees. And then at the end of the chapter, it turns out the boyfriend was real all along.
  • In Star Wars: Bloodline, Ransolm Casterfo calls out Leia for never telling her son Ben about his grandfather being Darth Vader, pointing out that he's no longer a child but a young man (he's around twenty-three at the time). Leia doesn't take this well as she believes she was protecting her son, though it's indicated she later comes to the conclusion hiding the truth from Ben was a mistake (especially considering Ben ended up following in his grandfather's footsteps).
  • In Swynmoor, Tomlin has been under the thumb of his mother and aunt, the latter of which is the wife of the Lord of Swynmoor. When they learn that his uncle has died, he puts his foot down and cancels the marriage they were railroading him into.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A downplayed example in Charmed (1998) with Piper's treatment of newborn Chris. She spends the episode worrying about protecting Chris from anything that could harm or upset him- until she ends up possessed by the Hindu goddess Shakti (the Ultimate Mother). Shakti ends up telling Piper that she can't protect him from everything and doing so is only going to leave him a neurotic mess. Due to Chris's age, she's still protective but tones it down greatly from how she was at the start of the episode.

    Video Games 
  • Moira of Dead In Vinland delivers one of these to her sister Blodeuwedd, who doesn't want her daughter Kari wandering outside the camp. Moira warns Blodeuwedd that Kari's going to end up hating her; Blodeuwedd retorts that hating her means Kari is still alive, and "as a mom, that's my TOP priority." From a gameplay perspective, Moira's largely right; Kari's generally the best explorer in the party and a deadly Fragile Speedster and Glass Cannon in combat.
  • Dragon Age II: If you take your sole surviving sibling to the Deep Roads expedition, your mother will beg you to leave them at home since she cannot bear to lose both of you. You can then give her the reassurance that everything will be fine and that you are both responsible adults, persuading her to relent. Naturally, if both of you go to the Deep Roads, your sibling contracts the Taint and dies (or, under very specific circumstances, becomes a Grey Warden — a Fate Worse than Death by many standards), so your mother was right.
  • In Pok√©mon Black and White, when Bianca's dad wants to make her go home and quit her Pokemon journey, Elesa steps in and convinces him to let Bianca continue traveling.

    Western Animation 
  • In one Ben 10: Alien Force episode, Ben's parents find out that their son has been acting as a superhero. They find it so disturbing that they attempt to prevent him from returning to the field of battle, even going so far as to ground him and take away his technology so he can't be involved with the battle even remotely. Ben initially sticks to their rules (albeit with some use of Loophole Abuse), but when Kevin is in trouble during a battle, he tells his parents that he has to do this — after all, they taught him to do the right thing. When he gets back, they agree to let him continue with the superheroics but caution him to please be careful.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "The Quiverwing Quack", Gosalyn, as the titular superheroine, has been crime-fighting. However, Darkwing forbids her from doing so because he's afraid she'll get hurt. Launchpad gives Darkwing a talk he says his father gave him about how you have to let your children grow up and can't hold on too tightly.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Played with in the "Flutter Brutter" episode. Zephyr Breeze is a slacker and his parents enable it, causing him to drain their resources instead of finding something profitable to do... until Fluttershy steps in and convinces the parents they need to intervene.
    • In "The Washouts", while flying toward the arena, Twilight Sparkle tells Rainbow Dash that she has to let Scootaloo make her own decisions. While initially reluctant to accept it, Rainbow eventually lets Scootaloo join the Washouts without stopping her.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Nightmare Hospital", Dr. Maheshwaran has to get this talk from her daughter Connie in order to learn that she's stifling her daughter with rules and safety precautions and, more importantly, that Connie doesn't feel like she can tell her mother anything because she reacts to the slightest perceived threat with sweeping prohibitions. What probably drove it home was realizing that as smothering as she is, she never noticed the lenses in Connie's glasses were gone until Connie outright told her.


Video Example(s):


Marlin: I promised...

While Dory and Marlin are in the whale, Marlin said he promised that he would let nothing ever happen to Nemo. Dory's response serves as a reminder that his overprotectiveness might not be fun for Nemo in the long run.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / AntiSmotherLoveTalk

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