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Anti-Climactic Parent

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A version of The Reveal where a character spends the episode getting the cast in an uproar about a parental visit. This usually because the parent is said to have the character traits they lack, and he wants to make a good impression on them. After scrambling to make a complicated deception, a few things can happen:

  • The parent's reputation was exaggerated, and they get along fine with everyone, except the child. What sounded like a Archnemesis Dad or Evil Matriarch is really more of a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis.
  • The parent has mellowed down over the years, and becomes a humorous rather than antagonistic foil.
  • The parent really is as bad as we're told, but the visit goes off well thanks to someone who wasn't in on the plan.

See also Shrouded in Myth, Tell Me About My Father.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fruits Basket:
    • So many people in the Honda family were against Katsuya and Kyoko's marriage that Kyoko wound up psyching herself up to think that Katsuya's father (who he used to be at odds with) would be the worst of the lot. He winds up being the only family member who happily approves of them, and eventually the only one willing to take in their daughter Tohru once both her parents have died.
    • When Arisa first met Tohru in middle school, she was a gang member who admired Tohru's mother Kyoko, who was once a ruthless gang leader herself. She went to Tohru's home to visit her and found out that Kyoko had become a devoted and loving mother. As she says in the flashback: "The Kyoko-san I had looked up to had developed a total mother complex." After spending time with Tohru and Kyoko, Arisa left the gang, was rescued from them beating her up by Kyoko and returned to school.
  • Please Teacher! has Mizuho worry what her family will say about her being married to a student. Her mother Hatsuho has no complaints, though slyly implies to the reader both of them show an interest in younger men. (This also works as a slight lampshading of the show premise, suggesting Mizuho isn't entirely inconvenienced by her situation.)
  • Sgt. Frog's father causes quite a scramble, until he leaves much sooner than expected when the weather doesn't agree with him.

  • In Shazam, Billy Batson spends much of the film and his life prior to its events searching for his mother, who was separated from him when he was a young child and whom he assumes loves him more than the adoptive family he has been living with since then. When he finally tracks her down, it turns out she's a pathetic bum who willingly abandoned him upon seeing him being found by authorities who would take him into foster care when he was initially lost, due to being unable to support him and unwilling to try.

  • In Everworld, Senna goes to meet her mother in Everworld-Egypt fully expecting her to be an all-powerful witch who may well choose to smack the crap out of her. Instead she discovers that her mother is little more than a sycophantic servant of the Amazons and nowhere near the intelligent villainess that her daughter grew up to be. If anything, Senna seems angry that she was abandoned for a life that wound up being so pointless.
  • In Harry Potter, Mrs. Weasley has the whole family scrub the house for the arrival of Fleur's parents, apparently based on the logic that they will be as critical as Fleur is. Instead they turn out to be incredibly jovial.
  • The book A Little Ray of Sunshine is based on this. Emmy's mother is a Maternally Challenged Evil Matriarch, and each chapter starts with various heartless quotes from her mother over the years. But by the time we meet Lily, she's undergone a massive personality makeover.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy naturally assumed from the way Annabeth talked about her father and stepmother that they treated her badly. When he came to visit her home, they were friendly and helpful.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder has to impress his ultra-puritan Aunt and Uncle at a dinner party so he can earn his inheritance (a stunning feat considering his Aunt and Uncle consider things like chairs and mashed turnips "too decadent"). In the end, his uncle breaks his vow of silence and tells Edmund that he had a wonderful time. Then everyone gets really drunk, including Queenie.
  • On Chuck, Ellie spent the Thanksgiving episode stressing out over the arrival of the Awesomes (her fiance's parents), only to have them not show up at all. Then they show up in the next episode, where they mainly get on her nerves for taking over her wedding planning.
  • Britta Perry from Community always described her parents as stifling and overbearing. When we get to meet them, we find out they've secretly been paying for her apartment for years, and they both get along well with all her friends. Turns out they've mellowed out over the years.
  • Friends:
    • Ross is dreading a visit from Rachel's father. It starts out as badly as he feared, then he finds that they have one like in common: criticizing Rachel over her questionable life choices. They soon start getting along at Rachel's expense.
    • After years of hearing stories about Chandler's father, he finally appears in the show for a couple of episodes surrounding Chandler's wedding. His initial introduction makes it look as though he's everything Chandler's ever complained about. But eventually it becomes clear that despite his quirks, he's actually really sweet and Monica has no trouble taking him in her stride... as long as everyone can keep him and Chandler's mother from getting one barbed comment short of a cat fight, that is.
  • How I Met Your Mother: After a ton of build up over the revelation of Barney's father, it turns out his father is... a regular old family man (though at least he's played by John Lithgow). It's seemingly subverted at first when Jerome (Barney's father) tells him all these awesome things about his life, like being a manager for a band, and being just as much of a sexual deviant as Barney himself, but it's later revealed that Barney made it all up, because he was having a hard time accepting that Jerome wasn't the most legen... wait for it... dary daddy ever. He was a roadie who partied hard back in the day. He just decided to settle down at some point and become a regular suburban dad when he had his second son. This only makes it worse in Barney's eyes:
    Barney: If you were just gonna be some lame suburban dad... why couldn't you have been that for me?!
  • In the Robin Hood spoof Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, Marian never admitted to her mother that she was an outlaw. This leads the main characters to keep up the charade of being The Merry Dentists. However, when Marian is captured, her mum leads the rescue effort and ultimately reveals she has her own geriatric gang of outlaws.
  • In an episode of The Monkees, Davy's grandfather is flying in from England for a visit, under the impression that Davy is a big star. Panicked, Davy convinces the rest of the band to pose as his chauffer, houseboy, and personal chef to keep up appearances. Of course, given what show we're talking about, it fails, but the grandfather allows him to stay (rather than taking him back to England) because he has "such loyal friends".
  • In Power Rangers S.P.D., the doofus character Boom flunked out of the academy in three days but told his parents he was the heroic Orange Ranger. Hilarity ensues when his parents visit and learn the truth.
  • On Spaced, Brian's mother visits and he spends the whole episode pretending to be a lawyer, only to discover that she'd always wished he was an artist. Then he gets to reveal to her that he actually is!
  • Will & Grace:
    • There is a version of this where Jack envisioned his stepdad as cold, unloving, and ubermacho. When the gang visited him, he was a friendly guy who got along very well with Jack's son. Jack's very straight son. When Jack confronts him, the step-dad admits he really was all those things to Jack, but regrets it and is trying to make amends.
    • Similarly in another episode dealing with grandparents treating the grandkids differently, Will was trying to protect his presumably gay nephew from criticism by this mother (the child's grandmother) over wanting to stage a play for the family. But the mother is totally cool with it and very encouraging. Because he got the exact opposite treatment growing up, Will feels offended until his mom explains that she had mellowed because of Will, and learned from her mistakes and the experience she had gained raising Will.

  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • In "Former Student Visits", Miss Brooks is worried that a visiting former student (who's now a doctor) will reveal her true age (her early thirties) to Mr. Boynton's mother. Mr. Boynton's mother was advising her son to marry a young woman. The cat gets out of the bag; fortunately Miss Brooks' former student's father was a student of Mr. Boynton's mother in elementary school. The elder Mrs. Boynton then suggests her son marry a woman his age.
    • In The Movie Grand Finale, the elder Mrs. Boynton appears near the end of the picture. Agreeing to board with Mrs. Davis, she frees Phillip Boynton to marry Connie Brooks and give Connie a much deserved and long desired Happily Ever After.

  • The Boys Next Door has an example of this when Barry's father comes to visit. The father is really scary, actually, and only seems to bring out Barry's neuroses.

    Video Games 
  • In Psychonauts, Raz spends the entire game complaining about his father, and how he won't let him be a psychic due to an old family curse. Raz even ends up battling his own mind's demonic version — green skin, tattered clothing, evil cackling — of his father. This trope occurs when Raz's father, a regular old nice guy, uses his own psychic powers to enter Raz's mind to save him, and is genuinely saddened by the way his son views him.

    Web Comics 
  • Marena from Keychain of Creation initially describes her mother as a manipulative Evil Matriarch. Partial subversion in that she is a Manipulative Bastard, just an Affably Evil one. When Sonorous Aria actually shows up:
    Aria: Petal!
  • Ozy and Millie plays with this when introducing Ozy's adoptive father Llewellyn. Ozy states matter-of-factly that his father is a dragon, and until Parent-Teacher Day, Millie freaks out that her best friend is merely being raised to be snack food for a demonic monster from beyond her (already pretty wild) imagination. On meeting him, she is along with her mother, immediately charmed by Llewellyn, who becomes one of the strip's iconic and most charming characters — oh, and is completely harmless (aside from the fire-breathing thing).
    • Even the fire breath is pretty harmless. Which is to say it doesn't have to be, but it's never been used in anger (an emotion Llewellyn seems incapable of feeling to begin with).

    Western Animation 
  • The Dexter's Laboratory subcartoon Justice Friends has Major Glory making his friends scramble to impress his jingoistic Uncle Sam, only to discover his uncle has mellowed into a hippie to avoid high blood pressure.
  • Doug:
    • Judy has a boyfriend named Kyle, and her parents invite him over for dinner, but she's ashamed of her family. So she tries to make them more interesting by giving them a script to follow, with Phil as private poet and Theda as an anthropologist. Doug is not amused when he's playing the butler, so he pretends to be a secret agent and dives into the lasagna after claiming it was a bomb. While Judy is upset with Doug at first, Kyle tells her he knew all along it was a performance but still enjoyed it. Kyle is never seen or mentioned again after that episode.
    • In another episode, the eponymous Doug is given an assignment to write a report about a classmate's home life, and he's assigned the Sleech brothers. Everyone believes their dad is some kind of Mad Scientist, and Al and Moo try to keep Doug from interviewing their dad. It turns out, he works as a baker, and works on donut recipes at home in his spare time. And the reason no one really sees him during the day is that he works an evening or night shift.
  • DuckTales (1987), "Top Duck": The ordinarily relaxed Launchpad becomes absolutely desperate to have some way to show off for his parents when he hears they're coming into town, which might suggest they're super-critical... but it turns out they're already quite proud of their son, who has spent years freaking out unnecessarily.
  • Green Eggs and Ham (2019): Even after starting to warm up to Sam, Guy is adamant about not staying with his parents (even when they have nowhere else to go), giving the impression that they're hyper-critical. When they do turn up, the whole family is welcoming and supportive of both Guy and Sam. It turns out that Guy is projecting his own insecurities onto his parents' view of him (they're all highly successful, whereas literally everything he invents blows up).
  • An episode of Kappa Mikey uses a distant permutation of this. Mikey lies to a reporter about his life in Tokyo, then forces his castmates into an elaborate ruse to fool his parents when they come to visit after reading the article, making them cancel a vacation at the beach for a visit that, ultimately, never comes: killer bees force the airport to close, and Mikey then decides, rather than coming clean, to go find stand-ins for his parents and fake the visit. Needless to say, everything falls apart in utterly ridiculous ways.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Twilight Sparkle, and by extension everyone else in town, tend to overprepare for Princess Celestia's appearances. In line with this trope, she generally is appreciative of the efforts, but actually enjoys a casual visit much more. In the first season's finale, she lets her own palace get wrecked specifically to avoid the standard boring gala.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star is in a panic because his parents are due for a visit. Because they constantly belittle him for being an idiot, Spongebob volunteers to pretend to be even dumber than Pat. This works well until all three begin to ridicule Spongebob and he storms off. Only then do Patrick's "parents" realize that they're complete strangers: "Oh, that's right. We don't have a son!" Patrick's real parents arrivenote , and are just as stupid as their son, if not more so.
  • Played with in Teen Titans Go! in the form of Trigon. At first, he appears in all his extradimensional demonic terror, but then immediately dons regular clothes (including a pink sweater vest) and acts nice around the Titans for the entire episode, even giving them extra powers (like Cyborg's new dog for a hand). And then he tells Raven to kill her friends and become a demon.