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Disappointing Older Sibling

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"You was my brother, Charley. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money."
Terry Malloy, On the Waterfront

According to family dynamics, the oldest sibling is usually supposed to be the next one down in authority from the parents. In a worst-case scenario, this sibling might have to step into the parent's shoes. Thus, he or she is often expected to serve as a role model and look out for the welfare of the younger siblings. Yet, there are times when the older sibling proves unable to fulfill these tasks, leading to the younger siblings completely losing respect in him or her. This can happen for a number of reasons. The oldest sibling could be an emotionally and physically abusive jerk who regularly tyrannizes the younger brothers and sisters. Other times, it's because the older sibling is dull-witted, immature, irresponsible, self-centered, weak-willed, a doormat, ineffectual, or the Black Sheep of the family. Sometimes this opinion is actually unjustified, and comes from things like the younger sibling having unreasonable expectations or blindly parroting their parents' dislike. Whatever the cause, one result is the older sibling's attempts to exert authority are ignored by the others. Another result is that sometimes the older sibling's spot on the family leadership chain will be supplanted by a younger sibling (who, in some cases, will bully and humiliate the older sibling just to show who's boss). If things really get out of hand, a Cain and Abel scenario can occur.

The Disappointing Older Sibling trope may overlap with Broken Pedestal if the older sibling was initially held in high regard before doing something that led to the younger sibling's loss of respect. This is something that can occur when they are still children or after they've grown up. The Disappointing Older Sibling is often the Foolish sibling to their Responsible younger sibling.

Compare Spartan Sibling, Aloof Big Brother, Childish Older Sibling, and Sibling Rivalry. Contrast with Knight Templar Big Brother and Big Brother Worship.


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  • In an anti-marijuana PSA, a little girl comments at length that her older brother doesn't do anything bad... before finishing with "he doesn't do anything at all", and showing the brother getting high.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Black Clover, Finral's comparably less impressive magic got him disowned by his father and Wicked Stepmother, while his younger half-brother Langris fulfills the "little brother bully" version of this trope. However, much of Langris' hatred actually stems from the fact that, outside of the family, people somehow prefer the "weaker" Finral for, you know, being a decent person. Finral, meanwhile, is the one who considers himself a failure as a brother, feeling that he should have stopped Langris' descent into murderous jealousy.
  • In Bloom Into You, Touko looked up to her older sister for much of her early childhood, and after Mio's death in a car accident, resolved to become the person Mio was and do everything she couldn't. She's unpleasantly surprised when Ichigaya, a friend of Mio's, said Mio tended to delegate her work to her fellow student council members and even had them copy her homework.
  • Cross Ange sees this deconstructed with Ange and her little sister Sylvia when the former is found out to be a Norma, and the latter turns against her.
  • Full Dive: Main character Hiroshi Yuuki was the star runner of his school's track team, which earned him his younger sister Kaede's admiration. However, after quitting the team due to pissing himself in public and becoming a VRMMO-playing NEET, she constantly looks at him with scorn and disparages him when she gets the chance. This clearly frustrates him, though his mother points out that she simply wants him to be her "cool big brother" again.
  • In It's Tough Being Neeko, this is played with. Nemuko (aka Neeko) isn't necessarily viewed as a role model by her younger sister Imoko, since she's a neurotic NEET, while Imoko herself is a responsible high school student who works part-time. However, Imoko displays a surprising amount of Big Sister Worship in spite of this, believing that Neeko is far more capable than she appears and just needs the right encouragement to help get her life back in order.
  • Naruto: As a toddler, Hanabi adored her older sister Hinata and thought she was strong. When Hanabi herself is able to beat Hinata in a duel, Hinata gets put on a Broken Pedestal. By Shippuden Hanabi has come to recognize Hinata's improved strength and the pedestal gets repaired. They're shown to be good friends as teens and adults.
  • Doremi Harukaze of Ojamajo Doremi is almost never respected by her kindergarten-age little sister Pop for most of the first two seasons. Once Pop admits part of the reason was due to not getting piano lessons from their mom, she starts to respect her big sister and eventually admits she looks up to Doremi.
  • Zig-zagged in Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl with Paul's attitude towards his older brother, Reggie. While Paul doesn't hate his older brother Reggie, he sees Reggie’s "kindness to his Pokémon" part of his training style as a disappointment. However, Paul respects Reggie enough to leave his Pokémon with the latter for breeding.
  • Usagi from Sailor Moon gets no respect from her little brother Shingo because she's such a crybaby, a klutz, and a terrible student. After she gets locked out of the house for failing a test, he says he wishes he had a smarter sister.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts:
    • Sally thinks her older sibling, Charlie Brown, is a flop as a big brother because of his wishy-washy nature and consistent record of failure in nearly everything.
    • Like his older sister Lucy, Rerun Van Pelt is embarrassed by his older brother Linus' habits, such as his Security Blanket, sucking his thumb, and waiting for The Great Pumpkin every October. Rerun has even admitted to Snoopy that he is unable to look up to Linus as a role model because of these habits.

    Fan Works 
  • Bequeathed from Pale Estates: Robert to Renly. Renly has more love for the dead Stannis than Robert, which is particularly notable because they too never managed to get along in life (something that Renly deeply regrets). Robert, by contrast, managed to drive Renly away after trying to arrange a marriage for their niece Shireen without Renly's input (as Renly is now her legal guardian with Stannis and Selyse's deaths during The Plague) and proving himself to be a far more incompetent ruler than Stannis.
  • Seen in Daria in Morrowind. Reputation matters a lot in Morrowind, and Quinn is frequently frustrated by her older sister's refusal (or inability) to network with their peers. Though Quinn's attitude is insensitive (and somewhat ignorant), it's not entirely unreasonable given the context.
  • Played With in Glass Marionette (Naruto). While Gaara openly disparages Kankuro and his efforts to reach out to him, declaring that he doesn't see him as a sibling and doesn't have to listen to him, he still pays more attention to his words than even Kankuro expects.
  • Ma Fille: Laura considered Heather disappointing for her lack of big ambitions and carefree attitude. Subverted, however; while Heather died young, she left behind good friends and a headstrong daughter, while Laura ended up burning every bridge she had and eventually was imprisoned for breaking restraining orders and had her newborn daughter taken away.
  • moral of the story (Nyame): The story deconstructs Oliver's treatment of Thea in the latter half of Season Two, pointing out that Oliver's actions during that season made him into an absolutely terrible brother to her. Between accidentally driving Laurel to suicide and causing Sara to sell herself back to the League just to bring Laurel Back from the Dead, keeping the danger Slade posed to them all secret from Moira and her (which led to Slade blindsiding them and killing Moira), and blackmailing her boyfriend into lying to her using his condition as an unwilling super soldier, at one point even trying to force Roy to break up with her, Thea understandably has an extremely low opinion of Oliver. When she learns that he ignored Laurel's suspicions about Blood because of the latter's addiction issues (the same issues that he would accidentally drive Laurel to suicide over weeks later), another thing that indirectly contributed to Moira's death, Thea has enough and can't stand to be around Oliver anymore if he's going to act like this, so she goes to Gotham to join Laurel instead.
  • one day at a time (Nyame): Played for Laughs in the case of Damian Wayne and Tim Drake. Due to Tim being completely overwhelmed by Jason Todd's return, he's unable to speak coherently to anyone for a while, leading Damian to believe he's an idiot.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, the Kirigaya siblings have a much more antagonistic relationship than in canon. Suguha constantly mocks and belittles her older brother Kazuto for his interest in computers and video games, leading Kazuto to hate her as a Jerk Jock who exists solely to make him miserable. The root of this turns out to be kendo: when they were younger, Suguha wanted to be just like her brother and followed him into the sport, but then he dropped out and took up computer coding, leaving Suguha to soldier on through her sexist grandfather's Training from Hell in a vain attempt to lure Kazuto back. This not only led Suguha to reject her own femininity as a weakness, she also came to despise her brother for abandoning her to do "stupid nerd shit."

     Films — Animation 
  • Frozen (2013): Multiple:
    • Anna used to look up to her older sister Elsa mostly due to her ice powers and would often convince her sister to demonstrate her powers to her. Unfortunately after an accident where Elsa struck her sister in her head and Anna gets her memories of Elsa's powers wiped, Elsa becomes a reclusive girl and isolates herself from Anna for 13 years where, due to the latter not knowing why, she slowly starts losing her faith in her particularly due to never coming out even when she is in need of comfort when their parents die. What little faith she had in her older sister ends up getting completely shattered during Elsa's coronation where she, in no small order, gets her marriage to her true love denied, her attempt to reconnect with her sister in the Ice Castle ends up being completely rejected with the last straw being that she gets struck in the heart, gets kicked out and nearly dies by an ice monster that Elsa created. In the end, it’s subverted when Anna sacrifices her life for Elsa, which allows her to realize how to control her powers, and they reconcile.
    • Zig-Zagged with Caleb, Hans' oldest brother in A Frozen Heart. He's seen as the best out of the 13 sons while Hans is the youngest and treated like he's the disappointment rather than Caleb. On the other hand, Hans and Lars see him as an irresponsible Manchild due to how spoiled he's become due to being the favorite child.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • After Tina's pregnancy is revealed to her younger brother and sister in Fifteen & Pregnant, they express their annoyance/disgust with her. Whereas kid brother Adam soon forgives her and comes around to becoming an Uncle, it takes much longer for preteen sister Rachael to do so, especially since their relationship wasn't that great to begin with.
  • Fredo Corleone from The Godfather is older than his brother Michael but proves to be too weak, feckless, and incompetent to take over for the eldest brother Sonny after his murder. Thus, Michael has to usurp Fredo's place in the family hierarchy.
  • During the "I Coulda Been a Contender" scene in On the Waterfront, Terry Malloy calls out his big brother Charley for not protecting him and undermining his boxing career.
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Xialing is pretty pissed that she waited years for her older brother Shang-Chi to return after he promised to return after three days only to realize he'd abandoned her.
  • In Step Brothers, Brennan's younger brother, Derek, goes on to become a wealthy executive while Brennan becomes an unemployed outcast.
  • Umrika: Ramakant's older brother is hyped up by their rural Indian village as The One Who Made It Out and is living it up in America. In truth, he stayed in Mumbai and became a barber.

  • It's revealed later in Seeker Bears that Tobi is the older twin, not Toklo like it originally seemed. Toklo dislikes his brother for being so sick and weak all the time and because their mother ignores him in favor of Tobi. After Tobi's death early in the first book, Toklo slowly begins to realize what his brother meant to him and tries to atone for his actions.
  • In Tadgifauna, Haru and Marcy both have one. Haru is disappointed in his older brother Isamu because he works for Tadgicorp, the company behind the Tadgifauna Tournament. Marcy is disappointed in her old brother Denny because he's The Alcoholic.
  • In The Accursed Kings, flighty, boastful Louis X is a disappointment to his father Philippe IV and brothers, cunning Philippe V and charming Charles IV.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Loser Protagonist Ryohei Arisu in Alice in Borderland had a Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling relationship with his younger brother Hajime. Ryohei was a Brilliant, but Lazy NEET who dropped out of college to spend all his time playing video games and goofing off with his friends, while Hajime had a respectable IT job and calls him out for not even showing up to the interview he helped him get in his first appearance.
  • As a child, Richard from Caroline in the City lost the respect of his younger sister when she saw him run away from a beach bully in cowardice.
  • Crash Landing on You: Both of Se-ri's older brothers are considered Inadequate Inheritors to the family corporation, and the patriarch wants her to inherit despite being (a) the youngest and (b) illegitimate.
  • General Hospital's AJ Quartermaine was this, being a perpetual alcoholic screw-up in contrast to his golden-boy younger brother Jason, a straight-A varsity pre-medical student. Even after Jason abandoned his old life following a head injury that left him with no memory of it (thanks to AJ, no less), the family still had this attitude.
  • Modern Family: Haley, despite being the eldest child, is also rather ditzy and superficial while looking down on her younger, yet much more intelligent sister Alex, who shows great annoyance towards her older sister's shallow demeanor. Of course, Alex herself isn't much better as an older sister, as Luke at one point even calls both Haley and Alex "bad big sisters."
  • In the early seasons of Party of Five, a recurring plot was oldest brother Charlie promising to do something for one of his siblings only to forget or be distracted by his own personal wants or needs. It's understandable as Charlie is in his early 20s and responsible for his four minor siblings, but it often leads to a disappointed younger sibling who was really counting on him only to be let down.
  • Arthur Shelby from Peaky Blinders is a moderate example. He's the designated 'head of the family' after their deadbeat dad abandons them, but sadly he's not very smart, organised, or authoritative and while his siblings seem fond of him he doesn't really command anyone's respect. It's left to his cunning and ambitious younger brother Tommy to take charge and raise the family's fortunes, while Arthur's Hair-Trigger Temper and fighting skills make him a useful menacing henchman but not much else. He chafes against Tommy's authority in early episodes but later accepts his place in the pecking order when Tommy's status as The Don becomes irrefutable.
  • Scrubs has J.D.'s older brother, Dan, who was a cool guy in high school, but became an underpaid bartender and attic dweller while J.D. went on to become a doctor. Subverted later when Dan gets his act together and J.D. is initially upset about it because he's gotten so used to defining himself as the "successful one" in comparison to his screw-up big brother.
  • In Supernatural, it is established that all the angels are related, but some are older than others. Castiel is a lower-tier angel, meaning the archangels are his older brothers. Castiel rebels against his older brothers' plan to bring about the end of the world believing they are disobeying God's command that they protect humanity. Castiel's disappointment in his older siblings is clear whenever he encounters one of his older brothers face to face, but is most noticeable when he's forced to interact with the youngest of his four older brothers, Lucifer.
  • Succession centers on the power struggles of a media tycoon's four adult children. The oldest, Connor, is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander who is so dimwitted, weird, and useless that a lot of people forget he factors into the family at all, and the eldest child / heir apparent responsibilities have thus been passed onto the second-oldest son, Kendall.
  • Victorious: Tori's older sister Trina is vain, egotistical, and is delusional about her level of talent. In one episode, Tori admits she can't spend extended periods of time with her. Their parents also seem to feel the same way towards Trina.
    Puppet Shows 
  • Played for Laughs in Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: Briefcase is such a fundamentalist for joining the workforce that he forces his aspiring author brother, whom he refers to exclusively as "Unemployed Brendon" despite the latter's protests, to act as the Anti-Role Model in a musical number about how great it is to have a job and how not having a job makes you a worthless loser. It's abruptly revealed that, despite looking and sounding much younger than the obviously-adult Briefcase, Brendon is the older brother.

  • Zoe sees her brother Connor as this in Dear Evan Hansen thanks to his drug use and volatile behavior. His suicide early in Act I didn’t help much either.

    Video Games 
  • In Ensemble Stars!, Ritsu used to highly admire his older brother Rei, but became disillusioned after he travelled overseas to study, leaving Ritsu behind. Rei continually tries to win him back by doting on him but Ritsu resists.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Mission Vao initially looks up to her older brother Griff growing up in the slums of Taris, teaching her how to slice computers and such until he leaves her behind. When the two reunite, it turns out that Griff was really a sleazy, craven loser who willingly ditched Mission to save his own hide. Safe to say that her pedestal was broken at this point.

    Web Comics 
  • Sticky Dilly Buns: This is Ruby's stated view of her older sister Amber. They seem to have been close when Ruby was very young, but the teenage Amber evidently found more mature interests and started keeping Ruby at a distance just when Ruby needed a friend — and when the teenage Ruby later discovered that Amber had become a porn actress, well, "disappointment" doesn't cover it. Ruby eventually admits that she was jealous of Amber's perceived sexiness (and presumably of her general social success), but Amber failing to be what Ruby wanted in an older sibling was clearly a big part of the problem.
  • The Greatest Estate Developer has OG!Lloyd be the complete disgrace that not only publicly ruins the reputation of the Frontera family, but also directly bullies his younger brother Julian. When Suho Kim gets reincarnated as Lloyd, it takes a Conflict Killer in the form of Lloyd taking revenge on Julian's bullies for Julian to decide to give the new Lloyd a chance.
  • Trapped: How Chae-ah is unfairly seen by her family, due to being an ex-con from a Crime of Self-Defense; stabbing her abusive boyfriend at the time.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Hayley is seen this way due to her rebellious nature and her extreme liberalism. It doesn't help that she shamelessly mooches off her parents and has no intention of ever supporting herself. In an episode where Hayley offers to babysit Steve after his regular babysitter is injured, her parents are initially reluctant to leave her in charge.
  • In American Dragon: Jake Long, Jake is initially viewed as this by his sister Haley due to his laziness and immaturity, while she's a responsible savant. While this diminishes over time, she doesn't really begin to respect him until late in the second season, where she temporarily takes his place as the American Dragon after Jake intentionally gets himself suspended from the role. After realizing just how much work the role is and how little respect one gets for it, Haley grows to appreciate her older brother and wholeheartedly defends him when their grandfather discovers what Jake did.
  • D.W. Read from Arthur does not have a high opinion of her titular older brother. She views him as someone who makes so many mistakes, that whenever she wants to do something right, she does the exact opposite of whatever he does. This is despite the fact that most of the time, Arthur is more mature and level-headed than D.W. is, and most of the arguments between the two are D.W.'s fault in the first place. To sum up, she's just a spoiled brat. Sometimes subverted whenever we get flash-forwards to the future (imagined and otherwise), with one instance of such even depicting D.W. as looking up to and admiring her brother come her preteen years.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Azula is of the "blindly parroting her father's dislike" type, though with her pleasure in tormenting and one-upping her older brother Zuko is just as motivated by her believing that their mother loved Zuko while having nothing but fear and hate for her.
    • Azula and Zuko's father, Firelord Ozai, seems to have a similar chip on his shoulder in regards to his older brother Iroh. It's heavily implied in "Zuko Alone" that Azula is parroting her father by calling her uncle lazy and disgraceful, and Ozai wastes no time in calling Iroh a failure and attempting to convince his father to renounce Iroh as heir in favor of him when Iroh's only child Lu Ten dies in battle.
    • In the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Korra's uncle, Chief Unalaq of the Northern Water Tribe, disdained his older brother Tonraq for, among other reasons, the latter's lack of spirituality. It gets to the point that Unalaq enacts a plan to get Tonraq banished and removed from the line of succession because he thought he deserved to be Chief more.
    • The Book 3 episode "Old Wounds" shows that when they were young, rebellious wild-child Suyin resented her by-the-book older sister Lin. She grew out of this with time and after an extended period of estrangement from Lin. Lin, on the other hand, still holds her side of the grudge when they finally reunite.
  • Daria: The title character is seen this way by her shallow younger sister Quinn, mostly because Daria is plainly dressed and unpopular. For most of the show, Quinn claims she is an only child and denies the fact that she and Daria are sisters.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Despite being older than Dexter, Dee Dee acts more like an Annoying Younger Sibling and is mostly seen destroying or ruining Dexter's lab, although usually by accident. Dexter is endlessly annoyed by Dee Dee and sees her as a nuisance.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    • A big deal is made about Eddy's older brother, though we never see him on screen. He's often treated as a "mythical" figure by the kids of the cul-de-sac, although Rolf and Kevin are terrified of him. Come the movie, we finally do get to meet him, but he's a sadistic Big Brother Bully and everyone that didn't already know this gets disillusioned by him. It's also implied that Eddy's parents were aware of his antisocial qualities and were harsh on Eddy to keep him from ending up like him, as his old room is hidden behind wallpaper.
    • Sarah can't stand her older brother Ed even though he cares for her as his "baby sister" and does whatever she asks. Even when he's not around, she refers to him as "my stupid brother". In fact, even before the movie, she's the only one who doesn't idolize Eddy's Cool Big Bro because, in her own words, "all brothers are stupid". Though she does become a little nicer to him at the end of the movie.
  • Family Guy: The oldest child Meg is seen by everyone as the loser of the family and is often picked on and belittled not only by her younger siblings (especially Chris) but also her parents. Ironically, she's probably the most normal of the family.
  • In Hey Arnold!, Helga cannot stand her older sister Olga. Rather than looking down on her, Helga sees her as a nuisance because she's jealous of her big sister's accomplishments and parental attention.
  • Invader Zim: Gaz has no respect whatsoever for her older brother Dib. While they're the only two humans who see through Zim's terrible human disguise, Gaz still looks down on Dib for obsessing over an "invader" who's so horribly incompetent.
  • Despite having qualities of The Ace, Connie & Lonnie from Kim Possible are seen as this by their little sister Bonnie due to them being bullies towards her.
  • Pepper Ann: Moose has absolutely no respect for her Jerkass older sister and sees her as a total nuisance. Moose might as well be the big sister, compared to P.A.
  • Downplayed in Recess. Sporty Vince begins one episode talking about how cool his older brother Chad is when he's actually a huge nerd, something Vince apparently hadn't realized until his friends point it out and Chad himself confirms it. He spends the rest of the episode trying to reconcile this information with the way that he's always thought of Chad before, but ends it happily idolizing his brother once again when he successfully threatens a bully and makes them back down.
  • On The Simpsons, Lisa Simpson sees her older brother Bart as an immature and poorly behaved underachiever, not helped by the constant pranks he pulls on her. Marge and Homer agree and even put her in charge of babysitting him one evening (which, unsurprisingly, does not go well).
  • Molly from Taz-Mania considers her older brother Taz a Downplayed version of this trope, while she loves him dearly and at times even does her best to make a connection with him (in her own way), she's the only one in the family who gets frustrated at best and sometimes even contemptuous at worst toward Taz's.... less-then-sophisticated antics.

    Real Life 
  • Given that the oldest child (or historically, the oldest male child) is often the heir apparent in a monarchy and cannot be displaced, this can come into play:
    • Queen Victoria and Prince Albert thought of their oldest son, Prince Albert Edward ("Bertie", the future King Edward VII), as a major disappointment. Known to Victoria as "my caricature", Bertie never excelled in academics or the military, and his parents had to cover up his dalliances with prostitutes. Prince Albert's death occurred shortly after a visit to Cambridge to lecture Bertie after learning of his trysts with an actress, and Victoria blamed Bertie for Albert's death. Victoria's favorite child was her third son Prince Arthur, known for his military prowess, while Albert's favorite was their oldest child, Princess Royal Victoria.
    • King George V of the United Kingdom made no secret of his disappointment with his older son and heir apparent, Prince Edward, due to his reckless behavior and womanizing. In 1935, George said of Edward: "After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself within 12 months", and favored the throne going to his younger son Albert and granddaughter Elizabeth, saying, "I pray to God my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne." George's prediction was dead on, and following an uneasy reign lasting less than a year, Edward abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Albert succeeded him as king (as George VI), and Edward proceeded to harass his brother with multiple phone calls a day, asking for money and a royal style for Wallis. A trip to Germany the following year where Edward and Wallis were photographed looking chummy with Hitler certainly didn't help his historical image either. During World War II, the British government assigned Edward to serve as governor of the Bahamas after accusations he leaked plans to the Nazis.
  • Louis XIV with his legitimated bastards. He preferred the clever Duke of Maine and dashing Count of Toulouse over their older half-brother the timid Count of Vermandois, and barely wept when the latter died at 16 trying to earn his father's pride on the battlefield. Some sources claim he loved all of his bastards more than his eldest and only trueborn son, Louis the Great Dauphin, who could not live up to the image his father liked to project.
    • Sources claim he also felt this way about his daughters: Marie-Anne de Conti, the eldest of them, was allegedly his favorite, but also by far the one that gave him the most trouble.