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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. Whatever the cause, one result is the older sibling's attempts to exert authority will be ignored by the others. Another result is 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 him who's boss). If things really get out of hand, a Cain and Abel scenario can occur.

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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.

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


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Subverted in Pokémon with Paul's attitude towards his older brother, Reggie. Paul respects Reggie enough to leave his Pokémon with the latter. However, Paul sees Reggie’s "kindness to his Pokemon" part of his training style as a disappointment.
  • 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.
  • Similarly, Doremi Harukaze 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.

    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.
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    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' deaths during The Plague) and proving himself to be a far more incompetent ruler than Stannis.

     Films — Animation 
  • Frozen:
    • 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 parent died. What little faith she had in her older sister ended 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 ended up being completely rejected with the last straw being that she gets struck in the heart and 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 reconciled.
    • 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 irresponsible Manchild due to how spoiled has despite him being the favorite child.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • In Step Brothers, Brennan's younger brother, Derek, goes on to become a wealthy executive while Brennan becomes an unemployed outcast.

    Literature 
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Theater 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dragon: Jake Long, Jake is viewed as this by his family members due to his laziness and immaturity. This ignores the fact that his dragon responsibility is a major part of his life. This is deconstructed in an episode when Haley takes his place as the American dragon, and she sees how hard it really is. Then Haley gains more respect for her older brother.
  • 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.
  • 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 mostly 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. Come the movie, we finally do get to meet him, and he's a douchebag bully, and everyone gets disillusioned by him.
    • 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. This is inverted, however, as Helga doesn't see her as much of a disappointment, just a nuisance because she's jealous of Olga.
  • 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.
  • 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. He spends the rest of the episode trying to reconcile this information with the way that he's always thought of Chad before.
  • On The Simpsons, Lisa Simpson sees her older brother, Bart, as an immature and poorly behaved underachiever. 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.

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