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Double Standard: Violence, Child on Adult

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It seems very common for writers to let children hurt adults, especially if it's Played for Laughs and the perpetrators get away with it. On the other hand, any adult who hurts children tends to be seen as evil if said act is done, and tends to suffer Laser-Guided Karma.

One reason for that is that a young child (not a teenager, who is physically an adult) is assumed to be fairly easy for most adults to subdue while doing little harm to the child if the child becomes violent, and there's few parents out there who would want to wreck their children's lives by calling the cops if they already have the situation in hand. Also, while kids can be cruel, they are also perceived as innocent as well as extremely cute, and since adults are considered big and strong and capable, the child is very likely to get away with whatever horrible things they do to adults because not only is it entertaining, we can also fault the adult for being too incompetent to handle a child.

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Note that inversions do happen, as demonstrated by Hilariously Abusive Childhood trope. The Enfant Terrible may be an aversion, but still expect heroes to show more angst about hurting a child than they would an adult enemy who was doing the same thing.

Related to Children Are Innocent and Kids Are Cruel. See Would Hurt a Child for when adults DO retaliate, and Hide Your Children, where children are noticeably absent in video games on similar ethical grounds. Compare Kid Hero.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Hori from Horimiya is repeatedly shown to be abusive towards her father and has been so ever since she was a child, and unlike with when she hits her boyfriend (where she's always shown to feel guilty about it afterwards and would prefer if the situation was reversed), it's played exclusively for laughs.
  • In Midori Days Nao would put her Mad Scientist father under torture when he gets carried away in his urges to take Midori from Seiji and perform research on her. This is played completely for comedy, and portrayed a well-deserved comeuppance for his being a creep.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Subverted in a particularly egregious story that revolved around a child psychologist selling Donald on the idea that beating the kids up was evil, and that he had been stifling their creativity and should let them do as they please; Huey, Dewey and Louie abuse the situation to extreme levels, and act like whimsical, irresponsible brats. Once Donald catches on, he invites said psychologist at home for dinner and a chat, and, while he pompously lectures Donald, the kids blow fireworks under his armchair. His clothes singed, his face a mask of fury, he leaps at the kids, ready to beat the crap out of them, while Donald looks on, a smug grin on his face.
  • Runaways plays with this frequently. Molly Hayes has punched countless adults and older teenagers, usually with only the slightest provocation, and yet it's treated as humorous or even adorable, yet any adult who so much as threatens Molly (or later, Klara) tends to be treated as a monster who's crossed a line.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Hulk Hogan comedy vehicle Mr Nanny has a few gags that depend on this. Some of the pranks that the two kids carry out on Hogan's character include using a supermagnet when he's working out to mess with his 200+ pound barbell before letting it fall down from the ceiling. He dodges it in time, but it could have easily killed him. They also rig a device to electrocute him in the bathroom when he steps out of the shower. Of course, it's played for laughs because of the use of Amusing Injuries.
  • Subverted in The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. It’s definitely ironic that the child is the one who sexually abuses his father rather than the other way around. However, the abuse is still treated completely straight with Isaiah constantly gaslighting his father, threatening to kill him if he reveals their secret to anyone, and his father eventually killing himself after being so psychologically damaged by the prolonged abuse. In short, while a rare case, it certainly features a realistic take on abusive relationships, regardless of who the abuser and/or victim is.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Slap thoroughly deconstructs this from several angles. Spoiled Brat Hugo is cheating at cricket at a family barbecue, causing a fight with the other children and lashing out with a cricket bat. When Harry, the father of one of the children, steps in to stop it, Hugo kicks him hard on the shin, and Harry responds with a hard slap across the face. The whole of the rest of the plot deals with the ramifications to the various family and friends who get dragged into the ensuing hostilities between Harry and the boy's Beloved Smother.

    Webcomics 
  • Illustrated in this xkcd, which shows how dark Home Alone would be if Kevin and the bandits' roles are reversed (see page image).

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • He has the following reaction on seeing an adult beating up a twelve-year-old in The Garbage Pail Kids Movie: "Dude, you're beating a twelve-year-old! What an asshole!". Then not a second later, it cuts to the scene where the roles are reversed: "Dude, you're getting beaten up by a twelve-year-old! What an asshole!", with the tone completely changing from shock to amusement.
    • He has the opposite reaction when he reviewed Mr Nanny, where Hulk Hogan's character suffers abuse from the children he's supposed to watch over that would realistically have killed him.
      Critic: Okay, there's a difference between pranks and attempted murder.

    Western Animation 
  • Codename: Kids Next Door revolves around this trope. Children beating up adults is played for laughs, while it's played as a Kick the Dog moment when an adult hurts a child. However, it is Discussed and Deconstructed in Operation: M.A.T.A.D.O.R.: While the "Bull Fights" are shown at first as slapstick, Numbuh 5 berates Wally for taking part in them, saying the KND fight only evil adults, and the latter discovers the sinister truth behind said fights (adults are lured with promises of becoming better fathers, and force-fed enough coffee to charge at anything) as he's pitted against his own father.
  • In The Fairly OddParents, Vicky acts dominating towards her parents, causing them to fear her. This is always Played for Laughs. Imagine the reaction of the audience if the roles were reversed.
  • In Family Guy, Lois is assaulted at a supermarket by a group of children who mistake her for Saggy Naggy, a grouchy puppet character on Peter's kids' show whom Peter based on to get back at her.
    • Subverted in a different episode; Peter beats a child bully unconscious and it is played for laughs.
  • The Proud Family: On the Thingy episode, a group of toddlers beat up Oscar and nobody tries to call for help. Imagine the reactions if many adults ganged up on an infant.
  • In The Simpsons, episode "Two Bad Neighbors", George H. W. Bush is a guest character. The first act of the episode has Bart floating around the former president as a wannabe Dennis the Menace, simply causing havoc and Mr. Bush being unable to do more than fume while his wife is oblivious about Bart's antics and thinking he's a nice kid. When Bart shreds Mr. Bush's autobiography, the former president has had enough and spanks Bart's bottom once before sending him home to "think about what he had done". Bart's response: go to Homer and tell him that Mr. Bush had hit him, making both guys (who had been chums during the first act) go on the (increasingly serious) warpath. At least once during the next two acts, Mr. Bush tells Homer that Bart deserved it because of destroying his autobiography and other havoc and wants an apology, but Bart doesn't want to give it and Homer doesn't care about it; Bush hit his kid, and Homer wants payback (hypocritical because, you know, the throttlings).
  • This is implied in SpongeBob SquarePants in the episode "The Bully", with Flats bullying his father, and his father being scared.
  • Deconstructed in the King of the Hill episode "Hank's Bully." Hank is harassed by a 10 year old, who goes so far as destroy Hank's lawn with his bike. His parents, however, refuse to intervene, thinking their son's antics as adorable. When Hank actually retaliates against the kid and takes the bike, he gets the police called on him, who don't believe Hank is being mistreated. Hank comes across a solution: sic Bobby on the kid's parents. After a day of the same treatment, the brat's parents finally decide to punish their son.
  • The Boondocks:
    • Averted in "Guess Hoe's Coming to Dinner". Robert witnesses a child throw a horrible tantrum in the supermarket. He advises the boy's mother to belt him, which she does, and is seen as a hero by everyone in the store.
    • Averted in "Smoking With Cigarettes". Lamilton Taeshawn is a such a horrible delinquent, and the fact that he beats up his own grandma is taken very seriously.

    Real Life 
  • This occurs in school systems frequently. Minors, especially teenagers, are aware of the fact that teachers will put themselves at risk for termination, lawsuits, and/or jail time should they ever physically assault their students. So students exploit this trope by engaging in unruly behavior, such as disruption of the class, destruction of school property, the theft of the teachers' belongings, fighting, yelling, insubordination, horseplay, and using fighting words to provoke adults to assault them. This is also because students are aware of the fact that they will not face any legal repercussions for their actions.


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