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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.


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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    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.

    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.


    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.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • God doesn't subscribe to this trope: in The Bible, "And [Elisha the prophet] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them." Yes, He had children rent apart by bears on a case of verbal abuse. In fact, you could extend His aversion of this trope to His interactions with every being in Creation.
    • Actually, these weren't children. Translations that are closer to the original Hebrew verify that these were in fact teenagers and young men who essentially told Elisha to drop dead. In Elisha's day, it was the custom for delinquents like these to bully travelers and mock whatever physical defects said travelers had. And considering that a Jewish boy became a man at age twelve or thirteen, this is the more the case of adult-on-adult violence. The young men got what they deserved.

  • 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.
  • 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.

    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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