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Gruesome Grandparent

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And you thought his parents were bad!
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When it comes to family drama, a parent can be a real pain. Maybe a straight-up Archnemesis Dad or Evil Matriarch. But sometimes the parents are fine; it's the grandparent that's a problem. An Evil Old Folk who for whatever reason has it out for their grandson or granddaughter. Perhaps they were abusive to their own children and they haven't changed their ways with the next generation. Or maybe they want to avert some sort of prophecy by offing the grand-offspring.

If one's own parent is still abusive or antagonistic, this might be why they're not good parents. Or perhaps if the protagonist has Good Parents, it's in response to the grandparent. Compare Wise Old Folk Façade, an elderly character who acts as a kindly grandparent figure to someone but is actually manipulating them for evil purposes.

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The grandparent being nasty might be what spurs the parent or Cool Uncle into Breaking the Cycle of Bad Parenting. If there's a Big, Screwed-Up Family, expect this type of grandparent to be the start of it. Contrast Doting Grandparent, who are loving and affectionate to their grandchildren.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ai Yori Aoshi: After his father's death, the Hanabishi family forced Kaoru's mother to give Kaoru up to them for the sole purpose of raising him to be their next heir. Kaoru suffered years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his paternal grandfather, which culminated in said grandfather burning all of his mother's possessions and photos; when Kaoru tried to stop him, the old bastard beat him with a wooden cane, leaving his back Covered with Scars. Sometime after this incident, Kaoru ran away from the Hanabishis and severed all ties with them for good. In any event, the fact that Kaoru remains such a Nice Guy after everything his grandpa put him through definitely qualifies him for sainthood.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: Tamaki's grandmother offered to pay for his mother's financial issues in return for letting him come to Japan and being forbidden from ever seeing her again. Despite this trade, she doesn't accept Tamaki as an heir and refers to him as "filthy" for being the child of a mistress.
  • Fruits Basket another: Akito Soma's mother Ren treats her grandson Shiki about the same as she did Akito in the past, which was abusive.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman mythos isn't quite as rife with these as abusive direct-parents, but they're certainly there:
    • The miniseries Scarecrow: Year One features a violently fundamentalist great-grandmother as the biggest influence in Jonathan Crane's childhood. She not only starved and physically beat him at the slightest misbehavior, but trained the local crows to swarm him if she was in a really bad mood.
    • Humpty Dumpty of Arkham Asylum: Living Hell was also raised by a physically abusive grandmother. This, coupled with his almost supernaturally bad luck, broke his mind and made him obsessed with disassembling objects, studying them to learn how they worked, and then "fixing" them to be better (hence "All the king's horses and all the king's men / Couldn't put Humpty together again"). At some point, Humpty extended this philosophy to his grandmother, "fixed" her with an axe, and put her back together again with bootlaces. It's ambiguous whether Humpty consciously understood what he was doing the whole time, or if he's genuinely mentally-arrested enough to not realize.
  • Preacher: Marie L'Angelle is a particularly horrifying example. A psychotic fundamentalist and Evil Matriarch, the ancient Marie keeps her family imprisoned on a backwoods hellhole farm with the help of her degenerate and perverted henchmen. She locks her grandson Jesse Custer in a coffin underwater for weeks to punish him, which she also did to her own daughter. Her death by her oxygen tanks catching on fire is nothing short of cathartic.
  • Runaways (Rainbow Rowell): Dr. Hayes, Molly's grandmother, a mutant supremacist who happens to be a geneticist. She spliced her own mutant genes into her biological daughter Alice and her adopted son Gene. In the series, she regains custody of her granddaughter so that she can use Molly's blood to try and create clones of Gene and Alice and thus recreate the family that she lost because of the Pride.
  • Squee: The titular character already has horribly abusive parents to contend with, but his grandfather comes over in one issue with the sole purpose of eating him for his youth.
  • Wonder Woman: In Wonder Woman (1942), Wonder Woman (1987), Wonder Woman (2006), Wonder Woman: Odyssey, The Legend of Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, Ares is Diana's grandfather and one of her most dangerous and consistent foes, though he does occasionally do things that help her out of his twisted care for his family. The violent self-obsessed misogynistic serial rapist Zeus who has tried to rape her before is her great-grandfather in these continuities as he is Ares' abusive father.
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    Fairy Tales 
  • "Tattercoats": The titular character's mother died giving birth to her, and her grandfather hates her for it. Hence he refers to her as "it", refuses to take care of her, and has sworn never to look at her face; he spends almost all of the story sitting by a window and endlessly weeping for his beloved daughter.

    Fan Works 
  • The Body Reflects the Heart, the Shadow Reflects the Soul: The CEO of Sandā Arsenal sells guns to anyone who can afford them, kidnaps Persona-users for his purposes, and is a ruthlessly controlling man towards his family. Ayaka Tani, his granddaughter who lost her mother (his daughter) to the Outbreaks fled from him and went into hiding out of fear that she'd never step outside again if she went to him.

    Films — Animation 
  • Kubo and the Two Strings: Kubo's maternal grandfather, Raiden the Moon King, is a supreme deity who loathes humanity and is disgusted that his daughter married a human. When Kubo was born, the Moon King ripped out one of the infant's eyes in an attempt to "make him blind" to the scum of humankind, and transformed Kubo's father Hanzo into a giant beetle and stole his memories. For the next twelve years, Raiden tries to hunt down Kubo in order to steal his other eye, planning to make him blind and cold to the world so he can embrace his godly heritage and reject humanity.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • About Little Red Riding Hood: The She-Wolf (mother of the wolf from the original fairytale) is disdainful and abusive towards her grandson the Wolf-Cub because the latter is kind and friendly towards humans, wants to learn more about them instead of fighting them, and doesn’t want to avenge his father. When she burns his favourite (and only) book, he snaps and instead of merely arguing with her starts actively helping Little Red Riding Hood.
  • Chinatown ends with the rapist and murderer multi-millionaire grandfather, Noah Cross, taking in his granddaughter (who is also his daughter) Katherine after her mother Evelyn's death, clearly planning to rape her as he did her mother, resulting in Katherine's birth.
  • Hereditary: Peter and Charlie's grandmother Ellen was very abusive and manipulative to their mother Annie, but when Annie finally gave way and let Ellen "have" Charlie (after not letting her near Peter, who is the eldest), Ellen used Charlie as a human host for the demon Paimon, and their cult caused Charlie's horrible beheading and drove Peter to suicide so that Charlie could be reborn in Peter's body. Whether this is a positive ending for Charlie is left extremely ambiguous, but it definitely isn't for Peter or Annie.
  • The Rise of Skywalker: Palpatine, the mastermind behind Snoke and the First Order, is revealed to be Rey's grandfather. He had her parents killed and tries to coax her into becoming the new Empress, but in reality he merely wants to possess her to escape his broken body. When he heals himself using her and Kylo Ren's dyad, he dispenses with this plan and just tries to kill her.note 
  • Violet, from Trash Fire, is a religious fanatic who regularly verbally abuses her grandson Owen, his girlfriend Isabelle, and his sister Pearl. She eventually tries to kill the family as a whole, having killed her own daughter and son in law years prior.
  • The horror film The Visit is all about this. Two children named Becca and Tyler find their grandparents online and make arrangements to stay with them while their mother, who has long been estranged from the older couple, goes on a cruise with her boyfriend. Though Nana and Pop-Pop seem sweet at first, it soon becomes clear that something suspicious is going on, given that Nana vomits profusely and tries to lure the kids into the oven while Pop-Pop blithely dismisses all of the kids' fears. It ultimately turns out to be something of a subversion, though — because Nana and Pop-Pop aren't the children's grandparents at all. Rather, the original couple worked in a mental hospital, and two elderly residents killed them and stole their identities.

    Literature 
  • Anthony Horowitz wrote a children's novel titled Granny, where the titular grandmother delights in being evil not just to her grandchild but her daughter and son-in-law and random people as well. She turns out to be part of a conspiracy of evil grandmothers, and when her plans are foiled and she's sent to a retirement home, takes the place of another old lady who died so as to keep sponging off the other lady's kids. Her family flees when they think she's Back from the Dead, and the rage at being abandoned (finally) gives her a heart attack.
  • Dune: Baron Harkonnen turns out to be this to Paul and Alia Atreides, alongside being an Archnemesis Dad to their mother. Given his predilections, he was shocked to learn this from the latter, who ends up being haunted by his Genetic Memory.
  • In George's Marvellous Medicine, George's grandmother is very mean (not outright abusive, but still a nasty piece of work). She insults George for "growing too fast", claims he has a bad diet, says the best thing to eat is bugs, and scares him by saying she has magical powers.
  • Holes: Charles "Trout" Walker was an abusive asshole to both his children and grandchildren, forcing them to help him dig endlessly for Kate Barlow's treasure in the desert every day of their lives, not even letting them take breaks on Christmas or their birthdays. This is what caused the Warden (Trout's granddaughter) to become the bitter and cynical woman she is in the present day.
  • I, Claudius: Livia ends up poisoning a number of her family members to ensure Tiberius becomes emperor. In real life, their deaths were natural.
  • Jane of Lantern Hill: Jane's grandmother manipulated her own grown adult daughter into leaving her husband so she and Jane could live with her permanently. The Grandmother is so vindictive and jealous of anyone other than her getting attention from her daughter that she not only controls who her daughter talks to, but even emotionally abuses Jane for attempting to receive affection from her own mother.
  • Our Only May Amelia: May Amelia and her brothers can't stand their Grandmother Patience because she's so mean and spiteful to everyone - and likewise, the grandmother absolutely loathes her grandchildren, particularly May Amelia. When she moves into the house under the pretense that's she's getting too old to keep her own house by herself, Grandmother Patience can do nothing but make cruel, snide remarks towards May Amelia and her mother and demand everything from the twelve-year-old girl, using her as her personal servant under the guise of "turning her into a proper young lady" and beating her with a cane hard enough to cause some nasty bruising.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • As revealed in "Kayda 8: The Best Days of Our Lives (Part 2)", Pejuta's grandmother had a long-term plot to get Pejuta to leave school, by having people harass her, and almost got her killed.
    • Eisenmadel's family is a mess. Her great-grandfather was the Nazi Theme Agent The Green Knight. While her grandmother, the original Eisenmadel, rejected her father's beliefs and became an anti-Fascist superheroine. Then her mother joins with the branch of the family which clung to The Fourth Reich's attempts to subvert the US government, with Erica herself joining her grandparents in opposing them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Boys, Arc Villain Soldier Boy is revealed to be the father of Homelander and grandfather of Ryan. Homelander attempts to reconcile with him so they could be a family, but Soldier Boy ends up being an even bigger narcissist than him and declares him an Inadequate Inheritor before trying to kill them both.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Pappy Mcpoyle, the elderly patriarch of the severely inbred Mcpoyle family. Who gives us a good idea of who he is when he starts loudly ranting about how his entire family was born "fully-formed" from him and that he was forced to eat one of his own to avoid being eaten himself. He doesn't enter gruesome territory until several episodes later when he orders the bird living under his hat to peck out the prosecutor's eyes at the crescendo of Paddy's Pub's Courtroom Antics.
  • Luke Cage has Mama Mabel, who leads an organized crime syndicate and forces her grandson Cornell to participate through verbal and mental abuse. When her granddaughter Mariah got pregnant from being raped by her great-uncle, Mabel forced her to go through a traumatizing pregnancy and birth instead of letting her have an abortion. Her horrible parenting of Cornell and Mariah caused them both to be quite screwed up as adults.
    • She also eventually forces Cornell execute Uncle Pete, who - despite his other crimes - was actually kind to Cornell. She did this not because of Pete's molestation of Mariah, but because he betrayed her syndicate.
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • Grandpa Victor and Grandma Ida see Reese as their favorite grandson, while they hate Francis because of his criminal record (despite the fact that Reese creates almost as much mayhem as Francis did before being sent to Military School), and look down upon Malcolm as a weakling because he does well in school. Dewey is mostly spared because they ignore him, though he apparently remembers them dropping him when he was a baby, and Victor nearly running him over when he was three years old.
    • Victor only appeared in the introductory episode, as by the time Ida made her next appearance Victor had already died. Even by herself, Ida was still loathed by most of her family, still psychologically abusing Lois, getting into heated arguments with Francis, and looking down on Malcolm because of his studiousness. Because Ida is also a Racist Grandma, she'll occasionally mouth off an offensive comment aimed at Pyama, Francis's wife, a woman of Inuit descent.
  • The Politician: Infinity was raised by her grandmother Dusty after her mother's death. Dusty, who has Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, poisoned her and made her believe she was sick, having killed her mother, too.
  • Supernatural:
  • In Kirby Buckets, the title character's Grandma Inga is said to be the only living person who likes Dawn more than Kirby. This changes after Kirby launches his web channel, but this doesn't last long after Kirby is forced to kill off Scrunch Face, who is Inga's favorite character but The Scrappy to most of his fans. Inga then tortures Kirby until he brings back Scrunch Face, but Kirby refuses to give in as doing so would be a betrayal to his fans.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Lycaon, the first werewolf, butchers a child to trick Zeus into committing cannibalism. Depending on the Writer, the child was his own infant grandson, and in others it's his young son. Either way it's seen as exceptionally repellent and he's cursed to become a werewolf because of it.
    • Perseus' grandfather Acrisius locked him up with his mother in a crate and sent them out to sea because he feared Perseus one day overthrowing him. Fate being what it is, this fails and Perseus accidentally kills him with a discus throw.
    • Gaia instigates no less than three rebellions to topple down whoever controls the heavens whenever something bothers her. She helps her children, the Titans, depose her husband, Ouranos, then aids their children, the Olympians, to depose them in turn. She later gives birth to Typhon and the Gigantes, who became the last serious challenge to the Olympians' control over the universe.
  • The Bible: In the Books of Kings, after Judah's king Ahaziah is assassinated, his mother Athaliah names herself queen and executes (almost) all his sons. She missed the youngest, which proved to be her downfall.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: While not her biological relative, Zouken Matou is the adoptive grandfather to Sakura Matou. He's a horrible guardian whose "tests" are more "torture", and his abusive nature to his biological grandson Shinji are a large part of why he's such a Jerkass.
  • In the second book of It Lives, the main character Harper's grandfather Arthur is extremely harsh and controlling from the start. Then it is revealed that he killed Harper's parents. But then it turns out he was framed and is Good All Along. However, one of the main villains, a terrifying lake monster, is revealed to be Arthur's wife, Harper's grandmother Josephine.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Not Always Working: This boss's grandmother was clearly not kind to him, as he admits that the last time he saw her, she sicced a pit bull on him and she convinced him that everyone else dislikes their grandparents just as much. This ends up making him look horrible when he yells at an employee for missing work due to her attending her grandmother's funeral, unaware that said employee and her grandmother utterly adored each other.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Firelord Ozai's own father Azulon tried to order his grandson Zuko's death, so Ozai would know what it feels like to lose a kid, no less after he made unsavory comments about his older brother Iroh's loss of his son and heir. Ozai was considering doing the job for him, but his wife got wind of things and aided him in committing Patricide to protect Zuko instead.
  • Zig-Zagged by Ben & Gwen's Grandma Verdona in Ben 10: Alien Force. She loved her family, but her alien Blue-and-Orange Morality made her seem callous in her first appearance as she casually tried to force Gwen to embrace her Energy Being heritage by attempting to destroy her physical body and blasted Ben (and Kevin) through a wall when they stood in her way. She Took a Level in Kindness by her next appearance, however.
  • The Boondocks: Uncle Ruckus' grandmother Nelly first shows up in his life after 50 years as an uninvited houseguest. Being a miserable, hateful old woman, she plans to die in his house regardless of his wishes, insulting him all the while. She was no better to her son Mister, perpetuating The Chain of Harm that led to Mister taking his frustrations out on his own sons. She also ends up cutting her other grandson with a switchblade when he tries to stop her from dying on someone else's property.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • Grandfather, the Greater-Scope Villain and father to Father, turns out to literally be the grandfather of Nigel Uno/Numbuh One; he was the Archnemesis Dad to Numbuh Zero, a.k.a. Nigel's father Monty Uno. For what it's worth, he does seem to be fond of his son (in a Worthy Opponent manner), but has no compunctions trying to turn his grandson into a Senior Citizombie like everyone else.
    • Numbuh Two's Grandma Lydia, a physically abusive Jewish Mother who leads the supervillain group known as the Senior Citizen Squad. Outside of supervillainy she serves as the matriarch of his family, with her anger issues causing them to see her as The Dreaded.

    Real Life 
  • The Roman Empire: The Roman Emperor Elagabalus was assassinated alongside his mother after just four years of rule, and the main culprit behind their deaths was his maternal grandmother Julia Maesa. She made him emperor in the first place, but he proved to be a chaotic emperor due to his hedonism and zealotry towards the obscure El-Gabal over the Roman pantheon, and his mother was a bad influence on him; thus the motive was to prevent him being problematic by replacing him with his more stable cousin Alexander Severus. Unfortunately, Severus would end up being perceived as a weak Momma's Boy, which led to his own assassination and crises by the army.
  • Nancy Hazel, a.k.a. the "Giggling Granny", was a Black Widow and Serial Killer who killed four husbands and several of her own family members, including two of her children and two grandchildren.

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