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I Am Not My Father

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Valerian Mengsk: Everyone wonders if I will be as good an emperor as my father. But I want something more. To prove that I will be a better emperor. And a better man.
Raynor: That shouldn't be hard.

There's that old saying about apples and how they don't fall far from the tree. Sometimes they do and sometimes that apple decides to jump and fly away to make sure it's not considered too close to the parental tree.

Enter this trope. This is when a child decides for themselves that they aren't going to repeat the same mistakes that their parents have made. Maybe the child was raised with a Jerkass for a father, or mommy dearest was a Cloudcuckoolander of the worst kind. Or, maybe the child has just developed an interest that strays far away from their parent's preferences. Whether out of embarrassment or for the sake of rebellion, expect this to lead to Calling the Old Woman Out/Calling the Old Man Out and/or You're Not My Father/Mother.

Compare Archnemesis Dad, in which the parent-child relationship is outright antagonistic. Contrast Turn Out Like His Father, where the parent doesn't want the child to imitate someone in the family, and Pursuing Parental Perils. See also Like Parent, Unlike Child, where the child really isn't like the parent, and isn't necessarily trying to be that way. Related to Morally Superior Copy, where a clone or duplicate turns out to be morally superior to the villainous original. Not to be confused with Luke, I Am Your Father.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Blue Exorcist: There's no way in hell Rin Okumura is going to turn out like his biological father, Satan himself.
  • Hungry Heart has a more benevolent "I Am Not My Brother" variation with the protagonist, Kyousuke Kanou. As a child, he learned to play and love soccer from his older brother, Seisuke Kanou, who as an adult would grow to become The Ace of the A.C Milan. However, people began to criticize Kyousuke for having a different playing style to his brother, which ultimately led him to quit soccer altogether. It's later revealed that this was due to him discovering that he was adopted, which only strained his family relationships even more.
  • Love Pistols: Present multiple times, subverted and played straight.
    • From the furthest generation back, Makio Madarame doesn't want to become like her father so she discards all family duty and elopes with her girlfriend - her case is partly subverted because A) her girlfriend was her father's lover first, with them having the same tastes, and B) Makio has a very similar personality to her father... to the point where the most she manages is Sociopathic Hero on a good day (her girlfriend being her Morality Chain).
    • Makio's son, Yonekuni, doesn't want to become like his father's lover and goes as far as to completely hate all men (and artists) just to make sure... only for this to be subverted harshly when it turns out he has exactly the same Green-Eyed Epiphany his step-father had regarding his lover (with both previously before being unattracted to men), exactly the same slow-realisation Oblivious to Love Green-Eyed Monster relationship with his lover as his step-father did with his father, and their lovers' personalities are incredibly similar.
    • Makio's second son, Kunimasa, actually ends up being the one to play this trope straight when Makio tries to force him into an arranged marriage by unwisely threatening his boyfriend, whereupon he ended up snapping and finally Calling the Old Man Out.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Fate Testarossa plays this straight and inverts it in regards to her parenting methods. Her biological mother was practically the Trope Codifier for Abusive Parents in anime, and the idea that she could end up like that in regards to her own children terrifies Fate (to the point where the Big Bad of StrikerS uses it as the basis for his Breaking Speech). So she does everything in her power to emulate her adoptive mother instead, who is the complete opposite.
  • My Hero Academia: Shoto Todoroki rejects any and all comparisons to his abusive father Endeavor. As such, he would refuse to use his flame powers to differentiate himself from his father. It wasn't until Midoriya called him out on his holding himself back for this exact reason that he finally started to use his pyrokinesis. Before the fight, Midoriya even gives it to Endeavor himself straight:
    I'm not All Might. And Todoroki isn't you.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: While definitely following in his father's footsteps, Negi picks up dark magic reasoning that no matter how much he pursues his father, he isn't him. If there's a better way to do what he has to, then he'll do it.
  • Soul Eater:
    • Black Star has no intention of going down the same path as the violently dangerous Star Clan, though it takes a while for him to recognise it was a real possibility and took the Nakatsukasa Purpose's third option. His Parental Substitute and Mentor, Sid, is the one who refers to this trope the most as he was the one (in the manga) who killed White Star, and so saw the signs that Black Star could Turn Out Like His Father.
    • Invoked in a positive sense with Kid and Shinigami. Seeing what became of Asura, and realising what their father was capable of, Kid is at first hesitant to 'ascend' and become a true Shinigami. He is reassured by his friends that he is a different person, and will do things his own way. Not that Kid realises it, but this is exactly what Shinigami wanted him to do all along.
  • A brotherly version occurs in Avesta of Black and White with Magsarion. He is the younger brother of the great hero Varhram. After Varhram died during the Day of Collapse 20 years before the start of the story everyone is now saddling Magsarion with their hopes and ideals for him to be the same kind of hero Varhram was. Magsarion however wants none of this and is actively doing everything in his power to be as different from his brother as he can, utterly loathing being compared to someone he hated so. This hatred even gave birth to a Commandment that requires him to be as different as possible, just so that he can be seen as his own person. Things gets more complicated once it is revealed that he is not the brother but in fact the bastard child of Varhram and that the great hero was not as virtuous as he presented himself. This reveal however opens the floodgates for Magsarion to finally grow into his own.

    Comic Books 
  • In ElfQuest, the wolfrider chief Cutter takes pity on a group of captive humans, and lets them go. His tribemate Strongbow angrily points out that his father Bearclaw would have killed them. Cutter enragedly exclaims "I am not Bearclaw! I am Cutter!" and proceeds to kick Strongbow's ass to drive the point home.
  • In the Shadows of their Fathers is an arc of Star Wars Empire where a young Luke Skywalker's faith in the image of his father as heroic and worth emulating is (temporarily) shattered as he works with the Jabiim, a people who Anakin had abandoned as tactically not worth it during the Clone Wars. Well, before Luke works with them they call for his death, beat him up, and he pleads for one to confirm or deny the allegation that his father beheaded Jabiimi children, but then he throws himself into helping them. At the end of the miniseries the Jabiimi entrench themselves and he states that he's staying with them. (mind the Art Shift)
    "I'm the reason the Empire's here - I'm responsible for all of this! My father abandoned you when you needed him the most - I won't do the same!"
    • The Jabiimi only persuade him to leave by telling him that he's not like his father; he's got little tactical sense but he cares despite persecution; him leaving is not abandonment or betrayal, but being needed more elsewhere.

    Fan Works 
  • The Immortal Game: Rarity has spent years trying to not be like her father, General Esteem. This comes to a head when they end up fighting each other in the war, with Rarity effectively disowning him.
  • My Little Mages: The Nightmare's Return: Pinkie Pie's father is the Grand Master of the the Shadow Blades, and wants her to continue the family line of being assassins. She refuses, repeatedly.
  • The Superjail! fanfic Extended Stay starts to use this trope from Chapter 11 onwards, starting when the Mistress discovers she is pregnant and that the Warden is the father.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Fluttercruel makes it a point to be nothing like Discord (who created her by Mind Raping Fluttershy and thus is technically her father).
  • Old West: Rattlesnake Jake never drinks himself into drunkenness because his father James Douglas beat Jake's mother Selena every night when he returned home under the influence until it lead to her death. When Jake finds his lover Grace beaten by her husband, the following Extreme Mêlée Revenge is partly influenced by the flashback Jake has of his last night with his parents and his father's words of Jake becoming a man like him. In the following chapter, Jake continues acting on this trope by ultimately deciding not to drink in order to cope with his strained relationship with Grace.
    Jake: My daddy had his weakness. It destroyed him. Now I've got my own.
  • Inverted in Just an Unorthodox Thief: Lupin's daughter Riko and Kirei's daughter Caren want to be just like their fathers, despite their fathers being "bad" men.
  • A case of I am not my grandfather is shown in a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines with a young Samuel Oak. While he admires his grandfather Pallet Oak (who was considered the greatest Pokémon Master of all time), he's determined to make the world a better place in his own way.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Chloe Cerise resents dealing with everyone's presumption that she will follow in her father's footsteps. She actually despises Pokémon due to how Professor Cerise has paid far more attention to his research than he has to her, along with how he's forced her to help out around the lab as a research assistant, robbing her of the opportunity to join any after-school clubs or spend more free time doing things she actually enjoys.
  • The Black Sheep Dog Series: Sirius wants to cut off ties with his blood-purist parents and especially dislikes being compared to his aloof, cold-hearted father, Orion — which, due to their Strong Family Resemblance, happens more frequently than he likes. Chapter 31 deconstructs this by revealing that Sirius actually thinks quite highly of his father, and is rather insecure that he couldn't be more like him. A lot of his more insolent antics was his way of getting his dad's attention, because being the family's rebellious black sheep is better than simply be the one who isn't cut out for the program.
  • Drew from Total Drama Legacy hates being compared to his father Duncan. Understandable, as Duncan is a hardened criminal and Drew is a Student Council President who aspires to become a politician.

  • Subject of a joke in the film Barbershop, when Calvin rhetorically asks "Do I look like my father?", only to be met with a chorus of "Yeah." "Yes, you do." "In the nose, right here..."
    • A sadder underlying theme of the film is that Calvin, unlike his idealistic father, isn't willing to let people get by for free and his desire to finally remove himself from the barbershop and his father's shadow move the plot.
  • Bob Ross Hapy Accidents Betrayal And Greed: Steve Ross didn't like that his father was basically trying to get him to follow in his footsteps and take over the show when Bob retired from it.
  • In City Slickers, Mitch calls Ed out on his compulsion to succeed, culminating in him trying to do something he's ill-equipped to do—drive a herd of cattle—in his determination to prove that he's better than the father who abused and eventually abandoned him and his sister and mother.
  • In The Godfather, Michael Corleone relates a story of his father's vicious mafia lifestyle to his girlfriend Kay, at the end insisting that he isn't like his ruthless old man. He's at least partially right. He ends up being much, much worse.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: The realization that he is not his grandfather is the last push that allows Thorin to snap out of Dragon Sickness.
  • In Inception, Cobb plans to invoke this trope in Fischer so he would break up his father's company and start a business of his own.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Much of Tony Stark's motivation prior to the Sokovian Accords is undoing Sins of Our Fathers by taking Stark Industries out of the weapons trade, which is how Howard Stark built the fortune that Tony inherited. The fact that civilians continue to be killed by bombs made by Stark Industries haunts him through Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.
  • The titular character in the film adaptation of Matilda says "I'm nothing like my father!" when Miss Trunchbull assumes that Matilda and her father Harry conspired to sell Trunchbull a lemon car.
  • In Star Trek (2009), Captain James T. Kirk does not enjoy constantly being compared to his deceased father. Kirk's father was not only a good man but also a hero who saved hundreds of lives (including Kirk and his mother) at the cost of his own. As cocky as Kirk is about his abilities, even he can't see himself living up to that example.
    • An interesting example towards the end, when Spock mistakes Spock Prime for his father Sarek, leading the latter to say "I am not our father."
  • Star Wars: Luke Skywalker is tempted to follow his father to the Dark Side, but although his anger nearly drives him there, he reins it in and refuses to join Vader and Palpatine. He does want to be like his father in a sense, but his father as a young man and great Jedi, not the evil Sith Lord he became later.
  • One of the major motivations of Dana Andrews' policeman character in the film noir Where the Sidewalk Ends (no relation to the Shel Silverstein book).

  • Doctor Sleep has Danny, the grown-up son of Jack Torrence who now goes by Dan, attempt to stray from the demons that plagued his father. Said word-for-word in the final confrontation with Rose the Hat (leader of the True Knot), where she manages to briefly trick Dan into strangling Abra, while he says "Come and take your medicine!"
  • In Dolores Claiborne, Joe St. George, Jr does his very best to be the complete opposite of his father Joe Sr, who he hated. He ends up as a Democratic Party politician, a party his father hated (calling Roosevelt "Sheeny-velt").
  • In Doom, this was Fly's motivation for joining the Marines and his love of the Corps. His father was a cruel, petty criminal lout with no sense of honor or dignity. In the Marine Corps Fly could be everything his father wasn't.
  • Nick from Gone Girl is desperate to prove that he's a better man than his brutish, misogynistic father, so much so that when Amy tells him that she got herself pregnant with his sperm behind his back, he immediately resolves that it doesn't matter how his unborn son was conceived; he'll stay with Amy and do absolutely anything to give him a better childhood than he was subjected to.
  • Harry Potter
    • Contrary to what Severus Snape insists on claiming, Harry isn't arrogant or attention-seeking, and is definitely not the Jerk Jock his father initially was. Played With in that he does strive to be like his father in other ways and at other times in the book, and the two do have some similarities which are commented on during the series.
    • Sirius Black rejected the darkness his family is known for. He and practically every other decent person in the family was rejected for this.
    • Percy Weasley moved out of his family's home to show the Ministry he, unlike the other Weasleys, supported Minister Fudge's position of denying Voldemort's return.
  • Ward of Hurog is very unlike his father, but people who suffered under his father still suspect (or outright believe) that he wants to kill them and everyone else who is in the way, in order to inherit the title. It's simply what they're used to. In the case of Oreg, who is a kind of mixture of Genius Loci, ghost, and magically-bound slave, this is even more justified, as he sometimes mixes up past and present, and Ward looks a lot like some particularly nasty ancestor. Ward has to explain, again and again, that he is neither like his father, nor like other nasty ancestors.
  • In The Magicians, Alice's parents are trapped in a state of Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life following the death of their son Charlie, wasting their magical talents on pointless hobbies and hating each other, neglecting their only surviving child in the process. As such, Alice lives in terror of falling into the same joyless, purpose-deprived existence as her parents after graduating from Brakebills, and makes Quentin promise her that they won't be reduced to this state. Unfortunately, Quentin disappoints her, and Alice is forced to end up like her brother in order to save the day.
  • According to Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, Darcy is one of these, but in a bad way.
  • Shown across three generations in Purple Hibiscus: Jaja disagrees with Eugene who disagrees with Nnukwu.
  • Daniel Leary, one of the two protagonists of David Drake's RCN series, is a popular and genial military officer who cares for the lower-class people he works with and has a low regard for politics and finance...which is the exact opposite of his father, the most powerful politician in the government.
  • In The Shining, one of Jack's source of angst was his abusive father which subconsciously influenced him.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: After the death of Dragon-in-Chief Lord Tywin Lannister, his daughter the Queen Regent asks Twyin's loyal Number Two Ser Kevan Lannister to fulfill the same role for her. She's outraged when Ser Kevan refuses unless she gives up her rule and lets him serve as Regent until her son is of age to rule.
    "Open your eyes and look about you, Cersei. The kingdom is in ruins. Tywin might have been able to set matters aright, but..."
    "I shall set matters aright!" Cersei softened her tone. "With your help, Uncle. If you will serve me as faithfully as you served my father—"
  • William de Worde in The Truth really does not want to be like his arrogant, opinionated, aristocratic, bigoted father. He gets kind of halfway... he conscientiously takes the opposite of his father's bigoted politics, but pursues it in an arrogant, opinionated, and aristocratic way.
  • Warrior Cats: Brambleclaw is determined to get out from under the shadow of being the son of Big Bad Tigerclaw.
  • In Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell's father was a brute who viciously abused him, causing him to flee not just his hometown but England as a teenager. When he returns and starts his own family, Thomas goes out of his way to be a kind and loving father (to the point where his wife sometimes accuses him of spoiling), refuses to let his kids meet their grandfather, and continually worries about whether or not he's a good enough parent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: After a number of revelations about Robert Queen, Oliver is determined to prove to himself and to everyone else that he is not his father. Ironically, on Earth 2, Oliver is the one who died on the Queen's Gambit, and Robert became the Hood.
  • Lee in Battlestar Galactica.
    • It's a running theme in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica: The intellectual sophisticate Baltar does not want to be associated with his Down on the Farm father (even going so far as to alter his accent). Starbuck represents the distaff version of the trope, wanting to disassociate herself from her abusive mother. And the elder Adama himself has worked hard to distinguish himself as a military leader, quite different from the in-universe equivalent of a Mafia consigliere that Caprica reveals his father to have been (although his actual management of the fleet shows he did learn at least a few lessons from the old man). Even the Cylons come in for this: both collectively (in that they wish to prove themselves superior to their human creators) and individually (the reactions of various models, notably the Ones, toward the Final Five).
  • In Better Call Saul, Jimmy saw his easy mark father get driven into bankruptcy by scam artists, and decided to become a hustler himself rather than get taken advantage of. His brother Chuck makes a show of respecting their parents far more than Jimmy did, but he's clearly also driven to avoid becoming like them. Rather than use his legal skills to help average people like their dad tried to do, he became a high-priced corporate lawyer so he would be rich, powerful and respected.
  • Birds of Prey (2002):
    • Helena Kyle has this attitude towards her father Bruce Wayne, despite taking up her father's mantle of Gotham's protector.
    • Helena's love interest police detective Jesse Resse is also this towards his own father, crime boss Al Hawke, and even arrests his father.
  • Bones: Booth spends an episode worrying that his history as a sniper and current career in the FBI stems from a love for violence due to his abusive father. He is told (in a hallucination) that he is not his father and then says it word for word to Bones at the end of the episode.
  • It's implied in an episode of Criminal Minds that Hotchner's father was an abusive man who beat his son (and possibly his wife). When Hotchner admits that while children brought up in an abusive home sometimes become abusers themselves, sometimes they instead grow up to catch such people.
  • Ray Langston in CSI constantly worries that he'll become his father in regards to the inherited disposition to violence. He does kill a man, but it's complicated since the guy was a serial killer with a hate-on for Ray.
  • Inverted on ER, where Doug Ross is horrified to realize that he is the epitome of the father he despises.
  • Friends:
    • Monica is determined not to end up like her Jerkass mother. As she is a great Team Mom to the gang, adores children, is a supportive friend and wife, and happily adopts twin babies, she succeeds pretty well.
    • Her boyfriend Chandler also has shades of this, terrified of becoming his flighty mother and gay father who walked out on them. He even runs away on his wedding because he's scared he'll copy his parents marriage. With Monica's help, he becomes one of the sweetest TV husbands ever and a father.
      • There's also a lot of Fridge Brilliance in Chandler's characterization. While his parents have flashy, exciting careers (famous smut writer and drag queen performer) and unconventional lives travelling and sleeping around with people, Chandler works a deadly boring 9 - 5 office job, is shy and awkward when it comes to dating, and for most of the series just wants security and stability with his True Companions. (Which he never had as a child.) His Character Development is all about getting over the Commitment Issues his parents caused, and he's never happier than after he falls in love with the Monica (the most reliable and level-headed of the friends) and they head towards the conventional 2.5 kids, white-picket fence future together.
    • Rachel goes to great lengths to avoid turning into her mother, a Rich Bitch who's dependent on others for financial support, by building a successful career and not getting tied down in a loveless marriage. While teaching Joey how to sail she's absolutely horrified to realize she's been using the same abusive teaching methods that her father used to teach her.
      Rachel: Ohhh god, Joey, ohh I'm my father! Oh my god, this is horrible! I've been trying so hard not to be my mother that I did not see this coming.
  • In Fringe, the Greek phrase "Einai Kalytero Anthropo Apo Ton Patera Toy" keeps popping up. It means "be a better man than your father".
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys says this word-for-word in 'The House of Black and White'. Dany seems genuinely disturbed as Ser Barristan describes the atrocities of the Mad King. This trope is a key element in Tyrion throwing his support behind her. She also stuns Jon Snow when she openly declares that her father was an evil man. Subverted come Season 8 Episode 5 when she abruptly loses her mind and burns King's Landing for no good reason, however, proving that in the end she took after dear old dad after all.
  • Lorelai in Gilmore Girls in general can't stand her mother and tries to be as free and different from her as possible, and is dismayed at the occasional moments where they are shown to have similarities.
  • In Gossip Girl, Chuck Bass keeps repeating that he's not like his father. Though he can't seem to decide if that's a positive thing or a negative.
  • On In Treatment, this trope comes into play as Paul tries to deal with his reciprocal feelings for Laura, mindful that his father had left his mother for a patient.
  • Raylan Givens in Justified despises his father Arlo, who is a notorious criminal. Raylan became a lawman specifically to make sure he never turned out like his father. Boyd Crowder also has shades of this, though he takes it in a different direction than Raylan.
  • Simon Marsden, when first introduced in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, is suspected of rape. He invokes this trope when Benson compares him to their dad.
    • Benson herself has to deal with this on occasion, since neither of her parents were exactly great.
    • Amaro reacts very badly to his abusive father's suggestion that Amaro is on track to turn out like him. (Whether his father was actually trying to help Amaro or whether the assertion was just another form of emotional abuse is a matter of interpretation.)
    • Mike Dodds, the son of a Deputy Chief of Police, is an unusual example in that he has a good relationship with his father and respects him, but doesn't necessarily want a life like his father's for himself. Unfortunately for Mike, his father doesn't really get this, which makes it hard for Mike to pursue his own path. (This arc is ultimately cut short when Mike is Killed Off for Real after less than a season.)
  • Arthur is trying to be this trope in Merlin. Sometimes he manages it, sometimes he doesn't. In one season 5 episode, where a group of villagers are expecting him to kill a magic user, he actually says it. "I'm not my father".
  • On The Originals, when Klaus is on a particularly hate-filled rant about Rebekah because she brought Mikael to New Orleans to chase him away years ago, Elijah mentions how much he sounds like their father. Klaus is momentarily taken aback, and quietly says "I'm not him.", trying to convince himself more than anyone else. This is a running thread throughout the series, with Klaus' fatherhood being essential to him trying to be better than his father.
  • Ned from Pushing Daisies wants nothing to do with his father and does not appreciate being told he resembles him.
  • Roseanne: Multiple people over the years tell Darlene Connor that, with her abrasive, willful, sarcastic personality, she's exactly like her mother. Darlene does not take this well and angrily invokes this trope every single time.
  • Shameless (US): This is a major part of Lip's character arc; despite his increasingly desperate attempts to distance himself from the Abusive Dad who he hates, his descent into alcoholism mirrors Frank's almost exactly. It's even lampshaded:
    Frank: Why you gotta be such an asshole?
    Lip: Apple fell where you dropped it.
  • Parodied on Silicon Valley. Richard is wary of getting funding from Reyes, a Chilean tech investor, because his family's fortune came from buddying up to Pinochet and using borderline slave labor. Reyes assures Richard that he's not his father and doesn't intend to repeat his father's mistakes. But what he means is, his father was a kind-hearted reformer, and his "mistakes" were allowing his workers to unionize and thus jeopardize his grandfather's empire.
  • This is a common theme in Six Feet Under. The various characters try to avoid becoming like their parents with varying degrees of success. Most notably, Nate and Brenda, despite insistence that they will never be like their parents, ultimately go into exactly the same professions.
  • Smallville: When Tess finds out that her father is Lionel Luthor, it explains a lot about her Manipulative Bastard tendencies as well as her Heel–Face Revolving Door. However, she's determined to prove that she's nothing like a Luthor. When his Alternate Universe version asks her why she doesn't just have him killed (which is something he'd do), she says that that's not who she is.
  • In Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, several people have made this comment regarding Batiatus. He essentially fires Doctore for this reason. It's made clear, he feels his father's patient attitude has held the family fortunes down.
  • In "Heart of Stone" from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Nog petitions Commander Sisko to join Starfleet. Sisko can't understand why he wants to do it and decides to deny his application as a means of forcing him to admit the truth about why he wants to attend. Finally, Nog spits it out.
    "Because I don't want to end up like my father. My father is a mechanical genius. He could've been Chief Engineer of a starship if he'd had the opportunity. But he went into business, like a good Ferengi. The only thing is, he's not a good Ferengi, not when it comes to acquiring profit. So now all he has to live for is the slim chance that someday, somehow, he might be able to take over my uncle's bar. Well, I'm not going to make the same mistake. I want to do something with my life. Something worthwhile."
    • This is then subverted in about the most heartwarming way possible as the series continues: Nog's example ends up inspiring his father, Rom, to reach his full potential as well. In the fourth season, shortly after Nog leaves for the Academy, Rom quits his job at Quark's to take a position in the station's maintenance department, which he ends up being incredibly good at. So in the end, he did turn out like his father, but it's because Rom himself changed his life and became someone that Nog would be proud to emulate.
  • Stranger Things: Jonathan Byers is determined to not be like his abusive father, Lonnie. He’s successful in this, but comparing him to Lonnie is still a Berserk Button.
  • A variation appears in Supernatural when Bobby tells Dean he doesn't have to be like John and let his relationship with Sam be ruined because he is too proud to forgive him.
  • A particularly heartwarming episode of Ugly Betty involves Daniel panicking after his father's sudden death because he's been left to run the magazine on his own but knows that he's "no Bradford Meade." After he has a brilliant idea that saves the magazine from total ruin, Betty has the following exchange with Bradford Meade's ghost:
    Bradford Meade: It was very clever. And I would never have thought of it.
    Betty: Well, you're no Daniel Meade.
  • A variation in the White Collar episode, "What Happens in Burma". Neal reveals that his father was a dirty cop, and says that criminal behavior runs in his blood. Peter insists that it's not true and encourages Neal to be his own man. So in this case it's more like "You are not your father." This is after Neal has served time as a convicted bond forger, and that Peter was the one who caught him, twice! Even after all that, Peter still believes in him and still wants Neal to realize that his choices are his own, and that it's still not too late to get his act together.
  • 'Wiseguy. The garment trade arc starts with Eli Sternberg going to Mafia boss Rick Pinzolo for a loan, playing on his history with Pinzolo's father. Pinzolo insists on usurious terms, and when Sternberg demands the old arrangement, Pinzolo replies, "With all due respect to my father, as a businessman he was an idiot."
  • This is a source of angst for D'Artagnan in Young Blades, son of the D'Artagnan from The Three Musketeers. In particular, D'Artagnan (the younger) is willing to leave his life in the Musketeers rather than abandon his child like his father abandoned him.

  • In Elton John's Aida, Radames and his father, Zoser, sing a duet about how Radames refuses to follow in his father's footsteps.
  • In Hamilton, both Alexander Hamilton's and Aaron Burr's fathers are gone Hamilton's father having abandoned him, while Burr's father died when he was young. Come "Dear Theodosia", both decide to make up their parents' shortcomings and be present in their children's lives. Whether they succeeded or not is debatable.
    Hamilton and Burr: My father wasn't around. I swear that I'll be around for you.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Mysterium, the playable character Ardhashir's family traditionally served the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He decided he wanted none of it and instead went to travel the world and to hone his clairvoyant skills.

    Video Games 
  • To a lesser extent, Connor from Assassin's Creed III makes a point of not being like his templar father Haytham.
  • The Dragon Campaign in Battle Realms is based upon Kenji trying to distance himself from his Evil Overlord father. He utters the line verbatim to the Dragon when it asks him who he is.
  • In Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly, Lucas regrets being the subject of pretend date videos for the production house he used to work at because it reminded him of his late father, who would "fish" for partners the same way.
  • Komaru Naegi in Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls embodies this trope throughout the game, with many people, especially the Big Bad, comparing her to her older brother Makoto and his status as Hope Bringer. Not that she wants that sort of title; she's fine with just being a regular girl. Monaca's plan actually involves making her into a carbon copy of her brother, bringing hope to Towa City only to throw it back into chaos, starting a war that'll re-invigorate the Tragedy. The ultimate failure in her plan are that she overestimates Komaru, who doesn't want to emulate her brother.
    Komaru: ...There's no way I could imitate him. And no way I'd want to. I am not my brother. Makoto is Makoto... and I am me.
  • When making a Charr in Guild Wars 2, two of your options are that your father was a Gladium who abandoned his warband and lives in honorless shame, or an outright traitor Flame Legion shaman. Your character addresses the trope if you picked the latter when your father comes up in a discussion.
    Charr: Yes, but I despise him. I've broken several jaws reminding people that I'm not responsible for my father's actions.
  • Love & Pies: After learning that her mother Freya is the infamous thief known as The Purple Fox and that she ran away from her café because of her mistakes, Amelia declares that she won't repeat them and that she'll refurbish the café without letting the haters get to her.
  • Vito from Mafia II explicitly states a few times that he "doesn't want to end up like his dad". Of course, that all end when he later finds out how exactly his dad died, and it turns out Vito was following in his footsteps the whole time.
  • Mass Effect:
    • One of the first things said by Liara in Mass Effect is "I am not my mother!". Which is ironic, considering how both she and her mother Benezia have been magnetically drawn to dashing, larger-than-life Spectres on a quest for galactic salvation, and eventually became their most ardent supporters and trusted confidantes. So, despite her claims to the contrary, Liara is not so different from her mom... except that she either is a much better judge of character, or is just a whole lot luckier to have followed Shepard instead of someone like Saren.
    • Parental issues are pretty common in the Mass Effect franchise, in various flavors, ranging from being smothered by or rebelling against expectations (Tali, Garrus) to escaping from and fighting back against abusive or evil parents (Wrex, Miranda).
    • This actually becomes quite important to Miranda in one of her scenes in Mass Effect 3, when she reminds Shepard that she had planned to place a control chip in his/her brain when she was bringing him/her Back from the Dead. In a minor breakdown, she reveals how much guilt she's been feeling over this and practically begs Shepard for forgiveness, as not only would have cost her a good friend, but also would have made her exactly like her father.
  • Silver from Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver vows never to become like his dad Giovanni in a special event-only scene.
  • Spoken word for word by Jake Muller in Resident Evil 6, who becomes determined not to turn out like his father Albert Wesker.
    Jake: You know what? I'm not my father. And I'm gonna make damn sure that it stays that way. We're getting out of here, and you're gonna save the world.
  • Kazuya from Tekken hates his father Heihachi. Heihachi's adopted son Lee goes further than this by completely disowning his adopted father.
  • In World of Warcraft, Deathwing's son Wrathion meets with the player in Mists of Pandaria and declares that he is completely opposed to his late father's beliefs.
    Wrathion: Please understand, I mean to pay off my father's debts. I will stop at NOTHING to defend this world.

  • Kaji in 5 Elementos, despite Ember's efforts.
  • Lord Skärva in The Fourth dedicates himself to destroying Blank, something he knows his father could never accomplish.
  • There's a lot of this is Girl Genius, considering the nature of a lot of people's families.
    • Agatha gets the main ones, considering her mother is the Big Bad of the series who is trying to either conquer or destroy the continent, and is also lodged in her mind and occasionally takes over her body Baron Wulfenbach is also convinced that this fact means that Agatha is destined to go down the same path or worse, and wants her captured or killed for it.
    Agatha: I will not be punished for having the worst family ever!
    • Gil also gets a few - his father is the son of minor nobility who conquered a continent, and who is almost universally disliked by other nobles. The Baron's position as a despotic tyrant and Gil's position as his heir means that Gil isn't too well liked either.
    • Tarvek has to point this out to Gil after being accused of aiding The Other and conspiring to enslave most of Europa via slaver wasps.
    Tarvek: After all, it doesn't matter that it was my father and his friends who did all that. I was what? Three, maybe?
  • Helen B. Narbon of Narbonic is determined to not be like her mother even though she is a clone, but when she most strongly insists that she is not her mother, her listeners agree that she is clearly exactly like her mother.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Roy has chosen to be a fighter, against his father's wish (who wanted Roy to become a wizard like him; ironically, his father is a fighter and had the same problem). Much later, when Roy is dead, he realizes what a cynical Jerkass his father actually is, and makes a conscious decision not to be like that.
    • Elan is doing to same to Tarquin, Tarquin is an evil general while Elan is a hero. This doesn't bother Tarquin so much as he believes that it is his fate to be killed by a hero one day, at which point he will become infamous. He even gets to the point where he's helping Elan become a better hero, because the extra drama in having Elan kill him is all the better. Out of spite, Elan rejects Tarquin's assistance in the Order's quest for the Gates, then when fighting his father's own troops to save Roy, Durkon and Belkar, he takes on a supporting role, helping Haley fight them instead of doing the Big Damn Heroes bit himself.

    Web Original 
  • Apollo to Zeus in Thalia's Musings. For the most part, Apollo is a perfect gentleman to the nine goddesses who live with him. He took the position of Governor of the Muses to protect them from his sadistic, lecherous father. Zeus talks about the Muses as though they're Apollo's harem.
  • Winter of the Whateley Universe has two supervillains for parents. She wants to be a superhero. But she wants to be a superhero so she can piss off her parents, making her really very much like them.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, both Hayley and Steve try not to be like their father Stan - Hayley because she hates his right-wing views, and Steve because he thinks Stan is an idiot for using words like 'irregardless'. At the end of the day though Hayley IS like Stan in her obstinance, and Steve is like Stan in his nerdy nature and well-meaning but naive ideas.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko's Heel–Face Turn happens when he stops being a "Well Done, Son" Guy to his abusive father Ozai and becomes one of these instead. Taking his Uncle Iroh as his alternate father figure didn't hurt either. Zuko ultimately spends his life reforming the atrocities his father committed as Fire Lord and building a better, peaceful regime.
  • Batman Beyond: Commissioner Barbara Gordon delivers this line word for word when she lets Bruce know that she won't be working hand-in-hand with the new kid. It wasn't out of any disrespect for her father (quite the opposite). It was because, at the time, she did not trust the new Batman, Terry McGinnis. She does, reluctantly, work with Terry at times, but never reaches anywhere near the same relationship with him as her father did with Bruce.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Hoggish Jr. used to share his father's views on environment but changed his mind in "Smog Hog" after Captain Planet saved him from smothering in polluted air.
  • In The Dragon Prince, Aanya, Ezran, and Soren all make decisions that they know their respective parents would not have made:
    • When Viren tells Aanya about how her parents had allied with Katolis to retrieve a rare magical artifact from Xadia to power a spell to save the people of Katolis and Duren, Aanya decides that even though her parents probably would have said yes to Viren's call for an alliance against Xadia again, she herself would not.
    • King Harrow had decided to perpetuate a war between his own kingdom of Katolis and the elven lands of Xadia, a war that began long before he was born. His son Ezran is well aware that it would go against hundreds of years of history to attempt to make peace with Xadia, but he does so anyway.
    • Viren, in pursuit of the ostensibly noble goal of securing peace for Katolis against the threat of Xadia, commits so many atrocities that even his son Soren eventually defects to Ezran and fights against his father.
  • In Elena of Avalor, Sir Cassius is a very good sport and take losing well compared to his father, Lord Elrod, who is highly competitive and will play dirty to avoid losing.
  • Used for a quick joke on Gravity Falls; the Gremloblin's glowing eyes can make whoever look into them live their worst fears. When Dipper tricks into looking into a mirror, the Gremloblin sees itself with glasses, with his reflection screaming, "You've become your father!"
    • Played straight with Pacifica Northwest in Season 2; after seeing that her family has been nothing but a collection of Card Carrying Villains for the last 150 years, she breaks from the tradition and genuinely helps someone other than herself, declaring that she intends to make up for all the wrong the Northwests have caused over the years.
  • In Justice League, Vandal Savage in the present says he's nothing like his grandfather, the evil Vandal Savage the League fought during a trip to World War II to prevent a Bad Future. Turns out he's not just like his "grandfather," he is the original Savage - he's an immortal who changes identity every so often.
  • The Legend of Korra: A recurring motif. Tenzin is (or tries to be) as serious and staid as Aang was carefree, and, while she shares Toph's toughness, Lin is very strict about enforcing the law and has no patience with the Avatar Korra's vigilante justice until she quits and becomes a vigilante herself.
    • Arguably the most significant is Asami refusing to join the Equalists with her father.
    • Tenzin breaks out of the Fog of Lost Souls on realizing "I am Tenzin. I am not a reflection of my father." after his father himself shows up to tell him so.
    • Tarrlok, and by extension his brother Amon, both seem to show shades of this. Unfortunately for them both, they ended up becoming a threat to Republic City just like their father wanted, albeit in different ways.
  • Julie Kane, in regards to her father, the leader of Detroit Deluxe in Motorcity. Although she said she would take over for Detroit Deluxe if something were to happen to him, her intentions not being clear...
  • My Dad the Rock Star: Willy Zilla's desire of being recognized by his own merit instead of just being famous because his Dad is a rock star triggers this trope. Rock actually understands it, as his father is a cello player.
  • Fred Jones in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated in regards to both Mayor Jones and his biological parents.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa discovers that Marge used to be a genius until meeting Homer essentially made her decide she didn't care about her future. Lisa vows to be absolutely nothing like her mother, much to Marge's horror.
    • In "Lisa's Substitute," Lisa is terrified of introducing Mr. Bergstrom to Homer, as Homer isn't academically inclined. This gives us the page quote for Bumbling Dad.
  • South Park:
    • Stan in particular is pretty ashamed of his father most of the time and tries to avoid being like him, not that he always succeeds.
    • To a lesser extent, Kyle is like this, but usually with his mother. "It's a Jersey Thing".
  • Steven Universe:
    • The eponymous character wants to move away from his mother's legacy, since he can't live up to that legacy when everyone expects him to. Later on, when Steven learns about Rose's more questionable decisions, such as (supposedly) shattering Pink Diamond and secretly imprisoning Bismuth, he starts to question with whether or not he wants to be like her.
    • At the end of "The Good Lars", Sadie briefly wishes she could force Lars to be happy. She's then pretty disgusted in herself for how much she "sound like my mother.", and decides to back off on trying to fix Lars' life.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): I Am Not My Mother


Battle Realms

Kenji is unable to enjoy his victory not just because of the damage the battle caused, but also due to it reminding him of how his ruthless father would've fought.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / WarIsHell

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