So someone's got it in for your parents. Maybe it's just a certain clique, or maybe it's the entire town. Maybe your parents committed some crime. Maybe they broke a promise or taboo. Maybe they came from another town or country and upset the status quo with their strange foreign ways. Maybe they made a close and personal enemy out of someone in a position of power. Or maybe a bunch of rumors simply got out of hand. Whatever the case, everyone you're likely to meet sees your parents as persona non grata at best and Public Enemy #1 at worst...and as far as they're concerned, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. If at all.
To say people expect the worst of you is an understatement. Someone started a fight? It had to be you; everyone knows your dad had anger issues. Someone stole the proceeds from the charity bake sale? Of course it was you; you're the son of a kleptomaniac. Denying it? Of course you're guilty; your father was a pathological liar. All the adults around you will be nothing short of merciless, and the Generation Gap is no excuse for the kids not to get in on the fun, either: expect to be taunted and tormented by your peers at any age.
If you're lucky, you'll merely wind up an outcast, a loner on the fringe of society. The Only Sane Man might become your friend and ally, even in the face of public opinion, but don't expect support from anyone else: after all, how can a pariah like you be anything but a villain? If you're not so lucky, the years of constant abuse will leave you angry and resentful, a prime candidate for becoming the very villain everyone accuses you of. Not that anyone will mind, of course: some people would rather be right than happy, and if you prove them right by Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, they'll simply applaud themselves while they go and grab the Torches and Pitchforks after years of crossing the Moral Event Horizon themselves.
What can you do about it, then? Escape is always an option: run away or find an excuse to leave the town and seek your destiny elsewhere. The only thing the town will miss is their convenient scapegoat. You could also try to change the peoples' minds about you, a quest more likely to end in tears and tragedy than anything: any good deeds you do will likely be dismissed out of hand or turned upside-down. The more proactively vicious will likely go out of their way to see you prove yourself a villain rather than a hero. Try to help an old lady across the street? They'll run the old lady down in cold blood, and you'll be blamed for it. Give blood? Patients with your blood type will start showing STD symptoms. Help out at the local soup kitchen? An inexplicable rash of food poisoning will ensue, and it'll all be traced back to you. (The perpetrators responsible will, of course, never realize or care that they're the very kind of monster they're hell bent on proving you to be.)
And what about your parents, the cause of the bad blood that's turned your life into a living hell? If you're lucky, they're still alive and all the charges against them just the product of a big misunderstanding. (Not so lucky if their idea of defending you is beating the crap out of anyone who so much as looks at you funny.) Optimistically, Evil Parents Want Good Kids, and they'll help out however they can. ... Or they may be disappointed you aren't living down to your potential.
Anime and Manga
- Wim. His father is a deadbeat alcoholic, so all the neighborhood kids beat up on him for being "trash."
- Also Fritz "Son Of A Spy" Verdeman.
- Hayate the Combat Butler is a heroic inversion of this plot. Ayasaki-Dad is always stealing money (he even cops to it), run con businesses and has been stated to have two large debts, one to the 'very nice men' and one to Wataru's video store. But Hayate is the hero of the manga, and his brother is stated to be a hero, even going to rescue Athena from the devil.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Yuya Sakaki's father Yusho no-showed a dueling event he was supposed to compete in and went missing, pissing everybody off and causing them to declare him a coward. Yuya gets harassed a lot about this and labeled a coward as well.
- Marvel Comics Runaways suffered many times because of the fact that their parents were all criminals.
- The Astro City "Confession" story arc centers around Brian, a small-town boy who wants to become a superhero to avoid this trope. It's painful to the reader because it's obvious that Brian's dad was never a loser, but a self-sacrificing noble doctor. It's just his patients were ungrateful jerks.
- Referenced in A Bug's Life: Flik moans that if he fails "my children's children will walk down the street and people will say, 'Look, there goes the spawn of Flik the Loser!'"
- In Back to the Future Strickland was ready to denounce all McFlys. "No McFly has ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley!"
- Andrew Tabor of the Apple Valley books is assumed to be a drunken bum because his father is, and has to leave town forever in order to get rid of that reputation.
- Aedelas Blackmoore of the Warcraft Expanded Universe novel Lord of the Clans is the son of a traitor to the Alliance, and the stigma he endured as a result may have contributed to his drinking problem and his resulting plan to train Thrall as a puppet ruler of the Orc clans to turn them against the Alliance and gain control of it for himself.
- Warrior Cats:
- Tawnypaw is told by an elder that she will become just like her father, the Big Bad of the series, because she did an apprentice task wrongly. This results in her defection to her father's Clan. This is made worse when it is revealed in a later book, Bluestar's Prophecy, that the elder, Smallear, is her own grandfather.
- Firestar subverts this by treating Bramblepaw and Tawnypaw like other apprentices, not discriminating against them at all. However, he is accused of discriminating against the two by their mother, because he couldn't manage to track down Tawnypaw after she ran away.
- In the Dragonriders of Pern series this is yet another source of angst for Jaxom. He's a decent enough guy, but the other Lord Holders are wary of him turning out like his father Fax. Fortunately Jaxom was raised to be a good person by his Warder Lytol.
- Harry Potter: This is the reason that Severus Snape hates Harry Potter: when they were students at Hogwarts, James Potter was his rival and they were constantly at each other's throats, including at least a very serious incident between them. Also, after Snape wrecked his friendship with a girl named Lily, she decided to marry an Older and Wiser James, and Snape never forgave James for that (to the point of seriously considering to go Comforting the Widow, which backfires horribly and gets him harshly chewed out by Dumbledore). Others continually try to point out to Snape that in personality Harry is not like James, but he refuses to see it, making it something of a subversion.
Mythology and Religion
- Defied in Chapter 18 of The Book of Ezekiel, where God states that he does not operate under this and that the isralites should not either.
“What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel ... The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."
- Both the real Amanda Clarke and fake Amanda Clarke experience this on Revenge. 17 years before the pilot, David Clarke was framed for funding terrorists by the Graysons and sent to prison. Due the the public vitriol generated (including a book further libeling David written by Mason Treadwell) Amanda was treated hardly any better than her father, with noone questioning why she was institutionalized for no apparent reason. The real Emily Thorne also uses Amanda's father as an insult against her during a prison fight. She (ironically) later takes on the persona of Amanda Clarke herself after they switch identities, and faces much the same prejudice as an adult, with Daniel treating her coldly and generally acting like terrorism is hereditary.
- Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones. Around 10 years prior to the start of the series, his father Balon rose up against King Robert in an attempt to claim independence for the Iron Isles Read . He was summarily crushed, utterly, and treated like a joke by all and sundry from that day since, with Theon, his only surviving son, being taken as a hostage/ward by Ned Stark.
- Bud and Kelly Bundy in Married... with Children, although it's completely Justified when you see how they actually behave. Also, in one episode it's revealed that generations ago a witch put a curse on the Bundy family, forever dooming them to lives of mediocrity.
- On Merlin, Morgana seems to attribute this trope to her half-brother Arthur, believing that he's just as bad as his father King Uther, despite all evidence to the contrary.
- Star Trek:
- Klingon society works under this principle. When a warrior is disgraced somehow, his dishonor hurts his entire family and his sons are also dishonored for seven generations. The dishonored are outcasts in the Empire and are forced to live with the shame of their forefather's actions. Worf in particular had a problem with this, since his father was framed for treason with the Romulans, which led to Worf being cast out from the Empire until he'd cleared his name. In particular, Worf only discovered the existence of his own son after accepting discommendation and dishonor. It weighs heavily on him that even acknowledging Alexander as his son would make it next to impossible for the boy to find any place in Klingon society until Worf could expose the real traitor. But in the end, when he finally does succeed in bringing the truth to light, Worf doesn't exactly turn out to be Parent of the Year...
- Nog decides to join Starfleet rather than go into the merchant business, as is expected of a Ferengi, because his father, uncle and (deceased) grandfather are all poor merchants and con-artists and so he has this exact sort of relationship with other Ferengi, and he refuses to accept making it a reality. He also notes that his own father, in particular, could have been something other than a loser if he'd gone into engineering (which he's good at) rather than trying to go in to business (which he's not good at).
- As mentioned above, Quark and Rom's father was a lousy businessman. Rom inherited all of his business acumen from his father, but Quark is shown to take more after his mother Ishka, a very shrewd and cunning businesswoman.
- KC in Degrassi experienced this in his childhood; his Character Development arc in the High School-themed show was based on his attempts to subvert it.
- Puck from Glee proclaims that "His father was a deadbeat, but he doesn't roll that way." Sadly, this doesn't appear to be the case...Character development and jerkass woobie treatment however helps him evolve past this though.
- One episode has a kid who is an outcast and gets bullied because his dad catches and sells rats for a living.
- A lot of the Fantastic Racism between the Wesen species works like this. A species might have abilities that in the past made it well suited to an occupation that was treated with disdain by the other Wesen (eg being a ratcatcher). In modern times, members of the species have many more opportunities and work in more respected fields but among the more racist Wesen they are still treated as bottomfeeders.
- Raising Hope: Like his parents, Jimmy is a Book Dumb high-school dropout working a dead end job. One episode has the three attempt to get their GEDs by taking a class at a high school, taught by a teacher they all had who predicted Jimmy would end up like his parents. Virginia and Burt previously walked out of his classroom as teens, declaring that they didn't need to finish school. Since they all studied different subjects, they completed different subjects of the test so that Jimmy would get credit and get his GED. Jimmy also had a child at a young age, though his young daughter is shown to be very intelligent (her biological mother comes from a more intellectual/educated family), which is what prompted them to try to get their GEDs, as Jimmy didn't want his daughter to think he was an idiot once she got older.
- ER: Doug Ross basically declares himself this when he realizes that his lifestyle—womanizing, drinking—is all but identical to that of the father who abandoned him.
- Part of Yukari's Backstory in Persona 3: their father was blamed for a tragic incident several years ago, and they allude to others treating them horribly. This got so bad that their mother finally decided to move away and start over in another town; tragically, they misinterpreted this attempt at protecting them as "turning her back on my father", leading to a long-standing grudge against her.
- Fears of this form a big part of Munehisa Iwai's Confidant in Persona 5. He used to be in the Yakuza and wants to make sure his adopted son doesn't end up the way he did, and keeps his past a secret from his son for this reason.
- Isair and Madae from Icewind Dale 2 got this treatment because their father was the devil Belhifet who tried to open a portal to the Nine Hells and nearly destroyed the Ten-Towns. As cambions — elf-demon half-breeds — they are literally half evil, and Iselore warned their foster mother against raising them because of this. Their foster mother was the only one who ever believed they could grow up to be good people.
- Satoshi and Satoko in Higurashi: When They Cry, because their parents supported the construction of the dam, which the whole town opposed.
- Invoked in Little Busters!. Long ago, Haruka's mother was married to two men. One went insane and attacked her and was sent to jail. Later, she gave birth to two children...one from each father. Since the family couldn't tell who was the daughter of who, they decided that whoever was the loser daughter would be considered the son of the criminal. Haruka proved less capable than Kanata, and so all her life was labelled the worthless daughter of a worthless man, with her believing every word of it and hating her father because of it.
- In Shadowgirls Becka suffers because her mom Really Gets Around, and is hated by Misty's mother, one of the sickest examples of the Alpha Bitch in the history of webcomics. In one of the worst examples, Misty concocts a scheme that almost ends up with Becka being raped:
Misty: Serves the little slut right if she gets knocked up... like her mother.
- In Endstone, Cole hears murmurs that she's evil like her father.
- Class Menagerie reveals this to be Brad's background. Brad Hawthorne isn't his real name, it's Eric Hawthorne Jr. He changed it when he started college to distance himself from his father, a corrupt banker. When he was in high school, his father was accused of embezzlement (he was acquitted but was actually guilty) and because the two looked virtually identical, people tended to mock him for it. The comic ends with Brad transferring back to Texas, having decided to stop living in his father's shadow.
- Chester McBadbat and his dad from The Fairly OddParents!, who both suck at baseball. Even though Chester's dad was somehow qualified to be on a professional baseball team in the first place. It's possible he was a very good baseball player BEFORE he started sucking.
- A good portion of the In-Universe hate directed at Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender is this. After a century of war caused by his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, you can see their point, and, to an outsider's eye, Zuko seems to be following in their footsteps, until he finally gets over his "Well Done, Son!" Guy attitude and calls the old man out.
- The Simpsons:
Homer: Why am I such a loser? Why?Bart: Well, your father was a loser, and his father, and his father. It's genetics, man.. Doh!
- Bart and Homer as is the nature of the Simpsons Gene (it only affects males though).
- In Rick and Morty, Morty mostly takes after his father Jerry in being a cowardly simpleton, though his experiences with Rick has helped him grow a spine. His mother Beth recognizes this and allows her son to go on dangerous adventures with her father partially out of the fact that she'd rather Rick rub off on him than Jerry.
- The Belcher kids in Bob's Burgers are a self-identified version of this. They all love their parents but are also well aware that Bob and Linda are failures and that they will follow in their footsteps. However, while they have internalized the idea that they will never amount to anything, they've also made peace with it.
Tina: Don't underestimate us, our family motto is "Hey, maybe someday we'll get lucky".