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Mutual Envy

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Scamp: I'd give anything to have what you have!
Angel: And I'd give anything to have what you have.

One character, or group, sees another character or group as better off...but then they and/or the audience discover that those they envy are actually just as jealous of them (or perhaps even more so). Basically, this is for when envy is portrayed as a two-way street.

This at times is needed to give some perspective to characters who need it.

Often the setup for a "Freaky Friday" Flip or a Prince and Pauper plot, and may end up in a Perspective Reversal. Can sometimes be found in The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry. Compare Be Careful What You Wish For, which often has a similar basis and reasoning and is sometimes found in the same works. See also Grass Is Greener.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: After Matsuri spends most of the series disliking that he was turned into a girl, he ends up being split into a boy and a girl. Somehow, neither is happy with this. Girl Matsuri still wants to be a boy, which she still thinks is a prerequisite to dating Suzu. However, Boy Matsuri deduces Suzu actually likes his female self better—so much he wonder if he'd have been better off staying a girl.
  • Azumanga Daioh: Chiyo wishes she could be tall and cool like Sakaki so people would take her more seriously, whereas Sakaki wishes she could be small and cute like Chiyo so people would take her less seriously. Despite being jealous of each other to a certain extent, the two are close friends.
  • A Bride's Story: Village Tomboy Pariya envies the village's most admirable young maiden Kamola for her sweet nature, kindness, intelligence and femininity, and stalks her around trying to learn by copying her example, accidentally giving Kamola the impression that she's upset Pariya somehow. When they sit down to talk the misunderstanding out and Pariya admits her jealousy, Kamola herself admits that she actually envies Pariya's straightforward bluntness and ability to say what she's thinking without fear. Pariya's friend Amir suggests that since it's more mutual admiration than envy, the two should become friends in the hope that they both influence each other, so they do.
  • Chihayafuru: Taichi is explicitly envious of Arata due to his incredible talent for karuta and Chihaya's admiration of him. While much less explicit, it's also implied that Arata is envious of Taichi's wealth and all-around success (being good-looking, charming, popular, and very intelligent). Given that he genuinely believed he and Chihaya were dating in one episode, he is likely also jealous that they can spend so much time together while he is in a totally different prefecture and can generally only meet up for tournaments.
  • Fruits Basket: Both Yuki and Kyo envy each other's circumstances and personalities. Kyo wants to be acknowledged by the Sohma main house as part of the Eastern Zodiac, so he envies Yuki who, being the Rat, gets a privileged place over Kyo and even the other members of the Zodiac. Yuki on the other hand has always been in a Gilded Cage, keeps people at arm's length due to turning into a rat if a girl hugs him, and doesn't have any real friends, so he envies Kyo's personality, outgoing nature, and ability to bond more easily with others.
  • Little Witch Academia (2017): One of the biggest reasons why Akko disliked Diana for most of the series was out of envy towards her for being everything she isn't (being a rich and popular student who is skillful at magic). In "Yesterday" however, Diana reveals to Akko during a heart-to-heart that she was similarly envious towards her, due to her being chosen to wield the Shiny Rod and unlock the Grand Triskelion, something that Diana had hoped to do to do since she was a child, as well as being able to openly express herself and her passions, something she feels she can't do due to having to uphold her family's traditions and the expectations that come with being a member of the Cavendish family. In fact, she admits that it was that envy that partially drove her to leave Luna Nova a few episodes back.
  • My Dress-Up Darling: The Inui sisters have a case of this over their respective body types. Older sister Sajuna is envious of Shinju for being taller and better endowed, while Shinju wishes she was petite and cute like Sajuna.
  • Yuri is My Job!: Hime's two real friends are Mitsuki and Kanoko. Mitsuki is Hime's old friend from elementary school, but she had a falling out with Hime and only became close with her again at the start of high school, while Kanoko has been friends with Hime since middle school. Since Kanoko values her status as Hime's Only Friend, and Mitsuki wants to be Hime's "number one," both are rather jealous of each other, even if neither is aware of how the other feels.

    Comic Books 
  • The Spider-Man/Human Torch Trade Paperback "I'm With Stupid" shows their relationship through the years, with the last story, "I'm With Stupid" pointing out the good things they have: Spidey gets to be near all the hot women and also be able to follow Reed without needing a translation into "normal," Johnny gets to have the trappings of fame and go to various universes Spidey would do anything to go to. Or the perks of power "with NONE of the responsibility."
  • In the MAD parody of Thirty Something, two characters discuss that they've long been jealous of each other. The first says that the second had everything she didn't as a child, while the second contends that the first is more successful in adulthood, prompting the first to say that the second is still "out-suffering" her.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Black Sheep Dog Series, both Sirius and Regulus believes that their parents favour the other sibling over themselves. Sirius hates being the Black family's heir, and wishes that his parents would just leave him alone than try to force him fit into their traditions and narro worldviews. Meanwhile, Regulus is The Dutiful Son, so his parents usually don't pay any mind to him because they know that he'll do what is expected of him, and he resents his brother because he hogs all their attention.
  • The Flip Flopper: Lucy and Nami have a zig-zagged example that's Played for Laughs when Lucy Heartfilia and Nami see what their lives would be like if they swap lives. While Lucy doesn't find being a pirate ideal, she would like to be pampered and complimented by Sanji as Nami does. Likewise, Nami might not want Lucy's money troubles but having Celestial Spirits like Cassiopeia lavish her sounds wonderful to her.
    Both Girls: I wish I was treated like that more in real life!!
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Germany and Japan were very jealous of each other, both wanting to be with Italy. It got to the point they fought each other and if Italy had not intervened, it would have gotten a lot worse.
  • Miraculous! Rewrite: Chloe envies her twin sister Amber for her jet-setting lifestyle, traveling around with their mother and having more of Audrey's attention and regard. Eventually, she learns that Amber resents her as well, feeling that Chloe actually got the better end of the deal — not only does she have a more stable lifestyle, being their mother's 'favored child' isn't as cushy as it sounds, especially since Audrey is just as cruelly critical of Amber as she is of Chloe. But in Amber's case, she has far more control over the poor girl's... everything.
  • Naruto and his twin sister Kairi in Return to Konoha are both jealous of the other's life. Naruto is jealous that Kairi gets to become a ninja while he can't, as well as the fact that their parents pay more attention to her than to him. Kairi, meanwhile, is jealous of Naruto since Minato and Kushina are very strict in the attention they give to their daughter while Naruto is usually left to his own devices.
    One child is jealous at all the attention the other received, the other jealous over the others freedom.

    Films — Animated 
  • Aladdin involves Aladdin being jealous that Jasmine lives in wealth, while Jasmine is jealous that Aladdin's life isn't as controlled as hers.
    Aladdin: I wonder what it'd be like to [live in the palace]; have servants, valets...
    Jasmine: ... oh, sure, people who tell you where to go and how to dress...
    Aladdin: Better than here, where you're always scraping for food and dodging the guards...
    Jasmine: ...never free to make your own choices...
    Aladdin: ...sometimes I feel so...
    Jasmine:'re just...
    Both: ...trapped.
  • Encanto: Mirabel and Isabela's conflict boils down to this. In a classic case of miscommunication between the golden sibling and the one in their shadow, Mirabel resents Isabela for her seemingly effortless perfection and cool gift while Mirabel is powerless and feels like an outsider, but Isabel resents Mirabel because, being giftless, Mirabel isn't subject to Alma's strict expectations about giving back to the community and is free to do what she wants while Isabel is constantly pressured to be what her parents expect. The sisters end up clearing the air in the song "What Else Can I Do?" and hugging it out (fulfilling Bruno's vision).
  • In Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, Scamp wishes he had the street smarts and free lifestyle of Angel, whereas Angel never really wanted to be a stray dog, and wishes she had a family like Scamp.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • CODA (2021): Miles wishes his parents had a happy marriage like Frank and Jackie do and respected and trusted him the way they seem to trust Ruby. Ruby, while she loves her family, sometimes seems to wish they were less Sickeningly Sweethearts and could hear so they could appreciate her music (Miles' dad is implied to be a violinist).
  • Ice Princess: Gen and Casey openly and good-naturedly acknowledge jealousy toward each other. Casey wishes that she had the time and gear to be a professional figure skater like Gen is training to be. Gen thinks it would be great to have more time to really learn the subjects in their classes and spend time with her boyfriend instead of practicing all the time. She also wouldn't mind saying goodbye to the low calorie diet her skating career requires.
  • Jurassic City: The two girls in the jacuzzi each feel the other has a better mother (one mother is a neglectful drunk but her alcoholism prevents her from being in a position to stop her daughter's parties, the other pays attention to her daughter but is quite strict).

  • Accel World:
    • This happens in the first volume between Haru's childhood friend Chiyuri and Kuroyukihime, who introduced him to Brain Burst. Chiyu envies Kuroyukihime for doing more to help Haru in the space of a few days than she could do in the course of the past few months, having felt helpless as Haruyuki was bullied and distanced himself from her and Taku, and being unhappy that Haru seemingly doesn't have an equal relationship with his benefactor. Kuroyukihime becomes jealous over how Haru is much more familiar with Chiyu, and seemingly takes Chiyu's side in an argument over whether Chiyu is Cyan Pilenote , and this jealousy helps Kuroyukihime realize that she's in love with Haru.
    • Later on, it's also revealed that this is true between Haru and Taku. Considering that Taku has almost everything that Haru doesn't- he's good at school, a star kendo athlete and popular- it's not surprising that Haru would envy Taku, but what would Haru have that Taku envies? The answer is that Haru and Taku are both similarly capable of depression and self-loathing, but unlike Taku, Haru is more resilient and more able to deal with those feelings in a way that isn't self-destructive.
  • Animorphs: In The Ellimist Chronicles, two Ketran flying crystal cities meet. One Ketran blurts out that the others are building a hydrofoil (which means the crystal requires less manpower to stay airborne) just as his counterpart exclaims that they're building a spacecraft.
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Goloshes of Fortune", the titular goloshes cause wishes to come true (although no one who wears them is aware of this property). A watchman puts them on and, looking up into a lieutenant's window, wishes he was the lieutenant. He enters the consciousness of the lieutenant — and the lieutenant, looking down enviously, wishes he was the watchman, which restores the watchman to himself.
  • In Discworld, vampires and werewolves are jealous of each other. The antagonism is said to come from the fact that werewolves are jealous of vampires being thought of as suave and sophisticatednote , while vampires are jealous of werewolves being able to fit more easily into human society (when in human form, obviously).
  • Although never outright stated, Harry Potter has this with Harry and Ron: Ron would like to have Harry's money and fame, while Harry would like to have Ron's large and loving family.
  • The entire plot of Hating Alison Ashley. Erica is jealous because Alison is rich, beautiful and has a mother that is more cultured than her own. She learns at the end that Alison is jealous of Erica's embarrassing, but supportive and kind, family who all attend the camp play to see Erica while Alison's mother can't be bothered to show up.
  • The Prince and the Pauper: This is why the prince and the pauper decide to switch places in Mark Twain's novel and its retellings.
  • In Zoe Chant's Royal Guard series, narration reveals this to be the case with Signy and Poppy. Signy has always seen her sister as resourceful and fearless, an exotic adventurer who does everything Signy is too cautious to do. Meanwhile, Poppy sees Signy as the 'good daughter' who did well in school, has a stable income, and rarely ever has disagreements with their parents. Signy being the crown heir doesn't help, either.
  • Sam Holt: Envy might be a strong word, but Sam's friend and fellow actor Brett Burgess (who does lots of guest star and bit character stuff) is disappointed that he's never had a big role with a steady paycheck and a lot of fame to it. Sam appreciates how Brett feels, but resents how he suffers from Typecasting that keeps him from getting hired for any new and different rules, while Brett is still an active actor and gets to play a variety of different characters.
  • In Tolkien's Legendarium, Elves and Humans envy each other. Humans are mortal and die after a comparatively short time, and their souls have to leave the World after they die, so they envy the Elves' "immortality". The Ageless Elves, who very slowly get tired of living but can't die of old age and certainly can't leave the World dead or alive, know that they're all going to remain when it comes to an end. They envy Humans for being able to leave when we get "weary", and for having the option to keep existing after the end of Time. Elves call death a "Gift", which can rub mortals the wrong way.
  • Both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn put each other on pedastals, thinking the other the smartest person they know and wishing that they had the other's life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Sheldon and Leonard, both brilliant scientists, envy the childhoods that the other had with their moms.
    • Sheldon's mom is too much of a religious nut for his taste (he still loves her nonetheless) and he envies the Leonard's mother is rational, logical and a brilliant scientist herself.
    • However, Leonard's mom is extremely cold and emotionally abusive, and Leonard's envious of how Sheldon's mother is much more caring, understanding and sweet-natured.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the early seasons, Xander envies Angel because Buffy is in love with him. Angel envies Xander because he can be part of Buffy's normal life.
  • The Crown (2016): Elizabeth and Margaret admit that they feel envious of each other. Margaret would like a chance to "shine" and Elizabeth would rather be out of the spotlight.
  • Frasier: A key factor in the Sibling Rivalry between Frasier and Niles is this. Frasier is jealous that Niles is a successful psychiatrist in academic circles while his radio show is seen as more of a watered-down sideshow, and Niles hates that Frasier is a celebrity, is more approachable and likeable socially, and took time to marry and have a child while Niles was still struggling to catch up. This resentment led to several arguments and even a wrestling match in the early seasons of the show, but as Character Development went on, Frasier became mellower and more humble (a little, at least) and Niles gained more courage and self-confidence, strengthening the two brothers' relationship.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017): A Grass Is Greener example shows up in the first episode when it's mentioned that the Poe brothers grow up to be a stuffy banker and a cave-dwelling hermit, respectively.
    Lemony Snicket: They each think the other has it better.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Rodney meets a parallel universe version of himself called Rod. He becomes jealous of how quickly Rod connects with everyone on the base and even starts to think that his sister likes Rod better than him—but then Rod reveals that he's envious of how Rodney's able to say whatever without fear of criticism.
  • In one episode of The Suite Life on Deck, Zac decides to fake a phobia of bananas rather than admit he plagiarized an English assignment. The psychiatrist thinks this fear is from Zac seeing himself a second banana to his more intelligent brother Cody (whom he plagiarize the paper in question from) and has them wrestle with Cody in banana suit. During this fight, Zac admits that the reason he plagiarized in the first place was because while he could write it himself he just felt like it would be seen as inferior to anything Cody would do, like the rest of his academic pursuits. Cody then admits that the reason he likes academics so much is because Zac has always been seen as the more sociable and personable of the two and it’s the one place he can be treated with some respect.

  • The song "Wouldn't It Be Good?" by Nik Kershaw is about this, written from the perspectives of two people who seem to have a bit of a Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic. One verse of the song talks about how "the cold is biting / through each and every nerve and fiber / my broken spirit is frozen to the core". The next verse responds with "you must be joking", saying that "the heat is stifling / burning me up from the inside". Both verses are followed by a refrain that laments "wouldn't it be good to be in your shoes?" and "wouldn't it be good to be on your side?", providing a Meaningful Echo that reinforces the song's narrative.

  • The Musical Woman of the Year had a song called "The Grass is Always Greener" which is a duet between famous TV news personality Tess Harding and her ex-husband's second wife. They both extol the virtues of the other's life, with the wife excited about discos and celebrities, while Tess would love to make a pot roast or sew a button.
    • One version had Kathie Lee Gifford sing with her partner:
    You know Regis Philbin! That's So Wonderful!
    What's So Wonderful? First you take two asprin!
    • One version with Raquel Welch (while Bill Clinton was President) used:
    Dinner with the President! That's So Wonderful!
    What's So Wonderful? Jogging to Mc Donald's!

    Video Games 
  • Façade (2005): It's revealed that Trip and Grace are both envious of the other's upbringing and family. Trip grew up poor, including having to live in a homeless shelter at one point, and resents his working-class parents for being ignorant, uneducated and making bad financial decisions. He desires to have the life of abundance and sophistication that Grace had growing up, and admires her upper-class parents for being better educated, more cultured and financially successful. Grace did grow up in a financially stable household, but she has a strained relationship with her parents because they always made decisions for her and come off as stuffy and shallow, with Grace feeling a lot of pressure to live up to their expectations. She much prefers Trip's parents because they're more authentic and less materialistic, and feels he had a more loving upbringing even if he was poor.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, the protagonist and Kadoc are both people selected to work at the Chaldea Security Organization for their compatibility with time travelling Rayshift technology, but the latter was taken out of commission when a bomb went off before his first mission. Kadoc has developed an Inferiority Superiority Complex over the protagonist 'stealing' his one chance to prove himself as special in mage society, jealous he will never be able to prove himself as useful on Rayshifting like the protagonist did. It's later revealed the protagonist has developed impostor syndrome over being a civilian forced into the conflict and one of their fears shown while in a magic Psychological Torment Zone is being replaced by Kadoc since he's a proper mage with more technical experience, envying him being a better mage.
  • Sora and Riku admit to this at the end of Kingdom Hearts II. The first game already established that Riku was Sora's Always Someone Better growing up, but it's here that Riku confesses he was equally jealous of Sora's carefree attitude. They conclude that they both have something the other could never imitate: "having you for a friend."
  • SOON: Yet another reason why Atlas and Fang don't get along. Atlas envies Fang because of her impressive accolades and Fang is smart enough to realize (but not openly admit) that Atlas' ideas, even in failure, are truly brilliant and not something she could accomplish on her own.
  • Sword of Paladin: It's obvious from the start that Nade has an inferiority complex towards Alex, who is stronger than him as a swordsman. Alex reveals that he was jealous of Nade for being able to grow up with a loving family while his own family was either killed or brainwashed. He later becomes jealous of Nade being the one to finish off Berienstahl. Unfortunately, Ragnarek exploits this envy to take control of Alex.
  • The Aki sisters from Touhou Fuujinroku ~ Mountain of Faith are minor gods who envy each other's line of work; Shizuha Aki is a god of dead leaves (as in, she makes the leaves change color in the fall) while Minoriko Aki is a harvest god. Shizuha wishes she could do something more pragmatic like Minoriko, while Minoriko wishes she could do something more artistic like Shizuha.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa: Makoto Naegi and Nagito Komaeda have a downplayed version; Makoto feels that his version of their shared Ultimate Good Luck talent is inferior, while Nagito hero-worships Makoto for being a better Hope Bringer than him.
  • Fate/hollow ataraxia: Saber is jealous of Rider for being tall and having big boobs. Rider, whose self-esteem was destroyed by her sisters to the point she thinks her mature body is ugly, is jealous of Saber for being short and petite.

  • Mob and Ritsu of Mob Psycho 100 are a pair of Yin and Yang brothers who were born extremely gifted in areas they could not care less about—Mob won the Superpower Lottery but finds his psychic abilities useless in his daily life, whereas Ritsu was born with looks, brains, and athleticism that further stress out an insanely powerful esper brother with unpredictable Psychoactive Powers. Thus, Mob openly wishes he could be more like Ritsu, while Ritsu quietly, desperately craves psychic powers to rival (and thus protect himself) from his brother's own.
  • In Tower of God, Princess Endorsi Jahad is jealous of how devoted Bam is to Rachel and would gladly give up her princess privileges, which were pretty much forced on her, to be with him. On the opposite side, Rachel wants to be special and is jealous of Endorsi for being a beautiful princess like a fairy tale heroine, while her feelings towards Bam are mixed at best and consist mostly of envy.
  • One War and Peas strip sees a white-collar guy envy artists for their freedom and pursuing their passions, and an artist envy people with more financially-stable jobs.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko and Azula have a really tragic case of this. Their father Ozai favored Azula for being a Child Prodigy and disregarded Zuko for being kindhearted, while with their mother Ursa it was the other way around- albeit that unlike Ozai, Ursa didn't do this on purpose, she just felt like Zuko needed her protection more because Azula already had friends and parental approval. By the present, Zuko is a villain in a desperate attempt to get his father to acknowledge him, and while Azula acts smug, deep down she's deeply insecure over her belief that Ursa thought she was a monster and resents Zuko because Ursa loved him.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • The Batman/Superman Adventures episode "Girls' Night Out" dealt with Livewire escaping to Gotham City and Supergirl helping Batgirl when Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn join Livewire. Kara likes the energy and excitement of Gotham, while Barbara thinks the fresh air of Smallville with none of the night work or Gotham's big-city congestion is fine for her. This leads them to being Fire-Forged Friends, which carries over into Justice League, where "Comfort And Joy" have it where Barbara invited Kara to go skiing with her.
    • In the Justice League episode "Metamorphosis" has John Stewart see his former Marine buddy, Rex Mason, has it nice:
      John Stewart: I've never thought much about the choices I've made. Maybe if I'd taken the other road, I'd be where Mason is now. Rich, successful...
      Hawkgirl: (wryly) And engaged to a beautiful woman?
    • After John promises Sapphire Stagg he'll bring Rex home safe, we get this exchange:
      Sapphire Stagg: I see why he always looked up to you.
      John Stewart: (puzzled) To me? He was the one who had it made.
      Sapphire Stagg: No, I've seen him watching you on the news. The way you're always helping people? I think he'd trade places with you in a second.
      John Stewart: Hmm. Guess the grass always looks greener.
    • A villanous version between Mister Freeze and Grant Walker in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Deep Freeze".
      Walker: You're practically immortal, my friend.
      Freeze: Yes, eternal life trapped in this wretched shell. What a miserable joke.
      Walker: Oh, miserable to you, but a godsend to me. Look at me, Mr. Freeze, I'm an old man. I've created wonders in my lifetime, but there is still so much to do! I want to change as you have, to become like you—a being of blessed, eternal cold!
      Freeze: You're insane. You want to be like me, frozen, alone in a world that you can see but never touch. Old and infirm as you are, I'd trade a thousand of my frozen years for your worst day.
  • The Great North: In Season 2 "Stools Rush in Adventure", Judy is jealous of Steven Huang's new girlfriend, Chrissy, because she's snags the lead role in the musical even though she's not good at singing or acting and because Judy had been hoping to win Steven back. At the end of the episode, Chrissy reveals she's jealous of Judy because Judy is actually good at being in theater and Chrissy is worried Steven will see how talented Judy is and get back together with her instead.
  • Hey Arnold!: Helga Pataki is very jealous of all the attention her parents give her perfect college-aged sister, Olga, while she herself is in her shadow. But being the golden child isn't any better for Olga, who is jealous of Helga to the point where she thinks Helga is lucky their parents don't even notice her and just allow her to do what she wants.
  • The Simpsons: Bart and Lisa's Sibling Rivalry seems to be fueled by this. While the academically unsuccessful Bart envies Lisa's high intelligence and easy ability to succeed, Lisa resents Bart's popularity at school and the fact that he gets the lion's share of attention from their parents due to being such a handful.


Video Example(s):


Judy and Chrissy Bond

Judy is jealous of Chrissy because she's dating Steven Huang, but Chrissy is jealous of Judy because she's talented at musical and worries that Steven will fall in love with Judy again.

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