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Mutually Unequal Relation

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Goku: Hey Vegeta, we're friends now, right?
Vegeta: Fuck off.
Goku: The best!

Two (or more) characters have entirely different ideas on how they are perceived by each other. Can lead to Cringe Comedy when the truth gets out or could alternatively be Played for Drama.

Likely outcomes include Break the Haughty/Break the Cutie, Did You Actually Believe...?, "The Reason You Suck" Speech and Was It All a Lie?.


Compare Master of Delusion, Psychological Projection, and Small Name, Big Ego.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Soga constantly calls Matsuri his "rival", and though he doesn't mean that in an antagonistic way, he still thinks they're competing against each other to become stronger. Matsuri goes along with saying they're rivals, but doesn't act like they're in any kind of competition. Toward Soga, Matsuri is very deferential, unusually candid, and is sometimes so adoring as to repeatedly be mistaken as his girlfriend. Eventually, Soga does go from calling Matsuri his "friendly rival" to his "friend and rival".
  • This drives much of the relationship humor in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.. Some of the other students all insist on befriending Saiki because their relationships with Saiki are something else entirely to what they actually are. Saiki himself initially just sees them as school acquaintances and just wants to be left alone, although he evidently does start caring about them.
    • Nendou thinks Saiki is his best friend.
    • Kaidou thinks Saiki is his Bumbling Sidekick in the (completely imaginary) fight against the "Dark Reunion". In Kaidou's daydreams, Saiki is drawn with softer features and has a higher voice to emphasize this.
    • Teruhashi is in denial that Saiki is immune to her beauty and charms, and is convinced that he's secretly in love with her like all other men. Similar to Kaidou, in Teruhashi's daydreams, Saiki is drawn as a ditzy, bumbling love interest.
  • The Legend of Sun Knight: An odd version with the current Sun Knight and the Earth Knight: Each strongly dislikes the other, but because every new generation of the Twelve Holy Knights is forced to reenact the personalities, appearance and relations of the original, they have to act as though they're best friends (the Earth Knight is a womanizer, the Sun Knight is forbidden to have relationships; both of them enjoy playing Moment Killer to each other). The people only know the original legends and see the public façade the Knights put up, so they believe Sun and Earth really are friends. Meanwhile, Sun's actual best friend is the Judgement Knight, when they're supposed to be archenemies.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy and Law agreed to ally their pirate groups with each other. The thing is that Law merely sees it as a means to an end, while Luffy thinks this means they're friends - and if you've watched the series, you'll know how far Luffy would go to protect his friends.
    • At first, Luffy isn't interested in the idea of becoming the boss of other pirate captains, in this case Cavendish, Bartolomeo, Sai, Ideo, Leo, Hajrudin and Orlumbus. But they decide to pledge loyalty to him anyway, without his consent. Thus the Straw Hat Grand Fleet is born. The exact deal becomes "the captains can go anywhere they like, but whenever Luffy needs help, they'll come to his aid".
  • Ōoku: The Inner Chambers: Arikoto believes the shogun Ietsuna sees him as an doddering old fart, painfully oblivious to the fact that she loves him romantically. Absolutely everyone else can see it and repeatedly inform him of this (the fact that he was her father figure for most of her life doesn't help).
  • Overlord:
    • All of Nazarick (especially the Guardians) see Ainz as their godlike master and ruler and have no greater joy than to serve, even if it requires their death. Ainz, on the other hand, sees them as the only link to his former friends in the guild (as they were custom-designed NPCs before gaining sentience), and the idea of one getting killed is akin to the Death of a Child placed under his supervision.
    • Ainz wants to rule Nazarick the way he'd have wanted an ideal Japanese corporation to be run and be a Benevolent Boss. Everyone else sees him as an undead monstrosity of incalculable power who can kill thousands with a thought (not exactly inaccurate). Thus when Ainz is fighting in the Empire's arena, he thinks of Jircniv as a fellow ruler and doesn't understand why the Emperor is rooting against him, and never seems to get that people are genuinely afraid of him (or that the Guardians are more than happy to kill people for what they perceive as insults to Ainz or Nazarick).
    • One of the Kingdom nobles believes he has a good chance of seducing Albedo and inheriting the Sorcerer Kingdom through her. Albedo already hates humans and has difficulty in restraining herself from splattering the idiot all over the walls. The other humans coerced into working for Albedo (and having witnessed firsthand how they treat potential enemies) get stomach ulcers from having to deal with such monumental arrogance and being unable to correct him.
  • Part of the comedy of Tentai Senshi Sunred is this. Vamp and Florsheim see Sunred as their eternal Arch-Enemy that they must defeat in order to Take Over the World. Sunred views Vamp and Florsheim as his Goldfish Poop Gang: Harmless Villain nuisances who show up to 'defeat him' at inopportune times, nevermind that he quit the superhero business long ago and is trying to live as a normal civilian. On good days both sides can suspend this fiction to help each other out, as even Sunred seems to appreciate having Florsheim around because they're the closest thing he's got to friends.

    Comic Books 
  • Heroes Reborn (2021): Despite basically dismissing Peter Parker whenever they meet one another, it’s revealed that Hyperion actually does consider him a friend. It’s just that he can’t communicate it and he doesn’t have the self-awareness to realize Peter actually hates him for good reason.
  • Joker has Johnny Frost, a naive getaway driver who thinks being The Joker's Number Two is his ticket to becoming a respected criminal overlord. Actual criminal overlords who know the Joker don't bother hiding their contempt because they know what's in store for him. At one point Frost tries to get Killer Croc to finish eating faster, thinking working for the Joker gives him the Joker's authority. Croc hangs him on a meat hook, letting Frost see what Croc is eating. Frost ends up killed by the Joker shortly after realizing just how little he (or human life in general) means to his boss.
  • The Punisher: Soap thinks he's Vitriolic Best Buds with Kevin the bartender, Kevin thinks he's a whiny, annoying little shit (and while the audience sees his point, he also does things like not tell an oblivious Soap he's hitting on a man or a drag queen). Things come to a head when Soap attempts to commit suicide in the bathroom, and Kevin is disgusted with him... because of the inconvenience it'll be to clean out the bathroom afterwards. Soap snaps, grows a spine, puts Kevin back in his place and goes out to confront the Punisher at last. It only lasts long enough for Frank to tell him to go away, which Soap does, finally finding a more fulfilling career as a porn star.
  • Runaways has fun with this:
    • Alex has always hated Chase since they were kids. Chase was unaware of this, and thought that they were best bros.
    • Karolina had a longstanding crush on Nico. Nico completely missed it, thinking that Karolina was just really friendly.
    • Molly assumes that because she and Gert were the two youngest members of the original team, they would naturally be best friends. Gert find Molly annoying.
    • After they started dating, Gert and Chase each suspected that the other would eventually leave them. Gert feared that Chase would dump her for either Nico or Karolina because they were more conventionally attractive, while Chase thought that Gert might dump him for Victor, who was smarter and closer to her age.
    • Xavin constantly frets that Karolina might not really love them. Karolina, for her part, seems to at least care about Xavin enough to stay with them and try and work out any differences the two might have.
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: Jazz is trying to befriend Sofía Orozco and becomes under the impression it's working. It isn't.

    Fan Works 
  • Danganronpa Re:Programmed offers several examples:
    • Toko is completely infatuated with Byakuya, while he feels nothing but contempt and disgust towards her... though that disgust doesn't stop him from manipulating her for his own selfish ends.
    • Makoto sees Mukuro as a dear, close friend, unaware that Mukuro is secretly infatuated with him.
    • Kyoko treats Chihiro as a close business associate with whom she shares a common goal, while all Chihiro wants is to be friends with her.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Goku believes that he and Vegeta are best buddies after saving him from the Ginyu Force, while it's made pretty clear that Vegeta hates him and only hangs around with the desire to get stronger than Goku.
    • Guldo is unpleasantly surprised to discover his teammates don't consider themselves included when he says his head was cut off in front of all his friends.
      Jeice: And us!
  • I See What You Do Behind Closed Doors Miraculous Ladybug: Adrien has convinced himself that Ladybug only rejects his unwanted advances as Chat Noir because she's Playing Hard to Get, seeing himself as The Charmer whom everybody desires. He starts dating Marinette after noticing how much she looks like Ladybug, unaware that they're the same person; when Marinette learns his Secret Identity and sees that he's still pursuing her as Ladybug despite dating her, she thinks he wants to be with them both, unaware that he was using her as a substitute for "the real deal" to fulfill his personal fantasies.
  • Phantom vs Aliens: Hot Ectoplasma!: Dieana is Mandie's handmaiden and her closest confidant (since Fufu can't talk). Mandie admits to herself that she believes that Dieana is her most reliable servant and seems to treat her marginally better compared to most people, excluding Danny. What she doesn't know is that Dieana greatly resents her for being the object of Bruti's attention and rejecting him since Dieana herself is in love with Brutis and believes that she deserves his love, not Mandie.
  • During the Hoenn arc of The Road to be a Pokemon Master, Lisia thinks she and Serena are "besties", and texts and calls her pretty often. Serena, however, thinks Lisia is pretty annoying, and never returns her texts.
  • Scarlet Lady:
    • Chloé firmly believes that her Childhood Friend "Adrikins" is meant to be hers, and staunchly ignores all evidence that he's growing increasingly annoyed with her entitled, self-centered behavior. For his part, Adrien is deeply upset to learn that she's a well-known bully at Francoise Dupont, and grows increasingly blatant in his rejections of her until he finally tells her outright that he's ending their friendship entirely — something that Chloé swiftly decides must just be a prank on his end.
    • Sabrina is Chloé's best friend and Beta Bitch, but their relationship is purely All Take and No Give — Chloé only cares about what she can get out of Sabrina, and only emphasizes their "friendship" as a way of manipulating her. Eventually, Sabrina gets tired of their toxic dynamic and breaks things off, with Chloé sulkily convincing herself that "she'll be back."

    Films — Animation 
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Kuzco believes his adviser, Yzma, is actually happy to serve him, oblivious to her traitorous scheming or that she's the one responsible for turning him into a llama. When he finds her, he looks overjoyed for about two seconds, only for his face to fall as he realizes she's talking about killing him.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: When Toad invites himself on Peach and Mario's quest, he tells the former that he is Mario's best friend despite only knowing him for a short amount of time. Not only that, but in that time, he's unknowingly exasperated the plumber with his inconsiderate behavior. All of which is why Mario doesn't exactly reciprocate the feelings.
    Toad: Hey, Mario!
    Peach: You know this guy?
    Mario: Uh-
    Toad: We're best friends!
    Mario: (unsure)...but are we?

  • Discworld: Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler, a get-rich-quick schemer suffering from Perpetual Poverty when his plans inevitably backfire, acts as though he's best buddies with Chrysoprase, the head of the Breccia, calling him "Chrys". Chrysoprase's expression makes it clear Dibbler is going to be very sorry afterwards.
  • Harry Potter: Dumbledore theorizes some of Voldemort's followers believe themselves to be his True Companions and closest friends. Voldemort is of course entirely unattached to them and given his views on love, would certainly not want them as friends.
  • Parker Pyne Investigates: One Operation: Jealousy goes spectacularly wrong when the husband falls for Pyne's employee Madeleine for real, when he's just another customer to her.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy thinks that Elizabeth likes and is interested in him; he interprets their arguments as friendly debates. He is also extremely attracted to her. Elizabeth, for her part, thinks that Darcy a) is a jerk, who b) only looks at her to find fault, and c) loves to correct and contradict her to prove he's better than she is. Imagine her surprise when he proposes! Imagine his when she not only rejects him, but also serves up a "The Reason You Suck" Speech!
  • Redwall: At the beginning of Salamandastron, Mara thinks she's found a friend in Klitch, as both are confident young beasts feeling oppressed by their fathers. Unfortunately, Klitch's father Ferahgo the Assassin is the warlord of a vermin horde, and the only reason Klitch feels oppressed by him is because he thinks he can rule it better than his father, and only maintains his friendly facade with Mara to get information from her.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In "The Musgrave Ritual", Holmes theorizes that this is what happened to the butler, who was found dead in an underground vault. Brunton had a history as The Casanova, and had previously been affianced with a maid, but soon took up with another girl. Howells was seen acting strangely on the day Brunton was reported missing, and disappeared herself soon afterwards. Holmes believes Brunton thought Howells was still devoted to him, got her help to enter the vault, and only when she realized that her chance for revenge (it's implied he got her pregnant) was right there did she slam the door on him.
    Holmes: This girl had been devoted to him. A man always finds it hard to realize that he may finally have lost a woman's love, however badly he may have treated her.
  • Warrior Cats: Bluestar believed Tigerclaw to be her faithful deputy despite Fireheart's warnings that he was evil. Tigerclaw just saw her as a weak leader who needed to be disposed of to get himself the leadership.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Early in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend this was a bit of an ambiguous situation: Rebecca was madly in love with Josh and believed they were destined to be together, but it wasn't clear if he'd ever though of her as anything other than a friend. And in the one brief glimpse we get of their summer camp fling as teenagers, she seems a lot more invested in the relationship than him. And then in season 2, Rebecca loses herself in Selective Obliviousness trying to convince herself that she's in a love triangle with Josh and Greg even though both men were reluctant to be with her, and ultimately rejected her by the end of the episode.
  • Kaamelott: Several characters believe themselves useful members of society, despite being some variation of The Millstone. Despite being told how useless they are to their faces, it just bounces off, and any self-awareness they might have is gone by the end of the episode.
  • Midsomer Murders has an episode with a school headmaster telling everyone about how he was childhood friends with one of the school's boardmembers, to his irritation (he seems to have viewed the man as The Team Wannabe).
  • Ted Lasso has this Played for Drama in Season 2. Thanks to Nate's past as a bullied kit manager with a Friendless Background and his relationship with his emotionally distant father, he latches onto Ted as a Parental Substitute and craves his constant attention and affection. However, while Ted certainly cares a lot about Nate as both a friend and a valued assistant, his responsibilities to the players, the rest of the staff, and his actual family, plus the need to take care of his own mental health issues on top of this, means that he just can't give Nate the amount of attentiveness and praise he desires. As a result, Nate, whose own mental health has deteriorated, deludes himself into believing that Ted "abandoned him" and ultimately betrays him by leaking his panic attacks to the press and quitting Richmond to manage West Ham United under Rupert.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • One planet is a backwater that was colonized millennia ago by the Imperium, with the natives living in hope that the Emperor will return one day and they can be part of the galaxy-spanning civilization of mankind again. Chaos forces who raid the planet take sadistic glee in demonstrating just how little they matter in the galaxy and how long-forgotten they are by the Imperium.
    • The average citizen of the Tau Empire is generally certain that the Imperium will either willingly place itself under the Greater Good's banner or be destroyed by them, because they are kept carefully ignorant of just how much the Imperium outnumbers them (the Tau's expansion can be measured in star systems, the Imperium in percentage of the galaxy). The Imperium considers them a threat, but a relatively contained one that serves as a useful buffer between them and several other enemies the Imperium would rather see blunt their teeth on the Tau first (and have collaborated with the Tau in the past against Always Chaotic Evil threats like Tyranids).
    • Beasts of Nurgle are acid-sweating giant slugs with the personality of a Big Friendly Dog, who love nothing better than to run and frolick and wrestle with the little creatures they encounter on the battlefield, who also seem to love to play keep-away. Unfortunately, their new friends get tired very quickly, so the beasts have to find new playmates.

    Video Games 
  • In Ensemble Stars!:, Chiaki considers himself and Eichi friends because the latter always pairs up with him in PE. However, Eichi actually only chooses him because the rest of the class either hates him (Shu and Madara), are extremely standoffish (Izumi), or are too overprotective (Keito). Likewise, early on Chiaki considers Midori his friend despite Midori mainly just finding him extremely tiring and pushy, but over time they come to genuinely become friends.
  • Team Fortress 2: Everyone is terrified of the Pyro because of their lack of speech, lack of face, and obsession with setting people on fire. From the Pyro's point of view, their teammates and opponents are all childlike fairies he plays with, and their flamethrower dispenses rainbows.

  • The Order of the Stick: Tsukiko is a necromancer convinced that her zombies return her love for them and treats them as children and not mindless drones. Redcloak exploits this by using his ability to control undead to order them to restrain and drain her levels, then eat her. Tsukiko dies begging them to love her as she loves them.
    • Worse still, she's convinced Xykon- a total psychopath whose only emotions tend to be anger, greed, and amusement at the suffering of others- values her personally and even romantically. His response to Redcloak casually mentioning that he brutally murdered her is barely a shrug.

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (2017): Storkules (the show's equivalent to Hercules) considers Donald his friend, treating him as close to an Ambiguously Gay level. Donald thinks he's a loud idiot with No Sense of Personal Space, and is incredibly hesitant to acknowledge Storkules as a "friend" and not an "acquaintance".
  • Glitch Techs: Mitch Williams believes that his teammates Zahra and Haneesh respect him as their team leader. In truth, while they do follow his orders as the leader, and are civil with him battling glitches and off the clock, nether of them can stand his jerkish behavior and don't respect him like he thinks they do, and while they are content to follow his lead, they only follow his orders because he's the team leader.
  • Infinity Train: Exploited. In the first episode of Season 3 The Musical Car, after raiding a musical cart, many of the young Apex kids offer items they took from the cart to their leaders Grace and Simon. Grace, who knows the children by name, acts like she has a special relationship with all of them, promising to cherish each item they bought her and store them in her special collection, while telling the child to keep it a secret from the other children that she's doing that. This is an act to make the children loyal to her, as once they leave, she discards the items without a care.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures: Whitney Stane, the daughter of Tony's enemy Obadiah Stane, appears to think that she's close friends with Tony, while Tony is shown to keep a distance from her because of her father and would often brush her aside. In her first appearance, it was implied that they did know each other, hinting that they were friends, and to Tony's credit in the episode "Masquerade", when he learns of her troubled home life, how isolated she is from the other teens at their school, and the fact that she does consider him her only friend, he makes an effort to be a better friend to her. At the end of episode, when Tony and his friends Pepper and Rhodey notice how sad she is sitting alone, Pepper and Rhodey make jokes about her; Tony defends Whitney, calling her his friend and stating that being rich doesn't mean she has no problems. He leaves Pepper and Rhodes to sit with Whitney, causing her to smile.
  • Kaeloo: In the early episodes, Mr. Cat is well-respected and adored by the rest of the main four, who see him as a good friend, while he sees them as annoying nuisances who ruin his life with their mere presence. This gradually gets toned down, as they start to realize that he has flaws and he comes to see them as close friends.
  • South Park: Butters thinks of Cartman as a good friend that he can hang out and have sleepovers with. Cartman on the other hand sees Butters as a gullible mark who he can either manipulate into being a pawn or sidekick for his schemes or bully around for his own amusement.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob generally respects his neighbor Squidward and thinks he's a good friend. Squidward thinks of SpongeBob as an annoying Manchild who frequently messes up his life.
  • Static Shock: Implied. Eddie Felson met Daisy Watkins at science summer camp. She was the only person at the camp that was kind to him, so he developed a crush on her, which turned into an unhealthy obsession, with him stalking her and stealing luxury items to give to her. However, Daisy's reaction to meeting him again calls into question whether she was ever kind. While she does not hate him, Daisy was not happy to see Eddie again, and unhappy when she mentions she thinks she's seeing him again because he has a crush on her. And this was before she knew he was stalking her and stealing items to give to her. It should be noted that when Eddie revealed his powers to Daisy and mentions that she was the only one in camp that was kind to him, she did not deny that. However, it's possible she was only nice to him out of pity. Either way, it shows that Daisy does not truly like Eddie, and was glad he was defeated and out of her life for good.
  • Steven Universe thinks Lars and he are best buddies, despite Lars openly considering Steven annoying and intrusive. Lars' opinion of Steven does eventually get less antagonistic after he gets a better idea of his own flaws and Steven learns to be less pushy. After Lars and Steven escape abduction by Homeworld, they're friends outright.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Played with in "Superman's Pal", Jimmy starts out believing that Superman would barely even notice a "nobody" like him and that all the times the hero has saved his life are simply because Superman saves everyone who's in danger. While he's right about the latter, he doesn't know that Superman is also his friend/mentor Clark Kent, who more or less connected with him on the first day in the office. In the end, Superman gives him the pep talk that Clark Kent couldn't finish and gives him a signal watch so he can contact him if he's in danger.
    Superman: I thought you might need it, now that everyone knows we're friends.
  • The Venture Brothers has this going on between Rusty Venture and the Monarch. The Monarch has an Irrational Hatred toward Venture, viewing himself as Venture's true Arch-Enemy and putting everything else on hold in order to torment Venture. This hatred is, however, entirely one-sided. Venture doesn't seem to care much about the Monarch at all beyond him being "that clown in a butterfly suit who tries to kill me slightly more often than all those other guys who try to kill me".

    Real Life 
  • Parasocial relationships are essentially one-sided relationships between a person and someone they see a lot who doesn't know them at all but creates an illusion of friendship (e.g. fictional characters, celebrities, streamers, etc.).

Alternative Title(s): Mutually Unequal Relationship