Whenever someone is handing out gifts to a group of people, one of them is going to be massively disappointed.
Typically, almost everyone gets a really spectacular gift that is exactly what they wanted. Except for this one guy who gets, say, a nickel.
The jilted character will feign delight, but as s/he watches the others enjoy their gifts, his/her annoyance will grow until s/he finally explodes at the gift-giver. This character might also have to write a note saying 'thanks' despite not feeling thankful at all.
Typically, it will turn out that the gift has some great hidden value, and that their gift has really been the best gift of all, just not in any obvious way. Like the nickel is a rare coin worth millions.
Sometimes, the lame gift is just something of great sentimental value to the giver, in which case it reflects deep affection and is a very touching gift, though it's still a bit lame- see Crappy Homemade Gift.
Sometimes, the universe just hates him/her.
For the superhero version of this, see Blessed with Suck. Kids Prefer Boxes is a juvenile variation of this trope. I Got a Rock is the trick-or-treating version. When Elemental Powers are in play, you'll have What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? May result from Convenience Store Gift Shopping or a Homemade Sweater from Hell. The subtrope that drives the engine of an Unwanted Gift Plot. For the polar opposite of this trope (where the character finds an item most people would consider cool to be lame), see Worthless Yellow Rocks.
Of course it's possible that It May Help You on Your Quest.
- A bank commercial involves a man offering a pony to two girls. The first girl accepts and smiles as she gets her toy pony... until the second girl gets a live pony.
- Another one in the same series features a little boy being allowed to play with a toy truck... for about five minutes. Then the truck gets taken away and replaced with a piece of cardboard cut roughly in the shape of a truck, which, had he read the fine print he had no reason to believe was on the bottom of the first truck, he would recognize as the deal he agreed to when he started playing with the first truck.
- Subverted in one advert which had every member of the family left some vast, beautiful piece of real estate, except for one son who gets 10 acres of swamp. We think he's the Black Sheep until he whoops in delight — cut to him driving his SUV at top speed through the mud and branches.
- A series of Christmas ads from West 49 show a bunch of clips of kids throwing tantrums because they didn't get the right thing for Christmas. One clip shows a young boy that got so upset, he knocked down the Christmas tree.
- Another Christmas ad shows a father recounting all the cool stuff he got his kids, then asking, "And what did Dad get? [Beat] Dad got hosed."
- In The World of Narue Narue reminds Kazuto that it's not what's given but who gives it that's important. They then exchange ... rocks.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, when the little boy Sam revealed himself to be Jack Atlas' biggest fan, Jack decided to give him the card Tuning Magician as a gift. The card is Level 1, has 0 ATK and DEF, and has a seemingly negative effect (when you summon it, your opponent gains 400 LP and you take 400 damage). As a result, Sam got really insulted and started hating Jack's guts. It is later revealed that Tuning Magician was the first card that Jack owned, and it inspired him to escape the ghetto and become the duelist he is today. He was likely trying to inspire Sam to follow a similar path. Too bad Jack didn't bother trying to explain the card's significance. Later, Yuya Sakaki borrows the card from Sam and manages to use it in a winning strategy.
- Gunslinger Girl. Triela's handler Victor Hilshire keeps giving her teddy bears as gifts, being Maternally Challenged and figuring that all Girls Love Stuffed Animals. Eventually their relationship develops enough for him to ask what she wants, but she just asks for another bear so she'll have seven. To her annoyance, she gets another bear from someone else, leaving her with eight bears. "I knew I should have asked for something else."
- In Level Up, when Dennis was a kid, he tried hinting to his dad that he wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. He ended up getting a chemistry set.
- Averted and then subverted in Safe Havens. When Samantha's grandma died, she got seemingly the worst inheritance: a ring. Relatives expected her to be disappointed, but she wasn't. That was before she found out it was actually the most awesome inheritance, magically allowing her to see and talk with her heaven-bound grandma in reflective surfaces.
- Garfield: Garfield gets a cat sweater from Jon's mother every Christmas that he usually doesn't like (a notable exception being the one from the December 28, 1991 strip - the shoulder pads won him over); some of them are lamer than others.
- Beautifully subverted in another Christmas strip.◊ Jon gets Garfield fancy presents (like a mink scratching post), which he appreciates. Odie rushes up to the fat cat with a single bone in his mouth, dropping it on the floor as his own gift. Garfield remarks that the bone is literally the only thing Odie owns in the entire world...then gives him a huge hug, recognizing the significance of the present: "It's the expensive gifts that impress me."
- Subverted in Infinity. Tsukuyomi was a notoriously bad gift giver (physics textbooks for kids, toys for adults, etc...), but people treasured her gifts all the same because "Auntie Tsuku might not understand people very well, but she always tried her best."
- The Loud House fanfic Lincoln's Memories: In "Lincoln's Seventh Birthday", his gift from Lana is a jar of dirt. He also gets some blueberry compote from Aunt Ruth and worries that it may be expired.
- Kenai from Disney's Brother Bear wasn't too happy about receiving The Bear of Love.
- Power Rangers:
- In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, the Rangers gains new ninja powers. Where the others' animal totems were things like the falcon, the bear, or the wolf, Adam got the frog. He was disappointed until the alien Jungle Princess guiding them explained it by relating it to The Frog Prince. (Don't ask how an alien even knew about The Frog Prince...)
- In Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, Adam's actor Johnny Yong Bosch wanted to have him complain again, this time about why he got a minivan for a Zord when the new kid got a monster truck, but that idea was shot down.
- In Dead Poets Society, Todd Anderson receives a monogrammed desk set, which he had received last year. After lamenting that his brother Jeff's birthday is a big celebration, he tosses the desk set off the roof.
- In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Grinch is subjected to sampling holiday foods, a Christmas sweater that's loud, kitschy, and has about as many lights as a Christmas tree. The worst of all takes place when Mayor Augustus May-Who gives the Grinch hair clippers so the Grinch can get a haircut. This brings back painful childhood memories, and the Grinch gives May-Who a haircut instead.
- In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, each member in the Fellowship receives cool personal gifts from Galadriel, including a magical lantern for Frodo, some daggers for Pippin and Merry, and a coveted lock of golden hair for Gimli. Sam, however, gets some rope. Whoopee. Visibly underwhelmed, he even has the balls to ask if he might have a "shiny dagger" as well, but Galadriel just smirks at his impudence and doesn't bother to reply. Of course, the rope magically unties itself when necessary, and comes in very useful. In the book, Sam is given a rare seed and fertile soil from Lothlórien due to his trade as a gardener. The rope is just part of the general equipment. Also, in the book, Sam has been complaining about not having any rope for several chapters and is actually quite pleased to finally have some (though he's a bit skeptical of its strength since it's so thin).
- Star Wars: Ewok Adventures: In the first film, Cindel's brother Mace is visibly unimpressed with the very plain rock he gets, while everyone else gets cool toys. After an unsuccessful attempt to trade it for something else, he throws it away. Unfortunately they kinda need it much later on... Fortunately Wicket had more sense and took the rock with him when Mace ditched it. It breaks open to release an arrowhead that shows them the way into the Gorax's cave.
- In Step Brothers, when they open Christmas gifts, Dale gets Hulk Hands. Brennan on the other hand, gets a wallet. He is not happy.
- Apparently, Jason in Mystery Team would much rather have a bike than a NEW CAR.
- A Christmas Story: Ralphie receives pink bunny pajamas from his aunt for Christmas. (He claims that his aunt believes that he is "perpetually four years old and a girl." Fortunately, his mom tells him he only has to wear it when she visits.) Ralphie and Randy also don't care for socks.
- Bloody Reunion: Eun-Young was the class vice president whose family was said to be poor. For a present for Teacchers Day, she made Ms. Park a card that said "I love you Ms. Park". Ms. Park then ridiculed her in front of the entire class.
- Adrian Mole is frequently disappointed with his presents ("the usual Japanese rubbish"). He also receives A Boy's Book of Carpentry, and Bible Stories for Boys.
The Queen didn't look too happy when she gave her Christmas speech. Perhaps she got lousy Christmas presents, like me.
- Used often in the Harry Potter series.
- Christmas gift-giving happens once a book. The Dursleys always give Harry some present, but intentionally something extremely lame, like old socks, a single toothpick, or a coin. (Ron thinks that the 50p is totally interesting, though, having never seen money with that shape).
- In the third book, Harry endures a visit from Uncle Vernon's sister Marge, who comes to visit while he's home for the summer. She gives Dudley expensive gifts like toy robots and video games but gives Harry... a box of dog biscuits. Just to really rub in how much she hates Harry, she then glares at Harry, daring him to ask why he had gotten dog biscuits instead of an actual present. He's too smart to take the bait.
- In the sixth book, Harry gets a Christmas present from his house-elf, Kreacher who (at this point) loathes him. It's a package containing a large number of maggots.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore leaves items to the trio in his will. Hermione gets a book, Ron gets a magical item that can manipulate light, and Harry gets... in Ron's words: "An old snitch". Harry knows there's a secret involved and eventually figures it out months later. Turned out there was a legendarily powerful magic stone inside it. Dumbledore actually did will a second, obviously-not-lame, item to Harry as well (the sword of Gryffindor) but Scrimgeour refuses to hand it over, saying that it wasn't Dumbledore's to give. Though the Trio ends up getting a hold of this item for a time anyway and it's being left in the will clues them in to the fact that it's important to their quest.
- Inverted by Dumbledore in the first book; socks are usually a stock lame gift, but Dumbledore says everyone always gives him books and he'd like to get a pair of new socks sometime.
- Also inverted by Dobby in Goblet of Fire, who loves getting socks from Harry, claiming those are his favorite type of clothing, but doesn't understand that socks are supposed to match. (Ron quickly avoids having to explain this by giving him a pair of socks he got and telling him to simply swap pairs.)
- Every Christmas, Mrs Weasley gives Harry and all of the Weasleys hand-knitted jumpers. Harry and most of the Weasleys like theirs (especially because when Harry gets one, he remarks that no one has ever given him a handmade present before—plus it symbolizes the fact that Molly views him as one of her own children), but Ron hates his because it's always maroon (though he manages to palm it off once on Dobby, who loves it). Percy also shows some resistance to wearing his jumper in the first book, likely because it clashes with his idea of what a respectable prefect should wear. In Order of the Phoenix, Molly has a breakdown when Percy returns the annual sweater, which she recognizes as him turning his back on the family in favor of his fanatical devotion to the Ministry of Magic.
- Another Molly Weasley example occurs in The Goblet of Fire. Molly sends Harry, Ron, and Hermione fake eggs filled with chocolate and sweets—but while the boys get dragon-sized eggs, Hermione's is about the size of a robin's. She immediately realizes that Molly has been reading Rita Skeeter's gossip-laden columns in The Daily Prophet, which paint Hermione as a cruel jerk who broke Harry's heart.
- It's established in the Jedi Apprentice series that Padawans turning thirteen are always given gifts from their Masters, gifts with some symbolic meaning that take a lot of work to get, like healing crystals or specially made cloaks. Little Obi-Wan Kenobi is shocked, therefore, when Qui-Gon gives him a river rock. He conquers his own disappointment enough to look closely at it and see that it's a beautiful rock and hangs on to it. Later it turns out to react to his own Force abilities, which helps keep a mind wipe from affecting him; but when he tells Qui-Gon about this, Qui-Gon blandly says he thought it was a normal stone. Obi-Wan's not sure if he's being trolled or not.
- In the last book of Galaxy of Fear, the Arranda kids meet Yoda on Dagobah, and he says he has something for both of them. Yoda invites Tash to walk with him. She's delighted, since she knows he's a Jedi and she desperately longs to know more and develop her fledgling Force skills. Yoda then tells Zak to pocket a flower, roots and all, and take it back to the camp. Zak takes it as another sign that he's the Un Favorite. He's later able to throw it into an attacker's face. Yoda didn't actually tell Tash much; the real 'gift' was letting Zak sort things out himself, so he could shed this feeling of being useless.
- In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Peter and Fudge receive gifts from friends of their parents. Fudge gets a toy train set. Peter gets a book aimed at children closer to Fudge's age, if not younger, and is in fact a book Fudge already ownsnote . Peter is not impressed, but at least has the tact to thank its givers. Fudge, on the other hand, throws a fit when he receives the same kind of book on his third birthday.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire Stannis Baratheon considers being named Lord of Dragonstone this. While being granted the ancestral seat of the Targaryens would normally be a great honor, with Robert taking the Iron Throne, Stannis would have been Lord of Storm's End, which is bigger, richer, his ancestral home, and not located on a godforsaken rock in the middle of the ocean. It's not exactly that Dragonstone itself is lame, just in comparison to what he would have had had he not been so "honored". Making it even worse is that during the rebellion, Stannis defended Storm's End through a terrible siege, eating rats rather than surrender, only to have it taken away and given to his little brother afterward.
- Played with in The Duckling Gets a Cookie? When the Duckling gets a nuts-and-chocolate cookie from the reader, the Pigeon becomes jealously enraged, only to be genuinely surprised when the Duckling gives it to him. After the Pigeon leaves, the Duckling asks for a cookie without nuts.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Poor Greg has several of these moments every once in a while, ranging from a picture of his uncle, to Wonder Woman underoos.
- In Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Buddy "Stump" Jamison is given an Erector set. Problem is, as his nickname implies, he has only one arm, which means using the set next to impossible He does NOT take it well.
- In Space Wolf, one of the Mac Guffins is the Spear of Russ. Russ hated his spear, but since it was a gift from the Emperor, he couldn't just get rid of it. He alternately ignored it and tried to "accidentally" lose it. One of the 13th Companymen who knew Russ personally stated that if it wasn't being trotted out for a ceremony, it was promptly tossed into the nearest corner or being thrown at increasingly hilarious targets in an effort to get rid of it. Consequently, Ragnar nailing Magnus the Red in the eye with the damn thing would've put a grin on Russ' face, even as he grudgingly ordered him to get it back.
- NewsRadio: Jimmy James gives everyone but Matthew a brand new Miata for Christmas. Instead, Matthew gets a set of Fibber McGee and Molly tapes. When he finally confronts Mr. James, he finds that the gift wasn't the tapes; Mr. James was actually giving him all rights to the entire Fibber McGee and Molly series.
- In an episode of That Mitchell and Webb Look, Robert Webb plays a heroin addict that gets his favorite thing in the whole world for Christmas from everyone except his grandmother, who got him cocaine. His mother quietly offers to take it back and exchange it for more heroin.
- Just Shoot Me! had a very similar episode, only while Finch pretended to like his gift outwardly, he secretly ruined all the other presents before finding out how much his was actually worth.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- In one episode Joel gives Gypsy an expensive doll, Tom a racecar, and Crow... pants. Turns out that this was a Very Special acknowledgment of his greater maturity, qualifying him for an "adult" gift. (In a Continuity Nod, whenever Crow has cause to pack up his possessions, one crate is clearly marked "pants".)
- In the first Christmas episode, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", the Mads invent "The Wish Squisher," a machine designed to turn cool gifts into this trope. A box of NES games becomes a pair of Underoos, money becomes your sister's raisin collection, and slot cars become an ugly pair of socks. The socks are run through the machine a second time and become a gift certificate for a stationery store.
- Variation: Cheers: Rebecca's wealthy boyfriend promises her a wonderful gift and references a "ring". She gets a desk. Convinced that there's an engagement ring hidden inside, she literally tears the desk apart to find it. Then Sam finds the packing slip, explaining that it's the very valuable and historic desk at which Richard Wagner composed Der Ring des Nibelungen.
- In The Facts of Life episode "Graduation," Mrs. Garrett gives Blair a nice sweater and Jo... a rock. She proceeds to show Jo that it's a geode and spins an elaborate metaphor in which the ordinary-looking stone with potential treasure hidden inside represents Jo. Blair then becomes annoyed that her gift doesn't come with a metaphor!
- One of Psych's early Christmas episodes showed this with Lassie. However, it was intentional as Shawn had been listening in on their psychiatric evaluations and told everyone to get Lassie snowglobes, just to torture him.
- In a Christmas episode of The Office (US), Michael was very disappointed to receive a hand-knitted oven mitt from his Secret Santa (Phyllis) when he himself had gotten his person (Ryan) an iPod. Of course, this was stupid because he himself had imposed a $20 limit to the gifts to make the iPod look even better in comparison to everyone else's gifts.
- Happens just about any time anyone gives gifts, ever, in Friends. Usually followed by someone exchanging the sucky gifts. Or, more often than not, exchanging a decent gift they didn't like.
Joey: Mine says "To Erin Lane".Chandler: I don't have a job!
- Slightly subverted in one episode where Chandler unexpectedly arrives home at Christmas and gives everyone crap gifts - donations to the Royal Ballet Society.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: an elderly relative leaves Dick an old desk and a wacky piece of film. The film has hints that lead Dick to realize that the old, old picture of an ancestor is a really valuable piece of history: it's a picture that includes Abraham Lincoln.
- In one episode of Home Improvement, Jill's mom is distributing presents to her daughters; Jill wants an old antique clock that was always special to her, but that goes to her sister while she gets an old tea set. It turns out that her mother actually thought this would be meaningful to her, though - apparently, she and Jill used to play tea party with the old set when Jill was a child, though as an adult Jill sheepishly admits she can't remember that at all.
- In the children's series The Queens Nose, when the wise old uncle comes to visit, he gives the annoying and snobby older sister Melody some fancy clothes and a bundle of money. To the younger sister Harmony (who is his favourite niece) he gives... an old 50 pence piece, of the same year as her birth. She soon discovers that this particular 50p is magical and grants her ten wishes.
- In Glue, farm boy James is given a set of keys for his 18th birthday, which he happily assumes are for a car. Cue disappointment when it turns out they're for a tractor. (No hidden meaning here - a tractor is simply of more use at a farm).
- In Modern Family, Alex is disappointed to discover that her grandmother only left her a lighter and a card reading "this is a lighter". She spends most of the episode confused before realizing that the card got stuck closed, and written on the inside is the explanation of the gift. By the end of the episode, she understands what the lighter means and sincerely appreciates it.
- Invoked in one episode by Penny in The Big Bang Theory, she gives Sheldon a toy of the Star Trek's Transporter Pod and a tagging gun to Leonard, but it turns out to be a prank and gives him another transporter.
- In the Christmas episode "A Creature was Stirring," from The Haunting Hour, Timmy's two older siblings, Mark and Becky, spend Christmas morning complaining about their gifts. Mark gets an iPod, when he really wanted an iPad, and complains that it doesn't have enough gigs on it. Becky gets a dress that her mother thought she could wear to school, but Becky says she can't wear it because "it looks like my mother bought it." She then asks if she can exchange it for something she likes.
- in the Corner Gas episode "No Time Like the Presents", Emma declares that she's done with all of her Christmas shopping. Oscar protests that it's only July, and asks why she bothered to do it so early when "last year, all you got people were crappy socks". Emma claims it's because she left it too late (a.k.a. she waited until September) and thus ran out of time to find good gifts. Then the episode plot starts where Oscar tells people what they're getting for Christmas in exchange for gifts and favours. When Emma finally catches onto him, she brings all the gifts back and purposely gets everyone more crappy socks out of spite.
- Succession: The fantastically wealthy Roy family finds it impossible to give their patriarch Logan gifts for his birthday because he already has everything he wants, and even when something new comes along, he'll get a dozen of them from various admirers. The first episode of the series has Tom give him a watch, which Logan immediately gives away, and Connor gives him some starter dough to make old-fashioned sourdough, which causes Logan to thank him with transparently fake enthusiasm for the "old bread."
- Schitt's Creek: Johnny is a bad gift giver. The whole premise of the show is based on the fact that he bought the town of Schitt's Creek as a joke gift for his son, which ends up saving the family from total destitution. Season 3 also has an episode where Johnny gives the perpetually casual Stevie a "briefcase of makeup" and urges her to wear it every day. Stevie takes it as a veiled insult, but Alexis assures her that he's just terrible at giving gifts. She recalls the time he gave Camp Gay David a basketball court for his 13th birthday.
- Better Call Saul: One episode has Jimmy's plan to rob an office complicated by the fact that the business owner is sleeping on the couch because his wife kicked him out after he gave her a vacuum cleaner as a gift. He protests over the phone that it's "top of the line" and "never loses suction!"
- Two different Christmas episodes of The Golden Girls deal with this trope. In the first, "Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas," Dorothy protests the commercialization of the holiday after a terrible shopping experience, and insists that the girls exchange homemade presents instead. She's not thrilled with the results, especially after hearing that Rose returned a necklace she wanted in exchange for a maple syrup spigot. In the second, "Have Yourself A Very Little Christmas," the girls decide to do a Secret Santa for one another rather than risk the packed shopping malls. Blanche finds out that Rose is going to buy her present and is nervous, given her terrible record of gift-giving...but it's subverted when Rose gets her a tasteful, beautiful blouse, having asked Dorothy for advice.
- This trope was also a mild Running Gag with Dorothy's ex-husband Stan, who often got Dorothy bad presents on holidays: she once remarked that a mink stole was the only gift he gave her that "didn't need an extension cord," and in another episode, he gives her, of all things, a basketball clock ("Merry Christmas Sports Illustrated subscriber"). It's then inverted when one of Stan's novelty inventions, a baked potato opener, becomes a huge success and makes him a millionaire. He showers the girls, and especially Dorothy, with expensive presents, but Dorothy refuses to accept any of them and continues to mock him. Stan then shows a surprising amount of backbone and tells Dorothy off for her condescending attitude and belief that he'll never change, then storms out of the house with a promise to not bother her with gifts—or ever showing up—any more.
- Saturday Night Live can go on and on about this.
- The mother in this sketch tactfully accepts her new robe that was bought on sale, while staring at the presents everyone else got. Even the dog got more than her.
- Pandora Jewelry charms are shiny and expensive, but only show how little thought or care the gifter put into the present. The receivers are obviously disappointed, but give fake smiles and pretend to love them, knowing that those little charms are the only presents they're going to get from then on.
- Played with in this sketch. The husband bought the family a new car, expecting his wife and son to love it. Instead, the wife angrily rips into the husband for buying an expensive car without asking her, and demands that he return the car before they go into serious debt.
- The Garfunkel and Oates song "Present Face" is about trying to hide dissatisfaction regarding gifts.
- In one episode of Eureeka's Castle, it's Batly's birthday, and everyone proceeds to bring him gifts. As he opens them one by one, they all end up being the same thing: underpants. After the last gift is opened and everyone laughs, Eureeka tells Batly that the underpants were just a joke, and they actually got him the things he really wanted.
- Played for Drama in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. When giving presents to his three children, Harry bequeaths Albus the blanket that he was wrapped in when he was left on the Dursleys' doorstep. He thinks this is a very meaningful gift, but Albus points out that it's only meaningful to him, and that James and Lily got gifts that actually reflect their interests. Given that Albus feels stifled by the label of "Harry Potter's son", this leads to an argument that has the two falling out for much of the play.
- Bully: Jimmy gets a lame sweater from his parents for Christmas and everyone laughs at him.
- In the ten-year-old birthday phase of the Player Character in Fallout 3, the vault's resident Cloud Cuckoolander gives the present of a poem. And it's a creepy, depressing poem that can be summed up as "You're going to live like a cog in a machine, and then you're going to die." This is rather blatant Foreshadowing about what sort of place The Vault really is.
- Homestar Runner
- In the holiday cartoon "The Best Decemberween Ever", Homestar gets Strong Bad a DVD copy of Deep Impact for the third year in a row because Strong Bad liked getting it so much the first time.
- Subverted in "Homestar Presents: Presents". Homestar's VERY last-minute Decemberween present for Marzipan is a pair of wire cutters, and she seems disappointed at first... then announces that wire cutters are just what she needs to help free baby seals from crab traps.
- In one Achewood strip, Téodor brings a present home to Philippe, who imagines that it must be something fantastic (a grappling hook! a homemade Coke machine!) However, it's revealed to be... a 99-cent wallet pen. Which was marked down by about 85%. Philippe, understandably, is not happy.
- The Order of the Stick has Roy getting the Bag of Tricks. It does get more useful than he expected. Sometimes.
- At the outset of Shadowbinders, Grandma comes to visit and brings an exciting new video game for little brother Michael, while protagonist Mia gets some items belonging to her late grandfather - a weird box and a journal she can't read (it's in French). Subverted in that, while Michael clearly thinks that Mia's gift is lame and his is awesome, Mia is delighted by what she receives; she loves antiques and unusual objects. The box turns out to contain a magic ring that launches her into her adventure.
- The Whiteboard: This is turning out to be the case in the Tessaract Black arc, where Robin's new Tessaract Black marker is taking forever to set up, while everyone else is having fun.
- In one "layer" of Awful Hospital, the Depressed Spleen reminiscences about the time his mother got him a dead "squemp" for Celebrationing's Eve. She almost certainly hated him.
- In Survival of the Fittest, unlucky participants are given lame weapons such as a frisbee, plastic scissors... and a rock.
- In the video for Shoes, Kelly's twin brother gets a computer AND a car for their joint birthday. Kelly gets...a stuffed dragon.
- In "Metal Gear Meets Modern Warfare 2" (Episode 1 here) Snake teams up with Ghost and fight Liquid and Makarov. When preparing for a major assault, Naomi gets Snake a customized sniper rifle, and then Otacon gets Ghost.... gloves that match his skull mask. Ghost wonders why he doesn't get a gun. No one cares.
- In one of Ashens' Christmas specials he brings out a pair of socks which say "Crap Christmas present" on them.
- This is the idea behind the Garfunkel and Oates song "Present Face". The title refers to the fixed, obviously fake smile that you're forced to put on when you happily unwrap a present only to discover something like "a puffy painted hummingbird turtleneck." The video features various people receiving gifts like this and desperately trying to come up with something polite to say about them.
- In the first episode of CollegeHumor Goes to Hell, each member of the cast is presented with a personalized torture based on their sins in life. Except Zac, who gets an eternal cheese grater to the face. Their reactions play out exactly like he received a thoughtless, generic gift, with the others being thrilled at how much effort was put into theirs.
- The Simpsons:
Marge: I think owning the Denver Broncos is pretty good.Homer: Yeah, yeah.Marge: Well, explain to me why it isn't.Homer: (sighs) You just don't understand football, Marge.
- In the episode "Dog of Death," Kent Brockman is reporting on the large lottery price money, and mentions that the schools would get a cut of the earnings made from the ticket sales, and Principal Skinner is making grand plans as to how to update the curriculum and remodel the school. Once Brockman wins the lottery and brags about not quitting a good-paying job, he reports on the ceremony where a lottery official gives principal Skinner his school's cut of the lottery ticket earnings: a brand new chalkboard eraser. Before Skinner goes into a rant about how the government screwed him over, the transmission cuts back to Brockman in the studio.
- Subverted in one episode where Uncle Herb gives Lisa a set of great literature, Bart a membership in the NRA, Marge a new washer and dryer, and Homer... his forgiveness. When Homer's disappointment is obvious, he reveals that, yeah, he also got him the lounge chair he'd been eyeing.
- Parodied at the end of "You Only Move Twice"—at one point, Homer tells his new boss, Hank Scorpio, that his dream is to one day own the Dallas Cowboys. When he leaves, Scorpio sends a note with a gift to help him get started on the dream. To his dismay, it's the Denver Broncos.
- In the episode "White Christmas Blues," Lisa decides that she's going to get people cheap but meaningful gifts. She gets Homer some seeds, which he just eats, and Bart a book, which he burns. She yells at him for this, but Bart calls her out for getting things that make her feel like a good person but which she knew that the recipients wouldn't actually enjoy. She's forced to concede the point.
- In "Mona Leaves-A," Homer's mother Mona dies and bequeaths gifts to the Simpson clan. Marge gets a hemp purse, Bart receives a Swiss army knife...and Lisa gets "Mona's rebellious spirit," which she complains about. Later, the family members use the gifts to help free Homer from captivity: Bart's knife helps cut Homer free from ropes, while Marge sets the purse on fire to get a group of guards stoned. It's revealed that Lisa started the fire by using a pair of Mona's diamond earrings, which she stole in protest of her original inheritance.
- In "Midnight Rx", Homer and Grampa Simpson head to Canada, where Grampa's Canadian friend helps them purchase affordable medications. In gratitude, Grampa gives him a DVD player, but he looks at the box and asks "Where do you put the syrup?"
- The Angry Beavers: In the episode "Gift Hoarse", Norbert gets a huge train set for Arbor Day (which, on the show, is like Christmas for beavers), while Dagget just gets a cardboard pine-tree air freshener. Dag proceeds to wreck Norb's train set in a fit of jealousy, but then feels guilty and lets Norb have his gift instead. As if on cue, the delivery man shows up with Dagget's "real" gift, a monster truck (with which the air freshener was supposed to go), which is now Norbert's.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In the Valentine's Day episode, Spongebob plans to give Patrick a very special gift of a giant heart-shaped chocolate bubble, but Sandy takes forever getting it there for him. Patrick, growing impatient waiting for his gift, becomes annoyed when he sees that Spongebob has gotten great gifts for everyone else—even total strangers. Spongebob finally decides to just give him a "friendly handshake" instead, which makes Patrick mad—until Sandy shows up with the real thing. (And at which point, Patrick says to Spongebob, "You didn't have to give me anything.")
- And there's also that episode in which Spongebob picks up what he thinks is a piece of chewed gum off the ground. (Yes, this is a good thing.) Then it gets wet and reveals its true identity, to Spongebob's dismay: "This isn't gum at all! It's a lousy hundred-dollar bill."
- In "Dying for Pie", Spongebob gives Squidward a sweater made of eyelashes. Then again, Squidward gave him a deadly pie, so he isn't really better.
- Subverted in the first Christmas Episode: Squidward, posing as Santa Claus to keep Spongebob from being sad, winds up having to give random items from his house as presents to everyone in town. In each case, the receiver interprets it as something that they actually want.
- In "Squeaky Boots", Pearl is heartbroken over Mr. Krabs buying her a pair of $2.00 fishing boots for her birthday instead of the Flipper Slippers she wanted that all of her friends are wearing. She bawls and outright rejects the boots, leaving Mr. Krabs to wonder what to do with them.
- In "Nature Pants", SpongeBob gives away his possessions to his friends before he leaves to be a jellyfish. The only thing he leaves Squidward is a (non-electric) can opener which he sarcastically remarks "And I thought this friendship would never pay off." Patrick initially didn't do much better getting a jar of mayonnaise and a stack of old phone books (although he genuinely appreciated the presents) until SpongeBob also decided to give him "Ol' Reliable": his prized jellyfish net.
- Kim Possible's nana gave the Tweebs some old discs that they were happy about, Kim got an ugly sweater.
- In the Fluppy Dogs pilot, a human boy is disappointed getting a small shaggy dog for a present instead of a more impressive breed. Of course, he instantly changes his mind when the dog reveals himself to be a sapient, talking humanoid alien who gets him involved in a wild adventure with his brethren.
- In It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, when the other kids get very good Halloween candies, Charlie Brown gets a rock.
- Hilariously re-done on Robot Chicken:
Linus: I love Geography Day! I got Italy!
Lucy: I got Russia!
Charlie: I got Iraq...
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Both Aang and Katara get cool gifts from Master Pakku upon leaving the North Pole. Sokka doesn't get anything. Of course, Aang and Katara had studied waterbending under him for the duration of their stay; Sokka didn't really have anything to do with him.
- Also, in the flashbacks, Iroh sends gifts to Zuko and Azula after he breaks through the wall of Ba Sing Se. Zuko gets a cool knife, and Azula gets a doll. Which she lights on fire. Of course, this arguably says more about how messed up Azula is than Iroh...
- In Visionaries Leoric's reaction to learning the ability of his magical staff (make incredibly cryptic comments that eventually turn out to be significant to their situation) in comparison with the abilities the bad guys get, such as summoning a giant monster to do his bidding. After seeing a particularly impressive display one of his companions, Ectar, even comments that the wizard gave him a bad staff.
- Time Squad: On his eighth birthday, Otto's first gift to open up is from Larry - a whisk. Which, in deadpan fashion, he accepts.
- In The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol , Grouchy's gift of a Smurf hat (which is what every other Smurf gets) is considered lame to him, because he was expecting a hang glider. Even worse is that it's the same gift that he gets every year, up until the time Jokey fooled him with one of his surprises, leading to his rant about the gift.
Grouchy Smurf: Isn't Christmas about getting what you want? Well, I want a hang glider! Why do I even bother to celebrate Christmas if all I ever get is THIS — the same old boring useless hat!? I mean, how many hats does a Smurf need?
- As it turns out, the hat he was given as a Christmas gift at the present time of the story does allow him to glide.
- In The Fairly OddParents Wishmas, Timmy got dozens of good gifts but doesn't get a sled. His Dad wanted 2000 gallons of eggnog, but he got some golf clubs, an SUV, the hope diamond, a talking horse, and Timmy's sled (which he threw in the fire) and he considers them lame.
- Happens in an episode of Xiaolin Showdown where the monks — and their dragon companion Dojo — are opening presents on Chinese New Year.
- In several episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle gives books as presents (especially to Spike) and doesn't seem to get the hint that just because she loves books so much doesn't mean others do too.
- In the early episode of South Park, "Spookyfish", Stan's Aunt Flo comes to visit, and gives him and his sister, Shelly, gifts. Shelly receives an elaborate entertainment system, while Stan receives a goldfish. Things get worse when the goldfish starts killing random people, including Aunt Flo herself.
- Subverted in Daria. Helen recalls her first anniversary with Jake to Daria, and how as a gift, he made a poorly constructed candle made to look like a Hobbit. He then accidentally drops it in the hot tub they were sitting in, causing it to melt into a shapeless lump. While being initially disappointed, she realized "a lot of time and love went into that silly lump of wax." She even saved it after all those years to remind herself why she married him.
- In Trollhunters, on Jim's sixteenth birthday, his mother Barbara begins raving about his gift, making it sound like it's the Vespa that he's has been eyeing. It turns out to actually be a food processor since Jim does most of their cooking. To his credit, he chooses to be tactful; to her credit, she quickly realizes what Jim thought she meant and becomes very apologetic.
- Played With in Pepper Ann. The title character hears that her cousin, Ned, is getting "a new set of wheels" for his sixteenth birthday. Thinking that this means a car, Pepper Ann quickly begins to butter him up, and also offers rides to various other characters. Come Ned's birthday, he gets a new set of wheels for his bicycle, which is exactly what he wanted, but Pepper Ann is left with a lot of angry acquaintances.
- Subverted in a flashback in What's New, Scooby-Doo? when Velma gets an encyclopedia set for her birthday. Velma, being who she is, is the type of person who would love something like that as a gift, however the clown hired for her birthday party didn't realize that, and ran them through a wood chipper. note This resulted in Velma having a lifelong phobia of clowns.
- One episode of Arthur, "Prunella Gets it Twice," sees Prunella receiving a "Polly Lockett" doll from Francine for her birthday—but she already got one from her mother, so she thoughtlessly tosses it away. The rest of the episode is a version of A Christmas Carol, where the Ghosts of Presents Past (as in birthday presents) and Lunch Tomorrow take Prunella on a trip through time to show her that Francine was determined to get Prunella the doll as thanks for the older girl tutoring her for a difficult history test. Francine worked tirelessly to earn the cash, and even made a deal with her mean older sister Catherine to get enough money to personalize the doll's sweater. Prunella then realizes how cruel she was to Francine and makes things right by personalizing the original doll and giving it to Francine.
- In one episode of Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Ken gets Barbie a charm bracelet for her birthday, but Nikki and Teresa tell him that she won't appreciate such a small present, given her status as The Ace. Everyone goes out of their way to get Barbie extravagant gifts, but she unfortunately already has them all (although unlike most instances of this trope, Barbie is sincerely grateful to her friends for every present, even if it's a duplicate). Ken then gives her the charm bracelet—and she's genuinely thrilled, as she's never had one before.
- It's Played for Laughs in the same episode when Raquelle tells Barbie that she "spared no expense" with her own gift...then hands her a cheap compact mirror. Nikki then recognizes the mirror as a freebie given to people who buy a $600 make-up kit, which Raquelle apparently kept for herself ("I told you I spared no expense!").
- Jackie Chan Adventures: In "The Dog And Piggy Show", Jade gives Uncle a picture of herself with Captain Black and Section 13 (albeit while she was possessed by Shendu in the earlier episode "Project A, For Astral"), which Uncle happily thanks her for. Jackie, having nearly forgotten his birthday, hastily got some chocolates and cheese at a gift shop while waiting for his flight in Germany, which Uncle isn't thrilled to get, saying "Chocolate stains my teeth, and cheese makes my... none of your business". The fact that Jackie successfully got the Dog talisman in the beginning of the episode makes Uncle slightly more satisfied. Subverted when they find that the chocolates resemble the Pig talisman, hinting at where they'll find it.
- Sometimes Truth in Television. Everyone will probably have gotten at least one present they didn't like at their birthday. And do you remember the vase from your great-grandaunt that passes through the entire family, because no one wants it? Or that lame gift on Christmas? And yes, Christmas isn't about the gifts...
- Any gift exchange/white elephant will have at least one of these, often something re-gifted from a similar event.
- Averted with the help of any online store that offers to let you set up a wishlist of items you really DO want...
- until you wind up getting duplicates of the same gift.
- In R. L. Stine's autobiography, he takes the time to talk about his friend, Joe Arthur...who is the absolute worst gift-giver in history. Once he gave Stine's son Matt a single walkie-talkie. What use is that?! This whole section becomes funnier when you remember that the book is "as told to Joe Arthur," meaning that he probably ghostwrote it.
- Ever wonder where the term "white elephant gift" came from? In southeast Asian kingdoms, especially Siam, any courtier who received a white elephant would receive a blessing and a curse: the sacred white elephant was a sign of the king's majesty and justice, as well as the kingdom's prosperity. Unfortunately for the recipient, they couldn't put the elephants to work or ride them as they pleased: they had to keep it on hand in case the king felt like taking a ride and being virtually unable to dispose of the beast, they had to feed it and clean up after it, in addition to paying for any damages the elephant caused when it damaged someone else's property. In fact, giving a sacred white elephant became a favorite tactic of kings who wanted to punish powerful people but had no legal means to do so—by "graciously" offering them the animal, the rulers ensured that their targets would be broke, miserable, and perpetually unable to do anything about it.
- An old tale that made its way into a Dear Abby column: A rich father promises his son that if he graduates from college, he would give him an excellent gift, which his son assumes is a brand new sports car. When the son does graduate, however, his father gives him a Bible, which makes the son feel really upset, because that wasn't the "excellent gift" that he was expecting, and thus never read it. Years later, when the father died, the son went through the Bible his father gave him that he never opened...and inside was a key to a brand new sports car that he never got the chance to ride around in. (Alternately, inside the Bible was a check made out in full to a dealership so the son could pick up the brand new sports car. Or the ownership papers to said sports car.)