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Never a Self-Made Woman

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Everybody knew you as the wife of a famous man,
Everybody who knew said, "There goes Dixon's girl again."
Dessa, "Dixon's Girl"

This is an insidious trope where a female character — whatever her own triumphs or merits — is never mentioned without a reference to a male character, with the implication that he is what makes her notable. She's frequently someone's sister, girlfriend, or love interest. And if she's a military or political leader of some sort, then you can bet that her father or another male relative is a higher-up in that same branch.

Under this trope, a female character's achievements in a field — usually male-dominated — are implied to be mostly due to motivation and training by her male relatives or acquaintances who are active in the same field, rather than her own independent ambitions. However, there may be a certain element of Double Standards present in this aspect of the trope; namely, the notion that a strong woman's achievements — no matter how genuine her efforts were in gaining them — aren't truly her own if a man was involved — even if he only gave her training, support, and advice to aid her rather than grant her any advantages that undermine her efforts — or simply if she has any ties to men at all. A woman receiving help from another woman in working towards her goals, a man receiving help from another man, or a man receiving help from another woman are seen in a far less negative light than a woman receiving help from a man, even though there's no difference in practice.

This character stands in contrast to Self-Made Man, where a character (almost always male) was able to accomplish goals without significant advantages. In short, this is another example of Double Standard. Due to stereotypes about separate gender roles, writers will often use this trope to justify to viewers (presumed male) why they should care about the female character at all, as it is assumed the female character would not have taken an interest had it not been for the presence of that male character.

Going hand in hand with this is Men Act, Women Are, which is about what comes from the man, and where the woman comes from; and Females Are More Innocent, where if a woman is evil, it’s usually the fault of a man. Also compare Lineage Comes from the Father, which deals with bloodlines. I Have Brothers is a more mild version of this trope that nonetheless associates a woman's less traditionally feminine interests with a male influence rather than her own volition.

Keep in mind that this is not the strict inverse of Self-Made Woman and does not apply to every instance of a female character being helped by a male friend, relative, or love interest to reach her position. Rather, the male character must be implied to be more important to the plot or setting than the female character is, and the main force responsible for her position (e.g. the token female of the squad is a skilled soldier, but she's introduced as "the general's daughter" first and foremost, whereas her male companions aren't defined in the same way).

Compare "Success Through Sex" Accusation, which can be considered a more negative variation of this trope when applied to women.

Please don't add any "aversions" to the example list. Unless the trope is near omnipresent, examples where it's not used are not "aversions". For more info, see the Averted Trope page.

Also note that male characters owing their success to more powerful women are generally not "inversions" of this trope unless the setting carries the same implications (women are expected to be self-made while men are not).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto:
    • Everything that Sakura Haruno does always has something to do with Sasuke and Naruto. She broke off her friendship with Ino to compete for Sasuke's affections, she makes her hair long in hopes to impress Sasuke, and finally she wants to train with Tsunade because she wants to be equal with them.note 
    • Tsunade is the student of the Third Hokage as well as being descended from the Senju clan which the First and Second Hokages (her grandfather and granduncle respectively) hail from. However, she becomes a Hokage because she wants to inherit both her brother, her lover, and Naruto's legacy. This can be best shown in her Infinite Tsukuyomi dream where Dan becomes Hokage instead while Tsunade became his loyal secretary with Jiraiya and Orochimaru as her companions.
    • Initially averted with Kurenai in the first series as she is known as the Jounin teacher of Hinata, Kiba, and Shino without any mentions of her being this status because of the influence of a male. Only for Shippuden to later play this straight as she is demoted from a teacher into Asuma's lover as she retires from her role as a ninja in favor of being a non-action mother with Shikamaru in charge of protecting her. Exactly what her father intended for her to be. Any role she had as a teacher for Team 8 is completely forgotten as Kakashi takes care of them now from start to finish.
    • Konan is the only female member of the Akatsuki and in contrast to her other male colleagues who have colorful personalities and backstories, Konan's only personality is being a loyal friend of Yahiko and Nagato -both males who have a sizable amount of personality-. She only became a member because of Nagato and upon his death, she defected from it.
  • In a Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo story, the widow of a murdered gang leader is introduced and the Main Characters assume that she got her own position at the head of the gang because of who her husband had been. It's actually subverted though when it's revealed that she was the highly respected head of the gang and her husband had been the one to marry into a high position.
  • In Dragon Ball, much of Videl's claim to fame is that she is the daughter of Mr. Satan (Hercule in the old American version), a former world martial arts champion, superstar, and the #1 Earthling fighter who doesn't use Ki, and she gets much of her Ki-based combat skills from training with her love interest Gohan.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin's Love Interest Kaoru Kamiya is introduced as the heir of a swordsmanship dojo, and her prowess in swordfighting is attributed to the techniques taught by her father.
  • Played with in Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Ritsuko Akagi actively resents that her mother Naoko's position at GEHIRN helped her get hers and despite her attempts to defy Generation Xerox (including bleaching her hair blond), Ritsuko comes to realize over the series that she's standing far more in her mother's shadow than she'd like to acknowledge, to the point of sleeping with the same man.
    • Yui is an even more interesting case, being an inversion of the trope. Gendo was her husband and is the head of NERV now, but didn't really start taking his studies seriously until he got involved with Yui. It appears at first that Shinji is involved because he's Gendo's son, but it turns out that him being Yui's son is much more important, since his EVA is also Yui in a way. Rei is a clone of Yui. Fuyutsuki was Yui's mentor; he's kind of only still in it out of loyalty to her. All in all, Yui is definitely the central person in the series, even though she'd been dead for years when it starts. One indication of this, though we don't find it out for quite a while, is that "Ikari" is her family name; Gendo's family name was Rokubungi, but when they married he took her name rather than the other way around.
  • The anime version of Full Moon o Sagashite ended up playing out this way, with Full Moon covering a lot of songs that her father originally created with his own band. The manga averted this, with her writing her own songs.
  • Oriko's backstory in Puella Magi Oriko Magica plays with this. She's the daughter of a politician and was extremely popular, but people tended to think of her as Hisaomi Mikuni's daughter first and foremost. When her father was accused of corruption and committed suicide, Oriko was abandoned by her classmates, in large part because they didn't want to associate with someone related to Hisaomi. Despairing and realizing that people merely saw her as an extension of her father, Oriko contracted with Kyubey, making a wish to understand the true meaning of her life.
  • Reborn! (2004) has a case with Chrome Dokuro, whose powers really come from her being a vessel to the powerful illusionist Rokudo Mukuro, and she has lost pretty much every fight she's been in and she has to let Mukuro posses her in order to win.
  • Macross doesn't have too much of this, but there's still a few examples:
    • During Super Dimension Fortress Macross it's revealed through Character Development that Misa Hayase didn't care for the military, but joined because her Colonel father expected it of her because she comes from a long line of military relatives. Also we find out that her childhood friend she had a crush on, was another reason why Misa Hayase joined in hopes of reuniting with him. She discovered he died on Mars and temporarily became suicidal.
    • Macross Frontier: Cathy Glass is a ranking officer in the New U.N. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the correspondent between the Frontier government and S.M.S., but she's still the daughter of the Frontier president, former girlfriend of the S.M.S. commander, and fiancee of another prominent government figure, and few of her scenes or motivations don't reference at least one of these.
  • Naomi Misora of Death Note only gets in on the plot because she's Raye Penber's fiancee, despite being an ex-FBI agent and part of the team L uses and being a very talented investigator (albeit one who often lets her emotions compromise those talents). Light eventually has to eliminate her because of it. It's slightly more grating because of Raye's Stay in the Kitchen attitude towards her, even though she's actually more skilled than he is.
  • Zig-zagged in Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C³. Rin and Sonora were both trained from a very young age by a male soldier—but then he died, and they both became much more skilled on their own. Yura gained a large skill boost from the advice of a long-deceased warrior prince, but she also saves his life in the process.
  • In GTO: The Early Years, the female delinquents typically rise to their positions either by love or by a male delinquent making her his woman.
    • Shinomi's motivation for becoming a delinquent was to get close enough to Eikichi for him to finally see her as a woman. She even almost gives it up because he's into normal girls, but sticks with it anyway after her feelings are cleared up.
    • Yasha got to be leader of the Midnight Angels because Nagisa, her original personality, became so broken by her rape by Akutsu that she created the biggest, baddest delinquent persona to cope.
  • Gender-inverted when it comes to Pretty Cure, where instances of the boys using anything resembling Cure power was because of something related to the heroines.
    • In Doki Doki Pretty Cure, Sebastian reverse-engineers a Commune to turn himself into the superhero Cure Sebastian to help out his master Alice. He used it a grand total of once before somebody stole it and used it herself, while he eventually learns he doesn't need to use it so long as he can help Alice in some manner.
    • In HuGtto! Pretty Cure, the Cures briefly lend Henri their power to stop the monster of the week. While he spends a little time weakening the beast, it's ultimately the Cures that beat it down.
  • Invoked in Pokémon: The Series: Unlike Gary, who chose to go into Pokémon research like his grandfather even though it wasn't what he set out to do, everyone expects Chloe to get into Pokémon research solely because her father did it. Part of her character arc is figuring out how to subvert this and step out of her father's shadow, especially when she doesn't have the enthusiasm for Pokémon the job they're pressuring on her requires.
  • Hikari from Digimon is mostly known for her big brother being the leader and Taichi even has more accolades than her in the sequel despite not being a main character as she is. Even Takeru gains more independence from his role as Yamato's little brother and HolyAngemon can rival MetalGarurumon while the Tailmon line is firmly behind the Agumon line. In Zero Two, Hikari had no hopes of being the team's leader despite her older brother having the role and her higher experience than the new cast.
  • Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku: Played with in regards to Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, the secondary main character. Born the daughter of the head of the Yamada Asaemon, a clan of executioners, Sagiri aspired from an early age to develop a cut on par with her father's. Although she becomes extremely adept with a blade, however, she still faces scrutiny for being a woman and was only accepted as an official member of the Yamada school when her friend Shugen threatened to step down unless she was allowed in. So while she developed her skills through her own merits, she was only able to achieve her position with a man's intervention. This is largely justified as the story takes place during a very patriarchal time period and, moreover, Sagiri's development throughout the series focuses on her finding her own path both as an executioner and as a person.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first issues of Y: The Last Man, the widows of deceased (male) Republican senators attempt a coup against the remaining American government in order to be appointed to their late husbands' positions. Notable not because they got the positions (they didn't), but that the wives thought they deserved them simply because they were married to the former incumbents. This has precedent, but not legally so, as on many occasions the widows of congressmen have asked to be appointed to finish their husband's term, and so far none have been turned down by their state's governors. Almost none are re-elected, however.
  • Both Silk Spectres of Watchmen. The original Silk Spectre's career was aggressively built by her husband/manager. Laurie/Silk Spectre II inherited her mother's identity, and spends the entire graphic novel dependent on her love interests. Ultimately subverted with Laurie in the end, who expresses that she doesn't want to settle down with a family, but take up crime-fighting again. But then again, she seems to be following in her recently revealed father's footsteps in that regard as well based on her description of improvements to her costume...
  • One Silver Age Superman comic has Lois Lane telling the story of how she got her job at the Daily Planet, telling Clark Kent "And I'll have you know I did it without your help!". Through the course of the story, we discover that Superman was secretly helping her all along. Remember, girls, even if you think you succeeded on your own merits, it's really because a man was helping you. Lois is usually an aversion, however: in most versions both before and after that story — including Siegel and Shuster's original — Lois was well-established at the paper (Star or Planet) before Clark and his costumed counterpart ever arrived in Metropolis.
  • Supergirl:
    • Kara Zor-El. On the one hand, she is one of the mightiest heroes of her universe; on the other, she is the cousin of THE greatest hero of her universe, who mentored her and trained her when she arrived on Earth. Most versions of the character struggle to walk out of the shadow of Superman, but it's hard to shake the "Superman's younger cousin" label off.
    • Silver Age Superman trained Supergirl when she was a teenager. However she got Character Development, and in The '80s she was a mature, intelligent, confident, and extremely powerful young woman and crimefighter who didn't need her cousin's advice or approval (a fact Superman agreed with). Many creatives and fans kept brushing her off and dismissing her as "Superman with boobs", though.
    • Earth-2 Supergirl (Power Girl) was constantly trying to prove she didn't need her cousin's mentoring anymore, going so far as to tell him she couldn't listen to his well-meaning advice because she needed to follow her own path.
    • Post-Crisis Kara got help and training from Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman when she arrived on Earth, but at the beginning, she messed up... a lot. After a monumental screw-up, she thought that her cousin was about to lecture her, and she stated that she was finally learning and she didn't need his validation. To her surprise, Clark agreed.
      Supergirl: No, listen to me. I have to say: I know you love me, and that's why you feel a need to act like my big brother or my dad — But you're neither one! Maybe I need to learn things the hard way. But I am learning! I want to be a family with you and Uncle Jon and Aunt Martha, but I don't need your... validation! I can get by on my own terms, and I'm doing just fine, and —
      Superman: I know.
      Supergirl: ... ... What?
      Superman: I know you're doing fine. That's what I want to talk about. You made one of your worst mistakes ever with Air Force One, but you bounced back from it and did some real good in Washington. And I don't want you feeling like you're in my shadow.
  • Many superheroines with any recognition are a Distaff Counterpart to some more popular male (Supergirl, any given Batgirl, She-Hulk) or gained powers due to their involvement with a male hero (Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four, The Wasp of The Avengers). Wonder Woman, the most notable exception, is one of the few female characters who can maintain a long-running title.
    • Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers zig-zags this trope. Her superhero career began when a Kree device, the Psyche-Magnitron, transferred the powers of the male Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) on to her and she became Ms. Marvel, wearing a costume that looked like Mar-Vell's costume retailored to show more skin. She later got different costumes, powers, and code-names (Binary, Warbird), but now, as Captain Marvel, she is once again using the code-name of a well-known (in-universe, at least) male superhero - though with the intention of making it her own. Likewise, her origin has got a retool, and it turns out that she's always been half-Kree (on her mother's side) and had the potential for powers, the Psyche-Magnitron just woke them up. Also, on a meta-level, she started out as a non-powered supporting character to Captain Mar-Vell in his feature, and yet in-universe and in some alternate continuities like the Ultimate Marvel universe, she averts this trope by being a Badass Normal Air Force Captain whose career is entirely self-made.
    • The news during All-New, All-Different Marvel that Thor would be replaced by a woman was met with a mixed reaction. While many applauded Marvel's efforts to bring more female heroes to the fore, the fact that this one was doing so by piggybacking on the popularity of a male hero, rather than having her own unique identity, was a sticking point for some. Eventually, Jane Foster died (very briefly), and Thor got his title and hammer back - though Jane is now Valkyrie, carrying on a different heroic legacy.
  • New Avengers (2015): Doctor Toni Ho gets very irate when Sunspot casually mentions she's the daughter of Ho Yinsen, asking whether she just inherited those three doctorates of hers from him. He apologises, somewhat chastened.
  • Wonder Woman was originally designed specifically to avert this, with her powers, strength, and skills derived fully from women and her interactions with them. The New 52 version of her plays this straight, with her powers and allies all derived from her father Zeus. This was undone by Greg Rucka in Wonder Woman (Rebirth), but James Robinson brought it back.

    Fan Works 
  • Played for Laughs in the Dream SMP fanfiction Between Dreams and Memories, where Tommy struggles to find a nickname for Dream's sister (as a Dreamon possessing her older brother's body) before settling with "Drista", as she refuses to tell him her name.
    Tommy: Well[,] I'm not gonna just call you Dream's sister. That's a bit awkward. […] How about… Drista? You know, like a combination of the words Dream and sister?.
    Drista: So[,] I'm completely defined by my brother and my relation to him?
    Tommy: Uh… Yeah.
    Drista: And you're going to call me by that nickname and nothing else?
    Tommy: If you let me, yeah.
    Drista: (thinks about it, grins, and shrugs) Sure. Why not?
  • Child of the Storm Zig-zags it with Carol and Diana.
    • Carol is a Super-Soldier by inheritance from her great-grandfather, Steve, and is later given an energy-absorbing shield by Odin that, after unwitting tampering by the powers of Monica, can turn into a suit that gives her varying degrees of her canon powers. However, her tactical and strategic acumen (noted by the Winter Soldier, among others) is all natural, her main mentors and role models are her cousin (Sharon Carter), grandmother (Alison Carter), and great-grandmother presumed great-aunt (Peggy Carter) — Steve later becomes a mentor and Parental Substitute. She also has her own group of friends (at least one of whom is superpowered) and, apparently, history of interesting adventures prior to meeting Harry. Finally, she is chosen, twice, to wield the of Alan Scott's Green Lantern Ring based solely on her courage and strength of will (she is literally too stubborn to die) — which is why explicitly why Odin gave her the shield.
    • Diana inherits a good chunk of her superpowers from her father, Hercules, she rarely sees him as she's fostered on Asgard (Hera kind of wants to kill her), and is instead mostly trained and mentored by her aunt Athena, Sif, and her 'auntie' Frigga.
  • This is brought up in a few Infinity Train: Blossomverse stories in regards to Chloe Cerise. All she's basically known for is "daughter of a Pokémon Professor" and her classmates constantly pester her to get into the role of her father. In Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus, she tells Goh that all that she's been told is that "The only way to be into Pokémon is to be a boy who loves them" and that she's only going to be noticed for her father's merits, and never her own.

    Films — Animated 
  • Despite the writer's "best" attempts to avert this trope with Barbara in Batman: The Killing Joke, it ultimately comes off as this trope played depressingly straight as her personality in that movie comes across as a whiny Stalker with a Crush whose only role in it comes across as a Love Interest for Batman without any semblance of independence or heroism whatsoever.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, it's obvious to the viewer that Tiana achieves her goals with hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to her dream, but every character in the movie that knows about Tiana's father constantly links her success to his influence, including Tiana herself. Eventually, this is even added on to as shown at the end when she finally does set up her restaurant it is shown to be green and frog-themed and named "Tiana's Palace", clearly based on her experience as a frog that she spent with her prince. In an earlier scene where she imagines her restaurant, it is done up in the yellow style her father had planned on using.
  • In Quest for Camelot, there is an entire song devoted to the heroine talking about how she wants to be a knight because of her father, titled "On My Father's Wings". Then she gender-flips it, dragging a guy she meets into the quest. Of course, whether she could have survived without him is...debatable, since she's never been a half a day's ride from her village.
  • Mrs. Brisby in The Secret of NIMH would not have gotten any help for her situation if she wasn't, as they keep calling her, "Mrs. Jonathan Brisby." Though she ultimately succeeds based on her courage and inner strength, the sequel effectively demotes her to extra to focus on her son.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Anna Valerious of Van Helsing is introduced as a daughter and sister, is motivated by the absence of the brother, and her function in the story is as a Love Interest to the male lead. And she's a Faux Action Girl to boot!
  • Crops up in the Bond movies every now and then, Though there's a bit of a subversion in The World Is Not Enough. Elektra may talk a lot about her father and becomes the owner of his oil company through heritage, but then it turns out that it was her mother's family that built up his wealth in the first place.
  • Mary of Hancock is introduced to us as the manager's wife, but later turns into a subversion as she has her own personal characterization. When she explains the background behind her powers, however, it turns out that their relationship was problematic because someone needed Hancock to go on being immortal and save the world (The Physical Gods are Brought Down to Normal when two are close together), and that he and Mary were only paired up by convention - he is the important one making it a double subversion. Why Mary, who is more powerful than him, doesn't have the responsibility that he does is never explained beyond the whole "hero" thing being part of his nature/personality.
  • In West Side Story (1961) there were girls in the Jets, but they were only there as the girlfriends of some of the more important male characters, with the exception of Anybodys, who wants to be a Jet and fight alongside the rest of them but is treated as an Annoying Younger Sibling. After the rumble, she seems to be accepted into the gang. Her name is the definition of this trope. "Whose is she?" "She's anybody's."
  • In The Young Victoria, the Queen is pretty much treated as a puppet of her (male) advisers, and when she calls her husband out on undermining her as a queen, the whole movie starts to work against her - all her other advisers want them to reign together, and he is finally shot, causing her to back down. Later on, this turns out to be an inversion, as all the men try to play her as a puppet because, ultimately, a great deal of their power rests solely on Victoria liking them. Albert goes behind her back because he feels useless and knows that every iota of his respect in the British court stems from his relationship with Victoria. In the end, the solution isn't for either of them to ignore or manipulate the other, but for Victoria to rule with Albert serving as a trusted, competent advisor, in a partnership that requires both of them.
  • In Lost in Space we meet Dr. Judy Robinson and no surprise, she's the daughter of Professor John Robinson. In the original series' backstory, Judy was gaining success as an actress/singer in a family of scientists, so from that, she averted the trope. However, it made her have little to do in a sci-fi setting.
  • Justified in period pieces like The Duchess and The Mask of Zorro where historically the woman could not have been important unless related to an important man.
  • Stella Bridger of The Italian Job (2003) is the safecracker and a necessary part of the team, but she is also the daughter of Charlie's mentor and got chosen for the job for that reason.
  • In The Sinking Of Japan the heroine's sole motivation to become a firewoman is because her father was one.
  • Winnie in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is one of the more extreme examples; she has no other purpose aside from being something that Jake and Gekko barters with. Might cross into Deconstruction territory since the entire point of the movie is to show how corruption works.
  • The Bowler (aka Baby Bowler) from Mystery Men happens to own a bowling ball haunted by her murdered father. He can levitate himself just fine but needs her to carry him around to get from place to place without disturbing anyone. It's especially glaring because, while the rest of the heroes have to come to terms with their true powers and learn to believe in themselves, she doesn't actually have any powers to believe in, and specifically joins because her father made her. She'd rather go back to graduate school.
  • In the 2010 Alice in Wonderland (2010), Alice Kingsley doesn't have an identity until she claims herself to be her father's daughter. She then goes on to run her father's company according to his vision instead of accepting a wedding proposal, so while it looks like sister's doin' it for herself, there's still a man to thank for her position.
  • Lampshaded in Agent Carter: after Steve crashes in the Arctic, Peggy is left working in a small agency where the gender politics of the day have her treated like an undervalued secretary whose smug jerk of a boss thinks she only has the job due to being Captain America's former girlfriend. Of course, he's ignoring the fact that she just accomplished a violent mission recommended for a team of agents by herself. He's also ignoring the fact that Peggy was a Major in the British Army and part of the Strategic Science Reserve before there was a Captain America, and it was thanks to her encouragement that Cap made the jump from "performing monkey" to "badass superhero."
  • In Wild Wild West, Salma Hayek's character is only in the plot to be drooled and fought over by men, and to find her father, but is otherwise useless through the entire film.
  • Angelica Teach from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is motivated throughout the film by devotion to her father Blackbeard.
  • In Thor, Jane Foster is the daughter of an astrophysicist, mentored by her late father's colleague. She only has access to any knowledge of Asgard or Asgardian technology by way of her romantic relationship with Thor, and it's not-so-subtly implied that her primary interest in continuing her research is to reconnect with him. Of course, it's Thor, so that last part is understandable.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful gives Glinda lots of motivation based around the death of her father. Evanora killed him and she's trying to crown Oscar as his replacement.
  • Although a capable woman in her own right, the only reason Jyn Erso is brought into the Rebellion and the main story in Rogue One is because they hope to use her to gain access to her father, who is the main designer of the Death Star. In contrast, her male collaborators were recruited due to skills they individually possessed, rather than because of their relationships with other characters.
  • Lampshaded in All About Eve where Karen is only known because her husband is an acclaimed playwright. When Eve first approaches her, she jokes that she's the lowest kind of celebrity. Margo Channing by contrast is a successful Broadway actress who got her status on her own.
  • Discussed in Hidden Figures, where Dorothy says that women go from being their father's daughters to their husband's wives and eventually their children's mothers - and in her story, she faces conflict from her husband, who can't understand why her work at NASA is so important to her.

  • Juliet Butler in the Artemis Fowl books could be an example of this trope — as well as the related trope if she were more of a character. She is characterized largely as "Butler's little sister," and the great majority of her physical skills and knowledge of bodyguarding comes from her brother/family.note  She doesn't seem to have a problem with this — in "The Eternity Code," she takes on Artemis as her Principal because she's explicitly trying to fill her brother's shoes. She does utilize her own ingenuity (as well as some awesome tricks she picked up from Professional Wrestling and lucha libre) to become her own fighter, but whenever she is mentioned by other characters, it is always in the context of her relationship to Butler.
  • Ben Safford Mysteries: Elise, the only prominent female member of Congress in the series, first assumed her seat after her husband died of a heart attack and was later re-elected.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The seven known burn marks on the House of Black's family tapestry fit this trope. The four men were stricken from the family tree for various reasons; the three women were all stricken from it because of whom they married (a Muggle, a Weasley, and a Muggleborn, respectively).
    • It should be noted that Bellatrix and McGonagall, the two main female characters who don't have children, do become successful in their chosen fields; Bellatrix is Voldemort's Dragon and one of the most formidable Death Eaters, while McGonagall is Head of Gryffindor and later Head of Hogwarts. We are told through Pottermore how she inherited her magical powers from her mother and shared many of her mother's favorite activities when she went to Hogwarts. While her father was mentioned a few times, very little is given on his influence on her. However, most of Bellatrix's actions are driven by Fantastic Racism and her obsessive love for Voldemort.
  • Dracula gives the ladies the same treatment: the only women in the main cast are the fiancées to others in the team. Also something of an inversion in that most of the team is composed of 'Lucy's suitors' and in most of the bits of the book happening after Transylvania, Jonathan appears as 'Mina's husband' rather than the other way around, even though Mina does first appear as 'Jonathan's fiancée'.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The Imperial Natasi Daala, who rose to her position in an Empire that discriminated against women because Grand Moff Tarkin took her as his lover. And honestly, she was a General Failure. In Death Star Tarkin claims that he just allowed her to get past that prejudice and her successes were her own, but this is also the book where he kept having her snuck out to the Death Star for liaisons. And then she got brain damaged, which might explain her Informed Ability in the Jedi Academy Trilogy.
    • Marasiah Fel, the first female ruler of the Fel Empire, got her position because, well, she was in the Fel Dynasty. Pretty obvious that this would be how it works in a hereditary monarchy, but still a clear example.
    • Played with in the case of Ysanne Isard, Director of Imperial Intelligence. Her father held that position before her, and she was one of his top agents. She was a bit too good at her job for her father's comfort, who grew paranoid that she might try and take over his job. So he sent her on a suicide mission that would make her look like incompetent, a traitor, or would outright kill her. Ysanne noticed, survived, turned the tables on her dad, and had him arrested for treason and executed within an hour of her return to Coruscant (rumor is that she executed him herself), which earned her a Klingon Promotion from The Emperor. Being psychic, the Emperor clearly knew she was lying about her father but was impressed enough that he let her go through with it.
    • Leia's entire life has revolved around the men in it. She was spirited away to protect her from her birth father, she only got involved in politics and the Rebellion thanks to her adopted father, she first learned of her Force powers through her twin brother, she nearly married herself off to a Prince in order to cement an Alliance treaty, and by the time that she finally settles down with Han and starts a family, her entire life is wrapped around what her husband, brother, or children are doing. She really only comes in to clean up their messes.
      • On the other hand, when she and Han get married, she's the one who continues her career. Han only comes out of retirement for special occasions, while Leia gets elevated to Chief of State of the entire New Republic, thus heading up a government that spans most of the known galaxy.
    • Even Mara Jade, one of the most badass Action Girls there is, has her entire backstory closely tied to the Emperor. Even after he's dead her only goal in life is to avenge her master. Later she becomes the Number One of Tallon Karrde, Luke Skywalker's Love Interest, and the mother of Child Prodigy Ben.
    • Meetra Surik, the canonical protagonist of Knights of the Old Republic 2, is perhaps the most prominent case that averts it to some degree, if not entirely. While she served under Revan in the Maladorian Wars, for the run of the game everything she does is of her own volition or due to the influence of Kreia, her elderly female mentor for learning the Force. There are certainly men in her life but she wields more influence on them than they wield on her. After the events of the game, she teams up with Revan to try and prevent the Sith Empire from coming to threaten known space. Her actions have a major impact on all galactic civilization and after her death, she helps Revan by acting as a Spirit Advisor.
  • Dan Brown's Love Interests are all like this. Vittoria of Angels & Demons and Sophie of The Da Vinci Code are only involved in their respective fields because their father figures were already in them. They're both competent, no doubt, but from the moment they meet the Author Avatar, that is all but forgotten. Basically, they're the hot scientists who only get to tag along because the key victims happened to have raised them.
  • Discworld:
    • Conina does her best to avoid this, fighting her father's influences as a barbarian, and not always succeeding. Of course, since those violent impulses come in handy, it's probably a good thing.
    • Lady Sybil has aspects of this while also being something of an inversion. She does come from a powerful family, but up until he met Sybil, Vimes had been captain of the Night Watch, only because no one else wanted the job, and he wasn't getting promoted because his mouth kept running away from his brain. Once he met Sybil, he started his way up the ladder of success.
    • Played straight with Susan Sto Helit. Her being Death's granddaughter is her most defining trait and the biggest reason that makes her extraordinary and a relevant character... but then Death is somewhat genderless, so...
  • Apart from Galadriel, the women of The Lord of the Rings fall into this. Rosie, Goldberry, and Arwen all function as Love Interests for male characters, and while Éowyn breaks out of the mold eventually, she's introduced as the dutiful niece of Théoden and a potential Love Interest for Aragorn. She also eventually ends up with Faramir. Still, Galadriel is a hell of an aversion, and her husband is something of an inversion. Quick: without looking it up, what was his name? Thought so. The one line the poor schmuck got in the films was to ask where Gandalf is, and Galadriel corrects him without even bothering to make eye contact.
  • This is a big source of criticism for the The Twilight Saga. Among them:
    • Bella Swan has virtually no identity beyond Edward Cullen. The few details we are given about her are there to emphasize her relationship with him (they both like Clair de Lune, they both like Jane Austen, etc) except for her housekeeping skills, which we're told were developed to take care of her mother, but are mostly employed out of necessity because of her incompetent father.
    • Rosalie's defining character trait throughout most of the books is that she is jealous that she does not have Edward's affections. Her backstory, revealed in Eclipse, is that she was gang-raped by her fiancé and his male friends. In the Twilight Illustrated Guide, we find out that the main reason she became a vampire was that Carlisle had hoped she would be a wife for Edward.
    • Esme's backstory is how she met Carlisle and was smitten with him as a teenager, was abused by her husband as an adult, and was saved and turned into a vampire by Carlisle.
    • Alice was only saved from James and the asylum she was locked in because of a male vampire on the staff.
    • Kim, Claire, and Emily are only introduced into the story to be the imprintees/Love Interests of Jared, Quil, and Sam respectively. This goes double for Renesmee, who from birth was used as a way to solve the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle. Leah also spends the entire series being defined by being the bitchy ex-fiance of Sam.
    • Victoria spends the whole series with no identity beyond being James's mate, which also serves as her only motivation for serving as the villainess for the next two books. Similarly, Irena's only identifying characteristic in Breaking Dawn is her grieving for the loss of Laurent, and Jane is always shown as a sister and as Aro's servant.
    • Kate's entire character development in Breaking Dawn centers around her forming a relationship with Garrett.
  • Antoninia in Belisarius Series is a complex version. She is a High-Class Call Girl who gets Belisarius to marry her. She is certainly not shuffled into the kitchen, but her achievements are only possible because she has "respectableized" herself by marrying a great general who is willing to treat her as an equal partner.
  • The reason the two female Main Characters of The Sisters Grimm are important is that they're the descendants of the Brothers Grimm.
  • Deconstructed in The Hunger Games. While Katniss is the protagonist and certainly one of the more competent tributes, the game is really about playing to the audience, something that Katniss is incapable of doing on her own. The solution is to deliberately invoke this trope, and pretend that she is the star-crossed lover of the other tribute from her district, the charismatic Peeta. Though played straight in that she gained the skills that make her so competent from either her late father or her male friend Gale.
  • Vorkosigan Saga centers around an aristocratic society so naturally everyone's success is family. But women are more in the background of vor society, and their main power is influence which some vor women know how to wield competently. More odd is Cordelia who in her native land was a Bold Explorer but on Barrayar was satisfied to be a properly maternal if rather eccentric vor woman. Miles is the closest to a self-made character in the series as he made himself a mercenary warlord in an area too far away from his planet for anyone to know about his princely lineage and used that to do covert ops for his native planet until he rose high in power and prestige.
  • Zig-zagged in A Song of Ice and Fire. The story makes it clear that everybody gets their power from their connections, regardless of gender, with a couple of significant exceptions. Littlefinger, one of the only truly Self-Made Men in the series, points out that all of Queen Cersei's power comes from either her family connections or (temporary) youth and beauty and none from political savvy, and Cersei herself openly resents her reliance on male relatives. On the other hand, Olenna, the "Queen of Thorns", is no more reliant on her relations than any of the men other than Littlefinger and Varys, and manages to near-openly rule her House with an iron fist, and Daenerys succeeds or fails despite her male connections as often as because of them.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Shallan initially seems like a pretty standard example. A naive Country Mouse who spent her entire life sheltered by her father, she is thrust into the world when her brothers need her to steal a relic to keep their family from collapsing after their father's death. She constantly downplays her own achievements and relies on the friendship and aid of others to survive. Subverted when it turns out that the theft was her idea from the start, and she's the one who killed her father in the first place. After she killed her mother (in self-defense) as a child and her father took the blame, she basically became the head of household, deftly moving between her family members to keep them sane—so deftly, in fact, that not even she realized how much good she was doing. In the second book, following advice from Jasnah and a con artist named Tyn, she manages to infiltrate a spy organization, refound an order of magical knights, and save hundreds of thousands of lives, all by herself. By the end, she's probably the most important person in the book.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses tries to set itself as a Feminist Fantasy with Feyre steadily becoming a competent High Fae, warrior, and High Lady in her own right who's on equal footing with her male partner. However, everything Feyre has, her life and powers as a High Fae, her skills as a warrior, her literacy, her title as High Lady, even her trauma recovery, she only has because men give it to her. It's worth noting, though, that Prythian is remarkably sexist, and she wouldn't have gotten her title any other way. Her title of High Lady would imply she has some sort of power and responsibility in her court, but when all is said and done, however, once the danger's passed it seems to be little more than a ceremonial title as Rhysand is the one doing all the political work, with her position and livelihood all hingeing on the fact that she's his wife. Her hunting and wilderness survival skills are self-taught, though she's increasingly less reliant on these. This reaches a head in the fifth book when Feyre becomes a passive trophy wife as soon as she gets pregnant, despite this being her biggest fear when she was with Tamlin. And Rhysand conspire's to hide the dangers of her pregnancy from Feyre, because of how her knowing would affect him.
  • The Speed of Sound: Caitlin McCloskey, the only high-ranking woman in the American Heritage Foundation to be mentioned, is the daughter of one of the founding partners.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Cersei Lannister feels like she is suffering under this in the male-dominated Westerosi society, but Tywin bluntly tells her the real reason for her lack of power and influence beyond her family name is that she isn't as capable as she thinks she is. It can also be surmised that at least some of her apparent jealousy at Brienne of Tarth is how Brienne is by all appearances a relatively self-made woman whose family name isn't nearly as important to who Brienne became and what she achieved.
  • NCIS:
    • Tony attributes Ziva's job as being due to her father's high position in Mossad. He's partially correct, in that Ziva's father trained her from birth to do the job she does. In Season 7, she removes herself completely from her father's influence and goes back to Gibbs. It's also shown that while her father has become an important character, he wouldn't be if not for Ziva. Then again, she might not be as important as she is in the story if she wasn't Ari's half-sister and handler in Mossad.
    • We get another unwilling example in EJ Barret. It's strongly implied that her uncle being SecNav contributed to her getting her position, but she doesn't like or accept this.
  • Invoked in-universe for Lily from How I Met Your Mother, whose reason for her second thoughts about marrying Marshall, and her subsequent decision to leave for San Francisco, is because she's been with him since her first day of college and doesn't know who she is outside of her relationship with him.
  • Mrs Onedin in The Onedin Line. Justified in that the marriage was her idea as a way to seal a business alliance and both parties profited equally.
  • Criminal Minds plays with this when they introduce Emily Prentiss. The first thing we learn about her is that her parents are diplomats, and the audience (and, it's implied, the characters) assume that this is how she got her job. This isn't the case at all, and she remains an important character, which her parents are... not.
  • Subverted on Leverage with Parker. "The Inside Job" has her reveal she was adopted and mentored by a legendary (male) cat burglar, Archie, but he's introduced long after Parker's become a well-developed character and only appears in two episodes. Furthermore, she was already a Street Urchin and pickpocket when they met, she having first become a thief at the age of 9. After she's integrated into her crew and gotten a dose of Good Feels Good, it's become quite clear to Archie that she's come a long way from the thief he made her into.
  • This is played so straight in Telenovelas, it hurts. Most heroines are defined exclusively by the relationship they have with the male hero, even if the soap is named after her. Some play with this trope, though; for example, in Simplemente María, the titular heroine's success as a fashion designer is thanks to her own hard work.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spends a lot of time reminding us that Olivia is the child of rape, which informs a lot of her unique ability to connect with victims and the reason she joined SVU in the first place. Her mother is never forgotten in the discussion of her past, but the search for her father and his impact on her life gets much more attention.
  • Doctor Who:
  • UNIT members in Season 8-10 - the Brigadier, a slightly stupid but surprisingly effective military commander with an excellent track record; Benton and Yates, both competent soldiers (one of whom gets slowly promoted due to his own competence over the course of his run); the Doctor, an Impossible Genius, gifted scientist and brave adventurer who has saved the world (and the Brigadier) countless times - and Jo Grant, a ditzy blonde in a miniskirt who's only on the force at all because the Brigadier agreed to pull strings for her rich uncle, and only a companion because the Doctor found her too cute to crush her feelings. Jo is actually quite an effective companion, but she will never be regarded as a high point for the show's feminism (not least because the companions immediately before and after her got their position via their own career).
  • Causes Alicia Florrick some grief in an episode of The Good Wife. She's asked to be the keynote speaker at a convention on women in the law business and it turns out she originally got the job at Lockhart & Gardner because she'd dated Will Gardner in law school. She finds a way to put a positive spin on it, though.
  • A really depressing case of this afflicts Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where the highly anticipated Mockingbird had to be immediately paired off with a male character, and her actress went so far as to give an interview to E! in which she said that her character was defined by her relationship with Hunter. This is subverted later; her relationship with Hunter is extremely important, but mostly in relation to the conflict of loyalty it causes due to her being a founding member of another branch of S.H.I.E.L.D., which considers itself the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D., and Coulson's team misguided at best.
  • Defied on M*A*S*H. Major Houlihan has had many friendships and affairs with powerful, successful men. But in the episode "Stars and Stripes", she makes it extremely clear that she never accepted any kind of help from them or from her father Col. "Howitzer" Houlihan when it came to her military career. Her dad was a role model to her but nothing more. She earned her rank through hard work and dedication.
  • Hart to Hart has Jonathan Hart, who is a self-made millionaire, jetting around the world running his company, and Jennifer Hart, who tags along, has a seat on the Board she clearly wouldn't have if she weren't married to him, and whose father is clearly old money and lots of it, who gave his little girl whatever she wished. Occasionally they'll mention that Jennifer used to be a reporter but most of the time she's seen only as the wife of the great Jonathan Hart.
  • In Good Girls Revolt there are no women in power at News of the Week, except for Bea who’s the publisher, and she inherited the magazine from her father.
  • Succession:
    • Shiv Roy, the only daughter of media mogul Logan Roy, has built a career outside the family's media empire and is a very successful political consultant. However, as her stepmother viciously notes, Shiv would not have gotten far in her job without her father's name and resources.
    • However, it's also either explicitly stated or implied to be the case with the other female characters. Willa is a prostitute who is paid by Connor to sleep with him then pays for her show to be on Broadway as a way of convincing her to be exclusive. It's possible in only Marcia's case, as her Mysterious Past leaves it open how much money she made before marrying Logan. However, her previous husband is mentioned as being influential. Even Logan's Distaff Counterpart in Season 2, Nan Pierce, is the head of a huge empire of family money rather than making it herself as Logan did.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • When Merida from Brave is introduced, most of her story revolves around comparing herself to her father. This in direct contrast to the film where, although he was close to her, Merida's story was about her relationship with her mother instead.
  • Merlin (2008) covers the younger years of four famous Arthurian characters: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, and Guinevere. Guinevere's Rags to Riches arc is the only one contingent on her relationship to a man; that is, she only becomes the destined queen of Camelot after marrying Arthur. Having reimagined her as a servant girl rather than a noblewoman in her own right, this was somewhat unavoidable.

  • "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" and "Last of the Breed" by Peter Sarstedt tell this story but Marie-Claire is a woman.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Played with when it comes to the daughters of WWE legends. Expect commentators to go on and on about this and compare them to their fathers. But they also do the same for the sons of legends. It remains to be seen if they'll do the same when the child of a female WWE legend steps into the ring.
  • In the late '90s when females weren't in WWE that much, those who were usually came in because they were dating an existing male star - Sable was with Marc Mero, The Kat with Jerry Lawler, Chyna with Triple H, Debra to Jeff Jarrett, etc. As the women's division grew, this was averted. And in Sable's case, she quickly eclipsed Mero in fame, to the point that he's now mostly remembered as "Sable's ex-husband".
  • Invoked by the Bella Twins, who credit their respective partners - Daniel Bryan for Brie, John Cena for Nikki - for teaching them more about wrestling than they had ever known before. Nikki however refuted this in a 2016 rivalry with Carmella, assuring the newcomer that she still earned all her achievements in spite of who her boyfriend was. In the late 2010s, people also noted that the men gained a lot from their relationships too. Especially Daniel Bryan - who went from indie darling to national celebrity partly thanks to Total Divas (which he would not have got a spot on if he hadn't been dating Brie). They also did talk up Natalya's help towards them when they were first training, but fans often ignore that in favor of mentioning the men (as that was when the twins went from novelty act to prominent players in the company).
  • A rare Gender Flip came with Tyson Kidd and Natalya. Due to the latter's success with Total Divas, a storyline was started where he resented everyone comparing him to his wife's success.
  • In general if a female wrestler starts a kayfabe relationship with a male, expect the commentators to attribute their subsequent matches to their boyfriends teaching them. This was parodied in Ring of Honor, where The Lovely Lacey was trying to mold BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs into a "better" Tag Team and Jimmy tried to woo Lacey by using her Finishing Move, to Lacey's disgust. It was also zig-zagged with Whitmer and Kelly Klein, as Klein greatly valued Whitmer and gave him some credit when describing her new training regimen but Whitmer himself rejected the idea and anything else that implied Klein was less than perfect.
  • A lot of WWE fans like to attribute the success of the women's division in the Ruthless Aggression Era entirely to Fit Finlay - who was their trainer. While he always was known for lobbying for the women to get more time for matches and helped many of them tap into their potential - it's often forgotten that the division still contained veterans like Ivory, Jacqueline, Jazz and Molly Holly who were more than capable of putting a match together as well.
  • In a similar vein, Triple H sometimes gets a lot of the credit for the success of the Four Horsewomen in NXT. While he oversaw the good booking that led to them getting more match times, by all accounts it was the hard work of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Charlotte Flair that even convinced him to do so in the first place.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted varies on how good it is with this. On the one hand, there are characters like Lilith, one of the most powerful of the Lunar Exalted, who was initially introduced as having spent centuries in isolation after the death of her husband, and only returning to humanity when she senses his reincarnation. On the other hand, many prominent characters such as the Scarlet Empress, Mnemon, the Roseblack, Anys Syn, and Raksi are quite powerful in the setting, as attained wholly in their own rights (the consorts and husbands of the Empress and Mnemon, although a necessity in their dynastic politics, are basically footnotes, with the latter's ones not even receiving names).
  • The Warhammer universes (Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar) have comparatively few significant female characters in its background (mostly elves, thanks to their more gender-equal societies), but those it does have tend to avert this trope.
    • Alarielle the Radiant, Everqueen of Ulthuan, inherited her position and power from her mother's line, as did every Everqueen since time immemorial. Such might be expected of her traditionally feminine earth-goddess aspects, but Alarielle's idiosyncratic belligerence and dynamism in protecting her people seems entirely her own too, and not owed to anyone.
    • Morathi the Hag Sorceress was the wife of Aenarion, first and mightiest of the Phoenix Kings, but her magical prowess, political ambitions, and the hold she has over her son Malekith are entirely down to her own dark obsessions and abilities. Indeed, Malekith owes much to his mother's influence.
    • Ariel, Queen of the Wood Elves, is arguably more influential and powerful in Wood Elf society than her husband, King Orion. They maintain separate courts, and she in no way owes her power to him - both having been invested with divine kingship by the spirits of the forest at the same time.
    • Moving away from the elves, Tzarina Katarin of the human nation of Kislev may have inherited her position as Tzarina from her father, Boris Ursa, but she is only coincidentally remembered as his daughter and became a far more competent and clever ruler than he was.
    • The Vampire Queen Neferata was far more influential and self-made than her husband, the fairly ordinary King Lahmizzar, and most of the other vampires in her court owed their condition and position to her, not the other way around.
    • Her Arch-Enemy Khalida is the only female Tomb King named character, and came to rule Lybaras in her own right and through her own power. She never married, and no other male members of her dynasty rose as tomb kings to challenge her rule. While she is not an equal to Settra in power, she does not owe her power or position to his patronage and stands as equal with all the other Tomb Kings who pay homage to Settra.
    • Isabella von Carstein zig-zags this trope; she is much less important than her husband Vlad, both in stats and lore, but the title of Count of Sylvania is hers (Vlad only married into it), as is their castle and entire domain. Those were inheritances from her father Otto, however, so Isabella owes two aspects of her importance (her vampirism and her noble title) to two different men.

    Video Games 
  • Defied in Bayonetta. The title character bears the Left Eye of the World, a power that represents the true power of darkness and boosts her own magic severalfold. Her father, Balder, bears the Right Eye of the World, which is a light-aligned counterpart to the left. Balder's whole plan in the first game was to ensure Bayonetta reached her full power, and he killed all the other witch candidates save for one that he enslaved. All of this suggests that Bayonetta is only so powerful because her father made her so... until later cutscenes revealed that she received training from Jeanne, against the Umbran Elder's wishes. The sequel builds on this: Not only was Bayonetta allowed to spar with Jeanne, but we find that Bayonetta's mother was an extraordinarily powerful witch in her own right. Bayonetta inherited her power from both her parents, and it shows.
  • Devil May Cry: Eva could be an example of the trope, if only she wasn't solely spoken of as "mother to Dante and Vergil" or "wife of Sparda", or any variation or combination thereof. She's pretty much a blank slate of a character and no backstory whatsoever is given as to what she did before meeting an over-two-thousand-year-old devil, bearing his children, and then dying horribly in a demon attack to save said children. She's pretty much defined by those relationships and nothing else, not counting Trish who is meant to be her clone (and acts nothing like her). The Shout-Out in Bayonetta appears to fill in the gap in Eva's story by making her an accomplished dark witch that fought off the forces of Inferno, but she had to make a contract with a 'Legendary Dark Knight' before that happened.
  • Koei's Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games do this, although it would be hard to entirely avoid as they are set in historical China and Japan, where few women would be able to make names for themselves without being linked to a man. However, the Japanese series is as a whole better at dismantling this trope than the Chinese, since, though their connections to the men are still prominent, the women at least have plenty of interactions with others as shown in the game's sidequests and omake (while DW just flat-out ignores them).
  • Final Fantasy XII has this trope present in one character: Penelo, whose reason for being able to hold arms is because she was trained by her brothers (who died several years before the game started). Otherwise, the game helluva averts this with its other female characters; even Ashe, whose backstory is a stock fodder for yet another Faux Action Girl (being the daughter of a king, wife of a charismatic prince, backed by a manipulative La Résistance) manages to become her own woman by leading said resistance and ultimately the rebellion herself. The lack of anything resembling a romantic subplot in this game definitely helps things.
  • Zig-zagged by the Fire Emblem series, due to the large cast. Technically, most of the characters owe their position in the army to the usually male main character, because the main character recruited them. A minor example in an optional Spotpass part of Fire Emblem: Awakening, where characters from previous games appear with a handful of lines. The first lines for Ethlyn and Altena have them introduce themselves as the wife and daughter of Quan, while Quan's son Leif does not mention him.
  • Harvest Moon:
    • In Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, a lot of Dunhill's dialogue mentions the player character's father, who once ran a farm on the same land you're using now, as being the source of their success. It also makes it pretty clear that the male farmer is the default; it's not very flattering as a girl to hear that, from the back, you can easily be mistaken for your dad. Especially if you're wearing a dress and a ponytail. Made even more jarring considering that the developers are well aware that the vast majority of the franchise's consumers are women.
    • Some games, such as Back to Nature For Girl and 3 for the Game Boy Color, showcase this trope. The male character's "goal", denoting the end of the game and the point at which the credits roll, is to run a successful business out of his farm. The female character's goal is to get married. Other games in the series allow female characters to continue playing past marriage.
    • Varrot plays it completely straight: she only becomes a captain because of a former love interest, and resolves not to go through with that motivation because of her current one.
  • Subverted in Infamous with Moya, who introduces herself as an FBI agent and the wife of an agent, John, who has gone missing, who she wants you to find. She's lying for sympathy. She only wants John for the information he can give her about the Ray Sphere.
  • All the original female characters from Kingdom Hearts, with the exceptions of Olette and Kairi's grandmother, tend to play this one depressingly straight as their roles and relationships in the story are pretty much associated with the vastly outnumbered males.
    • Kairi initially averted it as her status as a Princess of Heart and her backstory living with her grandmother in Radiant Garden had nothing to do with male characters. However, starting from Chain of Memories, the writers started writing her as Sora's Love Interest and nothing more. Although not passive, she has almost no powers of her own, and her main role in the II is to be kidnapped by the male villains and then rescued by the male heroes. She does eventually get a Keyblade of her own, but instead of manifesting it like all the boys, she has it literally handed to her, and she uses it for all of one mostly off-screen fight against random mooks. And even if she is going to be trained to be an Action Girl by III, she still plays this straight as she gains her talents only because of her new teacher; Yen Sid, though it should be noted the only known female Keyblade Master isn't in any position to be training anyone right now.
  • Xion is the series' first playable female character, but everything she is and everything she has, from her weapons to her very existence itself, was stolen from Sora. She's an imperfect clone of him, made as a tool by her all-male superiors. Note however that she could be a subversion as she gets very much aware of it and ends up derailing her creators' plans, although not for too long given that one of those creators is a master at Xanatos Speed Chess.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect introduces Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, whose father is an Admiral of the Migrant Fleet. Played with in that it is made clear that being an admiral's child puts a ton of pressure on her to succeed and Tali makes it clear that Quarian Flotilla doesn't have enough resources for the "luxury of sexism" so her gender is basically a non-issue with her own people.
    • This is what Miranda from Mass Effect 2 thinks she is. Her father genetically designed her to be "perfect", yet Shepard points out that Miranda was the one who decided what she did with her gifts.
  • A common complaint about Pokémon Black and White is that Professor Juniper is the first female Pokémon Professor to appear in the games, and she's also the first Pokémon Professor stated to have learned her trade from her father, who goes on to have a more important role than his daughter does. Which is a bit unfortunate, given that the character was originally meant to be a male and still have the whole 'inherited trade from father' aspect.
    • Also played straight by Clair and Janine in the games whom both attain their roles as gym leader because of their male teacher, Lance and Koga respectively, Flannery and Skyla in the anime, and Winona in the manga.
  • Rift mostly averts this, but has one major double subversion in the form of Dacia Ultan, the daughter of a clan of renowned artisans. She first broke her poor mother's heart by setting out to be an adventurer...then brought her family even more honor by kicking more ass than some entire tribes. (It's hinted that the Ultans are now as renowned for their kinship to Dacia as for their crafting skills.)
  • Despite being the protagonist of Remember Me Nilin falls into this, both played straight and as an inversion. Her special ability to use the Hacking Glove has nothing to do with her personally, she only has it, and can only use it, because of her father. Her relationship with her mother is at the core of the entire game's events, but it's because that relationship is completely devoid of all emotional connection.
  • Aigle from Rumble Roses enters the female-only tournament due to everything she is known for being associated with her older brother and father. Reiko is also mostly known for her family due to being the baby of her family but in this case, it is because of her older sister and mother.
  • Capcom's Sengoku Basara, with its female cast being mostly defined as being someone's wife or lover and mostly defining their characters around their respective men, until the third game introduced Saika Magoichi as a tough, no-nonsense, badass mercenary woman who is highly regarded by the other warlords. Though the game implies she may have been the protege of the Saika's former (male) leader, who was killed by Oda Nobunaga. Which would make her a Double Subversion. In all honesty, though, most notable women from that period in Japan weren't self-made, being the wives or daughters of influential men.
  • The director's cut of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time added this for Clair and Nel. Their respective fathers used to have the same jobs they did, and this is especially odd since they lived in a matriarchal kingdom.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken tends to do this to the girls, especially since most females have a male partner.
    • Ibuki is only involved because of Rolento and her ninja village elders (who are all male) made her go with Rolento. He can command her to do what he wants and also when they reach Pandora it is a victory only for him and his army and also an example of his wit and cunning while Ibuki's success is only relative to how well Rolento is doing.
    • Ibuki's Alternate Company Equivalent Ling Xiaoyu goes with Jin and that is the only decision she makes. Every victory and reaching Pandora is Jin's success while Xiaoyu was just along for the road. Also her own story has no bearing on their team and only Jin's desire to get rid of the Devil Gene is what matters.
    • A rare aversion to Julia and Bob's team is that they go to find Pandora because of her, however that is where her focus and importance end. Their rival battle is only because of Bob and the focus of the team quickly shifts to how much of a ladies' man and gentleman Bob is. Their ending sees Bob decide what will be done and much focus is made to how he refused her payment.
    • Juri only goes with M. Bison to "have fun". Most of the focus are his goals and ambitions though Juri was planning on betraying him once they reached Pandora (Bison knew this).
    • Alisa is portrayed as just following Lars while the focus of the story is mostly about him.
  • An odd example happens in Tekken with Anna Williams. All of her stories involve her big sister Nina Williams and pretty much all of her official descriptions involve Nina as a comparison despite Anna's own accomplishments while Anna is rarely mentioned in Nina's case and Nina even gets to have her own stories that Anna isn't a factor in at all.
    • Asuka Kazama is mostly known for being a Kazama in the story and her association with Jin. She has even become a Faux Action Girl who only sticks to Designated Girl Fights with Lili despite her strong and promising start to the series.
    • While Lili is usually self-standing in the fighting department of the game, her social status and etiquette are often considered to be solely because of her father.
  • A Tomb Raider title, a prequel that focuses on Lara Croft before she became the badass Action Girl that was such a staple of gaming culture in the '90s, has Roth reminding her that "she can do it, because she's a Croft". This was averted in the earliest games; Lara had actually been disowned by her family because they found her globe-trotting adventures, which she undertook entirely on her own, an embarrassment. Only later did they add the idea of her father having been an archeologist too. It's averted for her actual combat/acrobatic skills, which are self-taught.
  • Awkwardly played with in Valkyria Chronicles. The Valkyrur are apparently an all-female warrior race/matriarchy, subverting this trope, but the two who actually appear in the game are subordinate to their love interests, too ruled by their emotions to make rational decisions about their powers on their own. Welkin saves Alicia from a wholly-unnecessary suicide attack with a Cooldown Hug and a marriage proposal, and Selvaria goes through with her suicide attack out of love for Maximillian, but only after making sure the only credible threat to his victory is spared.
  • The Warcraft franchise has a few of these: For Jaina Proudmoore and Tyrande Whisperwind, their love triangles are more interesting than what they actually achieve in the conflicts. Alleria and Vareesa Windrunner, while capable fighters, lose all attention to their husbands.
    • Special mentions go to Jaina Proudmoore who initially averts this trope in the original RTS game but then plays it straight in the MMORPG game, while does she achieve her position as leader of Theramore largely due to her father being the Lord-Admiral of Kul Tiras she was the only human leader to listen to the Prophet and single-handedly hauled what was left of Lorderon over to Kalimdor. In fact, she is even willing to help Thrall and the orc regretfully kill her father if it means to maintain peace between both the humans and the orcs. But then World of Warcraft she becomes much less proactive and becomes a submissive servant of Varian Wrynn, never questioning his actions nor even try to oppose him even after Varian declares war on the horde. Additionally, much of her time spent is instead on brooding about not being with Arthas causing many fans who did not play the original Warcraft to perceive her as a shallow love interest of Arthas who does not do anything but watch and weep.
    • Yrel was originally conceived as the wife of Vindicator Maraad, who died in the main timeline (hence Maraad sacrificing himself to protect her in the Warlords of Draenor timeline) however this was scrapped due to backlash over this trope. Some argue she still qualifies, as in the finished version she starts out as a somewhat inept Action Survivor who only evolves into a true leader and badass with a good deal of prodding from Velen.

  • Deconstructed and then reconstructed in The Order of the Stick. Haley Starshine essentially has her father to thank and to blame for everything in her life; he taught her to be a fantastic thief by teaching her to mistrust everyone, and the only reason she joined an adventuring party in the first place was to raise money to pay his ransom. By the time she resolves her issues with her father, by realizing that Ian's paranoia and trust issues were poisonous and that she needed to move on because it made it impossible to open up to the man she loves, she's already in a relationship with Elan, and now her personal issues revolve around learning to open up to people (naturally, with Elan's help). Therkla has a similar arc, though it doesn't end quite so well for her.
  • Cora of The Trenches, whose father literally wrote the book on the game her studio is trying to build.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Marge doesn't seem to understand the idea of a woman being successful on her own merits. In "The President Wore Pearls", when Springfield Elementary School teachers dressed Lisa up, Marge said she seemed so successful and compared her to "the wife of a businessman". Also, when the family went to Africa, they found Dr. Joan Bushwell's chimp refuge and Marge initially assumed Dr. Bushwell was a man who named the place after his wife. She was shocked when Lisa told her Dr. Bushwell is a woman. It's rather ironic considering there was an episode where Marge became a Self-Made Woman by opening an Expy of Curves Gyms.
    • Like many animated domestic comedies, The Simpsons has very few regular or even recurring female characters without a familial or romantic relationship with a male character. In particular, Marge has no real friends or connection to the outside world outside of Homer's social circle. Homer Simpson has Carl, Lenny, and Barney. Marge has... Mrs. Lovejoy, occasionally?
  • In Daria, this trope is explored a bit when Daria and Jodie go to get a loan from the bank to fund a business project as part of a class exercise. The loan officer compliments their business plan and their presentation but tells them that teenage girls as "high-risk" applicants. He asks if Daria's father can co-sign the loan (because she's white, despite Jodie clearly spearheading their project), until the subject of Jodie's father (a local inventor) comes up, at which point he declares that business savvy is in her blood and agrees to the loan. Outraged by the racism and blatant attempt to gain her father's favor, they walk out and try another bank. Jodie mentions her father's name up front this time and they are offered the loan without incident. Later Daria calls her out, accusing her of falling into this trope intentionally instead of earning the loan themselves. Jodie responds that she just used the tools and connections available to her as best she could. Meanwhile, Helen averts the trope by being a slightly frenzied but seemingly successful high-powered lawyer on her own merit and is presumably supporting the family's finances while Jake's work-life suffers; at the same time, she struggles with feeling like being so focused on her work means she's a failure as a wife and mother.
  • This was a problem Charmcaster had during Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, as she was constantly working for men (Hex, Zombozo) or motivated by her feelings for men (her father, Michael Morningstar). She is more driven by her own desires in Ben 10: Omniverse, although she is still sometimes manipulated by certain male characters even then.
  • Adventure Time:
    • An interesting case happens to Flame Princess who initially enters the plot as an alternative Love Interest for Finn after his heart has been broken by Bubblegum's rejection along with the Flame King's "evil" daughter. However, over time she began diverging from this trope as she starts having more personality as Finn introduces her to the outside world. All this eventually culminates when she became the Flame Queen without any input from her father or Finn whatsoever, the former she overthrew while the latter she dumps him for manipulating her. In fact, the last episode where she is featured is "The Cooler" where her entire plot has nothing to do with Finn or Flame King at all.
    • Unfortunately this is later played straight with Betty Grof, whose entire role and personality revolves around being Simon's former fiancee and currently the reason she exists in the present timeline of Ooo is to find a cure for the Ice King's madness and revert Simon back to his human self.
  • The entire first season of Harley Quinn (2019) is devoted to Harley attempting to defy this trope and step outside of the Joker's shadow after realizing he doesn't view her as more than an abusable minion and the other supervillains viewing her through the lens of this trope. Much of the drama of the season comes from her attempts at overcompensating in the opposite direction and doing things just because she wants to show off how much better she is without the Joker, even if those things do not benefit her own career.
  • Lampshaded in King of the Hill where the misogynistic Cotton Hill (Hank's father) would always call Peggy Hill "Hank's wife", and never say her name. As if to him nothing else of her matters than being a housewife to his son.
    (Cotton greets the Hills)
    Cotton: (To Hank Hill): Hello, Hank. (To Peggy Hill): Hank's wife.
  • Ninjago: The only female present from the beginning is Nya, who is a competent fighter and engineer, but is only relevant to the cast because she's Kai's sister. She's quickly joined by Misako (Lloyd's mother/Garmadon's wife) and P.I.X.A.L. (Cyrus Borg's creation/secretary). The next important female to join the cast is Skylor (Chen's daughter), and she sits out for several seasons. They also quickly become Love Interests (to Jay, Wu, Zane, and Kai, respectively), ensuring that their relevance remains tied closely to the male leads. Though Nya and P.I.X.A.L. eventually each get a character arc of their own, independent of the boys (both revolving around the identity of Samurai X).

    Real Life — Politics 
  • This trope can occur when historical women ascended to power due to the death of their sons or husbands; e.g. becoming a "Dowager Empress". Among elected offices, an article in Vox noted that "a large percentage of women who took their countries’ top jobs had male family members in high office first."
  • Downplayed by Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India. While she attained her position at least partially because she was the daughter of the influential politician Jawaharlal Nehru — the first PM of independent India — she quickly proved to be far more powerful than expected.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton. Say what you will about her, but were she not married to a president, her chances of being elected to the US Senate (and in a state she never even lived in), nearly winning the Democratic presidential nomination, being appointed to a prominent cabinet post, and later becoming the first woman presidential nominee of a major party would've been at best slightly better than Ralph Nader's, and probably not even that good. On the other hand, many people in Washington agree that Hillary Clinton herself was instrumental in getting Bill to the top, and might have been biding her time until the public was more ready for a woman in power.
  • More than one US state governor used the "backdoor candidate" method to get around the term limit. The most notorious example is probably George Wallace, who was succeeded after his first term as governor of Alabama by his wife Lurleen, whom he effectively controlled during the portion of her term she served before her death.
  • Of the first fourteen women to serve in the US Senate, many were widows of established politicians. Those who weren't were either appointed to the position or were elected to placeholder, month-long terms. It wasn't until 1980, when Paula Hawkins was elected to the Senate from Florida, that a woman without a prior family connection in politics was elected to a normal six-year term. Similarly, the first two women governors — Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming and Miriam A. Ferguson of Texas — were preceded by their husbands, William Ross and James Ferguson, in office. It wasn't until 1974 when Ella T. Grasso was elected governor of Connecticut that a woman who had never been married to a prior governor was elected.
  • Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas, was a much-loved mayor and when he hit his term limit, so the city promptly elected his wife Carolyn to be mayor by a landslide.
  • In Canada, Member of Parliament Niki Ashton won her seat at the relatively young age of 26 in 2008 and ran for the leadership of the New Democratic Party in 2011–12 (although she was unsuccessful, coming in last on the first ballot). Many of her detractors claimed that she only got that far because of her father's influence, despite the fact that Steve Ashton was a provincial (Manitoba) Cabinet minister and was arguably superseded by his daughter's success in federal politics. Notably, Niki was personally re-elected three times after her leadership bid, and undertook another leadership campaign in 2017 with a much-improved but still unsuccessful placing, while Steve lost his seat in the 2016 Manitoba provincial election and has basically retired since then.
  • Partial aversion with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition to the Burmese military junta and prominent peace activist. She accomplished a great deal in her own right, and most people outside of Burma know her far better than they know her father, General Aung San, who is considered the father of modern Burma and was the leader of the Burmese independence movement. However, within Burma, it cannot be denied that despite her achievements, she got her start by being her father's daughter.note 
  • This trope is omnipresent enough that when Tsai Ing-Wen was elected president of Taiwan, media outlets pointed out that not only is she Taiwan's first female president, but the first female head of state in Asia not to come from a political dynastic family, and the first Taiwanese president of Indigenous descent. note 
  • When Senator Kamala Harris was chosen as the vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 2020, right-wing media criticized her for two early political appointments by her then-boyfriend State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, claiming she owed her political career to him. This ignores that Harris was elected District Attorney of San Francisco, Attorney General of California, and U.S. senator, all well after the relationship ended.
  • During her early political career, Angela Merkel, who had risen from relative obscurity in East Germany to the federal cabinet in a few months during the turbulent 1989–90, era was often referred to as "Kohl's Mädchen" ("Kohl's girl") for the federal chancellor who had appointed her as a minister. Naturally, after 16 years of being German chancellor — longer than anybody except Kohl himself — few people dismiss her as easily as that anymore.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine is an interesting subversion. While she was queen consort of both France and England during her lifetime and ruled as regent for her son Richard the Lionheart, she was ruler in her own right of the Duchy of Aquitaine, which made her a formidable (and very rich) power player in medieval Europe.

    Real Life — Other 
  • Played straight in English language. Instead of saying "Mr. and Ms. Doe" it is customary to say "Mr. and Ms. John Doe", implying Mr. and Ms. Doe are not equal (which they were if only their surname was announced), but that Ms. Doe exists only as consort to John Doe, her husband. Thankfully, this is falling out of style in favor of "Mr. and Ms. Doe" or "Mr. or Ms. John and Jane Doe".
  • James W. Loewen's Lies Across America mentions a hall of fame in Arkansas where most of the women only get in because they're the wife or daughter of a famous man, thus teaching us that "Men make history, while women make wives". He also mentions several influential Arkansas women that the hall of fame noticeably omits.
  • Ching Shih, one of the most famous female pirates (and the basis for Mistress Ching in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) only took over the fleet after her husband died and she married their adopted son. That said, both husbands seem to have been under her thumb completely — we know more about her than them, especially her second husband whom is not really heard from after the marriage. Presumably, he survived the wedding night, but...
  • In times before women were allowed to receive a higher education, most of them taught themselves however they could, which was usually attached to their husband, reading the books in his library, and often working with him as an unofficial assistant or apprentice. Maria Winkelmann is one example; she was educated first by her father, a Lutheran minister, who believed that she deserved an education equivalent to that given to young boys. By the age of 13, she was an orphan but had also received a general education from her brother-in-law Justinus Toellner and the well-known astronomer Christoph Arnold. She became an unofficial apprentice and later assistant for Arnold.
  • Pre-modern times, female artists who achieved any sort of fame in their day usually were taught by their fathers. Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi is a good example. As a bonus, compare how long her article is to her father's.
  • Subverted historically by women whose success was attributed to their male relatives or husbands. Mary Shelley, for example, whose novel was published with no stated author, but it had a preface by her husband, so most people assumed that he wrote the whole book. Then the sales of the book dropped dramatically when its true author was made public, and Mary was widely criticized for writing about such an "unfeminine" subject matter. It would be decades before the book was judged by its own merits, rather than by who wrote it..
  • This was essentially unavoidable for many pioneering women in order to learn a trade that was considered "men's work" or get higher education before the 20th century, a woman usually had to rely on a male teacher (because there usually would not be a female one around) and often enough on the support of her father and/or husband. Even those women whose mother could have taught them a thing or two about their chosen profession might be unlucky like Mary Shelley, whose mother Mary Wollstonecraft died eleven days after giving birth to her, or Marie-Antoinette of France, whose mother Maria Theresa of Austria ruled an empire but decided that little Maria Antonia needed less of an education than her elder sisters.

    Meanwhile, by a typical Double Standard, male prodigies, geniuses, etc. are frequently celebrated as if their achievements had come out of thin air, downplaying or downright ignoring the important roles played by their parents, teachers, sponsors, advisors, etc. A lot of people talk about the achievements of, e.g., Alexander the Great as if he had not inherited his kingdom and the best army in the world from his father and a supernatural mystique from his mother (who put about that Alexander had been fathered by a god and also accelerated his inheritance) as if he had not been educated by Aristotle and been surrounded by experienced and highly competent generals. And how many men's reputation was really diminished by the saying "behind every great man there is a great woman"?
  • Noted about how numerous commentators attributed the success of female athletes to their male coaches or husbands. Simone Biles likewise defied this trope, saying "I'm not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps; I'm the first Simone Biles!"
  • One of the controversies behind some major female-led movies (e.g. Ocean's 8, Ghostbusters (2016), etc.) is that they are female-driven counterparts of male-led movies, and are viewed as such, regardless of quality. In other words, had the male-driven earlier movies not succeeded on their own merits, these female-driven ones would likely never have existed.
  • This is rather common in Kitchen Nightmares where women tend to only be the focus of the show when they alone are in charge rather than them being partners to the male (whether it be a son or husband). It overlaps with Females Are More Innocent sometimes as even when they are just as guilty as their partner Gordon and even the comment section of the youtube video go after the male much more often. One of the biggest examples is the Cafe Tavolini episode where Gordon and even the comment section go after Keith much more than Lisa despite her being just as guilty. Though this was averted mostly in the Amy's Baking Company episode, where despite Sammy's own psychotic tendencies, Amy tends to get most of the flack and she is mostly the one notorious for the show's infamy.

Alternative Title(s): Female Success Is Family