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Parental Betrayal

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Sometimes the villain in a work hits much closer to home than the hero would expect — it's their parent. Yes, the parent who we've seen throughout the movie, book or show, doing their usual parent stuff and being seemingly a good guy, only to turn out to be evil all along. Can be very shocking if pulled off right.

This also refers to when a character's previously unseen parent is revealed to be evil.

Not the same as Luke, I Am Your Father, which is basically the inverse — the parent (who was previously shown) is suddenly revealed to be the villain, rather than the other way around.

Offing the Offspring can either ensue after this, or be the way this trope is revealed. When the betrayal backfires, Self-Made Orphan can be the outcome.

See also Parental Abandonment, Evil Matriarch, and Archnemesis Dad. Inverse of Betrayal by Offspring.

As this is a Betrayal Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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  • Bakuten Shoot Beyblade has two cases. First, on the low end of this trope, is Judy Mizuhara, who takes her work for the PPB serious well beyond what could justify her open derision of her son's team. It took Max wiping the floor with the PPB's champion and securing the BBA's victory before she truly came around. The other case is Sōichirō Hiwatari, whom his grandson knew wasn't a good person but didn't know was out to conquer the world and aiming to use him as his main weapon.
  • Code Geass has every other bad parenting trope covered, so it should be little surprise that this one does as well. The real surprise is who: Lelouch's lost mother, Marianne vi Britannia, who turns out to be in league with Charles and his plan to kill God.
  • Cross Ange: Poor Hilda. While she is initially just the base's resident Alpha Bitch, she later becomes something of a Jerkass Woobie when it's revealed that her mother, whom she'd had a loving relationship with as a child (with her mother even begging the authorities to give back her child after they found out she was Norma), has, in the intervening years, had another daughter, also named Hilda, and has almost completely forgotten her first child. Not only that, but her mother even calls her a monster and says she wishes she'd never given birth to her.
  • Natsuki of My-HiME has this happen to her mother. In the anime, it's revealed that her mother was planning to sell her to the Searrs Foundation, although after a period of doubt, Natsuki decides to believe in the mother she remembers. In the manga, Natsuki's mother arrives as part of the Searrs takeover of the school, and Natsuki has to fight against her, although at the end of the fight, after Natsuki's mother comes to her senses and ends up Taking the Bullet for her daughter, the two reconcile.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • The Batman R.I.P. comics storyline toys with the possibility that the villain responsible for the defining tragedy in Bruce Wayne's life was Thomas Wayne, who had his wife Martha killed while faking his own death. However, the conclusion of the story kinda seems to confirm that someone was just messing with Bruce in the end.
    • Batman: Detective No. 27 also has Thomas Wayne as a supervillain who faked his death. As an Elseworld, it doesn't need to worry about Status Quo Is God, so it really is him.
    • A Death in the Family: Jason Todd has had horrible luck with his mom too. After finding out that the mother who raised him was not his biological mother, Jason sets out across the globe searching for his birth mother. Eventually, Jason is reunited with her; however, his mother is evil. There is really no other way to describe a woman who would so willingly and suddenly betray her 15-year-old-son to the Joker to cover up her crimes and actually stand there watching him be beaten brutally to near-death with a crowbar, all the while looking none too fazed. After all this happens, the Joker betrays her, ties her up and leaves her and Jason in a room with a bomb. Jason, injured though he is, tries to save the mother who just betrayed him. He cuts the ropes binding her and together they make it to the door. Naturally, the door is locked. The bomb explodes, Jason and his mother die. He got better. She didn't.
    • Jason believes that Bruce is guilty of this. Even after Jason's death, he still keeps letting the Joker live, and eventually replaced Jason with another Robin. It's not hard to see his viewpoint since the Saviour of Gotham apparently was ready to replace his dead son & partner without even bringing the killer to "justice".
    • Bruce's son Damian hasn't been much luckier. He wasn't at all pleased when his mother Talia willingly allowed Slade to control his body by means of implanting a device in his spine. And when he supported Dick and Bruce's ideals rather than her's, he found out that Talia had actually created another clone of Damian because he wasn't "perfect enough". Then she kicked him out from the house of Al Ghul and told him not to come back, while all Damian wanted was some of his mother's love. Jerkass Woobie indeed. This culminates in Damian's death at the hands of his own clone. He even pleads with his mother to call off the attack, but she does nothing as the clone impales her own son on a sword.
  • In New Mutants, Sunspot learns his father is evil and working for the villainous Hellfire Club after his dad puts a hit out on his mother. Furious, he disowns his father, and then for a long while worries that he's going to end up like him.
  • This is the premise of Marvel's Runaways. Children learn that their parents are supervillains, and run away from home, fearing they would otherwise grow up to be like them.

    Fan Works 
  • Arc of Sacrifices: Lily teaches her son to suppress his emotions and secretly subjected him to the Phoenix Web, robbing Harry of his free will. In the third book, she attempts to convince Harry that she's legitimately sorry for how she treated him, but it's all a lie: she's trying to lower his guard so she can cast the same spell over him.
  • Arrowverse fanfiction:
    • Blackbird (Arrow): Dinah already had this with her canon decision to let Sara sleep with Laurel's boyfriend; but when she gave Laurel to the League of Assassins so they'd release Sara, she gave this trope an ugly new face.
    • The Hurricane: Proving himself Father of the Year, Noah Kuttler sells out his daughter Felicity Smoak as the creator of the Brother Eye Virus after he's arrested by the police in hopes of lowering his inevitable prison sentence.
    • Wrong Road to the Right Place: When Oliver learns that Dinah let Sara get on the Queen's Gambit to sleep with him, he outright tells her she betrayed Laurel. The fact that she needed to be told it was a betrayal just makes it worse.
  • Bloom in Winter reveals that Izuku's father Hisashi is actually a villain, who kidnaps his son and forces him to join his criminal organization, threatening to kill his mother if he doesn't cooperate.
  • Crimson and Emerald: The Wham Episode "No More Cages" reveals that Kiyome's parents knew the whole time that their daughter and grandson were being enslaved by the Hero Commission, accepting a massive bribe as recompensence for Kiyome being a "failed investment".
  • For His Own Sake:
    • Granny Hina had promised that she'd let her daughter Mayumi inherit the Hinata Inn, but casually broke her word after deciding she simply couldn't take the risk of Mayumi changing any of the toxic and self-serving policies she'd enacted.
    • Naru believes that her parents have betrayed her by favoring her step-sister Mei over her. In reality, Naru is a massively self-absorbed Spoiled Brat who believes that Mei getting any attention at all is stealing it from her.
  • Hunters of Justice sees Jacques Schnee hand Willow and Whitley, his own wife and child, over to Brainiac so the AI can learn the secrets of their hereditary Semblance.
  • Persona V: Reversing the Wheel of Fate: Much to Ren's heartbreak, after spending his whole life being a good, upstanding defender, his parents refused to believe his side of the story when he assaulted Shido. Later subverted; one phone call from his mother is enough for Ren to realize something may be up, and for the readers to glean that Shido made them do it...and they're still in his grasp.

    Film — Animation 
  • Turning Red: This is a major driver of Mei's changing relationship with her mother. Two examples stand out:
    • Ming promises to "be with you every step of the way" while Mei waits for the red moon, but then she does absolutely nothing to help Mei fight the panda transformation.
    • During the climactic fight at the concert, the enraged Ming accuses Mei of not being a good daughter, when Mei has always done her best to be exactly that. That's enough to send Mei into a real rage of her own.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Reveal in The General's Daughter. The general covered up his daughter's gang-rape to protect West Point's reputation and secure himself a promotion. This betrayal hurt his daughter more than the rape ever did. She was so distraught that the investigators told her father that he was the one who truly murdered his daughter — the guy who choked her to death merely put her out of her misery.
  • The surprise twist in the first act of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). Dr. Emma Russell initially seems to be an innocent kidnap victim with her daughter Madison, forced to aid the eco-terrorists in their plot to keep them alive. But it's soon revealed that Emma was working with the eco-terrorists all along. She manipulated Madison into joining her as an accomplice by feeding her sugarcoated lies and partial truths. Emma also poisoned Madison against her estranged father, Mark, by lying that he left them because he no longer wanted to be with them. Madison doesn't take it well when realizing that her mom lied, disowning her mother and rebelling against her.
  • Mouth to Mouth: She's not evil, but Sherry's mother joins the cult instead of trying to get her daughter to leave. Even after Sherry realizes how screwed up everything is (partly due to her mother agreeing with everyone else to punish her for no good reason) and decides to leave, her mom stays.

  • In the Grey Griffins books, Max's father turns out to be evil and wishes to use Max to access a world-destroying artifact. He has no qualms about killing his own son and his son's friends - genuinely shocking to Max, since he doesn't get along with his mom, and had always preferred his dad.
  • In Canadian teen adventure novel, Jack's Knife, a girl's father is involved in some criminal operation. He binds and gags his own daughter, which freaks out the main character (who is thinking "my god! She's your own daughter!"). When the man's partner suggests doing away with the kids, he is nice enough to suggest that doing so would be a bad idea ("we don't want to be wanted for murder as well"), but it's left unclear whether this is for selfish reasons, or to spare his daughter's life.

    Live Action TV 
  • 24: Jack's father was a Big Bad, the Man behind the Man (Graem) behind the Man (President Logan) behind the Man (attempted assassination of the Russian President). Attempted to kill his son. And he did kill his other son Graem for failing him.
  • Alias: Irina betrays Sydney several times over the course of her life starting with abandoning her by faking her own death and kidnapping her while Syd is pregnant to try and find one of the many Rambaldi artifacts.
  • Angel: Played straight and then inverted in the final season episode "Lineage". Roger Wyndam-Pryce, Wesley's father. It turns out he intends to steal Angel's free will. Then it turns out he was a robot (which was shot by Wesley before the revelation).
  • Arrow:
    • A variation. Dinah Lance saw that Sara was going to join Oliver on the Queen's Gambit and realized she was sleeping with her sister's boyfriend. After some initial attempts to talk her out of it, Dinah let Sara go through with it, effectively allowing her to betray Laurel and betraying Laurel herself through inaction. To make matters worse, she didn't even come clean about when the ship sank and only admitted it years later.
    • A stronger example would be Moira Queen. Soon after her son, Oliver, returns from being stranded on an island for 5 years after witnessing his father's suicide, Moira has him kidnapped and interrogated to find out if his father, Robert, had revealed any secrets before his death. Unfortunately for Moira, Oliver is now a superhero and is able to escape without revealing anything.
    • Malcolm Merlyn:
      • Spends much of the first season fighting both Oliver and his alter ego, the Hood, despite Oliver being his son's best friend since childhood and Malcolm being aware that Oliver is the Hood.
      • Causes the death of his own son, Tommy, who dies when he's crushed in a building destroyed by Malcolm's Undertaking Earthquake Machine designed to level the entire section of the city in which his wife was murdered.
      • Drugs Thea, his illegitimate daughter, and gets her to kill Sara Lance in order to distract the League of Assassins who want him dead, knowing that Sara and Nyssa al'Ghul were lovers and that this would cause the League of Assassins to descend on Star City for revenge. It is a Batman Gambit because Malcolm knows that Oliver will intercede to save his little sister. The only way to settle it is a fight to the death. If Oliver dies, his death settles the blood debt, and Malcolm is no worse off than he began. If Oliver survives and kills R'as al-Ghul, Thea's blood debt is cleared and the leader of the League that wants revenge on Malcolm is dead and his grudges along with him.
  • Firefly: Depending on who you ask, this may be present in the form of River and Simon Tam's parents, whose callous disregard for River's plight at the Academy may have been due to foreknowledge of the Mind Rape that the Academy was doing to her.
  • House of Anubis done by Mr. Sweet- Eddie's father. A bit of dramatic irony, too, as the viewers and the rest of Sibuna knew that Mr. Sweet was a member of Team Evil but nobody told Eddie, and when he found out he was completely devastated. Gets even worse after Mr. Sweet starts proactively manipulating Sibuna to further the plans of his own team— and knowingly hurting Eddie in the process.
  • Justified: Career criminal Arlo Givens betrays his son US Deputy Marshall Raylan Given several times, including attempting to walk Raylan into an ambush where he would be killed by Cartel hitmen, convincing Raylan on multiple occasions that he and Helen (Raylan's stepmother) are being targeted by criminals only to later be revealed as the aggressor after Raylan uses his official capacity to intervene, and later shooting and killing a highway trooper he mistook for Raylan at a distance.
  • In Kamen Rider Drive, we get a doozy. Kiriko and Gou's father, Professor Banno, was one of the creators of this year's villains, the Roidmudes, but it was always assumed that it was a case of A.I. Is a Crapshoot. Nope, Banno is basically Davros; the Roidmudes' current state is his deliberate doing, and the Heart Roidmude, the Big Bad until that point, was horribly abused by him and basically a case of The Dog Bites Back. Banno betrays the SCU and his own children, lets us know he sees even his own children as a means to his dark but as-yet-not-fully-understood ends, and rises to the role of Big Bad. Right now, dealing with him is everyone's main concern, good guys and bad guys alike. Humans Are the Real Monsters, indeed!
  • In Lost, Anthony Cooper strikes up a father-son relationship with Locke in order to steal his kidney, then unceremoniously dumps him.
  • NCIS:
    • Ziva being kidnapped by hostile terrorists and nearly murdered multiple times can be linked back to her own father.
    • An episode has a model die during the shooting of a reality TV show on a base, only for Gibbs and Co. discover that the man responsible was her agent who, while not biologically related, had adopted her as a teenager. The woman had begun a relationship with a sergeant and was going to give up modeling to be with him.
  • In The Red Road, Philip's dad Jack is aloof (when he's not ordering his son to commit crimes for him) and clearly wasn't around while Philip was growing up. It gets worse when Philip finds out that his dad is the reason he was sent to prison before the events of the show.
  • In Sons of Anarchy, Gemma continually does underhanded things to undermine her son, Jax's, relationship with his girlfriend and eventual wife, Tara. Gemma explicitly says that Tara was Jax's first love, that he was heartbroken the first time they broke up, and that he would do anything for her, making Tara the only person who has a strong enough influence on Jackson to overpower Gemma's own overbearing, manipulative influence on him. Jax loves his mom and is none the wiser to her manipulations. Gemma is so determined to control Jax that she eventually murders Tara, a move that emotionally destroys Jackson and leads to him murdering Gemma in retaliation before dying of suicide to atone for all the murders he committed trying to avenge Tara's murder.
  • Veronica Mars: Veronica's Mum, who abandons Veronica twice and, the second time she does it, she takes Veronica's college fund for good measure.

  • Gaia of Greek Mythology did this to three generations' worth of her divine progeny after they pissed her off by empowering the next generation. Her first son Uranus, who was also her first consort, was jealous and fearful of their children, the Titans, and trapped them inside Gaia. A pissed off Gaia forged a huge sickle and gave it to her youngest son Cronus and had him castrate Uranus with it. Cronus eventually turned out to be similar to Uranus and trapped his non-Titanic siblings, the Hechatonchaires and the Cyclopses, inside Gaia since he feared their power. Cronus knew that Gaia would try to turn his own children against him in revenge, so he ate his own children after they were born. A pissed off Gaia conspired with Cronus' wife Rhea to save the last child Zeus and raised him to be a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb against his father. After Zeus and his fellow Olympians eventually prevailed, they stuck the Titans, who refused to surrender to them, in the deepest pits of Tartarus, which upset Gaia since she didn't want her children to suffer such a horrible punishment. A pissed off Gaia then sent various giant monsters such as her youngest and strongest offspring Typhon to overthrow the Olympians. This chain of betrayal ended when Zeus and the Olympians defeated the threats sent by Gaia, proving that they had surpassed her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Emperor (not yet God-) was many things, but a good father was not one of them. Most of the Primarchs who fell did so due to his giving exactly zero consideration to what they wanted:
    • The one that started it all: Lorgar was the first to view the Emperor as a god, and his Legion took longer than the others to reconquer planets because they kept building temples and proselytizing the natives. The Emperor showed up with Ultramarines in tow, made the Word Bearers watch as they tore down the temples, and finally kneel before them. Little wonder that Lorgar paid attention when he heard about gods that rewarded faith and loyalty, or that he'd end up converting Horus to his cause.
    • Angron was on the eve of leading a Gladiator Revolt on his home planet when the Emperor showed up. Rather than help him win the day or even, y'know, bring down an Orbital Bombardment or five dozen from his fleet, the Emperor teleported Angron away so as not to lose any time on his grand conquest of the galaxy. The revolt was easily crushed, with Angron's comrades died thinking he'd run away or worse, betrayed them.
    • Magnus was aware of Horus' treachery before the Emperor was. Unfortunately, he chose to deliver the message by teleporting to Terra using forbidden magics, which destroyed the Webway Gate the Emperor was building. Instead of heeding Magnus' warnings, he declared Magnus the traitor and sicced the Space Wolves on his homeworld Prospero.
    • Mortarion was raised by a barbarian warlord, one of the few adapted to their homeworld's poisonous atmosphere. Those who could survive the mountain fogs regularly preyed on the regular humans living in the unpolluted areas, Mortarion eventually rebelling against his adoptive father and joining them. When the Emperor arrived, he allowed Mortarion a single chance to carry out his vendetta, intervening when the fog proved too much even for the Primarch. Mortarion later believed the Emperor had become just another tyrant like the man who'd raised him (their views on the Warp being diametrically opposed didn't help matters), joining Horus once he rebelled.
    • Konrad Curze was essentially The Punisher, Batman and Wolverine rolled into one, brutally murdering those he saw as criminals, in addition to suffering from horrific visions of things to come. This made him susceptible to Chaos corruption and made him even more unstable (though persuaded of the innate righteousness of his actions), culminating in his being assassinated on the Emperor's orders.
      Your presence does not surprise me, Assassin. I have known of you ever since your craft entered the Eastern Fringes. Why did I not have you killed? Because your mission and the act you are about to commit proves the truth of all I have ever said or done. I merely punished those who had wronged, just as your false Emperor now seeks to punish me. Death is nothing compared to vindication.

    Video Games 
  • Arena.Xlsm: In one of the endings, Kylem is betrayed by her own mother, who hands her over to The Emperor. Eve confesses this to the player via a letter, declaring that "I don't know what he plans to do, but frankly I don't care. I now plan to take my earnings, leave the city and head South to start a new life. Good luck."
  • BlazBlue: Carl Clover, a young boy who's innocent and cheery, was deeply traumatized when it turns out his father Relius nonchalantly turned his sister Ada into a Nox Nyctores, a mechanical doll known as Nirvana... and it was incomplete, and he just left the incomplete Nirvana for Carl to finish. This event caused Carl to become extremely bitter to both the world and adults in general. Making matters worse, the next time he met Relius, he found out that Relius did the same to Carl's mom, Relius' wife, Ignis, and still with the same nonchalant attitude of For Science!.
  • Diablo III has Adria, in one of the cruelest betrayals of the entire series, revealing herself to be Diablo's high priestess before using the Black Soulstone, with all seven Great Evils inside, on her own daughter Leah, who she had for the sole purpose of using her as the vessel for Diablo's rebirth as the Prime Evil.
  • God of War II features Zeus betraying his son, Kratos out of fear that Kratos would kill him and usurp his throne as ruler of Olympus, taking into evidence Kratos' destructive behavior and scorn towards the gods out of their refusal to erase his nightmares about his slaughtered family. Zeus does this by taking some of Kratos' godly powers and putting them into the colossus of Rhodes, tricking Kratos into giving up his remaining powers to obtain the blade of Olympus, and then wounding and murdering Kratos. Of course, Kratos is healed and swears vengeance on Zeus, setting off a series of events where Kratos personally murders the vast majority of the Olympian gods and Titans over the course of this game and the next.
  • In Mass Effect, Wrex eventually explains that he was a leader of his people back on his homeworld following the Krogan Rebellions. He was advocating peace so that the Krogan could rebuild, but his father, Jarrod, was a rival warlord pushing for war. Wrex and Jarrod agreed to meet on neutral ground to discuss their differences. Being krogan, though, it could only end one way. Jarrod's troops managed to wipe out Wrex's followers, forcing him to leave the planet both for his own survival and because he was disgusted with his own species' self-destructive nature, but not before Wrex managed to kill his father for the betrayal.
  • My Lovely Daughter: Faust creates all of the homunculi, who address him as "daddy" and can grow very attached to him. But this attachment only goes one way; Faust doesn't even hesitate to kill any of them, seeing them as nothing more as a living resource from which he can harvest souls and affinities.
  • Silent Hill:
    • In the original Silent Hill, Dahlia Gillespie set her own daughter on fire, but magically kept her alive, to force the girl to use her magic powers for Dahlia's own sinister purposes. This is referenced in Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill: Origins.
    • In Silent Hill: Homecoming, the descendants of the town founders all killed their kids as a sacrifice, except for Alex's parents. They had intended to kill Alex, but complications arose, and Alex's dad went back on his "duty."

    Visual Novels 
  • Strongly hinted to be the case in Umineko: When They Cry with Battler's parents, Rudolf and Kyrie who take the chance when the gold is found and kill everyone except Battler and Eva.

    Western Animation 
  • Harley Quinn (2019): After seemingly reconciling with her parents, it goes straight out the window when it's revealed that they want to kill Harley for a $1 million bounty. Harley is so disgusted she doesn't even bother to kill them.
  • In The Legend of Korra, it turns out that Hiroshi Sato is an Equalist. The traditional "We Can Rule Together" spiel is given, but the child violently refuses. Culminates in an attempt at Offing the Offspring in the finale when Asami claims that Hiroshi doesn't love her late mother anymore since he's too full of hatred. Hiroshi declares that she's beyond "saving" and seriously tries to murder her. Bolin rightly calls Hiroshi a horrible father, and Asami agrees.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Gabriel Agreste isn't just a massive Control Freak; he's also an unknowing Archnemesis Dad to his son as Hawkmoth. When he does find out that Adrien is Chat Noir in one Bad Future, he's practically gleeful about exploiting his distress to akumatize him.