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Pursuing Parental Perils

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Adonis: I ain't got a choice.
Rocky: That's the same thing your father said, and he died right here in my hands.

A plot in which the hero has passion for something that one or both of his parents died doing. The reason behind this is usually that either the activity is a family tradition, or the child feels like he can emotionally connect to the parents by doing it. Typically, the surviving parent or guardian will forbid the child from doing this. Occasionally, the child doesn't even know how his parent died, and the secret adds another layer of drama.

Preventing this is the motive behind Turn Out Like His Father and a common one behind avoiding Tell Me About My Father.

Subtrope to Following in Relative's Footsteps, which is about someone who simply wants to take up the same job as a parent or other relative.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Nozomi from Elfen Lied wanted to sing like her mother. Her father violently opposed this idea. We find out that the primary reason for this is that Nozomi inherited from her mother a defect in her vocal cords that would give out under strain if she continued singing. Her mother lost her voice and ultimately committed suicide due to this.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has this with Negi wanting to become a Magister Magi like his father, and, like his father, ends up becoming a world-saving action hero in the process. Only time will tell if he starts picking up on his mother's rolenote  after things cool down.
  • Bleach: In keeping with his family's tradition, Uryuu has doggedly pursued becoming a Quincy, against his father's wishes, even visiting his grandfather behind his father's back to learn more. Ryuuken never explains his objection to Uryuu and, aside from hinting a Declaration of Protection is involved, Souken also refuses to tell Uryuu the reason. Uryuu finally walks out on his father sometime after Souken is killed by the hollows Quincies fight against. It turns out that Uryuu's mother and Ichigo's mother (who was Ryuuken's cousin) were killed by the Quincy King and that he also tried to kill the (then) eight-year old Uryuu. Uryuu mysteriously survived and now the Quincy King wants control over Uryuu's power. It seems Ryuuken did have a lot to worry about, after all.
  • Several characters from Lyrical Nanoha end up pursuing careers in the military after the death of their parents, namely Chrono Harlaown, Ginga Nakajima, and Teana Lanster (though in her case it was "Persuing Older Sibling Perils" with a dash of My Sibling Will Live Through Me). Subverted by Ginga's younger sister Subaru, who was inspired by Nanoha rescuing her as a child rather than her mother's death.
  • Played with in Pokémon: The Series. According to Pokémon: The Birth of Mewtwo, Jessie's mom Miyamoto was a high-ranking Team Rocket member. She, however, went missing 20 years ago and hasn't been seen since. For whatever reason, Jessie joined Team Rocket herself as an adult. Miyamoto however isn't dead. She's presumed dead.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Lantern: Hal Jordan continues in his dream of being a pilot years after his father died doing it, even though his mother disowned him for it.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Dark Side of Innocence. Lana's mother disowned her because she followed her deceased father's footsteps and joined Team Rocket. Lana too ends up dying due to a Team Rocket related incident.
  • Son of the Sannin:
    • Naruto's dream of becoming Hokage is set in motion during his childhood when he's informed of who his biological parents were, with part of his motivation being to follow in his late father's footsteps.
    • Lee briefly mentions to Sakura during her endurance training that he was told his parents died protecting him on the night of the Kyubi attack, and his drive for becoming a skilled ninja is fueled by wanting to protect others just like they protected him (well, that and make Gai proud of him).
  • In Troll Cops, Sollux's father was a proud member of the Alternia City Police Department who was gunned down in a botched robbery when Sollux was 7.

    Film — Animation 
  • In The Book of Life, Joaquin's whole life is built around honoring the legacy of his father, who was a great soldier who died in battle. At the end, he decides it's time to step out of his father's shadow and be his own man, and act like a real hero.
  • In The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, Ariel's mother was revealed to have died while visiting the surface.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Black Panther (2018) has a villainous version of this where Killmonger, Erik Stevens aka N'Jaka, continues his father's work after discovering his father's death.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy's father died on the path to becoming a Kingsman, and his mother wanted him to give up the Marines for this reason. Nevertheless, Eggsy is intent on his Kingsman training, and joins in the end.
  • Disney Channel released two Disney Channel Original Movies with this plot in the same year: Rip Girls, with surfing, and Ready to Run, with horse racing.
  • In the alternate-universe Star Trek (2009), George Kirk is killed in battle while fighting to save his wife and newborn son. 22 years later, however, said son (James T. Kirk) has no interest in Starfleet until Captain Pike dares him to be even better than his father. He takes that dare, and ends up fulfilling it.
  • In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker learns that his father was a Jedi Knight who was murdered by Darth Vader. He later tells Obi-Wan Kenobi, "I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father." At the time, he is unaware of what actually became of said father.
  • Parodied in Superstar, where the parents were stomped to death while dancing.
  • Top Gun: Maverick's father was a fighter pilot who died in combat, supposedly by screwing up, and that always made Maverick feel he had to be better than everyone else.
  • TRON: Legacy can be stretched a bit to fit this. Sam doesn't know why his father disappeared, but he knows what his passion and goal was, and seeks to kick Encom periodically for not following them. Resentment against his father for abandoning him is all that holds him back from doing more. When those issues are resolved, he becomes much more activist about it.

  • The "Drina" ballet-book series is about a young girl who wants to be a ballet dancer, but is prevented by her grandmother. She discovers that her mother was a world-class ballerina until both parents died in a plane crash on their way to a performance.
  • James Ramsey Ullman's book Banner in the Sky is about a young man who dreams of being a mountain guide and climbing a mountain called "The Citadel", even though his father died trying to reach the top. His mother and uncle attempt to keep him off the mountain.
  • Samantha, the Victorian-Era American Girl, had a desire to visit the island her parents died sailing back from, just to see what it was like. She also got caught in a storm with her friends while sailing back, but managed to survive.
  • Harry Potter takes up fighting dark wizards, just like his parents. In particular, the Dark Wizard who killed his parents. Not that he got much choice in the matter.
  • Comes up a few times in Speaker for the Dead, with several generations of scientists studying the culture of the Pequenino aliens (and dying horribly and mysteriously at their hands) as well as the microbiologist studying the super-virus that permeates the local ecosystem (whose mother and father died developing the initial viral-blocker that saved the colony when she was a child).
  • The Discworld novel Raising Steam opens on Dick Simnel tinkering with the rudimentary steam engines that turned his father Ned into a superheated red mist. Having a much sounder grasp of math and engineering than Ned, Dick refines the concept into the Discworld's first railway company.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There's a Quantum Leap where Sam has to save a trapeze artist who will die doing the same stunt that killed her mother.
  • JAG: Harm's dad was a U.S. military pilot, who went MIA over Vietnam.
  • Pushing Daisies: Ned's mother died while baking a pie. While at boarding school, he began baking pies to reconnect to his mother. As an adult, he opens up a pie bakery, The Pie Hole.
  • In Lucifer, Chloe Decker's father was a cop, shot during a robbery-gone-wrong (he was actually targeted in a hit). Chloe ended up becoming a cop anyway, after a brief career as an actress (which was following in her mother's footsteps).
  • Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation wanted to be a Starfleet officer like his late father (who died under Captain Picard's command). Though in the last season it's clear he no longer sees that as his path and gives it up to become a Traveler.

    Video Games 
  • Yuna does this in Final Fantasy X by becoming a summoner. Her dad was the previous High Summoner: a summoner who managed to defeat Sin. Of note is that all previous High Summoners have died and Sin can revive itself after being killed (due to the method used to defeat Sin), so Yuna is prepared to sacrifice her life just to bring about a temporary peace.
  • To Laharl from Disgaea, being an Overlord, like his father, is the aspiration he burns the most for. He sets out to make an even greater legacy than his old man.
  • We learn in the intro to Stage 7 of Parappa The Rapper 2 that Beard Burger Master became so obsessed with burgers and their research that he would compel his son Colonel Noodle to eat burgers daily along with everyone else, including Noodle's mother, who became so obsessed with burgers that she turned into one. Even worse was that Noodle had become destined to become a burger shop owner like his dad from the day he was born. We're assuming that Beard Burger Master died being obsessed with burger research, and after Noodle ate some pasta and noodles because he loved noodles more than burgers, he decided to start on noodle research and do to the citizens of Parappa Town what his burger-obsessed father did to him years ago: compel them to eat noodles daily until the day he would die, which is very dangerous indeed!
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Grünfeld Bach comes from a long line of Church Militant Vampire Hunters; he despises all monsters but especially has it out for LaCroix, the vampire who killed his father and grandfather.
  • Monster Girl Quest! Paradox RPG has Luka set out to be a hero like his missing father, and his main goal is actually to find his father. Along the way, he gets involved in all kinds of conflicts, including one involving the very fate of the multiverse.

    Web Original 
  • Ruby in RWBY aspires to be a huntress like her parents, especially her deceased mother who was a full-time huntress, compared to her dad who was a teacher. She wants to help people and sees it as a more glamorous option than being a policewoman. Roman points out hunters tend to have a short life expectancy, but that never deters Ruby.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Mock 5", which is a parody of Speed Racer, Dad initially is loath to allow Dexter to participate in a car race because Dexter's sister died in a car race accident years ago. (She's actually alive, but she always happens to be standing behind Dad, who is too lazy to turn around.)
    Dad: Dee Dee! You're alive! Where have you been all this time?!
    Dee Dee: Right behind you.
    Dad: You know I never look there!

    Real Life 
  • Irene Curie discovered artificial radioactivity when her mom died of cancer from radium (her father died from a carriage accident).
  • Bindi and Robert Irwin. For years, Robert begged their mom to let him feed the crocs at Australia Zoo; it became a present for his tenth birthday.
  • Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve (father Gilles killed in qualifying, 1982)
  • Wrestler Ted DiBiase's adoptive father died of a heart attack in the ring. (His mother also wrestled.)
  • Henry Tingle Wilde was chief officer on the Titanic and died in the shipwreck. His son, Henry Owen Wilde, joined the Navy and served in WW2 (he survived).