Sullivan: No! She's, uh...
Mike: She's his...brother's niece!
Sullivan: *Beat* Which makes her my daughter.
Characters may often claim that others are their relatives when they have no relation to them, often to justify a character spending time around them without looking suspicious, or to mention why a character has suddenly appeared in their lives. They may also invent an entirely fictitious relative to get something done, often disguising themselves as the relative.
Such excuses are generally not very believable and tend to rely on the listener not knowing enough about the subject or the so-called relative to be able to discredit it, but few characters even consider seeing through them. It's also possible that someone might see through it, but really don't want to call them on it. (Are YOU going to tell the vampire his "brother" does not look anything like him?)
Compare Blatant Lies, which is more general. May often lead to Undead Tax Exemption in a situation where paperwork would be required. May be a form of She Is Not My Girlfriend. Relative Error is an inversion, where another character mistakes two characters for family, which may occasionally turn into this trope instead if the characters in question decide Sure, Let's Go with That. My Grandson Myself is a related trope where an unaging or temporarily displaced character claims to be their own relative.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, after Hayate summons the Wolkenritter and wakes up in the hospital after fainting from shock, she tells her doctor that they are her foreign relatives who came to celebrate her birthday. This stops being a lie very quickly.
- In Death Note, Light introduces Matsuda (who is at that point going under an alias) as his cousin when investigating Aoyama and using some friends to prevent him from standing out.
- In the Bount arc of Bleach, Renji is thought to be Ichigo's cousin while attending his high school. In the Reigai arc, Nozomi claims to be Rukia's cousin— Rukia's been living at Ichigo's place long enough that the Kurosaki family takes Nozomi in with no further questions.
- After the end of K: Return of Kings, Adolf K. Weismann becomes a teacher at Ashinaka High School, and says this for Kuroh, Neko, and Tooru Hieda, the teenager whose body he was borrowing (unintentionally). The students in the school wonder why the German guy has so many Japanese relatives, but then they decide, "Who cares? They're all gorgeous!"
- In Subaru, she meets Priscilla Roberts and realizes she wants to watch her ballet troupe perform. Since Subaru doesn't recognize Priscilla as the star ballerina of the New York ballet, she tells her troupe that Priscilla is her aunt. Nobody believes her, as they do recognize Priscilla.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, when Negi uses some magic pills to age himself into a teenager, he identifies himself as his own cousin. Naturally, this creates a whole new set of problems when one of his students falls in love with his "cousin". Similarly, Kotaro is passed off as Natsumi's little brother to explain why he suddenly started living with her and her roommates.
- In Higurashi When They Cry, this is Rika's explanation for Hanyuu (as a cousin). Not too far off - she is related. Just her great grandmother from at a bare minimum eight generations back.
- To Love-Ru:
- Rito tells people Lala is a distant relative to excuse her Innocent Cohabitation. No one really pays any attention to this fact, seeing as she loudly declared that she was his bride, and it's not like she's subtle in her affections either, subverting the whole point of the lie.
- When Saruyama fell in love with "Riko", who's actually Rito turned into a girl, Lala claims they're relatives to explain their resemblance and how she found a random girl Saruyama saw in the street.
- In Superbook, a Bible character who met Chris and Joy when she was younger remarks about this, and they claim to be their own descendants, rather than explain that they have this book that sends them back to different points in Bible times.
- In the Beach Episode of Mayo Chiki!, the cast members who aren't in on Subaru's secret make an unexpected appearance and the main characters, in trying to deflect the question of why Subaru is in a bikini, introduce her as "Subaru's cousin Punyuru". Jirou immediately lampshades the ridiculousness of this explanation (or, at least, the name), but the others buy it anyway (well, most of them).
- In Haiyore! Nyarko-san, Mahiro's entire Unwanted Harem pretend to be related to him, despite not looking like him at all. They did this one by one, making it seem even less likely.
- Detective Conan: Shinichi excuses frequently hanging out with his friends and family in his Conan persona by claiming to be a distant relative to the Kudos. In this case, the relation is real, it's the "distant" part that's a lie.
- Tohru and Kanna from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid both masquerade as Kobayashi's cousins from overseas. Just like the horns, no one questions it.
- Ranma ˝: Ranma fears his mother Nodoka will make him commit Seppuku if she finds out about his Sex Shifter Jusenkyo curse. So, whenever Nodoka comes to the Tendo household, Ranma uses his female form to pose as a relative of the Tendo family named "Ranko". (Gendo, meanwhile, uses his panda form to pretend to be a family pet.)
- In Pre-Flashpoint DC Comics "Conner Kent" is Clark's cousin who is being raised by Martha and Jonathan following his own parents' deaths, and "Linda Lang" is Lana Lang's niece.
- Likewise when Clark and Lois Lane adopt Chris in Last Son, they claim that he's the son of Clark's cousin. Or... Lois' cousin? Dang it, where are those forged papers again?
- Superman might count as well - rather than the usual adoption route, current continuity has the Kents finding the baby, laying low for a while and then claiming Martha was pregnant but hadn't told anyone.
- In Silver Age story Adventure Comics #278, Supergirl goes back in time and she meets Pa and Ma Kent. As she remains in Smallville, she pretends to be Linda Kent, niece of Jonathan and Martha.
- In Spider-Man Peter and his clone, Ben Reilly, claim to be cousins with a Strong Family Resemblance. "Reilly" is Aunt May's maiden name.
- When the Runaways moved to Malibu and had to deal with neighbors, Xavin posed as their father. Even for a Super-Skrull, it was a stretch.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake moved in with Peter, May and Gwen for lack of anywhere else to live (Johnny had run away from the Fantastic Four and Bobby had been thrown out of his home by his parents for being a mutant). They both transferred into Peter's school (after an impromptu hair dye/buzz cut) as his cousins Johnny Parker and Bobby Parker.
- In Getting It Right, Rukia claims to be Orihime's cousin to explain why they've started living and going to school together. On the same day, Ichigo starts up the lie that he learned swordsmanship from an uncle that lives in town (actually Urahara). He probably only gets away with it because his "uncle" is never around.
- In The Second Try sequel Aki-chan's Life, Shinji and Asuka don't want to explain that Aki is their Kid from the Future yet, so they claim she's Asuka's four-year-old cousin... which prompts Aki to happily exclaim: "Yes, I'm Mama's cousin! Hey, what's a cousin?"
- Monsters, Inc.:
- When Mr. Waternoose finds the disguised Boo:
Waternoose: Ah, James. Is this one yours?
Sullivan: Ah, actually, that's, uh... my cousin's... sister's... daughter, sir.
Mike: Yeah. It's uh, "Bring An Obscure Relative To Work Day".
Waternoose: Hmm. Must have missed the memo.
- Also done rather humorously in a deleted scene:
Random Co-Worker: Hey, Sully, is the kid yours?
Sullivan: No! She's, uh...
Mike: She's his... brother's niece!
Sullivan: *Beat* Which makes her my daughter.
- When Mr. Waternoose finds the disguised Boo:
- In Aladdin, Aladdin saves Princess Jasmine from getting her hand cut off for accidental thievery by jumping in and claiming that his "sister" gets confused sometimes.
- Superman: The Movie (1978). After the Kents find baby Kal-El in the wreckage of the Kryptonian starship, Ma Kent suggests that they tell people that he's the recently orphaned child of her cousin in North Dakota.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day. John introduces the Terminator to Enrique as "Uncle Bob".
- In Back to the Future, Marty McFly introduces Doc Brown to his teenage mother as his "uncle."
- In Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Wendy tells everyone at school that Shen is her cousin.
- In Princess Protection Program Carter has to pretend that Rosie is her cousin.
- In Chicago, Roxie tells a neighbor that Fred Casely is her brother.
- In Kill Bill, the Bride tries to pass her ex-lover Bill off as her father when he unexpectedly shows up at her wedding. He smiles and plays along, but his reaction when asked to "give her away" suggests he sees like salt in the wound.
- Jumpin' Jack Flash. A (white) woman is trying to sneak Whoopi Goldberg's character into an embassy party, and claims she's her sister, getting some odd looks until she quickly adds, "By marriage."
- In Rush Hour, Carter goes to a Chinese restaurant where the criminal mastermind Juntao is supposed to be holed up. When confronted by Juntao's people, he claims that he's Juntao's half-brother. Carter is black. Juntao is an Evil Brit.
Carter: I'm Blackanese!
- In My Favorite Martian, Tim tries to tell his neighbour that his "guest" is in fact a Martian but she mishears it as "Martin" which the alien capitalizes on, interrupting a string of "Uhs" for uncle, thus getting the alias Uncle Martin.
- In A Brother's Price this seems to be a somewhat common method for criminals or outcasts to become respectable members of society: a group of women pretends to be sisters. This is easier than in other settings, as women who cannot afford a husband will visit a prostitute, yet all offspring of a generation of sisters will be considered siblings, not cousins, even if the fathers are different. Once a shared husband has been brought into the family, the next generation will have enough family likeness that no one questions their claims. (As it is not deemed proper to share a husband with strangers, pretending to be sisters is a necessity - a commoner would never be able to afford a husband on her own, and doing so is unheard of even among royalty, probably due to men being so rare - snatching a man all for oneself would be viewed as extremely selfish.)
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaire orphans' guardians relationship to them is very questionable. For example, the villain Count Olaf is a very distant relative, who gains custody because he is closest by location. It's possible, but not stated, that some of the characters who claimed to be weren't really related to the orphans.
- In Dragon Bones, when the family "ghost" (it is more complicated) Oreg has to become visible to everyone as he's going to accompany Ward on a journey, Ward claims that he's a cousin. It works pretty well, as Oreg has the typical eyes of the family, being the illegitimate son of a very, very, very distant ancestor, and everyone assumes he's one of the many bastard sons of Ward's later father, who are also euphemistically called "cousins". And no one would be able to guess the truth, anyway.
- In Breaking Dawn, Edward tells Bella's father that Renesme is his niece that they're adopting. The kid is obviously their own, as she looks like Edward with Bella's eyes, but Charlie goes along with it because he doesn't want to know how they conceived and had a toddler within one month.
- In The Last Unicorn, Schmendrick tells King Haggard that the Lady Amalthea is his niece. Haggard doesn't believe him, but he doesn't really care.
- Ax is introduced as Jake's "cousin Phillip" when he tries to visit their school in Animorphs, though to be fair, his disguise does include DNA from Jake and his actual cousin. They don't seem to think about the fact that Jake's brother and their school's vice principal are both enslaved by the mind-controlling aliens the Animorphs are fighting and could tear this story apart if they were to encounter "Phillip" ... Though this could be justified in that Jake's brother doesn't seem to go to their school and the vice principal presumably doesn't have every student's family tree memorized.
"Don't listen to them, Tommy. Your face is just fine! It's just fine, I tell you! The doctors say someday you may be normal again."
- In another book somebody walks into a restaurant bathroom when Marco is halfway between human and bird form. Jake quickly throws a sweatshirt over him and claims to be helping his baby brother use the bathroom. When one of the onlookers comments on Marco's obviously bizarre appearance Jake just acts offended.
- Marco thens feeds Jake his lines via thought-speak, such as the name of the disease (beakanoma), its effects (a growth in the shape of a beak) and why it's so tragic (it only affects the particularly young and handsome). For some reason, Jake doesn't relay that last one.
- In Les Misérables, Fauchelevent gets the convent to hire Jean Valjean as assistant gardener by claiming that they are brothers.
- Inverted in The Dresden Files. Harry actually is related to Thomas Raith, as his half brother, but that truth can't get out or there'll be dire consequences for pretty much everyone involved. So instead, when they have to meet up, they pretend to be gay.
- Even more hilariously? It's worked.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry pretends to be Ron's cousin at Bill's wedding by taking Polyjuice Potion imbued with some hair from a redheaded neighbor. It works pretty well though—one of Ron's drunk uncles actually seems confused whether or not Harry is his son. Interestingly, Luna instantly recognizes him from his body language.
- In the same book the Ministry becomes A Nazi by Any Other Name, forcing Muggle-borns to go into hiding or fake a new family tree. Ron suggests teaching Hermione enough about his family to pass her off as some sort of cousin.
- In The Hunger Games, Katniss claims that Gale is her cousin. It doesn't seem to fool President Snow!
- In The Moving Finger, the narrator and his sister actually are brother and sister living in the same house, but an anonymous letter accuses them of having an affair using this excuse (it doesn't help that their parents look very different and each sibling takes after their father/mother respectively).
- Averted in the Books of the Raksura. When the court of Indigo Cloud has to send an embassy to a potentially hostile court in the second book, protagonist Moon has to go along because he's their only consort, even though his lack of known relatives could embarrass them. He suggests claiming to be from Sky Copper—an allied court that was recently wiped out except for three young children, who could be coached to back up his claims. However, the plan is vetoed for being too risky.
- In Number the Stars, Annemarie's family must temporarily shelter her Jewish friend Ellen. When the Nazis show up, they claim that Ellen is Lise, their eldest daughter (a Posthumous Character who was already an adult when she died). The Nazis show obvious suspicion of this dark-haired girl in an otherwise blond family, but thankfully the real Lise had dark hair as a baby, so they have a photograph to offer as proof.
- In the Our Miss Brooks episode "Connie and Bonnie", Miss Brooks impersonates her non-existent twin sister so as to earn extra money moonlighting as a waitress.
- In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles they pretended Cameron was John's sister.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Better Than Life", when Arnold Rimmer meets Napoleon: "Could you just sign this for me. Make it out to my good pal Arnie from your dear chum Napoleon Bonaparte. It's not for me, it's for my sister Alison. ...we call her Arnie."
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Rascals", Picard pretends Riker is his father (after having been turned into a child in a transporter accident), so the Ferengi who've captured the Enterprise won't think it's weird that they're spending time together.
FRED: Um, hi. Um, yes. I'm looking for a patient — a man. He was brought in Thursday, named Stover.NURSE: Are you a family member?FRED: Am I—? Yes. I have a family. I'm a member. He's my brother. Father. My father's brother.NURSE: (looking at the computer) I have a Stoller.FRED: Half-brother. Uncle. Half-uncle.
- He once claimed that Cordelia was "family" to get into the hospital after she had a psychotic breakdown. This was also played as him seeing her as family despite not being related.
- Played for Laughs when Fred wants to talk to a witness.
- In That '70s Show, the gay couple who move in next door to the Foreman's mention that in their last place they lived they had to claim to be brothers. (Doubles as Actor Allusion since the gay couple is played by Barry Williams and Christopher Knight, aka Greg & Peter Brady from The Brady Bunch.)
- The Big Bang Theory: In "The Loobenfeld Decay", Sheldon invents a drug addicted cousin as an excuse to avoid attending a show of Penny's. This spirals out of control and Sheldon ends up employing a lab assistant to play his cousin Leo.
- The Sentinel, Jim pretends that Blair is 'his cousin's kid' to get him an Observer's pass.
- When Barry Allen visited Supergirl, Kara, Winn, and James all quickly yet awkwardly tell Cat he's "my cousin." While Cat probably knows enough about Kara and Winn's families to figure out they're lying, the winner has to be James, a black man. Barry is more confused than Cat and clarifies that he's not anybody's cousin.
- Inverted tn the Faerie Tale Theatre version of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp: the "Evil Moroccan Magician" that convinces Aladdin to delve into the cave and retrieve the lamp does so by pretending to be Aladdin's long lost Uncle. Aladdin's mother calls him on it, stating that her deceased husband never mentioned having a brother, but the magician plays it off.
- The Bible has Abraham withhold the fact that Sara is his wife, and just saying that she's his sister in Egypt and Gerar (which is in his case, only bending the truth, as she is also his father's daughter), because he fears he would get killed out of jealousy by the king. When his son, Isaac, says the same thing about his wife Rebekah, however, she's actually his second cousinnote .
- In RENT the lesbian couple claim to be sisters on occasion. Keep in mind that they are of different races. And that it once happened immediately after they made out. ("We're close.")
- In The Yeomen of the Guard, when Fairfax is masquerading as Leonard Meryll, Wilfred presents Phoebe as his long-lost sister, telling him to watch over her faithfully, with particular attention to her need for "indiscriminate caress." Fairfax repeatedly kisses his alleged sister in the ensuing ensemble.
- The 1919 Broadway musical Apple Blossoms had a song about this excuse titled "Brothers."
- In The Rose Tattoo, when Miss Yorke refers to Rosa's boyfriend Jack as a sailor who attended the High-School Dance with his sister, Serafina bursts out: "'Attended with sister!'—Attended with sister!—My daughter, she's nobody's sister!" It's literally true that Jack went to the dance with his own sister, though he wound up dancing rather closely with Rosa.
- The Adding Machine:
Mrs. Six: But who was the charming lady, Mr. One?
One: Now don't you go makin' trouble for me. That was my sister.
Mrs. Five: Oho! That's what they all say.
- Played with in Iolanthe. Strephon is Mistaken for Cheating by Phyllis when she spies him consorting with Iolanthe. All Strephon has to offer in defense of himself is that Iolanthe is his mother. This happens to be true, but everyone laughs at the suggestion because, due to being a fairy, she looks eight years younger than him.
- In "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" from The Pajama Game, Mabel describes to Hines a scenario in which he catches Gladys with a sailor in her apartment:
Mabel: Then, to boot, she tells you she was in the arms of her cousin who's back from overseas.
Hines (indignant): Her cousin? Back from overseas? Do you expect me to believe—
Mabel (reprovingly) Hinesie!
- In Sluggy Freelance, Torg claims that Sasha is his sister to prevent Oasis from killing her out of jealousy.
- In one PvP strip, Francis disguises himself as an old man who is returning a game for his (non-existent) grandson, and exchanges it for a copy of the same game. He then comes back as himself to return the unopened game for a full refund.
- El Goonish Shive: Ellen is Elliot's magically created Opposite-Sex Clone. She adopted the cover identity of being Elliot's twin sister, who had been in foster care most of her life.
- On Danny Phantom, Dani claims to be Danny's second-cousin some-odd-times removed, when she is actually a younger Opposite-Sex Clone. The two refer to each other as "cousins" afterward, apparently just for simplicity's sake.
- Played with in one episode of Futurama, when Fry tries to deflect attention from what the Professor is saying by claiming that "Grandpa" is a bit senile. The Professor then angrily points out that he's not Fry's grandfather, Fry is actually his great-great-etc.-uncle from a thousand years in the past...which of course, just makes Fry's lie seem more accurate.
- One episode of King of the Hill has the desperately-lonely Bill invent a visiting uncle just as an excuse to go with his friends to the airport.
- American Dad!
- In the two-parter where the family goes to Saudi Arabia, Haley is going to be arrested for being outside her home without a man when a random Saudi man comes forward and claims to be her brother. Possibly based on the Aladdin example above, especially since he winds up being her Boy of the Week.
- Some of Roger's personas are often said to be a relative of the Smiths usually a cousin.
- In Code Lyoko, after Aelita is retrieved from the virtual world, she had no known family or history that can be freely divulged without breaking the masquerade. To deal with this, the crew passed her off as Odd's cousin. She also had a Fake-Out Make-Out with Odd in a later episode, but the issue was never addressed beyond that.
- In Sym-Bionic Titan, Lance and Alana pretend to be brother and sister and that Octus is their father. Octus' other persona, a teenage student named Newton, is apparently presented as some other relative, as no one questions him only ever being at the same house outside school.
- Hey Arnold!: When Mr. Hyunh thinks he needs a family to get a job promotion, he tricks his boss into thinking Granpa Phil is his dad, Arnold is his son, Oskar's wife Suzie is his wife and the rest of the people living in the border house are related to him (even though Hyunh is the only one of them that's Asian, and there's no mention of adoption). Of course, it doesn't work in the end and proves unnecessary.
- In the Ugly Americans episode "Attack of Mark's Clone", Grimes finds Mark trapped in his closet, only to have Clone Mark (who had imprisoned him there and taken his place) walk in. Clone Mark briefly and very unconvincingly tries to claim Mark is his brother "who lives in the closet" but quickly gives up and shoots Grimes in the leg.
- Young Justice:
- Green Arrow claims that Artemis is his niece to justify her being his new protege. She actually just wanted to hide the fact that her real family are all villains. Red Arrow figures it out right away (he was, after all, Green Arrow's foster son), and a few other Team members figure it out before she reveals the truth.
- On a mission with Haley's Circus the Team claims to be a family of performers; someone lampshades the fact that they don't look alike.
- Played with: Red Arrow and Guardian claim to be nephew and uncle. In reality they're both clones of Speedy, but don't realize it themselves.
- In the tie-in comic Marie Logan introduces M'Gann as her daughter. It seems quite plausible, since M'Gann's human disguise is based on what Marie looked like as a teenager.
- Carl Squared: In "Clone Scene Investigation," Lorna catches Carl and C2 (Carl's clone) together. To make certain the secret doesn't get out, Carl says he has an identical cousin.
- On an episode of Doug the eponymous character is hoping his crush Patty will ask him to the Bumpkin Day Hoedown. However, Connie asks him out instead, and it doesn't help that at this point, anyway, Connie is plain and pudgy. So Doug tells her he can't go to the dance because he has to take care of his sick cousin Melvin. These being his friends, of course, they believe him and decide to go bring flowers and comics to "Melvin," so he has his sister Judy climb into bed and fake the part. (And of course, Judy spontaneously decides that "Melvin" has a miraculously recovery and wants to go to the dance too.)