It's a cliché (and Truth in Television) that when a parent finds that their child's goldfish or other beloved pet has died, they'll try to replace it with a new one and pretend the original pet never died. The Replacement Goldfish trope is when a character follows this line of thinking to fill in the emotional void of a loss they've suffered.
In realistic settings, this could be an orphan taken in by a parent who has recently lost a child (to death, relocation, etc). In a sci-fi setting, the typical trope is the lonely scientist who creates a robot, android, artificial intelligence, clone in the image of the deceased. Often it's a Robot Girl or Robotic Spouse, or Robot Kid in the case of a dead child.
If the new "goldfish" is unlucky, they constantly live in the shadow of the dead person and feel they can't measure up, which can also be the secret disappointment of the Mad Scientist. If unwary visitors are unlucky, the Living Doll Collector will try to use them as parts or playmates for their replacement in The Doll Episode. If this is combined with Clone by Conversion (ie. turning someone else into the person they lost), we are definitely heading into Mad Scientist territory.
The Motherly Scientist is someone who legitimately loves the new creation for themselves; either as the original creator or surrogate.
When a lonely scientist fills the void by cloning himself, he is a Truly Single Parent.
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- In Gold Tree And Silver Tree, Gold-Tree is poisoned by her evil mother and presumed dead. Her husband is devastated, but moves on and marries another princess. (Notably, the usual revival method never occurs to the prince.) However, the second princess finds the dead/sleeping Gold-Tree and revives her. While the Prince is happy to be reunited with Gold-Tree, he assures the second princess that she is still his wife as well, and all three of them go on to live Happily Ever After.
- In Mary and Max, Max gets a new goldfish after each of his previous ones dies, each new goldfish being named "Henry (Roman Numeral)". There's a montage that shows the passing of several Henrys.
- Dr. Finkelstein does this twice in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The first is Sally, who proves very undesirable, rebellious and disobedient. Exasperated, Dr. Finkelstein gives her freedom and makes a female robot who uses half of his own brain. It's also worth pointing out that this was Sally's suggestion.
Dr. Finkelstein: Think of the conversations we'll have, my dear.
- In Disney's Tarzan, the titular character was adopted by Kala who recently lost her baby to Sabor. Kala and Kerchak did agree that Tarzan "could never replace the one [they] lost."
- Averted in Charlotte's Web. It's stated that while Charlotte's daughters do become Wilbur's new friends and help soothe the pain of her death, they can't replace her.
- In Toy Story 3, when Lotso returns to the little girl who accidentally left him behind at a picnic trip, he is shocked to discover that her parents bought her an identical Lots-O'-Huggin' bear.
- Due to Elsa's apparent abandonment of her sister in Frozen, Anna seeks to fill the void left behind by her and find someone who truly loved her. And she found one in the form of Hans whom promised to her that he won't shut her out and afterwards, she immediately agreed to marry him after getting to know each other for a while. Unfortunately, it is later revealed that said man only used her for his own goals and when her usefulness is up, he callously abandons her to die. But then later she gets informed that there is someone who actually loved her and that is Kristoff whom Anna just realized.
- In the first Monica's Gang films, one of the stories involves Monica, who is dressed as a mouse for Franklin's costume party, getting hit by his shrinking ray and saving several mice from a group of hungry and apparently malevolent cats. One of the mice ends up falling for her, but when he kisses her, she grows back to her usual size and is escorted back to the party by Maggy. After an extended sequence in which he silently mopes about losing her, he saves a female mouse who looks remarkably similar to Monica, complete with a red dress, from a mouse trap, she kisses him, and they prance into the sunset together, as the live-action Mauricio de Sousa watches them from nearby. The entire final part can be found here.
- In the animated movie Starchaser: The Legend of Orin the original love interest is strangled in front of the hero but no worries, in his adventures he'll soon find a princess on another planet to fall instantly in love with, voiced by the same actress.
- One joke lampshades the use of this trope in science fiction:
"I saw a movie today."
"What was it about?"
"Oh, you know, the same old story. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy builds new girl."
- Ron White of Blue Collar Comedy makes reference to this when his girlfriend's dog died, but after she proved inconsolable he took her to a pet store and she found a new dog to love. Then...
"A few weeks ago her father passed away, and I'm thinking "I think I see a way out of this." We get in the car, and she doesn't know we're going to the old folks home..."
- The song "Silver Bride" by the folk metal band Amorphis is about a widower who creates a woman of gold and silver to serve as this. It was inspired by a passage from The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic that has inspired much of Amorphis' work.
- In The Protomen's Rock Opera, Mega Man is a goldfish for the fallen Proto Man. In a way, Proto Man could be seen as a variation — the son Dr Light never had, since Wily murdered his girlfriend.
"They call you hero. I call you my son."
- As well as one for Sniper Joe.
- The Megas version of Protoman also sees Megaman as this.
- Alson in The Megas Doctor Lights' song is about how Megaman is the Replacement Goldfish for the son he never had. Unlike most example the song has Doctor Light loving him unconditionally and is scared to death that he has to send out his son to fight Doctor Wily, as he's the only one that can do so.
- The title character of the Voltaire song "The Mechanical Girl" was created by a tinker who had lost his daughter and made her to be a new one. Although Voltaire takes pains to avert this trope; the tinker is specifically making himself a new daughter, not a clone of the former one:
...his daughter passed away that summer
and though he knew he could not replace her
he missed his family
- A Biblical example: early in the Book of Job, Job has great worldly wealth, respect and honor, and ten wonderful children. Then, Satan kills off all seven of his sons and three of his daughters. At the end of the Book of Job, Job marries again and sires a replacement seven sons and three daughters, and said daughters are specifically stated to be the most beautiful in the land.
- In The Kalevala, mythical master smith Ilmarinen is widowed and, in his loneliness, searches for a new wife. No maiden accepts him, fearing to meet the fate of his dead wife. Having forged the sky and the miracle machine Sampo, he decides to make himself a perfect wife from silver and gold. It turns out badly, as the new wife says nothing, feels nothing, and is as cold as a stone. In the end, disappointed Ilmarinen pushed her back into the forge, destroying her.
- In Exalted, the Celestial Exalted get reborn after they die. The Exalted part goes on into a new person, retaining some small bits of its memories and personality traits, while the human part dies. Most new Exalts are treated by their peers that remember their previous lives as being the same person, even though they are not and have personalities of their own. (Swan was Desus, Contentious Sword etc)
- In the storyline for the Magic: The Gathering set Planeshift, Yawgmoth (the Big Bad) grants Crovax (the Dragon) a Replacement Goldfish for his lost love, Selenia. Later Crovax lures Gerrard (the main protagonist) to the dark side with false promises of a Replacement Goldfish of his own, though Gerrard sees through the ruse in time. It is unclear whether Crovax realizes that his Selenia Mark II is not the genuine article.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In 4th Edition, there is an Epic Destiny called "Hordemaster". As one of its features, you gain a number of followers that, upon your death, take up your mantle until such a time you can be resurrected. Conveniently, your replacement is mechanically identical to you, but your party might not be so warm to him/her.
- In the Forgotten Realms setting, the mad Beholder crime lord Xanathar loves only two things and two things alone — himself (par for the course for Beholders) and his pet goldfish, Sylgar. If anything happens to Sylgar, bad things happen to his underlings. Therefore, if Sylgar ever ends up dead, his cronies go behind his back, procure a new goldfish (or even another type of fish if they're really in a pinch) put it in the bowl, and pretend it's Sylgar. It's been implied in the fluff that this has happened multiple times in the past (which, given how long goldfish in real life tend to live, is possibly a near-weekly occurrence and a well-honed survival skill among the Xanathar guild...). In at least one adventure, it's said that even relatively low-level adventurers have a chance of surviving an encounter with Xanathar, if they can manage to hold Sylgar hostage...
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Angron may have pulled this on an entire Legion of Space Marines. One of the Emperor's Primarchs, Angron landed on a world where slave gladiators were the heart of the entertainment industry. Taken as a slave, he received the same cranial implants as the rest of them: the Butcher's Nails, a literal, if permanently on, Berserk Button. When the Emperor reached his homeworld, Angron was in the midst of leading a slave revolt, and refused to leave his "Eaters of Cities", even though certain death awaited in the next battle. The Emperor teleported him away just before the battle and threw him into command of the War Hounds Legion while half-mad with grief, leading to the deaths of several members of the Legion before one managed to get through to Angron and convince him to accept them...but with a name change to "Eaters of Worlds" (World Eaters to outsiders), and the Butcher's Nails implanted across the Legion.
- Fulgrim and Ferrus Manus were once close friends due to their shared perfectionism. When Fulgrim defected to Chaos, he tried to convince Ferrus to join him. This failed, and Fulgrim ended up killing Ferrus in a duel. Fulgrim hasn't given up on having Ferrus Manus by his side — he has tasked Fabius Bile with creating a clone of Ferrus who will be willing to join Chaos. Each time Fabius does this, the clone refuses to join Chaos, which leads to Fulgrim killing the clone and blaming Fabius for making the clone "wrong".
- Two examples in Love Never Dies:
- The Phantom uses Meg Giry as a poor-man's Christine after he leaves Paris for New York (the lampshading of which causes an enraged Meg to kill the real Christine.)
- The Phantom builds a full fledged Christine robot. Yes, really.
- Heavily implied in Romeo and Juliet:
- The nurse speaks about how she lost her daughter, who was Juliet's age (she nursed them both), and she treats Juliet as her daughter instead. (Besides that, her husband is also dead. This probably explains why she's still living with the Capulets after all these years—she lost her family, and she adopted a new one.)
- Tybalt's parents are never shown, and he seems to be very close to his cousin's family, even fiercely self-identifying as a Capulet, although Lady Capulet claims he's "her brother's child" so, technically, he wouldn't take the Capulet name, being related to Lord Capulet only by marriage.note The family's grief at his death is so strong that modern adaptations, like West Side Story, often go right ahead and make him Juliet's brother. It's been suggested that Tybalt's parents are dead, and that he considers his aunt and uncle to be his parents. Lord and Lady Capulet are said to have lost many children besides Juliet, including (probably) sons, which might make this a two-way Replacement Goldfish.
- Lady Capulet is herself only 26. She might be a Replacement Goldfish for her much-older husband's first wife.
- In the Offenbach opera Tales of Hoffmann, Dr. Coppelius makes a clockwork image of his dead daughter, whom he passes off as the original. Hoffmann falls in love with her and this makes the clockwork go haywire.
- Invoked unsuccessfully in Pippin: when Pippin is trying to cheer up Theo after his duck gets sick and dies, he brings him a lamb (or, in one production, a puppy). Theo takes one look at it, says, "That's not a duck, dummy!" and runs off.
- In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni made MechaMew2 to replace Mewtwo, who escaped from him.
- Little Eyolf, Asta Allmers is considered this by Rita and Alfred after the death of the eponymous character (their son). The fact that Alfred and Asta grew up as siblings and he repeatedly treated her like a brother and called her "Eyolf" doesn´t help - and Asta is pretty creeped out when both Rita and Alfred clings to her for support. She takes another option and leaves quickly.
- Inadvertently done in Miss Saigon towards the end of the show's first Broadway run. The role of Ellen (the woman the male lead Chris marries after returning from the Vietnam War) was cast with an Asian woman instead of the usual Caucasian blonde/redhead. Suddenly, it seemed very likely that Chris married Ellen not to get on with his life, but because she reminded him of his lost love Kim.
- In One Touch of Venus, Rodney Hatch is promised by Venus (his divine Magical Girlfriend) he'll never be lonely for the rest of his life, but being the 1940s housewife he sees her as doesn't appeal to her. So she goes back to her ancient homeland without saying goodbye. He's wondering about her promise when he suddenly meets a Country Mouse with a familiar face (since she's played by the same actress) who's willing to settle in the suburbs with him.
- As a method of apologizing to his roommate Rod for having an Incompatible Orientation, Nicky in Avenue Q finds a boyfriend for Rod. Ricky, who other than being muscle-bound, is an exact copy of Nicky. Rod is thrilled.
- In The Rose Tattoo, Serafina notices that Alvaro, aside from his face, has a body like that of her late husband Rosario. She is startled again when Alvaro mentions that the truck he drives has bananas in it, though it's an 8-ton truck, not a 10-ton truck like the one Rosario drove, and it's just bananas. When Serafina tells Alvaro that Rosario had a rose tattoo on his chest, Alvaro gets one for himself, and puts rose oil in his hair to make the resemblance almost complete.
- In Little Busters!, whenever Komari witnesses blood or death, her repressed memories of her dead brother come out and force her into a Heroic BSoD. The only way she can wrench herself out of that state is to pretend that some kind of appropriate nearby person is actually her brother and act like nothing is wrong as a Stepford Smiler until she can push her negative feelings back down enough again. In the good end Riki manages to break her out of the cycle and force her to accept reality, but in the bad end he agrees to pretend to be her brother and they stay that way.
- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: In chapter three the students find a laptop containing the program Alter Ego. It was built by Fujisaki, who was murdered in the previous chapter, and looks just like him. It also serves as a replacement for Owada after Alter Ego creates a simulation of him to cheer Ishimaru up
- In the spinoff game Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls it appears Monaca is trying to turn herself into one for Junko Enoshima. Albeit the original plan was to corrupt Komaru.
- In To the Moon it is revealed that Johnny once had a twin brother called Joey, who was their mother's favorite son, however Joey was killed when his mother accidentally ran over him, and after that Johnny became this trope in his mother's mind, going as far as Johnny adopting Joey's tastes, his mother always calling him "Joey", and even she making him take beta blockers which caused Johnny to forget everything about Joey.
- It's revealed in Zero Time Dilemma that this was the reason Sigma created Luna before the events of Virtue's Last Reward. His wife Diana died to a circulatory illness gained from the moon's weak gravity about three years into the 45 years of development for the AB Project, so Sigma created a robot in her image partially to fill the void and partially to give him a semblance of company while living in solitude on the moon. Luna does come to start to develop feelings for Sigma, but feels she's Just a Machine and can't ever act on them. And while Sigma loves her, he only feels he can love her as a daughter and not romantically. Somewhat oddly, due to the his personal chronology involving Mental Time Travel, Sigma actually met Luna (and watched her die) before he ever met Diana.
- Bittersweet Candy Bowl has Lucy on both sides of it, with her being this for Mike's lost love interest Sandy, and Paulo being her replacement Goldfish when Mike rejects her. It doesn't go well for her either time.
- As we find out, Marena from Keychain of Creation is actually Misho's lover in his past life and he remembers her as such, not as the current-day Marena. This causes a lot of frustration.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace's DNA was artificially crafted, but the project was hijacked into a replacement for a scientist's daughter, who died in a car crash. Grace considers the original Grace her mother and calls the scientist her grandfather.
- Considering the method of reproduction of the Uryuoms, that's actually the relationship she has with them.
- This xkcd strip has one character describe doing this in a video game, and then start to evoke a "troubling" extension of the concept to real life.
- A somewhat strange example in Girl Genius involves the Sturmvoraus family. After Anevka Sturmvoraus is exposed to the Geisterdamen's summoning machine by her father, her brother, Tarvek, builds a life-support chamber connected to a pneumatic clockwork girl, so that she can still communicate with the outside world while being kept alive and protected. The puppet becomes sentient to the degree that when the organic Anevka actually dies, it goes on believing that it is still being controlled by a living master, instead of being self-aware, and fools everyone but Tarvek as well. Eventually, the Anevka personality of the puppet is deactivated after it turns out to have "inherited" a little too much of the family's betrayal gene, and is replaced by the personality of The Other.
- Zigzagged-to-averted in Gunnerkrigg Court. Antimony is part-fire elemental, which means that, due to Bizarre Alien Biology, she literally took her mother's soul when she was born. The end result is that she greatly (but-not-completely) resembles her mother, which distresses her father to no end, caught as he is between this trope and Maternal Death? Blame the Child, despite not wanting to play into either of them.
- In Misfile, Ash is Kate's surrogate for her dead sister. Kate explicitly saying she needs to find a sister in her in one strip. Naturally, boy turned girl Ash finds this turn of events rather disconcerting, to say the least.
- Used very literally in the beginning of Abe Kroenen where Kroenen's initial interest in Abe came because Abe reminded him of his dead goldfish Wolfram.
- The episode "Caroline's Doppelganger" from A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible uses this trope heartbreakingly.
Father: Darling, you can't spend every day searching for your real self. You'll waste living the pale reflection of her life!
- Sluggy Freelance
- This occurs several times to underline the repeated theme "that which redeems, consumes". First, the Riff from the Dimension of Lame accidentally killed Torg and Kiki in an experiment, so, in order to redeem himself, he kidnapped their counterparts from an alternate universe to replace them. Then, when the AU Torg tried to get back home, DOL-Riff tried to get him back, inadvertently kidnapping the Torg from the main Sluggy-verse as his replacement. And he apparently repeated this process at least five times. This led to The Legions of Hell invading and ravaging the world, all because Riff wanted to make things right. And then, when Torg returns home, he finds that his version of Riff went to the same lengths to get one for him, kidnapping a squid-monster version of Torg from Another Dimension and hiring cloners to create a clone of Torg.
- Corsica has also been replaced at least 37 times. Hereti-Corp has a long standing business account with the local pet shop. Of course, since Corsica is a non-sapient frog, this is easier to do, and certainly explains why Frog has never figured this out.
- Done horrifyingly in Dubious Company, when Raque realizes Elly looks like a younger version of her beloved king.
- In one Story Minute, after a woman writes a "Dear John" letter and leaves her husband, he builds a robot duplicate of her. "The second time, she didn't leave a note."
- Inverted in Kevin & Kell: George Fennec falls in love with Kevin's sister Danielle, who dies helping the main cast defeat a rabbit terrorist group. Shortly afterward, her double from the human world gets trapped on 'Furth', and due to the nature of the portal between worlds, becomes Danielle in appearance.
- Epsilon in Red vs. Blue acts as a replacement goldfish best friend for Caboose, replacing Church. Of course, he has the original's personality and memories, so it's not too big of a deal for him.
- And then he is replaced by Washington. Church originally takes it with a sour attitude, but eventually learns to accept it by the end of Season 10.
- Agent Texas was one of these for Director, to replace the original Allison.
- Rooster Teeth had a great moment during their Minecraft episodes. One Running Gag in the series was Ryan's pet cow, Edgar - the animal kept wandering in to his house, so Ryan dug a pit, put in a glass ceiling, and kept Edgar in a dungeon of sorts that thoroughly disturbed the rest of the cast. During "King Ryan, Part 1," Michael snuck into Ryan's house and broke Edgar out, only to find at the end of "King Ryan, Part 2" that the dungeon was back and so was the cow. Ryan had spotted Michael's work and silently led a new cow into his house, then repaired the dungeon while the others were busy. When Michael protested that Edgar was still free (actually, Geoff unwittingly harvested him for leather), Ryan clarified that "Edgar is the one in the hole."
- She's still around, but since Nella gained the confidence to tell The Nostalgia Chick that she was going too far with the abuse, Elisa unwillingly filled the abused best friend role.
- In Demo Reel, Rebecca Stone unknowingly is this for director Donnie, replacing his dead actress mom. They have the same Raven Hair, Ivory Skin, the same issues with the industry and she keeps getting roles in his movies where the original dies, but the remake makes them survive or come back to life in ways that don't make sense.
- In Atop the Fourth Wall, Harvey considered Linkara to be a replacement for his deceased son, although he wouldn't admit it. The 2012 Christmas episodes involved the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future trying to get Harvey to accept his son's death and that Linkara will never replace him.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Twitch Plays Pokémon Emerald: the day after accidentally releasing her Oddish, A went to the Safari Zone and caught twenty-nine Oddish and a Gloom. One of them ended up as a member of the party, was evolved into Vileplume, and named Cabbage the White after Cabbage, the released Gloom from Twitch Plays Pokémon Red.