The nasty end of Parental Favoritism. Where there's an Alpha wolf, there's got to be a Beta. When there is a first banana, there is a second banana. This is the person in the family who can't get a break. For example, this is the child who's the big let-down to their parents, the daughter that was supposed to be a son (or vice-versa), the child the parents had by accident when they'd already decided they didn't need another mouth to feed, the adoptive, foster, or stepchild that came before the parents had a biological child, the illegitimate child conceived by infidelity on the part of one of the parents. But all in all, this is basically the kid who is always getting the short-end of the stick.
A regular line that may be entailed with this is a variant of, "Honestly, (insert name), why can't ya be more like (insert favorite's name)?"
Frequently, being The Unfavorite is a Freudian Excuse for a character who's a particularly pathetic loser. If the Parental Favoritism was garden variety (or even a product of his/her imagination), PG-rated Wangst, this is probably being played for comedy, a weak excuse for being a failure. If the favoritism was particularly vicious, however, up to and including abuse, The Unfavorite becomes a more tragic character — most probably The Woobie. Sometimes, however, the Unfavorite is almost suspiciously well-adjusted.
A variant is where The Unfavorite is actually highly successful and dutiful, but can never get the approval of his parents, simply because their sibling will always do "better" in their parents' eyes. ("Hey look, Dad, I won the Nobel Prize for Physics!" "Only one? That's nothin' — your brother won Employee of the Month at Shop 'n Go 3 times!"). The Unfavorite doesn't need to play second fiddle to an actual sibling, and can even be an only child. Unfavorites without a sibling are often unwanted or unexpected children and can even, in perhaps an extreme case, be passed over for the family pet.
The audience's attitude towards the unfavorite is often based on what age the character is. There's a common perception that an adult character should really have gotten over this by now and moved on, even if the viewers/readers empathize with them. A child character, on the other hand, is likely to get the audience's unreserved support.
Age notwithstanding, this is usually a character you sympathize with, because we're supposed to root for the disadvantaged; expect the favorite either to be rubbing their status in their sibling's face, be an Aloof Big Brother, or completely unaware of the situation. It is, however, completely possible that the character is interpreting some behavior as favoritism — and the other character also regards himself as the Unfavorite. (Cue Sibling Rivalry.) Also, another possible situation is that the favorite is indeed aware of the situation, sympathize with the unfavorite, and may even start the "talk with the parents" scene.
And Heaven help the poor kid if the favorite child is dead. (Possibly having received the status of "favorite" by dying.) See also You Should Have Died Instead. The same thing goes if The Unfavorite was a result of Death by Childbirth, where the family hates the kid for "murdering" their mother.
Can easily escalate into Black Sheep or Cain and Abel, or in particularly nasty cases, one or both of the parents having a go at offing the unfavorite offspring. May be rooted in a Death by Childbirth. May cross over with "Well Done, Son!" Guy if the Unfavorite wants some recognition. If the favorite of the parents isn't even a member of their family, it's a case of Why Are You Not My Son?. When each parent has one favorite and one Unfavorite, it's Jacob and Esau. In a workplace situation, see Boss's Unfavorite Employee.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- Many a Grimms' Fairy Tales heroine with a Wicked Stepmother and step-sister(s). Cinderella is one of the most famous examples, if not the most famous example. Men sure had rotten taste in women back then.
- There are a number of tales where the youngest daughter of a king becomes the unfavorite of her father when she does something that displeases him (compares her love of him to salt in bread, refuses to acknowledge that he is more fortunate and rich than God, etc). This inevitably results in him banishing her, her setting off to seek her fortune, and eventually meeting her father again, after he has to eat his words and forgive her.
- In certain fairy tales, a king and queen have many sons, all of whom become unfavorites in favor of a soon-to-be-born daughter, to the point of them being planned to be killed. They escape, and eventually are joined by their innocent sister.
- The premise of the song "Better Version of You" by Paul and Storm is the parents informing The Unfavorite that his unborn sibling will be the favorite.
- The song "Lonely Boy" by Andrew Gold is about a boy who believes he's this after his younger sister is born and his mother tells him they need to attend to her needs because she's a baby. He ultimately leaves home six months after his eighteenth birthday "to find the love he had lost." (Many of the details match up with Andrew Gold's own life, but Gold has denied the song being autobiographical.)
- Jonathan Aaron Steel, the protagonist of WASP's epic concept album The Crimson Idol is this, forever unfavourably compared to his brother Michael, and the problem intensifies after Michael's tragic death.
- "Jesse Younger" by country musician Kris Kristofferson deals with a man named Jessie Younger who is in all but name disowned by his parents over a disagreement over his differing lifestyle and beliefs and as a result his younger brother is treated as if he is his parent's only son.
- Song "Remember Everything" by Five Finger Death Punch is about a person feeling unloved by their family:
Oh, dear mother, I love you
I'm sorry, I wasn't good enough
Dear father, forgive me
'Cause in your eyes, I just never added up
In my heart I know I failed you
But you left me here alone
If I could hold back the rain
Would you numb the pain
'Cause I remember everything
If I could help you forget
Would you take my regrets
'Cause I remember everything.
- April from For Better or for Worse was the Black Sheep and completely ignored by almost her entire family (the main exception being her grandfather). The fact that she's regarded by much of the Hatedom as being the strip's Only Sane Man is probably very much related to this fact.
- Peter Fox from FoxTrot tends to be this in the Fox Family.
- All three of the Fox kids do crazy things. Peter, being the oldest, tends to draw more attention since his zany antics include things like driving like a maniac, skipping homework, playing a guitar loudly and badly, and wrecking the house by throwing a football around indoors. In comparison, Paige's obsessive shopping, Jason's scientific screw-ups, and their mutual back-and-forth teasing is kind of small potatoes.
- When his older brother Chad is visiting from college, Jeremy from the strip Zits seems to fall into this.
- This wasn't helped by early depictions of Chad, which gave him a gleaming, perfect smile, the rest of his head unable to be seen, atop a perfect body to go with the notion that he could do no wrong. Later depictions make him look... like Jeremy with a beard.
- CHIKARA: UltraMantis Black treated Crossbones this way when UMB was the leader of the Order of the Neo-Solar Temple. UMB fawned over Hydra and Delirious, but always belittled Crossbones. This despite Crossbones being the only loyal member of the group (Delirious, Vökoder [Tim Donst] and Hydra [unmasked and repackaged as Dieter Von Steigerwalt]) all abandoned the Order for the BDK.)
- The first book of the Pentateuch, theBook of Genesis could practically be retitled The Book of the Unfavorite.
- Cain and Abel is one of the oldest Trope Namers.
- Noah made Caanan his Unfavorite grandson.
- Abraham treated Ishmael as a Red-Headed Stepchild, and Sarah treated him as a usurping bastard, despite the fact that he was conceived legitimately (for the time) and it was Sarah's idea. He didn't treat his six sons born to Keturah, the wife he took after Sarah died, any better, sending them "to the east" out of the Promised Land. Isaac was not only his parents' favorite, he was God's favorite too. To be fair, God did send an angel to save Isaac and his mother from dying in the desert.
- Isaac either learned nothing or learned too well; he and Rebekah literally gave birth to another Trope Namer, Jacob and Esau.
- And Jacob keeps the pattern going. All his sons except Joseph were considered The Unfavorite, as Jacob lavished Joseph with a special coat that made his other sons jealous. When Jacob believes Joseph has been killed, Joseph's other full brother Benjamin became the center of their father's attention. In Jacob's case, he's furthering Polygamous Favoritism: practically the first thing we learn of Leah, his first wife, is that "Leah was not loved." Things don't really improve for her, either. This does not escape God's notice, for He blesses her with strong fertility, resulting in many children.
- Even Joseph tries to uphold the family tradition: when Jacob, now Israel, starts to give his right-hand (i.e. primary) blessing to Joseph's younger son Ephraim over the older, Manessah, Joseph tries to stop him. Israel doesn't listen; apparently, YHWH is still favoring one kid over the others.
- King Saul of Israel viewed himself as this when compared to David. In this case, however, Saul had actively made himself this by disobeying God repeatedly and even then God still made it clear that Saul was to be treated as his anointed king until he personally removed him. David never over-stepped his bounds and, despite having many opportunities to do so, never tried to kill Saul lest he also lose God's favor.
- David himself was this among his brothers, as his father Jesse didn't even invite him to the sacrifice that Samuel the prophet was hosting until Samuel looked through the sons and, the Lord not finding one among them that was to be anointed as the future king of Israel, asks Jesse if he still has another son.
- The elder son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, feeling bad because his father was rejoicing over the lost son returning safely.
- In Catholicism, Saint Therese of Lisieux's sister Léonie was always the odd one out. Sickly, learning-disabled, possibly autistic, she'd been repeatedly beaten by a servant as a toddler. She was regarded as an embarrassment to her own family. The other "perfect" sisters all went into the Carmelite order. Finally making it as a sister of the Visitation of Caen after several tries at various convents, Léonie completed her life happily. There is a movement now to make her a saint of unfavorites, marginalized people, and autistics. There is even a mission of sisters called the Léonie League, which proposes to found a new religious order especially for autistic monks and nuns.
- New York baseball has two teams. The Yankees, perennial playoff contenders, 27 time world champions, rich as all hell...and the Mets. Note that for some New Yorkers, this makes the Mets the favorites, because they're pitiable, lovable losers most of the time, while the Yankees are perpetually successful.
- Chicago has traditionally been the opposite. While the city itself is arguably split between North Siders favoring the Cubs and South Siders favoring the White Sox, the Cubs have generally been more popular nationwide in part because of their "lovable loser" perception. The White Sox broke their long World Series drought first, in 2005, and were almost immediately relegated back to second-tier status long before the Cubs finally ended their drought in 2016.
- Los Angeles has two pro basketball teams: The Lakers, 17-time league champions and home to some of the greatest players in the game's history... and the Clippers, who have long been one of the biggest jokes in sports.
- That was until Clippers owner Donald Sterling's infamous meltdown, resulting in the team changing hands and securing real talent and a strong head coach. This change came about right when Lakers star Kobe Bryant began to decline and his team fell out of contention, and with the Clippers becoming regular playoff contenders, they began selling out.
- Los Angeles also has the Dodgers. 6-Time World Champs and another of Baseball's most celebrated squads. And then they have the Angels, a sad-sack expansion team who, for four decades, could never catch a break. The Angels came out of nowhere and won the 2002 world series which brought the team to prominence. Both teams are now respectable draws and sell out most of their games.
- Then there's Los Angeles and the NFL. The Rams, who had been in town since 1946, won a title in 1951, and had re-emerged as title contenders in the 1970s, quickly became the unfavorite when the Raiders came to town in 1982 and won the Super Bowl in just their second season. The Raiders were so popular that the NHL's Los Angeles Kings replaced the purple and gold they had shared with the Lakers (who were still in the midst of their Showtime dynasty) with the Raiders' silver and black color scheme. The Raiders and Rams only left town in 1995 because neither team could get public funding for a new stadium, and the Rams returned in 2016 because their current owner decided to build one with his own money.
- The Chargers were immediately the unfavorite to the Rams in 1960, drawing less than 10,000 to games and having to play the AFL Championship Game on the road as a result, prompting their move to San Diego in 1961. Their move back in 2017 has them as second-class citizens to the Rams once again, as the only venue willing to take them on a temporary basis is a 27,000-seat soccer stadium (the NFL had to waive its 50,000 minimum capacity rule), plus they'll be tenants to the Rams once the Hollywood Park stadium is completed.
- In the NFL, Eli Manning was treated this way by the sports media, compared to his older, record breaking, Super Bowl winning brother Peyton Manning whom the sports media treated like quarterback royalty. This became subverted, after Eli lead the New York Giants to a Superbowl victory against Tom Brady's New England Patriots in the 2007-2008 season, when the team seemed unbeatable and was one win away from completing a perfect season. He did it again against the same team in 2011-2012 season, surpassing his older brother and finally getting the sports media's respect. Unfortunately for Eli, that respect didn't last very long, as the Giants quickly fell out of contention, while Peyton was able to close out his career leading the Denver Broncos to victory in Super Bowl 50, earning his second ring.
- Warhammer 40,000 backstory has strong vibes of this in the Primarchs. With a few exceptions the vast majority of them defected because of their father's disapproval and/or withering apathy. In the words of Roboute Guilliman, "The Emperor was a great scientist, a great leader, but a terrible father".
- The Emperor's main problem was that he had a very clear idea of what his generals should be like, but neglected to consider that those generals even saw him as a father. As a result, you got Lorgar - who saw an entire world annihilated to teach him not to be religious; Perturabo - whose hopes and dreams were straight-out ignored in favor of "here is a siege, go fight it"; Fulgrim - whose obsession with perfection was left unchecked until it consumed him with the aid of a daemon; Angron - who saw the people he cared about left to die because the Emperor abducted him from a hopeless battle rather than deploying his high-tech military in support; Magnus - who was publicly humiliated; Mortarion - who spent years fighting to free his homeworld, only for the Emperor to steal his thunder in a spectacular way; Alpharius - the last primarch to be found, everyone disdained his unorthodox strategies and tactics and he joined sides with the only brother who acknowledged how brilliant he could be; and Horus - the most powerful military leader in the galaxy - who was left completely in the dark about why the Emperor was retiring to Terra, leading Horus to the not illogical conclusion that he was being left to do gruntwork while the Emperor sat back and enjoyed the spoils.
- On the tabletop itself several armies could lay claim to this. The long suffering Dark Eldar went ten years without receiving an update. Now that they have a new rulebook and set of models the mantle passes on to the Witchhunters, though their chances of getting an update are looking grim.
- Witch Hunters got changed to Sisters of Battle, which then changed to Adepta Sororitas. (Yes, the Sisters used to be a separate faction in the early days. Now they're not.) They got a digital-only release less than two years ago, although it's admittedly been a while since they got new models. The oldest army at this point is the Chaos Space Marines, which got refreshed right at the beginning of 6th edition, less than three years ago. The Inquisition got a digital-only codex a month after the Adepta.
- The Necrons were also this, their army was pretty bland, with zero personality and very little to no updates. Now they got a massive change along with a lot of new figures and a revised back story making them more interesting, although there are those who feel that the changes removed what made them scary in the first place.
- And then there's everything Games Workshop does that isn't 40K, which tends to be stepped over because 40K is a massive cash cow and Warhammer and the The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings strategy battle games are not.
- Warhammer has the Beasts of Chaos, the first children of the Dark Gods. Since they are unable to do anything not Chaos-related, while the humans who offer their devotion to Chaos do so willingly, the Dark Gods provide boons and power to the humans while the Beastmen are left to squat in the mud and kill things. Unsurprisingly, they are not happy about this.
- BattleTech has Kathrine Steiner-Davion. The second child of Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner-Davion, she grew up thinking that Hanse favored her older brother Victor over her (despite the fact that Victor was raised on another planet from her and her father). In fact, she was a spoiled Royal Brat who was indulged by both her parents while Victor joined the military as soon as he was old enough and lived a fairly austere lifestyle. This wasn't enough for her, as she wasn't the heir to the kingdom (despite her actively avoiding meeting the mandatory military service needed to become eligible).
- Happy Loman in Death of a Salesman.
- The title character of Sophocles' Electra is neglected and abused by her mother and step-father. She loathes them both and isn't terribly hesistant about letting it be known. Orestes is also the unfavorite, but has been in exile since childhood so it's not as obvious.
- Cordelia becomes this in King Lear when she refuses to kiss up to her father. Of course, he realizes she's the only one who really loves him after all three of his daughters die, and just before he dies himself of grief.
- Edmund, the younger, illegitimate son of Gloucester, uses a forged letter to discredit his older half-brother Edgar and seize control of his father's estate and position.
- In The Lion in Winter, Richard is Henry's Unfavorite. John is Eleanor's Unfavorite. Geoffrey, poor guy, is the Unfavorite to both.
- The Broadway show Next to Normal features this trope spectacularly with the song "Superboy and the Invisible Girl" after it is revealed that the son has been dead the whole time, died when he was eighteen months old, but he haunts the mother throughout the show. She perceives him as a perfect son (while he really has just as many issues as the rest of the family), leaving the living daughter a wreck.
- In The Taming of the Shrew, Baptista obviously prefers Bianca to Katerina. However, it's not clear whether Katerina's Hair-Trigger Temper caused this or was caused by it.
- Elphaba in Wicked was blamed by her father for her sister's condition and their mother's death. There's also his words upon seeing Elphaba for the first time. "Take it away. TAKE IT AWAY!"
- In Fate/stay night Shinji is unwanted by Zouken, who views him as an amusing toy at best because he isn't a magus, making him largely worthless to his grandfather's plans. Shinji's resentment is why he's turned into such a bastard in the present instead of just being kind of annoying like he was in middle school. The weird thing is that he knows perfectly well that being the favorite is actually much, much worse, but he doesn't really care.
- Subverted in Tsukihime. Shiki really was the unfavorite of Makihisa and upon being wounded was promptly disinherited and kicked out. However, that's because not only were they not related - therefore making Shiki incapable of becoming the Tohno family head - Shiki was the son of Nanaya, the guy whose family Makihisa just killed off. He was kept around to take care of SHIKI (Makihisa's favorite) if he happened to Invert.
- Higurashi: When They Cry: Shion Sonozaki, though much of her ill treatment comes from Oryou, her cruel grandmother. It doesn't end well for her as she becomes Shion's first target in the Cotton Drifting and Eye Opening chapters.
- Saddest part? She's supposed to be the favorite. She and her twin sister Mion did the Twin Switch at the wrong time, causing the wrong twin to be tattooed with the mark identifying her as the family heir.
- Shizune Hakamichi turns out to be this in Katawa Shoujo, due to being deaf-mute and thus "not normal" in the eyes of her Jerk Ass father Jigoro.
- Little Busters! has Haruka compared to her twin sister, Kanata. Though it turns out eventually that even if they were favored, the other sibling wasn't much happier.
- Survival of the Fittest has Lyn "Laeil" Burbank. While actually a niece rather than a daughter, her uncle and aunt still give her the same unfavorite treatment, treating her like something that just has to be tolerated, while lavishing all their attention on her Jerk Jock cousin, Anthony, who regularily makes her life hell. Once she's on the island, though, it isn't long before she gets bloody revenge on him.
- Both The Nostalgia Critic and Ask That Guy with the Glasses were told regularly they weren't wanted, giving them mass issues. The Other Guy, the older brother, is fairly normal in comparison and seems to have been treated better.
- In Mother of Learning, Zorian's parents disapprove of his lack of interest in the family business and by his poor charisma.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Magnus the Red is pretty clearly Emperor's least favorite son (aside from Fucking Horus). Magnus certainly feels that way.
Custodian: Oh! So... Everything is Magnus's fault?
God-Emperor: DEFINITELY. IF I COULD, I'D BRUTALLY SPANK MAGNUS UNTIL HIS ASS WOULD TURN SO RED THAT HIS FACE WOULD LOOK PALE IN COMPARISON.
- He also seems to hate his other son, Roboute, ordering to have his life support cut the moment he hears that he's still semi-alive.
- In fact, he seems to hate all his Primarch sons, save Sanguinius. Compounding the massive issues the Emperor had with his children as stated above in the canonical universe, he sees himself as a great father and fails to realize why any of them should have rebelled (he fondly recalls the above incident with Angron as fucking hilarious, just for starters) and when bitterly discussing the issues with the Custodes Captain-General, he skewers loyalist and traitor alike; from his viewpoint, every Primarch was massively flawed.
- In Welcome to Night Vale, football player Michael Sandero gains a second head and supernaturally enhanced abilities and his mother announces that she likes the new head better and updates her billboard "Which Of My Children I Like Best" accordingly. Michael is The Unfavorite versus his other head. It becomes an Exaggerated Trope when in a later episode, his mother has the original head amputated.
- Strong Sad serves this to Strong Bad from Homestar Runner
- Tacoma from Demo Reel has a big family, and just about all of them abuse him emotionally for being a White Sheep who brought down his dad's ponzi scheme.
- The Faceless Ghost in Escape From Eden Park is an angry, spiteful spirit, holding onto her anger and jealousy at her older sister, who overshadowed her while they were both alive.
- Amy Dallon of Worm is well aware that her adoptive mother Carol greatly favors her biological daughter, Vicky, and in fact has never truly accepted Amy due to her massive trust issues. Her adoptive father Mark at least tries but his chronic depression renders him unreliable.
- Cooler in Dragon Ball Z Abridged takes what Cooler implied about himself in Z and makes it explicit he is this compared to his younger brother Freeza, who was always favored and spoiled by their father King Cold. Goku actually shows sympathy for how his father treated him, and one of the few ways to get under his skin is to compare him to Freeza in any way, shape or form.
"My brother would have stood around postulating and claiming his victory like some haughty greenhorn child. I know what it takes to get the job done. Which is why father should have...!"