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Trophy Child

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"Who is the son you know, Dad? You donít know me, you never bothered. You shipped me from one boarding school to another and nobody paid any attention as long as my grades stayed high. [...] At least Bruce cares about me. Not just how I reflect on him! You donít know me! You donít know a thing about me!"
Tim Drake, Robin (1993)

A Characterization Trope where children are looked at as their parents' status symbols.

Maybe their parents thought that having kids would somehow aid their social standing: maybe they're stage parents, who use their kid's looks or talent as a means of getting wealth and fame; and, sometimes, they're just selfish and want children who are just as "perfect" as they see themselves to be, regardless of the stress it puts their kid under.

Whatever the reason, these children grow up being viewed as status symbols, rather than actual children. In many cases, there's emphasis is on the child learning to climb the social ladder themselves, but at the cost of their emotional and psychological development; looking perfect on the surface is more important than being stable on the inside as far as these parents are concerned. It may cause them to be neglected or outright abused, especially if they are expected to be perfect their entire lives in public and in private; such a child can end up a Lonely Rich Kid, as their parent will frequently be willing to pour money into making them look well-provided for, but neglect anything else required to keep them happy. It can also cause a major case of needing approval, if the character doesn't just start Calling the Old Man Out from being treated like an object their entire lives.

Compare and contrast Trophy Wife.

Can be Truth in Television, with many narcissistic parents; as with the Abusive Parents page, however, there's no need to say more than that, due to how sensitive the topic is.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Yuki Sohma's parents basically sold him to Akito, the head of the family, for wealth and status since he was the Rat of the Eastern Zodiac; as part of the Sohma family's Hereditary Curse, the Rat is viewed as a "special" child since they're the first animal in the Zodiac. Yuki ended up being physically and emotionally abused during his time with Akito.
    • Machi Kuragi's mother only wanted to use Machi to inherit her husband's fortune by forcing her daughter to be a better successor than her illegitimate half-brother. After her mother gave birth to a son, she pretty much forgot about Machi just because a daughter is less likely to be chosen as the family heir.
  • Gan'an Shinomiya from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War treats his daughter Kaguya like a traditional Japanese doll; something pretty to be shown to company, but cold, unfeeling, and silent. Quite a few of her issues stem from the fact that she's been starved of affection her entire life.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin (1993): Tim accused his father of only caring about how his son reflected on him instead of Tim as a person; though Tim felt guilty about it immediately, Jack's behavior makes the accusation seem fairly accurate.
  • In Runaways, Karolina's parents initially only conceived her in order to boost their profiles as actors.
  • In Secret Six, Cheshire had sex with Catman for the express purpose of conceiving a child so that she could blackmail him.

    Fan Works 
  • In Anastasia/Quasimodo Ė We Hit a Wall, Quasimodo and Anastasia's parents look down upon them because they see them as too unattractive to be trophy children.
  • Blackbird (Arrow): It gradually becomes clear that this is what Sara really is to Dinah. Her favoritism of Sara isn't because of any notable achievements, but rather because Sara is the child that resembles her the most, which is probably why Dinah does everything she can to excuse and absolve her youngest daughter of any wrongdoing. Combine this with the fact that Dinah's main motivation for saving Sara is to absolve herself of the guilt of letting her daughter go on the Gambit, it suggests she's mainly using Sara to make herself look and feel like a good mother without actually being a good mother.
  • In Fake (Vega62a), Sachiko's parents are more concerned with image than her own opinions and mental well-being.
  • In For Love of Magic, Harry was adopted by a rich couple who only wanted him as a status symbol.
  • In The Masks We Wear (Teen Titans): Samantha Vanaver views Rachel Grayson as a trophy child, but unlike the typical example of this trope, she's a constant reminder to Samantha that she was able to overpower the object of her lust, John Grayson, putting a wedge between him and Mary, straining their marriage.
  • In This Is A Wild Game Of Survival, Na-yeon's parents only had a child in order to have an heir that will maintain their status and legacy, otherwise neglecting her and disregarding her feelings and emotions. She feels like a disappointment due to her not being particularly smart or talented like they wanted her to be.

    Films — Animation 
  • Corpse Bride: Victor is treated by the Dorts as a door to the high society, and nothing more than this. The Everglots are even worse, singing about how surprised they are that their "disappointing" daughter Victoria will finally be useful, bringing them money through her marriage to Victor.
  • In Turning Red, the way Ming treats Mei has shades of this. Mei expresses dissatisfaction with being her mother's "perfect little Mei-Mei" all the time and after Mei runs off, Ming's not so much angry at what Mei did, as she is about how it reflects on her.
    Ming: "How could she do this to her own mother?!"

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Dead Poets Society, Tom Perry is obsessed with seeing his son Neil become a doctor, and micromanages every aspect of Neil's school life to achieve that end while berating his son for any perceived misconduct (read: Neil doing anything he actually enjoys). All Neil really wants is to become an actor, but he is unfortunately too afraid of his father to stand up for himself, with fatal consequences.
  • In Eskimo Day, Hugh wants nothing more than his daughter to attend Cambridge university.
  • In Problem Child, Flo Healy is desperate to have a child, albeit more because she doesn't get invited to social parties with children as she doesn't have one. Contrast this with her husband Ben, who is more interested in being a father rather than the social privileges that come with it.
  • In There Will Be Blood, Plainview seems to have adopted H.W. for the sole purpose of bolstering his image among the people he seeks to exploit.

  • The Dresden Files: In Harry's earliest detailed case, described in the short story "Restoration of Faith", Harry and his mentor Nick are hired to find a runaway who left home because her rich parents do not care for her at all save for how she reflects on them. Her parents report her as kidnapped and describe Harry and Nick as the kidnappers before they return her to them because that will get them more clout than their daughter running away. Harry realizes the child has been driven to be a Death Seeker by her worthless parents.
  • In A Frozen Heart, a Tie-In Novel to Disney's Frozen (2013), Prince Hans of the Southern Isles' parents married only for politics and to expand the Westergaard clan's lineage. Hans' father sees his wife as a Baby Factory, giving birth to 13 sons. Likewise, the king encouraged his 12 older sons to produce more heirs for the kingdom: these sons were also molded to be reflections of their father to fuel his own ego, while forcing them to be obedient and emotionally dependent.
  • This is how Jeff and Liu's parents act in the 2015 remake of Jeff the Killer: when he and his brother get in trouble for standing up to the local bullies, their parents take the side of the cops, refuse to listen to their children about what happened even when in private, and even send Liu away as punishment. This is all because the bully, Randy, is the son of their father's new boss, and they'd rather look good to their new neighbors than support their children. After Jeff is in the hospital for being hit with a flare gun, his mother is more concerned with how he'll look than if he'll be okay mentally or physically; all of this makes it no wonder they die in this version of the story.
  • The Nanny Diaries and its film adaptation satirizes upper Manhattan society, particularly wealthy couples' tendency to treat their children like accessories and foist the more inconvenient aspects of parenting off on as many paid staff as they can.
  • A lot of noble parents in A Song of Ice and Fire exhibit this behavior, to varying extents, but nobody plays this straighter than Tywin Lannister: he had it drilled into his children's heads since they were very young that their whole purpose in life was to bring glory to the Lannister name and doesn't give a damn about their personal happiness or emotional well-being. Even when they're well into adulthood, Tywin routinely forces his children to do things they don't want to do if he thinks it'll improve the family's social and political standing; part of the reason he hated his youngest son Tyrion so much was because he saw Tyrion's dwarfism as a stain on his reputation.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • This was the circumstance surrounding Breezepelt's birth: his father, Crowfeather, only agreed to have kits with his mother, Nightcloud, to prove himself a loyal warrior to WindClan after he ran off with Leafpool, the medicine cat of ThunderClan; throughout the series, he was seen as a lousy father who was a neglectful parent at best and an Abusive Parent at worst, while Breezepelt didn't handle the treatment very well, joining the Dark Forest with this as a Freudian Excuse.
    • Implied with Rainflower, as after her favorite child Stormkit breaks his jaw and becomes Crookedkit, she begins to ignore and insult him based solely on his imperfect looks compared to his brother Oakkit. This was after she neglected Oakkit in favor of Stormkit, originally having seen him as the stronger and more attractive of the two. This attitude continues even after she dies, where she doesn't give Crookedkit a life during his leader ceremony. However, Shellheart (his father) tells him that she did attend the ceremony, and still cared about him and loved him, but could not give him a life due to his closer relationship with Shellheart or giving him another was more than he was supposed to get.
    • Played with, with Bluestar's kits: as being a pregnant queen prevented her from being considered for the deputy position, which she needed to take to keep Thistleclaw out of the leadership position, she gave up her kits to live with their father in RiverClan; there they were raised lovingly and well to be strong warriors, but Bluestar always regretted that she had to give them up for her own ambition.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mad Men: Don and Betty Draper seem to be the living embodiment of the wholesome 1960s nuclear family with a professional dad, a stay at home mom, and two perfect kids, one girl and one boy; however, the Drapers are more in love with the idea of marriage and children than their actual spouse and kids: neither spends much time with their children and the emphasis is placed on the children looking immaculate and behaving well at all times. Once Don and Betty have their third child and divorce, the kids are used as chess pieces to punish each other with most of the child care falling to nannies and respective step-parents: in one episode, both Don and Betty and their respective spouses spend most of the episode thinking the other is taking care of the kids while the kids are actually in Don's apartment with a house burglar who is pretending to be an old friend of Don's while actually robbing the place.

  • In "The Ballad of Sara Berry" from 35MM: A Musical Exhibition, a major reason behind Sara's Sanity Slippage was her father's pressure to be popular and become the prom queen.
    "Sara", her father said, "life is a prom. I know you won't disappoint me and mom".

    Video Games 
  • Life Is Strange: Before the Storm suggests that Rachel Amber is either this, or her father James Amber is a Knight Templar Parent, depending on how you interpret his motives for cutting Rachel's drug addicted biological mother from her life (to the point of letting her assume his second wife is her biological mother), and trying to have Damon arrange for her to relapse on drugs to stop her seeing Rachel after getting clean (Damon certainly assumes he's more worried about his image than actually protecting Rachel). By the time of the original game, when she's disappeared her parents don't seem to care much (with Chloe being the only one searching for her).

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Nicholas Schnee single-handedly created a powerful legacy as the world's leading supplier of good-quality Dust, a mined substance that forms the basis of all technology and combat capability humanity possesses. He passed this inheritance on to his son-in-law, Jacques, who only married Nick's daughter to obtain control of the Schnee Dust Company and the prestige of the Schnee name. He isn't interested in being a husband to his wife or a father to his three children, as they exist solely to service his public relations. When the Kingdom of Atlas is framed as an instigator of the invasion of the Kingdom of Vale, Jacques recalls his daughter from studying in Vale. He isn't concerned about her welfare and safety, he wants to engage in a PR stunt to protect the SDC's profit margins: he forces Weiss to sing at a benefit concert to raise aid money for Vale just to remind Remnant that a Schnee fought on the front lines in Vale's defense. When she loses control of her Semblance in public, he disinherits her in order to protect his company's reputation. Weiss escapes her home and flees from Atlas as a result, attempting unsuccessfully to find her oldest sister, Winter, who escaped Jacques years ago by joining the Atlasian military. Weiss' brother, Whitley, reasons that the only way to handle Jacques is to follow the latter's expectations.

  • Dreamkeepers: Tinsel conceived Namah in order to blackmail the Viscount with an illegitimate child, whom she left on his doorstep.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Mai's parents raised her to be perfectly behaved, with her opinions and emotions hidden, in order to help her father's political career; in return, she got whatever she wanted, though she wasn't interested in material wealth and rebelled against them later on.
  • The Family Guy episode "The Peanut Butter Kid" involves Lois and Peter exploiting Stewie after his success in a peanut butter commercial, so he could become a child star and they could make money; they went so far as to keep him drugged and stimulated so he can rehearse non-stop.
  • Gravity Falls: Pacifica Northwest was largely treated as this by her parents, who favored their own social lives and status over her, and scolding her for anything that might reflect poorly on their family name and reputation; in addition, she was taught to see herself as above everyone else, while still being conditioned to obey and be submissive to them.
  • Hey Arnold!: Helga's older sister Olga is the favorite child in the family because of this: she is a straight-A student, concert pianist, spelling bee champion and is popular and admired by most who meet her. Olga's parents are constantly showering attention and praise on her because she is " a winner", much to Helga's jealousy; however, Olga secretly hates being this because of the insanely high expectations her parents place on her, leaving her to be very neurotic and spiral into a deep depression when she thought she made The B Grade (she didn't, it was a prank Helga did out of jealousy).
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, this seems to be the case with Diamond Tiara's mother, Spoiled Rich: the episode she was introduced in, "Crusaders of the Lost Mark", it was revealed that Diamond Tiara's Alpha Bitch status was largely due to her mother putting her under extreme pressure to be perfect and above everyone else, while teaching her that anyone not of their status was to be looked down upon; she tells Diamond Tiara to "always think of your social standing" and berates her for making, what she considers to be, mistakes.
  • The Simpsons: Defied in the episode "A Fish Called Selma": Troy McClure marries Selma to be his Beard, which she's actually OK with because even if they don't love each other, it benefits her as well; however, when Troy's agent suggests they have children to improve his image even more, Selma balks (even at Troy's suggestion to adopt).
    Selma: Look, I'm sorry. A loveless marriage is one thing, we're not hurting anybody. But bringing a child into a loveless family is something I just can't do.