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Why Are You Not My Son?

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Norman Osborn: Peter! Good to see you! Here to help Harry, eh?
Peter Parker: We help each other, Mr. O.
Norman Osborn: Now, now, Peter, modesty doesn't become men like us. Smart, driven, responsible. Self-made.
Peter Parker: I'm... more of a work in progress.
Norman Osborn: [with a significant glance at Harry] At least you're making progress.

A type of being The Unfavorite in which a character's parent compares them negatively to one of their friends. It is very common for the character in question to become antagonistic towards the friend. The extent to which the parent shows this attitude tends to vary, ranging from an unconscious preference for the friend to an openly antagonistic attitude towards their own child.


Contrast Like a Son to Me, which generally has much more positive connotations.

Compare "Well Done, Son!" Guy.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Reed Richard's father in Ultimate Fantastic Four blatantly prefers the more athletic Ben Grimm to his own genius son.
  • This dynamic often underlines Spider-Man's dynamic with Norman Osborn, AKA the Green Goblin, and his son Harry Osborn who is Peter's best friend:
    • Originally this wasn't there so much. Norman was an avuncular figure to Peter in his amnesiac lame dad phase. After his resurrection, in Revenge of the Green Goblin, Norman decides that Peter is his true heir and resolves to torture him until he becomes a Goblin.
    • Norman Osborn/Green Goblin prefers Peter Parker/Spider-Man to his son Harry in Ultimate Spider-Man. This has bled back into the main universe on at least some level - even before Harry came Back from the Dead, there was a mini-series devoted to Norman trying to brainwash Peter into becoming his "heir". This also shows up in Spider-Man: Life Story.
  • In Batman: Heart of Hush, Tommy Elliot's mother constantly praises Bruce Wayne as an intelligent, successful man of the world while keeping her own son under her thumb and getting in the way of his own dreams of success. Tommy grows increasingly frustrated by this, especially since he thinks of Bruce as a spoiled playboy.
  • This was the Freudian Excuse of '90s Superman enemy Kenny Braverman / Conduit (The Death of Clark Kent), who was convinced Clark was always one step ahead of him as teens because his powers had already manifested. Superman was pretty disgusted to find Kenny's dad still disparaging him after his death.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Norman Osborn in the first Spider-Man film is a more unintentional example, clearly impressed by Peter's brilliance and implicitly comparing his own son, Harry, negatively to Peter. As everyone knows, Norman becomes the villain the Green Goblin, and Harry ends up going crazy and following in his father's footsteps. In their battles at Spider-Man 3, Peter — corrupted by the Venom symbiote — uses this trope at Harry to mock him, telling him that his father was ashamed of him as his son.
  • The movie O is Othello set at a high school, and has the Iago character as the son of a coach and the Othello equivalent being his favorite player. Unlike the original play, this makes "Iago", if not sympathetic, at least relatable rather than acting For the Evulz.
  • In Cowboys & Aliens, Colonel Dollarhyde tells Nat, his son's Indian friend, that he wishes he had a son like him.
  • In Green Lantern, Hector Hammond's father prefers Hal Jordan, a "doer", over Hector, a "thinker".
  • Kick-Ass. Frank D'Amico can't help being impressed by Hit Girl, and gives this trope as he's about to put a bullet in her head.
    Frank: God, I wish I had a son like you.
  • Combined with Like a Son to Me in The Thin Red Line, when career military officer Lt Colonel Tall is speaking to his Sergeant Rock.
    Tall: You feel like a son to me, John. [beat] You know what my son does? He's a bait salesman.
  • In The Sicilian, Mafia Don Masino Croce is shamed because his son has rejected the family business and works as an entomologist. He sees himself in the bandit Salvatore Giuliano, and at one point implies that Giuliano is his son. When called on this later, Croce admits that he actually meant "the son I never had."

  • In the Boy Who Drew Monsters, both Jack's parents see Nick more as the normal son, which they could have had and favor him in many circumstances, not that this even bothers Jack in any way (too involved with his drawings), Tim (the father) especially envisions Nell (Nick's mother) as the wife he could have had and Nick as the son he could have had, in the life he could have had (at the hospital Tim even blurts to Nell, in front of his own son, that Nick is like a son to him, Nell then points towards Jack (his actual son) telling him that he is his son not Nick, but Jack is not even aware of the entire dialogue; Holly, in contrast, envisions her life at one point without any son, or any husband for that matter. True, both parents essentially blame Jack for ruining their lives with the troubles he has caused them and their marriage, it is quite clear that they both still care for and love their son, and acknowledge him as such. They even refer to him numerous times as their son, their 'baby boy', the boy that they want back.
  • Alex Rider: A variant that does not include the villain being disappointed in his actual son is seen in Skeleton Key. In fact, Alexei Sarov takes a liking to Alex specifically because he reminds him of his (deceased) son. Eventually, Sarov starts trying to convert Alex to be his Replacement Goldfish.
  • To an extent, Ron encounters this in Harry Potter. He already feels like The Unfavorite compared to his six siblings, but there are also some moments where his parents dote on Harry and he feels slighted. From a more objective perspective, however, one could easily see that his parents care about him too—they just feel more sorry for Harry because he has no loving family of his own.
    • This even comes up in Riddle Locket's Breaking Speech: the locket conjures up an illusion of Harry who claims (among other things) that Mrs. Weasley confessed to loving him more, while mockingly asking Ron why she wouldn't.
    • Ron gets off easy compared to Neville. In addition to the pressure of living up to his Auror parents, his grandmother likes to ask him why he couldn't be more like Harry (and she only speaks to him once in the series). At the start of book six, Professor McGonagall tells Neville that it's time his grandmother started appreciating the grandson she had instead of the one she thought she ought to have. His grandmother eventually does say how proud of him she is.
  • In Clan of the Cave Bear, Brun shames his son Broud by referring to Ayla, a girl, as the son he should have had.
  • Sword at Sunset: King Arthur's estimation of the relative merits of his Worthy Opponent Cerdic of Wessex and his Bastard Bastard Medraut is all too apparent.
  • Arulaine makes no secret of his liking for Malachi in Eludoran, much to his own daughter's jealousy
  • The Sicilian: Mafia Don Croce Malo feels this towards the protagonist and wishes for him to be his successor, as his real son went off to South America to become a missionary, much to his disappointment.
  • In Chaos Walking Mayor Prentiss makes it clear multiple times that he prefers the protagonist, Todd, over his own son Davy. He even goes as far as saying so right after he shoots Davy to stop Todd using him as leverage in a stand-off.
    Mayor Prentiss: You were always the truer son, Todd. The one with the potential, the one with the power, the one I'd be proud to have serve by my side.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Kendra and Giles hit it off straight away, much to Buffy’s annoyance.
  • There's a comic twist on this in Harry Enfield and Chums. In one of the Kevin and Perry sketches Kevin's parents ask him why he has to be so rude and nasty to them all the time, unlike the shy and polite Perry. Of course this is immediately subverted when Kevin takes a phone call from Perry's parents and becomes shy and polite while talking to them, then puts Perry on who is immediately rude and nasty to them.
  • Subverted in the episode dealing with Daedalus and Icarus in The Storyteller. Daedalus is frustrated by his son Icarus' clumsiness and lack of inventive genius. A cousin comes to stay with them who does have this brilliance and attracts Daedalus' favor. The twist, is that although he acts like a "Well Done, Son!" Guy towards Icarus, Daedalus "accidentally-on-purpose" kills his nephew, both because he reminds him of disappointment in his own son, and because he sees him as a rival. This also happened in the actual myths and was much less "accidental."
  • Community: It's no secret that Pierce is constantly frowned-upon by his racist and homophobic father in all endeavors that go against him, but this becomes even more clear when Pierce watches a commercial starring his father and his only known son... except the son in the commercial isn't Pierce - it's a child actor. This becomes this trope when Cornelius shoos Pierce off the set where the commercial is being held while, at the same time, praising the actor who was playing as his son.
  • In Kings, the ruling King Silas prefers David to his son Jack because Jack's homosexuality and generally hedonistic lifestyle prevents him from being capable of taking over the kingdom. The plot being lifted from the story of Saul, Jonathan, and David from The Bible makes this Older Than Feudalism.
  • Heroes: In series one, Sylar seemed to be under the impression that Chandra initially preferred him to Mohinder. At least, that's what Sylar tells Mohinder.
  • Tripp on Dirty Sexy Money certainly seems to prefer Nick over all of his own children.
  • In the first series of Skins, Sid's episode shows that his father clearly prefers Tony over him, not getting that Sid is trying to be a hero helping people while Tony is a boderline sociopath.
  • In Season 1 of Gossip Girl, Eleanor is more friendly to and seems to favor Serena over her daughter, Blair.
  • A subversion on Glee: Burt Hummel is quite accepting of his Camp Gay son Kurt, even though he's a fairly masculine man himself. But when Finn becomes his stepson, Burt and Finn start bonding over their similar interests, and Kurt fears that this trope is occurring, until his father assures him that though he may not always understand Kurt, he always loves him. Burt even chews out Finn for using a homophobic slur against Kurt, though he later chews out Kurt as well when he learns why Finn was so upset with Kurt.
  • Completely averted in Kaamelott; where Leodagan already finds his own son Yvain a complete disappointment (imagine the kind of lazy and selfish teenager incapable of grasping his lack of talent and has no plans for the future), and sees Yvain's best friend Gauvain as equally annoying (now imagine two of them).
  • Downplayed in the Doctor Who episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"; Rory's dad Brian is not nearly as bad to him as some of the parents on this list, but he still clearly looks down on him a bit. Rory's wife Amy, on the other hand:
    [Brian is tinkering with a light fitting while Rory and Amy hold the ladder steady]
    Brian: I think it's the fitting.
    Rory: Dad, it's not the fitting. It just needs a new bulb.
    Brian: You're wobbling the ladder.
    Rory: I'm not!
    Brian: I don't want another loft incident.
    Amy: How's my side, Brian?
    Brian: Perfect as ever, Amy.
    Amy: [With a smug look at Rory] Thank you, Brian.
    [Rory mimicks her petulantly]
  • House of Anubis: In the episode where Alfie's parents were visiting, his father seemed much more interested in and proud of Jerome, to the point where he offered Jerome the job of his apprentice and gave him all the credit for Alfie's achievements. It wasn't helped by Jerome himself being eager to take the spotlight. Because Alfie spent the entire time trying to seem important and smart for his father and was sitting right there when it was happening, he wasn't at all happy with this.
  • On Seinfeld, George's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis is Lloyd Braun, who grew up in the same neighbourhood as George. George's mother always liked Lloyd better than him, even more so now that the two are adults and Lloyd is much more successful than George. Lloyd however seems completely unaware that George dislikes him.
  • In the third season of Damages Joe, the son of Louis Tobin, the late runner of a Ponzi scheme, confronts the family attorney, Leonard on how Leonard isn't even a real lawyer but stole his identity. Leonard scoffs that Louis knew the truth about him for years, that he trusted Leonard totally and openly says "I was more his son than you ever were." Joe laughs that Louis openly called Leonard "my little monkey" and never saw him as more than just another employee to use.
  • Done lightly on Pretty Little Liars: When Emily stays with Hanna while her parents move to Texas, she cooks breakfast the first morning as a "thank you," and Hanna's mom jokes about considering keeping the "daughter upgrade."
  • A variation on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—while Nog's father Rom is fully supportive of his son's desire to join Starfleet, Uncle Quark isn't.
    Quark: Why can't you take after your friend here? (motions to Jake) He knows enough to stay out of Starfleet.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Vuel is Sidar Kondo's real son, Gerrard his adopted son. When Gerrard inadvertently makes Vuel fail his Rite of Passage, Kondo rejects him, and he eventually turns into Volrath, Gerrard's eventual mortal enemy.

  • They aren't necessarily friends, but in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1, the titular king openly compares his son Harry to rebel leader Hotspur and considers the latter far superior.

    Video Games 
  • Heihachi Mishima of Tekken has this opinion of Paul Phoenix and hates his real son Kazuya, though that might have something to do with Kazuya constantly trying to kill him.
  • Hwang in the Soul Series. Seung Han Myong basically treats him like the son he never had, and whilst he loves his daughter Seung Mina, will not allow her to go out to fight because it wasn't considered proper for a woman to do so in Korea at the time.

    Web Comics 
  • This Channel Ate strip takes it to hilarious extremes.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: U18 Vegeta appears to have this briefly when he see's how strong U16 Bra is, and gets annoyed with his own daughter when she rejects his suggestion for her to train to get as strong as her counterpart.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Dale starts teaching Bobby acting and Hank starts teaching Dale's son lacrosse in a variant of this trope.
  • One SpongeBob SquarePants episode has SpongeBob trying to act very mature, and his grandmother pampering Patrick instead. SpongeBob ends up breaking into tears and admitting he likes being babied.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man also uses the Norman Osborn/Green Goblin preferring Peter Parker to his son Harry plot. This version of Norman is by far the most blatant, contrasting the two of them right to Harry's face.
  • Yet another Spider-Man example: Norman thinks this of Peter in Ultimate Spider-Man, though it's somewhat mitigated by the fact that this version Norman does care about his own son, Harry. Becomes blatant in the episode "Carnage" though:
    Goblin/Norman: Ah, Welcome home, son.
    Peter: What do you want? Let me go. Did you just say "son"?
    Goblin: The son I've always wanted. Harry and I share a few recessive genes, but nothing more. You're smarter, more driven. And as a wimpy, defenseless kid, you appreciate power. You can be a greater creation than the late, great Spider-Man.
  • Recess, "More Like Gretchen": Gretchen and Spinelli spend the day with Spinelli's parents, who can't stop gushing about Gretchen, who plays the piano and sings very well, can fix a TV, and even improves upon Spinelli's spaghetti recipe. As a result, Spinelli starts to become jealous and very antagonistic towads Gretchen, claiming she doesn't want to be her friend anymore.
  • On one episode of The Replacements, Riley goes to Canada on an exchange program and the boy from Canada who arrives to live with the Darlings ends up being so well liked that the family neglects Todd.
  • In American Dad!, this comes about after Steve complains about Stan forcing him to get involved with his interests. As a result, Stan takes an interest in Steve's friend Barry. It goes From Bad to Worse when Barry stops taking his anti-psychotic medication and decides to eliminate Steve from the picture.
  • Young Justice:
    • Icicle Sr. praises Tommy Terror (actually Superboy in disguise) and compares him favorably to his son, Tommy/Superboy's cellmate Icicle Jr.
    • Robin seems to feel this way in "Downtime" when Batman takes Aqualad aside for a private talk, even though it's not really the case (Bat's actually chewing out Aqualad). Bruce later mends things with a pick-up basketball game.
  • In an episode of Goof Troop, Pete and his son PJ's best friend Max end up paired up on an RV project. Pete compliments Max for his insight and wonders aloud why PJ can't be more like Max. Pete probably didn't know PJ was listening in on that conversation, but later in the episode he blatantly rejects PJ in favor of Max multiple times. Generally speaking, however, Pete doesn't favor Max over PJ—he usually treats both of them with hostility.
  • Arthur: In "The Perfect Brother", Brain stays over at Arthur's house for the weekend, and Arthur's family constantly compliments him on his polite and helpful behavior, such as eating his food neatly and offering Arthur's dad a cooking tip. This leads Arthur to become slightly angry at Brain... until Arthur decides to come over to Brain's house and notices that Brain's room is actually as messy as his own room. Brain's parents even start complimenting Arthur on his good behavior.
    Arthur: I don't believe it! You were so neat at my house.
    Brain: Yeah, and it almost killed me! I was a guest in your house, I had to be polite.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures:
    • Played for Laughs in an early episode where the team is exploring the polar regions. Jonny is eager to go out and test the new equipment, including upgraded (and fast) snowmobiles. Jessie segues into reminding him about the scientific purpose and importance of their mission. Race raises an eyebrow, turns to Dr. Quest and asks if they somehow managed to swap kids.
    • It is Played for Drama in a later episode when Jonny is trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine by Surd. In it he encounters a fake version of his father who calls him a disappointment for not being a scientist like him and openly favors Jessie for her scientific acumen. Jonny thinks this really is his father and he collapses to his knees trying to shut out the words. Since Surd was using Jonny's own fears to create the simulation, it's strongly implied that part of Jonny really thinks that his father wishes he was more like Jessie. Fortunately, the real Doctor Quest (having broken out of his own fear-based simulation) shows up and punches out the fake for mocking his son.


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