TV Tropes Thursday: TV Tropes: Dawson Casting

Dawson Casting is when teenager characters are portrayed on screen by people who are not teenagers.

People often criticize how common it is, but there are many good reasons why it happens.

Teenagers are still growing, and therefore, their appearances can be very fickle; a cute 14-year-old could become an awkward 15-year-old, and that can be very jarring to the audience.  Also, another issue is child labor laws; by law, teenagers can only work a so many hours, and that can make it hard to finish projects on time.  Avoiding having to deal with stage parents is also a huge factor.  Other factors could be that adult performers are often more skilled and experienced at acting; teenagers may find the pressures of being in a TV show too much to deal with and leave after only one season.

This trope is named after the show Dawson’s Creek.  Most of the cast was too old to be in school, when filming began.  This trope has also been called “The 90210 Effect,” named after Beverly Hills, 90210, where the teenage characters were mostly played by adults in the their 20’s.




TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Contractual Purity

Contractual Purity is when child and teenage performers are expected to do things that are child-friendly, clean, and wholesome.  Failing to do that may lead to controversy.  If child star does something like drinking or wearing revealing clothing, even if they are adults, controversy will often erupt, and they may be accused of being bad role models.  Many former child stars are often expected to do child-friendly movies and TV shows as they grow up; there may be a backlash if he or she tries to branch into more adult and mature; they could, again, be seen as betraying their audience.



TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: On One Condition

This trope is related to Unexpected Inheritance, and very often, it coincides with it. A character receives an inheritance.  But there are conditions to be met.  If they are not met, then the character will lose the money/estate. This trope is often used as a way to guarantee that the character will fail to meet the conditions, so that the premise of the show is not changed too much. There are usually four conditions:

1.  The character has to spend the night in the deceased’s house, which could be haunted.  Someone will try to scare them off buy dressing up as a ghost.

2.  The character is told that he or she will lose the money if they harm a certain person/type of person; such person, then starts antagonizing them because they can get away with it.

3.  The character needs to get married within a certain time frame, either to specific person, or any person.

4.  The character will lose either the entire inheritance or their share of the inheritance, if they die; this results in someone who stands to potentially gain all of the money, trying to kill them.

There are ways of messing around with the expectations of this trope. One way is to show that the character meets the condition, but ends up with no money because the estate was heavily in debt and was ceased by the government for taxes and such. Another subversion is that the inheritance is worthless due to the deceased’s assets having no value. Yet another way is that there is no inheritance, and the benefactor isn’t even dead; it was all a secret test of character.

Some examples:

  • Rose on The Golden Girls was bequeathed $100,000 to take care of her late uncle’s favorite pig for the rest of his (the pig’s) life. When the pig fell ill, the vet believed he was just homesick, so the girls gave up the money and passed him on to another relative back in Minnesota, only to have the pig die of old age 36 hours later.
    • After Aunt Fran dies on Mama’s Family, Thelma learns that she possessed a secret fortune, which she has willed to Thelma. The catch? The notoriously cantankerous Thelma must avoid losing her temper for two weeks, or else the money will go to Fran’s favorite charity.
      • Uncle Beaureguard’s $1 million dollar fortune in Confederate dollars came from an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. As mentioned above, Confederate bank notes are worth a lot of money to historical collectors. This never occurred to the writers, nor the Scooby Gang, who treat it as a total loss. Each beneficiary had to stay in Beauregard’s home to receive his/her share and the shares of those who failed to fulfill the condition went to those who didn’t fail. Scooby became the sole beneficiary.
      • The Tom and Jerry cartoon “The Million-Dollar Cat” had Tom inheriting a sizeable fortune on the condition he not harm another animal, not even a mouse. Jerry pesters him until he can’t take anymore, and the cartoon closes with Tom remarking “I’m throwing away a million dollars… but I’m HAPPY!” while trying to clobber Jerry with a broken board.
      • In the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Billion Dollar Boner, a man named O’Houlihan gets a billion dollar check – on the condition that he cannot do any harm to a bird. Woody then proceeds to antagonize him. At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that the check is a rubber fake.
        • A frequent plot in Looney Tunes shorts.
          • The Wabbit Who Came To SupperBugs Bunny moves in with Elmer Fudd when Fudd’s Uncle Louie wills him his entire fortune provided he does not harm any animals, especially rabbits. In the end, Elmer DOES manage to curb his anger long enough to get the money… and immediately loses it all (and then some) to taxes.
          • Hare to Heir uses both the “humiliating restrictions” and “murder” plots together. A broke Yosemite Sam inherits a large lump sum of cash on the condition that he will lose a percentage of it each time he loses his temper. As the amount left inevitably dwindles due to his famous hair-trigger rage, he tries to kill off the executor of the will who’s been making all the deductions before it’s all gone (Namely, Bugs Bunny). In the end, Sam tried to pitch an image of calmness by having his servants hit him without him getting angry at them for this and Bugs had no courage to tell Sam he had already lost all the inheritance by then.
          • In The Fair-Haired Hare, Sam builds his house over Bugs’s rabbit hole; a judge grants them joint custody, with the stipulation that if one of them dies, the other will get full rights to the property. Sam’s poorly-disguised murder attempts start soon after.
          • The feature-length movie Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters had Daffy goldbricking his way into inheriting the massive fortune of millionaire J.P. Cubish. He thinks he’s in the clear once Cubish dies, only to find out that a clause in the will that Daffy be ethical with the money causes a chunk of it to vanish into the spirit world every time he does something dirty.
          • There’s also a story where a cat inherited a fortune with the will stipulating that his parrot friend Louie would get the money if something happened to the cat. By the end of the cartoon, one of Louie’s plans actually seems to work, as the cat’s nine lives start leaving him. However, Loiue then brags about the inheritance he’s leaving behind, causing the lives to return and the cat to declare that if he can’t take the money with him, he’s not leaving.
          • In Tex Avery‘s MGM short Wags to Riches, a millionaire dies and leaves his fortune to Droopy, with a clause that in the event of Droopy’s death the entire estate will revert to his other dog, Spike…who naturally spends the cartoon trying (unsuccessfully) to bump Droopy off.

The book Marry Your Baby Daddy by Maryann Reid is about three sisters who receive an inheritance from their late grandmother.  The catch is that they have a certain amount of time to marry the fathers of their children.

TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Unexpected Inheritance

This trope is about what happens when a character suddenly receives an inheritance.

Very often, the character receives the inheritance from a relative that they don’t know very well, or that they rarely, if ever, see.

Much of the conflict in this trope comes from how the inheritance changes the recipient’s life, or the implications of the actual inheritance itself.

One of many examples:

In the Sister, Sister episode, “History a la Carte,” Lisa receives an inheritance from a dead aunt that she was never close to.  She starts going on a spending spree, but she is warned that she should instead use the money for something truly important.  Ultimately, she uses it to start her own clothes-selling business.


TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Ur Example, Trope Maker, and Trope Codifier

Welcome back!

One might wonder, when it comes to tropes, what the first use of a given trope.  TV Tropes has a few entries to explain that.

Ur Example is the oldest known version of a given trope, though it may have been an unintentional use and gradual developed rather than a usage that was .  The word “Ur” is a German word meaning  original.

The Ur Example is the oldest known example of a given trope. “Ur-” is just a German prefix meaning “proto-, primitive, or original.”


Typically, an Ur Example doubles as the Trope Maker — but not always, and far less often with ancient tropes, which often evolved over a long period of time rather than suddenly bursting forth from someone’s head, fully formed. When they’re distinct, a Trope Maker differs from an Ur Example in that the latter becomes an example of that trope only in retrospect.


For instance, one of the pivotal Trope Makers of the Detective Story is Edgar Allan Poe‘s collection of Dupin stories; before Dupin, there is no story genre of fictional detectives going about the business of solving crimes. Nevertheless, while you may or may not know Poe’s Dupin stories, you’ve probably encountered a certain Danish Prince named Hamlet, who not only sets about to ensnare his uncle King Claudius, but even incorporates into his plans a play-within-a-play he dubs “The Mousetrap.” And half a millennium earlier still, “The Tale of the Three Apples” is a proto-Detective Story from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights — which makes “The Tale of the Three Apples” the Ur Example of the Detective Story, or at least a possible candidate. However, Oedipus Rex, first performed in 429 BCE, depicts Oedipus investigating the cause of the plague that has struck his realm.


Wherever a trope has evolved gradually, determining the Ur Example can be a complicated and contentious business. In many cases a trope has more than one Ur Example, because determining the “earliest use of the trope” depends on subjective choices as to which aspects of the trope are its defining qualities.


Ur Examples are unfortunately highly susceptible to the Seinfeld Is Unfunny trope – not only because they dreamed up conventions that have been around practically forever but because, since at the time they were so new, the creators didn’t really appreciate what they were making and thus didn’t conform to the standards of an aesthetic or gimmick that hadn’t even existed yet. See Unbuilt Trope and Beam Me Up, Scotty! for more on this.

The Trope Maker is the first intentional use of a trope.  It is different from the Ur Example in that it fully formed and defined a given trope.

Phrases like “shiver my timbers” and traditional pirate songs like “Fifteen Men on the Dead Man’s Chest” were made up by Robert Louis Stevenson for his novel Treasure Island, published in 1883 — over 150 years after the end of the Golden Age of Piracy. We might as well tell you right now that 90 percent of all pirate tropes come from the same book: One-legged piratessquawking parrots, drunken mutinies… all that stuff can be traced back to Treasure Island.

A Trope Maker is the first unambiguous example of a particular trope. Though there may have been similar things in the past, these are the works that defined their respective tropes.


See also Trope Codifier, which is the example of a trope that defines all other uses. If a Trope Codifier is very different in outlook than the Trope Maker, then the Trope Maker worked on an Unbuilt Trope.


And, of course, don’t confuse with Ur Example — the earliest example that has the essence of the trope, but may not have the actual connotations and may be missing details. However, it’s the Trope Maker which starts the consistent enough pattern to be called a trope.


To provide a concrete example of all three, the Detective Story‘s Trope Maker is Edgar Allan Poe‘s Dupin stories, and Sherlock Holmes is the Trope Codifier; but the Ur Example may well be “The Tale Of the Three Apples” in 1001 Nights (The Arabian Nights). Related: Trope Namer.

The Trope Codifier is the use of a trope that is the most well-known and helped defined the trope as is it known today.

You have before you three series. The first, Series A, was the first known use of a trope, but it may or may not have been intentional. The second, Series B, was the first intentional use of the trope. The third, Series C, does not claim originality, and may in fact have ripped off series B, but was much more popular than Series A or B and is the template that all later uses of this trope follow.


Series A is the Ur Example.


Series B is the Trope Maker.


Series C is the Trope Codifier.


In other words, if in tracing the history of a trope, one example stands out as the template that many, many other examples follow, that’s the Trope Codifier.


The Trope Maker is frequently also the Trope Codifier, but not always. In particular, when the Trope Maker is a work of outstanding quality, the Trope Codifier may often be a story that shows how lesser authors can do a good imitation. Conversely, a great writer may gather up many old tropes and polish them to a shine, codifying them for later generations. Occasionally somebody rediscovers a Forgotten Trope.


The Trope Codifier may be the first theme park version or Pragmatic Adaptation. If the trope is Older Than They Think, the Codifier is usually mistaken for the Trope Maker. Really old tropes may have been codified every couple of centuries for millennia, as successive codifiers show how to adapt the age-old trope to their times. With the advent of television, a trope related to television may be codified by a new show every decade or two after the associations with previous codifiers have died out.


Important: “Trope Codifier” does not mean Most Triumphant Example. It means “Example that has fingerprints of influence on all later examples of the trope”. The true marker of a Codifier is that it invents some unique spin on the trope that all later examples have some reaction to. Take, for example, Werewolves. There were earlier examples of werewolf stories, but it is with 1941’s The Wolf Man that we first see werewolves as an infection (previously, it was a curse or part of a Deal with the Devil), silver vulnerability (previously, it was vampires or ghosts who were usually associated with weakness to silver), made the werewolf a human cursed to turn into a wolf-man (previously, all kinds of variations were available, from wolf that turns into a man, to man who was permanently turned into a wolf), and tied the wolf to the night of the full moon (previously, they either focused on the three nights around the full moon, or had little to do with the phase of the moon). Almost all later examples of Werewolves bear some of these subtropes, which originated with The Wolf Man, or at least discuss them in order to explain why Our Werewolves Are Different. Thus, we can state with confidence that it is the Trope Codifier.


Examples should be of Trope Codifiers that aren’t Trope Makers themselves.


Related to Older Than They Think. If a Trope Codifier is particularly influential, and the Trope Maker a little twisted you may have an Unbuilt Trope.


Also see Most Triumphant Example.






TV Tropes Thursday: TV Tropes: Stage Mom

This is somewhat related to my previous post about former child stars.

Stage Moms are mothers who are heavily involved with making their children stars.  They are often depicted as being overly aggressive.  They may try to prevent other children who compete with their children.  They may try to dictate various aspects of their children’s work.  Many stage mothers do what they do because they wanted to be stars when they were younger, but lacked the talent or chances that make that.  Many are trying to live off of their children’s fame and earnings.

Stage dads and stage parents are less likely to be visible in fiction and in real life.  Men are expected to earn things on their own.  Even if a child has a stage mom and a stage dad, the mom is the one who will receive most of the blame.  Stage dads are more likely to be involved with a child’s athletic pursuits.

It is common for teenage characters to be played by young adults, often those who are in their 20s.  One of many reasons for that is to avoid having to deal with stage parents.

Some examples:

Real Life examples:


  • Successful entertainers who have children typically wind up getting accused of this if their children follow them into showbiz.


  • Minnie Marx, mother of the Marx Brothers. It was mainly her hard work that ever got them recognition in vaudeville before their breakthrough.
  • One of the earliest (of the modern age) was what inspired The Coogan Act in the US, after Jackie Coogan’s parents spent all of the money he had earned through his various acting gigs as a child.
  • Natalie Wood, who starred in the film version of Gypsy, had plenty of real-life preparation for the role due to her own mother, Maria. Natasha, the biography by Suzanne Finstad, reveals some shocking details; for example, that Maria would take a live butterfly and tear its wings off in front of young Natalie in order to make the child cry before scenes that called for it.
    • Similarly, the real life Rose made June cry by telling her their dog died.
  • William Shatner‘s Star Trek Memories claimed that wife of the actor who played Christopher Pike in the pilot insisted he be shot from certain angles, among other techniques, in order to make him look good. Eventually, Desilu Studios couldn’t handle this and stopped using the actor.
  • In Star Trek IV, Sulu (George Takei) was meant to have a chance encounter, while walking around 20th-century San Francisco, with a kid who would turn out to be his ancestor. Unfortunately, the kid who was to play the part had what Shatner described (in Star Trek Movie Memories) as “the most over-the-top stage mom” he had ever encountered, and she ended up making her kid so stressed out that she made it effectively impossible to actually film the scenes.
  • Nearly all of Macaulay Culkin’s Hollywood crash-and-burnout can be attributed to his father/manager, Kit Culkin. To give an example, one of the reasons Macaulay was pushed into the horror film The Good Son was Kit’s pushing and threatening to withdraw Macaulay from Home Alone 2. Kit’s presence onThe Good Son wound up forcing the first director to quit. Eventually, studios were turning the kid down for roles specifically because they didn’t want to deal with Kit, leading to his retirement from acting at the age of 14. Macaulay has since become estranged from Kit and refuses to speak to him.
    • When auditioning child actors for the Harry Potter movies, producer Chris Columbus interviewed the parents of all of the children being considered for roles and immediately eliminated the children of those who came across as stage parents. He said he did that because of all the problems he had with Kit Culkin while doing the first two Home Alone movies.
  • Judy Garland’s mother was this, in addition to being an Abusive Parent. According to Garland’s sister, this led to her drug abuse and possibly contributed to her death.
  • Dina and Michael Lohan, parents of Lindsay, are exemplars of the self-serving side of this trope. Dina took Lindsay to nightclubs and let her drink when she was underage, then used her daughter’s personal troubles to launch her own career in entertainment, getting herself a reality show on E!. Then, she pushed her younger daughter Ali to enter showbiz as well, causing many people to fear that Ali will end up with as many or more problems thanks to her mother. Michael, meanwhile, blabs about Lindsay to the media every chance he gets, and went on Celebrity Rehab for seemingly no other reason then to get attention and talk about her.
  • In a blog post on SMBC Theater, JP mentioned that, while he and some others were talking about the show in a diner, a 10-year-old girl came over and told them that her mother said to tell them she’s an actress. If you don’t get why he didn’t like that, let’s put this into perspective: A woman had told her 10-year-old child to introduce herself to a group of men neither one of them were familiar with, just so the girl might get an acting position.
    • It would have been worse if the mother was familiar with SMBC Theater, since most of the material is not safe for kids. This is why they always have adults kneeling when they have children in the sketches.
  • Drew Barrymore‘s mother Jaid could be blamed in large part for her daughter’s drug and alcohol problems at such a young age. Jaid regularly took young Drew to such adult hangouts like Studio 54 and the China Club. Years later, some time after Drew posed for Playboy, Jaid decided that she wanted to pose nude too!
  • Hilary Duff‘s parents are said to be the reason why the Lizzie McGuire franchise was cancelled after The Movie.
  • More than one similar accusation has been leveled at Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley Cyrus‘ father and co-star) in regards to the Hannah Montana franchise. Billy Ray says it’s the other way round: that the executives were the ones abusing and restraining Miley. Then again, he’s also blamed atheists for the same thing. Billy Ray might just be cuckoo.
  • Thora Birch‘s father (Jack Birch, a former porn star) has meddled in his daughter’s affairs enough that he’s caused a hit to her reputation. He reportedly showed up on set during production of the 2007 film Horrified and watched over his daughter while she performed a simulated sex scene with Dean Winters, then in 2010 he reportedly stayed in her dressing room at a stage adaptation of Dracula and tried to micromanage the production. This ended up getting her fired from the play.
    • Thora was also fired from a biopic about the Manson Family girls, and the director specifically blamed her father’s interference.
    • Equally distressing, Thora doesn’t appear fazed by her dad’s behavior, nor is she upset that he has cost her work. After she was fired from Dracula, she said, “My dad is my support, and he is the best support that I ever could have.”
  • Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have been accused of pushing their children into showbiz at too early an age. Their son Jaden is an actor (best known for The Karate Kid remake, which was produced by Will and Jada), while daughter Willow is a singer.
    • Though their children do seem to have some control over their own careers as well, as Willow voluntarily dropped out of the upcoming remake of Annie because touring as a singer took too much out of her, and she “just wanted to be 12” again.
  • This is part of the reason Galactica 1980 did so poorly. Because it was aired during a time-slot that was considered “child friendly”, ABC’s Standards and Practices demanded that the show include more children. This, of course, brought a large influx of pushy stage moms, “all of whom ought to be locked up”, according to executive producer Gary Larsen.
  • Chrisoula Workman, mother of Ariel Winter, was a bad enough case of this that the state revoked her custody over Ariel and put her under the care of her adult sister, the also actress Shanelle Gray .
  • Terri Shields, the mother of Brooke Shields, use to happily admit to being a stage mom. She also didn’t seem that bothered by Brooke’s nude scenes inPretty Baby, which were done when Brooke was twelve.
  • The documentary Life After Tomorrow chronicles the lives of the women who played orphans in Annie. A full segment was devoted to talking about the stage moms (and one stage dad); though not all were as horrible as the trope described, some were, and usually her daughter would not continue acting because of it.
  • Heartwarmingly averted with Benedict Cumberbatch, as his parents, both of them actors, encouraged him to pursue a career other than acting because of how hard it was for them financially. A turning point came when they saw a performance of his at University and they agreed that he could be better at it than they ever were.


  • Britney Spears‘ mother Lynne pushed her and her sister Jamie Lynn to become stars. You know how this ended. Britney eventually resumed her career and got her life back together, but she remains under her father’s conservatorship.
  • Joe Simpson, father of Jessica and Ashlee.
  • Joe Jackson really, really didn’t want his kids to become criminals on the streets of Gary, Indiana. He probably could have found a better way to do this, however. Many of his children have said in interviews that they felt abused by him with hours upon hours of incessant after-school and weekend rehearsals, including being slapped or spanked when they made mistakes and becoming belligerent when they showed interest in activities and hobbies removed from the family performing business. Part of the reason Michael Jackson turned his home into a private amusement park was that he felt (with a good deal of justification) that he had spent his entire childhood performing and doing adult work that now that he had some breathing room with his solo career that he wanted to take some time to make up for it.
    • For worse, he has hinted that he wants to do something similar with Michael’s kids…
    • A clear example came in the wake of Michael’s death. An interview with him a few days afterwards had him tell a reporter, “We lost one of our biggest stars”, along with him repeatedly pitching a record label project he was involved in.
  • The Beach Boys suffered through years of dreadful stage-fathering. Murry Wilson, father of Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, was a mildly successful songwriter/producer who, for their first few years, acted as manager, producer, and publisher to the group. Among other questionable practices and decisions, he allegedly whacked Brian Wilson in the head with a 2×4, causing hearing damage. Celebrities At Their Worst, a collection of, well, you know, features a 10-minute outtake of the elder Wilson guilt-tripping his sons through a recording session for “Help Me, Rhonda”.
  • Luis Gallego Sánchez aka Luisito Rey, father and manager to Mexican singer Luis Miguel. Luisito Rey was a rather populat singer whose career was starting to decline when his oldest son was born, and once he saw that “Luismi” was a Child Prodigy in singing he became this to him, controlling all of his son’s early career and allegedly being physically and mentally abusive to him. It was so bad that, in the late 80’s, once Luis Miguel reached legal age he told his dad off and fired him; Luisito Rey became so depressed that he died in 1992.
  • The Shaggs, a band comprised of three sisters, came into existence due to a prophecy their father believed that they would form a popular music group. As soon as they were old enough, he pulled them out of school and bought them instruments and lessons, and forced them into gigs and the studio from 1968 until his death in 1975. Despite his efforts, the band would go down in history as legendarily So Bad, It’s Good.
  • Taylor Momsen has accused her parents of being this. This may explain her transformation from a teen soap star to a raunchy, scantily-clad rock frontwoman before she turned 18.
  • Pop girl group Destinee & Paris’ mother is like this. The main reason they became Destinee & Paris was that their mother suffocated the previous members of their rock band (Ariel and then Sarah, who lasted less than half a year as the Clique Girlz) and they were forced into it after all the bad publicity. (Ariel went on to name her next band NMD — No More Drama — as a Take That.) When the two were featured on the E! reality show The Dance Scene, their mother continuously told everyone around them they weren’t ready to perform on the night of the performance despite Laurieann Gibson (choreographer for Lady Gaga) saying they were great. Laurieann dropped them as clients not long after.
  • Quite common in Classical Music:
    • Older Than Radio: A number of well-known classical composers – especially of the “child prodigy” variety – were pushed into playing and composing music from an early age due to their parents’ wishes. For example, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Maria Anna, toured Europe as little kids playing piano and violin, under the tutelage of their father Leopold, a well-known composer in his own right. Of course, there are also darker examples, like Ludwig van Beethoven‘s father, who was so obsessed with his son becoming the next Mozart that he beat him if he didn’t practice enough. But overall, the “child prodigy” notion has become so ubiquitous in classical music circles that fans are often surprised to find out that some of the greatest composers – such as Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms – didn’t start writing music until middle age, and even the so-called “child prodigies”, including both Mozart and Beethoven, didn’t really hit their stride until at least their late teens.
    • It’s fairly common in some musical families to start kids on piano or a stringed instrument at a preschool age, although there usually aren’t any expectations of fame and fortune until the kid is in their teens or older. It’s ubiquitous enough that if you play one of those instruments, it’s harder (but not impossible) to get ahead in your career if you didn’t start at a young age, and most music schools are full of pianists and violinists who’ve been playing almost their entire lives. That’s not usually the case with wind players or classical singers, though, as starting young on those often poses physical risks that will hurt your chances for an adult career. And the best examples of this are the poor kids whose parents and teachers pushed them in it anyway.
  • One of the rare positive examples: George M. Cohen, one of the biggest names in vaudeville, was brought into the act as a child by his father (who’d also brought his wife and daughter into his act). He eventually took over the family’s show. George once stated that his entire life, he would see his father in the audience whenever he performed, encouraging him.
  • Nick and Aaron Carter’s parents, whose behavior wound up having disastrous consequences for Aaron later in his life. At the height of Aaron’s career, they blew through his earnings, leaving him saddled with tremendous debt before he turned 18; he cut all business ties to them when he found out what they were doing. Between that and his drug problems, Aaron eventually had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2013, at the age of 25.


  • Anthony Hamilton, Lewis Hamilton’s dad and ex-manager. Lewis admits they’re not in speaking terms ever since his dad stopped managing his stuff.
  • Both of NHL hockey player Eric Lindros’ parents were like this. Widely expected to be the next great superstar in the early 1990s, both his father (also his agent) and his mother were very vocal as to what they saw as acceptable for their son, including having him hold out from playing for the Quebec Nordiques who had drafted him first overall (the city being too small, French and provincial to properly market their son). This got Lindros’ career off on the wrong foot and made him an early pariah with a Jerk Ass reputation. After the Philadelphia Flyers acquired his rights, the Lindros parents continued to attempt to stage-manage his career to the great annoyance of the organization. Eric did go on to become a very good player until his career (and that of his little brother) was cut short by injuries.
    • In a Hilarious in Hindsight moment for Quebec, Lindros’ trade to Philadelphia turned them into a playoff contender almost overnight. They went on to win two Stanley Cups as the Colorado Avalanche, the first of which was in their first season in Denver.
  • Tennis seems to love this trope:
    • Australian/Serbian player Jelena Dokic’s father/coach Damir was notorious for his aggressive and abusive courtside behaviour when she began playing in major tournaments; he also moved his family back to Serbia from Australia after accusing Australian tennis officials of match-fixing. She eventually managed to break away from him, sacking him as her coach and moving back to/competing for Australia.
    • Mary Pierce’s father/coach Jim, who admitted to training her when she was a child by repeatedly serving balls with his full strength at her face, notoriously screamed “kill the bitch!” at her from the audience during a match when she was twelve, and was on the receiving end of a restraining order from her in 1993, after which he got stabbed by her bodyguard.
    • Bernard Tomic’s father/coach John was banned from the ATP tour after he assaulted his son’s hitting partner Thomas Drouet and has reportedly been verbally and physically abusive to his own son for a long time with Drouet saying that he once saw him punch Bernard in the mouth during practice.
    • German icon Steffi Graf was introduced to the sport by her father, a car-salesman-turned-tennis-coach who later became her manager and kept a tight grip on her schedule. He eventually landed in jail for tax fraud.
    • Plenty of fans would like to see Andy Murray’s mother/former coach/now heavily involved in the women’s game Judy take a step back.
  • Bill Butterfield was a man whose athletic aspirations were cut short in high school when his girlfriend became pregnant. He then tried to mould both his sons into sports stars in his place, through a strict diet and training regimen, and years of verbal and emotional abuse. His elder son Billy eventually just walked away, leaving his father to focus on younger son Lance, who was eight at the time. Over the years Bill became increasingly controlling, abusive and crazy towards Lance, dictating his life, recording his matches, giving him steroids and eventually beating him daily; Lance eventually snapped and shot him. It’s telling that, at Lance’s murder trial, it was the prosecution that was booed by the crowd, and, while the defence could field dozens of character witnesses for Lance, including a sworn affidavit by his paternal grandfather that Lance shouldn’t be prosecuted, the prosecution could not find a single person who would testify that Bill Butterfield was a good man.
  • Marv Marinovich, father of former NFL player Todd Marinovich. Todd earned the nickname “Robo QB” because he was like a machine — this is because his father engineered him from birth to be the perfect quarterback. In high school and college, there was simply nobody else at his level because his training and diet were so far ahead of the curve. In the NFL, however, he was an infamous bust; Apparently Todd never especially liked football, but didn’t dare express that to his obsessed father.


  • Wanda Holloway, the woman who inspired The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom and Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story. She asked her brother in law to hire a hitman, who then was supposed to kill the mother of her kid’s rival in a cheerleading competition.
  • Watch any show about child pageants. All the moms and more than one dad shown there will be like this, more often than not, to sickening degrees. This is the whole point of the show Toddlers And Tiaras.
    • One particularly sickening example is the story of Kerry Campbell, who gave her eight-year-old daughter Botox injections. When she was found out, she not only defended this practice (claiming it was never too early get your child cosmetic surgery to “get rid of the lines”), but also claimed that otherpageant moms practiced this as well. The fact that the story turned out to be fake did nothing to dispel it.
    • One 5-year-old girl named Carley developed an alter-ego called Darla to cope with her mom’s pushing.
    • Joel McHale of The Soup fame usually saves his most vicious snark and insults for these particular parents, including, at one point, essentially saying thatCronos, the Titan who ate his children when they were born, was a better parent than one of the parents he featured!
  • George Sampson, the winner of Britain’s Got Talent in 2008, should have had a very promising career after his victory in the show. Unfortunately, his career was run into the ground in less than a year, in no small part due to his obnoxious and extremely demanding mother, who was largely responsible for Simon Cowell’s company ditching Sampson after they became sick of her. Sampson is making a rebound, however, as he has starred in the 2010 Street Dance.
  • Rose Hovick, mother of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc. She became legendary for this trope following Gypsy’s 1957 autobiography and the subsequent musical adaptation Gypsy as mentioned above.
  • A common nickname for Kris Jenner (mother of Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe Kardashian, as well as Kendall and Kylie Jenner) is PMK — short for “Pimp Mama Kris”, due to the perception that she forced her daughters into Reality TV stardom and modeling careers as a means of living out her own dreams of fortune and celebrity.
  • Claude Drouet, mother of Child Prodigy poetess Marie Noelle “Minou” Drouet. For worse, Claude was accused of being the real author of Minou’s works; while this was ultimately cleared when Minou wrote stuff without her mom being present, the pressure soundly affected the poor little girl.


TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Former Child Star

We’ve all seen stories of actors and singers who were popular when they were children.  However, they were unable to reproduce their success as adults.  Some of them disappeared into obscurity.  Others became more well-known for their personal struggles.

There are many reasons why many child stars fall into hard times.  In fact, Mara Wilson, a former child star, best known for the films, Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, wrote an article on, explaining why many child stars fall into hard times.

1.  Wilson began by saying that many parents of child stars do not help their kids and instead, they exploit them.  While that was not her experience, many children are forced into show business by their parents; Wilson chose to be an actress and retired as a teenager by choice as well.  They are not allowed to have normal childhoods, and are often treated as money sources for their parents.  A big example of exploitation is when parents steal their children’s earnings for themselves.  Back in the 1930s, a young actor by the name of Jackie Coogan was one of the most popular child stars.  When he became an adult he learned that his mother and stepfather had spent all of his money.  This led to the Coogan Act being passed in the state of California, which while better than nothing, only protects 15% of a child star’s earnings, and there are still ways for parents to screw their children out of their money.

2.  Wilson continued by saying that sometimes, parents CAN’T help their kids.  She has personal experience of this as well.  She attended the premiere of the film Nine Months, starring Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore, and was interviewed by a journalist asking her about the then recent scandal involving Grant and prostuttes.  Her father complained to the radio station that employed the journalist, but he was blown off.  Wilson says that illustrates how if one’s child is a star, the people who have control over them are the studio/record company and their entourage.  She says this often leads to bad behavior on the part of the child stars, due to being controlled by people who do not have their best interests at heart.

3.  Perhaps a common reason is the fact that child stars are often treated, not as human beings with rights and feelings and needs, but instead as objects that are discarded once they pass their shelf lives.  They get used to being popular, but then once they get too old and are no longer cute and become awkward-looking teenagers (often, the child actors who most successfully transition to adult stardom are the ones who are cute kids who grow up into attractive adults) , they are forgotten about and replaced by younger kids who then take their place in captivating the world with their cuteness.  Children often don’t understand that many situations in life are only temporary.  They think that what’s happening to them will always happen.  When it stops, it’s often hard for them to cope.  This can lead to destructive behaviors.

4.  Tragically, as Wilson points out in her next point, many child stars are sexually exploited.  She was as well.  As pre-teen, she found photos of her on a foot fetish site, and thought it was hilarious since she was too young to understand all of the ramifications of sex and sexual abuse and the like.  She only finally understood as an adult.  However, lots of child stars have it worse.  Many have been raped.  Others are forced to have overtly sexual images when they don’t even have enough of an understanding of their own sexualities.  Of course, sexual exploitation often causes severe trauma and many survivors of it turn to destructive behaviors in order to cope.

5.  Many child stars want to rebel, or even NEED to rebel, like most normal kids.  However doing so can ruin their images.  Things like wearing somewhat revealing clothing or going to parties can cause scandals and accusations of being bad role models.  When they get older and can do things without being accused of setting bad examples for children, they often do bad things are far worse, due to having more means than most people and not knowing how to make their own decisions because they grew up having people controlling their every moves.  And due to being in the public eye, people know about their activities.

6.  Many child stars fall into bad times because they don’t know what else to do.  While minor entertainers are required to receive education (many have private tutors who educate them on the sets of their productions), many don’t pursue college education after finishing high school.  They continue show business if they can because since they’ve done for a large chunk, if not most of their lives, it’s all they’ve every known; they often can’t just stop.

7.  Finally, many child stars can’t escape their pasts.  It always affects them.  They may be embarrassed because of how far they might have fallen.  They might feel that everything they do in the present and in the future will follow them for the rest of their lives.  There is the struggle of being accused of  being accused of being has-beens trying to regain relevance by bringing up their pasts or being in denial if decline to talk about it; they may also be torn between being accused of lying if they say they enjoyed being a child star and being accused of being ungrateful if they say it was a miserable time for them.  Former child stars don’t know how to move on, a lot of the time.

TV Tropes has a variety of examples of child stars in fiction and in real life who either fell into hard times after growing up or who managed to have successful adult career.


Real Life instances:

  • As a musical example, Britney Spears has fallen on this hard. Though her musical career has rebounded, her personal life and reputation are a massive train wreck, with her remaining in the conservatorship of her father.
  • Lindsay Lohan… Oh dear. It was a mix of her personality (even as a child) and her parents that eventually demolished anything she had left resembling a professional career.
  • Justin Bieber started out as a sweet little boy singing songs on YouTube. Then, he blew up and became a superstar. His ego soon followed and now he’s more known for his drinking, partying and love of strippers/prostitutes than singing.
  • The famous child acting duo Corey Feldman and Corey Haim both had meltdowns for adult lives. Eventually it claimed Corey Haim’s life. Corey Feldman has survived fairly well, but unfortunately that’s all we ever hear of him doing anymore.
  • Brian Bonsall, who played baby brother Andy Keaton on Family Ties and Worf’s son Alexander on Star Trek: The Next Generation has been arrested several times for assault and drug possession.
  • Macaulay Culkin became a star after Home Alone. Twenty years later, it still is his most important role.
    • However, it deserves noting that this is largely by choice, as he had a Stage Dad who forced him into role after role without taking a break, wanting to maximize on his son’s bankability. Culkin understandably got burned out on his desire to act after that.
  • Edward Furlong, despite solid performances in American History X and a couple of other movies, is still remembered as a juvenile John Connor.
  • For some time, Jake Lloyd seemed to be very bitter and cynical about his role as Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, but when you have gone through high-school and college with people constantly accusing you of ruining Star Wars, it is pretty hard to not to. However, a later interview between him and a Star Wars fansite has shown that he’s mellowed out since then and confirms that – contrary to popular belief – he does not hate the franchise after all the harassment.
  • Michael Jackson was ultimately a bigger star as an adult solo act, but didn’t completely subvert this trope. The abuse he suffered under his dad’s thumb as a child star warped him so badly that once he was able to stand on his own, he became obsessed with finally having a happy childhood in his private life. Thus, most of his adult pursuits and hobbies were juvenile and a way for him to “live as a kid” (i.e., the whole Neverland Ranch), and were a big reason he wound up with the Memetic Molester reputation that ruined his career.
  • Mozart was very much like Michael. His parents, and particularly his father Leopold, made him a child prodigy, but more of his popular works date from his later years.
  • Judy Garland had some success into her twenties, still usually playing teenage roles, but she could never really transition into serious adult roles, and once her teenage staredom days were over, it was the beginning of the end for the “little girl with a great big voice.” She developed a drug addiction, which stemmed from being given barbiturates by MGM to keep her active and working longer during her child star years. Her increasing difficulty to work with and nervous breakdowns certainly didn’t help. Two failed comeback-attempts, five marriages, a few suicide attempts, and many health problems (including heavy smoking and drinking) later, she passed away from a barbiturate overdose at the very untimely age of 47 in 1969 (although because of her health problems, she arguably looked at least ten years older).
  • Brad Renfro was 12 when he made his film debut in the critically-acclaimed film The Client, co-starring with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. He won The Hollywood Reporter‘s Young Star Award in 1995 went on to appear in the 1998 film Apt Pupil and Ghost World. Sadly, he spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse and died from a heroin overdose at the age of 25.
  • The three lead kid actors on Diff’rent Strokes — Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato — became infamous for brushes with the law as adults. Plato ultimately died at 34 of a drug overdose which was ruled a suicide. Gary Coleman, meanwhile, struggled to recover before tragically dying at 42 from head trauma. Bridges, meanwhile, is a regular on TruTV’s The Smoking Gun Presents, along with former Partridge Family cast member Danny Bonaduce, another example of a Former Child Star who fell into serious problems as an adult (both Bridges and Bonaduce appear to be getting their lives on track at this point).
  • Played tragically straight with River Phoenix. He had a skill for acting far beyond anyone else in his generation, but couldn’t cope with the pressures of fame and hated that he was part of a system he despised. in which he was the focus of attention that should have been devoted to causes such as Humanitarian or Animal Rights which he felt strongly about. He turned to drugs and wound up dying of an overdose.
    • Averted with his brother Joaquin, who’s got a pretty good career as an adult.
      • Although Joaquin played up to the trope with his extended breakdown in the fake-autobiographical I’m Still Here.
    • No too straight, though, given that he played his most famous roles as a young adult, despised his stardom and was perfectly aware of dangers it comes with and dying at 23, at the peak of popularity, he had actually little chance to become a Former Child Star.
  • Then there’s the rather sad case of Bobby Driscoll, who was Disney’s golden boy during the 1940s. He was in several Disney movies, and particularly famous for his roles in Song Of The South and Peter Pan, but was abruptly let go in the middle of the 1950s. He was ridiculed in school for being a child star and lapsed into obscurity through drugs. He was found dead and the body wasn’t identified until a year later.
  • And also the equally sad case of Anissa Jones, notable for playing Buffy in Family Affair. When the show ended its run in 1971, she tried to find work in films, but no roles were coming. Brian Keith, who played her uncle on Family Affair, wanted to give her a part in his new TV project, but she no longer wanted to work in TV. Jones later fell into drug addiction, and died in 1976 of an overdose at age 18.
    • One contributing factor to her problems may have been that the producers and writers literally didn’t let her grow up—even though she had hit puberty by the time the series ended, she was still forced to act and appear as a preteen.
  • Other than the Olsen Twins, just about all of the child/teenage actors who starred in Full House have fallen out of the limelight.
    • Jodie Sweetin in particular stands out as an example of this trope played straight. Facing an inability to find further work and a traumatic social life due to being typecast as Stephanie Tanner, she became an alcoholic and a habitual user of marijuana, cocaine, LSD and most famously, meth. However, she seems to have gotten her life back on track, has published a memoir about her drug addiction, and is now seeking a Career Resurrection.
    • Candace Cameron has since bounced back a bit, now appearing on Make It Or Break It. Not as well-known or massive as Full House was in its time, but still a noteworthy performance. A devout Christian like her brother Kirk Cameron (see below), the worst she did was marry young.
  • Leif Garrett is an example of this, a child pop star who got embroiled with drugs and scandals. Currently a commentator on Tru TV‘s Worlds Dumbestalongside fellow Former Child Stars Danny Bonaduce and Todd Bridges.
  • There is an interesting contrast between the two stars of Guest from the FutureNatalia Guseva acted in a few more movies, but decided to become a scientist instead. Now, she not only works as a biochemist, but also is still involved with the fan community, and is raising a daughter. Meanwhile, Alexei Fomkin had a few more roles, but got into drug problems, which caused him to lose roles and spiral further downward. He quit acting and moved to a village, which seemed to be straightening him out. Sadly, he died in 1996 when his apartment burned.
  • Robert Blake also starred in Our Gang comedies (as Mickey Gubitosi), then later starred in In Cold Blood and had the title role on the TV series Baretta, and years later was acquitted of his wife’s murder, but lost a civil wrongful death lawsuit filed by his children.
  • For a while, it looked as though Amanda Bynes was shaping up to be an aversion; she had stated that she didn’t like drinking or going to clubs and instead preferred to hang out at home with family and friends. That changed in 2012, however, when she was involved in several hit-and-run and reckless driving incidents, and continued into a series of increasingly erratic Twitter posts, including asking Drake to “murder her vagina”. She was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, which explains the behavior, and was on involuntary psychiatric hold for several months in 2013.
  • Former Idol Singer Ai Kago joined Morning Musume, one of the most popular Girl Groups in Japan, at age 12, and her popularity flourished when she was selected to join other units under the Hello! Project name. However, as she grew older, she became dissatisfied with her image and started smoking to feel “older”, though she was underage at that time. As a result of that (and entering a relationship with a man 10 years her senior), she was kicked out of Hello! Project. While she did try to make a comeback, her career has continued to spiral downwards with numerous scandals including having an affair with a married man and dating a man rumored to have ties with the yakuza.


Real Life aversions:

  • Elizabeth Taylor, going from a child star in movies like Lassie Come Home to one of the most famous film actresses ever. Her private life, however, was notably less successful: she was notorious for her large number of weddings and divorces, and was treated for alcoholism and prescription drug addiction.
  • Jodie Foster. First major role was in Taxi Driver as a twelve-year-old child prostitute. Even after the scandal over John Hinckley, she went on to have a very successful career which includes two acting Oscars.
  • Shirley Temple. She went to be happily married for 50 years until her husband’s death, and was an Ambassador for the United States to Czechoslovakia, during the Velvet Revolution. Also, during the 1968 Soviet Crackdown on Czechoslovakia, she led over 700 people to the border and got them through because the guards were fans of her.
  • Jackie Cooper starred in some Our Gang comedies and was still a successful actor, director, and producer, most famous on screen as Perry White in theSuperman film series starring Christopher Reeve.
  • Bill Mumy of Lost in Space. His parents took care that he grew up properly during his career as a child, including carefully investing his pay, and he became a successful musician (his comedy pop band Barnes & Barnes is responsible for that “Fish Heads” song) and a reasonably busy actor who even got another juicy sci-fi TV role as Lennier in Babylon 5.
    • His daughter Liliana is also making it well as a cartoon voice actress (most notably as the voice of Panini in Chowder), and even played alongside her dad in the sequel to “It’s a Good Life”, “It’s Still a Good Life”, on the second revival of The Twilight Zone.
  • Dean Stockwell averts this big time, starting as a child star in the 1940s, and continuing to work steadily for the next sixty-five years, being best known as Al on Quantum Leap and Cavil on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica.
  • The child cast of The Wonder Years have all managed to do well as adults: Fred Savage is a director and producer along with occasional acting, Danica McKellar is an author and mathematician when not acting, and Josh Saviano (Paul) is an attorney.
    • Although Saviano has been the subject of the famous myth that he became Marilyn Manson when he grew up which he has found very amusing
  • Christian Bale. He rose to fame as a child actor in films like Empire of the Sun and his Old Shame Newsies, but truly came into his own in American Psycho and is now best known as Batman from The Dark Knight Saga, and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in The Fighter.
  • Danny Bonaduce has made an entire career out of being a washed-up ex-child-star. He makes a point of stating that he would have turned into a drug-addicted Jerk Ass with or without his role on The Partridge Family, so he can be seen as an aversion of sorts.
  • Natalie Wood. Starred in Miracle on 34th Street aged 8, but successfully adapted to ‘grown-up’ parts in her teens with Rebel Without a Cause and The Searchers and is barely remembered as a child star at all. The only significant scandal to happen to her stems from her death (she drowned off the coast of Santa Catalina Island, the exact circumstances remaining unknown to this day).
  • Natalie Portman. Her first big role was at the age of 11/12 in The Professional, and she has been far more successful as an adult, starring in the Star Warsprequel films, V for VendettaBlack Swan (which won her an Oscar) and Thor. Like Emma Watson below, Portman taking a career break to go to college (and Harvardno less) may have had something to do with it. Like Christian Bale, she also won an Oscar, for Best Actress, for her role in Black Swan.
  • Kirsten Dunst. Her first big role was in Interview with the Vampire at 12 then Jumanji when she was 14, but she went on to a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful roles in the Spiderman films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindMarie Antoinette, and Melancholia, which won her the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.
  • Speaking of Christmas movies, Peter Billingsley from A Christmas Story grew up to be a successful director and producer. And he’s quite handsome, too.
  • Ron Howard. Starting out as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, he went on to direct films like Apollo 13A Beautiful Mind and Frost/Nixon (not to mention his involvement in Arrested Development).
    • Howard is, however, still an Acceptable Target in comedy for how his appearance has aged horribly.
  • Clint Howard, like his older brother Ron above, has averted the label, as he’s been working fairly consistently. Although the early Eighties were a lean period, he’s managed at least one film or television appearance a year since 1962, when he was three years old.
  • Neil Patrick Harris is a notable aversion: after spending his teens on Doogie Howser, M.D., he worked steadily as a guest star on TV and on Broadway. But his career really took off after he did a cameo in Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle — ironically enough, playing a lecherous, drug-addled version of himself. He’s now best known to present-day audiences as the womanizing Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, as well as Dr. Horrible from Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
  • The main cast of the Harry Potter movies seem to have avoided the worst aspects of child acting. Having begun acting between the ages of nine and eleven, they’ve shown steady development for over a decade and a total of eight films without any major misbehaviors or prima donna-ism. By all reports, all seem genuinely well-adjusted and mature.
    • Daniel Radcliffe, apart from his role as the title character, has starred in the stage play Equus and was critically acclaimed for his performance. He has since begun slowly branching out into other film and stage productions.
      • He did have a spot of trouble on the later films, by his own admission becoming an alcoholic and doing most of the Deathly Hallows production drunk. He now abstains from alcohol.
    • Rupert Grint‘s major claim to eccentricity is owning an ice cream truck, saying that if his career after the Harry Potter movies are finished falls through, he can always fall back on a career as an ice cream man. A fairly mild indulgence for a multimillionaire, all things considered.
    • As for Emma Watson… well, let’s face it, there’s no way anyone as good looking as her won’t get at least a few more major roles in her career. Much like her character, she has done very well in school work and has since decided that, after her work with the movie series is done, she’ll take a career break to finish her college degree like Natalie Portman did. As of 2014, Watson graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature.
      • Film critic Leonard Maltin famously said that Watson was in “the early stages of babehood”. Now that she’s most certainly an adult and effectively an adult actress, she is considered to have reached that milepost.
    • As a side note, Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter films, previously directed Home Alone. As he has discussed in interviews, Columbus is unhappy with how Macaulay Culkin turned out and considers this partly his fault. When casting the Potter kids, he was determined to avoid the same mistakes and tried to cast children with stable home lives.
  • Phil Collins. Though he was a child model/actor who played The Artful Dodger in a West End production of Oliver! and had teeny tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-him roles in A Hard Day’s Night and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, his musical success as an adult (both in Genesis and as a solo act) far eclipsed his success as a child actor/model.
    • Another aversion: early productions of Oliver! featured Steve Marriott in the titular role. Marriott infuriated his family by choosing music over acting, given that he’d already established success, but went on to be the extremely popular frontman for Small Faces and Humble Pie.
  • Whit Hertford was a fairly popular child actor and voice actor appearing in works like Jurassic ParkFull House, and Tiny Toon Adventures, he came back into show business having a successful career as an actor, writer, and director.
  • After a successful career as a child, which included an Oscar for her role in The PianoAnna Paquin transitioned to adulthood easily, finding her best work on T.V.
  • Averted with Sarah Jessica Parker, who started her career as Annie on Broadway and Square Pegs, then made the transition to adult star with plenty of movie roles…and then she starred in Sex and the City
  • Sean Astin transitioned fairly well from child actor to adult actor.
  • Jennifer Connelly went a long way from being a young girl in Labyrinth to being the respectable adult actress she is today.
  • Thomas Sangster, from such films as Love Actually and Nanny McPhee, has had success beyond his cute little boy image, in films as diverse as Hitler: The Rise of Evil and Tristan and Isolde. Sangster also played young Paul McCartney in Nowhere Boy.
  • Back in the 1910s, at the Vitagraph film studio, there was a local kid from Brooklyn named Harry Horowitz who enjoyed hanging out there. Harry was charming and a natural ham, and the Vitagraph people began putting him in films, making him a child star. Young Harry would grow up to be one of the most violent and abusive men in the world: Moe Howard of The Three StoogesBut it’s an aversion too.
  • Stefan Brogren has come as close as anyone to being a Real Life version of SCTV’s Rusty by playing the role of Archie “Snake” Simpson in every incarnation of the Degrassi franchise since 1987 while taking on an ever larger role behind the camera. His character, however, has aged and progressed from student to teacher to principal of the titular High School, while the show’s hiatus coincides with the period the character would’ve been getting his degree.
  • Justin Timberlake started off early, as a performer on The New Mickey Mouse Club (other cast members included his fellow *NSYNC bandmate JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera). After departing from *NSYNC, he’s gone on to have a successful solo music career, and has appeared in films like The Social Network.
  • Elijah Wood started off as a modestly successful child actor, appearing in such films as Back to the Future: Part IIThe Good Son, and North. It wasn’t until starring in Peter Jackson’s take on Lord of the Rings that his adult career really kicked off.
  • Blake Foster has been doing alright since his time as Justin Stewart, and while Justin was decried by many back then, there are plenty who wouldn’t mind having him return.
  • Mara Wilson had a pretty peaceful life despite going out of the spotlight. Nowadays she works as a stage actress, writes a humorous blog, guest stars on a weird podcast and calls out internet reviewers. And is a good enough sport to costar in a review of Matilda with The Nostalgia Chick.
  • Frankie Muniz may still be remembered mostly as Malcolm and Agent Cody Banks, but he went on to achieve decent success as a professional racecar driver and as a musician, is currently engaged and seems to be leading a fulfilling life despite his semi-retirement from Hollywood.
  • Roddy McDowall started as a child actor, but also had a long career as a character actor, most famously as the regular player in the Planet of the Apesseries and was a successful photographer too.
  • Hideko Takamine.
  • Hayden Panettiere was successful as a child actress (Guiding LightOne Life to LiveRemember the Titans), and hasn’t exactly become the next Lindsay Lohan since (thanks to Heroes and to a lesser extent (in terms of ratings if not critical praise) Nashville).
  • Jenny Agutter had her first film role in East of Sudan at twelve and went on to star as Bobbie in The Railway Children both on film and television, as well as roles in Walkabout and The Snow Goose. She has worked consistently and without trouble ever since, transitioning to adult roles in Logan’s Run and An American Werewolf in London and going on to play lead and supporting roles all over film, television, theatre, and radio. She’s been married to Johan Tham, a Swedish hotelier, since 1990 and currently stars as Sister Julienne on Call the Midwife.
  • Alisan Porter took a break from acting after playing Curly Suebriefly struggled with addiction, made a comeback in the mid-2000s with performing on Broadway and with her own band, and has been (so far) Happily Married with a child since 2012.
  • Kurt Russell started acting during the late ’50s (before he was even ten-years-old), doing various parts in TV and movies for the next decade. By the ’70s, he was an adult and still going strong, even having a ten-year contract with Disney. Robert Osborne once noted that Russell was the biggest star the studio had at this time. Afterwards, Russell would later successfully transition to more adult fare and has been working ever since.
  • The parents of Jill Whelan, who had a small part in Airplane! and a starring role on The Love Boat, made sure to avert this. In one episode of The Brian And Jill Show she relates a story in which a producer on the set of a film she was in told her that if she didn’t like anyone they could be fired. Her mother responded by telling the producer that if he ever put that much power in a child’s hands again they would walk.
  • Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk in The Goonies, left the movie business after puberty, but reemerged on its business side. Goonies director Richard Donnerhelped Cohen get summer jobs at movie studios while he was attending Berkeley, which led him to pursue a law degree at UCLA. He’s now a name partner in a Beverly Hills entertainment law boutique.note 
  • Charlie Korsmo, who most notably appeared in Dick TracyWhat About Bob?, and Hook, only had one film role after that (Can’t Hardly Wait, shot when he was 19) and then left entertainment for good. He got a physics degree at MIT and worked at the EPA and on Capitol Hill before going to law school at Yale. Now professionally known as Charles Korsmo, he’s a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
  • Stevie Wonder started as “Little Stevie Wonder” and had some hits in his teens, but then went on to become one of the biggest singers of the 1970s.


Real Life subversions:

  • Up until a few years ago, Jackie Earle Haley was the embodiment of this trope, having starred in ’70s hits The Bad News Bears and Breaking Away, but then failing to make the transition to adult roles and quit acting for 13 years. However, in 2006 he returned to Hollywood and after playing supporting roles in the remake of All the King’s Men and Little Children (and getting an Oscar nomination in the latter), he starred in Watchmen as Rorschach, signed a multi-picture deal to star as Freddy Krueger in the rebooted A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), and co-starred on Human Target. He’s been keeping busy with roles in the film version of Dark Shadows and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
  • Once famous as a child actor in Sweden and the son of a famous actor, Alexander Skarsgård gave up acting for quite a while until returning a decade later and becoming famous for roles on True Blood and Generation Kill.
  • At one point, Drew Barrymore was the epitome of the bad end of this trope; at the age of 15, she already went through smoking cigarettes and pot, drinking, doing cocaine, attempting suicide, and staying in rehab twice. However, she eventually sobered up and became a successful adult actress.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt took a breather from acting after playing Tommy on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Since he resumed his career, he’s won raves in just about every project he’s done.
  • Something similar can be said of Wil Wheaton and his role as Wesley. But he grew up pretty well of it.
  • Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett are subversions as well, now much better known for their indie rock band Rilo Kiley then their pasts as child actors.
  • Jackie Coogan starred with Charlie Chaplin as The Kid, sued his parents for squandering his film earnings before he became an adult (which led to the California Child Actor’s Bill, AKA the Coogan Act), and much later became known as TV’s Uncle Fester.
  • Mayim Bialik of Blossom famously went to school and got a PhD in Neuroscience, becoming Dr. Mayim Bialik. She had quit acting for some time and decided to ease back into the business by auditioning for some random roles. One of those roles happened to be for a show that celebrated higher education and she got the part of neurobiologist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory.
  • Anna Chmlusky of My Girl fame took a break in 1998 to concentrate on her studies. Seven years later, she returned to acting, eventually getting a role onVeep in 2012.
  • Demi Lovato was, around 2010, one of the defining examples of the stereotypical image of the Disney Channel‘s teen idols, particularly in terms of them having messed-up private lives underneath their squeaky-clean images; in Lovato’s case, it was eating disorders, self-harm, alcohol, and cocaine. However, she checked into rehab and stuck with it, going on to become a fairly successful adult pop singer and coming clean about her past problems.
  • Mickey Rooney began acting appearing in films at the ripe young age of 17 months and even as a teenager continued his career as the “hyperactive, girl-crazy” Andy Hardy, often together with Judy Garland. Rooney’s enlistment in World War II saw his career decline, making a few TV and film appearances after that (most notably in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), but eventually making a Broadway comeback in 1979 at 59 years old with Sugar Babies, to rave reviews. After that, he worked regularly on both screen and stage until shortly before his death in April 2014 at the age of 93.
  • The child actors on Gimme A Break did well. Joey Lawrence continued to act through his teens and adulthood, including a main role on Series/Blossom and several guest roles as an adult. Currently, Lawrence stars in Melissa And Joey. His younger brother Matthew Lawrence has had a long career and transition to adult roles. Kari Michaelsen (Katie) became a motivational speaker after retiring from acting. Lauri Hendler faded from the limelight after The Eighties. Lara Jill Miller (Samantha) studied law and passed the bar in three states while on a break from acting, and continues to do voice work.
  • Natasha Lyonne started out as a child actor and continued working steadily through her teens and twenties, most notably in the American Pie series. She seemed to be an aversion until numerous convictions for impaired driving, a stay in rehab, and some health problems defined this trope for her. She cleaned up, however, and has transitioned to adult roles, including Orange Is The New Black.



  • Ironically played with in the life of Mickey Dolenz. He was the child star of Circus Boy for several years, after which his parents took him out of show business entirely to avert this trope. By all accounts, it worked… far better than when he gained and lost fame AGAIN as one of The Monkees.

  • Tero Niva, a very promising Finnish young actor, instead chose to become a software engineer rather than a professional actor.

  • Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, never acted in movies again (by choice) and graduated from Cornell and become a veterinarian instead.

  • Similar to Ostrum, Canadian child star Joey Cramer only appeared in three films, one of which was Flight of the Navigator in which he starred as the titular navigator. After those three roles, he seemingly disappeared. Some fans of those 3 movies found he now makes a comfortable living working at a sporting-goods store in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

  • Intentionally played with by Miley Cyrus. She was a Disney Channel star playing the squeaky-clean Hannah Montana, had semi-nude pictures of her on the internet at age 15, danced on a pole at the Teen Choice Awards, became known for her taste for drugs when a video of her trying salvia spread online, and made a transparently symbolic music video of her dressed as a giant Steam Punk bird being goggled at by creepy Victorians before breaking out of her cage. The single bombed, and everyone was expecting her to slide further into substance abuse and obscurity. Then she made an internet video of herself twerking to hip-hop in a unicorn onesie, cut off her hair, and made a new album with a heavy hip-hop influence and references to all the drugs she was doing, for which she did a Squicktastic So Bad, It’s Good Fan Disservice performance at the VMAs with a lot grinding on teddy bears, slapping the buttocks of women in teddy bear costumes, fellating a foam finger, and daggering on Robin Thicke, to say nothing of her flapping her strangely white tongue around the whole time – she also smoked a spliff on stage at the European VMAs. Obviously it was an attempt to invoke this trope as a conscious artist image. However, Miley, by all accounts, is quite well-adjusted out of kayfabe – she says the drug-addled trainwreck persona is, while closer to the truth than her child star personality, is just something she does on stage; she has stated her interest in feminism, made fun of the moral panic about her, and even mentions she sticks to social, non-addictive drugs (ecstasy and weed) rather than the cocaine, booze and heroin that has ruined the lives of so many child stars. Dolly Parton, her father Billy Ray Cyrus, and Snoop Dogg, amongst loads of journalists and interviewers, all say that she’s actually a very normal, intelligent girl.

  • Downplayed with Kathryn Beaumont. When she gave up acting she became a teacher, but it’s harder not to think of her as Alice and Wendy.

  • Kirk Cameron, after a long run on Growing Pains, several teen films in The Eighties, and gracing the cover of many a teen pinup magazine, became a born-again Christian. This led to much-publicized friction on the Growing Pains set. He faded from the limelight but continued to act in Christian-themed productions and devote his life to ministry work, until he made controversial anti-gay marriage remarks. This led to a video by former child stars, poking fun at the comments and supporting gay marriage.

TV Tropes Thursday: TV Tropes: Four-Temperament Ensemble

This trope is a common method of giving characters distinctive personalities, even if they have similar roles.

A Four-Temperament Ensemble is an ensemble that corresponds to each of the Four Temperaments.  People once believed that personality was based on concentrations of certain bodily fluids: blood, black bile, bile, and phlegm which are called the four humors.  If a person has too much of a a certain fluid or humor, that affects their personality.

As per TV Tropes:

There are many ways to make a group of people diverse without giving them overly specialized roles within an ensemble. One way is through matching personality types according to a wacky ancient pseudoscience. The four temperaments (also called the “four humors”) was a theory that behavior was caused by concentrations of body fluids — the “humors” of classical medicine: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.

A temporary imbalance would create an illness: too much blood caused a fever, too much yellow bile caused a cough, too much black bile caused depression, and too much phlegm caused a cold. A permanent imbalance led to a person having a certain type of intentions, behavior, and personality. Though this theory has long since been discredited from a scientific standpoint, the general idea still remains and the theory is still used for personality profiling. An ensemble based on these four humors can make the cast diverse without actually changing the roles of the characters in the story.

The four temperament system was an interesting one, but flawed. Several tests noticed people that did not conform to any of the behavior types, so a neutral temperament was created. Along with a sampling of related tropes, the five temperaments (humors) are:

  • Sanguine (blood): Extroverted and people-oriented. Generally likes socialization, fun crowds, and showcases of people’s talents; highly opposed to dwelling on the past. Exhibits optimism, compassion, good cheer, a love of fun, enthusiasm. On the flip side, they may be impulsive, gullible, self-indulgent,lustfulDrama Queenseasily distracted, or even an uber-slob or space case. Tendency to anger-burst, followed by “forgive and forget”; tendency to move on rather than blame anyone. Can often be a KeetThe LoonieSpirited CompetitorBoisterous BruiserBlood KnightThe PollyannaGentleman and a ScholarGossipy Hen, or Motor Mouth; or if female, a more plucky/outgoing Proper LadyKawaiikoGenki Girl, or The Chick.
    • Expressive high, responsive high; response’s delay short, duration short.
    • The Inspired Influencer of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of spring and the (hot and moist) air element.
    • In a person’s life, it corresponds to young childhood (roughly ages 0-13).
    • Will often correspond with the Optimist when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main “Dere Types” can qualify as the Yandere.
  • Choleric (yellow bile): Extroverted and task-oriented. Mainly seeks success and completion of tasks, and likes to be in charge of successful projects. Exhibits leadership, dominance, ambition, and charisma; also tactical and very passionate. On the flip side, highly pridefuleasily angered or upset and may show arrogance, narrow-mindedness, obsession, and a Hair-Trigger Temper — but known for not showing any kinds of emotion otherwise. Rather than forgive, tendency to snap and move on while kicking to the curb; tendency to blame others. Likes to be independent and have control over others; could beThe Bully or a Bad Boss if in charge. The most likely to be things such as The LeaderThe NeidermeyerAnti-Hero, or The Lancer. If The Smart Guy, it’s by being crafty and cunning. If female, will be a fierce Lady of War or a Tsundere. If heroic, Good Is Not Nice may come into play.
    • Expressive high, responsive low; response’s delay short, duration long.
    • The Dominant of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of summer and the (hot and dry) fire element.
    • In a person’s life, it corresponds with adolescence and young adulthood (roughly ages 13-35).
    • Will often correspond with the Realist when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main “Dere Types” can qualify as the Tsundere.
  • Melancholic (black bile): Introverted and task-oriented. These characters can be extremely passionate and have high ideals. The intentions and longings found in this temperament are mainly the making and following of rules, good manners being among those rules. These characters focus on the world of internal thought and the best way to apply those thoughts. Independent, courteous, organized, highly refined, hard-working (though tend to work a little too much), analytical; but also a detached, neuroticobsessiveperfectionist whose insanely high standards can lead to depression. Rather than forgive, tendency to withdraw and brood; tendency to blame others, self, and “all of the above” (sometimes all at once). Prone to over-thinking on petty matters which easily makes them stressed to the point of paranoiaGluttony or coveting, or both, are a good bet. Often The Sneaky Guy or a very serious form of The Smart Guyand an excellent candidate for The Leader. Can often hide in a sour shell and, if female, be a more brooding loner-type Ice QueenDark Action GirlThe OpheliaFemme Fatale or Mysterious Woman. Those melancholics who have taken to lives of action can be the Byronic Hero or a Manipulative BastardI Work Alone will often come into play.
    • Expressive low, responsive low; response’s delay long, duration long.
    • The Cautious and Conscientious of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of autumn and the (cool and dry) earth element.
    • In a person’s life, it corresponds to middle-aged adulthood (roughly ages 35-65).
    • Will often correspond with The Cynic when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main “Dere Types” can qualify as a pure Kuudere.
  • Phlegmatic (phlegm): Introverted and people-oriented. Sometimes referred to as “the sweethearts” of the personalities. The dreams and passions of this temperament are mainly the spread of kindness, forgiveness, and restoration of peace and harmony. Dociletimid, and / or lazy, and frequently hides all emotions (other than sympathy). Tends to be dependent on others, either by choice or because of insecurity, they are also prone to Sloth and can be a very powerful version of The Sneaky Guy (possibly superior to that of a Melancholic) due to natural tendency to be quiet and patient . This temperament is a people person but sometimes expresses these traits in an awkward fashion. Tendency to perhaps brood temporarily, but then “forgive and forget”; tendency to blame self and are prone to awkwardness, indecisiveness but still remain focused. Can often be Weak, but SkilledThe HeartWide-Eyed Idealist, or a more relaxed version of The Smart Guy and, if female, may be an Emotionless GirlYamato NadeshikoTeam Mom, or more submissive Proper Lady.
    • Expressive low, responsive high; response’s delay long, duration short.
    • The Support and Steadiness of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of winter and the (cool and moist) water element. (However, water also corresponds to melancholic characters that havecontrol over ice.)
    • In a person’s life, it corresponds to older adulthood (roughly ages 65 and up).
    • Will often correspond with the Apathetic or the Conflicted when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main “Dere Types” can qualify as a pure Dandere.


However, not all characters can fit one of these four profiles; some of them might be more “neutral.”

  • Leukine (white blood cells): Ambiverted and dually-oriented. The “central” temperament that was created for those who didn’t have one of the four clearly-established temperaments. This type of character can generally be described as middle-of-the-road and neutral. Generally calm, rational, quiet, and reliable. Tends toward either true apathy or rotating among nearly all the world’s emotions (nothing too explosive or extreme) at a smooth, gradual rate. In a positive light, having more than one temperament or balanced among temperaments; but in a negative light, a non-temperamentThe Generic Guy, and a Standardized Leader. Usually reserved for protagonists, The Hero or other leaders when they are neither Hot-Blooded nor emotionless characters, and somewhat more independent but not as introverted.
    • Expressive moderate, responsive moderate; response’s delay variable, duration variable.
    • Will often correspond with the Conflicted or the Apathetic when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.

Making things more complex, some characters may be a combination of any of the temperaments.

Some sets of four form a “Combo Ensemble”, blending two adjacent temperaments each based on a common aspect. These temperament combos also form the basis for the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator.

This ensemble can present in other types of ensembles as well.

Historically in plays, there was a whole genre: Comedy of Humors, where the impetus of the story is the sudden banding of these opposing types. This is in contrast to the Comedy of Errors, where the story is driven by the events and situations.


Sometimes a Five-Man Band will also be a Four (or often Five) Temperament Ensemble, but in many cases, they’re mutually exclusive. There is also some overlap with Power Trio scenarios: usually The Kirk is choleric, The McCoy is sanguine, and The Spock is melancholic. In these cases, the phlegmatic role will be filled by a prominent supporting character, who is still clearly outside of the triad. They are also similar to the four Personality Blood Types, and are sometimes also a Four Element Ensemble.


If this type of personality dynamic is used for a Five-Man Band, then there are — aside from The Hero as leukine and The Chick as phlegmatic — two very common sets: either The Lancer (choleric), The Smart Guy (melancholic), and The Big Guy (sanguine); or The Lancer (sanguine), The Smart Guy (choleric), andThe Big Guy (melancholic). RPGs in particular like to use a simplification of the second type.


See also Cast Calculus for the overarching archetypes in this and differently numbered ensembles. Here is an Image Archive for this trope. Additionally, Pseudolonewolf (of MARDEK fame) has a page that goes into great detail on the four temperaments, here, and The Other Wiki offers its information here. For another way to split up a group of four, see Four Philosophy Ensemble.


TV Tropes Thursday: TV Tropes: Role Ending Misdemeanor

Happy Thursday.  I know that I missed talking about TV Tropes on Tuesday. I’m considering talking about a specific trope on both Tuesday and Thursday, since I have more free time during the summer.

Role Ending Misdemeanor is when a person loses  a job as an entertainer or other type of public figure due to making bad choices, or sometimes, choices that would hurt the reputation of the given production/project.

There are several noteworthy examples.  Two of them come from the world of Beauty Pageants.  Vanessa Williams made history as the first black Miss America in 1983.  But when Penthouse published nude photos of her that were taken one year earlier (she was led to believe that they would be destroyed), she was pressured to give up her crown (Sidenote: Playboy was offered the photos, but turned them down despite their interest because she didn’t give permission for them to see the light of day.).  However, Williams bounced back with successful music and acting careers, and fully recovered from the scandal.

A more recent example is the case of Carrie Prejean, the former Miss California USA 2009, caused a controversy when she revealed during the Miss USA pageant, that she is against marriage equality.  Later there was more scandal when sexually-charged photos of her were publicized, but she was still able to keep her crown and until being stripped of it due to breaching her contract; the breach has nothing to do with the earlier incidents.

Sometimes, however, offending “mores of sexuality” is not the reason for this trope to play out in real life.  Instead, it’s due to actual crimes like assault and drug use.  For example, Aaron Sorkin ended his involvement with The West Wing, due to a drug scandal.

Other times, it is due to cast conflicts,  Shannon Doherty was fired from Beverly Hills, 90210 and Charmed for that reason.  Isaiah Washington was not offered a new contract Grey’s Anatomy following homophobic remarks made againt T.R. Knight.  Nicollette Sheridan was written out of Desperate Housewives, according to the producers, due to unprofessional behavior such as feuding with co-stars, showing up late to the set, and failing to learn her lines; Sheridan, however, alleged in a lawsuit that she was fired because she complained after allegedly being slapped by the show’s creator, Marc Cherry.


TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Family Relationship Switcheroo

Family Relationship Switcheroo is a trope where it turns out that a family relationship is not what one thought it was.  There can be many variations, but the most common is when it is revealed that a person grew up believing that his or her mother was his or her sister and his or her grandmother was his or her mother.  Actor Jack Nicholson experienced exactly that, never learning the truth until after his mother and grandmother died.

This is something that happened a lot in the past.  Until a few decades ago, it was considered shameful for a girl or woman to be pregnant out of wedlock.  Very often, it would be a family secret.  Not only that, it was common for girls and women pregnant out of wedlock to be sent away to special homes for the duration of the pregnancy, while their mothers would pretend to be pregnant.  Another reason for such an arrangement is that it was common for unwed mothers to be forced to give their babies up for adoption; many girls and women, not wanting to lose their children chose to simply be the older sister to their children rather than the mother; another reason to avoid adoption was the fact that in those days, it was rare for non-white babies to be adopted.  This stopped in the 1970s when birth control pills became widely available, when abortion was legalized, and when premarital sex/cohabitation became more and more socially acceptable.

Today, it is common for children born to teens to be raised by their grandparents, but there is no dishonesty about the relationship.  However, this trope still happens sometimes in real life.  I wouldn’t be shocked if a conservative politician were to do this in order to preserve his or her family image.  However, sometimes there are sinister reasons for this trope to happen in real life; that reason would be to cover up sexual abuse and incest.  Tragically, that might be the most common reason nowadays.

There can be other types of relationship switches.  One might be if a woman were to cheat on her partner with his family member, meaning that his child could biologically be his brother (if she cheated with his father), nephew (if she cheated with his brother), or cousin (if she cheated with an uncle or cousin).  Anther variation is if a man cheats and fathers a child and the child is raised as the man’s nephew/niece.  Yet another variation is a child being raised by an aunt, believing that the aunt is his or her mother.

Some examples in fiction:

  • In the Australian soap Home and Away, Charlie is revealed to be Ruby’s mother, born after Charlie was raped. Charlie’s parents raised the baby as their daughter. When Ruby finds out, she goes ape about it, before finally forgiving Charlie for the deception.
  • A major arc on Moesha involves Dorian discovering that his uncle, Frank, is really his biological father, born from a relationship he had while he was separated from his first wife. His mother was thus really his aunt.
  • On The Parkers (a spin-off of Moesha, above), Nikki is shocked to discover (on a family trivia game show, no less) that she was adopted. Her biological mother turns out to be her aunt.
  • Desperate Housewives : Bree hides the pregnancy of her teenage girl and pretends to be the mother of her grandson.

Some examples in real life:

  • Jack Nicholson’s “older sister” was really his mother while the woman who was allegedly his mom was actually his grandmother. His real mother did it because she had sex with a man (both were unmarried) who ended up leaving her and she didn’t want anyone to know that she was an unwed mother (both Nicholson’s grandmother and mother died before he found out this family secret). In a height of coincidence, he learned this just as Chinatown — in which he starred — was about to open in theaters.
  • The same was true for:The Guinness Book of Records refuses to accept many well-known historical claims for “oldest mother to successfully carry a child to term” out of suspicion that they were examples of this trope.
  • Eric Clapton
  • Bobby Darin
  • David Campbell. His real father was Jimmy Barnes, who would go on to become an Australian rock icon.
  • Ted Bundy suspected for years that his older sister was in fact his mother, finally learning it for a fact in 1969. Even worse, she might very well have been his sister after all, given the heavy, yet unproven speculation that he was the result of Parental Incest between her and his grandfather.
  • Bayard Rustin.
  • Jaycee Lee Dugard’s two daughters, (ages 15 and 11) by her rapist and kidnapper Phillip Garrido believed their whole lives that Jaycee was their older sister and that Garrido’s wife was their mother. They had to find out the horrible truth after the police finally caught and arrested Garrido.
  • Upon the announcement of her candidacy for Vice-President of the United States in the 2008 elections, rumours began to circulate that Gov. Sarah Palin was actually the grandmother of her youngest son, and that his oldest sister was actually his mother. Subverted, as the rumours were soon proved completely unfounded. Her eldest daughter, Bristol, would later get pregnant out of wedlock, but the Palins decided to be public about it.
  • In the Middle Ages it was not unusual for popes to have illegitimate children (such as Pope Alexander VI‘s children, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia) that they bestowed favors upon, although it was considered gauche to publicly acknowledge their paternity. Instead, they were referred to as “nephews” or “nieces” of the pope. This is the origin of the term “Nepotism“.
  • In 1939, a then-5-year-old girl from Peru named Lina Medina was taken to the hospital for a tumor in her belly. During the examination, it turned out that she was pregnant (she had gone through puberty at an unusually early age). She gave birth via c-section to a young boy, but was told her whole life that he was her younger brother. It is not known who his father was; Lina’s father was jailed on suspicion of incest, but he was released for lack of evidence, and Lina herself wouldn’t say who had done this to her. She lived a pretty normal life otherwise, and later married and had another son (this time one that she actually knew was her son.)