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A stock plot that crops up in film to relatively high degree. It's all about "being true to who you are".

A guy has or discovers a passion for a "girly" hobby (e.g. Ballet, Cooking, Singing, Double Dutch) however his father is pushing him to follow a different "manly" one (e.g. Baseball, Basketball, Banking, or Boxing, the latter especially popular in British films). The guy is torn between his love of his father along with his masculine appearance to his friends and his love of his newfound secret hobby. In the end his father finds out and eventually comes around to the idea (or it's revealed he doesn't have a problem with it) and the guy either gives up the "manly" hobby for the "girly" one or he does and enjoys both.

Generally stars teenagers since that's supposed to be the time a person "discovers themselves". It's also common for these boys to be motherless. If she's around, however, she's likely to support the hobby, which could lead to tension with her husband.

Is similar to the Coming Out Story, except the son doesn't have to be gay--his secret hobby is a great way to meet girls, after all. But if he is, it could add another layer to the dilemma since this tends to be what the father fears all along. It's also a rough Spear Counterpart to You Go, Girl!, though the latter generally lacks the friction with parents, hence why Gender Flips (ie, a girl taking up a "manly" hobby to her mother's objections) are allowed here.

Openly embracing their passion may result in I Am What I Am.

Contrast with Jackie Robinson Story. The Gender Flip version of this is often Stay in the Kitchen.

Examples of Billy Elliot Plot include:

Anime and Manga

  • It could be argued that this is a major plot in the Ranma ½ manga and anime - Ranma being compelled by his parents to be a "Man Among Men", while his Magical Curse compels him to be female part of the time. By the end of the manga, he seems to have pretty much accepted that he changes from one to the other and has even learned to enjoy the perks he can get in his female form, like cooking, wearing nice clothes, even tricking other guys into doing his bidding. That said, he still considers himself to really be a man, and will still leap at the possibility of a cure, even running away from Akane in the final wedding to try and grab a cask of Nanniichuan.
  • Ruby from Pokémon Special has a passion for contests and a revulsion for battling. Oh yeah, his dad is a Gym Leader. Interesting case in that one, Ruby hates his dad, and two, his dad was going to let him do so anyway, so running away pissed him off so much that he pretty much beat the shit out of his son.
  • The entire point of the manga series Otomen. Up to Eleven in that the main character like ALL girly things. Slightly subverted in that it's the mother that's pushing her son to be manly, out of fear that he might become a transsexual like his father.
  • Inverted, as in the Monty Python example below, in Macross Frontier, but played for drama (mostly): Alto wants to be a fighter pilot; his father wants him to be a female-impersonating Kabuki actor.
  • In Digimon Adventure, part of Sora's backstory (and quite a bit of her Angst) is due to this. Sora is a Tomboy and wants to go out and play football (soccer)and her mother wants her to be a "proper" young lady, stay in and learn flower arranging. As such, Sora came to believe her mother was disappionted in her and didn't like her (hence the angst).
  • This forms a recurring subplot in Kekkaishi where Yoshimori wants to get good at baking cakes, even enlisting the help of the ghost of a recently-deceased pastry chef to help him; his grandfather, naturally, disapproves. The coming-out story elements don't really factor in, though; Yoshimori is doing it mostly to impress Tokine.


  • Named for the film Billy Elliot where this makes up a good deal of the first half of the movie. The "girly" hobby is ballet, the "manly" one is boxing. After Billy's dad gets over this, he sells the last of Billy's deceased mother's things and almost becomes a scab during the miners strike to support Billy's professional dancing dream.
  • There are a few Disney Channel Original Movies which make use of this plot:
    • Arguably the most well known is High School Musical with Troy. The "girly" hobby is singing, the "manly" one is basketball. There are also elements of this with Gabriella but her mother doesn't oppose the singing, it's more that her friends want her to help them win the Scholastic Decathlon instead. They both manage to do both.
    • Eddies Million Dollar Cook Off. The "manly" hobby is baseball, the "girly" one is cooking.
      • This one even goes as far as to have one for both gender rolls. The main plot above and a subplot with one of his female teammates hiding her baseball activities from her mother, claiming to be a cheerleader, for fear of not being girly enough.
    • Jump In!. The "manly" one is boxing (unlike Billy, Izzy is good at it), the "girly" one is double dutch.
    • Ice Princess is this but with a Gender Flip and the "girly" hobby is still "girly" (figure skating) but the "manly" one is replaced with a "brainy" one (math). Although, it's her knowledge of physics and math that helps her be a great figure skater.
  • Run with a Gender Flip in Bend It Like Beckham, with a teenage British Indian girl taking up football against her mother's wishes.
    • Likewise in She's the Man, the female lead character is more interested in football (soccer) than the debutante ball.
    • And again in Whip It, where the female lead joins a banked track full contact women's roller derby team, while her mother coaxes her into attending beauty pageants.
  • A tragic version of this plot is one of the driving forces behind Dead Poets Society. More exactly, the subplot with Neil Perry and his dad. Neil ends up Driven to Suicide
    • The reason for his dad's objection to his interest in theater is never explicitly stated, but it could be implied that his dad thought it was too girly.
    • Or implications of homophobia.
    • Really? From what this troper saw, Neil's father wanted to force Neil into a career of medicine while at the same time basically FORBIDDING the poor guy to do any extra-curricular (his dad pulled his out of the school newspaper at the beginning of the movie for having a lower A at the end of the semester) activities. This included Neil's interest in the theater as well.
    • Whereas, this Troper took the father's objections as being a more run-of-the-mill "Acting isn't a stable career choice and I don't want you to starve to death".
    • This troper actually thought it was a combination of the three.
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer plays with this trope, but never goes full hog with it, as Josh Waitzkin's dad, Fred, realizes after playing one game of Chess with his son that it would be better to let his son play a brainy boardgame than try to force baseball onto him. And when one of his teachers tries to discourage Josh from playing chess, Fred tears her a new one.

  Fred Waitzkin: "I want you to understand something. He's better at this than I've ever been at anything in my life. He's better at this than you'll ever be at anything. My son has a gift. He has a gift, and when you acknowledge that, then maybe we will have something to talk about."


  • There are about a zillion children's stories with this theme; one of the best known is the fairly Anvilicious 1985 story Williams Doll.

Live Action TV

  • The whole Maxxie / Bill Bailey subplot on Skins features Maxxie, a Straight Gay Club Kid who wants to become a dancer being pushed by his dad into becoming a builder. Somewhat ironically though, Bailey's character is already a dancer (albeit the manlier "line dancing with dogs" rather than the tap / modern dance fusion Maxxie's into).
  • Inverted by Monty Python's Flying Circus' "Northern Playwright" sketch, in which the prodigal son the Yorkshire coal miner comes back to his old homestead in London to visit his father the theater playwright -- the whole scene is written like the aftermath of a Billy Elliot Plot gone wrong, only with the actual jobs reversed.

 Ken: One day you'll realize there's more to life than culture. There's dirt, and smoke, and good honest sweat!

Father: Get out, you LABOURER!

    • Seeing as Monty Python was long before Billy Elliot this is impressive.
      • Arguably the Python sketch reflects a long-standing trend both in fiction and reality in Britain in the 20th century as a select few members of the working-class managed to break into occupations traditionally reserved for higher classes. One good example of this would be DH Lawrence in the beginning of the century, and by the 1950s there was a whole swath of "Angry Young Men" trying to reconcile their working-class backgrounds with their new educations- leading to the Kitchen Sink Drama.
  • An episode of Cold Case features a wannabe (motherless) dancer, younger brother of a wrestler, who ends up dead, but amusingly not because his father disapproved of his choice but because he believed he would. For good measure, by becoming a dancer, he scored a seriously hot girlfriend, avoiding the Ambiguously Gay zone.
    • On the other hand, his father was at least ambivalent... until he saw his son dance. He cared about excellence, not the form it took.
  • On Glee Finn is the football quarterback but is also interested in glee club. He is notably fatherless rather than motherless. The main people opposing him in the glee club are his jock friends, especially his best friend Puck, who ends up joining the club himself in episode 4. It's averted with the Camp Gay character Kurt who, despite having a blue-collar father and dead mother, actually enjoys playing football and his father is supportive of him being gay and in glee club.
    • Mike is a variation. His father couldn't care less about his interest in sports or performing, and wants him to be a doctor. His mother, however, pushes him to follow his dreams. His father eventually does, too.
  • A variation occurs on The Brady Bunch. While Mike doesn't have a problem with Peter enjoying the glee club, his football teammates sure do and their jeers nearly cause Peter to quit the club. It takes a well-timed visit from guest star Deacon Jones to not only give Peter a lesson in Being Himself, but to nip the other boys' old-fashioned perception of "manly" in the bud by telling them about how he and several other tough football superstars love to sing in their spare time.
  • Subverted on Spaced. Brian actually pretends to be a lawyer to his parents so they won't know he's an artist. They then express disappointment that he didn't become an artist.
  • The aftermath is shown on The House Of Elliott, the 1990s BBC costume drama about fashion in the 1920s. Daniel Page is engaged to marry Evie Elliott, and she insists on meeting his parents, a family of ordinary farm labourers. His father is bitter about him leaving them to go to art school, but he comes round eventually on meeting with Evie and attends their wedding.
  • An episode of Full House has Joey taking up ballet to help with his hockey skills. When Danny and Jesse find out, they tease him mercilessly for it and drive him to quit. It's when Michelle announces she's dropping out of a soapbox derby race she's been looking forward to because "girls can't do it" that Danny and Jesse admit they were wrong and that Joey's ballet is a good example of how sports and hobbies can be enjoyed by anyone no matter what their gender.

Video Games

  • Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 suffers from this trope somewhat, with the exception that he hasn't got a father and is instead pushing himself towards trying to be overly masculine, because his passion for sewing is a source of his mental insecurities (along with the fact that he is Ambiguously Gay).
  • Forrest of Fire Emblem Fates identifies strongly as a male, but enjoys making and wearing girls' clothing. His father Leo is not okay with this, causing an argument between the two and Forrest to storm off in a huff and catch the Distress Ball. (Plus Leo's sister Elise to rip him a new one) Once he's rescued, Leo realizes he was wrong and apologizes. Their entire support chain revolves around Leo atoning for his behavior and becoming very supportive of his son.
  • Averted in Fire Emblem Awakening with Gerome and his father, who just wants Gerome to admit he was indeed talking baby-talk to Minerva the wyvwern. Gerome's reluctance isn't based on manliness, but the fact that he doesn't want to bond with the present-day incarnation of his father due to the trauma of losing him in the Bad Future.

Western Animation

  • Spoofed (sans the father element) on The Simpsons: Bart is forced to join the ballet class after all the other PE activities had been taken, and to his surprise turns out to really enjoy it. On his first recital (in front of the entire school) he performs in a Paper Thin mask to conceal his identity. When the other boys are moved by the performance, Bart reveals himself. The others then rush the stage to beat him up.
  • This trope, or a variation on this, is a common conflict between Bobby and Hank on King of the Hill. The page quote on the show's page is "That boy ain't right" for a reason.
    • Lampshaded in one episode where Bobby wanted to be a model. He brought up a TV show with a Billy Elliot Plot that they'd both watched, only to have Hank reply, "That's different, Bobby. I'm not an alcoholic, and you're not a figure skater."
    • In one episode, Peggy is the one who disapproves of Bobby taking Home Economics, because he proves to be a better homemaker than she is. Hank for once is content to sit back and reap the rewards.
    • And KotH even has a subplot subvert this HARD. Peggy's Drag Queen friend has a mother who is so supportive that there is genuine annoyance and upset that she doesn't disapprove even a little.
    • Another episode has Bobby deserting the football team to the soccer team to Hank's dismay.
  • In an episode of Arthur, Arthur learns to knit during a storm and finds he actually enjoys it, but doesn't want anyone, save for Buster, to know that he knits because "it's for girls". In the end, when he's found out, no one but Binky teases him about it, and even then Arthur's piano teacher rebuttals Binky by commenting on how beautiful his performance Swan Lake.
  • In Angela Anaconda, an episode features Gordy Rinehart making strawberry souffles, even though his football-coach dad wants him to be a football player. Eventually, Mr. Rinehart decides it's better for Gordy to just be himself...and that he really likes the strawberry souffles.

Real Life

  • This can happen to many in the Periphery Demographic fans of even the best tv shows if it's for children in general and/or targeted at one gender specifically.
  • Leonard Nimoy's parents were not exactly pleased when he decided to become an actor.
  • Another real life example: In a Romanian TV show (Happy Hour probably), a member of a famous Romanian band quotes his father regarding his career: "Well, this music stuff is all good and well, but... when are you gonna get a real job?"
  • Sir Patrick Stewart was mocked by some of the more elitist members of British culture scene when he went from being a Royal Shakespearean actor to take the role of Captain Picard on Star Trek the Next Generation.
  • Brian Blessed subverts the trope. His father, who was a coal miner, was overjoyed when Blessed began acting professionally. Blessed's father wanted his son to do anything except work in the mine.
  • John Lennon's Aunt Mimi infamously chided him for pursuing rock and roll, rather than get a "proper" job. Granted, it did take a while for John and The Beatles to make it. Later on, when the group were international superstars, Beatles fans mailed Mimi a plaque stating, "The guitar's alright for a hobby, John, but you'll never make a living out of it".
  • Elton John was also discouraged by his strict military father from playing rock music, and when Elton's parents divorced, he sent Elton's (rock music-encouraging) mother a letter telling her to tell Elton to "get that rock n' roll nonsense out of his head" and get a respectable job. Elton later confided he related the Billy Elliot movie to his own relationship with his dad, which was partly the reason for co-writing the songs for the musical.
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