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Parents often want the best for their children. It's only natural. Unfortunately, some parents take this to the conclusion that "whatever worked for me will work for my kids -- end of discussion" -- so the kid will find themselves being groomed and press-ganged into stepping into their parent's shoes, whether they particularly want to or not. This is particularly the case if the steps in question lead to the Family Business, and especially if the parent is a Self-Made Man.

Thing is, the kid usually has their own ideas about what they want to do with their lives, and following exactly in their parent's footsteps isn't part of the plan. This leads to tension; the kid wants to live their own life, but at the same time family loyalty is an extremely strong thing to overcome and they don't want to disappoint their folks, either. So a choice has to be made; will the kid let themselves be pushed into a life they don't want to lead, or will they attempt to break free and be themselves, and risk losing their parent's love?

For extra irony points, the kid may have a sibling who wants nothing more than to take over the Family Business, but because they're younger than the protagonist they don't have a chance. Unfulfilment all around!

The result is usually one of two standard outcomes. In the happier ending, the parent -- although disappointed -- accepts their child's decision; you have to Be Yourself, after all, and it's ultimately their child's decision what to do with their life. Variably, in these endings the parent may also be astonished that their kid was so torn up about it -- they aren't Control Freaks and it's not that big a deal to them, and ultimately their child's happiness is what concerns them most. They may even have been working under the assumption that the kid had their heart set on inheriting the business, which was why they were so enthusiastically pushing it on him. Often in this kind of ending when the kid decides to agree to take over, the family comes to an honorable compromise that allows the kid to pursue his own interests to a reasonable degree.

Less happily, if the parent is a Control Freak who has to micromanage their child's lives, they aren't going to take it so well. Cue Parental Issues. And frequently in these cases, you'll be hearing a cry of "I Have No Son!" before too long.

Owing to traditional family roles, the parent and child in these cases is Usually Male.

See also Turn Out Like His Father.

Examples of Follow in My Footsteps include:


Anime and Manga

  • Inverted in The World Only God Knows with Sumire. Her father runs a ramen shop that has been in the family for generations, and she badly wants to follow in his footsteps. He, on the other hand, is convinced that she can do much better with her life than running a tiny noodle shop, and so refuses to consider it. They reconcile in the end, and he accepts her wish.
  • In a grandparent version of this trope, the anime/manga One Piece's main character, Monkey D. Luffy blatantly refuses throughout his life to become a Marine like his grandfather. Same goes for his big brother, Ace. This has both hilarious and serious outcomes.
  • Saotome Alto was born into a Kabuki family and raised to be an actor from a young age. What he really wanted to be was a pilot; he rebels against his family before the start of the series, and heads off on his own path. Whether his father eventually approves of his war hero son or not is never shown.

Comic Books

  • In PS238, superheroes Ultima and Sovereign Powers really want the best for their son Tyler and insist that he will become a superhero when he grows up. The fact that Tyler has no superpowers whatsoever and is extremely sceptical towards the whole thing does not enter into it; from where they're standing the universe is merely biding its time until it can spontaneously give him superpowers of some sort.
  • In the DC Comics Elseworld The Kingdom (a followup to Kingdom Come), Wally West's son Barry has superspeed, and absolutely no interest in using it for anything in particular, much to Wally's despair. His concern with getting Barry to live up to his potential is one of the reasons Barry's sister, Iris "Kid Flash" West, feels unappreciated.

Film

  • In the movie While You Were Sleeping, the male romantic lead is in this situation with his father. Luckily, his father's an understanding sort, so when he finally plucks up the nerve to confess his feelings about the subject his father's biggest annoyance is that he didn't take up a chance to sell the business the previous year because he was under the impression his son had his heart set on taking it over.
  • Inversion: In The Godfather, Don Corleone expresses his disappointment that Michael ends up entering (and eventually taking over) the family business; he had hoped that Michael would take the Corleone name legitimate (or into government, at least). Of course, here, the term 'family business' has different connotations.
    • He states that he didn't want Michael to arrange for strings to be pulled, but to be the string puller. Senator Corleone or something along those lines. The second movie, a flashback shows the sons discussing Vito's big plans for Michael, so it sounds like he only wanted someone he could trust high up to help the family business, rather than wanting Michael to escape crime.
  • Young Frankenstein is something of an example; although Frederick "Fronkensteen"'s grandfather is long dead, there's still some pressure for Frederick to take over his experiments. Frederick, not being a Mad Scientist, is reluctant. At first.
    • The musical also has the song "Join the Family Business."
  • The goal of the 'dream heist' in Inception is to plant the idea in Fisher's head that his father did not actually want this for him.
  • The driving conflict in the movie Hop is that E.B. doesn't want to inherit his father's job. And that job is being the Easter Bunny no less!
  • In Almost Angels, Tony's father assumes that Tony will grow up to drive trains just like him. He is initially resistant when Tony wants to join the Vienna Boys Choir and study music, because he thinks a musical education is A Degree in Useless.

Literature

  • This ends in tragedy in the novel Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (which was rumoured to be based partly on Mann's own family). The book is subtitled 'The Decline of a Family'.
  • Kate Blackwell wants her son Tony to take over Kruger-Brent, Ltd. in Sidney Sheldon's Master of the Game, but he wants to become a painter. Her constant manipulations to get him on the path she wants him to take, or at least sire him a grandchild who will be more likely to follow it, eventually lead to his wife's Death by Childbirth, and he goes insane and tries to kill Kate. He is subsequently institutionalized and, as he is incapable of being brought back to normal, lobotomized. Of her two granddaughters, Alexandra doesn't want to run the business, and Eve does but is a Complete Monster who proves unworthy. Thus the book ends with Kate planning to groom her great-grandson to take over, probably with similar manipulation.
  • In The Chosen Rebbe Saunders wants his son, Danny to be a Rebbe. Danny wants to be a therapist.
    • So he dumps the job on his perpetually sick little brother to save himself the trouble. He could do a little work on his Big Brother Instinct.
  • In the Whateley Universe, the Goodkinds are the richest family on the planet. CEO Bruce Goodkind groomed his oldest kid Greg for years to step into his shoes, but Greg took off. Bruce then groomed the rest of the family: son Paul (the next oldest) is stepping up, as is youngest son David. Next-to-youngest son Trevor was doing his best, but ended up being thrown out of the family and disinherited when he turned into a mutant.
  • Most of the young competitors in The 39 Clues.

Live-Action TV

  • Shawn and Henry's relationship in Psych is something like this; Henry wanted Shawn to grow up to be a cop and follow in his footsteps. Shawn had other plans, eventually growing up to be a complete slacker. Unfortunately, Henry is a "Well Done, Son" Guy and didn't take this well, to the extent that their relationship is strained at best (and is implied to have been estranged at some point). Of course, Henry's ambitions weren't helped by the fact that he was a bit of a Control Freak who subjected Shawn to a junior version of the Training From Hell at an early age to ensure his goals, to the point where Shawn's grandfather, also a cop, disapproved.
    • "Estranged at some point"? It's spelled out in the pilot episode that Henry had moved back to Santa Barbara and had been there for months without bothering to tell Shawn that he was back in town.
  • In Mad About You, Paul's father averts the trope entirely and gives the family sporting goods business to Ira (Paul's cousin) because Paul is busy being a documentary filmmaker. Paul's father didn't ask Paul because he knew his son had his own life. Paul is nonplussed - he didn't want to go into sporting goods, but he assumed he would be asked, and maybe even guilt-tripped into it.
  • Supernatural. Oh, so much Supernatural. John expects both his sons to follow in the family business, and Sam reeeeeeaaaaally doesn't want to. It doesn't end well. Interestingly, it turns out that their mother hated the thought of them following the family business; sucks to be dead and not have a say in it.
  • The Star Trek: TOS;; episode "Journey to Babel" reveals that Spock and his father Sarek went through this.
    • And later in Star Trek: TNG where Data's creator Dr. Soong is a touch disappointed his greatest creation went into Starfleet instead of cybernetics like himself.
  • In the first season of Heroes, Hiro's father wants him to take over the family business. Hiro convinces his father to give the job to his sister instead.
  • Jack on Lost tells Rose he became a doctor because it was "the family business." Season 6 implies (if you accept that Jack's son in the flash-sideways is a reflection of Jack himself) that Jack would rather have played the piano.
  • In Power Rangers Jungle Fury, Finn is disappointed that his son RJ didn't follow family tradition and become a Shark-style kung fu master. He eventually grows to respect the path RJ did take - being a Wolf-style kung fu master.
    • Inverted in Power Rangers Ninja Storm as Cam, son of a ninja sensei, wants to become a ninja himself or at least contribute to the fight on the battlefield somehow instead of just from Mission Control. His father admits that Cam could be an excellent ninja, but when his mother passed away she had him promise not to train Cam as a ninja due to the danger. They reach a compromise later after Cam learns some family secrets; he discovered his mother was a samurai, and he'll follow in her footsteps.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Hank is like this with Bobby in King of the Hill. Hank sells propane and propane accessories. Bobby wants to be a comedian.
    • Resolved in the finale when Bobby displays a talent AND fondness for spotting choice cuts of meat, giving him something over which he and his father can finally bond.
  • Inverted slightly ... sometimes crimefighters would prefer their children NOT do this. The example that comes to mind here is from Darkwing Duck; his daughter even develops a costume and theme, much to her father's dismay.
  • Averted/played with in The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. One of the main villains, Jeremiah Surd, tries to trick Jonny using this argument in "Thoughtscape." He creates an illusion where dr. Quest (Jonny's dad) tells Jonny how disappointed he is in him, and how Jessie (one of Jonny's best friends) is much more attuned to his own interests (namely science) than him. Jonny breaks down accordingly. Fortunately for everybody (except Surd), dr. Quest really doesn't care what his son does so long as he's happy, and will always be proud of him, so the illusion is eventually broken.
  • Inversion from Winx Club: Season 2 sees an ep in which, despite being a former musician himself (who even married one to boot), Musa's father doesn't want her to become a musician, because of, shall we say, personal issues. [1]
  • Planned inversion: Micah Wright once made a Pilot for an action-adventure series for Nickelodeon titled Constant Payne, eventually shelved because of September 11, among other things. According to the man himself, the series' premise (which doesn't feature in the pilot) would have been that the Payne father was planning to not pass down the long-running Family Business to his daughter, even though she wanted to inherit it.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?? took the title of the trope for "Follow My Footprints"
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Lucius wants Beezy to inherite the Family Business from him, but Beezy's more interested in doing...well, nothing.
  • In The Simpsons, Krusty was for years estranged from his father because he became an entertainer instead of following the family tradition of being a rabbi.
  • In ThunderCats (2011) Claudus is the stern father to Lion-O who can't understand why his youngest son so different from his older adoptive brother Tygra and himself.
  • In "Duplicity" Megatron wanted Will to be this until Will ran away and Never Found the Body came into play.

Real Life

  • In a Real Life aversion one noted Sherpa guide made it his effort to safe up money from his climbs to put his children through school, saying "I climb so my children won't have to."
  • A similar Real Life aversion by John Adams: "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."
    • All of his sons followed him into law, though, and one even became president like him.
  • Another Real Life aversion is the case of Jimmy Choo's son, Danny. Instead of inheriting his father's shoe empire, he decided to follow his own pursuits in Japan, with dad's approval. Which also involves dancing as a SOS-Brigade Stormtrooper.

Notes

  1. In the original version, there are also financial issues, but 4Kids snipped them out.
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