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"Like a mother-in-law in a bad sitcom..."
Kaname Chidori (regarding Commander Mardukeus), Full Metal Panic Fumoffu
"The only enemies at a wedding, Klump, are the in-laws."
King K. Rool, Donkey Kong Country
"When are you going to learn that In-Laws are your natural enemies?"
Dan, Dan Vs.

A Happily Married couple faces various problems, but none quite like the Sitcom In-Law. A member of one of the couple's family (often the wife's) has an obvious animosity towards their relative's spouse. They hate the person their daughter/sister/son/brother is married to and aren't shy about reaffirming it. While the object of this hate always tries to be nice to them (often at the insistence of their partner/spouse), the in-laws pull out all the stops to ridicule, abuse and undermine their target, and even try to set up their relative with somebody else, in spite of being married, and their spouse still living. Most of the time, they hate the poor guy for no reason other than not being a millionaire. Occasionally the hate stems from a past incident that the hero/heroine has long since made up for. Or it could just be some people are... just jerks.

Such in laws can also be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing or Devil in Plain Sight if their relative is oblivious to their jerkishness, or insists that they aren't so bad. Sometimes overlaps with Coattail-Riding Relative. See also Evil Matriarch, Love-Obstructing Parents.

Examples of Obnoxious In-Laws include:


Anime & Manga


Comics

  • Inverted in FoxTrot. Andy herself dreads her mother's visits because the whole family absolutely adores her and she feels pushed to the sides.
  • Cathy's in-laws are absolutely annoying.
  • In Superman, General Sam Lane did not approve of Lois marrying mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, feeling that he was too much of a wimp, and even threatened to not attend their wedding. In all fairness, according to Lois's sister Lucy, he's hated all of his daughters' beaus. For the record, he wasn't very fond of Superman either because he didn't trust aliens.


Fairy Tales

  • Many Fairy Tales had evil or annoying mothers-in-laws making the lives of the heroes or heroines really hard. i.e., in Perrault's full version of Sleeping Beauty, the Prince's stepmom is an ogress and wants to literally eat Sleeping Beauty and her children, and in The Six Swans the Young King's mother kidnaps and hides her grandchildren to frame the Princess/Queen for witchcraft and infanticide.

Fan Works

  • Women aren't immune to this trope either, as the title character of Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change with the Light will tell you. Ben Reilly's parents both hate Mary Jane Watson and are fairly open about it, especially when Andrew becomes an Overprotective Dad and outright threatens Mary Jane if she doesn't stop dating his son. When he finds out about it, Ben is not amused.
  • In the 'In My Eyes' stories latest chapter, Megatron outright says he'll kill Sarah if she doesn't break up with Will.

Jokes

  • One man once wrote a letter to his daughter's ex-boyfriend. He claims he can't sleep ever since he damaged the relationship. He claims he's writing the letter in hopes the potential son-in-law forgives and forgets. The man said that, when he saw the boy for the first time, he was surprised with the tatoos and the nose ring, but nowadays he doesn't mind that much. He also understands that riding a motorcycle in high speed and without a helmet isn't that dangerous as long as one pays attention to the other vehicles. The man also understands his reaction to the fact the boy never worked was quite inadequate and too extreme and unfair. He's quite convinced many good and able people also must live under bridges and sleeping in parks. He now also understands that the fact his daughter wants to get married at age 17 instead of attending an ivy-league college, is simply an alternative for her education, since not everything is taught at books and school. Sometimes he realizes how outdated he could be while meddling in topics of those nature and he recognizes he's wrong. He claims to have been foolish for opposing them and wished to redeem himself by giving his blessings. He even signed his letter as "your future father-in-law".
    • Then he wrote a P.S. congratulating the boy for his lottery winnings.


Literature

  • In the Discworld novels, Nanny Ogg is this towards her daughter-in-laws, but not her son-in-laws.
  • Harry Potter: Molly and her daughter Ginny don't approve Bill's (Molly's first-born) marriage to Fleur Delacour. In the end, when Bill's battle scars didn't make Fleur like Bill any less, Molly and (presumably) Ginny warmed up to her.

 Ginny: I suppose I'm just going to have to accept that he really is going to marry her.

Harry: She's alright. (hastily) Ugly, though.

  • Older Than Feudalism: In The Bible, Rebekah is "vexed" by the wives of Esau. It seems to be mostly because they are Canaanites, and follow Canaanite traditions and customs, worshipping their gods instead of the God of Abraham.


Films -- Live-Action

  • In The Ref, this is played straight with the mother-in-law from hell Rose Chasseur, but subverted with both of her sons' families. Brother and sister-in-law Gary and Connie Chasseur initially seem like classic obnoxious in-laws, but they become slightly sympathetic characters when it turns out they're as fed up with "Mother Rose" as everybody else.

 Gus: (holding a gun to Mrs. Chasseur's head) Nobody move or I'll shoot!

Connie: Go ahead, kill her.

    • Plus, even though the main couple played by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis get the Sympathetic POV, it's clear that they could just as easily be considered obnoxious in-laws themselves.
  • This is basically the plot of the 2005 movie Monster-in-Law.
  • Eat Drink Man Woman has Madam Liang, who spends almost all of her screen time berating her daughters as burdensome and insulting the men they married. She is visibly elated when her daughter in America gets divorced, and vows to mount the divorce papers over the toilet.
  • Robert De Niro's character in Meet the Parents is this to the Nth degree, trying everything to ruin the life of his daughter's latest fiancé. It gets to the point that you wonder why she doesn't say or do anything to stop it, particularly when its mentioned he does this with every boy she brings home.
  • An offscreen example in Get Smart. Dalip, The Brute working for KAOS, has a hellish sister-in-law who's constantly undermining his relationship with his wife and trying to break them up, which causes him endless grief at home. Max manages to keep Dalip from killing him by giving him advice on how to keep his wife and her sister from spending too much time together without looking like the bad guy.
  • It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has Milton Berle hounded by his harridan mother-in-law (Ethel Merman) and hipster-doofus brother-in-law (Dick Shawn). In all fairness, his own wife (Dorothy Provine), faced with the opportunity, shows a desire to flee them all.
  • Fargo has the obnoxiousness of Jerry Lundegaard's father-in-law Wade Gustafson be one of the primary ways that Jerry's Batman Gambit turns into a very dark Fawlty Towers Plot.
  • Guess Who features a Caucasian man dating an African-American whose father would rather have her dating a fellow African-American.
  • Brought up in Addams Family Reunion by Morticia: when Gomez asks if she's noticed anything strange about his grandparents, who are visiting, her response is:

 "Now, keep in mind that for me they are still in-laws. Tradition dictates that I must despise them. Regardless of my own personal feelings in the matter."


Live-Action TV

  • There's a Greek sitcom called Seven Deadly Mother-in-Laws running with much success for over three seasons; the author believes the theme is clear. They originally took stereotypical mother-in-laws from various regions of Greece, but it soon extended far beyond the original seven. The show REALLY jumped the shark with the Mother-in-Law from Space...
  • On Scrubs, Carla believes her brother can only speak Spanish, but he learned English some time ago. He deliberately only speaks English in front of Turk, so that Turk will look like an asshole when protesting he knows the language. After Turk manages to trick him into revealing he's bilingual, he gets no reprimand from his sister. Even after he punches her boyfriend in the face directly in front of her. Similarly, whenever Turk says something bad about Carla's mom, she makes him go to her grave and beg for forgiveness (he often comes back and says "She still hates me").
    • On the other hand, Turk was terrified at how great Carla and his mom got on. Although Carla's brother quickly learnt to shut up around her...
  • Niles Crane from Frasier was like this with Lillith in the first season, because Lillith sniggered at Maris' wedding vows. Considering how much worse Maris proved to be, this would make Niles a bit of a hypocrite.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond Ray's mother, Marie, didn't exactly approve of Debra, and wasn't shy about showing it.
  • All of Samantha's family in Bewitched. Poor Darin is often on the recieving end of some curse.
  • Both sets of parents on Dharma and Greg tend to be intrusive, but Kitty (Greg's Rich Bitch mother) is the one who really fit the stereotype.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Marshall's mother hates Lily. It probably has something to do with the way Lily ran off on Marshall a couple of months before their wedding. They eventually made it up, but it would appear Marshall's mother never forgot.
  • Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife does not like her mother-in-law. This is demonstrated by the fact that the ring tone allocated to her on her cell phone is the music from The Twilight Zone.
  • In That 70s Show, Red Forman's mother, Bernice is incredibly obnoxious and rude to everyone, but especially to her daughter-in-law, Kitty. Kitty's own mother is not much better - however, she upsets Kitty more than Red.
  • Of the four main adult characters from Yes, Dear, three of them have an in-law for each: Don (Kim and Christine's father) for Greg, Jenny (Kim and Christine's mother) for Jimmy, and Natalie (Greg's mother) for Kim. Christine doesn't have this problem, though. On the other hand, considering the tension that exists between brothers-in-law Greg and Jimmy, much of the show has this trope as its premise.
  • In The Honeymooners, Ralph dreads the visits of his mother-in-law, because she constantly implies that Alice could've done better than him.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Master Vile (Rita's dad) and Lord Zedd don't get along. Hilariously.
    • Lord Zeddisn't too fond of Rito Revolto (Rita's brother) either.
  • An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine involves Jadzia Dax trying to impress the matriarch of Worf's family, who does not like the idea of a Trill daughter-in-law. Jadzia's attitude doesn't help.
  • One episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had a plot too similar to the movie Guess Who. Even the way the African-American family found out she was dating a white man was the same. Most of the family warmed up to him quickly (though it was a rocky start), but Will's mother took a while.
  • From Gilmore Girls, we have Lorelai "Trix" Gilmore, Richard's mother and Lorelai's paternal grandmother takes this to an art form, being capable of inspiring terror in Emily the second it is announced that she's going to visit. In many ways, it mirrors the relationship between Emily and Lorelai, but Trix and Emily's relationship worsens each time. Her crowning moment would be when Emily discovers a secret letter that Trix wrote to Richard begging him not to marry Emily as she was not suitable for the Gilmore name while she handles Trix's funeral arrangements and will.
  • Mild version on CSI Betty Grissom disapproving of Sara marrying her son. Thinks the long distance aspect isn't good. Fortunately, she settles down and things are improved by the episode's end.
  • Bob Duncan's mother-in-law of Good Luck Charlie thinks he's a pea-brained buffoon who's done a deplorable job of raising his kids.
  • In Life with Derek, Nora's mother Felicia liked her first husband just fine, but doesn't care at all for her current husband George, mostly because she doesn't believe in divorce.
  • An unusual variant occurs on Blossom between her father Nick Russo and her maternal grandfather Buzz Richman. Buzz doesn't really have anything against Nick, but Nick resents him for coming to the Russo house and sponging off them when he visits. The fact that Buzz's daughter abandoned Nick and the kids doesn't exactly help matters.
  • In Oshin, Ryuuzo's parents Daigoro and Kiyo detest their daughter-in-law since she's a mere country girl whereas they have a higher standing. Daigoro more or less gives in when Ryuuzo says that he'll marry Oshin BUT won't have a mistress at the same time, but Kiyo keeps interferring and making Oshin's life harder -- especially when she and Ryuuzo are forced to live with them after the 1923 Kanto Earthquake. When Oshin leaves to work in another city and communicates with Ryuuzo through letters, Kiyo hides the correspondence to trick Oshin into thinking that Ryuuzo has ditched her -- but the deception is ultimately undone and Ryuuzo is, understandably, FURIOUS.

Music

  • The Kinks Situation Vacant tells the sad tale of a happy couple who get by okay, but his mother-in-law's pushing has him trying to find a better-paying job - he quits the job he has, they have to leave their apartment and skimp and scrape, and his wife leaves him and goes back to mother, who's now happy.
  • New Orleans R&B guy Ernie K. Doe's big hit -- "Mother-In-Law".
  • Spike Jones's "William Tell Overture" racehorse routine: "Mother-in-Law nagging in the rear!" "Aaaaah-aaaah-aaaah!!" This is clearly after Feetlebaum leaves his position well behind the rear of the pack.


Theatre

  • This trope is the whole reason behind Romeo and Juliet. If only they had thought to ask their parents they would have learned that Lord Capulet hated the Hell outta Romeo's family, but didn't actually think Romeo was a bad person.


Video Games

  • One of the funniest examples is in Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp. The entire first level has Dirk trying to escape Daphne's mother (who resembles a retired opera star... boy, even her name is Hilda!). She starts chasing Dirk with a rolling pin after she finds out that he let Daphne get kidnapped again. If the player presses the wrong button, Dirk can actually get killed by her! Dirk runs away from her on a horse, but she starts following him on an ox, trying to bash the living daylights out of him while telling him to go rescue Daphne.

 Hilda: DIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRKK!!!

Dirk: Uh-oh...

Hilda: Kidnapped?... My Daphne, kidnapped again?!! Idiot! Dun-kof! You! Better! Find! My! Daughter! OR! ELSE! (throws a crate full of chickens at Dirk) COWARD!!! DIRK! I KNOW YOU'RE IN HERE!! Did I raise my Princess to marry a frog!?! Dirk! Hold still! You can run boy! But you cannot hide!

  • One level in the second Osu Tatakae Ouendan centers on a female pro wrestler who marries the heir to a traditional Japanese inn... only to find his mother does not approve. The level involves said wrestler proving she can be a good inn hostess in order to earn the old woman's approval.


Web Comics

  • Even Mezzacotta characters tell in-laws jokes!
  • Recently Dominic Deegan elected not to spend a whole arc on Dominic and Luna's wedding due to both in-story common sense and the fact that it would either have to be dull for weeks or Go Horribly Wrong, so they got married on the spot and sent a spell to tell everyone who might care. This was more or less fine with everyone. The first time elopement was floated, however, Dominic's mother Miranda reacted badly. She's always been awesome, though, and it was her guilt at her own reaction that prompted a minor flashback arc to the hell her parents put Donovan through back when they were affianced.
    • Incredible level of messing with his mind, both with normal guilt-trips and sly insinuations and her illusionist father causing him to semi-constantly hallucinate vividly for days on end. Notably, Miranda gave them a very successful Shut UP, Hannibal rant which included, "he was looking forward to calling you 'Mom and Dad!'"
      • This was largely because Donovan was orphaned and raised by elves. One of the things this means is he grew up without a surname and took hers when they married, because elves weren't going to adopt a human enough to give him their family name.
  • What's New with Phil and Dixie, in the strip about castles:

 Dixie: Well, the drawbridge is up, the windows are barred, and the fire moat is lit. So how about you and me...

The dude with a grappling hook (behind her): Hello, daughter! I'm here for a visit! Where's the fridge?


Western Animation

  • Patty and Selma from The Simpsons (and their mother to a lesser extent) hate Homer so much they've nonchalantly reacted to his heart attack then proceeded to find Marge a man despite the fact he hadn't died, bought a tombstone with "Homer J. Simpson. We are richer for having lost him.", tried to get him kicked out of town, and kidnap/torture him during his renewal of his vows with Marge. This doesn't even include the verbal insults.
    • Depending on the Writer, of course. In an episode Selma thanks Homer for helping her get Ling (her Chinese adopted baby), and Marge's mother didn't really get angry and actually said that Patty and Selma were evil.
  • In The Flintstones, Wilma's mother is like this with Fred. Though, he does treat her appropriately with equal hostility.
  • Cotton Hill from King of the Hill. And Minh's father isn't too fond of Kahn.
  • Family Guy
    • Peter Griffin's father, who reveals that he's not Peter's biological father.
    • Lois' father isn't too fond of Peter, either, to the point that he even lied in court when Peter was accused of murdering Lois (in Stewie's simulation).
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Mary Jane's aunt Anna has nothing but bad things to say about Peter in spite of the fact that Peter was never anything but courteous towards her. She sets out to find fault in every little thing he says/does.
    • Hell, at one point she sics The Punisher on him!(Albeit unintentionally)
      • Thankfully it's mostly averted by her comicbook counterpart whom is basically a more grounded version of Aunt May (and helped May set them up in the first place).
  • In American Dad, Francine's Chinese adoptive parents don't have any bad feelings for Stan, however whenever they show up they tend to take over the place.

 Stan: They're loud, they're pushy, they make me feel like a guest in my own house!

    • Stan hates them so much that he actually goes in search of Francine's birth parents. After initially thinking they are wonderful, Stand finds out that they are much worse and abandoned Francine because they would have had to fly coach since babies weren't allowed in the first class cabin.
  • In The Fairly Odd Parents, Mama Cosma is this to Wanda and Big Daddy is this to Cosmo.
    • In "Timmy Turnip", Timmy's maternal grandparents keep referring to Dad as the "son-in-law that we don't like" and, as a Running Gag, gives him bags full of rabid wesels.
  • Linda's mother in the second episode of Bob's Burgers so grates on Bob that he hides from her by pretending to be stuck inside the wall. Hilarity Ensues, but by the end of the episode they seem to be patching things up.
  • In one episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik is about to marry the guest character of the week. His mother crashes the wedding and instantly starts a room-destroying fist fight with the bride, for no apparent reason.
  • In one episode of "The Bears' Family Album" segment of The Woody Woodpecker Show, Charlie Bear tried to escape his mother-in-law, who spent the biggest part of the episode nagging him into spring cleaning while all he wanted to do was fishing with a friend. As an unexpected result of his last plan, Charlie met a guard who, once meeting the mother-in-law, decided Charlie had already had enough and let him go while he started to point out irregularities with her car. Charlie and his friend ended the episode laughing at her misfortune with the guard.
  • Elise's parents in Dan Vs. to Chris. Chris being the Nice Guy he is tries to win them over, with limited success. Elise on the other hand finds their visits stressful because of their treatment of Chris, and Dan tries to convince Chris that his efforts to get them to like him are futile. In "Family Camping Trip" Chris does manage to win over Elise's mother, but her father still seems to hate him.



Real Life

  • In most cultures, a man cannot even speak to his wife's parents. This trope is the Western form of this.
  • The comedy cliché that a man's wife's mother is a bitch towards him is quite baffling, considering that in real life it's not exactly uncommon for the husband's mother to conflict with his wife
  • There's a joke that goes like this:

 Q: "What's the difference between in-laws and outlaws?"

A: "Outlaws are wanted!"

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