"I work for children... literally, the admiral is five. Goddamned nepotism. When I asked for orders, he sent me a box filled with melted chocolate and a birthday card made from macaroni."
—General Knoxx, Borderlands
A trope often found in situation comedy, it's where the boss, (often a somewhat unpleasant one) places a relative or in-law in a position of power. Invariably, the relative will be incompetent or worse.
The opposite of this trope is Coattail-Riding Relative. See also Screw the Rules, I Have Connections Also note that the word Nepotism comes from the word "nephew" but has nothing to do with Nephewism.
No real life examples, please; we'd be here all day.
Anime and Manga
- Ren's old teammates in Ookiku Furikabutte feel that he's in the pitcher position only because he's related to the school board director, and that he is incompetent. He's actually a good pitcher, but the team just doesn't co-operate with him.
- In at least one incarnation of Tenchi Muyo, Mihoshi's grandfather is the Grand Marshal of the Galaxy Police. Given that Mihoshi tends be either a Genius Ditz, The Fool, or a Bunny Ears Lawyer, and in any case causes massive headaches for the Galaxy Police, one theory amongst fans is that the only reason she was allowed to join, never mind stay employed, is because of this family tie. It doesn't prevent them, in the original OAVs, from sending her to patrol a sector of the galaxy considered a boring backwater... but that ends up blowing up in their faces.
- Baccano!! has two examples, both of which are played atypically.
- The first is Ladd Russo who, while definitely not incompetent, is completely off his rocker. His uncle made him a hitman mostly to channel his homicidal urges more efficiently.
- The second and more serious example is, surprisingly enough, Luck Gandor. While he certainly doesn't seem like someone who got his position from connections alone, careful examination of the evidence (and eventual confirmation in The Slash) would reveal that he's been in the higher ranks of The Mafia since age fifteen or younger, and only because his brothers were in charge. He has quite a bit of a complex over it.
- Code Geass. While several members of the Britannian Imperial Family may be very qualified and competent, there are plenty of others who were less so. Clovis and Odysseus come to mind, who each has "son of the emperor" as their best qualities.
- The Death Note manga states that Touta Matsuda has relatives in the Police Force, hence why he has a job there despite being more or less well-intentioned, yet incompetent. Until he goes all Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, that is.
- Masaki Kirihara, the Hero Antagonist police office of Darker than Black is the daughter of a high-ranking Japanese politician, and some of her connections and position probably come from him, although she is very competent. In one episode, he draws upon his connections to offer her a promotion to a desk job—it's ambiguous whether this is out of concern for her safety or whether he's trying to have her Kicked Upstairs because he's a member of The Syndicate himself (or possibly both). In any case, she turns him down. By the second season, she's so frustrated by this (and other meddling in the police department) that she quits and barely looks back.
- Doujima of Witch Hunter Robin is the daughter of a leader of the STN-J, and acts more like the spoiled, unpleasant version, coming to work late and reading fashion magazines instead of doing her job. She does get nicer over time. And the earlier behavior was sort of Obfuscating Stupidity anyway, as she was a Double Agent sent to observe the actions of Solomon, the witch-hunting organization
- Heat Guy J
- Daisuke Aurora has his job in part because his older brother is the police chief.
- Also, on the Villains side of the equation, Clair has his position of "Vampire" (Mob Boss) because his father specifically stated it in his will (the other members of The Mafia are not happy about this, partly because Clair is only 19, and partly because he's Ax Crazy).
- This is how Daigo became a CEO by 27 in Virgin Love. The fact that he's extremely competent definitely contributed though.
- The Zabis all got their positions in Mobile Suit Gundam because their father, Degwin, trusts them more than anyone else. It's played for tragedy in the case of Garma, whose obsession with proving that he deserves his job ultimately gets him killed; Dozle, Kycillia, and Gihren all establish early on that they are fully capable of doing a good job.
- Naruto has an half-example of sorts: The Hokage. All of them are related in some way, ever since the first one, Hashirama. The second was his brother, Tobirama, who also created the Resurrection Technique used by both Orochimaru and Kabuto, the Third was Sarutobi, their apprentice. The Fourth was Minato, who followed in the Master Apprentice Chain from Jiraya, and was eventually replaced by Tsunade, Hashirama's grandaughter. Danzo would later point it out to the Fire Daimyo, saying how this chain has left the village soft on military issues, since the Hokage so far all had pacifist philosophies, resulting in Konoha's destruction by Pain. Jerkass Has a Point, wouldn't you say?
- A non-comedic example occurs in Judge Dredd—when Rico gives Deputy Chief Judge Sinfield's clone, March, a failing grade at the end of his provisional period for being too ruthless, Sinfield responds by sending Rico to oversee the mutant townships in the Cursed Earth.
- Subverted in the X Wing Series, when Coucilmember Beruss refuses to send aid to Rogue Squadron, despite her nephew Avan being a member.
Films -- Animation
- In Mulan, Li Shang is determined to prove that this isn't why he was made a captain, despite being promoted by his own father.
Films -- Live-Action
- In the movie The Mask, Stanley Ipkiss vents about the nasty supervisor at his job.
Ipkiss: Back off, monkey boy, or I'll tell your dad you treat this place like your piggy bank.
- In District 9, Wikus' father-in-law denies that this is the reason he promoted Wikus to lead the alien eviction team. However, the trope is played with in that it seems he promoted him with the hope that he would get killed or injured.
- Initially averted in Gladiator when Marcus Aurelius decides to appoint Maximus as his successor, bypassing his own son Commodus. But Commodus himself enforces the trope rather... forcefully.
- This was a common aversion to nepotism used by Roman Emperors. Since the Romans held that adopted children had the same inheritance rights as biological ones, many Emperors decided that it would be easier to find a worthy successor and adopt him into the family than to train a relative into a worthy successor.
- Played for drama in Casino; Las Vegas is depicted as running on this trope, as Sam Rothstein is forced to hire an incompetent idiot in a cushy job because he's the brother-in-law of a powerful local official. Rothstein finally gets sick of the guy's incompetence and justifiably fires him, the brother-in-law later manages to make serious trouble for him. Curiously, even the brother-in-law admits that Rothstein was justified in doing what he did.
- The crew of the Spaceball One is largely composed of assholes. Named Asshole.
- In The Princess Diaries 2 a relative is not placed in a position of power, but is hired to build the bathroom in Mia's suite, prompting the queen to remark that "nepotism belongs in the arts, not in plumbing."
- In both the film and book of American Psycho, the protagonist Patrick Bateman works at an accountancy firm which his father practically owns.
- Played with in 1632 natural as it takes place in the year 1632 and after. One thing that is brought out is that it is hard for time-transported Americans even with their theoretical contempt for non-functional authority, to avoid this. Mercenary commanders will not listen to each other when placed in the same army and need a nobleman to keep them in line even if the nobleman knows nothing about war. Likewise a diplomat carries a better credit if he is somehow actually related to a head of state.
- Played with in the Discworld novel Making Money—Hubert Turvy is a relative of Topsy Turvy-Lavish, the manager of the bank at the beginning of the novel. The bank has for long been the private toy of the Lavish family, so Topsy passes it on to Moist Von Lipvig, who also keeps Hubert around. The reason it's not a straight example though, is that rather than being incompetent, Hubert is a genius; he's just nuttier than a fruitcake.May even be a complete inversion since in addition to her own nephew being brilliant, the "rightful" heirs the Lavishes are entirely corrupt, incompetent, and just plain awful. (A gathering of Lavishes requires a very careful seating chart based on who's suing who this week.)
- The Belgariad (and Mallorean) make the whole Tolnedran Empire is like this; the current ruling house and its supporters hold most government jobs. It's said that even the customs officers change after dynastic succession.
- A large portion of the population of Barrayar is certain that Miles Vorkosigan only got his positions because of his father the Regent/Prime Minister or his foster brother the Emperor. They are mostly wrong. It was nepotism that got Miles into the Imperial Military Academy, despite him not meeting the physical requirements, and nepotism that kept him in the Imperial Service after the Kyril Island incident.
- This tendency in Barrayar was muted just before Mile's day by the fact that the Vor in charge were the surviving leadership of a two decade insurgency against occupying forces. Those guys were bloodthirsty, stubborn, and retrograde about anything but innovative methods of violence. But they were not just riding family coattails.
- In the early Garrett, P.I. novels, the city watch is virtually useless, having degenerated into a sinecure for bureaucrats' freeloading nephews and so forth.
- Plays a significant role in the Honor Harrington universe.
- Most of the truly incompetent Manticoran officers are kept on the rolls because of having powerful relatives in the aristocracy, although the 20 years of war with Haven tends to thin their ranks significantly.
- Apparently averted with Haven, amusingly: when you meet their officers, very few get their jobs because of having relatives in high places (although to be fair, after two revolutions the people in the high places change significantly).
- Stated to be one of the problems facing the Solarian military: most of their senior military leadership gets their positions through having relatives who are also senior military leaders.
- Really this is dirtier then other examples. You expect people to be nice to their relations and anyway that is the entire point of aristocracy. Besides Manticorans do as has been said have the redeeming feature of getting blown up for Family Honor. Solarians are often not so much traditional nepotists as temporarily successful players of bureaucracy which often includes incestuous alliances with criminal syndicates who have enough blackmail on them to order them around when the time comes.
- The ultimate example is, of course, the Mesan Alignment: the leadership is composed of clones or carefully chosen and selected/engineered children of other leaders.
- In The Dukes of Hazzard, Boss Hogg's incompetent sheriff, Roscoe, is his brother-in-law.
- This is one of the key driving conflicts in Arrested Development.
- On Murphy Brown, the head of the network (played by Gary Marshall) put his nephew (Paul Rubens) in charge of the Show Within a Show FYI.
- Probably the only reason why Hiro hasn't been sacked from his job in Heroes. At least he has the proper excuse of running/teleporting around saving the world.
- Extensively played with in Battlestar Galactica Reimagined. Lee Adama gets accused of this by Kendra Shaw concerning his assignment to command of the Battlestar Pegasus by his Admiral father, which "your daddy just gave to you, like he was tossing you the keys to a new car". However, Adama only appointed him to the post after first going through two senior officers who both died in quick succession. Likewise with Lee becoming President—while Adama was committing something close to a military coup by refusing to recognize Zarek's control of the Colonial government despite being legally entitled to that position, Zarek was an unreliable power-seeker and Lee one of the few people available who he could trust. Baltar also espouses this for sympathy baiting in his political writings when he questions whether the fleet will ever be run by someone whose last name isn't Adama. But while the above examples are justified, Adama senior does have a strong tendency to let Lee, his assumed daughter Kara, and others close to him get away with a lot of crap, and spends an inordinate amount of time and manpower to search for Thrace when she is stranded on a planet, even at the expense of fleet security.
- Subverted in Just Shoot Me: the boss's daughter is the only person in the whole show who is competent.
- Almost a running gag in Hogan's Heroes: low-level officers (captains and lieutenants) are constantly showing up, nominally working under Klink, and pushing him around. Whenever he tries to discipline them, they always turns out to be a general or field marshall's nephew. In one episode, Hogan even disguises a Russian soldier as such an officer. After he's annoyed Klink for a while, Hogan has him "disowned" by his "uncle", and Klink sends him to the Russian Front—where he's been insisting on going all episode.
- An old Bob Saget episode of Americas Funniest Home Videos once featured a production video in which the ultimate horror of the workplace was "The Boss's Kid".
- One episode of The Thin Blue Line has Grim wanting to join a secret society called the "Todgers". He proudly rattles off a list of why he thinks they are better than the Freemasons, including better costumes and ceremonies—until Fowler chips in with "... and better nepotism."
- Used in the Season 7 premiere of The Office which is actually named Nepotism, in which Michael hires his nephew as the new office assistant due to having been estranged from him. However, he is an apathetic and horrible assistant who messes up everything, which eventually leads to Michael spanking him, at which point he runs off and quits.
- A different form comes in Blue Bloods. In this case there is no string pulling (indeed The Patriarch often goes to dramatic lengths to make clear to the public that he is NOT doing this). Rather the Reagan family are brought up with tradition and heroic tales of police work until they each determine to become competent cops on their own account. Frank is actually worried that Danny might have been transferred to Major Case as order to curry favour with him since he worries that Danny is a Cowboy Cop and might not be qualified for the job.
- In a few episodes of The George Lopez Show, his boss's son works there and doesn't do much of anything. George also gets Max a temporary job there to show him the meaning of hard work.
- Seemingly played straight but actually averted on Battleground with Jordan who is the son of the canidate's wife. While he believes that he is in a position of importance, he actually doesn't do anything and merely is given an office to keep him out of the way.
- One of the less blatant examples is Scooter from The Muppet Show, whose uncle owns the theater. He's only a gofer, but still portrayed as fairly naive and incompetent, and still gets his way when he drops his uncle's name. By the second season, he's mostly over it.
- The French satirical show Les Guignols de l'info had a field day mocking President Nicolas Sarkozy's various attempts at putting his son Jean in posts of high responsibility.
- In Portal 2, Wheatley accuses a work foreman robot of having done this by passing up Wheatley for a promotion in lieu of... an exact copy of himself.
- Claude C. Kenny, protagonist of Star Ocean the Second Story, feels pressure from this, as revealed in flashbacks. Some cadets believe that Claude only got to his position because of his father Ronyx Kenny, a high ranking member of The Federation and one of the heroes of Star Ocean 1.
- Fallout: New Vegas: General Lee Oliver supposedly got his position through nepotism. Naturally, he is an inept commander who is more concerned with his own reputation than the lives of his men.
- As mentioned in the page quote, General Knoxx of Borderlands works for "Admiral Mikey", who takes this trope to the logical extreme by being a literal toddler. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Sluggy Freelance Daedalus, the leader of Hereti Corp, is eventually revealed to be "Dade Hereti", son of the company's founder Dr. Steven Hereti. Mild subversion in that it's implied Dr. Steve did not want Dade taking his position.
- Referenced in Schlock Mercenary, when Breya needs help with something and thinks of her (genius who invented the teraport brother):
Jaksmouth: Admiral, one of the tursto's strike teams has captured a wormgate intact. Trinko is doing her best, but right now we need a think-tank of wormhole physicists and engineers to sort out what we're looking at here.
Breya: We could try to hire my brother away from that company of thugs he's hanging out with.
Jaksmouth: Right. Sure. You know, that reminds me. I have a good-for-nothing nephew who could use a steady paycheck.
Breya: Your non-sequitur looks more like a subtle accusation of nepotism.
Jaksmouth: He's very qualified management material, for sure.
- Featured in Grandmaster of Theft with regards to protagonist and established as one of the ways in which the Elites work. Cassidy dislikes the thought that this as the only reason she'll one day run the Family Business and chooses to work hard to prove that she deserves the position based upon her own talents, not family.
- Auto Tune the News: STRICTLY disallowed in New Orleans. Except for family members. And sexy turtles.
- The main plot of the "Benchwarmer" episode of Hey Arnold! is the basketball coach's insistence that the other players give all of the most important roles to his son, even when he was not the best at them or if it meant a less surefire victory. Thus most of their drilling revolved around learning how to "get the ball to Tucker."
- In one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Mr. Krabs gives his daughter Pearl control of the restaurant. She promptly flips the place upside-down and changes the target demographic to vegetarian teenagers, much to SpongeBob's dismay.
- Squidward Lampshaded this trope when introducing Pearl at the Krusty Krab's talent show. Patrick found it hilarious.
- The Simpsons: In "Brother from the Same Planet", the soccer coach selects Nelson to attend Pele's soccer and acting camp and Nelson thanks his dad. In "Bart Star", Homer coaches Bart's pee-wee football team.
Homer: Now, just because I'm his father, he will get no special treatment. He calls me coach just like everyone else. Which he'll be doing, as our new starting quarterback!
- In another episode, Homer becomes the coach of Lisa's new soccer team.
- One might think this is how Sterling Archer keeps his job, the abuse Malory heaps on him notwithstanding.
- In Dinosaucers, Teryx claims that the reason Bonehead - Anklo's woefully stupid nephew - in only on the team because he's Anklo's nephew. The Big Bad actually feels a little sorry for Anklo after learning this.