And I gotta get a meal ticketDo yourself a favor, the meal ticket does the rest
To survive you need a meal ticket
To stay alive you need a meal ticket
Feel no pain, no regret
When the line's been signed
You're someone else
—Elton John, "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket"
Basically the target of a Gold Digger. Someone the digger pretends to love for the ticket's money, power, or some other thing the digger wants. Usually the meal ticket is wealthy, but they may simply have a dependable income that's enough that the gold digger won't have to worry about supporting themselves.
Modern examples usually place a man in the position of Meal Ticket, but from Elizabethan to Victorian times, it was just as likely that the Meal Ticket would be female and an heiress, with a male Gold Digger (or diggers!) in pursuit.
In some cases, the digger might grow to love the ticket, but it's rare. Expect fawning until the marriage, and then neglect or even abuse afterward. A happy ending is a toss up. Male Meal Tickets have a high chance to come across the Black Widow and have their lives quickly shortened.
The name has varied and vague origins from the 19th century to either this trope or to actual tickets used to get meals in places.
Suffice it to say, Truth in Television.
- In Berserk, Princess Charlotte is this to Griffith, and in Berserk Abridged he actually refers to her as a meal ticket once.
- Rena's father in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is Rina's Meal Ticket. She even tries to kill Rena, when Rena threatens to reveal her scheme to con her dad out of his money, even trying to strangle her with her bare hands. Rena manages to get free, and then she murders Rina out of self defense. Unfortunately, that was only the start of Rena's troubles.
- In Gungrave, Harry admits he needs Sherry Walken to become the head of the Syndicate. It's not clear whether he really loves her or not, until the last episodes.
- Princess Flora is the female meal ticket of Honey Honey no Suteki na Bouken, and rich men from all over the world show up at her birthday party to ask her hand in marriage. It annoys her to be treated as a prize, so she tuckes her diamond ring into a cooked fish and chucks it out the window, where it is eaten by a cat (Honey's kitten Mimi) on the ground. She then says anyone who can retrieve the diamond ring will marry her, which kickstarts the plot.
- Genderflipped in Speed Grapher, where the Meal Ticket is the local Evil Matriarch Shinzen Tennozou. Subverted in that Shinzen knows she's this and tries to use it to her advantage. But she's horribly Out-Gambitted in the end, and dies.
- Kanae Ohtori in Revolutionary Girl Utena is this to Akio, since as her fiance he's able to have control over the school and perpetuate his plan with the duels. Since the entire series is a Deconstruction of princess tropes, in this case Kanae's situation represents how little power most princesses actually have when they're used this way, and late in the series it's heavily implied that Akio poisons her with the help of Anthy.
- Uncle Fester was this to Debbie Jellinsky, the villainess in The Addams Family Values.
- The father in every version of The Parent Trap. Why is she interested in him? "I can think of a million reasons, and they're all in the bank."
- In Robin Hood, Robin is asked to act as Sir Robert Loxley, including with Lady Marianne. So when he introduces Lady Marianne as his wife to his Band of Brothers, they applaud his luck with a "Well-played, Robin!".
- The titular woman in Jonathon Coulton's Millionaire Girlfriend.
- The girlfriend in Tripod's Old Money.
- The Eagles' "Lyin' Eyes" is about a gold digger who regrets marrying her Meal Ticket.
A rich old man, and she won't have to worry
She'll dress up all in lace and go in style.
Late at night a big old house gets lonely --
I guess every form of refuge has its price...
- The unseen husband in all versions of The Women (or was seen in The Opposite Sex).
- Katherine, the "shrew" of The Taming of the Shrew was the meal ticket. Petrucchio, the gold digger, learned to love her, though.
- In Kiss Me Kate, the musical adaptation, Petrucchio's motives are made explicitly clear, with his song, "I've Come to Wive It Wealthily (in Padua)"
- Portia for all of her suitors, in The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio just was the one who was somewhat less of a jerk about it.
- In Chicago, Amos Hart ("Mr Cellophane") was the meal ticket of Roxy. In this case, he's not rich or powerful, he's simply willing to support her no matter what she did.
- Wocky Kitaki in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.
- Princess Ovelia to Delita in Final Fantasy Tactics. Um... he might have grown to love her.
- Pretty much any unmarried dwarf in Dragon Age Origins is either a Meal Ticket or a Gold Digger, due to the way their caste system works ("Poorly," as one dwarven nobleman states).
- In the American military, at least some spouses are believed to view military personnel this way, due to the fact that a young servicemember can make a relatively large amount of money with little experience or schooling (a Private makes somewhere in the range of $1500 a month, not counting room, board, and health benefits). The fact that military dependents (spouses and kids) also get free health benefits adds to the draw.
- In a subversion, enlisted personnel occasionally see the Gold Diggers in a similar light: If you are a single enlisted troop, you live in the dorms with everyone else on base, and eat your meals in the chow hall. If you are a married enlisted troop, you get paid extra to get an apartment off-base and buy your own food, on top of your regular paycheck. Even with the costs of paying rent, buying food, and paying utilities, a thrifty soldier can make quite a bit of bank "just" by getting hitched.