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Riley's Dad displays a severe case of Parental Obliviousness

Parental Obliviousness would be best described as a subtrope of Adults Are Useless.

The kid is either trying to tell the parent something or trying to hide something, but the parent misses this completely, as well as other significant cues about their child's state of mind or personality.

Sometimes the parents are oblivious because there's something going on and the parent is a Muggle who can't know because s/he isn't Secret Keeper. Or perhaps the Extra-Strength Masquerade seems to be hitting them especially hard.

Sometimes it's just a mundane reason for the cluelessness, like work causing mom or dad to be absent too much. Occasionally, it's a case of the parent thinking too much and not being able to see the forest for the trees; or the parent not wanting to see and going deep into denial. And sometimes the parent is actively contriving to not know something they consider brain breaking. Denial is handy to maintain obliviousness.

Usually the trope is played for comedic effect, and often in animation to allow child or teenage characters to go off adventuring without their parents knowing and freaking out about it. (The alternative being the parents not being there.)

There's often a scene where the kids are in trouble and the parents finally find out and ask why did the kids not come to them about it. To that, the parents are always stunned to hear that their own children fear their reaction more than the trouble itself and cannot under stand how their role in family discipline made them an object of fear that helped allow the problem to escalate into a crisis.

The flip side is Open-Minded Parent, where they figure out what their kid is up to... And seem strangely untroubled by it. Compare and contrast with Mama Bear, who knows what's happening in her child's life, and nothing will hurt her child. Then there's the Reasonable Authority Figure, who may not believe everything they hear, but will invariably hear them out and humor them. Parental Obliviousness is often required for a Don't Tell Mama situation to work, or at least helps it along. This trope has an older, more senile relative in Grandparental Obliviousness.

Examples of Parental Obliviousness include:

Anime & Manga

  • Pokémon: From the time Butch and Cassidy appeared for the second time to the moment it evolved, Ash, Misty, and Brock had no idea baby Togepi knew the Metronome attack that had saved itself and the team on a few occasions. Tracey subverts this by questioning if Togepi really did save them once.
  • Haruka's Mom from Noein may be the queen of this trope. She failed to notice all the weird things going on around her (like an arm hanging from the ceiling in front of her face). The only thing that snapped her out of this was seeing her house disappear in front of her.
  • Amu Hinamori's parents in Shugo Chara buy into Amu's "cool and spicy" persona as much as her classmates do, making them unaware of how shy she really is. And, oh yeah... they don't know about the whole Guardian Chara/Humpty Lock/Embryo situation, either.
    • They also don't realize that Ikuto is staying in her room for a few days. Her mum thinks it might be cat so she suspects something. I guess she was right in a way...
  • Fumiko Kobayashi in Kemeko Deluxe has the general signs of this trope, but they're only compounded by her being a mangaka and regularly pulling all-nighters, meaning she's completely unaware of things such as a destructive battle going on in the room right above her, a rocket sticking out of the roof of her house, and the fact that...whatever Kemeko is has suddenly moved into their house.
  • Ichigo's dad in Bleach completely fails to notice the Shinigami living in Ichigo's closet, his frequent and lengthy disappearances, or, in the anime filler arcs, as many as four sentient stuffed animals in his room. Actually a subversion; Isshin is a Captain-level shinigami in his own right and knew exactly what his son was getting up to.
  • Rea Amano in Mirai Nikki is largely oblivious to Yuno's psychotic behavior and approves of Yuno as a potential bride for her son Yukiteru.
    • Though in Rea's defense, Yuno can fool pretty much anyone who doesn't know her that well. As everyone else just sees her as a model student and a Genki Girl.
  • Nana Sawada in Katekyo Hitman Reborn seems to be unaware of the fact that both her husband and her son are part of the Mafia.


  • Batman: Depending on who's writing him, during Dick Grayson's formative years, he was so absorbed in the mission that he was completely unaware of Dick's neglected emotional needs unless Alfred pointed it out.
  • Commissioner Gordon still seems to have no idea his daughter was the original Batgirl. At the time, he just seemed to be clueless; a recent Booster Gold story suggested he was so far in denial he would leap on the flimsiest evidence she wasn't, without even admitting to himself why it was so important that the woman in the Batgirl costume he saw talking to Babs was the real one.
    • Depends. In one comic where Babs, now an adult, tells her father she's Oracle and is happy to find him pretty accepting, she goes on to tell him that she was Batgirl as a teen.

 Jim Gordon: Now that, I knew.

  • More a case of parental-figure obliviousness, the characters in Runaways keep dismissing Molly when she tries to tell them she has superpowers (they think she wants The Talk).
  • In The Dark Knight Returns, Carrie Kelly's parents completely fail to notice that their daughter is sneaking out to become Robin.
    • that is because they are rather ambiguous drug users.
  • Just before Green Arrow's ward Speedy is revealed to be a junkie, he gives an explanation of why someone would turn to drugs in which he stops just short of saying "And by someone, I mean me." GA misses the point entirely.

Fan Fiction

  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon's parents are told, point-blank, that their son stood in for an schoolmate's fully trained bodyguard with years of experience who got injured in his job. They don't appear to find anything wrong, nor they think why the schoolmate needs protection or how their son got the skills to stand in for the bodyguard without being injured himself.


  • The Pin's mother in Brick is apparently unaware that her son is a vicious drug lord, despite most of the deals and scheming going on in her basement, she even starts serving drinks to the members of a rival crime family during what she assumes is a friendly get-together.
  • Home Alone: The McAllisters don't realize Kevin has been left behind until their airplane is already in the air.
    • To be fair, they were late, left the head counting to one of the teens (who miscounted a neighbor kid), and really had no time to think until they got on the plane.
      • That only excuses the trip on the van. But no good parent, anywhere, would get on a plane without personally accounting for all of his or her children's presence on it.
        • This leads to what is probably the worst moment in the film, when the parents ask the flight attendants to, "Make sure everyone gets on board." Of course, HOW ARE THE RANDOM AIRPORT STAFF SUPPOSED TO KNOW THERE WERE 14 PEOPLE IN YOUR PARTY AND NOT 13??
        • Maybe the number of tickets booked under the name "McAllister"?
  • The Iron Giant: Hogarth's mother does not seem to have the faintest clue that Hogarth unabashedly despises Kent Mansley, and has been desperate to avoid him since he moved in. She goes so far to suggest Hogarth take Mansley around and show him the sights. Whether this is true obliviousness or just Hogarth's mother wanting her son to accept they have to rent the spare room for money is not completely obvious. But Hogarth's mother seems to pick up a dislike for him later in the film.
    • Granted, he did CALL THE ARMY on her son and nearly get the town nuked...
  • The Ring: Aidan knows not to help Samara, but his mother is horrified when he flat out tells her she wasn't supposed to help her, even though she knows her child is psychic.
    • Part of that was Aidan's fault, since he didn't tell his mother anything helpful about Samara. His mother did precisely what nearly anybody in her position would have done: give Samara's body a proper burial.
  • The Last Starfighter: Alex Rogan's mother says exactly the wrong thing to her son who is dreading the idea of life never going further away than the trailer park he's grown up in...and doesn't seem to know why that upset him.
  • The lead's parents in Away We Go (one of whom is Mrs. McAllister) apparently don't consider their son's girlfriend being pregnant and living in a ramshackle house a enough good reason to postpone an overseas vacation and let them use their house. Most of the other parents the young couple encounter aren't much better: "Can we talk like this in front of your kid?" "Pfft, it's all white noise to him, see: Brian. Brian. Brian! Brian!!" (the kid is playing a handheld game, but not wearing earphones nor are the usual sound effects heard)
  • The clueless doofy dad in the tweener comedy Sleepover qualifies enough that he let four teenage girls be out of the house all night without him noticing.
  • In The Hairy Bird, Tinka's mom, while talking to her, is not even paying attention what Tinka is doing, and doesn't even notice her running off with Snake at the end.
  • Implied in Mystery Team, although they may just be happy that their kids are spending time with more people than just each other.
  • Played for laughs in Moving Violations, in which a teamster and overprotective father is apparently unaware his 15-year-old daughter is a law-breaking punk who poses as an adult and sleeps around. Then again, she's apparently been deliberately deceiving him since she was 12.


  • The horribly depressing children's book, Not Now, Bernard is the epitome of this. Bernard sees a monster in the garden. He tells various adults, including his parents. They all say, 'Not now, Bernard.' The monster eats him. The monster goes inside. The parents say 'Not now, Bernard.' The end. It's every child's nightmare.
    • An Animated Adaptation that makes the story's ending hilarious. The parents are so oblivious that they actually mistake the monster for their son and the monster is so utterly confused by the turn of events that he just sort of goes along for the ride. The look on his face at the end after they tuck him into bed is priceless.
    • That's in the book as well.
  • Aunt Petunia in Harry Potter is completely oblivious to the fact that her little "Duddykins" has become a smoking bully that runs with a group of other malcontents, and thinks he just goes to a friend's house to have dinner everyday.
    • She also somehow overlooks him gradually turning into a miniature humpback whale (not literally) for 15 years.
  • Artemis Fowl's mother has no idea he's a criminal mastermind who consorts with faeries. His father kind of suspects the criminal mastermind part, but knows nothing about the faerie part.
    • As of Time Paradox, Angeline does know about the fairies, but that might not last. Every time one of the elder Fowls has gotten close to the truth before, either Artemis or Holly has mind-wiped them.
  • The Great Brain Reforms: Tom endangers himself and two other boys by sailing his raft in very promising flood conditions. It's not until his brother explains everything that their parents learn that Tom, the boy who is always involved in some money-making scheme and once charged his friends to witness the digging of a cesspool, has been charging for these excursions. You'd think their father would have suspected something when he inspected the raft, which Tom told him he was building.
  • Even magic can't get the parents from Fablehaven to see what's happening around them.
  • Brandon Mull's other story, The Candy Shop War takes this past its logical extreme (though this time magic is the cause of the obliviousness). At one point an encahnted wooden indian is attacking the main character and his father, who is watching, tells him he's only dreaming and needs to get back to bed!!!
  • Subverted in Ender's Game. The kids forget that their intelligence was hereditary. The parents let them go on with it partly because they are open-minded and partly because they know what the kids are doing and agree, or at least respect that the kids know what they are doing.
  • In the Crackpot Hall novels of Ysabeau Wilce, Buck is completely unaware of the shenannigans which Flora gets up to (mainly because being Commanding General of the Califan Army takes up so much of her time). Hotspur is a bit more on the ball though.
  • The narrator of The Lost Thing has to point out to his parents that it's even in the room, despite the fact that it's bright red and HUGE.
  • In Snow Crash, Y.T.'s mother is apparently quite unaware how dangerous her daughter's part-time job as a Kourier actually is.
  • Sarah Heap in Septimus Heap refuses to believe that her eldest son Simon Heap has turned evil in Flyte.
  • In Hush, Hush, Nora's mother seems blissfully unaware that her daughter is being stalked and nearly murdered by multiple parties. This reaches dizzying heights of stupidity when one of said parties visits Nora in the morning, grabs and shakes her, and shouts that he won't let her go until she does what he wants. Nora's mother walks in on the middle of this and is only mildly concerned, buying that he just wanted to copy Nora's homework, and not pursuing the issue at all when Nora brushes it off (all ignoring that Nora collapses on the ground and nearly cries after he leaves).
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Valkyrie's parents are completely oblivious to their daughter leading a whole double life. Explained by her using a magical Reflection that takes her place at school and home whenever she needs to be away (which seems to be most of the time), and by Valkyrie managing to lie convincingly whenever the parents do notice there's something odd going on.

Live-Action TV

  • Heroes: Crazy Prepared HRG is prepared for everything except the fact that forbidding Claire from going to the homecoming dance means, as a teenager, she's going to defy him and go anyway; even if he did have a really good reason (that, admittedly, he did not bother even hinting at).
    • In contrast, Claire's mother had no idea at the time that Claire is superpowered (or that HRG is a Badass Normal hero-hunter), but immediately recognizes that Claire is going to sneak out, and even runs interference for her.
    • And Niki, who has powers of her own, knows her son Micah is gifted, but for a while there, she didn't seem to know how gifted.
  • This was always a big part of Bernards Watch.
  • Tobias, Lindsay, and Michael have no idea that not only is Maeby is a movie studio executive, but also that George-Michael and Maeby not only have crushes on each other, but are married.
  • Buffy's mom, for the first couple of seasons at least, was incredibly clueless. When the truth finally came out in the season 2 finale Buffy even called her on it, asking her if she'd ever wondered where all the blood she'd had to wash out of Buffy's clothes got there.
    • Oddly enough, the backstory give a perfect reason she wouldn't notice: Buffy was though to be a troubled kid (she burned down her last school's gym).
    • And of course there's Willow's mom, who seemed to be only around when it was inconvenient for her daughter. She had only three appearances over the course of the series, and only one of them in person. Any parenting knowledge is cited from what sound like psychology textbooks, it took her months to notice her daughter had gotten a haircut.
  • Justified in the original Batman TV show, as Barbara Gordon has pixie-cut brown hair and uses a red wig as Batgirl.
  • In H₂O: Just Add Water, none of the girls' parents are aware that their daughters are mermaids. In fact, some of the other kids parents seem to be suspecting something, while the parents themselves are clueless.
  • Reversed in an episode of The X-Files; (Lord of the Flies, season 8?) when the mother keeps trying to tell her son something. It turns out she was not an original member of Pink Floyd... and like the son is a half-fly monster.


  • Tommy has a rather dark take on this trope. Tommy's parents offer only token concern before leaving him with drunken rapist uncle. Or his sadistic cousin.

Video Games

  • Both subverted and played straight in the Mega Man Battle Network series. Dr. Hikari knows quite well that both his twin sons are going to save the world, though Mrs. Hikari tends to be more oblivious.
    • Same for Mega Man Star Force. Dr. Hoshikawa practically set up his son to save the world, while Mrs. Hoshikawa doesn't even have any idea her son is Rockman / Mega Man.
  • Persona 4 has you living with your uncle. Who is a police detective. Investigating the same incidents that you're resolving. Notably, it averts this trope, as your uncle suspects you less than two months into the game.
  • In Chrono Trigger, Crono can bring home a talking frog, the ancient master of evil that tried to destroy the kingdom, the princess, a cavewoman, and a robot from the future in a time-traveling jet and his mom will only get slightly surprised. Not to mention the fact that she doesn't seem to notice or care that you were away for several days while being held in the castle for execution...

Web Original

  • In the first 'Jade' novel of the Whateley Universe, Jade's foster parents not only miss that Jade has superpowers (mild though they may be), that Jade is transgendered, that the 'friend' who doesn't want to come to the house is actually a pile of clothing animated by Jade's powers, that Jade is arranging on her own to go to Super-Hero School Whateley Academy on a scholarship, but also that Jade has to leave to get tested for admittance to the school.
    • And then of course there's the end of "Christmas Elves," where Fey tells her mother more or less exactly what a mess they got themselves into . . . and Fey's mom just assumes she was trying out for a TV role. This despite everything Fey has told her mom about her adventures thus far.


  • Riley's dad in Angel Moxie takes this to a surreal degree.
  • Jodie's mother in Loserz, as seen here.
  • Bruno's parents in Kevin and Kell. They were so caught up in watching TV that they didn't even realise Bruno (a carnivorous wolf) became a herbivore-or that they gave permission for him to have stomach implant surgery.
  • Duchess Lettie actively deludes herself about practically everything, attempting to retreat into the fantasy world she believes magic users to live in. Aylia, her elder daughter, finally stuck it to her when she legally became an adult by out and out walking away from her plans... and she STILL thought she could maintain some level of control!

Western Animation

  • American Dragon Jake Long: Jake's father is oblivious partially because of the Secret Keeper issue, but he's still clueless beyond that. He doesn't seem to realize his son is growing up, and that the way his father treats him is chafing the teenage Jake...and is hurt when Jake lets off steam about it in his earshot.
    • He also is clueless that his children can both turn into dragons, but that's a Secret Keeper issue, and his wife and father-in-law both run interference.
    • And when Dad finds out, after a brief moment of surprise he acts like it's No Big Deal.
  • Animaniacs: Mindy's mother is oblivious to the fact that her child is a walking [crawling?] danger magnet, and moreover, she's clueless to the fact that brave and selfless Buttons is pretty much the only thing standing between her and Child Protective Services.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has a double example. Toph's parents are so oblivious they think that Toph is still taking baby lessons in Earthbending, rather than being an Earthbendrix supreme. Once they find out, they turn to denial so deep that they hired the guy who had her kidnapped to find said lost little lamb, because they can't handle the truth.
  • The Batman: Although not a strict example, Batgirl is dismayed to discover that Batman knows everything about crime in Gotham city, but wasn't even aware the college they were staking out is the college she now attends.
    • Commissioner Gordon, as above, who thinks it's a weird coincidence Batgirl has the same shade of hair as his daughter, is also an example.
  • Danny Phantom: His ghost-hunting parents have no idea he's half-ghost, even though their ghost-hunting equipment has identified him as such more than once. Sam's parents are more oblivious on purpose — they refuse to acknowledge they could've had a gloomy goth child.
  • Inverted in El Tigre the Adventures of Manny Rivera: Manny's parents are both well aware that he is a superhero. His father is a little overprotective about it. His mother can't handle it at all; she hyperventilates, and actually left because she couldn't handle it when her husband superheroed this is the result of her having been a danger junkie during her own superheroing days. In fact, Manny's grandfather is a supervillain and is often trying to convert Manny to evil.
  • Fairly Oddparents does this in spades.
  • Family Guy: Either they're all really oblivious to Stewie, or they just don't seem to care, neither option seems very good. Lois does this in spades for not seeing Stewie's attempts and contempt for her life. Also, the entire family does this to Meg.
    • Nobody in the entire show seems to notice that Stewie is an evil genius, with the exception of Brian, who just doesn't care.
    • Word of God states that they notice Stewie saying and doing everything we the viewer see, but because he is a baby, they do not take him seriously.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is the Secret Keeper variety. Mac's mother doesn't notice that Mac goes to Fosters EVERY DAY. Her having "a million jobs" partially justifies this, but there was a reason the show's writers got The Unintelligible Coco to explain how he convinced his mother to let him go on a TRIP TO EUROPE with people she's never met.
  • Kim Possible: Kim's father is a little oblivious. When it comes to boys, this is by choice. When it comes to fashion — he's a dad who doesn't get teenage girls. Ron's mother, on the other hand, is just oblivious to everything.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: Juniper Lee's parents seem also in the dark about her being the Te Xuan Xe... due to Secret Keeper.
  • The entire show South Park is based on this. The parents are always too busy or don't care what the kids are doing. In The Movie, a war was started because of this.
  • Jimmy Neutron's father seems to have a selective denial variation of this. He went through an entire episode seemingly unaware that his son had accidentally swapped heads with a gerbil. (His mother, though... well, Jimmy's genius genes had to come from somewhere.)
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter's parents are probably the epitome of this trope.
  • Herb and Binkie Muddlefoot of Darkwing Duck fail to notice Honker's long absences and ability to get kidnapped. This could possibly be excused by the entire Mallard household running interference and Honker being nothing in bad-guy bait compared to Gosalyn. However, the writers seem to frequently abuse Honker's mostly Stab-Worthy older brother Tank right under their bills without either batting an eye, most egregiously in "It's a Wonderful Leaf." Yet, they do appear to be genuinely loving parents...
    • Never attribute to malice what could just as easily be caused by stupidity.
  • Not only do Dexter Douglas's parents in Freakazoid! fail to notice Dexter's superhero alter-ego, but when his older brother talks about "the blue guy" their Stepford Smiler mother cheerfully attributes it to psychotic delusions on his part.
  • Rugrats. Bonus points for also featuring Grandparental Obliviousness.
  • Professor Wakeman, the mother of Jenny in My Life as a Teenage Robot. She doesn't seem to get she programmed her daughter to act like a real teenage girl, and is thus mystified when XJ9 behaves like one. Particularly when she shows up at XJ9's school and forces her to assist in science class.
  • Moral Orel shows an especially glaring example with Orel's parents Clay & Bloberta Puppington. After a second season episode that ended with another family moving out of town, nobody but Orel (and Christina,Orel's Distaff Counterpart from the other family.) ever noticed that younger son Shapey and the youngest son of the the Posabules,Block were accidentally switched. Bloberta discovers this only in the third season premiere, more than ten episodes later. The parents don't accept Block back.
  • Justified in Phineas and Ferb, as contrived coincidences always serve to remove all evidence of the titular boy's outlandish creations before their mother can actually see it(or in some cases, just the evidence that they were the ones responsible).
    • Their father, though, seems to be oblivious to most things going on around him. In one episode the carpet in the room most of the characters are in is turned into a flying carpet, carrying the room's furniture and other contents with it. Dad is watching the TV and notices nothing.
  • Inspector Gadget hasn't got a clue that his neice Penny is the one who's always saving the day.

Real Life

  • Christiane F[1] was addicted to Heroin by the age of 13, never mind what she had to do to get the money for the drugs. Her mother took over a year to notice. After she was discovered, quit, got addicted again, quit again and went to live with her father, she was soon re-addicted and HE didn't notice either.
    • Admittedly, at this time drugs from marijuana to heroin were something many people didn't even know it existed, let alone how to recognize someone under its influence, let alone squared to know what to do then.
    • Very true. And there are sections where the mother is interviewed where she said how helpless she felt/was. However, things started when Christiane and her friend went out clubbing all night telling each parent they were sleeping over at each others'. That is the sort of thing a parent should keep track of (I'll just phone up your friends' mum to thank her for looking after you). And her father's strategy to keep Christane off drugs was to give her a responsibility (looking after pigeons) that wouldn't allow her the time to scrounge drugs/money for drugs. Yet he seemed not to check whether or not the pigeons were actually being taken care of (they weren't).