Token Adult
only oldest adult among a group of children teenagers or younger adults
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(permanent link) added: 2013-03-13 17:25:16 sponsor: xanderiskander (last reply: 2013-03-26 14:03:24)

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Jade Curtiss: "And my other goal is to make you youngsters go crazy before I reach 40. "'

A story that centers around a group made up of children, teenagers, or just younger adults, introduces an older character who decides he wants to join the youngsters. He's the oldest, character in the group. That's the Token Adult

In adventure stories especially in video games or RolePlayingGameVerses the group is often made up of children or teenagers with one "adult" exclusively allied to them. His age could be anywhere from being old enough to drink (if the other group members are just kids) to someone who is middle aged or over 50. Also sometimes TV shows will have older characters help the heroes once per episode, or for only one episode.

In stories directed at older audiences, where it's more common for this character to be the elder to a group of younger adults, a Cool Old Guy or The Mentor can fill this role when his Competence Zone is shifted upward compared to the rest of the group. This can be done by making the youngsters New Meat, ManChildren, or BunnyEarsLawyers. Take note, that the rest of the group don't necessarily need to be "adults" to count, they just have to be noticeably younger than the Token Adult. Also occasionally the Token Adult will stick out in a group of adults because he's a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. See Si from Duck Dynasty in the examples.

He may be a stranger that joins because he happens to have the same or a similar goal as the heroes. Or an experienced veteran who joins the group. Could also be intended as an aversion, or subversion to There Are No Adults by the author, by making the character a substitute parent that acts as the team's guardian in their parent's absence. He may even literally be a trusted friend or relative of one of the team member's parents, or a team member's teacher. Often times he's also The Mentor, or just a wiser grownup in non-action works who guides the characters in the right direction, or Mr. Exposition, who, because he's older and more experienced, explains how the world works.

Tends to be The Big Guy, because he's older, taller, and stronger, at least in the beginning. Or the Smart Guy. If he's a Bad Ass most of the time he's a Cool Old Guy or a Badass Elder, but he could be a Colonel Bad Ass or The Captain depending on the setting, or a Bad Ass Bookworm. If he was The Leader of the team at one point, but isn't The Hero, he's probably the Big Good. If he's The Foil to the The Hero he might end up becoming The Lancer. If played for comedic effect, he might be a Dead Pan Snarker who employs Insult humor on his younger peers. He could also be One of the Kids, might be a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, or if Adults really are useless he may be used by the author to drive that point home.

If employed to the Token Adult because of job politics the group may have been Reassigned to Antarctica.

Sometimes, he starts out as their adult in the beginning of the story, and more older characters are included in the group later, in which case, the original character who took up the role still counts.

Other stories have the Token Adult separated from the group, and replaced by another older character. In that case both characters count.

If hurting his friends is his Berserk Button, expect him to be the Papa Wolf or the Mama Bear.

Contrast, Tagalong Kid, this trope's opposite. Compare The Chick, The Obi-Wan, Adults Are Useless, There Are No Adults.

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • Detective Conan
    • Middle aged Detective Kogoro Mouro (Richard Moore in the dub) is an adult watching over Kid Hero Conan. Except he's kind of a Jerkass, and he's not good at his job either. Since he's an adult, people are more willing to listen to him than Conan who uses Kogoru's adult status, solves the crimes for him, and lets him take the credit for it on almost every case. Since he's an on and off ally to Conan it's a Zig-Zagging Trope.
  • KOn: Sawako Yamanaka is the teacher in charge of their high school's light music club. Fitting in that she was a rocker in the past too. She's more for comic relief though, and she doesn't use her authority as a teacher very often. Naturally the rest of the characters are high school students.
  • Naruto has this institutionalized in that their school's ninja teams begin as 3 twelve year olds with one adult teacher assigned to guide them.
  • Pokémon has one adult that helps out almost every episode. Sometimes it's Officer Jenny or Nurse Joy, but there's a whole list of others they come across depending on the episode. The main characters never age past their teen years.

Film
  • Bushwhacked is a comedy starring Daniel Stern as Max Grabelski, a sleazy delivery guy who thinks he's been framed for murder. He impersonates a Scout leader with a group of kids while on the run into the woods, and intends to ditch the group later, but they all grow to like each other, and he starts to become the role.
  • The Rocker: Rainn Wilson plays failed drummer "Robert Fishman" who joins a band of people 20 years younger.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is an adult leader working for the Watchers, who watch over the Slayers. He acts as a father figure to Buffy and mentor to their team, sometimes, but is usually not part of the action himself. This counts before the main characters become competent adults themselves.
  • iCarly: Spencer often gets involved in the teenage Power Trio's antics, despite being a good ten-fifteen years older than them.
  • NCIS: Gibbs is the local Cool Old Guy in charge of the major case team. The rest of the cast often being distracted by various things or being held back by their character flaws, and never reaching his place in the Competence Zone.
  • Psych: Harry (Aka "Harold") Spencer, is hired by the Chief of Police to be Shawn and Gus's adult in later seasons. Because they're immature and use questionable methods of solving crimes that get them into trouble, hiring Harry minimizes risk. He was already Shawn's mentor, and his Dad, so it works out.
  • SquarePegs: In two episodes Johnny's band "Open 24 Hours" performs. It includes himself on lead vocal, some other teens as backup singers/guitar/etc., and John Densmore from The Doors on drums (age about 38).
  • Victorious has a few episodes where Sikowitz, the gang's acting teacher, will join in with the group's daily adventure.

Real Life
  • TheRollingStones: Thier bassist Bill Wyman is 7-10 years older than the rest of the band. After he "retired" they didn't add another bassist

Reality TV
  • Duck Dynasty: Uncle Si is the only older guy his age (in his 60's) working at the duck call business. He's a Bunny-Ears Lawyer, who frequently takes naps, snack, hunting, and basketball "breaks", and plenty of other hijinks with the younger guys at work. As much as he'd like to, since no one else will take his job, Willie just can't get rid of him.

Video Games
  • Atelier Rorona: Most of the playable characters are in their teens. Then there's the 28-year old Sterk. And later we also get Cool Old Guy Gio, who's in his forties. Both of them are considered the most powerful party members.
  • Disgaea:
  • Final Fantasy V: Galuf is a token grandpa among a team of people in their early 20s. He eventually gets replaced with his 14-year old, adopted, granddaughter, Krile.
  • Golden Sun: Kraden, a 70 year old scholar who goes on a journey with a party consisting of 3 teens and someone who is implied to be Really 700 Years Old but looks like a teen.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn:
    • 30 years later, Kraden reprises his role, with the teen-aged descendants of the cast of the previous game, Golden Sun The Lost Age. but isn't a playable character.
    • Eoleo, who is around 30 years old, joins the playable cast this time around.
  • MOTHER:
    • Mother1: Most of the main characters aren't over 12 except for Teddy who is about or over 20 years old.
    • Mother3: Duster is most likely in his 30s, while Lucas is about 13 and Kumatora's around 17.
  • Persona 4
    • The game has the protagonist's uncle's partner, Adachi, who isn't in on the secret (as the police were in 3), but works as a Friend on the Force for the investigation team, who are all high school students. Until he turns out to be the one behind the murders. Said uncle ends up serving the role (again, without finding out about the supernatural aspects).
    • Igor, the old man who serves as the proprietor of the velvet room, and appears in every persona game to date, to contract with the protagonist, and aid him via persona fusion to obtain more powerful personas. He also serves as Mr. Exposition, to explain the mechanics of personas. He's essentially the Big Good of the persona series, as he's the servant of a Bigger Good Philemon. He's the, first, and most important ally the protagonist has.
  • Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner (1995) has an interesting aversion with Demon Hunter Kyouji, who could have been this to the protagonist, and his girlfriend, who are both college students. Except, shortly after they meet in the beginning, Kyouji dies under suspicious circumstances.
  • Skies of Arcadia: Drachma. A bitter old, sailor, who lost his family to the archwhale, saves Vyse and company when their ship capsizes. Although he's not very happy to accept help from a bunch of youngsters (all three are 17), he does reluctantly agree to let them stay on his ship as long as they pull their weight, and they get sailing experience in exchange. That is until they get separated. Then Gilder replaces him for most of the game. However Drachma's notable because his story arc is developed a lot more than Gilder's.
  • TalesSeries
    • Jade Curtiss of Tales of the Abyss, who is in his 30's. All his teammates are no older than 18, the only exception being Guy (age 21) who is one of the last members to join after Jade and Anise. Guy doesn't take up much of a leading role either preferring to crack jokes with (and at) Luke and company instead.
    • Claus F. Lester from Tales of Phantasia is the only adult in a team where nobody else is older than 18.
  • In Wild Arms
    • Wild ARMs 1: Jack Van Burace. A 27 year old treasure hunter, and expert swordsman, amidst a team of teenagers, trying to save a dying world. His main reason for tagging along is he hopes to find an item called the "guardian blade" while traveling with them so that he can become powerful.
    • Wild Arms 2nd Ignition : Brad Evans is is 31 years old, and a war veteran from a revolution years before the story starts. The only other playable character in the party that's technically older than he is is the Immortal, Vampire, Marivel Armitage, but she's an optional character. Kanon, seems to be around the same age as Ashley, but we never learn her actual age. The rest of the party are known to be over a decade younger than Brad.

Visual Novels
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Detective Akasaka plays this role to the teenage main cast by returning to Hinamizawa on a hunch and ending up protecting them from Takano and the Yamainu who murder many people, and are out to get Rika too. Ooishi would have been this but he is too aloof and often antagonizes the kids.

Webcomics
  • Zachary in Bittersweet Candy Bowl during their vacation arc. He's in his early 20's, while the other characters are in their freshman to junior years in high school. He helps the group out multiple times, in a crisis.
  • Characters in Cucumber Quest have intentionally vague ages. But third member to join, Sir Carrot, is confirmed to be an Adult by Gigi. While "Cucumber and the rest are just kids". Carrot is also a Knight, that's vowed to rescue his Princess Parfait, who is trapped in Caketown Castle. Cucumber's quest to find the dreamsword, and defeat the Nightmare Knight just happens coincide with Carrot's goal.
  • Paranatural has Mr. Spender as a club adviser, assigned to supervise their club. The rest of the activity club being about 12.

Western Animation
  • In Adventure Time Jake the Dog, is the closest thing to this in the show, being in a serious relationship, which makes him more of an adult than Finn is, and being old enough to give Finn advice about growing up. Being a dog his age goes by dog years so he matures faster than Finn does. Them being technically adoptive brothers also gives Finn a reason to trust him with a lot of things.
  • AmericanDad: Parodied in the episode "American Dream Factory" where Steve forms a band consisting of his school friends and a coke snorting Jaded Washout for their drummer. He is eventually replaced by the similarly older Roger.
    Barry: We told you, no drugs!
    Gerry: And I told you if I was responsible, I wouldn't be in a band with a bunch of 14-year-olds!
  • Arthur: Francine's band "U Stink" consists of her and several of her 3rd grade friends, plus 60-something Mrs. MacGrady on keyboard.
  • Ben10: Has Grandpa, Max Tennyson, an authority figure to Ben and Gwen on their trip, and a Badass Grandpa, and a member of "The Plumbers" who even Big Bad Vilgax is scared of.
  • Bravest Warriors: Has the Emotion Lord as the Token Adult often tagging along with a group of teenagers. He wants to help and be part of the team, but Chris keeps telling him to go away because he is too old. Although the Emotion Lord is actually Chris from the future.
  • In TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles Their teammate, Splinter, being their Old Master, and Parental Substitute, in all incarnations who teaches them the art of the ninja, and stealth to hide from the cold eyes of the world. The Turtles are always teenagers.
  • The Magic School Bus has Ms. Valerie Frizzle, who takes her class of elementary school students on exotic field trips. Her age is vague, but it's clear that she's an adult, even if she doesn't always act like one.
  • The Wild Thornberrys. In an episode called "The Dragon and the Professor", Eliza Thornberry is dying to see a komodo dragon, but her plans are halted by her tutor who wants her to do homework. The solution? She does it anyway, and her tutor becomes her adult as he tags along with her to find it.
  • In Wakfu Ruel, an elder to the rest of the team, joins because he's asked to watch over Yugo by his old friend Alibert who is Yugo's adoptive father. He agrees since he's become fond of Yugo. All of the other characters are younger than 18. Yugo is 10-12.
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