Created By: Makoyi on February 6, 2013 Last Edited By: StarValkyrie on June 13, 2013
Troped

Family of Choice

A group of characters have strong bonds of emotional support and familial obligation despite not being related by blood.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Often in fiction, a character who starts out Conveniently an Orphan will pick up extremely loyal companions along the way. Sometimes these relationships are forged through the fire of conflict, but with Families of Choice, its a bit different. Members of a Chosen Family mourn the lack of family in their lives and decide to build one of their own out of people they care for and who care for them in turn.

As in Real Life, this is most common when something has happened to these characters to isolate them from blood relatives - perhaps they were thrown out of their home for being gay, or maybe they have a supernatural secret they can’t share with their parents. They might have survived all their family members or they could just have a bad home life in general. To fill the vacant roles in their lives, some characters build their own families with people they choose to care about.

Some common examples of Family of Choice include an adult meeting the future heroes as children and deciding to be the Parental Substitute that they need, children who grow up together without family of their own and claim each other as Brother and Sister, or an adult friend of a single parent that takes it upon himself to always be there for the main characters and thus becomes an Honorary Uncle. Adopted and blended families, however, are not examples of this trope because they do have legal status as family.

Examples of this trope must describe not just the nature of the relationship but how, when, or why the characters came to feel this way about each other. Remember, if they came to think of each other as True Companions because the plot has brought them closer together, its more likely to be Fire-Forged Friends, Band of Brothers or just True Companions than this trope.

Subtrope of True Companions. Compare/Contrast with No Blood Ties and Thicker Than Water. Hint: If an example includes the words "in the end" then it's more likely Fire-Forged Friends than this trope (which is about characters forming a family in the beginning, before all that plot stuff happens).

Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • Manga/Naruto: Naruto, whose entire family is dead, has formed close bonds with his 'Grandfather' the third hokage, his 'brother' Sasuke and his 'father' Kakashi.
  • The Yagami family in the Lyrical Nanoha franchise are a borderline example, since the Knights are dependent on Hayate Yagami's mana output. The Huckebein and Grendel families in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force are more obvious, since both are groups of unrelated Eclipse infectees who banded together around Curren Huckebein and Kurt Grendel's leadership, respectively.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
  • The Holo Brothers are three humanoid aliens of three different species. They were all orphaned too young to remember their real family, and grew up together in an orphanage. They refer to each other as brothers and act in every way as if they actually were.
  • This is explicitly the relationship between Cutter and Skywise in the ElfQuest stories. They become "brothers in all but blood" when young,even going as far as to share "soul names", something normally reserved for immediate family or reproductive mates. Their relationship is somewhat strained during The Palace War and when Skywise wants to stay in the Palace after, but is never broken while they both live.
  • Teen Titans: This is how the Titans are described as seeing each other in the comic books. They support each other in all the good ways of a family, but they're also a family in all the worst ways with all the conflicts, you'd usually suspect from living together like one. They do have some disagreements, but it always leads into more character depth.
    • This is adapted very well in the Teen Titans animated series where their family-like relationships are used to look deeper into each of the character's back stories and character flaws.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • In the film Leave It On The Floor a group of gay young men form a replacement family around the head Drag Queen (whom they call Mama and who refers to them as her children) of their drag competition team.
  • The Hawaiian term for this is "'ohana"', as anyone who has seen the movie Lilo & Stitch, with its "family" composed of two sisters, a reformed all destroying monster, the (mostly) reformed creator of said monster and an incompetent bureaucrat knows:
    "'Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten."
  • The Blues Brothers met each other while they were both in an orphanage, and used a string from Elmore James' guitar to become Blood Brothers.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • The four protagonists of Circle of Magic are rescued from similarly isolated backgrounds and brought to a school of magic where they immediately form a strong bond. Especially Sandry and Daja, since Sandry, responding to an act of cruel injustice by a third girl, takes an "us against the world" approach before she even knows Daja's name. The family can also be seen to include the children's teachers, especially Lark and Rosethorn who live with the children as well as teach them. By the end of their stories, the children even refer to each other as siblings.
  • Burke of the crime novels of Andrew Vachss has no family by blood or law but has such close bonds with the people he’s chosen for his family that he would kill anyone who hurt them.
  • At the end of the first book in the Star Ka'at series, two unrelated orphan human children are adopted and referred to as "kin" by intelligent, sapient space-cats.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
  • On Full House, three girls are raised by their father, their maternal uncle Jesse and their father's best friend Joey. The three men (and later, Jesse's wife and kids) all live in the house together. At first, it was practical, to help raise the girls, but the arrangement continued long after the girls had grown beyond needing that level of care because the bonds of family were so strong.
  • Supernatural: Brothers Dean and Sam had a rough start to life, with their father raising them on the road after their mother was killed by a demon. Their father's obsession with the demon led him to make often unrealistic demands of the boys, but family friend Bobby did his best to let them be kids whenever Sam and Dean stayed with him. The brothers consider Bobby family and he tells Dean (in the Season 3 finale): "Family don't end with blood, boy." In the season seven episode "Death's Door", he says:
    Bobby: I adopted two boys, and they grew up great. They grew up heroes.
  • Friends was described by one critic as a show about a bunch of young adults finding a replacement family for their own, dysfunctional ones. Lampshaded by a Guy of the Week of Phoebe's whose minor flaw was his incessant psychoanalysis of the group. The cast of Friends could be considered as a Real Life version, too.
  • The main crew of Pushing Daisies: Olive and Chuck are like sisters, and when Chuck comments on Ned needing to reconnect with his family, he says that Chuck and Olive are his family. Emerson is a lot more reluctant to express affection for the others, but it's there.
  • Spaced; "They say the family of the 21st century is made up of friends, not relatives." Said to try to convince Marsha that she's the favourite auntie to brothers Tim and Mike, sister Daisy, and... weird cousin Brian.
  • The Space Cases episode "It's My Birthday, Too (Yeah!)" has this as the theme. The cadets have to make family trees, but Radu is stymied by the fact that Andromedans were born in group hatcheries with no family ties while enslaved by the Spung. He first tries making up a pretend family, but when that gets exposed, he eventually decides that the cadets and teachers have become as good as family, with a little help from Thelma.
    Thelma: Why were you upset at your party?
    Radu: Because I lied and they all knew I lied. That's why. I just wanted to have a family. Even a pretend one was too much to ask for. You couldn't understand.
    Thelma: I couldn't? My understanding has always been that a family is not only those from whom you are born, but those to whom you belong. [beat] Did I screw up, too?
    Radu: No... no, not at all.
  • Dawson's Creek: Jack is taken in by Jen's grandmother when he needs a place to live, even though she barely knows him. She and Jen treat him like family for the rest of the series.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), Bill Adama mentioned a couple times that he regards Kara Thrace (Starbuck) as "family" (implied above and beyond any Band of Brothers comraderie within the Fleet), and seemed to have a soft spot for her under his tough leadership exterior. It's never really mentioned why though, other than they go back a way (but so does he with a few others in the fleet)--and her being responsible for his son Zak's death (by not washing him out of flight training when he was failing, due to having relations with him) makes it even more perplexing.
  • Explicitly stated in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Tara's Abusive Parents try to take her home, but Buffy and her friends insist that they are Tara's family instead, as they actually care for her.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theater]]
  • In RENT the main characters, most of whom are isolated from their families and other friends, band together in the wake of Benny's Face–Heel Turn, just to try to get by in life. All but Joanne are desperately poor, half of them are HIV-positive and the relationships between the couples are rocky at the best of times, but they support each other and won't let any of the group go through it alone. Even Joanne, an Ivy League lawyer who was only there because she was dating Maureen, gradually joined the gang and stuck around after the couple's breakup which was fortunate, since Angel's death brought them back together.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • In Sly Cooper, main characters Sly, Benteley, and Murray met in an orphanage and became as thick as thieves (pun intended.)
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • The Freedom Fighters of the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon are clearly a tightly-knit group of friends, all of whom have lost their actual families and so turn to each other for that kind of support; Tails even considers Princess Sally his "Aunt", and she treats him very much like her own son at times. Likewise, Sonic and Tails have a very brotherly relationship.
  • Fagan's canine posse in Oliver & Company survive aboard a derelict boat as a band of scroungers and thieves. They even extend their circle to include the kitten Oliver. When Oliver becomes stranded in the limousine, Tito insists upon a rescue: "We got to do something, man. He's family. He's blood." Since the dogs are completely different breeds and Oliver, the he in question, is a cat, Tito is clearly speaking about the strength of their bonds rather than any literal blood relationship.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • The term Family of Choice (or “Chosen Family”) is well-known in the gay and lesbian community. A 2010 study by Met Life and the American Society on Aging found 64% of LGBT baby-boomers said they had a chosen family, with the term being defined as "a group of people to whom you are emotionally close and consider 'family' even though you are not biologically or legally related."
[[/folder]]

Indexes: Family Tropes Friendship Tropes Sibling Tropes Ensembles Adopt An Index Queer as Tropes Love Tropes Gender and Sexuality Tropes
Community Feedback Replies: 49
  • February 6, 2013
    lexicon
    I like your examples but I think they can all be under True Companions. It doesn't have to be a Band Of Brothers kind of thing.
  • February 21, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^ This could still be a subtrope though. I think it is a distinct enough concept for that, though I'd like to see more examples, particularly from gay fiction before I'd hat it.
  • February 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In season one of Angel Angel is reluctant to drink blood in front of Cordilia, but she encourages him saying "we're family."
  • February 22, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^ That's missing the point, but I understand the confusion. The definition needs work. It shouldn't say that the defining feature is calling each other family. I think its more that this is a distinct subtrope of True Companions because tropes like Fire Forged Friends and Band Of Brothers are people who go through crap, hang out, grow closer, and arrive at family whereas Families of Choice decide to be family to replace lost blood family bonds and then support each other through tough times because you can't let family go through crap like that alone. (Can I edit the description even though it's not tagged Up For Grabs?)

    So like with the Supernatural example that's up there - I'd say the brothers' relationship with Castiel isn't Families of Choice because Castiel 'earned' his place with them as a result of his actions as they fought the apocalypse together. But the relationship between the brothers and Bobby is Families of Choice because its not based on their jobs as hunters, its that he practically raised them and considers them his sons and they consider him like a father.
  • February 22, 2013
    Oof
    Do these examples count?

    Live-Action TV:
    • Dawsons Creek: Jack is taken in by Jen's grandmother when he needs a place to live, even though she barely knows him. She and Jen treat him like family for the rest of the series.

    Literature:
    • Sword Of Truth: Richard finds a baby gar, adopts it and names it Gratch. They develop a close relationship.
  • February 22, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^ I'm not familiar with either work. I think the first one sounds like it, but the second there's not enough information to judge. If its a legal adoption then I'd say no regardless of the relationship because in Social Theory, legal kinship is different than the 'fictive kinship' of Families of Choice. It's because of the ways that bond becomes recognized by others as something official and permanent when there's a piece of paper saying those people are responsible for/to each other (not that I'm making any judgment on whether that's fair or not).
  • February 22, 2013
    Oof
    In the Sword Of Truth example, Gratch is a gar, a sort of ... intelligent flying dog monster thing? Richard kills a bunch of them, finds the baby, and decides to keep it instead of killing it as well.
  • February 22, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^ Though the detail about Richard killing the kid's whole family might be related (or might not), its the nature of their relationship that needs elaborated on, not what they are.
  • February 22, 2013
    ArkadyDarell
    Live-Action TV:
    • The Space Cases episode "It's My Birthday, Too (Yeah!)" has this as the theme. The cadets have to make family trees, but Radu is stymied by the fact that Andromedans were born in group hatcheries with no family ties while enslaved by the Spung. He first tries making up a pretend family, but when that gets exposed, he eventually decides that the cadets and teachers have become as good as family, with a little help from Thelma.
      Thelma: Why were you upset at your party?
      Radu: Because I lied and they all knew I lied. That's why. I just wanted to have a family. Even a pretend one was too much to ask for. You couldn't understand.
      Thelma: I couldn't? My understanding has always been that a family is not only those from whom you are born, but those to whom you belong. [beat] Did I screw up, too?
      Radu: No... no, not at all.
  • February 22, 2013
    Oof
    Star Valkyrie, ignore the Sword Of Truth example, then, it's quite complicated and would probably just confuse things.
  • February 23, 2013
    Makoyi
    Updated and also tagged since I may not be around as much as I thought.
  • February 23, 2013
    chicagomel
    Pretty much the whole CSI franchise has this on each series. Many of the team members do not have close blood family anyway,though a few do. Some have Abusive Parents,like Adam on NY. They often end up becoming each other's surrogate family.

    ' Lampshaded a few times on The Golden Girls,where more than one of the ladies used 'family' in referring to the group. They also defend the idea to Rose's daughter,who doesn't understand at first.
  • February 23, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    In Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Bill Adama mentioned a couple times that he regards Kara Thrace (Starbuck) as "family" (implied above and beyond any Band Of Brothers comraderie within the Fleet), and seemed to have a soft spot for her under his tough leadership exterior. It's never really mentioned why though, other than they go back a way (but so does he with a few others in the fleet)--and her being responsible for his son Zak's death (by not washing him out of flight training when he was failing, due to having relations with him) makes it even more perplexing.
  • February 24, 2013
    SKJAM
    • Tenshi Ni Narumon: The monster family decided to become a family to help out the foundling child Noelle. None of them are blood-related, and it's not even clear if Mama and Papa are legally married (does Japan recognize common law marriage?) This becomes a problem for Yuusuke when Noelle decides that he and she are now married, and thus he's part of the family.
  • March 5, 2013
    Sparrowhawke
    I think Social Family might sound better because the families normally just make themselves. Normally no one chooses to make a family. It just happens because of circumstances like said in the description.
  • March 5, 2013
    lexicon
    I like Social Family. "Of choice" never sounded right to me either.
  • March 5, 2013
    FantasyLiver
    Would the X-Men count?
  • March 10, 2013
    SandRat
    Example: Naruto, due to the fact that his entire family is dead, his 'Grandfather' the third hokage, his 'brother' Sasuke and his 'father' Kakashi.
  • March 11, 2013
    ACarlssin
    Comics:
    • The Holo Brothers are three humanoid aliens of three different species. They were all orphaned too young to remember their real family, and grew up together in an orphanage. They refer to each other as brothers and act in every way as if they actually were.
  • March 11, 2013
    ACarlssin
    Real Life:
    • Many families treat pets as family members
  • March 11, 2013
    Koveras
    • The Yagami family in the Lyrical Nanoha franchise are a borderline example, since the Knights are dependent on Hayate Yagami's mana output. The Huckebein and Grendel families in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force are more obvious, since both are groups of unrelated Eclipse infectees who banded together around Curren Huckebein and Kurt Grendel's leadership, respectively.
  • March 11, 2013
    ellawenna
    The Gaang of Avatar the last Airbender ( not sure if it counts because Sokka and Katara are blood related) but Katara even says to Aang, " Sokka and I, we're your family now."
  • April 4, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^^^^^^^I think changing the name that drastically would make it harder to find - "Families of Choice", "Family by Choice", or "Chosen Family" are almost technical terms among LGB Ts. If you look at user-generated AO 3 tags, there's 825 uses of 20 or so fairly close variations on those and "Found Family". Also, Fanlore's trope list uses "Families of Choice". I don't think Social Family is any more clear about what it means and I've certainly never come across that term in use in any fiction or fandom context.
  • April 5, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    I've added the suggested examples except for the CSI ones - I don't see how those are this trope since, from what I can remember, the only character named in the example has no relationship with his colleagues outside of work.
  • May 19, 2013
    chicagomel
    Well,the original is. Grissom and Warrick are the prime examples,with Warrick seeing Grissom as the father he never had..,Warrick says in the video found after his death that if he could choose his father,he'd have chosen Grissom. ill get back to you on the rest...save Miami,I dont know much there. Also,you might be right about Fire Forged Friends or Band Of Brothers ect for the others.
  • May 19, 2013
    chicagomel
    also on The Golden Girls...The ep about Rose's heart surgery is a prime one,with all of them saying to each other they're family and wanting to be with her. They refer to each other as family in several other eps. They all have kids but not living close to them and most other relatives are gone.
  • May 19, 2013
    arromdee
    This heavily overlaps with Secret Project Refugee Family to the point where they probably should be combined.
  • May 27, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • Fagan's canine posse in Oliver And Company survive aboard a derelict boat as a band of scroungers and thieves. They even extend their circle to include the kitten Oliver. When Oliver become stranded in the limousine, Tito insists upon a rescue: "We got to do something, man. He's family. He's blood."
  • May 28, 2013
    Melkior
    Comic Books:
    • This is explicitly the relationship between Cutter and Skywise in the ElfQuest stories. They become "brothers in all but blood" when young. Their relationship is somewhat strained during The Palace War and when Skywise wants to stay in the Palace after, but is never broken while they both live.
  • May 28, 2013
    Treblain
    There are so many cases in fiction where close friends flat-out say to each other "We're family" or similar that you could very easily restrict it to those instances where it's stated or heavily implied. That would prevent overuse from fan interpretation of any close friendship; otherwise it could just turn into a duplicate of True Companions or other friendship-related tropes.
  • May 28, 2013
    randomsurfer
    The Blues Brothers met each other while they were both in an orphanage, and used a string from Elmore James' guitar to become Blood Brothers.
  • June 6, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^^^^^ Secret Project Refugee Family is for a cast that are escaped guinea pigs from research project. That they decide to band together as a family of sorts is secondary to the point of the that trope, so no that should not be combined with this.

    ^^^^ I don't understand - are they actually kin, if they're saying they're related by blood?

    ^^^ More context needed to explain how they got that way. The important part of this trope and what makes it different from other True Companions subtropes is that these characters choose to be family first, the go through bad stuff together because of it. It is not enough for characters to describe each other as family. I will adjust the description to make this more clear.

    ^^ It's not the implication of a relationship that's important and I think requiring explicit mention of a family relationship would actually lead to more misuse and zero context examples.

    ^ Added.
  • June 6, 2013
    FantasyLiver
    In Zombieland, Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock all become this in the end.

    In Sly Cooper, Sly, Benteley, and Murray met in an orphanage and became as thick as thieves (pun intended.)
  • June 6, 2013
    robinjohnson
    I think we already have this, with a Japanese name that I can't remember (I thought it was Namaka but it doesn't seem to be.) Anyone know what I'm talking about, and whether it's actually different? Edit: True Companions is what I'm thinking of. Used to be Nakama.
  • June 6, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^^ Generally, if you're example includes the words "in the end" then it's more likely Fire Forged Friends than this trope (which is about characters forming a family in the beginning, before all that plot stuff happens). The second example is added.

    ^ Yeah it's not called Nakama anymore and the relationship between this and True Companions has been discussed at length. Are you still confused and if so, what do you think needs clarification?
  • June 7, 2013
    snecko
    The relationship between the crew of Serenity in Firefly is very familial, to the point where a threat against any member of the crew is a Berserk Button for Captain Reynolds.
  • June 7, 2013
    Melkior
    Added some more info to the ElfQuest example.
  • June 7, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^^ Are you sure they're a Family by Choice or are they more likely a Band Of Brothers or Fire Forged Friends? I'm not familiar with the work, but often military-type units are assigned to work together and then learn to care about each other as they carry out their assigned missions.

    ^ Added.
  • June 7, 2013
    henke37
    • Lilo And Stich has a "family" composed of two sisters, a reformed all destroying monster, the (mostly) reformed creator of said monster and an incompetent byrucraout.
  • June 7, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^ Lilo And Stitch was already up there but I added this to the example.
  • June 9, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Comic Books
    • Teen Titans: This is how the Titans are described as seeing each other in the comic books. They support each other in all the good ways of a family, but they're also a family in all the worst ways with all the conflicts, you'd usually suspect from living together like one. They do have some disagreements, but it always leads into more character depth.
      • This is adapted very well in the Teen Titans animated series where their family-like relationships are used to look deeper into each of the character's back stories and character flaws.
  • June 9, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Reply to Star Valkyrie: Fagin's dogs can't be related in any way, as they're all different breeds: Dodger is a mutt, Rita is a Saluki, Francis is a bulldog, Einstein is a great Dane, and Tito is a chihuahua. Oliver is a kitten, and at first, was treated as an intruder. When Oliver's claws made scratches on the nose of the bully Doberman DeSoto, Oliver was welcomed into Fagin's posse. Tito's remark about Oliver being "family" and "blood" was metaphorical; his meaning is that Oliver is one of the group, and deserves a proper rescue, being a cat notwithstanding.
  • June 9, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^ Okay. I know nothing about the work at all so I wasn't sure if I was understanding correctly. I'll add it to the description.
  • June 9, 2013
    ClockStopping
    • Explicitly stated in an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer when Tara's Abusive Parents try to take her home, but Buffy and her friends insist that they are Tara's family instead, as they actually care for her.
  • June 12, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    ^^ No prob, Chief. Have a Hat. :)
  • June 13, 2013
    Melkior
    Literature:
    • At the end of the first book in the Star Ka'at series, two unrelated orphan human children are adopted and referred to as "kin" by intelligent, sapient space-cats.

    More information for the ElfQuest example: They become "brothers in all but blood" when young, even going as far as to share "soul names", something normally reserved for immediate family or reproductive mates.

    Hatted.
  • June 13, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    Added examples to here. Looks like we're at five hats so unless there are any last minute examples or calls for clarification, I'll start launching it in a bit.
  • June 13, 2013
    MrRuano
    • Brought up in Harry Potter And The Invincible Technomage, considering that Harry was adopted by Tony Stark. This becomes especially important considering that the British Wizarding governing body has been forcing Harry to reconnect with his wizarding roots, going as far as declaring Tony's adoption as illegal. Harry prefers his adopted family specifically because he consciously chose to stay with them, as opposed to just defaulting to whatever biological family he had left.
  • June 13, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    ^I don't think that counts because adoption is a recognized legal kinship. Families of Choice don't which is why they're sometimes called "fictive kinship".

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=zxudtyky26saqppgipv19wm6&trope=FamilyOfChoice