The Black Sheep is the one member of a family who does not fit in, the prodigal son, the castaway from The Clan or from the Big Screwed-Up Family unless he left on his own smashing the door and Calling the Old Man Out. Can be The Unfavorite, but not necessarily.
A Black Sheep is not just someone who doesn't fit in with the family — it's someone who rejects their role in the family, either deliberately or not. Or possibly someone whose reputation or morality is at odds with the family reputation/morality, because it makes them different from the rest of the family.
The Black Sheep might be The Unfavorite but he can also be the Favorite instead. The latter case, of course, drives The Dutiful Son crazy as to why he's the favored one.
Sometimes the Black Sheep is really bad — AKA a criminal. Other times a Black Sheep is just considered rebellious, and might be a Cool Big Sis or Cool Uncle. On occasion, he is actually the Defector from Decadence. Often, he is a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold.
In kids shows there is a common Aesop where a Black Sheep from one of the kids' families will show up as either a Cool Big Sis (or brother) or a Cool Uncle. Often the Cool Relative will inspire emulation by all the kids in town (sometimes excepting only the kid who is actually related to him). Eventually this emulation gets the kids into trouble. Either the Black Sheep helps the kids out and then delivers the Aesop that they really don't want to be like him, or he reveals himself to be a Jerkass and leaves the kids in their mess (often to be saved by the one kid who didn't emulate the Black Sheep).
Not to be confused with the New Zealand film about zombie sheep, or the Chris Farley film of the same name which was released over a decade earlier.
Contrast White Sheep, where all inversions of this trope belong.
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Anime and Manga
Urd from Ah! My Goddess is an example of the Cool Big Sis who is also a Black Sheep. Her reputation just doesn't quite fit with the expected behavior of a Goddess (being half-Demon doesn't help).
The lead from Kaze no Stigma was cast away from his clan for not being able to control fire. He chose to control wind instead. Then they want him to marry back into the family, which both irritates and amuses him greatly.
Kouhei from Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase is the only magic-less Muggle in an entire family of mages. Fortunately, that also means he's immune to all sorts of magic.
Inukami!: Keita for failing to attract an Inukami during his clan's coming of age ceremony. Later revealed to be because Yohko, his Magical Girlfriend sorta kinda, scared all the others away so even though as a Kitsune she could form a pact with him when he would be desperate enough to accept. Why? Because You Were Nice to Me. When Keita was younger he gave her some chocolate cake. Since she was forced to live on a mountain with Inukami for a long time (aka supernatural dogs/wolves and as a Kitsune she is terrified of them) and lived liked this until she formed the pact with him.
Fist of the North Star's Jagi is so unlike the other three disciples of Hokuto Shinken, despite being the closest relation-wise to their master (according to the Jagi Gaiden manga, adopted son), that he is not considered among the "three Hokuto brothers."
Justified in the sense that he never truly mastered Hokuto Shinken, and in fact spent several years running around doing other things instead of spending time training.
Bleach: Uryuu views his father Ryuuken as the black sheep of their Quincy family due to his Refusal of the Call. Ryuuken actively encourages his son to believe this. Uryuu even walked out on his father in disgust and now refuses to live with him, preferring to honour his grandfather's memory instead. Ryuuken is in fact an extremely powerful Quincy master who is withholding his power for mysterious reasons. Souken does once imply that Ryuuken's "rebellious" behaviour is due to a Declaration of Protection but Uryuu isn't willing to listen. The final arc reveals that Uryuu's life has been in grave danger since he was eight years old, when his mother and Ichigo's mother were murdered in an attack that should also have killed him. His continued survival and Ryuuken's avoidance of all things Quincy appear to be connected.
Uchiha Itachi is the Black Sheep of the Uchiha clan, being the only one in his family who does not believe that being an Uchiha makes one superior, and eventually massacres all but one member of the clan. That last part is because he was the only Uchiha who opposed a planned hostile takeover of Konoha.
Later we find out that his best friend and fellow clansman Shisui also opposed the coup.
And then there's Obito, a Kakashi's dead teammate. He's the only Uchiha ninja shown to not have been an anti-social loner, or an exceptional ninja, which makes the reveal in chapter 599 all the more shocking.
Goku became this due to massive head trauma that seemed to have rewired his Saiyan brain. While he retains his people's love of combat (to a degree), senseless violence or revenge killing isn't his style.
Maya is actually revealed to be a black sheep (albeit one still loved by her family) in episode 4 of Burn Up Excess. She's a Tokyo cop while her family runs a criminal syndicate in Osaka. She's not a White Sheep because she doesn't hold it against them nor they hold it against her.
Wabisuke is the Jinnouchi's prodigal son in Summer Wars.
Aero from 12 Beast gets quite the unfortunate reputation thanks to her black wings. note The full-colour cover has her with blonde hair and blue wings, interestingly enough.
Fairy Tail: the titular guild has Laxus, who after his attempted coup becomes somewhat sane again... but is kicked out by Makarov and wanders the earth. He still shows up to grudingly help them when they need him. He gets it from his dad who went evil and started a dark guild intent on destroying Fairy Tail
Gajeel, though this is partly intentional on his and Makarov's part as he is a Reverse Mole. He still doesn't fit in with the others after that duty is fulfilled though...
Intially Natsu is portrayed as this because although the whole guild tends to cause huge amounts of collateral damage Natsu is by far the worst and the most reckless
Yuru-Yuri: Ohmuro Sakurako is this compared to her sisters Nadeshiko and Hanako. The latter two are well-mannered and studious while Sakurako is lazy, immature and struggles with school, relying primarily on her best friend Himawari to help her.
Albrecht Strong of Tom Strong, who was conceived by his mother's rape of an unconscious Tom. He was raised to be a cruel Nazi, and represents the Aryan ideal. Just don't call him a "black sheep"; He would die before anyone lumped him in with that "schwarze" family of Tom's. He calls himself the family's "white sheep", instead.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Casey Jones' cousin Sid is considered the black sheep of the Jones family. A petty criminal, his first appearance shows him threatening at Casey at gunpoint in order to steal money supposedly hidden in his grandmother's house. Later on, he becomes a member of the Foot Clan. It does not end well for him.
Among the Batfamily, three characters fit this trope at one point or another of canon:
Most of the Wayne family are decent, but Dr. Hurt aka Thomas Wayne (an ancestor who shares the same name as Bruce's father) was a crazy evil jerk. Bonding to one of Darkseid's superweapons didn't help.
Damian Wayne also has these issues, as he's been trained as an assassin during his whole pre-Gotham life, his mother has now disowned him for siding with his dad's point of view, and doesn't even know how to really play until Stephanie dragged him to a moonbounce. Did we mention he's ten? he proved himself to Dick fairly quickly, is in the process of getting his father's acceptance, and Tim still can't forget that this kid tried to kill him once. It's a mixed bag.
If we consider Azazel as part of the family, then he makes everyone else look stable.
The Gordon's have their own, James Gordon Jr.. While his Father is police commissioner, and his sister is a superhero, James Jr. is total psycho who kills people for fun. He also tried to killed his mother and Barbara before he was caught by Batman and his father.
Unusually, he's probably the only member of the family that everyone else likes- he's also one of the most affable, rational and well adjusted of them.
Not counting Death, of course. In fact, it's one of the great, unspoken ironies of the series that the most relateable and most empathetic members of the Endless (at least, maybe until Daniel replaces Morpheus as Dream of the Endless)are Death and Destruction.
Parodied by Walden Woods in Dork Tower: his parents are perfectly fine with his homosexuality — it's his GothLARPgaming hobby that disturbs them.
Captain America's sometime-flame Diamondback has a brother, Cutthroat. Where Diamondback was once a ruthless criminal, her brother remains one without shame or conscience. She still cares for him, in spite of Cap's belief that a brother who abandons his family (as Cutthroat has done several times) will always choose the easy way out.
Larfleeze from Green Lantern was born ugly, and his parents couldn't sell him off because they can't legally sell more than six children in their family. Worse, he had been abused by his siblings since he was 10 months old. And this is all before his adult life, in which he ended up in slavery when the Lakadakians invaded his home planet. Keep in mind that Larfleeze likes to spice up his backstory.
The Black Sheep does exactly what it says on the tin. A successful hard-working career girl in Ankh-Morpork is not happy at the coming of her favourite uncle, who she knows to be a con-man, grifter and scrounger. He has also been expelled from their native country for serious criminal offences against the State.
Bait and Switch: Captain Kanril Eleya gives the impression that she likes her family but doesn't really fit with them. Her parents are town maintenance workers in a small town and her younger sister's engaged to a vedek,note the Bajoran religion's equivalent of a bishop whereas Eleya joined the Bajoran Militia and later Starfleet because of Small Town Boredom.
Films — Live-Action
Dewey Cox in Walk Hard, after his brother died in that unfortunate machete fighting accident.
The movie Black Sheep has Chris Farley's character being a major pain to his politician brother because he's fat, loud, and clumsy...in other words, a Chris Farley character.
The otherBlack Sheep movie has two brothers who were fifth-generation sheep farmers. The younger one was considered a "Golden Boy natural-born farmer" until a combination of his brother traumatizing him and his dad's death at the same time caused him to develop a sheep phobia and he fled to the city while older one took over the farm and developed mutant-were-sheep-zombies that are also related to them.. The title could refer to any of these.
Sloth in The Goonies. He's mentally disabled and physically deformed, kept chained in the basement, and not even a candidate to be his mama's Un Favorite. More importantly, unlike the rest of his family he's a good guy at heart, opposing them when given the chance.
In Greed, Daniel McTeague's father qualifies, having walked away from Uncle Joe (and his money) because he didn't want to get turned into a greedy sycophant like the rest of the family members did. He even points out this reason to Danny when he shows up to call him out on what he'd done to try to get into Uncle Joe's good graces.
After learning of his true origins in Thor, Loki declares that Thor was never his brother and begins Slowly Slipping Into Evil. Initially he continues to refer to Odin and Frigga as his parents, but by The Avengers, he's renounced them as well. It's of interest to note that Loki, at least, seems to have always considered himself a black sheep, even if no one else in his family did. The revelation of his parentage was simply the final push he needed to fully embrace his role as an outsider.
Amusingly, when in The Avengers Loki comes to Earth with the intention of opening up a wormhole to bring an exterrestrial army to Earth, Thor first demands that people speak respectfully of his brother... and then, when reminded of Loki's crimes, weakly replies that, "He's adopted."
Harry Potter has Sirius and Andromeda from the Black family. The Black family actually tends to have a few of these in every generation, and they always get blasted off the family tree. Harry himself also starts as a Black Sheep: a wizard stuck with a Muggle family.
Ron's family is almost all wizards except one of Molly's distant cousins who is an accountant. "We don't talk about him much..."
The Weasleys also have Percy, a stuck-up, anal-retentive stick-in-the-mud introvert born into a family of humble, friendly, generous extroverts and who never fit in. For all his faults, Percy was mildly mocked by his brothers even prior to cutting off all ties from them. Eventually he decided to distance himself from the other members of the Weasley clan for political favor.
It's mostly the twins. Percy was one of their biggest targets, but that's mostly due to the fact that all siblings tease each other. Though, there is the fact that Percy and the twins in particular are polar opposites. Which makes it all the more heartwarming when the twins are the first members of the family to welcome Percy back when he reunites with them in final book.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Brynden Tully aka the Blackfish got his nickname by punning on this and the family's sigil of the trout.
Euron "Crow's Eye" is the black sheep (squid?) of the Greyjoy family. And in that family, that takes a fair amount of effort.
Jorah Mormont earned his Black Sheep status when he sold some poachers into slavery in an effort to finance his wife's entertainments. Rather than face his punishment (which would be either execution by his liege lord, or going to serve on the Wall with a bunch of other Black Sheep), he flees the country.
And, of course, there is Jon Snow, who is the black sheep of the Starks due to his bastardry.
This only applies to Catlyen who views him as this. The rest of the Starks love Jon as much as each other.
And Perwyn Frey, notably the only decent member of House Frey, and was sent away before the Red Wedding.
The So-Called Coward Samwell Tarly was sent to the Wall by his father because he liked reading more than fighting.
A Bible parable of Jesus presents the prodigal son this way until his return to his father.
A recent version of Alice in Wonderland has Tweedledee and Tweedledum claim that the Red King is the Black Sheep of the King of Hearts' family. Tweedledee: "Every family has one." Both: "We have two." The implication being that both Tweedles are perfectly aware that they're odd.
An inversion is found in Burton's Zoom Zoom Varoom Machine by Dorothy Haas. The entire family are eccentric inventors of one sort or another, except for Little Brother. He's the Black Sheepbecause he's the only normal one.
The Gray Spartan team from Halo: The Cole Protocol. They are the most independent and individualistic of the SPARTAN teams, trained to operate for long periods with little control or assistance. After their abduction and indoctrination into the SPARTAN-II program, most of the SPARTAN-II candidates were able to quickly adjust to their new lives as soldiers. Cooperation, teamwork, and camaraderie were easily integrated into their minds and within five months, they were fully willing to take on their training. The exception were the Spartans who would become Gray Team. Gray Team is comprised of the SPARTAN candidates who were the most difficult to control. These SPARTANS were loners who tried constantly to escape their training, and resisted indoctrination in any way possible. When these attempts to escape became increasingly costly, with numerous trainers with broken fingers and shattered knee caps and at least one Pelican dropship hijacked and destroyed, the three SPARTANS were formed into their own team, trained separately from the rest. Unlike the standard SPARTAN teams, Gray Team members are all trained to think and act individually.
Temuge in the Conqueror books. While his brothers are all badass warriors, poor Temuge is a rather soft chap who can barely hold a sword. He eventually makes up for it by becoming The Smart Guy.
In the Women Of The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong, Lucas Cortez is without a doubt the Black Sheep of the Cortez family. He's the illegitimate youngest son of the head of a Cabal (mafia corporation) who, despite his father's love and his father's making him his heir, has decided to forsake all the money and prestige his father has in favor of being a lawyer for those that would go against any of the Cabals. His half brothers have attempted to assassinate him multiple times for his inheritance.
In the Disgaea Novels, Flonne's sister, Ozonne believes in the power of money and rejects the concept of love.
Nancy and Peggy's Cool Uncle Jim Walker, aka "Captain Flint", in the Swallows and Amazons series. Note that while Nancy describes him as "the black sheep of the family", he's actually quite close to his sister and her daughters.
"Augusta (replied the noble Youth) I thought you had a better opinion of me, than to imagine I would so abjectly degrade myself as to consider my Father's Concurrence in any of my Affairs, either of Consequence or concern to me. Tell me, Augusta, tell me with sincerity; did you ever know me consult his inclinations, or follow his Advice in the least trifling Particular, since the age of fifteen?" "Edward (replied she) you are surely too diffident in your own praise. Since you were fifteen only! My Dear Brother, since you were five years old, I entirely acquit you of ever having willingly contributed to the Satisfaction of your Father. But still, I am not without apprehensions of your being shortly obliged to degrade yourself in your own eyes by seeking a Support for your Wife in the Generosity of Sir Edward."
Also by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: Kitty and Lydia both live this trope in their rebellious behavior as noted by their father. Once Kitty grows out of her deplorable behavior, Lydia remains as the sole black sheep Pushed Up To Eleven.
Prince Almorante in The Chronicles of Magravandias, who is the only dark-haired Malagash in generations. In adulthood he pulled away from his family, becoming interested in the mystic arts, and dressing, as his mother describes, like "a brigand lord" rather than a prince. He would probably be the best candidate to succeed his father, but he just doesn't have a talent for inspiring strong feelings in people like Bayard or the legitimacy of position that Gastern has.
Molly Miller would be this in her family. Once her father remarries after his divorce, her little sister gets close to their stepmother and their relationship suffers as a result.
Game of Thrones: House Baratheon is primarily known as a family of warriors, and Lord Renly is viewed as something of an embarrassment because he is often criticized by his older brothers for being a non-fighter. King Robert is especially disparaging of his youngest sibling's masculinity, calling him a "boy" during their hunting trip because he doesn't consider Renly to be a "real man."
However, although few people actually like him, everyone respects him and he inspires even more loyalty than his brothers. At the time of Robert's death essentially nobody was actually loyal to him any more while all of Renly's followers deserted his cause the instant he died. Meanwhile, although being alive helps, Stannis has led his men from the fiery hell of Blackwater Bay to the snows of the Wall and to victory over a force that outnumbered him 25-1; and they would all fight to the bitter end for him. Even the commoners, who may cheer for Robert and Renly, know that Stannis will treat them fairly and ensure that justice is always done to those who mistreat them.
Garthe Knight of the Knight Rider series, who's morality (or more accurately, his complete lack of morality) is at odds with that of the his father, Wilton Knight.
Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess claims to have been the black sheep of his family. Specifically, his father is a warlord, his mother is a warlord's wife, and his brother is an assassin of renown. He can't compare.
Sheppard is revealed to be one in "Outcast" when his wealthy father dies and he comes home for the funeral
A 1998 issue of Soap Opera Digest had a feature which discussed each show's creepiest family. A black sheep of each family was mentioned-in this case the member that was a relatively good and normal person compared to the rest of his/her family. The entry on As The World Turns had this (intentionally or not) funny line: "Paul is the only Stenbeck who hasn't, at one time or another, gone crazy and terrorized half the town. Not coincidentally, he's also the only one who's never 'died'"
Peter Petrelli. Peter's idealism and sweet nature naturally clashed with the corrupt and ruthless ambition of his family. He chose to become a nurse instead of a lawyer like his father and brother, and even after acquiring abilities, is derided by his family as naive.
The Palace featured the interesting case of Prince David, the late king's estranged brother. Unfortunately, the program was cancelled after one short series and the character never got to appear onscreen. Apparently he got divorced at some point, then lost his whole estate after his business went bankrupt, a situation precipitated by drug and alcohol problems. There's also a Cryptic Background Reference to "a silly joke at King James's expense" that "incur[red] the wrath of the monarch." (Coincidentally, David's nephew, Prince George, remarks that he saw him once and that he was "like a ghost.")
The BlackadderChristmas Special focused on Ebenezer Blackadder, the only member of the Blackadder dynasty to be kind and generous. That soon changed after he saw what kind of future there would be if he were as bad as his ancestors, though...
In Monk, Natalie is one to her family, the founders of the brand name Davenport Toothpaste. This is clearly seen in "Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding" where she is on very bad terms with her mother Peggy and father Bobby (even though they dote heavily on Julie). Peggy doesn't even know that Natalie is not a bartender anymore when she tries to have Natalie test a Bloody Mary to see what is wrong (ultimately Randy has to do this role). Peggy also refuses to display Mitch's photos on the piano at home. Also, she doesn't want to believe Monk and Natalie when they try to warn her that her new daughter-in-law Theresa Scott is actually a Black Widow who tried to kill Randy and eventually tries to kill Jonathan, but is stopped in the nick of time. At the end, we see that photos of Natalie are back on the family piano at home, indicating that they've reconciled. In the next episode where Natalie's parents appear, "Mr. Monk Is At Your Service," Monk and Natalie are seen having a friendly lunch with them, which seems to indicate that they are back on good terms.
Natalie even uses the trope name to describe herself during a monologue in the novel Mr. Monk in Outer Space as she and Monk are on their way to question Brandon Lorber's widow Veronica in the following paragraph:
Stottlemeyer and Disher, being poorly paid civil servants, would have been uneasy around so much money and power, which is probably why they opted to let us see Veronica Lorber on our own. I think the captain believed that a black-sheep rich girl and a socially clueless detective would be more effective with the widow Lorber than they would be. Money and influence are kryptonite for people whose livelihoods depend on the whims of politicians.
In Supernatural, Sam Winchester. He never fit in with his family because of the hunters life. Sam desired normal while John and Dean were hunters at heart.
On The Vampire Diaries, Damon Salvatore. He was rebellious and didn't believe in duty and responsibility the way his father and his brother Stefan did.
Klaus is an even more extreme example. He was The Unfavorite to his father Mikael, even before Mikael learned that Klaus was not his biological son. While it's implied that Klaus was always impulsive and difficult, flashbacks show that Mikael punished his son's misdeeds far more cruelly than was necessary.
In Doctor Who, the reveal of an unknown incarnation of the Doctor is this for violating the principles the Doctor has carried throughout all of his lives, save this offender, who he has disowned, deliberately forgotten and stated as the one who "broke the promise" that comes with calling himself "the Doctor", not even allowed to adopt his alias because the actions he took in this life tarnished its creed—though to hear it from this Black Sheep, it wasn't without reason..
Private Practive has Amelia Sheppard. At her introduction they call her the black sheep of her family despite being a terrific neurosurgeon. "Wow, Aimee Sheppard did good, what kind of family is this that even the black sheep becomes a neurosurgeon?"
The John Anderson song "Black Sheep" is about a guy who comes from a rich family who is considered an embarrassment to his family because he preferred to drive a truck for a living, instead of pursuing a more lucrative career.
The Austin Lounge Lizards song Gingrich the Newt describes how newts in general are animal paragons of virtue, but Newt Gingrich (the politician) is "the one rotten fruit on the newt family tree".
Battletech: At least one member of each of the great houses has one or two of these. For House Davion and Steiner it was Katrina who started the Fedcomm civil war. In House Marik there was (the real) Thomas Marik, who was the leader of the Word of Blake.
Ambrose from Clive Barker's Undying was the hellion of the Covenant family, getting into constant fights, stealing, running off to join pirates, murdering his own father with a pool cue and then leaping to his death to avoid arrest.
Kairu from Black Sigil is the adopted son of the duke, but disliked by virtually the entire duchy except his adopted sister and father. Despite presumably being the heir, Kairu gets subjected to a lot of bullying.
It's possibly that the character Lanky Kong, a friendly orangutang, from Donkey Kong 64 is a Manky Kong White Sheep, though it's never been officially confirmed.
Boudica from The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred is the only member of her family who isn't evil. In fact, while the rest of her family plots to take over the world, she is a concert pianist.
Ethan from Ctrl+Alt+Del is a twenty something manchild who clearly has some sort of disorder and is obbsessed with video games to the point of physical addiction who owns his own game store, his brother is a former football player turned bar owner. Guess who his family prefers.
Though later it turns out his brother got himself in trouble with the hawaian mafia and needed Ethan (who was getting married) to bail himout. He saved his brothers life but refused to implicate himself and ruin his wedding day to help with his brothers own failings. His parents actually got mad at Ethan for not helping their Favourite.
In The Gamers Alliance, the demon lord Omaroch and the merchant Jeremiah both end up being the black sheeps of their respective families because they are more virtuous than their scheming family members.
Jonas from lonelygirl15 was rejected by his family. Tragically, his parents used to be Resistance just like him, before they had their memories erased and were brainwashed by the Order. They now want nothing to do with him.
That, and because he has an advanced vocabulary that the other characters write off as another demonstration of how horrible a person he is.
Jazz in Danny Phantom deliberately made herself a Black Sheep from her own family, unwilling to partake in their ghost hunting obsessions. She then got Character Development and now appreciates her family's lifestyle, equally joining the bandwagon at the same time. Sam even more so; her dark and dreary Gothic life doesn't quite match with her parents' cheery Stepford-like mannerisms, though we find that she may get this from her grandmother.
In Jazz's case, the change had something about learning ghosts are real.
Helen's sister Amy from Daria - apparently the brainy misfit who deliberately withdrew from the family to avoid getting caught up in her two sisters' constant rivalry and left home as soon as possible. Unsurprisingly, she's Daria's favorite aunt, and there's a strong physical resemblance between them as well as in personality.
Jane also actually uses the term Black Sheep when talking about her particular branch of the Lane family to Daria when she and Trent have to attend a family reunion.
In another episode, Drakken mentions that his cousin, Motor Ed, is the Black Sheep of his family. Probably because Drakken himself has thus far managed to hide his own Mad Scientist tendencies from his family.
Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb could qualify as this. He's divorced, without a job, his mother favors his younger brother, his father thinks of his dog as his son rather than Heinz and his parents even disowned him. To make matters worse, it's not exactly easy to compete with his younger brother Roger since he's the Mayor of Danville and seen as perfection in human form.
Scar is implied to be this in The Lion King. However this is due to his own attitude, rather then the others actions. Simba even seems to like him when he was a cub.
Timon seems to be one as well in The Lion King 1 ½, but for his meerkat colony.
Beetlejuice, in the animated adaptation, is shown to be this - his parents are hardworking, well-mannered neat freaks, and he has a brother (who appeared in only one episode) who is essentially perfect.
Sid from Ice Age definetely counts. His own family abandoned him because of it.