Everyone's Baby Sister
Say you’re a villain. You’re up against a team of heroes and you need a quick way to rattle them. What do you do? Well, the sure-fire way to get everybody worked up is to threaten that character, the one that everyone feels like they need to protect. Congratulations, you’ve just found Everyone's Baby Sister. When a Big Bad sets this character in their sights, it immediately becomes personal for every other character involved. Everyone's Baby Sister is most common in works where some of the characters do jobs that regularly put them in harm’s way and that exacerbate their protective instincts, and some of the characters work in safer environments where they’re not supposed to be at risk of physical harm. A team composed of law enforcement officials and scientists or analysts is common here. This character will typically be a younger character who is not usually in any sort of physical danger and, thus, may appear physically smaller and weaker than the other characters. Other characters will feel protective of this character because of a combination of their older age, superior physical strength, and sometimes their occupational responsibility. When something happens to a character and even the Jerk Ass is unsettled by it, you have a winner. Sometimes these characters inspire this reaction because they’re impossible to dislike. Other times, the character really isn’t very likeable at all; it's just that the other characters feel responsible for him or her. Because main characters tend to be the Action Heroes, this character is more often a supporting character than a lead. By coincidence or design, these characters are often Adorkable Teen Genius types (or early to mid twenties genius, as the case may be), though this is certainly not a prerequisite. These characters also tend to be fan favorites, though this, again, is by no means, necessary. It is not unheard of for The Scrappy to fall under this trope. What’s important here is the reaction of the characters, not of the audience. Compare and contrast The Chick, The Heart, The Cutie, the Tagalong Kid, And Your Little Dog Too. Note that this character does not actually have to be anyone’s sister, and a character who is someone’s sister is not guaranteed to fall under this trope.
ExamplesAnime and Manga
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has Togusa for Section 9. Partly because he's the team's only non-Cyborg member and partly because he has a family. This can be seen best in the episode "One Angry Man — TRIAL", where trying to drag Togusa's name through the mud leads a Domestic Abuser and his lawyer to suffer an unfortunate car accident.
- Casca in Berserk. When she's surrounded by enemies, the rest of the Band of the Hawk shows up to rescue her citing the fact that she's the only girl (as opposed to the fact that she's the team's second-in-command with only two people able to beat her in combat). Later on, Schierke fits this role (like when Guts starts a Bar Brawl when a drunk gets too close to her), as Casca has regressed to a childlike state due to the events of the Eclipse.
- Alvis in Last Exile is the Living Macguffin that most of the series revolves around the characters keeping her away from the Guild. She's also a cute little girl that does cute things cutely, so she tends to inspire everyone to be protective and caring towards her beyond that.
- In Runaways, Molly and Klara fill this role, to varying degrees - Molly is everyone's baby sister, but Klara is more of a little sister to Nico and Karolina, while Chase and Victor treat her more like a Ladette. Oddly enough, the baby sister aura even seems to affect other people in the Marvel universe - for instance, during Secret Invasion, Speed of the Young Avengers literally went out of his way to keep Molly and Klara safe during a battle with the Skrulls.
- Secret Avengers Vol 2 seemed to play Mockingbird like this during the "How to Maim a Mockingbird" arc. Hawkeye, her ex husband, was visibly torn up from seeing what happened to her during the arc, Black Widow stopped joking and talked to her the way a worried sister would when she realized the seriousness of the situation, and War Machine actually quit the team in protest and disgust at the fact Maria Hill allowed Mockingbird to get into that situation (and is joined with Hawkeye in this), while Maria Hill herself is clearly not happy with herself for allowing this to happen and makes a promise to find her. Even Taskmaster, the Token Evil Teammate, is pretty shocked to see how broken she is and is clearly concerned for her welfare.
- On NCIS, the best way to make something personal for the entire team is to threaten Abby Sciuto. This can be seen when you compare an episode like "Bloodbath," where someone is after Abby, to episodes like "Frame Up," "Reveille," "Probie," and "Recoil," where the threats against Tony, Kate, McGee, and Ziva are taken seriously, but not as personally.
- Firefly: Though nearly all of the main characters were gravely injured in one way or another, Kaylee's injury was made, by far, the most personal for the rest of the characters. Mal was ready to throw Simon out the airlock on this alone. Reactions to injuries to the rest of the show's characters were generally some variation of "all in a day's work."
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons both qualify as this trope. The other characters' reactions to their lives being endangered in "F.Z.Z.T." and "Beginning of the End" exceed what we've learned to expect when Coulson, May, Ward, and Skye risk their lives. Fitz and Simmons are the non-field agents on the team, and two of the youngest. In "F.Z.Z.T.":
May (of Simmons): She's only a kid.
- On Once Upon a Time, Henry is the only character who could have gotten Emma, Snow, Charming, Regina, Rumplestiltskin, and Hook on a ship to Neverland together. This may be a factor of his age and the fact that he's related to almost the entire main cast, rather than any actual likability.
- Law & Order:
- This tends to happen with the Assistant District Attorneys. We've only really seen it played out with Claire Kincaid and Alexandra Borgia on the original Law & Order and Alex Cabot on Law & Order: SVU, but it did play out with all three of them.
- On Law & Order: UK with CP Alesha Phillips. The reactions from the rest of the team when she's raped make it obvious that harming her is a Berserk Button for them.
- Arrow: Despite Ollie having a genuine sister, this role goes to Felicity Smoak instead. She's the only non-combatant on The Team, and Ollie and Diggle go to great lengths to ensure her safety and keep her hands clean.
- On a meta level, Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - the writers quickly discovered that threatening her was one of the best ways to get the audience to react. An aphorism among the writing staff was "When in doubt, put Willow in danger".
- On Guiding Light, Abby (who was already this to the townspeople) was attacked and nearly raped by a gang member. When the rest of the gang began making threats to her in the hopes of preventing her from testifying, the Token Good Teammate (a) reminded them of what he'd done, clearly trying to invoke Even Evil Has Standards, and (b) informed them that, "You know who she looks like? Tony's (gang member's) sister. Might as well have been her he tried to mess with."
- Persona 4: Nanako Dojima, protagonist Yu Narukami's little cousin. She instantly becomes his nakama's little cousin as well, and they all become very protective of her. When she's almost killed near the end of the game, the entire team goes into Roaring Rampage of Revenge mode.
- Merrill from Dragon Age II is this to most of the party. Only Fenris and Anders dislike her due to her use of Blood Magic.
- In Darths & Droids, Ben's little sister Sally is initially brought to the group because he's forced to baby-sit her, but she quickly gets integrated into the game as Jar Jar Binks (and singlehandedly makes the character enjoyable.) In the early strips when she was young, the GM and players tended to be protective of her, cheering her on and giving her extra chances at failed dice rolls.