I really used to be a bad girl
I got gangbanged in the bathroom at my high school prom
Yes, I used to be a real wild child
But now I am a Volvo-driving soccer mom.
— Everclear, "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom"
An older character, who is seen as stodgy, virtuous, or law-abiding. We eventually learn that, in their youth, they were rather less so.
When the older character is a mentor figure to the protagonist, The Reveal
that they fit this trope can sometimes be part of the process of turning them into a Cool Old Guy
. It's also related to Mysterious Past
, though there doesn't have to be any mystery involved. Rule Abiding Rebel
or Bourgeois Bohemian
can be the result if the character tries to have it both ways. This can lead to a case of Generation Xerox
if the former rebel now has rebel kids of their own.
People who were rebellious in their youth — especially if their actions included a strong sexual element — are said to have been "sowing their wild oats." (This is also said in the present tense of older philanderers.) The etymology of the phrase is explained here.
"Sowing one's wild oats" is often a great understatement of reality.
On a few rare occasions, a former teen rebel was actually a closet rebel who was Living a Double Life
. An extreme example might be The Fundamentalist
kid you knew in high school and/or college, the one who always complained about all the other believers who didn't live exactly by their strict interpretation of As the Good Book Says
. Then — sometimes decades later — the truth comes out. That obnoxious bible-thumper had actually gone through high school and/or college regularly cheating, lying, stealing and/or screwing Anything That Moves
. Of course, such people don't exist in a vacuum. Somebody — a cohort or an adversary — knew the truth all along, but their warnings usually went unheeded. The Reveal
allows this person to say "I Knew It
" or "I Warned You
" to all the doubters.
Definitely Truth in Television
. Contrast with Used to Be a Sweet Kid
where a villainous or otherwise unpleasant character is shown to be much nicer and polite as a child. Compare Parental Hypocrisy
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Anime and Manga
- Axis Powers Hetalia: England was a pirate in his youth, but now considers himself to be a gentleman (though he still curses like a sailor). Denmark went through a viking phrase himself and remains quite the Boisterous Bruiser.
- Hungary too. She used to be a part of a group of nomadic warriors, and spent her childhood fighting various invaders. Upon learning she's actually female, she decides it's time to be a "frickin' lady" and ends up being a maid at Austria's house, and later becomes his wife. She still retains much of her Hot-Blooded personality though (she serves as his military officer when Prussia steals Silecia, and can brain Nations with her frying pan), and generally switches between being being a terrifying fighter and a sweet Cool Big Sis.
- Fruits Basket: Tohru's mother, Kyoko. And Arisa, kinda.
- Great Teacher Onizuka: Danma Ryuji, the other half of Onibaku, is now a car repairman. Onizuka would himself apply, except that he's not that different than before.
- Naruto: Asuma Sarutobi, whose past was expanded on in the anime, had a falling out with his father Hiruzen, the third Hokage, when he was a young adult and joined the Guardian Ninjas, bodyguards to the daimyo of the Land of Fire. Iruka Umino used to, like Naruto, be a prankster as a means of coping with his parents' death, making him strict but sympathetic with Naruto (he makes Naruto clean up his graffiti on the Hokage faces, but after Naruto points out he has no one to go home to, he offers to buy him ramen).
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gendo Ikari was something of a delinquent in college before Fuyutuski was more or less forced to take him on as a kind of apprentice. It's subverted, in that he is even "worse" than he was before. Horrifically worse, to be honest actually, and Fuyutsuki had a role reversal in that he's now his Number Two instead of being his teacher, and openly objects to lots of the stuff Gendo pulls.
- Pokémon: Ash's mom Delia/Hanako (at least according to the American stage show).
- Salaryman Kintaro: The title character is a gangster-turned-salaryman.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Later on in the series, there are a lot of hints that the gentle, unassuming teacher, Jinroku, was a former member of the Yakuza and probably not the nice kind either.
- Amagasa-sensei in Hyakko was feared throughout the school back when he was one of its students. Now he's a teacher.
- Sawako-Sensei from K-On! was a Punk-Metal performer when she attended the school as a student. Very rebellious and goth-like.
- A popular hair dresser in Ice Revolution fit the Japanese Delinquents archetype to a T in her teenage years. She states her reasons for being violent and aggressive was due to being a closeted transsexual. After transitioning she calmed down considerably.
Film — Animated
- In The Little Mermaid, Ariel often went up to the ocean's surface, despite knowing full well that her father forbade it because she thought he was being unreasonable and overprotective. Come The Little Mermaid II, Ariel's own daughter Melody does the very same thing (going into the sea when she knows it's forbidden), and Ariel becomes angry and scolds her when Melody reveals she did so.
- Although Triton did so because he was horribly racist towards humans. Ariel did it because there was a psychotic sea witch (Morgana, Ursula's sister) out there who has been after Melody ever since she was born.
- Not so much racist as he couldn't move past the death of his beloved wife, as the The Little Mermaid III shows us. While his reason is more vague, he had good reason too.
Film — Live Action
- In Back to the Future:
- Marty's mother, Lorraine Banes McFly. We don't see much of her in the present, but when he goes back to the 1950's Marty is definitely shocked to see her smoking and drinking. She also flirts with Marty and wants to park with him, despite her assertion thirty years later that girls shouldn't chase boys and her insistence that she never did that kind of thing with a boy. Since Lorraine is a bit of an alcoholic even now, this could be a subversion.
- There's also Biff Tannen. Subverted at first with him being exactly the same as an adult in the 80's as he was in the 50's as a teenager. However, after Marty changes the past, he plays this straight in the new timeline.
- Additionally, an original draft for the second movie had George and Lorraine as members of the hippie counter-culture of the 1960's.
- The Beverly Hills Cop films. Protagonist, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy)
Axel: You know, I wasn't always a cop; I fractured an occasional law.
- Bubble Boy The 2001 remake. The main character's mother was incredibly controlling, ignored all of her son's concerns in favor of her shockingly over-the-top Fundamentalist beliefs, and treats her son like an infant the entire way through the movie, even going so far as to lie about the actual state of her son's immune system; he NEVER needed the bubble after age 4. She's a bit of a Karma Houdini herself, really. And as it turns out in the end, she actually used to be "Wildfire", the former love interest of that motorcyclist tough guy that was one of the first people the bubble boy met on the road.
- Word of Dante says Heath Ledger learned how to skateboard for The Dark Knight, as he considered The Joker a character who probably was a skateboarding teenage rebel.
- The Edukators kidnap a wealthy, middle-aged businessman who reveals that he and his wife used to be members of a socialist commune and got up to all sorts of shenanigans.
"We were six. Rolf, Bernard, I, Lizzy, Gabi, my wife. First, Rolf and Gabi were together. Then, Bernd and Gabi, then Lizzy and me. Then Bernd and Lizzy, then Lizzy and my wife for a while..."
- Renaissance Man a 1994 film in which Danny DeVito plays a laid off advertising executive who gets hired to work with a group of misfit army recruits. The first thing he has them do is write essays about why they joined the Army. Several of them reveal that they fit this trope and the reason they joined the Army was to get away from it.
- Superbad Officers Slater and Michaels reveal to Fogle/McLovin that they were this. They knew his fake ID was fake all along but let him slide and did all their shenanighans with him because they saw their younger selves in him.
- What To Do In Case Of Fire, a German film is about a group of now-successful ex-anarchists in Berlin, who band back together after a bomb they had made 15 years earlier and forgotten about blew up, and they have to get rid of any evidence linking it to them.
- Much of the premise of The Banger Sisters.
- In the comedy performance movie Himself, Bill Cosby notes that one of the first things a parent says about their children entering adulthood is that they hope their child has children of their own, who will act just like they did as kids. Cosby says that is is a curse, and it works.
- Windtalkers Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage). His commanding officer tells him that he's done much better as a Marine than as a civilian, reading off from Enders' record that he stole a motorcycle and crashed it and got kicked out of high school for assaulting the assistant principal.
Mother: What kind of behavior is that? When I was you age, I always stayed at home in the evening.
Daughter: Naturally you did. I was eight months old already by then.
- Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot has alluded to the "fast living" of his youth, but details are few.
- Miss Marple has also made a few allusions to when she was a girl and looking for a man that her parents would disapprove of.
- The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones. Christopher Chant definitely fits the bill. It's implied that Gabriel DeWitt, his predecessor, does as well, though we never learn enough of his backstory to be entirely certain.
- Discworld In one of the novels, Vimes was shocked to find his butler Willikins (gained when he married Sybil) was once a rather vicious street thug.
- The Dresden Files Charity Carpenter used to be quite the rebel, running away from home when her magic developed and getting involved with a number of bad crowds, ultimately joining a cult whose leader was sacrificing its members to a dragon. When Charity was saved from the dragon by Michael Carpenter, she settled down as a good Catholic and Housewife and gave up her magic. Some of the other skills she picked up during her rebellion (notably fighting, metalworking and vehicle repair) are still used to aid her husband and defend her family.
- Harry Potter: The Marauders ( save for Peter Pettigrew, who wasn't much of a rebel as he was a hanger-on). In their schooldays, they were some of Hogwarts' most notorious pranksters and illegally became underage Animagi to keep Lupin company during his werewolf transformations. James Potter and Sirius Black were even bullies to Severus Snape James settled down and got married to Lily, while Lupin became the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, albeit temporarily. And Sirius Black, despite his incarceration and Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Peter... well, two out of four ain't bad.
- In Goblet of Fire, Molly Weasley recounts her Hogwarts days and describes a time when she and her future husband snuck out after curfew to have a nighttime stroll. Her son Bill is quite surprised and impressed.
- The epilogue of Deathly Hallows has Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny be this. After spending the books (most notably most of that same book) as resistance fighters against Voldemort, we see that they all married, got jobs (most of which were for the Ministry of Magic), and had several kids. Word of God details this happening for a good many other characters, including Neville (he becomes a Hogwarts professor who marries Hannah Abbott, who herself becomes the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron) and Luna (she becomes the wizarding equivalent of a naturist, along with marrying another naturist and having two sons).
- Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Winifred Kraus is a matronly old maid who was a terribly rebellious teenager who got pregnant out of wedlock. Her overprotective father forced her to give birth to the child in secret and hid him in the caves. When her father passed away, she became just as overprotective and kept the boy there his entire life so she could "protect" him from the outside world.
- Calling Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer a Former Teen Rebel is more than a slight understatement. Initially portrayed as the epitome of the stuffy Brit, the few clues of his youth reveal that he was an ultra-violent warlock known to his cronies as "Ripper". One of his former friends shows up in a few episodes as a sadistic priest of chaos who is more than disappointed that his big idol turned out to be such an uptight bore.
- Jane from Happy Endings was something of a wild girl in college-with hot pink hair, revealing outfits, dating a ton of girls and guys flashing a police horse, but matured into a competitive, career-minded Control Freak.
- Star Trek
- Captain Jean-luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation was a delinquent and skirt-chaser at the Academy, culminating in a bar fight with a group of Proud Warrior Race Guys in which he got stabbed in the heart. After that, he apparently became rather more focused.
- Oddly inverted with Captain James Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series, who is...well, The Kirk in the present day but had a reputation for being a swot at the academy.
- In the 2009 film, Kirk plays this straight, largely on account of not having a father growing up. He changes when he decides to follow in his father's footsteps. Though he certainly manages to hold on to part of his rebellious attitude.
- Chakotay from Star Trek: Voyager is shown in "Tattoo" as a petulant youth who rejects his father's attempts to instruct him in The Ways Of His People because he'd rather run off and join Starfleet. Likewise even staid Tuvok was shown to have rejected the Vulcan philosophy of logic when he fell in love with an alien girl as a youth.
- Vulcans generally have a very strong tendency for this. Their philosophy of cold logic and detachment from emotion is their way to compensate for and restrain their violent and confrontational nature.
- In Firefly, we never really learn Shepherd Book's backstory, but what hints we get definitely suggest this trope. note
- While Simon is generally shown as being responsible to the point of often being The Comically Serious, one episode has him telling Kaylee about various shenanigans he got into in medical school, which apparently involved him and his friends being very drunk.
- In Rumpole of the Bailey:
- Rumpole's stuffy boss, "Soapy" Sam Ballard, president of the Lawyers as Christians Society, nitpicker about missing nailbrushes and anti-smoking crusader, once had long hair, called himself "Bonzo" and played lead guitar for an amateur rock group called the Pithead Stompers.
- Rumpole himself is a subversion of this: he was probably quite the rebel in his youth...and he remained one for the rest of his life. Granted, it's a much more subdued sort of rebellion, but then his youth was during The Great Depression.
- Dr. Gordon Gordon-Wyatt from Bones used to be a glam rocker.
- The Red Dwarf gang go back in time and see Lister at age 17 with his head-banging "sham glam" band. According to Lister, the crazy whacked-out hippie drummer became a police officer and a Freemason, and the "neo-Marxist nihilistic anarchist" bassist became an insurance executive with his own parking space.
- The protagonist of Welcome Back, Kotter was a delinquent in high school and now teaches a class of delinquents. He often butts heads with the principal, who taught Kotter back in his teenage punk days.
- Babylon 5:
- Colonel Lochley joined the military to clean herself up after she found her best friend Zoe dead from drug overdose.
- Dr. Franklin is a minor example. He took up medicine partially to spite his soldier father.
- Juken Sentai Gekiranger has an example in team mentor Miki Misaki to the point that she is still remembered and feared by the current batch of teen rebels. She's also capable of kicking more ass now than she was back then thanks to studying Geki-Ju-Leopard-ken (Fierce Beast Leopard-Fist) in the intervening period.
- Joey Jeremiah in Degrassi.
- Modern Family: Claire Dunphy.
Claire: Your kids don’t need to know who you were before you had them. They need to know who you wish you were, and they need to try to live up to that person. They’re gonna fall short, but better they fall short of the fake you, than the real you.
- Willie and Kate Tanner from 'Alf used to be hippies and rebels during the 1960's, but by the time the series takes place both have become responsible adults and parents.
- The Big Bang Theory Mary Cooper, Sheldon's mom, is devoutly Christian in the present. In "The Rhinitis Revelation" she tells Penny "When I was your age you could have me for a car ride and a bottle of strawberry wine.
- Hal in Malcolm in the Middle as a teenager was, essentially, Francis.
- Zits: A Sunday strip has Jeremy having a nightmare where this happens to him. He meets his future self and is dismayed to discover that he is not a rock god but is dressed in a business suit, balding with a comb over, and has a dental practice in the suburbs. The last panel has Hector asking him why he's dressed in a stereotypical thug outfit. Jeremy calls it "self defense against my future".
- Inverted in Warhammer 40,000. Young Inquisitors are freshly indoctrinated and therefore puritanically orthodox. Those who survive to old age tend to lose their naivety and innocence to the setting's Black and Gray Morality, making them more radical and rebellious, and frequently the target of the next generation of Inquisitors.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Martin Septim is a priest but dabbled in Daedric magic (apparently until it resulted in the death of his friends).
- Jolee Bindo from Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. And a Jedi one to boot!
- Wynne in Dragon Age: Origins has got a milder variation, she tells stories of a time when she was significantly more hot-headed and rebellious than she is today.
- The sequel has Sebastian, who drank and whored so much in his teen years that his family forced him into a monastery, where he found religion.
- Metroid: Other M seems to show that Samus Aran might have been one of these. The Behind The Scenes trailer shows her former CO, Adam Malkovich, giving out orders, and while everyone else gives the thumbs up, she gives the thumbs down. Seen here at 07:56
- The reason behind Samus' thumbs down was she was always at odds with Adam when she was under his command, but over time, her thumbs down became a sign of trust and understanding between the two of them. Towards the end of the game after Adam's death, Samus gives a thumbs up in Adam's honor.
- Virgil from Arcanum was a thief and all-around careless thug, until other criminals he angered decided to make him care by taking it out on his brother.
- Carson von Mekkhan and Old Man Death from Girl Genius both "rode with the Jägers" i.e. acted as auxiliaries to Europe's evilest overlord's Badass Army in their youths. Carson is currently retired from his position as seneschal to said overlord's family and lives with his daughter-in-law, and Old Man Death runs a deli.
- Ki's father in General Protection Fault, didn't go nearly as far as some examples, but he, a Japanese man, committed the cultural taboo of marrying a Chinese woman. As he aged, he became more traditional, and after some unpleasant experiences with Ki's former fiance Sam, he becomes adamantly opposed to her marrying Nick.
- Roommates' Inspector Javert, believe it or not. To elaborate: When we saw his younger self he swore like a sailor, picked fights with authority figures and stole a child's cookie.
- Ye Thuza in Sandra and Woo is literally a former teen rebel, having fought in the Burmese resistance in her youth.
- Principal Skinner aka Armin Tamzarian, of The Simpsons, who actually assumed somebody else's identity as part of getting over his rebellion. Accidentally. He honestly intended to tell Mrs. Skinner that her real son was believed to be dead - but she thought he was her son when he showed up at her door, and he just didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise. Fans hated this episode due to how crazily most of the cast was out of character in order to make the plotline work, but interestingly, the writers never retconned it in response—Lisa actually uses the plot as a threat against him in an episode years later.
- Ms. Finster from Recess, in the episode "Weekend at Muriel's".
- Francine Smith (American Dad!) was quite the party girl in college.
- In S2 Ep10 "Bush Comes To Dinner" then-President George W. Bush brings this trope up to Stan after he angrily tells Hayley that she's a lost cause. Bush reveals that he was a very wild party boy when he was younger (which is Truth in Television) and that Hayley, due to her rebellious ways, is not a lost cause, but is on the track to becoming President of the United States.
- Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond. His reputation as such is a big reason as to why he puts on the suit, and often comes back to bite him on the ass. As a teen, he was caught breaking and entering as part of a gang initiation. The way he describes it, he followed his best friend into the building and directly into the cops' hands. He also got into a lot of fights, but said flat out that most of what he did before the arrest was penny-ante stuff.
- Khan of King of the Hill, even looking like a 50's teen rebel, complete with pompadour, in the late 70's.
- In South Park, Kyle's mom Sheila was once a wild Jersyite known as S-Woww Tittybang". Today, she's the poster girl of Knight Templar Parent.
- Sharon (Stan's mom) also appears to be an example of this. She and Randy were both hippies in the 60's. While Randy is essentially a Man Child, Sharon is a pretty strict and upright parent.
- The Legendof Zelda The titular Princess Zelda. She has a tough girl attitude in a reversal from her Distressed Damsel video game counterpart. She's rude and crude to Link, doesn't constantly get kidnapped, actually rescues Link a few times, isn't afraid of Ganon, and can hold her own in a fight.
- Some former gang-members and thieves have gone on to become police officers and security alarm manufacturers, using what they learned from their former life to their advantage in their careers.
- A Real Life example is Johnny Depp, who was once a conceited, self-centered Jerk Ass young actor who openly dissed the Academy and Hollywood in general. After several arrests and the birth of his first child, Depp has "grown up" and become a serious and respected actor. The Academy doesn't seem willing to let him live it down, though.
- Right-wing Republican author P.J. O'Rourke was an anarchist hippy. What changed? "I got my first paycheck".
- A common story with many hippies and flower children from the 1960's and 70's as well. After they grew up, got out of the hippie phase, and had kids of their own they freaked out just like their parents did with them once the kids started Sex Drugs And Rockn Roll for themselves and tried to differentiate their experiences from those of their kids, with the most common justification being that it was "just so much more innocent then".
- Johnny Cash embraced Christianity after he earned a reputation as an outlaw in his twenties and thirties. He wound up using his experiences to serve as a strong advocate for social justice and prison reform, but themes of guilt and repentance were fairly common in his lyrics all the same. (He originally attempted to break in as a gospel singer, as seen in The Movie. He left his original label because they wouldn't let him record gospel stuff.)
- Stephen Fry. As a teenager he was expelled from school twice, was a serial thief, and served several months in prison; now he's well-known as "the politest man in England."
- Alice Cooper, original shock rocker, has a Christian summer camp for troubled youth and owns a sports-themed BBQ joint. Cooper found Christianity in the mid-1970s during treatment for alcoholism. While his music act hasn't changed much, he's very careful to keep his stage persona seperate from who he really is.
- Believe it or not, Ben Stein (of "Bueller....Bueller...." fame) wasn't quite so stuffy when he was in college 40 years ago and was protesting the Vietnam War. (Even more shockingly, his mother approved of it!)
- And everyone's favorite sardonic moralist, Bill O'Reilly , was - by his own admission - quite the womanizer back in The Seventies.
- Myster writer Anne Perry, who was revealed to be murderer Juliet Hulme after the release of the movie Heavenly Creatures.
- Considering just how notorious Murphy Brown was In-Universe, it might not be a surprise that Candice Bergen was pretty rebellious. One prank she was a part of (when she was 21, which kind of deflates the "teen" part) required a temporary shut down of the New York Stock Exchange.
- Jack Kerouac, whose semi-autobiographical novel On the Road became a counterculture icon, ultimately became a political conservative and observant Catholic - albeit one still more than happy to partake in frequent recreational drug use. Stories tell of him getting smoking pot, watching the McCarthy trials on TV, and rooting enthusiastically against the communists.
- Glen Matlock, former bass player of The Sex Pistols, named his autobiography "I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol". In an interview in 2005, he expressed contempt for gratuitous swearing in modern society.