Scientists have a recurring problem when it comes to finding human test subjects. But rather than kidnap people off the street
, or experiment on himself
, this one chooses to use his family as guinea pigs.
Maybe it's because family members, having grown up on stories of his science, are easily convinced to volunteer. Perhaps they are The Caretaker
of an Ill Girl
(or spouse) and the whole point of his experiments is to find a cure. Or most horrifying of all, he decides that big bro is expendable
, or he can make more of Timmy
the old fashioned way (cloning
, of course!) For some reason, most scientists rarely use their parents as test subjects, though such testing can
travel down family lines as a tradition.
The results run the gamut. The family member may be given super powers
, cured of an illness, mutated into a horrible monster, or killed
(this last one will generally turn a normal scientist into the mad variety
). Depending on circumstances they may also turn evil
or stay good, and if their family member is of the opposite alignment
they might rebel
. If this testing is done to more than one family member, it becomes a natural evolution to Secret Project Refugee Family
(sometimes without the Refugee part).
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Anime and Manga
- The Lvellie family in D.Gray-Man. It has been implied that many of these Lvellie family members died through becoming Fallen Ones. Hevlaska is hinted at being one of the first girls 'offered' to the cause over a century ago.
- Fullmetal Alchemist. Shou, afraid that lack of results would strip him of funding, tested out his alchemy on his family including his young daughter and led to their tragic demise. This event became a defining motivator for the protagonists' journey throughout the work.
- One of Rumiko Takahashi's short stories involved a boy whose parents kept experimenting on him as part of their 'get rich quick' schemes.
- In all variants of Bubble Gum Crisis (the comic, the anime, the reboot), Professor Stingray experimented on his daughter Sylia. Some cases it was because his family was sick, other cases because his family was just available.
- Baccano!'s Chane Laforet was actually born as the result of an experiment — namely, her Mad Scientist father Huey was curious as to whether or not his immortality could be inherited. It's not exactly known if he continues to experiment on her (besides the obvious emotional manipulation), but Huey does refer to her as a guinea pig on a regular basis.
- Franken Fran has Fran turn her "little sister" Veronica into one of these over their differing opinions on life (i.e. Veronica thinks it's better to let someone die than subject them to a Fate Worse than Death).
- Crona of Soul Eater was the subject of hir mother, Medusa's, experiments with Black Blood to create a new Kishin. When she decided the experiment failed she planned to abandon Crona until finding another use for hir, then giving Crona another shot at hir original purpose.
- This trope is comically mentioned in the end of the manga, when we find out Stein and Marie are having a baby; Stein describes it as getting another guinea pig. Hopefully he was just kidding....
- Bleach: Mayuri Kurotsuchi didn't have a family to use as guinea pigs, so he made one. This doesn't stop him from grabbing unwilling test subjects (usually he does this when he finds someone that already has an usual ability, something that he'd like to find out how to enhance and/or replicate...without giving a damn whether they survive the process), but it seems that his two favorite things to experiment on are his daughter Nemu and himself.
- Not his family, but Mayuri's (less) Evil Counterpart in the Espada, Syazel Apporo Granz, modified and created his Fraccion (Mooks) so that, if he was injured, they can regenerate him...by eating them. However, Szayel does play this straight—he has an older brother, Yylfordt, whom Szayel conducted his research on without Yylfordt knowing. Of these, Szayel seems most proud of surveillance bugs placed inside Yylfordt to where Szayel refers to his brother as a "box" that was opened through his death.
- A Certain Scientific Railgun reveals Telestina as the subject of experiments by her grandfather.
- Professor Watabe of Psychic Academy treats his daughter Mew like this. It's so extreme that he never bothered to name her: Mew Baurra is the first two pieces of her Aura Code, not an actual name. She is technically nameless until Ai arbitrarily gives her a name... when she's about 16. Watabe's experiments grant her considerable power - at the cost of her powers being uncontrollable while in certain mental states, capable of damaging her own health if she uses them too much, and the sprinklers that went off whenever she lost control during experiments and set the room on fire gave her a crippling fear of rain.
- The Code Geass novels seem to take this route, a bit: Nunnally's hinted at, but never explained in the anime, psychic powers are a result of experimentation with Geass while she was in the womb, and her psychosomatic blindness was an attempt to get her to use those abilities. For the record, they seem to be reception-only touch telepathy and some sort of sensory ability. Considering the number of elements added to the second series from other spin-offs - specifically, Lost Colour's Knight Of Nine, and Cornelia's two wing-girls who join the Valkyrie squadron after her disappearance - it's not completely impossible that it was added into the background. Just look through the two seasons and count how often Nunnally seems to be able to detect something that she shouldn't really be able to.
- Fanfiction also sometimes takes the route of certain Imperial Family members unusual hair colours being a result of basic genetic modification. Even if it's gotten to the point where no one really questions pink and purple hair, it's nice for it to make sense every now and again.
- Cyborg 009's Ivan Whiskey was experimented on by his father Gamo and turned into Cyborg 001, a powerful psychic. Because he was converted into a cyborg when he was just a few months old, he'll be stuck in the body of an infant forever. This is also a case of Love Makes You Evil, as Gamo first converted Ivan in order to save his life.
- If one includes the 2007 adaptation of Skull Man, then Black Ghost is actually Joe/009's father, though neither is aware of this.
- Graham in Superior used his daughter Rossi in what's initially described as an experiment to create a universal poison antidote. It sort of worked. (Later, we get a much more alarming description of his goal: to transform a human into a monster without killing her in the process. He actually succeeded, although since Rossi doesn't suffer from the bodily degeneration common in transformed humans, she can easily pass as human.)
- Grisha Jaeger in Attack on Titan apparently did this with Eren. It's unclear as to how much of an experiment it was, but given that he had full access to Mikasa (who is basically a level above Eren in almost every possible way) but doesn't seem to have done anything with her, he seems to have decided to keep it in the family.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera has the Repo Man try to save his wife this way... she dies. Of course, Rotti had a hand in that failure.
- In the 2003 Hulk film, Bruce's origin story is expanded upon: the Freak Lab Accident doesn't give him super-powers by itself, but triggers a mutation caused by his father experimenting on him when he was a baby. There was also some overlap with Professor Guinea Pig, as his father had initially been experimenting on himself, and some of the resulting mutations were passed on to Bruce.
- In the backstory to Scanners, Dr. Paul Ruth created a tranquilizer drug for pregnant women, and the first test subject was his own pregnant wife. Everything seemed to be okay, so he put the drug into circulation, and they used it again the second time she got pregnant. Little did Ruth realize, it created a Bizarre Baby Boom, of which his own sons were the most bizarre.
- In the horror film Manster, it's revealed that besides the American journalist, the Mad Scientist used his brother and his wife as his first experiments. Neither turn out well at all.
- The scientist Will Rodman in Rise of the Planet of the Apes uses an experimental drug on his father, who has Alzheimer's. Poor John Lithgow.
- The novel Killing Time by Caleb Carr has an example of this trope.
- In John Wyndham's Trouble with Lichen, a scientist who has created an anti-aging drug uses it on his children, telling them it's a vitamin shot. They take it surprisingly calmly when he finally tells them the truth, though in all fairness he did have the good grace to conduct more conventional tests first.
- The novel Gladiator explores some of the consequences of this trope.
- In the Petaybee series, the Shongilis. Apparently Granddaddy Shongili meddled enough with his own genetics to produce at least one selkie (Sean) a few generations later. Sean's kids are natural-born selkies as well.
- In James Patterson's Maximum Ride, Max's father Jeb experiments on her and the Flock, and then whisks them away to safety.
- In This Immortal by Roger Zelazny, the Absent-Minded Professor borderline Evilutionary Biologist (he euthanized the last dog on earth) George Emmet wanted to experiment on his children...but his wife put her foot down.
- The Mortal Instruments: Valentine experimented on his own children in the womb to create better Shadowhunters. He infused Jonathan/Sebastian with demon blood, which made him horrifically strong but had the unfortunate side-effects of making him soulless and Jocelyn depressed. To make her feel better he gave her angel blood, not knowing she was pregnant with Clary at the time...
- Mentioned as background in Masked Dog by Raymond Obstfeld, about a criminal used to test an experimental drug who escapes after murdering the scientist who gave it to him. It's mentioned that the scientist in question used his own son in a study on predicting behaviour. Every action was videotaped for years until the day his son ended the experiment by sticking a .22 in his mouth and pulling the trigger.
Live Action TV
- The Twilight Zone TOS episode "Mute". Two parents make their daughter the subject of an experiment: to induce telepathic ability in her by never speaking to her.
- Simon and River Tam of Firefly are a more benign version of this as it was part of being The Caretaker and of course she knew perfectly well that he would have to learn on the job because getting outside help was impossible, and he obviously hated it very much. One hesitates to put this here as it was clearly not the same sort of thing as the more sinister examples and there were no other options. But the description above does say that this would fit.
- Kevin Fawkes implants the Quicksilver gland in his brother Darien's head, turning Darien into the Invisible Man.
- On LOST, Juliet tests her fertility research on her sister Rachel, who is infertile due to chemotherapy. It pays off for Rachel, though, when the research works and she ends up getting the baby she always wanted.
- In an early episode of Fringe, it was strongly implied that Walter experimented on his son Peter as a child though this hasn't been revisited since.
- In Two and a Half Men, Walden's mother Robin, a primatologist, raised Walden and a baby gorilla at the same time as an experiment, even going so far as to freeze Walden's embryo to make sure he and the gorilla were born at the same time. Walden does not take the revelation well; he thought "Magilla" was an imaginary friend, and was so traumatized when the gorilla was taken away that he believed he would be sent to the jungle if he misbehaved. All things considered, Walden turned out relatively well, and as Alan points out, compared to his own mother, Robin was Mother of the Year.
- In Doctor Who, Winifred Gillyflower from The Crimson Horror used her own daughter Ada to develop an anti-toxin to the poison produced by Mr. Sweet, a prehistoric parasite. The experiments left her blinded and badly scarred, which prompts Ada to exact revenge by killing Mr. Sweet.
- In The Big Bang Theory Leonard's mother, a psychologist, apparently treated her children this way. Needless to say it practically drove Leonard crazy.
- The fact that in Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth was implanted with Jenova cells while still in the womb by his father, Hojo, definitely counts. Things went badly.
- Caulder/Stolos' family in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin were an experiment in human cloning, and his son Cyrus a (scrapped) Guinea Pig for Grand Theft Me on top of it.
- The remake of Resident Evil added Lisa Trevor. Her father George Trevor was the architect who designed the Arklay mansion. When he discovers the mansion true purpose he is killed by Spencer and kidnaps his wife and daughter to be used as guinea pigs for Umbrella's viral experiments. The mother died, but Lisa managed to survive everything that was injected into her, which drove ehr insane and made her invulnerable.
- Heinrich von Raitenau in Trauma Center: Under The Knife 2 uses his own children as Sinners: Living incubators for the man-made pathogen GUILT.
- Played with in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Fayt and Maria were experimented on by their parents and subsequently given reality bending superpowers. Their parents are not malicious in nature however, as they were trying to give them the abilities to save the universe from being destroyed. They also explicitly state that they used their own children as they felt it would be wrong to ask another person's child to shoulder their sins.
- Relius Clover from BlazBlue turned his daughter into a mechanical super weapon and then used the data to turn his wife into an even more powerful machine.
- Aperture Science eventually resorted to using its own employees as test subjects, not because of any malicious intent, but simply because its star had fallen so low that it was barely hovering above sea level. And this was after a period where they used homeless people off the street.
- That's because when they were using hobos, they were still paying their test subjects (Sixty bucks a head, and a whole twenty minutes in the breakroom if you survive the test! Wow!). Whether or not the employees are still getting paid or if they're just under some kind of contractual obligation whether the paycheck is coming in or not isn't made clear. It does explicitly mention that the CEO isn't exempt; he's the guy who got to discover that if you grind moon rocks into powder and put it in Mobility Gel base, it's poisonous.
- This is the central premise of Johnny Test, with far more Snap Backs than usual for the trope.
- Richard Impossible of The Venture Bros. at the very least uses his brother in law, whose skin ignites in fire when in contact with air as a power source. Also Dr. Venture uses his sons basically as walking organ banks and had dozens of clones of them, until all the clones were destroyed.
- This is the explanation Dr. Paradigm gives as to how the Street Sharks came about - that their evil scientist father mutated them into shark/human hybrids. Subverted in that the heroes all know full well that Paradigm was the one who mutated them.
- Not uncommon for researchers in such areas as child psychology and child language acquisition. (They may also acquire experiment subjects otherwise and add the researchers' own offspring to boost the sample size, as some researches require large groups and control groups.) Of course, truth is usually less scary than fiction (although it still isn't always harmless).
- Not For Science!, but Munchausen-by-proxy in action tends to look like this; a parent fakes or induces illness in their child for attention ("Look at me and my sick kid!").