"Glynnis, she has a birth certificate, she has my photograph and she has my eyes."
We all know the basic Mendelian model of inheritance; traits are usually either dominant or recessive. Having one copy of a dominant allele means that the person will express the dominant trait, and the only way for someone to express a recessive trait requires having two copies of a recessive allele. Even outside of scientific terms, it's common reasoning that certain traits tend to run in families and we expect relatives to "match" in some way.
These facts are sometimes ignored in Hollywood casting, which can end up having (biological) families looking like just a random group of people. As a result, you'll see blondes having black-haired
children, biracial people who look more black/Asian/etc.
than their black/Asian/etc. parent, inexplicably large discrepancies in height between parents and children
, and so on.
Sometimes families can look so unrelated that it can take focus from the story. "Where did Alice get black hair and brown eyes if Bob and Carol are green-eyed redheads?"
This can even interfere with the plot if a physical resemblance is a plot point (especially in an adaptation when characters get an Adaptation Dye-Job
or otherwise don't match the physical description of the character in the original work).
There are certain justifications
; the mechanics behind real life genetic inheritance are more complicated
than the Mendelian model, which doesn't factor in mutations, malfunctions, and polygenetic traits. Also, casting around to get the most plausible genetics is not always practical—after all, you're not going to turn down Harrison Ford
for a part because his eyes are the wrong color.
On the other hand, you don't have that excuse in non-visual media or in animation where the powers that be have complete control over how characters look. And you could always give Harrison Ford contacts.
Compare Identical Grandson
, Uncanny Family Resemblance
, and Patchwork Kids
, which can veer too far in the opposite direction. When done intentionally, the dissimilar child is a Chocolate Baby
. Compare also Random Species Offspring
when even the species
of the offspring is different from the parents. Also see LEGO Genetics
, for the Science Fiction
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Anime & Manga
General note before adding examples:note
- Dragon Ball was fairly realistic in this, especially considering the prevalence of You Gotta Have Blue Hair, and the exceptions are in the vein of Uncanny Family Resemblance rather than this trope.
- Bulma has her mother's blue eyes (not obvious since her mother's eyes are normally closed) and her father's purple hair, both of which she passed on to her children Trunks and Bra. Trunks has Vegeta's skin color,eye shape and eyebrows, while Bra is more or less a clone of her mother.note
- As a little girl, Krillin and Android 18's daughter Marron looks just like Krillin with 18's hair color, including having no nose. By Dragonball GT, she looks just like her mother, and bears little resemblance to her father.
- Gohan looks like both of his parents, while Goten looks exactly like Goku did in the original Dragonball, including his hairstyle. Gohan's daughter Pan in turn inherited the shape of her mother Videl's eyes but his eye color.
- Naruto averts this in general; if a character has an unusual hair color or facial feature, it's normally accounted for in their family— in the title character's case, his Implausible Hair Color and eye color were inherited from his father, while the shape of his face was inherited from his mother. Sasuke and Itachi Uchiha look exactly like their mother Mitoko except for the creases under their father Fugaku's eyes that Itachi inherited. Sakura's pink hair was inherited from her father (albeit his is a darker shade), while based on her mother's rather extreme bangs it's obvious who Sakura got her Forehead of Doom from.
- Invoked for the merfolk in One Piece: due to their unusual biolgy, merfolk carry the genes of all their immediate ancestors, so family members are not even guaranteed to be of the same species. These three◊ are full-brothers. Compare them in both appearance and size to their sister.◊
- Chibi-Usa from Sailor Moon generated a ton of Wild Mass Guessing and Fan Wank back in the day because her coloration (pink hair, red eyes) was so different from that of her parents (blonde, blue-eyed Usagi and black haired, blue-eyed Mamoru). According to Word of God, her coloration was meant to make her resemble a baby rabbit to match her Punny Name. Also, hair colors in the manga weren't static—sometimes her mother Usagi was depicted with silver hair and even pink hair in her original design. Usagi herself is the daughter of a purple-haired mother and a black-haired, dark-eyed father and has a brother with light brown hair and dark blue eyes.
- Tenchi Muyo! is a strong aversion, even regarding facial features. In fact, the only character whose look isn't readily accounted for in their family is Tenchi's mother Kiyone (silver hair and gray eyes while her parents have black hair/brown eyes and green hair/yellow eyes), and since she and her parents are two different kinds of Human Aliens, we have no idea how their genetics exactly work anyway.
- Actually invoked in the main continuity with Aeka. She was born with curly aqua-green hair like her mother and sister, but later underwent gene manipulation to activate her father's genes for straight purple hair. She wanted her hair to be darker to look more like her black-haired stepmother Funaho so she could win the affections of her half-brother/fiancé, Yosho.
- Depending on the Artist, Spider-Man's Mary Jane Watson inherited her red hair from her father. Her mother is blonde... which means her mother either dyes her hair or there is a huge elephant in the room, as the older daughter Gayle is a dark brunette. You know, Gayle being the product of an extramarital affair could partially explain why their father was such an Abusive Parent...
- Despite being a clone of Wolverine, Laura Kinney, a.k.a X-23 of X-Men is portrayed as having similar features to her mother Dr. Sarah Kinney, who while not genetically related to her, carried her to term. Some stories claim that Dr. Kinney used some of her own DNA to stabilize the sample they had from Wolverine since it was damaged (which is the canon reason she's an Opposite-Sex Clone, since the original sample of Wolverine's DNA was apparently missing its Y chromosome), which would partially justify it
- Also from X-Men, supervillain Vulcan is the black-haired son of brown-haired Corsair and blonde Katherine Summers. The black hair could be part of his mutation, though.
Films — Animated
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible is blond and Elastigirl is a redhead. Dash has blond hair, Violet has jet-black hair, and Jack-Jack's is strawberry blond/red. Dash's and Jack-Jack's hair colors are plausible. Violet's hair color is not, unless she has some sort of science-defying mutant superhero hair gene (perhaps the gene was not dominant because it's invisible?) or (more likely) hair dye was involved.
Films — Live Action
- Harry Potter inherited his mother Lily's Green Eyes, which is a plot point. In the film adaptations, blue-eyed Daniel Radcliffe was cast. This is fine in and of itself, since they also cast blue-eyed Geraldine Somerville as his mother, preserving the similarity. However in the film version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, during a flashback which detailed her childhood, the actress cast had deep brown eyes. Radcliffe also attempted to wear green contact lenses for close-up shots, but they irritated his eyes rather badly.
- The DVD cover for Les Misérables (2012) calls attention to a minor example of this trope. Fantine has brown eyes, while her daughter has deep blue eyes as a child, but green eyes as an adult.
- Terminator 2 has brown-haired, brown-eyed Edward Furlong play the offspring of blonde, gray-eyed Linda Hamilton and blond, blue-eyed Michael Biehn. It's also a retcon because Kyle mentions that John has Sarah's eyes.
- Many musicals, especially onstage, will completely drop any attempts at realism and go for color-blind casting, often intentionally casting different races in the role of family members. One of the most memorable examples of this in film is Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella starring Brandi. The king is white, the queen is black, and their son is Asian. And it was completely intentional. You're not supposed to care. In the same film, the Wicked Stepmother and one of the stepsisters are white, while the other stepsister is black.
- Similarly, Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing casts Denzel Washington as Don Pedro and Keanu Reeves as his brother, Don John (the bastard son of their father). Given both that and the relative quality of their acting, it takes quite the Willing Suspension of Disbelief to go along with it.
- Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare: Red-haired Robert Englund and a red-haired mother equals...Latina Elizabeth Peña?
- Fireflies In The Garden casts Ryan Reynolds as the grown-up offspring of Julia Roberts and Willem Dafoe. While this is doubtful, it's not quite as doubtful as the idea of Roberts and Hayden Panettiere being sisters (and as for Panettiere growing up to look like Emily Watson...).
- In Family Business Sean Connery plays Dustin Hoffman's father, while Hoffman in turn is Matthew Broderick's dad. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...
- Hollywood Genetics: Dredd is convicted of murder because bullets from a Lawgiver pistol are tagged with the DNA of the Judge who fired them, and forensic examination revealed the tag to match up with Dredd ( and were actually from his twin brother Rico. It doesn't seem like the DNA should match to begin with, as Rico is clearly not an identical twin of Dredd, which is the only case where they'd have the same DNA.
- Similar to the examples in the film series, in Harry Potter, JK Rowling really didn't pay attention in high school bio. Though magical abilities seem to act recessively (e.g. two non-magical parents can have a magical child), Rowling ''says'' that it's actually dominant and can "become dormant" in certain lineages and resurface later. (This would explain squibs— muggles from magical families).
- Believe it or not, one fan explained a method, and wrote a six page biological paper on it. It utilizes the mechanism of single nucleotide repeats, the same mechanism for Huntington's disease.
- A plot point in A Song of Ice and Fire. King Robert Baratheon had black hair and blue eyes and Queen Cersei Lannister is blond with green eyes and all three of their children are blond with green eyes as well. But all of Robert's known bastards are black-haired and every other time their houses have intermarried the children have had black hair so Ned Stark figures out that Cersei's kids were actually sired by her brother. It's plausible to put the Baratheon children's paternity in doubt, since having three children in a row with the same recessive trait only expressed by one parent is unlikely, but having a trait stick so tenaciously to one family after centuries of mixed breeding is extremely unlikely. A child has to inherit one allele or another from each parent, even if it isn't expressed.
- In many of the Chivalric Romances, Percival has a half-brother with a white father and black mother. The brother is piebald (that is to say, he has light and dark patches of skin like a checkerboard).
- Gaia Online, otherwise pretty good about NPC hair colors, retconned Ian into being a vampire in '07, around the time his father Vladimir was introduced (and killed). Ian's hair has since been recolored black, which he says is his natural color. The problem? Vlad has been confirmed as having dark brown, possibly even auburn, hair, and Ian's late mother Rosalie was a blonde.
- Despite this, it appears black in the manga, so it could be a retcon.
- Xenogears plays with this—because both of her parents are blond (as is everyone else on the Floating Continent Solaris) and she's a redhead, Elly feels like a literal Red-Headed Stepchild to her mother, thinking that her real mother was her red-haired nanny. However, this is both plausible (the way red hair works genetically allows for blonds to be recessive for it) and a moot point anyway, since the reason she looks like she does is because she is a Reincarnation of The Anti-Type.
- Played oh-so-straight in Solatorobo, where not only can vastly different races within the species breed freely (foxes with wolves and housecats with lions, for example), but Caninu and Felineko can have children with no problems as well. To top off the Hollywood Genetics, their offspring will be either Caninu or Felineko, not some sort of dog-cat hybrid.
- A minor yet noticeable example in Pokemon Black and White: Cilan, Chili, and Cress are triplets with different hair and eye colors. Bonus points for each of them having their hair and eyes match each other AND their specialty Type all in one.
- Karen is the only girl in Harvest Moon 64 who has less than a passing resemblance to her implied grandmother, Eve from the first title. The only resemblance is that Eve has blonde hair, while Karen has blonde... bangs.
- Invoked via the musical example in Kevin & Kell, where in a production of West Habitat Story Fiona, a fox, is cast as Maria, while Rudy, a wolf, is cast as Maria's brother. Granted, Rudy does have some fox ancestry in him but he looks and identifies as a wolf. And it becomes moot when he's recast as Maria's would-be fiancé anyway.
- Tony and Megan from The Amazing Spiez are Ambiguously Brown, while neither their parents nor other siblings are.
- In the American Dad! episode "The Kidney Stays In The Picture", it is revealed that Francine slept with another man right before her and Stan's wedding, meaning Haley may not be his biological daughter. Francine is a brunette who dyes her hair blonde. Stan and Haley both have black hair. The man Francine slept with had brown hair. The one thing Haley and him have in common? A bandana. The funny thing is that many viewers would have thought their son Steve would have a different father, due to him having brown hair, but even if Francine was a natural blonde, such an outcome is far from unlikely.
- In Batman Beyond, Terry's mother was a redhead and his dad was blond, but Terry and his little brother had black hair. In the Distant Finale which was also a Fully Absorbed Finale (the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue") it was revealed that Bruce Wayne is Terry's biological father by way of Cadmus mad science, fixing the whole mess. Apparently an Author's Saving Throw as a solution to people noting its impossibility (it also helps that Terry's parents already had marital issues that suspected infidelity could have contributed to). Note that it never occurred to anyone to simply suggest that his mother dyes her hair...
- From Danny Phantom Sam Manson has black hair while her father and mother have blond hair and red hair respectively. Someone in the family probably dyes their hair. Given the fact that Sam's a Goth, it's most likely her.
- Family Guy has brown-haired Fat Idiot Bumbling Dad Peter and red-haired Lois. Their children are brown-haired Butt Monkey Meg and Brainy Baby Stewie (Stewie Griffin: the Untold Story confirms this) and blond Chris. In and of itself, this is reasonable; Peter could have a recessive blond gene (which will dominate the red). However then we get Bertram, the kids' half-brother on their father's side. He has red hair, even as a sperm cell. Peter's biological father is red-headed, so he is definitely carrying the genes of red hair for Bertram to inherit, but it's very unlikely that he's masking blond hair, too. The fact that Lois is redheaded means that she most likely only has genes for red hair, so barring a mutation, it can't come from her, either.
- On The Jetsons, George and Jane Jetson are both redheads, yet their children Judy and Elroy are both blonde (Judy's being platinum, to be specific).
- In the prequel to Disney's The Little Mermaid, both King Triton and his wife have red hair; this means their children can only have red hair, but Ariel is the only redhead among the seven princesses. Either merpeople's dominant and recessive genes are different from humans', or...
- Queen Athena has a blue tail and King Triton's is blue-green. Their daughters' tails are a literal rainbow (red, orange, yellow, sea green, blue, pink and purple).
- The Broadway stage production is even weirder, since Triton is black, and his daughters are variously Asian, black, and white with a rainbow of different hair colors. And they all have the same color tail, more or less.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Baby Cakes", Mr. and Mrs. Cake (both earth ponies) have twins, who are a pegasus and a unicorn. Mr. Cake hastily explains that he has a unicorn ancestor, and Mrs. Cake has a pegasus ancestor, then sheepishly adds "That makes sense, right?" While the girl (the unicorn) has the same coloration as Mr. Cake at least, the boy has a completely different color pelt, mane, and eyes.
- What really drives the trope home: Mrs. Cake's pegasus ancestor was her great-aunt's second cousin twice-removed. Mrs. Cake does not actually share any DNA with this pegasus, yet she somehow passed it on to her son.
- In South Park, Kenny is blond, his parents have brown hair (his father) and red hair (his mother), and his older brother and younger sister also have brown hair. The reason could be some people have blond hair as children and light brown hair as adults, but as stated before, Karen already has brown hair.
- In Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, an interracial Official Couple emerged at the end featuring dark-skinned, ethnically Romani Esmeralda and blonde, Caucasian adonis Phoebus. Come 2002, a direct-to-video sequel was released, in which Haley Joel Osment plays Esmeralda and Phoebus' son.. who is a complete carbon copy of his father, equally blonde and white. Dark melanin pigmentation genes are stronger than light ones, and though not entirely dominant, this should result in a skin tone slightly lighter than Esmeralda's. And blonde hair is genetically completely implausible with Esmeralda's dark hair being a dominant gene over the recessive gene of Phoebus' blonde hair.
- In short, the only way to explain the child's completely white appearance is a retroactive Race Lift to Esmeralda, who, ironically, was already subject to a Race Lift in the original, going from a white girl adopted by Roma in the original book to a born one in the film.
- In the DC Comics-based superhero series Young Justice, the Dark-Skinned Blond teenage superheroine Artemis is the biracial daughter of blond, caucasian supervillain Sportsmaster and the Vietnamese-American reformed supervillain Huntress. While not outright impossible (presumably if there was a blond, caucasian ancestor on her mother's side) Artemis' hair colour is, at best, unlikely. She's actually based on the daughter of one of the show's producers who is half-Korean on both sides (both parents are mixed race) and a natural blonde.
- The Simpsons: Homer (had brown hair) and Marge (blue hair) have three blonde kids. None of the Bouviers are blonde, and Abe Simpson also had brown hair...
- One episode claims that Bart's natural hair color is red.