A variation on the Odd Couple, involving a white person and a black person. Usually, the white person is a strait-laced by-the-book type, while the black person is a funky, urban type who doesn't have much respect for authority. Most commonly, they're cops, assigned as partners after their old partners die/get disgusted and walk away. Generally, the two make a fairly good team if they can work out the personality clashes, with the strengths of one covering for the weaknesses of the other.
Salt And Pepper seems to be becoming subverted more often today due to increased racial awareness, so that it's the white person who's a rebellious hothead, and the black person is smart and savvy. Another common subversion is for the black guy to be uptight and the white guy to be relaxed. An alternate version is a pairing of a white character with a Hispanic character called a Cafe con Leche. Please note, however, that being two different races isn't enough for this trope. There must be some kind of contrast in their personalities for it to work.
For American media, this may be more common in the movies (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard 1 2 and 3) than on TV as television shows often seem more segregated.
See also Black Best Friend. Irishman And A Jew is an older variation of this trope. If they're not different races, the trope is All Work vs. All Play.
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A 2006 series of Twinings tea commercials in the UK featured the incredibly English Stephen Fry (the "face" of Twinings since 2005) running a tea shop with a Jive Turkey named Tyrone, who suggested the Earl Grey slogan could be "Feel the zing in your ding-a-ling!"
Anime and Manga
The anime and manga series Blood+ pairs thin, ultraserious, white David with fat, easygoing, black Lewis.
However, despite his personality, Lewis tends to be on top of things and surprisingly competent.
This also features a potential inversion/subversion with the reserved and serious (black) James and the flamboyant and affectionate (white) Nathan. Both are Diva's Chevaliers, but they never actually work together in battle. Still, if all the touching and flirting is anything to go by, Nathan certainly wants them to be an Odd Couple.
Bleach gives us Urahara and Yoruichi, which play this trope straight and invert it. When it comes to their everyday personalities, Yoruichi is a vivacious flirtatious pepper while Urahara is a hard-to-read trickster salt. However, when it comes to mentoring Ichigo, Urahara is batshit insane white pepper of a Sink or Swim Mentor, while Yoruichi is a calm and controlled black salt whose tests, while equally dangerous, are a lot less wacky.
Iron Fist (white martial arts master raised in an other-dimensional city) and Power Man (wrongfully accused black ex-con living in Times Square and freelancing as a superhero) in the Marvel comic Heroes for Hire. Both were created in the '70s during the kung-fu and blaxploitation crazes. Best Odd Couple ever.
From the same era are the Daughters of the Dragon: the asian Colleen Wing and black Misty Knight, combining inspirations from Charlie's Angels and Cleopatra Jones.
And The Defiant Ones gets another nod in the supervillains Hammer and Anvil, a pair of escaped convicts whose powers and lives are linked by the chain that binds them.
Quantum and Woody (uptight middle-class black guy, street smart white guy, sharing a power ala The Defiant Ones) was a later take on the Power Man/Iron Fist idea by Christopher Priest, who used to write the comic. Quantum and Woody are even briefly shown dressed as Luke and Danny during a costume shop montage.
Tom and Sarah Dubois in The Boondocks are an inversion. Tom is the straightest-laced character in the show; whereas Sarah, his white wife, is at least naughty enough to fileshare, and is irked by her husband's irrational fear of getting caught breaking the law.
There is also the USAgent and Battle Star, a b-list Anti-Hero Substitute to Cap and his African American partner. Agent is the more violent of the two while Battle Star is more sensible.
Gorsky and Butch - at one point they argued which of them should be the relaxed one. Generally, Gorsky (who, despite the Polish surname is the black one) tends to be the smarter and more experienced - except for his unfortunate tendency to walk right into every Stereotype Reaction Gag that comes his way.
DC's Firestorm can be this all by himself, since he's a fusion of two separate characters in a single body. The writers tend to like to pick distinctly different personalities (who may not even like each other much).
In Keepers of the Elements, there are two notable subversions. With Travis and Milah, Travis is the straight-laced, by the book one and Milah is is the more outgoing, risk-taking one. The other subversion is that of Nasira and Hasim, Nasira being the straight-laced one and Hasim is the fun loving one, who while he doesn't go against the rules, is certainly more flexible when it comes to them.
The 1958 film The Defiant Ones follows escaped, shackled-together convicts Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, as their mutual hostility slowly turns into an unlikely friendship.
Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo in Brians Song. Brian is the loud goofy one while Gale is the quiet and reserved one.
Agent J, played by Will Smith, and Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones, from the Men In Black movies and animated series (in the original comic, both were white) are partners. Kay exhibits a very serious demeanor, rarely joking or smiling and giving very matter-of-fact responses. Jay has an energetic, enthusiastic attitude and refusal to strictly follow authority that Kay admired when he first met NYPD officer James Edwards who would become Agent J.
This is occasionally lampshaded, such as K (Tommy Lee Jones) giving his name as "Mr. Black" and his partner (Will Smith) as "Mr. White"
Further subversion in the Lethal Weapon series: the by-the-book (and black) Roger Murtaugh is nearing retirement from the police force, while new partner Martin Riggs is the eponymous lethal weapon.
Blazing Saddles was intended to be another Wilder/Pryor pairing as the Waco Kid and Black Bart, respectively, but Cleavon Little ultimately received the Bart role, with Pryor remaining behind the scenes as co-writer.
Reversed in The Man, featuring all-business Samuel L. Jackson opposite trying-too-hard-to-be-cool-and-failing-horribly Eugene Levy, and used straight in two Queen Latifah movies: Taxi, opposite Jimmy Fallon, and Bringing Down the House, opposite Steve Martin.
Osmosis Jones is this, on a microcosmic level- Ozzy is a white blood cell paired with a cold pill. The voice actors being Chris Rock and David Hyde Pierce make it apparent from first glance this is the trope they were implying.
Samuel L. Jackson was paired with Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, first as Scary Black Man and Scared White Captive, then it looked like it would be played straight, then it was inverted after Geena recovered her memory of being a pro assassin, and became scarier.
James Belushi and Tupac Shakur in Gang Related. Both corrupt cops, but Tupac's character is the more sensible of the two.
Stretch and Spoon, played by Tupac Shakur and and Tim Roth in Gridlock'd.
No less than three sets in King Of New York: drug lord Frank White (salt) and his right-hand goon Jimmy Jump (pepper), Frank's Bodyguard Babes Melanie (salt) and Raye (pepper), and Rabid Cops Denis Gilley (salt) and Tommy Flanigan (pepper).
Just to clarify, "Vega" can be a Russian surname instead of a Spanish one. So this isn't necessarily "Cafe Con Pepper."
The 1985 film White Knights was a star vehicle for both the white (Russian/naturalized American) ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and the black (American) tap dancer Gregory Hines. In a subversion, the black character was much more cautious than the white character, who was bolder and a bigger troublemaker.
A good example is The Color of Friendship about Mahree Bok, an snobby white South African who is excited about spending a semester in America and Piper Dellums, her black host family sister who is eager to get back to her African roots.
Robinson Crusoe and Friday are probably the Ur Example. It should be noted that Friday is actually not black in the original book: he's a Carib Indian from the Orinoco River delta region. (Crusoe's Caribbean island is in the mouth of the Orinoco.) But so many adaptations over the centuries have Race Lifted him as black that most people now think of him as such. Crusoe and Friday also share the traditional characteristics of this trope as a straitlaced, rather stodgy white man and his more vibrant, flamboyant brown sidekick.
Detritus and Cuddy (and later Littlebottom) in Discworld are a troll/dwarf partnership. Trolls being naturally stone-cool, and dwarfs being fairly uptight.
In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester. Roz is black, and is deeply cynical and usually the by-the-book type. Chris is white, and very idealistic.
Angel: Wes and Gunn, who notably reversed roles during the show's run. Wes started out as a strait-laced, tightly-wound British stereotype and evolved into a brooding, morally ambiguous badass, while Gunn started out running a vampire-hunting street gang but later, thanks to some Applied Phlebotinum, became a sharp-suited lawyer.
Better Off Ted: Phil and Lem. Got a Lampshade Hanging in one episode, when Ted was using salt and pepper shakers to represent them. They were at first confused about which one was which, but then Lem (the black one) decided he was pepper because he was spicy. Phil agreed that he was "salty, like a sea captain. Not a true example, however, since their personalities are close to identical. (And neither is spicy or salty.) Lem is slightly cooler, but only in the way that Screech might be slightly cooler than Urkel.
One funny parody had Larry Wilmore making this a Discussed Trope in regards to Barack Obama's search for a vice presidential running mate. Film clips illustrated how over the years black leads have been teamed up with cops, nerdy guys, dogs, "Gene Wilder...Gene Wilder...Gene Wilder...It was a different time." This leads into a further discussion of the Magical Negro trope (as in The Green Mile, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and Kazaam) as it would apply to Obama.
Eureka: Occasionally Jack Carter and Henry Deacon, and sometimes Allison fills in the pepper. His de facto pairing with Jo Lupo also gives us a Cafe con Leche.
Hill Street Blues: Reversed memorably, with the rational, mild-mannered black cop Bobby Hill (played by Michael Warren) teamed with loud, white, redneck Andy Renko (Charles Haid.) These uniformed patrol officers were shot and presumed dead in the 1980 pilot episode, but the charismatic pairing appealed to both the producers and audience. Hill and Renko returned to duty from a prolonged hospitalization in time for the first season of Hill Street Blues and were a mainstay of the series throughout its run.
Mad TV: One sketch spoofed this trope in a bit called "Night and Day", about a male black cop forced to partner with an albino woman. They learn to work together while taking cover in the villain's lair, conveniently fronted by a blackboard and whiteboard factory.
Parodied in ads for Bacardi rum featuring "Bacardi and Cola", where Bacardi was the white guy and Cola (naturally) the dark fellow.
Power Rangers S.P.D.: Jack and Sky are something of an example here. The African-American's a chaotic former Robin-Hood type, the Caucasian's excruciatinglyby the book in comparison (one episode had him "letting his hair down" in a birthday party setting by unbuttoning the top button of his uniform collar). They're also cops, and frequently have to work together. Keep in mind though, that their personalities were based off Ban Akaza and Hoji Tomasu, respectively, from Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger. Given that it's Power Rangers, it goes a step further with the red/blue motif although it's still important to note that there are three other Rangers on the team.
The main characters are the laid-back, street-smart white Shawn and his uptight, eminently nerdy black partner Gus. This was even played upon in a commercial for the show, where they performed "Ebony and Ivory" together.
Although this show is set in the far future where contemporary notions of race may not apply, the extremely uptight Rimmer (played by white British actor Chris Barrie) and the laid-back, slobby Lister (played by half-West-Indian half-Irish Brit Craig Charles) fulfill this trope. (You could probably also throw in Holly and the Cat.)
Try contemporary notions of species.
However, Lister wasn't written specifically as a "black character". In fact, when the show's creators first wrote the script they imagined him as looking a lot like Christopher Lloyd in Taxi.
There's also Turner and Hooch (a black and white surgeon duo brought together by Turk and J.D. for the pun on their names) and a Cafe con Leche pairing in Elliot and Carla. Season 9 introduced the Salt and Pepper pairing of Captain Melvis Duncook and Lieutenant Frank Underhill, campus security for Winston University.
Tenspeed And Brownshoe: This 1980 Stephen Cannell creation starring Jeff Goldblum as Lionel Whitney, a karate-chopping ex-stockbroker private-eye wanna-be that takes all his inspiration and advice from Mark Savage, a fictional character in a series of 40's style detective novels (Stephen Cannel's photograph appeared on the dust jackets as the author of the books). Thrown together in the pilot episode with his co-star, Ben Vereen, playing E.L. Turner a street-wise hustler and con-man, in a caper after E.L. steals a million dollars from the mob, which the mob had gotten by fencing Nazi diamonds. This gets both the mob and the Nazis after him and a confused Lionel, who is about to be married, and whom both groups believe to be E.L.'s partner. 14 episodes were made and this was Jeff Goldblum's only major television role until Raines and Law & Order: Criminal Intent in The Aughts.
Detective Leo Banks and Detective Eric Delahoy - basically Lethal Weapon-lite.
Also a Cafe con Leche in Detective Henry Cole and Detective Allison Beaumont.
Northern Exposure: White Chris Stevens and his black half-brother Bernard. The hook being that they are pretty much exactly the same guy, right down to being born on the same day. One episode even revolves around Bernard beginning a relationship with one of Chris's ex-lovers - and she can't detect any difference between them in bed.
Homicide: Life on the Street: Plays a variation with Pembleton and Bayliss. Black Pembleton is a tightly wound intellectual with an unforgiving set of morals. White Bayliss was nakedly emotional and always wanted to see everyone's viewpoint.
Third Watch: Officers Davis and Sully. Also an example of a Vet/Rookie pair.
Human Target: Inverted Trope by the supporting pair of Guerrero & Winston. Winston's the black retired cop, Guerrero's the white semi-retired criminal. Also opposites in size, since Chi McBride is about a foot taller and a good bit wider than Jackie Earle Haley.
Teachers: The first three series had a variation with Brian, who was white, and Kurt, who was Asian. Kurt was, usually, more intelligent, although Brian seemed to 'wear the pants', probably because he was a lot taller. When they were replaced in the fourth series, we got Damien, who was black, and Ben, who was white, although Damien was Brian's Suspiciously Similar Substitute while Ben was Kurt's, although with the slight difference that Damien was perhaps more intelligent than Ben. Not that it really mattered in the end.
Firefly: Wash and Zoe are an inversion. Zoe is a black woman and loyal soldier who cannot be persuaded to stop calling Mal "sir;" Wash is the eminently laid-back white-guy pilot who tells Zoe that if she has a problem with his plan she should tell him instead of just letting Mal call that shots. The two are Happily Married.
Interestingly, whether Zoe is salt or pepper is dependent on what's happening and who she's with. With Mal she's the silent deadly warrior while he's the rowdy and adventurous gunslinger.
This short-lived sitcom played this trope straight with Jason Alexander as an uptight white television presenter (complete with wife and daughter who didn't respect him) and Malcolm-Jamal Warner as his too-hip-for-words black sports star co-host.
This was actually based on a real pairing. Alexander's character was based on New York-based sportswriter Tony Kornheiser (who the show's concept happened to be based on) while Warner's character was based on Chicago-based sportswriter Michael Wilbon. The two actual persons have had a show together on ESPN (Pardon the Interruption) for nearly a decade.
FlashForward (2009): Did a white guy/Asian guy variation on this, with Mark being the introverted and brooding (and unfortunately prone to holding the Idiot Ball) white guy and Demetri being the more Hot-Blooded and impulsive and competent of the pair.
Had JT and Liberty. JT, the white one in the pairing, was humorous, relaxed, and not very smart. Liberty was a teen genius, didn't have a sense of humour, and was always worrying. They end up falling in love.
Also there is the friendship of Jimmy, the cool guy who can rap, dance, and play basketball, with the Spinner who's tough but can't dance because he's white. It's an Averted Trope with Hazle who tries to be just like Paige.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Pulled this off (inadvertently probably) with Captain Sisko, the Bald Black Leader Guy, and his second-in-command the Sassy White Woman, Major Kira. In the late 24th century where the show takes place, it's fairly certain race and even gender don't carry the same meaning as they do today, but as with most things Star Trek, they are other parallels within the show reflecting contemporary issues. Sisko is a career Starfleet officer while Kira is a hero of guerrilla warfare. And while initially they butt heads, they come to find they both are fiercely loyal to justice, and both will tolerate absolutely no crap from anyone. Even each other.
The Flip Wilson Show: In 1972, George Carlin was a guest on this NBC show, and he and Flip did one of Carlin's mock news telecasts. Carlin was Harry Salt, Wilson was Phil Pepper, and together they presented The Salt & Pepper Report:
Pepper: The new movie "Willard" is not doing well in ghetto theaters. Patrons say if they want to see rats, they can stay at home.
A European pop duo played with this. Calling themselves Milk and Honey,◊ they consisted of the blond, German Anne Ross (Milk,) and the dark-haired Algerian Manel Filali (Honey.) Their video for "Habibi" is probably the best example.
Salt And Pepper by Harry Chapin is an aversion, although the title is accurate - just differently interpreted. The Salt is a retired sailor (i.e. an "old salt") and his wife, Pepper, is infamous for her hot temper.
Sometimes shows up in Hip Hop. Some notable examples include.
Houston rappers Paul Wall and Chamillionaire
"Over and Over" Nelly ft. Tim McGraw.
Bad Meets Evil, composed of Eminem and Royce da 5'9
The two remaining members of Massive Attack, 3D and Daddy G.
In WWE, The World's Greatest Tag Team. A subversion in that Shelton Benjamin (the black one) is the relatively straight one (though he's still an insufferable self-centered ass), and Charlie Haas (the white one) is a veritable Jive Turkey (to quote Rory, one of the Highlanders, "I didn't know Charlie Haas was black!").
When they were working for Kurt Angle, however, their personalities were pretty much interchangeable.
The A.P.A., Bradshaw and Faarooq are probably wrestling's most most famous example. Bradshaw is the fun loving Boisterous Bruiser from Texas and Farooq is the no-nonsense Scary Black Man from Georgia. When they are not beating people up (usually for money, since their gimmick was being hired muscle), they are most likely seen in the back drinking beer and playing poker.
The Dudley Boys are another good example and another interesting subversion. Both of them are dumb, bumbling buffoons who are low on social grace and manners. Though in TNA, Bubba in particular does subvert his character even further by becoming somewhat of a Genre SavvyMagnificent Bastard who is able to manipulate the powers that be.
Starting about 2010, this all changed when the brothers split and Bubba (now known as "Bully Ray") experienced a Face-Heel Turn. Now Devon (the black one) is a thuggish but still pretty cool guy, while Bully Ray is a loudmouth and coward whom everybody hates. Their racial contrast is no longer important, other than the fact that Devon is now good friends with the Jive Turkey D'Angelo Dinero (at least until the latter messed with his kids).
Subverted again, after Bully Ray revealed himself to be the Big Bad of the biker gang Aces&8s, of which Devon was already a member.
For a surprisingly long time, Wrestling/Booker T and Goldust were a successful tag team, with Booker (the black one, if you didn't know) playing the more serious half, while Goldust was, well, Goldust.
Given Goldust's coloring, though, wouldn't it be Saffron And Pepper? (Or even better, Pepper and Gold Glitter.)
Averted by LayCool, the heel Diva team of Layla El and Michelle McCool that terrorized SmackDown! from 2009 to 2011. Although Layla was of mixed race (North African and European) and Michelle was white, as a team they more or less behaved the same way (snobby and obnoxious). Before they teamed up, however, they each played the trope rather straight: Michelle was prim, while Layla was spunky.
At ECW November to Remember 95, there was a tag team match with the Sandman (Salt) and 2 Cold Scorpio (Pepper) vs. the Public Enemy (Salt and Salt.) Before the match, there was a dance contest. Scorpio danced well. Sandman...didn't.
Jonathan Ingram (white) and Ed Brown (Black) in Policenauts, as direct reference to Lethal Weapon. Ed is older, but other than that they're pretty much exactly as wacky as each other.
The Tales Series loves to play around with this one, which is fitting as several of its games really get into the guts of race, and discrimination, tropes and often end up subverting or deconstructing the crap out of them.
Tales of Rebirth is another inversion. Eugene, the closest thing the 'verse has to a Scary Black Man, looks like the pepper but turns out to be an extremely saneTeam Dad. The whites, on the other hand, are varying degrees of Idiot Hero, Hot-Blooded and Leeroy Jenkins. This evades the potential Mary Sue problem, however, through the fact that the naive idealism of the latter ends up saving the day just as many times as the former's logic. Furthermore, after the Disk One Final Boss, Eugene becomes infected with its negative emotions and it's revealed that his wise, stoic personality is being deliberately invoked by him to try and desperately suppress the rage that's building up due to all of the Fantastic Racism.
Played with with the Halfs (yes, they're the same race, but it Makes Sense In Context) Hilda and the darker-toned Militsa. Hilda is a white pepper effectively trying to pass as salt, while Militsa is a black salt who clearly wishes she could be more peppery but just finds it easier to bottle everything up and be a by-the-book Punch Clock Villain. The dynamic continues even after Hilda's Heel-Face Turn.
In terms of race, the elf Genis is the salt to Lloyd's pepper. This dynamic continues even after Genis is revealed to be a Half-Elf.
Yet another villainous example occurs in Tales of Legendia. Interestingly enough, both are Big Bads but don't work together so much as one plays off the other's mistakes to further their goals; making for an exploitive inversion of how the trope is usually meant to work. Of the two, Vaclav is the Ambiguously Brown brawler who has no regard for even the rules of his own country, never seems to have much of a plan beyond "Kill 'em all and let the flames sort it out" and has a much more relaxed attitude (although he's far from Affably Evil). The pasty-skinned Maurits, on the other hand, is a textbook chessmaster who exploits the flaws in Vaclav's plans to lay the foundations for advancing his own goals. A straight, heroic example would be Jay and Moses.
For exactly the same reasons as Lloyd and Zelos, Jude and Alvin are an inversion. Played straight with Milla and her Loony Fan Ivar, although ultimately deconstructed as her being so salty results in her refusing to take him seriously due to his extremely peppery nature, resulting in what is basically the mother of all fuck-ups as the Dragon with an Agenda's Batman Gambit goes off without a hitch.They both learn from it.
In Ambition, the black Yale cheats on his white wife Helen with the also white Angie.
Half-Life 2 and sequel episodes: Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance (although by her facial complexion, Alyx's mother could have been white or Asian). Gordon is the Strong Silent Type; Alyx is a Tom Boy who does all the talking.
Roommates black Toni Chandler (Chaka) and white Nikki Reilly (Fey) in the Whateley Universe. Chaka is also way more relaxed about their mutual problem, while Fey is wound tight enough that she accidentally pops out hobgoblins regularly.
Also Chaka (smart-alecky black girl) and Bladedancer (Tao-driven Oriental girl), most blatantly when Bladedancer went home with Chaka for Christmas.
On The Simpsons, there are two Salt And Pepper pairs — Lenny and Carl, and Lou and Eddie. Though none of them seem to be funky or by the book; they're more "barely competent" and "not that bright all around".
Inverted with Lenny and Carl, in that Lenny is a slacker and Carl seems to have it more in control.
There is also Richard and Lewis, two of Bart's playground friends from school.
The Simpsons also had another pair on the show within a show "Police Cops".
Played for a one-off gag when Bart is convinced to enroll in a class by a stereotypically cool black guy who promises it will turn him "from sloppa to proper." The class turns out to be called "The Proper Young Man" and is taught by a middle-aged, very British woman. When Bart complains, she replies "Are you accusing my husband of misleading you? Good heavens, I ought to bust a cap in your ass."
Parodied when one episode of Clone High involved the Gandhi clone and the George Washington Carver clone making a buddy cop movie, in which they played strait-laced, Harvard-educated Leon Black (Carver) and Tandoori Jones (Gandhi), "...a typical Indian cop who plays by his own rules: none! Together they are Black and Tan!"
Numbers 2 and 5 of Codename: Kids Next Door; though 5 is general the street-wise and straight one, with 2 largely being a book-smart wannabe.
On Total Drama Island, the lanky white nerd Harold with Sassy Black Woman Leshawna, though they were never a team until Total Drama Action. He also has a huge and obvious crush on her which she seems to eventually reciprocate.
Static Shock with Static being the funky, quick-tongue, while Gear was the more calculative and nerdy one.
They were both pretty nerdy actually, and Richie only became smarter with his power, whearas before Virgil was much smarter.
There are more than a few shades of this on Galaxy Rangers when Goose and Doc are paired up. It also helps that Doc is a high-class gentleman and The Smart Guy while Goose is an Artificial Human designed for combat.
Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, the (white) starting quarterback and (black) top wide receiver for the 1992 Dallas Cowboys football team. Aikman liked country music and beer, while Irvin was into hip-hop and marijuana (plus a few other things probably best left unmentioned here!). But they had a real rapport both on and off the field, inspiring Aikman to quote the lyrics to Paula Abdul's then-popular song "Opposites Attract" to explain their relationship.