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The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry
On the left: Daria (smart). On the right: Quinn (pretty).

Ruth: I'm her sister.
Chick: (doubtfully) Her sister? She's a blonde, good-looking kid, ain't she?
Ruth: (grimly) Yes, she's a blonde, good-looking kid.
Wonderful Town

There are two sisters, close enough in age to have a relatively equal relationship, but light years apart in personality. More often than not, they can be roughly described as follows:
  • The Beautiful Sister: A pretty, extroverted, fashionable, popular but unintellectual character. If older, she'll be more mature in "womanly" ways. Can range from smart yet Book Dumb to The Brainless Beauty. Endlessly criticizes her sister for her willing social outsiderness.
  • The Smart Sister: A bookish, explicitly smart character. Very often a Deadpan Snarker and The Snark Knight. Very socially awkward and subject to far less male attention, though this often has more to do with her personality than her appearance. Endlessly criticizes her sister for her willing or apparent shallowness.

While it is usually made clear that they love each other, the sisters are constant verbal combatants. Most of the time they find each other incomprehensible. Sometimes they both harbour a secret inferiority complex, which they hide through the constant banter: the smart sister feels awkward and unattractive or downright ignored to favor the other and thus reacts out of envy, while the popular sister feels she's either not being taken seriously or downright hated by the other and lashes back out of insecurity. The sisters may become love rivals, but often they prefer very different types. The smart sister is usually the younger of the two and in many cases more sympathetic, though exceptions (smart older sister, popular younger sister) are fairly common. This is often the result of writers themselves having been the Smart One and thus often projecting their own feelings on the Smart Sister character, though many a reader can relate.

A special, female variant of Sibling Rivalry. Cain and Abel can happen when the differences of opinion go really wrong.

Can overlap with Polar Opposite Twins and is a subtrope of Sibling Yin-Yang.

See also Bratty Teenage Daughter, Tomboy and Girly Girl.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Urd and Skuld of Ah! My Goddess play with this Trope six ways 'til Sunday. While Urd is the Popular Sister and Skuld is the Smart Sister, Urd is no intellectual slouch herself (and quite the Deadpan Snarker), and Skuld can be either a Bratty Half-Pint or a Yandere. Still, they have their sweet moments.
  • In a completely literal sense, Saya and Diva in Blood+, taken to the Cain and Abel extreme. Saya is the "Smart" Sister, though she's not so much snarky or intelligent so much as she embraces her humanity and excludes herself from the world because of her deathwish. Diva is the Beautiful Sister, and is well aware of her sex appeal and how to use it, and wants to create a world where she can live openly and as she sees fit.
  • Akane and Nabiki Tendo from Ranma ½ show signs of this trope, especially in Fanon.
    • Subverted in that Nabiki is enormously popular with the guys, even when everyone knows she only dates them in order to fleece them for all they're worth. Also, it's "Beautiful" Akane who criticizes Nabiki for her shallowness and materialistic attitude.
  • Momo and Nana Deviluke from To Love-Ru, even more so in the sequel Darkness. Momo, the older one, is more extroverted, devious, scheming, sexually active, comfortable herself and quite popular, while Nana, far from bookish or unpopular, is far more straightforward, cynical, sheltered and a Tsundere.
  • Karala (the popular younger sister) and Harulu (the smart older one) from Space Runaway Ideon go for the Cain and Abel route.
  • Poor Misty from Pokémon has to deal with Popular Triplet Sisters! It doesn't help that while not bad persons, Daisy, Violet, and Lily are completely irresponsible Gym Leaders as well, causing Misty to leave Ash and Brock at the end of Johto.
  • Minami-ke spreads the trope over three sisters instead of two, though it's largely borne by Kana (the Popular Sister, minus the actual popularity) and Chiaki (mostly the Smart Sister). Eldest Haruka picks up the "popularity" aspect of Popular Sister, and "responsibility" fragments of the Smart Sister role. The warring is entirely between Kana and Chiaki as well, and is mostly over Kana wanting Chiaki to participate in her shenanigans, and Chiaki calling Kana an idiot and preferring her own shenanigans.
  • Hinagiku and Yukiji Katsura of Hayate the Combat Butler could qualify. Popularity isn't quite as significant though. Hinagiku is the school idol and Yukiji is a teacher but noticeably less popular. Yukiji likes to drink and is constantly wasting money, while Hina is the student council president, president of the kendo club and seems to be good with money, at least to the effect of lending large amounts to her sister.
    • The two also apparently have the rivalry of their foster parents' affections. Yukiji is favored by their father while Hinagiku is for their mother.
    • It seems while it isn't a point of contention to cause the two to argue, Yukiji does have a grudge over her sister's popularity. And Hinagiku doesn't seem to have any reluctance to harm her sister, particularly when Yukiji barges in on her changing. OTOH, though, Hina is shown to have quite a bit of respect for her older sister, using 'onee-san' even while berating.
  • Semi-averted by Momiji Fujimiya (Beautiful) and Kaede Kunikida (Smart), the fraternal twin Cain and Abel sisters of Blue Seed. Since they were Separated at Birth Momiji didn't even know she had a twin older sister until they came into conflict as Kaede has grown massively disillusioned of her Barrier Maiden deal, though in the end Momiji is able to use her pure-hearted belief in their sisterhood to her advantage so she can bring Kaede back from her Face-Heel Turn. (Which turns out to be a Fake Defector plan in the end).
  • Narumi (beautiful) and Kurumi (smart) in The Prince of Tennis. They adore each other, yes, but Kurumi also feels very awkward as she feels Narumi is overshadowing her.
  • Agon and Unsui of Eyeshield 21 are probably the closest example of a male version of this trope. Agon is popular (especially with women), arrogant, shallow, lazy and condescending. Unsui is reserved, analytical, serious, hard working, and eternally overshadowed by his brother in every way. They don't necessarily argue, but Unsui often scolds Agon for being a jerkass and Agon loves to tease his brother.
  • Slightly subverted in Black Butler as beautiful Rachel Durless apparently never feels threatened by smart Angelina, while Angelina feels deeply envious of Rachel. Not helped by how Earl Vincent Phantomhive, the love of Angelina's life, marries Rachel, has Ciel with her... and they're both murdered few years later.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has the Anarchy sisters, with Panty being the Beautiful One and Stocking being the Smart One. When they're not fighting Ghosts, they are often quarreling with each other, especially in "Transwhoremers".
  • Parodied in Bleach. In the early chapters, there is a running gag where Rukia is often seen reading a shojo manga, which, according to supplemental materials from the tankoban, is about two sisters having a private war over a box left to them by their dead mother.
    • In-series, this is averted by the Kotetsu sisters. Older sister Isane is the "Beautiful" one since she's a kind and softspoken healer, while younger sister Kiyone is the "smart" one thanks to being a Fiery Redhead, but they get along pretty well as we can see.
  • Detective Conan:
    • Mina (beautiful) and Masayo (smart) Aoshima. Taken to horrible levels when Masayo kills Mina over a huge misunderstanding.
    • Also, in Detective Conan Special, the Matsumoto sisters. Kiwako (beautiful) and Chieko (smart), complete with very harsh rivalry. Subverted when it's revealed that all of the rivalry was an act in order to kill the victim who stole the music school and forced their father to commit suicide. In truth, they really love each other.
    • Again with the Kataoka sisters, Sayuri (beautiful) and Saki (smart). Saki has always been jealous that her sister was the favorite child since the old days, became a famous idol and married (later divorced) her boyfriend Keiichi, but her last straw broke when Sayuri came to star in Saki's plays and performed even BETTER than her. It got worse, needless to say, and Saki ended up beating Sayuri to death'.
  • Hilda and Yolda from Beelzebub absolutely despise each other, so much so that they would gladly kill if needed, as demons are encouraged to dispose of their rivals. While both are beautiful and powerful, the former was always favoured - however both have also shown willingness to help the other when she needs it.
  • Lady Jaguara and her younger twin sister Hamona from Wolfs Rain. In this case, there was also a man involved.
  • In Gunnm Gally's TUNED clones had a literal War (or, more precisely, Hunt) Of Sisterly Rivalry, where GR-6 sought to destroy every other clone and then the original to prove herself. The only survivors of which, GR-6 and the twins GR-11 and GR-12 later started to call themselves Sechs, Elf and Zwoelf respectively, and retroactively kinda became her siblings, pushing the trope further. Though Sechs actually dropped out of it, due to now him switching to the Dumbass Teenage Son role.
  • In Magi - Labyrinth of Magic, we have Princess Hakuei and her younger cousin Princess Kougyoku, who become step-sisters after Hakuei's mother marries Kougyoku's father. Both girls are very beautiful as well as powerful fighters, but Hakuei is a Proper Lady of War loved by pretty much everyone, while Kougyoku is low-born and VERY socially awkward with next to no friends...so Kougyoku envies Hakuei a LOT, both for having a good relationship with Prince Kouen (whom Kougyoku might admire...a bit too much) and for her popularity and skill.
  • Subverted with Hilda (Beautiful) and Freya (Smart) in Saint Seiya, since normally the smart sister adores the beautiful one and is loved back by her, and are on opposing sides only when Hilda is Brainwashed and Crazy and Freya is the the only one who realizes this so she runs away to get help on how to save her. Once Hilda is released, she returns to her gentler self and the sisters are tearfully reunited.

    Fanfiction 
  • In Harry's New Home, although both sisters were attractive, the blonde one was bubbly, outgoing and utterly dimwitted, while the brunette was quieter, more intellectual and a bit of a Deadpan Snarker.

    Film 
  • The Steve Carell film Dan in Real Life is another Gender Flip version, with Dan (Carell) as the Smart One who falls in love with his flaky brother's girlfriend.
  • Another Gender Flip example is Marvel's Thor and Loki, Thor being the elder son, heir to the throne, golden, popular and Hot-Blooded warrior-prince, contrasted by his younger brother Loki's clever, magic-wielding Trickster nature making him The Unfavorite Black Sheep prince and heightening their rivalry to Cain and Abel proportions. Although Thor seems to genuinely love and trust his younger brother, at least initially.
  • This is the basis of the Disney film Wish Upon A Star, where Alexia and Hayley switch places. The differences are accentuated by using their favourite styles of music (rock and classical, respectively) in the background of their scenes.
  • Fat Girl. An overweight 13 year old girl is jealous of her beautiful 15 year old sister because she gets to have sex (she longs to have sex herself); and has an affair with a boy right in front of her, no less.
  • In New York Minute, though the sisters are identical twins, Jane is a preppy overachiever trying to earn a prestigious scholarship, while Roxy is laid back, habitually skips school, and dreams of becoming a rock star.
  • Millie and Madge from Picnic.
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? As children, Jane was a child star while her sister Blanche was plain and often overlooked. Blanche grew up to be beautiful, but was better known for her acting talent, which overshadowed Jane's.
  • The 2001 adaptation of Pretty Things based on a novel by Virginie Despentes. See the literature section.
  • Men with Brooms features a variation: Both sisters are The Smart Sister; one happens to be the Prodigal Daughter (went to college, joined The American Space Agency, became an astronaut) while the other is The Dutiful Daughter, who stayed home with the family and cared for their father. Also, both are romantic interests for the main character of the film, Chris Cutter.
  • RoboGeisha has the Kagusa sisters, who compete with each other to see who can become the best android Geisha assassins.
  • The Philadelphia Story and the musical version High Society has the Lord sisters: Tracy, the older, beautiful, popular socialite sister; and Caroline, the teenage, unrefined, sarcastic tomboy. A variation, as neither sister is really smarter than the other; however Tracy is acting stupidly, marrying the wrong man, while her sister knows who she should really be with

    Literature 
  • Sansa and Arya Stark in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire almost meet the description. Sansa is very conventionally pretty, popular, and fashionable, but she's actually the more bookish of the two, if very naive. Her sister's lack of standard graces, manners and polish constantly embarrasses her and she always feels the need to call her out on any faux pas she makes. Arya is, although not particularly intellectual, rather more Street Smart and is rebellious, active, comparatively homely, supremely uninterested in fashion and very critical of her sister's perceived shallowness and unwillingness to get out and smell the reality. Their relationship seems to straddle the line between truly loving each other, and Cain and Abel: you cannot leave them alone in the same room for ten minutes without both finding ways to hurt the other — and then feel (reluctantly, if almost genuinely) sorry about it, later. At least until both of them are horribly broken.
    • However, after their entire family is murdered and/or scattered to the four winds, Sansa develops some common sense and ingenuity as she struggles to survive, and a more grown-up Arya's looks are often praised directly by various minor characters. She is also told by her father Eddard that she looks like his sister Lyanna. Her response is "But Lyanna was beautiful." and Eddard says "Yes, she always looked like you." Or some such... it is implied that Sansa was "born beautiful" while Arya is more "growing into her looks."
  • Amaranta Buendia (Smart) and her adopted sister Rebeca (Popular) in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from the Sweet Valley High books.
  • Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility have some elements of this (their other sister barely has a presence to speak of).
    • Subverted in another Austen example: Jane and Elizabeth Bennet are the pretty and the smart one respectively, but they are best friends instead of rivals. Though one could argue that the rivalry is between Elizabeth and youngest sister Lydia, who is not as pretty as Jane but fits the flirty personality type better.
    • If we're going Austen, Anne and Elizabeth Elliot have elements of this, though they have another sister too.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club:
    • Claudia and Janine, and this is apparently hereditary. Their mother, Rioko, is a librarian, and her sister, nicknamed Peaches, is something of a wild child. (Their mother says she got along beautifully with her sister, however.) Unusually, Claudia (the Popular One) is one of the main characters, whereas Janine (the Smart One) is merely part of the supporting cast.
    • Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold; Dawn and Mary Anne exhibit signs of this in the early days of their stepsisterhood.
  • Little Women has four sisters; among them, Jo and Amy fit the trope.
    • Jo (Smart) and Meg (Beautiful) fit in technically speaking, but end up averting the trope. Aside of Meg chiding Jo once in a while for being tactless and too outspoken, they get along pretty well and Jo considers Meg her best friend. Jo even shows jealousy towards John Brooke when he's reveale to have feelings for Meg, as she's afraid that she'll lose Meg's emotional support.
  • Meg Cabot's All-American Girl has a set of three sisters where the protagonist has an inferiority complex because her older sister is the Popular One and her younger sister is the Smart One. She herself is Artistic. The main rivalry is between the protagonist and her older, popular sister as they are closer in age and the youngest is so smart she considers rivalries petty.
  • Laura and Mary Ingalls have elements of this. Mary is very pretty and perfectly well-behaved, while Laura is active, energetic, and brave. Some subversion in that they're both pretty smart, though. They laugh about it when they're older. (They also have two younger sisters, Carrie and Grace, but their ages and personalities don't lend themselves to the trope.)
  • Subversion: In the first book of the War of the Spider Queen hexad, Pharaun's sisters Sabal and Greyanna have one of these... except that they're said to be identical in both looks and personality (not that Sabal gets much personality given to her). We see the whole thing from Pharaun's perspective, in a flashback.
  • Lisbeth and her sister Camilla Salander in the Millennium Trilogy are so at odds with each other they have been in separate classes their entire life and haven't spoken or even seen each other since they were sixteen, when their meeting resulted in a Designated Girl Fight.
  • The entire point of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl is the rivalry between Anne Boleyn and her younger, less famous sister Mary. Interestingly enough, neither of them fit completely into the stereotypes listed. Anne would be the "Popular Sister," yet she is far more intelligent than Mary. Accordingly, Mary would be the "Smart Sister," except she's not as smart as Anne, and is generally considered more beautiful. What it really comes down to is Anne knows how to work the court and has heaping piles of ambition, while Mary just wants to raise her children in the country. The true fit in the types comes in that Anne is far more shallow than Mary.
  • Judy Blume's Deenie—their mother frequently tells people (including complete strangers) that "Deenie's the beauty, Helen's the brain." At one point Helen tells Deenie she doesn't have to fall into the role their mother has chosen for her.
  • A version of this appears in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Jacob falls in love with Rachel, but on their wedding day her father substitutes her older, less attractive sister Leah as the bride. Jacob subsequently marries Rachel as well, and for some years the two women try to outdo one another in giving him children (apparently, Leah desperately prayed to God to be appreciated by Jacob, so He took pity on her and made her able to bear children, leaving Rachel barren until the last two); they even get their (slave) maids involved.
  • In both Tipping the Velvet and Affinity by Sarah Waters, the protagonist is the Smart One (and very gay), their sister the better looking, popular one. Both relationships are problematic- Nan's sister Alice never comes to term with her sister being gay, Margaret's jealous of Pris for being so normal (though will never own up to this).
  • Stephen Colbert references this trope in I Am America (And So Can You!), in the chapter about family (which is appropriately fraught with distressing subtext about the nuclear American family). Discussing non-immediate relatives, it tells you to find out more about your aunt by determining whether your mother was "the one who 'got the looks' or the one who 'got the brains.' Either way, she resents your aunt for getting the other one!"
  • Tamora Pierce's Trickster books have the Balitang sisters: Sarai, the older, beautiful social butterfly, who's by no means stupid (or even Book Dumb) but headstrong and somewhat careless; and Dove, the quiet, observant, bookish, oft-overlooked little sister. A prophecy dictates that one of them will end up queen of their country. Sarai ends up getting well out of the whole plot by running off with a lover, and Dove takes the throne.
  • This trope is the reason Harry Potter grew up with Muggle Foster Parents who hated him (well, and that whole Voldemort thing). Harry's treatment by his Aunt Petunia was essentially revenge against his mother/her older sister Lily for being the better sister (it seems Lily got the looks and the brains and was a witch to boot — no wonder Petunia was so jealous). That's not the reason Vernon abused him, of course, but that's a moot point since Petunia wouldn't be married to someone like Vernon if she hadn't chosen to be like that.
  • Spencer and Melissa in Pretty Little Liars. Melissa is the smart one and Spencer is the pretty one, though both of them are smart.
    • Reversed in the television version: Spencer is the smarter one, while Melissa is the favorite one (and ostensibly the prettier, although YMMV on that), although they are both smart and driven.
  • Pearl and May in Shanghai Girls. Pearl is the smart one and May is the pretty one, and Pearl feels like she is The Unfavorite.
  • Arguably, Lucy and Susan from The Chronicles of Narnia—it's hardly the focus of the books, but there are hints at times. Susan is older and considered more conventionally pretty, often takes a superior Team Mom-type approach to the problems the kids encounter, and of course is the one who ends up "outgrowing" Narnia as a young woman to focus on her social life. Lucy is the youngest of the four and is the Purity Sue with the closest relationship with Aslan, which Susan sometimes tries to step on, apparently thinking Lucy is acting spoiled or attention-seeking. And when Lucy is in the magician's house in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for instance, and reads the spell for making yourself beautiful, one of the things she sees in the illustrations is Susan looking plainer than usual and consumed with envy. The unspecified ages of the Pevensies throughout the books make all this a little harder to pin down, though.
  • Echo and Zoë in Saving Zoë, though it really only starts after Zoë's death. Echo is the smart one and Zoë is the pretty one.
  • In I Capture the Castle, Rose is the beautiful sister and Cassandra is the smart sister.
  • The Tillerman Family Series installment Sons from Afar has a male example in insecure genius James and popular athlete Sammy, which serves as a major plot point for most of the book. Oddly enough, Dicey and Maybeth have the makings of this (the former being a tough tomboy and the latter being sweet and girly), but subvert this as each sister finds the other's opposite trait from hers to be comforting.
  • Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes is based on this trope, applied to twins. The book plays a lot with the trope, deconstructing it by showing one of them as nearly autistic and the other as totally depressed by the shallowness of her many social relationships. It also goes to great length to justify it by exposing the girls' childhood and relationships with an abusive father and submissive mother as the root of the situation. However, one of the sisters dies early in the story, prompting the other to assume her identity and finally understand her dead sister, ending with her personality balanced between the two extremes and some measure of peace.
  • In the Disgaea Novels, this occurs between Flonne and her sister Ozonne. Flonne is the older Cloudcuckoolander Love Freak while her little sister is a Brutal Honesty Money Freak.
  • Michelle Magorian's A Little Love Song/Not a Swan is about Rose (the smart one) and her big sister Diana (the beautiful one). At first, we only get Rose's side of the story, since she's the main character, which is that everyone likes Diana better because she's prettier, including their recently deceased father. When they finally talk about it, it turns out that Diana herself is convinced that their father liked Rose best because of her intelligence, and that he never took anything Diana said seriously. Diana also feels lonely because girls generally don't like her and boys are so mesmerized by her looks that they can't talk to her.
  • Sorcery and Cecelia: Georgy is the pretty one. Kate is the smart one (not that Aunt Charlotte acknowledges this). Of course, Kate is perfectly pretty herself, it's only that Georgy is so beautiful as to be the talk of the Ton.
  • Shades of Milk and Honey: Jane is plain, but accomplished. She wishes she were as beautiful as her sister Melody. Melody is beautiful. She wishes she were anywhere near as talented in anything as her sister Jane. This causes more than a little conflict between them as they try to settle which one of them is better or worse off in the game of getting a husband.
  • In The Dresden Files, it's revealed in Cold Days that Sarissa and Maeve are an epically deranged and bitter version of this.
  • In the Southern Sisters Mysteries, Patricia Anne is the quiet, smart one (and a retired schoolteacher!) while Mary Alice is the pretty, popular one. It's made very clear that they actually do care about each other, despite all their differences.
  • The Perilous Gard's Kate, the clever, awkward elder sister, has an inferiority complex about her beautiful, silly, lovable younger sister Alicia so deep-rooted it prevents her from noticing that they aren't romantic rivals.
  • Appears in Sophie Hannah's "Spilling Series" with Charlie and Olivia- they do Snark-to-Snark Combat in almost every instalment in the series, but it's clear they do care for each other.
  • Shows up in Tell the Wolves I'm Home with Greta (the pretty, popular older sister who purposely dumbs herself down) and June (plainer, prosaic, critical of Greta's shallowness), although Greta is actually more Book Smart than June (but the latter is more bookish). They used to be extremely close, but grew apart and bitter over the years.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mostly averted on Happy Endings with Jane and Alex Kerkovich-Jane is older, smarter and controlling, whereas Alex is the young, Ditz. However, both are very attractive, and they have a strong, warm connection. Complications arise in a few episodes-the first season "Why can't you Read me?" where Jane is worried that the more personable Alex will steal focus from her without meaning to, but even when they're fighting for real in "The Incident"- these issues (who's smarter, who's prettier, etc), don't really come up. Not that it stops them from almost coming to blows(and not hair-pulling, slapping cat fighting, either-Jane broke a pool cue in half and Alex lunged for her) before Brad and Max separated them via Over-the-Shoulder Carry.
  • American Dreams had Meg (the pretty one) and Patty (the smart one) with Meg as the main character and Patty as an Annoying Younger Sibling/Insufferable Genius type. Meg herself wasn't stupid, just Book Dumb.
  • One word, repeated thrice: "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"
    • Although not as prevalent as most people think, since, aside from this episode, Marcia and Jan generally got along exceedingly well and even moved in together when they grew up.
    • It's played straight in the movies though where Marcia is a shallow airhead and Jan is an unpopular nerd.
  • I Dream of Jeannie used this between Jeannie and her wicked sister, also named Jeannie. Arguably, the pretty one (the blonde Jeannie) is the sympathetic one, and the smart one (the dark-haired Jeannie) is an evil, bitter shrew. The blonde Jeannie may have been less knowing of the modern world, but she does have the excuse of being trapped in a bottle for two milleniums, mind you.
  • In Brothers and Sisters, this is downplayed. Both Sarah and Kitty are Smart Sisters, but this being the Walker family...
  • Degrassi would have played this straight if Darcy wasn't sent to 90210 sent to Kenya. However all interactions between Darcy and Clare fit this trope to a T. And when they aren't interacting, the mention of the other falls into this trope.
    • Katie and Maya hit this trope, and get to share some actual screentime.
  • Sisters Suzanne and Julia Sugarbakers' antagonism toward one another was a major plot component of Designing Women.
  • Played with a bit in Downton Abbey in that older sister Lady Mary is more beautiful, more popular, the favorite of their mother, and it seems wittier/more intelligent than her Hollywood Homely middle sister, Lady Edith. Not to mention that Mary was in an arranged engagement with their second cousin, whom Mary didn't even want but Edith was quite in love with. Then he died. Top it off with Mary bragging that she can drag any man's attention from Edith whenever she wants, and you have Edith's poisonous jealousy approaching Cain and Abel levels.
  • Come to think of it Drake & Josh is basically a Glorious War Of Brotherly Rivalry.
    • A second male example would be Professional Wrestling's Matt Hardy (the smart, serious, hard-working, mature one) and Jeff Hardy (the cute, flighty, kinda crazy and arguably more popular one). They generally support each other but have had their fair share of spats both on screen and off.
      • A third male example can be found in the aforementioned Roseanne: Mark was rough-edged, hard-working, and a womanizer, albeit dumb; David was sensitive, artistic, and smarter, but comparatively fickle.
  • Bridget and Kerry Hennessy from 8 Simple Rules.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: Debra Barone and her older sister Jennifer Whelan: it is strongly hinted their upbringing echoed Ray and Robert, only in this case Debra is made insecure by thinking Jennifer was the favoured one. home-maker and mother of three Debra is certainly jealous of childless Jennifer's freewheeling single lifestyle.
  • Emma and Sophie Norton from Genie In The House.
  • Hope and Faith from...uh...Hope And Faith.
  • The Lying Game has two. The first is the main plot of the series with long lost twins Emma (the smart, kind sister) and Sutton (the superficial, vain sister). The second is between Sutton and her adopted sister Laurel (who fulfills the smart sister role).
  • Claire and Tess from McLeod's Daughters. Claire is the experienced farmer who is forever showing Tess how things run. Although in fairness, Tess is not actually dumb or ditzy, more a fish out of water.
  • Haley (the pretty one) and Alex (the smart one) on Modern Family. Alex even states at one point that she feels a need to be the smart one to differentiate herself from Haley. For a change though neither is portrayed sympathetically.
  • Parks and Recreation has a subversion in April who fights with her sister Natalie because they are so similar types: sullen, Deadpan Snarker and Emotionless Girl.
  • Kyra (the smart/snarky sister) and Cheyenne (the popular/ditzy sister) on Reba.
  • Darlene and Becky Conner from Roseanne.
    • Their mother and aunt, too. Even as adults, Jackie is attractive but flaky while Roseanne is homely but down to earth.
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack plays this semi-straight with the Mack sisters. Older sister Annie is the textbook smart one, often called a super-genius, and while Alex is average or Cool Loser rather than pretty or popular, she has several friends while Annie has none. They bicker a lot, and Alex is often jealous of Annie's success, but they can't ever stay on seriously bad terms; Annie is Alex's Secret Keeper and the only one who comes close to understanding how Alex's powers work.
  • Sherlock has the Holmes brothers as another genderflipped example. Both are extremely intelligent and have similar good looks, but older brother Mycroft is the more "serious" one (concerned with the good of England and seeing the practical need for deduction) where younger brother Sherlock is the equivalent of the "pretty" one (self-centered and only concerned with himself and his work). Doesn't stop them from sniping at each other like a couple of schoolgirls:
    Sherlock: Putting on weight again, Mycroft?
    Mycroft: Losing it, in fact.
  • Supernatural definitely has another genderflipped example in the Winchester boys: Sam is the intelligent College Boy brother who tries to be rational and think things through while Dean is the ruggedly handsome lady killer with a girl in every port (or truck stop) with a habit of rushing into things and having a shoot first then burn and salt it before asking questions policy.
    • This is somewhat subverted as Sam gets darker after dying and being resurrected when Dean makes a Deal with the Devil in season two.
    • Also subverted in the fact that the Winchesters care for each other to the point of a good chunk of the fanbase shipping Wincest, at least until Cas shows up.
      Sam: You're my big brother. And there's nothing I wouldn't do for you.
    • That and they genuinely like each other.
      Dean: Bitch.
      Sam: Jerk.
  • Amy and Ashley on The Secret Life of the American Teenager
  • An interesting subversion occurs with Mary and Lucy Camden on 7th Heaven. Mary is The Smart One and a tomboy while Lucy's The Pretty One and loves fashion and boys...yet Mary is the popular sister while Lucy is insecure and constantly struggling to fit in.
  • Tia and Tamara from Sister Sister, which thanks to the whole twin thing is also Polar Opposite Twins.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has a brotherly rivalry, too. Cody is a ridiculously intelligent, yet socially awkward nerdy bookworm, while Zack is the cooler brother, but Book Dumb, flirts with females constantly and is more street smart than his brother. They always bicker and disagree on everything, including the favor of their single mother.
  • The Tudors constantly averts this with Anne and Mary Boleyn, Catherine and Anne Parr and Mary and Elizabeth Tudor all getting along very well.
    • Subverted because they are male, but otherwise played straight with the brothers Edward and Thomas Seymour.
  • Ugly Betty has Hilda (the pretty one) and Betty (the smart one) as two sisters who have grown up and put aside their rivalry to finally become friends.
  • Dana and Melissa Scully from The X-Files can also be included in this trope, though it was never emphasized very much. Both raised in a Navy household, Dana went to medical school and joined the FBI. She is very straitlaced and fact oriented. Older sister Melissa, on the other hand, is the opposite; she deals with energies, crystals, and may or may not be empathic.
  • Played with in Mad Men which has Peggy Olson being the pretty younger sister with the hot career in Manhattan, while her older sister Anita is a dowdy and heavy housewife living in Brooklyn with their overbearing Mother, a husband, and young children. Anita seems to be slightly envious of her little sister and would try to cut Peggy to size during Season 2.
  • Pan Am has this dynamic between Kate and Laura except its more of the rebel versus the good kid, which eventually results Laura (the dutiful one) snapping on the eve of her wedding and running away with her sister to join Pan Am as a stewardess. As the sisters spend time together the rivalry generally dies down but does flare up from time to time.
  • Pretty Little Liars: Spencer and Melissa; unlike in the books, Spencer is the smart one and Melissa is the pretty one, and their parents' favorite, although both are smart and pretty.
  • Katie and Emily from Skins play it completely straight. Well, except Emily, obviously.
  • Deconstructed with Jane Mancini and Sydney Andrews Mancini from Melrose Place. While both sisters are beautiful and come from a good family, it is glaringly obvious that Jane is the one on a pedestal as a stable fashion designer who is (initially) happily married to a doctor and is, by default, the perfect daughter. On the other hand, Sydney is more troubled, being looked at as the spare to her sister's heir, the obvious unfavorite (although her prositution, rap sheet and overall sneaky behavior may have something to do with that) and she desires what Jane has, particularly her husband Michael.
  • Arrow has the Lance sisters, Sara and Laurel. On top of sharing Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling dynamics, Sara and Laurel have competed for Ollie's affections.
  • Empty Nest: The smart but neurotic Carol and the strong and attractive (but not so bright) Barbara Weston compete for their father's affections.

    Music 
  • Lily Allen has a song Back to the Start that's all about this trope and Lily reconciling with her sister. Lily apparently was the smart one. (Not that Lily Allen herself is unattractive, but her sister "[was] and always will be/The taller and the prettier one".)
  • The Kinks' song "Two Sisters" contrasts a beautiful, fashionable jet-setter with her sister who's more of a dowdy housewife-mother. The latter envies the former before finally deciding she's better off.
  • In this case, six sisters (or, according to one side's opinion, only four) . And it isn't pretty. Seventies/Eighties singing family The Nolan Sisters appear to have split into two separate rival factions who are mutually not at home to each other. Let us call these the Provisional and Official wings of the Nolan family, as it does appear to have got this bloody and this Irish. Relations were soured when the oldest sister made abuse allegations against her (now deceased) father that were hotly denied by the horrified rest of her family. It was pointed out that the oldest sister is bankrupt and in desperate need of the money only a shock/horror autobiography could bring in. Offered a lucrative reunion tour and recording deal, the rest of the sisterhood retaliated by cutting the oldest out of the contact. On top of this, a sixth sister who left the band just as they became famous was miffed to discover the sisters were reforming, and she had not been invited. Lawyers have been brandished and opening shots fired. Official family history has been airbrushed to make it look as if there were only ever four Nolan Sisters (Maureen, Linda, Bernadette and Colleen). Anne and Denise Nolan are said to be just a wee fecken' bit offended that they no longer exist, and are seeking to prove their corporeal integrity, to the satisfaction of Church, State and Courts. (If nothing else, they are credited on the first few LP's and an awful lot of TV work the girls did....) Watch this space.
    • Family relations have "normalized" somewhat and something of a Good Friday Agreement has been entered into following the tragic and premature death of Bernadette Nolan. However, the youngest and most successful Sister, TV presenter Colleen, is currently getting her retaliation in, via an autobiography serialised in the Daily Mirror. This could run on for as long as the other troubles.

    Mythology 

    Theatre 
  • Elphaba and Nessarose in Wicked fit this trope to a certain extent. Ostracised due to her strange appearance, Elphaba has grown up smart, independent and prickly - not to mention hugely magically talented. Nessa is pretty, somewhat shallow and her father's favourite. She misses out on the popularity she craves due to her disability and severe mental instability. She's often embarrassed by Elphie, laying anything that goes wrong at her door.
    • In terms of personality Glinda and Elphaba fit this even better, even though they are roommates/classmates instead of sisters.
  • Aloysia and Constanza in Mozart L'Opera Rock, especially when it comes to Mozart. In "six pieds sous la terre" they trade insults back and forth (Constanze calls Aloysia a "little bitch" while Aloysia shoots back that "you blow your mind when you knit!").
  • The Love of the Nightingale has Procne (the smart, maternal, wiser one) and Philomele (the beautiful naive one). However they are instead best friends and the main drama of the play begins out of Procne's desperation to see her.
  • Shakespeare did this one too in The Taming of the Shrew — Katerina, the older sister, is the hotheaded nonconformist who hates the idea of getting married, and her younger sister Bianca is the sweet womanly one who deeply wants a husband.
  • Wonderful Town has Ruth Sherwood as the smart one and her sister Eileen as the pretty one. This was based on My Sister Eileen, which was Very Loosely Based on a True Story by Ruth McKenney.
  • Subverted in Proof. Catherine is portrayed as the smart sister and Claire as the pretty one but both are actually very intelligent and attractive.
  • The Learned Ladies has smart older sister Armande and beautiful younger sister Henritte. They snit at each other constantly, in a rare example where the beautiful sister is more sympathetic and the smart one trying to bring the pretty one to her side.
  • In Mary Mary, Mary is smart and snarky to a fault. Her prettier older sister Clara never appears, but Mary discusses growing up in her shadow:
    "You take two little girls. One of them is pink and round, with curly hair and yards of eyelashes. The other one is pale and bony, with thin, wispy hair and two little ears poking through—like the handles on a sugar bowl... When I was a kid, I mean really a kid, I never worried about the way I looked, because I thought—I knew—I'd grow up to be beautiful just like my sister Clara."

    Videogames 
  • In The Sims 2, twins Lilith and Angela Pleasant in the Pleasantview neighborhood are pre-programmed to hate each other. Angela is the Popular One and Lilith is a Goth.
  • Nina and Anna Williams in the Tekken series.
  • In Dota 2, Slayer Lina and Crystal Maiden Rylai are reworked into this. Lina is the smart, guile sister who is favored by their original parents unlike Rylai who is more naive (and blonde). However, lore-wise, after separation for their mage mastery, Lina didn't make much friends with other heroes in the game, while Rylai actually befriended another hero, Ymir the Tusk.

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Pleasantly averted in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Jane and Lizzie support each other and admire the other, Jane and Lydia esteem and try to correct each other, and Lizzie and Lydia are too busy being sarcastic towards each other and too certain that their way of living is the good one to be rivals.
  • Taylor and Sarah from lonelygirl15 have elements of this, although they mix and match characteristics from the types; Sarah is attractive, intelligent, emo, and a Deadpan Snarker, while Taylor is more bookish and computer savvy but also sportier.
  • Sabriel and Lirael DuLac from The Questport Chronicles, in keeping with their Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling duality. One's the leader of the biggest City of Adventure in the world, the other is a treasure-obsessed former pirate.
  • Trisha and Stephanie on The War Comms are this to a T: Stephanie is sweet, quirky, intelligent, a proud geek and cute in a more offbeat way; Trisha is vain, shallow, stuck-up, self-centered and works her butt off to look fashion-model pretty. In a perhaps unsurprising twist, Stephanie is actually The Popular One for personality reasons.

    Western Animation 
  • Pictured above: Daria: Daria Morgendorffer was the titular character and was the smart one, her sister Quinn was the red-headed popular one. However, Quinn was shown to be fairly intelligent in her own right (which actually scared her, fearing she'd be kicked out of her clique) and the sisters did begin to make peace in the final season.
    • In the episode "Quinn the Brain," where Quinn embraces a shallow sort of intellectualism because the dimmer wits wandering the school find her crappy poetry profound. Daria finds this even worse than her normal, self-imposed ditziness; as much as she hates her sister's default state, she hates discarding personal integrity in favor of pleasing the masses even more, so she works to restore the status quo (even willing to give herself a temporary makeover), if only so that their relationship can remain at "rivalry" as opposed to out-and-out holy war.
    • Turns out to be Generation Xerox to some extent: their mother, Helen, has an acrimonious relationship with her older sister Rita, and to a lesser extent their younger sister Amy. Rita seems to be the pretty one, Amy the smart one, and Helen the overachiever who's become the most successful.
  • Starfire and Blackfire on Teen Titans. Starfire is the sweet, beautiful, Genki Girl while Blackfire is a smart, evil, Dark Chick.
  • Surprisingly and refreshingly averted in The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. Anne Chan is the Smart One and a Bokukko while her older sister Suzie is The Cutie and the Pretty One, but they get along quite well. In fact, a good part of the Sibling Rivalry tropes are averted in the cartoon: while the kids did have their disagreements, extended rivalries didn't really happen.
  • An adult example: A Kind of Magic has Willow, a cheerful fairy, and Ferocia, an evil witch.
  • Hey Arnold! has Helga, who's a tomboyish Tsundere, and Olga, who's pretty and brilliant. Of course the rivalry is only present because of their parents showing so much favoritism towards Olga, who doesn't even want it in the first place and tells Helga that being ignored is better than being stiffled and bound by said attention. The girls do generally care for each other.
  • 6teen has Jen as The Smart One and Courtney as The Beautiful One in "It's Always Courtney, Courtney, Courtney".
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has Numbuh 5 and her sister, Cree. This show takes this trope Up to Eleven, since Cree is a teenager and a sworn enemy of the Kids Next Door, in which Numbuh 5 is involved.

    Real Life 
  • J. K. Rowling, the writer of Harry Potter, and her sister Dianne. According to Jo's web site, her sister, who is now a lawyer, was always much better-looking. As compensation, her parents decided that J.K. was "the bright one." Is there a better way of causing the "wildcats in a small cage" scenario?
  • Authors A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble. If Byatt's "The Game" is to be taken as autobiographical, Byatt was the Smart Sister and Drabble was the Popular One.
  • Going by her autobiography, Jessica Mitford spent a certain amount of her adolescence in an extraordinarily black-comedic variant on this; she was developing into a lifelong socialist at precisely the same time as her sister Unity was becoming an extremely dedicated British Fascist (and personal friends with most of the Nazi high command). Furthermore, there was a definite pretty one/smart one element to it; while neither was ugly, Unity was considered prettier (once he met her, Hitler—with whom she may or may not have had an affair—called her "a perfect specimen of Aryan womanhood"), while Jessica was famous for being crazy-smart (she wrote a lot of articles and books later in life). Until the international situation began to get really dire, they behaved almost exactly like every other pair of arguing teenagers. Did we mention they shared a room? Well, they shared a room—which, as soon as their politics were cemented, they split down the middle with a chalk line and decorated on each side in the symbols of their ideologies (Unity in swastikas and pictures of Hitler, 'Decca' in hammers and sickles and pictures of Lenin).
    • What makes this really sad is that there's evidence that when they were children Unity and 'Decca' were very close and shared a secret society and language, among other examples.
  • Anne Frank's diary is full of this kind of thing about her older sister Margot, who she claimed was prettier, nicer, smarter, more mature, and just "better," in contrast to Anne's adolescent awkwardness and mood swings. She also wrote about times she thought her parents were favoring Margot over her.
  • This was the relationship between the Tudor Queens of England, "Bloody" Mary I and her younger half-sister Elizabeth I. Mary's happy childhood as the only surviving child of Henry VIII came to a crashing halt when Henry took up with Anne Boleyn, for whom he divorced Mary's mother Catherine of Aragon. Anne was infamously cruel to Mary, persuading Henry to strip his daughter of her rightful title of 'Princess' and even forcing her to be a nursemaid to the infant who supplanted her as heir to the throne. Nevertheless, the much-older Mary was fond of her little sister and also their mutual half-brother Edward (later Edward VII). As Elizabeth grew older, however, Mary began to see her as a rival, a fact which was cemented during Mary's queenship. Their opposing religions did not help; Mary was a steadfast Catholic while Elizabeth had been reared in the (Protestant) Church of England. When Mary became Queen, Protestant plots to depose her and place Elizabeth on the throne resulted in Elizabeth being arrested and imprisoned several times. Elizabeth was much younger, prettier, and much, much smarter than poor Mary; she was unhappy, aging badly, despised by her subjects, unable to have children, and eventually died of a tumor. Against her inclination, she had no choice but to leave the throne to the sister she resented.
    • It has been speculated that the current Queen Elizabeth was not immune to this effect. Princess Elizabeth was never intended to be a contender to the throne: her father George, after all, was merely the younger brother of King Edward VIII, a man who, barring accident or the unthinkable act - abdication - was set to be King until well into the twentieth century. But events conspired, her father ascended a tarnished throne as King George VI, led a country through WW2, and died young in 1952, so the eldest of his two daughters became Queen Elizabeth II. The ongoing calculated bad behaviour and imperious hauteur of her younger sister, Princess Margaret Rose, was out in public for all to see: Margaret lived in perpetual jealousy of Elizabeth's role as Queen, and her antics were designed to embarrass the reign. Elizabeth is said to have felt like the dowdy and plain one next to her sister, a woman who regularly figured in lists of the world's most beautiful women and who was known for her grand living. While Margaret had some love and affection for her sister, she pushed the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and caused Elizabeth constant dread and embarrassment: her affairs were legion, not especially discreet, and included Peter Sellers and (according to legend) Mick Jagger, among many others. As the sisters entered middle age, however, Elizabeth asserted greater control as Margaret's looks faded and died; lacking the looks to keep rich lovers, Margaret now depended on her sister's dole and had to toe the Windsor party line - effectively, the Queen was taking her revenge for the put-downs and exquisite embarrassments of earlier years.
  • Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland. One of the most famous feuds in Old Hollywood, and was STILL ongoing at this entry's original inclusion in 2012. By the time of Joan's death in 2013, both sisters were just a little under 100 and hadn't spoken to each other in 30 years. The rivalry was all the more intense because both of them were A-list actresses back in the day, each winning Oscars for Best Actress. Rivalry compounded by the fact Joan had been forbidden by her parents to use her family name for acting - she had to settle for "Fontaine".
    Olivia: Imagine what we could have done if we had gotten together. We could have selected the right scripts, the right directors, the right producers—we could have built our own empire. But it was not to be.


Cain and Abel and SethDysfunctional Family IndexKnight Templar Big Brother
Sibling RivalrySibling TropesPrinceling Rivalry
Friend Versus LoverDiscord TropesGold Fever
Friends with BenefitsDuo TropesHair Contrast Duo
The Glasses Come OffCharacterization TropesThe Gloves Come Off
Genre SavvyOlder Than DirtGod Couple
Fairytale Wedding DressImageSource/Western AnimationSnark-to-Snark Combat
Foolish Sibling, Responsible SiblingFoilGeodesic Cast

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