Wacky Parent, Serious Child

My father, ladies and gentlemen.
Peter Bishop, Fringe

A pair that consists of a silly, carefree or simply lighthearted parent and a child who is down to earth, snarky, brooding or all three. Usually parent and child will be of the same gender (so a wacky father with a brooding son or a ditzy mother with a serious daughter). In addition, the parent will often be utterly embarrassing. Expect Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity to pop out, which will usually end with an Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moment. Can sometimes be played for drama and show how utterly messed up it is when the younger person has to be the more mature one. Undoubtedly Truth in Television.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Played straight with Son Goku and Son Gohan, particularily in the Frieza Saga. Both are pure-hearted, though Goku is goofier than Gohan, who is also notably smarter than him. Played with in GT when Goku (still technically his father), shrinks back into a child. He still acts wacky, while Gohan is serious.
  • Soul Eater:
    • The Cloudcuckoolander Shinigami and his serious, Super OCD son Death the Kid.
    • Maka is this with her father as well. Maka's more down-to-earth, while her dad's a goofball.
  • Haruhi Fujioka in Ouran High School Host Club is the most reliable and level-headed character in the show. Her father Ryouji aka Ranka is a flaming transvestite with emotional issues.
  • Lyrical Nanoha
  • Bleach: Ichigo and Karin compared to their Amazingly Embarrassing father, Dr. Isshin Kurosaki. Unless Isshin drops his Obfuscating Stupidity facade, yeah.
  • FLCL. Naota Nandaba is fairly normal (at least for a child in anime) but his father Kamon is extremely immature, suffers emotional mood swings and exhibits inappropriate sexual behavior.
  • One Piece :
    • From what's been seen of Gold Roger, he is a man much like Luffy. However, Ace, his child, was serious and downright mean growing up. Since he wasn't raised by his father, and grew up hearing some unpleasant comments involving such matters, it isn't very surprising.
    • Inverted with Monkey D. Luffy, the goofy protagonist and his mysterious and serious father, Revolutionary Leader Monkey D. Dragon.
    • Played straight with Luffy's father and grandfather, Monkey D. Garp, who appears to act like an older version of Luffy.
  • Detective Conan:
    • Bumbling Dad Kogoro and his Cute Bruiser daughter Ran.
    • Shinichi is also less than impressed by the wacky antics of his novelist dad and former-actress mother, both of whom, among other things, left their teenage son living alone while they went on a trip to America for several years.
  • Michiko E Hatchin: Michiko Malandro and Hana Morenos, although they aren't biologically related; nine-year-old Hana is much more thoughtful and less gullible than the loud, Hot-Blooded, easily-distracted Michiko.

    Comic Books 
  • The adult comic Viz includes the comic strip "The Modern Parents" by John Fardell. It is the satire of an extremist "green"/New Age couple and their antics, while their young son is the Only Sane Man.
  • Kingdom Come's semi-sequel The Kingdom featured Plastic Man and Offspring, respectively, in these roles. Plastic Man is Fun Personified and can't stay out of his son's life; Offspring is comparatively humorless and doesn't appreciate his father's meddling.


  • Septimus Heap has Bumbling Dad Silas Heap and Only Sane Boy Septimus Heap.
  • Twilight: The brooding (very, very brooding) Bella and her mother, Renee, who Bella paints as completely flighty and incapable of taking care of herself without Bella's assistance. (She paints her father, Charlie, in a similar light.)
  • In How NOT to Become Popular by Jennifer Ziegler, Maggie's parents are quirky, free-thinking hippies who move around every few months, meanwhile Maggie tries her best to be a normal girl.
  • Common in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson. Examples include Amber, The Illustrated Mum and The Diamond Girls, all based around irresponsible and/or mentally ill parents whose antics leave their more down-to-earth children struggling.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club: Dawn and her mother Sharon. Both of them are Granola Girls but Sharon is known for being a messy and absent minded Cloudcuckoolander and her daughter is way more mature.
  • P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith series, in which Psmith and his father are...actually both kind of odd. The difference lies in the fact that Psmith is far more dignified and grounded than his flighty parent, enabling him to manipulate any situation with a professional level of ease.
  • Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left has this as a major plot element; part of the alien culture native to Zyrgon means that X, who is a 10 year old girl, is officially responsible for managing all the grown-up aspects of life (like paying the bills, telling her parents to go to work, etc), leaving her parents free to goof around and act like kids.
  • Briefly mentioned in Anansi Boys; In the Babies Ever After epilogue; the protagonist has children of his own. "His name is Marcus: he is four and a half and possesses that deep gravity and seriousness that only small children and mountain gorillas have ever been able to master.
  • A downplayed example in the Wraith Squadron novel Mercy Kill with Mulus Cheems and his (adopted) son Viull "Scut" Gorsat. Whereas Scut is deathly serious most of the time, driven by an intense desire to prove himself and repay his family's debt to Wraith Squadron (and haunted by lingering Fantastic Racism — his species invaded the galaxy that one time), Mulus is a cheerful elderly professor who shows up to lend his expertise to the men and women who saved him many years before, and is both honored and delighted to make a difference in such a critical operation.

    Live Action TV 
  • Family Ties was based on this. Alex P. Keaton was a strait-laced Young Republican who was born to two aging hippies.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Mayor is always cheerful and upbeat, even when planning his Ascension, while Faith, whom he treats like a daughter, is generally brooding and aggressive.
  • Absolutely Fabulous featured bumbling, selfish, impulsive, party girl mother Edina and her long-suffering, Only Sane Woman daughter Saffron.
  • A female version is provided by Susan Mayer and her daughter Julie in Desperate Housewives (at least, before Julie left Wisteria Lane). Hillariously when Susan's own mother Sophie appears she turns out to be so ditzy (to Brainless Beauty levels) that Susan was apparently the serious child herself when she was younger.
  • Castle:
    • Rick Castle and his daughter Alexis. He's a hyperactive manchild played by Nathan Fillion. She's a straight "A" student who is racked with guilt after jumping a subway turnstile to get out of the rain. Although he's a Good Parent whenever it counts.
    • Castle and his mother Martha are a more complex example. He seemed a little more grounded than his flightly, White-Dwarf Starlet mother, but she does feel like part of her job is to bring him back down to earth occasionally.
  • Lisa and Tia Landry in Sister Sister. Her long-lost twin sister Tamera and her father have the opposite relationship.
  • Blair Sandburg and his mother Naomi in The Sentinel. Naomi can be fairly described as 'the last flower child who hasn't gone to seed,' while Blair—although highly energetic—is finishing his doctorate in Anthropology and working as a consultant for the police.
  • Roseanne:
    • The title character's conservative mother Bev has this relationship with her own mother, Nana Mary, a Cloudcuckoolander who claims to have had affairs with every prominent artist from the 1920s. At one point Mary comments that Bev is really just as much as a rebel as she is, the only difference being that they had different lifestyles to rebel against.
    • Roseanne herself with her daughter Darlene is a less extreme example. Becky might have counted, too, except usually she was wound a little too tight.
    • Dan and his mother is a much darker version of it. Dan is naturally a little goofy, but his mother was legitimately insane, having spent several years in a mental institution and attempting to literally kill Dan in one episode.
  • That '70s Show: Mature, smart, independent Donna and her dim-witted parents Bob and Midge.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Though they don't know it, Laguna is Squall's father. Squall is brooding, stoic and professional while Laguna is a Bunny-Ears Lawyer who tends to misuse words and in general is a total loon. When Squall first meets Laguna by experiencing his memories in a dream, Squall thinks of Laguna as a moron.
    • Taken even further in Dissidia: Final Fantasy where Laguna and Squall meet, have a few awkward conversations, yet ironically neither ever find out they're related Would have been even more awkward if they did, since they were brought from their respective timelines as roughly around the same age.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening:
    • Nowi is a free-spirited Manakete who acts like a little girl because she likes it. Her half-dragon daughter Nah is far more serious and level-headed.
    • Laurent, who is basically a male version of his mother Miriel, can be this if fathered by Vaike.
  • In Fantasy Life:
    • Daemon is a Nice Guy trying to be a good Dark Sultan and to make friends. His father, the Former Dark Sultan, does a Faking the Dead stunt just to play a prank on the king that the player is serving.
    • In the blacksmith guild, there's also Vulcan, the master who gets so carried away into praising the job that his daughter and assisstant Fyra ends up doing the actual teaching.

     Web Comic 
  • Roommates has Javert and his mother, the bipolar Morgan.
  • Also in the spin off Superintendent also him and his father Clopin, who is a Lovable Rogue.
  • Paranatural's Max and his dad to a tee.
    Max: Hey, Dad. I've got a question for you.
    Dad: Ask ye, mine sweet loinsfruit.
    Max: Can you never, ever call me your loinsfruit again? ever?

     Web Video 
  • In Idiotsitter, this trope is played with. Gene is a total adult child, but her father and stepmother aren't much better. However, while her dad is portrayed as a lousy parent (in one episode, titular Idiotsitter Billie has to coach him through punishing Gene, and he's all over the map), he's also rich and successful, somehow.
  • In I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC, the Green Goblin is a wacky Harmless Villain who usually winds up helping the heroes. As such, the usual dynamic he has with his son Harry is changed to that of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander bickering with the Only Sane Man.
    Harry: AGH! Dad, why are there hyenas in my room?!
    Green Goblin: Because that's where Bud and Lou mark their territory! You know how your mother is about these things!

    Western Animation