Wacky Parent, Serious Child

"Everybody mambo!"

"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 
  • Bleach: Ichigo and Karin compared to their Amazingly Embarrassing father, Dr. Isshin Kurosaki. Unless Isshin drops his Obfuscating Stupidity facade, yeah.
  • In Dagashi Kashi, we have the son Kokonotsu and his eccentric father, You.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku (Wacky Parent) to Gohan (Serious Child). Although they both share their goofy moments and are nice guys, Gohan is shown to be more serious, intelligent and mature than Goku. Justified as they were raised differently. This also applies to his mother.
    • Mr. Satan (Wacky Parent) to Videl (Serious Child). Satan acts very boastful and silly, while Videl spends most of the series being laid-back and serious when the situations call for it.
  • 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.
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh!, all three of Lady Celi's sons are serious in comparison to her, although Gwendal, the eldest, takes the cake on stoicism. This is mostly Played for Laughs, except when it isn't: being on an eternal quest for free love is an amusing quirk as a woman with adult children, but it's sometimes shown that this behavior had a not-always-positive effect on her sons when they were growing up, and her irresponsibility played a factor in the tragedy of the Lutenberg Division twenty years ago.
  • Lyrical Nanoha
  • Michiko & 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sailor Moon: Though Chibiusa is technically Usagi's child from the 30th Century, she and Usagi qualify to a certain extent. Usagi is a lot goofier than Chibiusa, who is sometimes more serious than Usagi.
  • Soul Eater:
    • The Cloudcuckoolander Shinigami and his serious, Super OCD son Death the Kid. However, Shinigami-sama's goofball moments were the result of him adapting a more holly personality since his grim and serious demeanor from centuries ago wasn't exactly the best for being in charge of a school; he still knows when to be deathly serious. Also, Kid's Super OCD moments make him pretty wacky at times.
    • Maka's is quite down-to-earth, while her dad's a perverse goofball.
  • In Space Patrol Luluco, the title character has a warm relationship with her father, even though she wants to be normal and he's a member of the Space Police. Her mom, meanwhile, left and is the awesomely psychotic Space Pirate Queen.
  • Toradora!: Ryuuji is the Serious Child to his mom Yasuko's Wacky Parent. He cook and cleans the house, since Yasuko works late at a bar, and therefore she's a bit drowsy and odd during daytime. Also, she was 16 when she had him.
  • Witchblade: Masane and her daughter Rihoko are this to a fault. Masane is a free spirit who enjoys staying up all night drinking with the other tenants of their apartment building, while Rihoko is so ridiculously mature for her age (six) that she does all the shopping, cooking, and even has to put her mother to bed when she drinks too much, talking down to her in an exasperated way while she does.

    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.

  • This facet of Chrono and Lindy's relationship is played up considerably in Infinity.
    Chrono: Isn't it supposed to be that the child gives the parent grey hairs?
  • While Daria had some of this already, God Save The Esteem cranks it up, because in this AU Helen and Jake (and Quinn) are all The Quincy Punk while Daria is still more-or-less her canon self.
    Jake: Gahdamnit Daria, your mother just suggested you get a piercing—suggested!

    Films — Animated 
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Lewis with Bud and Lucille, who adopt him at the end. Wilbur and Franny are a much milder example: he's always a little goofy while she jumps around from serious to very wacky.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Halloweentown films, Grandma Aggie is a proud, whimsical witch while her daughter, Gwen, married a Muggle and continues to live a "normal" life even after his death. Both of Gwen's daughters take after Aggie, though her son Does Not Like Magic even more than she does.
    Aggie: Oh, being normal is vastly overrated.
  • In Anywhere But Here, Susan Sarandon plays the free-spirited Adele who wants her daughter to become an actress. Natalie Portman is Ann, the much more level-headed daughter who dreams of attending an Ivy League university - and getting as far away from her irresponsible mother as possible.
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Greg's dad, who hangs around the house in a kimono eating cuttlefish and talking to his cat is definitely this compared to Greg, who is slightly quirky at most. A more serious example is Rachel's mom, who starts drinking heavily after her daughter's diagnosis, and Rachel, who takes it more calmly.

  • 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 while 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.”
    • He, himself, is the serious, dutiful son to his trickster father.
  • 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.
  • Brulion Bebe B. has Bebe, who is actively trying to be as unlike her Large Ham mother as humanly possible.
  • The Machineries of Empire has Shuos Jedao and his mother. In Extracurricular Activities, her idea of a birthday present is a tube of goose fat (which he initially mistakes for a bomb, being a spy), and when he and his partner use it as a lubricant (the sex kind, not the mechanics kind), he's horrified to think of what she'd say if she ever found out, only to realize that if she did, she'd probably send him even more of it.

    Live Action TV 
  • Absolutely Fabulous featured bumbling, selfish, impulsive, party girl mother Edina and her long-suffering, Only Sane Woman daughter Saffron.
  • 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.
  • 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 seems a little more grounded than his flighty, White-Dwarf Starlet mother, but she does feel like part of her job is to bring him back down to earth occasionally.
  • 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.
  • Family Ties was based on this. Alex P. Keaton was a strait-laced Young Republican who was born to two aging hippies.
  • Psych has an inverted example with serious control freak Henry Spencer and Brilliant, but Lazy Shawn Spencer. Shawn acts like a goofball and has a silly but effective approach to solving crimes, compared to the more methodical way his dad does it.
    • However, it is subtly implied that Henry and his own father was like this. Both were cops, but Grandfather Spencer certainly seemed more laid-back, wisecracking and jovial when we saw him in Shawn's youth. Outside of chiding Henry for interrupting his bonding time with Shawn and over "if he had to drain the fun out of everything", he advises Shawn to make his own choices, travel the world, meet interesting people and have adventures, something to which the young Shawn took to heart.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lisa and Tia Landry in Sister Sister. Her long-lost twin sister Tamera and her father have the opposite relationship.
  • That '70s Show: Mature, smart, independent Donna and her dim-witted parents Bob and Midge.
  • Gilmore Girls: While Lorelai can handle being a parent when it counts, the show tends to follow this trope. One episode revealed that, while Lorelai was going commando thanks to running out of clean underwear, Rory had been secretly doing her own laundry.
    • A more cynical variation with Jess and his mother Liz. For most of Jess's childhood Liz was an unstable, unreliable mess, so by the age of 17 Jess is entirely self-sufficient, and pretty bitter and jaded as a result. He also struggles with suddenly having a reliable, sensible parental figure in Luke.
  • A played with example in Voyagers!. Bogg and Jeff's relationship is odd, but there are hints that it's partially a father/son bond. Bogg is historically ignorant and easily distracted by a pretty face, often needing Jeff to advise him or get him back on track. However, there are cases where it's Jeff who needs Bogg to keep him in line.

    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 or Henry.
  • 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.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Kodah is a cheerful, jubilant woman who still acts pretty much the way she did when she and Link were kids together. Finley is a solemn, serious young Zora who even talks like an elder Zora to make herself seem more grown up. There's also Granté; his father Robbie is a very silly and bombastic guy, with his mother Jerrin shooting for a similarly energetic persona. Granté himself, on the other hand, is a fairly reserved guy who is also a bit socially awkward.

     Web Animation 

     Web Comic 
  • Roommates has Javert and his mother, the bipolar Morgan.
  • Also in the spin off Superintendent, 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?
  • Ozy and Millie: With Ozy being more or less The Straight Man, Llewellyn arguably needs his adopted son just as much as Ozy needs Llewellyn.

     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 Super Mario Logan, Cody is the Serious Child to his mother and his stepfather's Wacky Parents.
  • 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 
  • A variant on FuturamaGunter is a monkey given artificial intelligence by Professor Farnsworth's technology, and attends Mars University. On Parent's Day, the Professor brings Gunter's mother and father—two normal monkeys—and Gunter is humiliated when they get out of their cage and cause a fiasco.
  • Goofy and Max in Goof Troop, especially in A Goofy Movie and its sequel. Max is not very serious on the show, but he becomes more jaded in the movies. Even on the show, however, he's certainly more serious than Goofy.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Old Man McGucket and the Lake Ranger are a somewhat tragic example. Before becoming the town kook, Fiddleford Hadron McGucket was once a very intelligent computer scientist and engineer. He was called in my Stanford Pines to help create the Portal. However, during its activation, Fiddleford caught a glimpse of what lay on the other side and Bill's plans. Desperate to remove the memories, he invented a mindwiping device and founded the Blindeye Society. Constant usage ended causing permanent brain damage and memory loss. Presumably, McGucket was already a dad at the time and one wonders how it was for the Lake Ranger to see his father descend into madness. Good news though; Fiddleford is on the road to recovery with his memories and his sanity and the credit scenes show he is on good terms with his son.
    • Laid-back cool girl Wendy Corduroy is the only one with any chill in her family, most notably contrasting against her father, Manly Dan.
    • While a Parental Substitute for the summer rather than an actual parent, Dipper carries shades of this with Grunkle Stan, the former being a studious and serious lad while the latter is a theatrical con man and criminal. Once Ford comes into the mix, the dynamic is mostly averted since they're both fairly serious, but Ford still has a few more eccentricities than Dipper, such as preferring fire to a razor when it comes to shaving.
    • Robbie Valentino's parents, Greg and Janet, are both cheerful, bubbly, and personable in contrast to their son being a gloomy Jerkass, with Robbie expressing disapproval of how chipper they are when they're the town's morticians.
  • On Invader Zim, Dib and Gaz to their father, Professor Membrane. Well...kind of. At the very least they're the closest we have to Only Sane Kids in a world where everyone's crazy, and he's the hammiest in a World of Ham.
  • On South Park a running theme is that the kids tend to be a lot smarter than their parents, who usually represent whatever social trend the episode is mocking. However, the best example are Randy and Stan, the former being a Man Child and the latter being the show's biggest Only Sane Man.