Everyone is familiar with the teenager "going through a phase" or being an out-and-out rebel. Little can equal the shame to a family with a legacy of heroism than the prodigal son (or daughter, to be perfectly fair) who turns to villainy. Except, there are just as many families with a legacy of evil, so what exactly is a teen rebel supposed to do to rebel against people who are already rebelling?
Why, rebel against evil and make a Heel-Face Turn!
Much like a Phlebotinum Rebel, Defector from Decadence, and not-strictly-political Cultural Rebel, the White Sheep rebels against their family's values by taking on "traditional" rebellious attitudes. Sometimes, one of two variations are seen: first, is when the character actually struggles to fit in with the evil family and feels bad that they don't. Alternatively, the "Sheep" is still fairly evil, but they rebel by acting like a normal person.
Naturally, some White Sheep may "grow out of the phase" and fully embrace their evil roots. Other times, they might discover that Good Feels Good (or that Being Evil Sucks) and make the change permanent. The parents of such a rebellious child may try to "correct" the problem by enrolling them in an Academy of Evil.
Contrast Black Sheep, where all inversions of this trope belong.
See also Anti Anti Christ, and Only Sane Man; depending on how idealistic the work is, a White Sheep can be the latter. Compare Evil Parents Want Good Kids and Rebellious Rebel.
open/close all folders
There was a chocolate bar commercial in the 1990s with a father encouraging his adult son to pursue rock stardom, and sharing the chocolate bar allowed the son to confess his true feelings:
SON: I don't want to be a rock star like you wanted, Dad. I want to go to law school.
Her relationships with her family get better when it revealed that she is a special type of vampire who can induce fertility in the normal members of her nearly sterile race. One that comes about whenever the Vampire is in danger of extinction.
Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist is an Anti-Villain who can't stand the thought of someone other than him ruling the countrythe world everything so he joins up with the heroes against Father.
Killua from Hunter × Hunter comes from a family of very scary assassins and rebels by taking the Hunter's Exam and eventually promising to stop killing people. Bonus point for having white hair in contrast to his black haired brothers.
Dio from Last Exile is well on his way to being this when his sister catches up to him.
Itachi Uchiha from Naruto is the White Sheep of the Uchiha Clan. At first he was the Black Sheep, until it turned out that the Uchiha Clan was harboring generations of hate.
It turns out he wasn't the only one. Shisui Uchiha actually shared the same views as Itachi and aided him with gaining the Mangekyou Sharingan, meaning he actually did commit suicide. Then there's Sasuke, who was the White Sheep because not only was he a child, when it came to everything that happened to the Uchiha Clan before the massacre, he knew nothing about the coup d'etat and was the only one innocent in all of this.
Shisui's White Sheep status was inherited - his father, Kagami Uchiha, was one of the few Uchiha who could have ever been called a friend of the Second Hokage, and was as fiercely loyal to the village as Shisui himself was.
In Nurarihyon No Mago Nura Rikuo is a decendant of youkai, who are considered to be evil or scary spirits. However Rikuo doesn't want to be like his family and protests by being a White Sheep. That is until he realizes this is a surefire of hurting more people than helping. So he becomes a Gray Sheep by accepting the youkai mantle and uses that power to protect his human friends.
In Girls und Panzer, Miho Nishizumi is this to her family, given that their style of tankery stresses ruthless determination to winning at tankery regardless of the cost, and she cares more about those she fights alongside. It turns out that Miho's older sister Maho is something of a gray sheep; living up to Shiho's expectations mainly so that Miho will not have to.
In Fate/Zero, we are introduced to Kariya Matou, Shinji's uncle, who seems to be the only decent human being in the Matou family. Naturally, his family threw him out and considers him a worthless traitor. He joins the Holy Grail War to try to save Sakura from Zouken's plans... but, well, anyone who's played Fate/stay night knows how that must inevitably turn out.
Raven Princess Ashleigh in Scion rebels against her rather evil family by joining an underground movement devoted to freeing the kingdom's genetically-engineered slaves.
The Flash has the young Eobard Thawne and then, more permanently, his descendant Meloni Thawne. Before becoming Professor Zoom, Eobard was an obsessive fanboy of Barry Allen and dreamed of both meeting him and being him (he was still willing to kill someone to make it possible), though the Thawnes held a centuries-long grudge against the Allens and Flashes in general. Some four-five centuries later, thanks to time travel, Meloni married Barry's son Don.
The Beagle Boys of the Disney Ducks Comic Universe are such Card Carrying Villains that they are outraged to learn that their cousin 0, who they initially idolized for never going to prison and getting a number, is actually the head chef in a diner, earning an honest living.
Runaways, in comparison to their parents. Minus Alex, of course.
The current host of the Venom symbiote is Flash Thompson who is a full fledged hero who was on the Secret Avengers, is currently on the Thunderbolts, and is set to join the Guardians of the Galaxy.
In the MAD parody of The Godfather, Vito complains about Michael not doing the same gangster activities as his brothers, and Michael Responds "I'm sorry I turned out to be the white sheep of the family".
Lucky Luke: Marcel Dalton is a(n honest) banker in Switzerland. The Daltons never really mention him.
In the Darkwing Duck fanfiction series, Negaverse Chronicles, Bushroot turns out to be this. His family turns out to be the ones in charge of one of the biggest gangs before Negaduck rose to power while he ends up being one of the Friendly Four.
Films — Animated
In Mad Monster Party,Dr. Frankenstein intends to name his nephew, Felix, as his successor. Frankenstein specifically refers to Felix's mother as the "white sheep" in their family—she gave up associations with horror and evil, and thus Felix neither knows about nor wants his uncle's inheritance.
Michael Corleone of The Godfather was raised to be the white sheep; he was supposed to begin the family's shift into respectability. Vito expresses regret shortly before his death that he ended up being the one to succeed his father, since he'd wanted him to be "Senator Corleone" or "Governor Corleone," and Michael reassures him that "we'll get there."
While details aren't given about their parents, the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland closely fits this idea. She knows she has crazy running through her genes, and her sister the Red Queen, shows how she could act. Thus, she pretends to be Incorruptible Pure Pureness, but you can see her true nature in the loopy Perky Goth that shines through.
Debatable; while not as evil as his father, he's not good either. In the first movie, while Dr. Evil wines and dines Austin and Vanessa, Scott suggest they just kill them now.
"What, you're feeding them? Why don't you just kill them?"
In Corky Romano, the titular character comes from a family of The Mafia. However, unlike his father and brothers, all he wants to do is be a vet. Of course, at the end, it's revealed that his brothers have their own issues (one is in the closet and the other is illiterate).
Gabriel Syme in G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday comes from a family that rebels against everything. By the time he grows up, the only thing left to rebel against is anarchy, so he joins the police.
The younger Magpyres of Carpe Jugulum are quite evil, but they rebel by discarding all of the traditional vampire traits. They dress dowdily and pick the most mundane human names possible, as a pretty clear inversion of rebellious goth teenagers.
Sirius Black in the Harry Potter novels acts like your typical "bad boy rebel" and is the Black Sheep of his family, but since said family are almost exclusively dark wizards, who are extremely racist to muggle-borns that they make the Malfoys look tame, he's one of these. Ditto his favorite cousin, Andromeda Black, who marries a Muggle-born. And his younger brother Regulus, who, after discovering what the dark side really looks like, betrays Voldemort by stealing the Slytherin Locket, the Horcrux hidden in the cave, sacrificing his life in the process.
And to drive the point home, both Sirius and Andromeda have been disowned by the family, their names burnt off the family tree tapestry.
Agent Pendergast seems to be the only member of his entire family for generations back who didn't turn out criminally insane.
Played for Laughs in the Swedish YA novel Omin Hambe i Slättköping; the narrator's best friend comes from a family where everyone is basically a petty criminal - except his oldest brother, who does well in school and goes on to become a priest, which his family sees as a betrayal. However, it turns out he is also an embezzler, and he is welcomed back in the family by his parents, now very proud to have a son who is a whitecollar criminal instead of a petty thief!
Rumpole of the Bailey: In "Rumpole and the Barrow Boy", one of the Timsons (a large family almost entirely made up of criminals) goes to school, studies, and becomes a financier... and is the one set up to be blamed for financial irregularities at his place of employment by his father-in-law-to-be, who is not happy at finding out about young Timson's family, even though he's never done anything wrong himself.
In Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, Lethe Hades, or so we are told, since he hasn't made an appearance. Uses the exact phrase, too.
Similar to the Godfather example above, Richie Burke of the Sunny Randall series was deliberately kept away from the less legal parts of his family business, which contains several high ranking members of The Irish Mob.
In Dune, House Harkonnen are known for their cruelty and decadence, but one of them long ago is a good guy, Xavier Harkonnen who was good friends Vorian Atreides, he was considered a traitor when he killed an evil Patriach Iblis Ginjo who was going to harvest organs on the people of Caladan, and crashed his ship killing them both.
In fact, the whole reason the Harkonnens are so bad in the time of the original book is because of how everyone else treated them after Xavier killed their beloved Patriarch and later after Xavier's grandson Abulard refused to risk the lives of millions of human slaves that the machines rigged explosives to at the Battle of Corrin. The latter of which got him exiled by Vorian Atreides and started the millenia-spanning feud between the houses of Atreides and Harkonnen.
The other prequel series has Abulard Rabban, the Baron's own half-brother. Who was good-hearted and kind and so ashamed of the rest of his family that he took his wife's surname. Unfortunately his sons Glossu and Feyd-rautha ended up more like their uncle, and he was killed by Glossu.
In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Jane are the only proper and respectable members of the Bennet family. In fact, the main reason it is so hard for the girls to find husbands is not because of their lack of money but rather because their family is so embarrassing. Their mother's brother and his wife, the Gardiners, are the closest relations they have that actually behave well.
Anne Elliot in Persuasion is the only level-headed person in a family full of fools.
Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility is the only nice person in a family full of Jerk Asses. (Possibly he takes after his father, who has been dead for some time when the novel begins.)
In George McDonald Fraser's Flashman chronicles, the anti-hero, bully, poltroon, liar, coward, cheat and all-around selfish protagonist is utterly mortified in later life when his oldest son, also Harry Flashman, chooses to enter the priesthood and serve God. Flashman's only consolation is to reflect "well, if the boy's learnt anything at all from me, he'll certainly end up as Archbishop of Canterbury".
Michael Oversteegen of the Honor Harrington novels, whose loathing for his generally horrible relatives is truly amazing. He defies family tradition by being a brave, brilliant naval officer and fundamentally decent human being, while virtually all of his numerous cousins are greedy, incompetent, or both.
Supernatural: Sam Winchester grew up in a family of con artists and violent vigilantes, living on the road. It was his dream to settle down as a normal person and not fight anymore. Considering that his family consisted of warriors fighting monsters (although they didn't always look into whether those monsters were actually evil or even dangerous), he rebelled to go to school so he could become a lawyer, and his entire life has involved demonic influence; unsurprisingly, he's the Black Sheep as well.
Worf from Star Trek:TNG / Deep Space Nine is a Klingon, who are normally enemies/anathema to the Federation; but because he's raised by humans, he becomes a valued Federation officer. However, at the time, Klingons were at the very least on and off allies of the Federation.
Same with Odo, who turns against his own people to help their enemies, the Federation.
Token Evil Teammate Garak is probably the straightest example of this trope. He leaves behind his father's business, the Obsidian Order, to help the Federation defeat the Dominion. Although he is reluctant at first, he eventually admits to liking Federation thinking.
Weyoun's sixth clone falls under this trope as well.
Tony Soprano has a sister, Barbara, who only visits occasionally and is the only member of the Soprano family whose life is largely untouched by the mob.
Ebeneezer Blackadder from the Blackadder's Christmas Carol. At the beginning, anyway.
Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess comes from a long line of successful warlords, including his two lookalike brothers. He tried, but he just can't get it to work. He called himself the "black sheep" of the family once, and not in a good way. He has a third brother who is a Camp Gay dancer, but he at least is successful at his chosen field. Joxer, on the other hand...
Although her family are Friendly Neighborhood Monsters, Marilyn on The Munsters feels bad about not fitting in and thinks of herself as the ugly one - because she's a normal human and the family are Hollywood monsters who don't look scary to the audience, but terrify people in-series.
Mary Shannon on In Plain Sight is a U.S. Marshal despite having a bigamist father with a serious gambling problem who has been a fugitive for decades, a lifelong alcoholic mother (now recovering) and a sister who trafficked drugs for her boyfriend, in Mary's house. Slightly subverted in that Mary is hardly a saint herself.
Michael and his son George Michael are the sanest, nicest, and most ethical members of the Bluth family on Arrested Development though this being the Bluths, being those things is relative. Michael kind of plays with this idea as the family itself considers him a White Sheep (that's why helping it regain its wealth and prestige is his job), and he can be pretty snarky and dickish to his family members whilst usually out for his own glory. His name was deliberately given as an allusion to Michael Corleone, who was similarly designated his family's White Sheep. Both families have a lecherous and impulsive brother (Sonny/GOB) and one who is nice but dim (Fredo/Buster).
The argument could be made that Angel also counts; but he was cursed with his soul, rather than seeking it out himself, and when he doesn't have that he's Angelus, one of the most vicious and sadistic vampires ever to live, who isn't likely to act against his nature any time soon, and the last thing Angelus wants is his soul back. Angel, when he has a soul, does fight off the vampire's base instincts for evil, but it's usually clear that the human soul is the part that's ultimately in control at these times.
Lorne to the rest of his clan.
The old eighties police drama Hunter was based on a lead character (something of a take-off of Dirty Harry) who was himself the son of a notable mobster. At one point Hunter muses that at works he's the cop who is a mobster's son, at family gatherings he's the mobster's son who became a cop, he doesn't entirely fit in either world.
The Doctor of Doctor Who. He stole a TARDIS and took his granddaughter with him to escape the stuffy, boring old Time Lords and go and explore the universe. While later he would also go and use his powers and technology for good, directly against his species' laws of non-interference, it took a while; his first appearence had him rather bored by humans and perfectly willing to kidnap or kill them, if push came to shove.
By the end of the Tenth Doctor's tenure, it is clear that he (along with two other nameless Time Lords) was definitely the white sheep of a truly terrible race.
This is noted in a Chameleon Circuit song; "I was a teenage rebel, and that stayed the same!"
The TARDIS wasn't going to sit around and be phased out of use, oh no! So she stole a Time Lord and went out to see the universe, making sure to drop the Doctor off in placed that he could be of help.
Peter Petrelli. The Petrelli family are ruthlessly corrupt and ambitious with grand schemes. Peter is the sweet Genre Blind nurse who would rather help people out instead. He's also the family Black Sheep for the exact reason when the Petrelli family's plans are for good as Peter's Contractual Genre Blindness will eventually bungle things up.
An episode of Grey's Anatomy depicted a couple of old hippies (Jewish by ethnic roots), whose daughter rebelled against their easy-going permissiveness by embracing all the laws of Orthodox Judaism.
The problem in the episode was that the girl needed a valve replaced, and the most common one used (in lieu of a human transplant) comes from a pig. The girl freaked out about a "dirty animal" being inside her and wouldn't allow the procedure (even though she's not eating it, so it should still be okay). While there was an alternative (a bovine valve), the surgeon didn't have any experience transplanting one.
Detective sgt. Rick Hunter in Hunter comes from a mob family. His family tends to be an embarrasement to him — as is he to them.
The Addams Family: One of Charles Addams' cartoons had Morticia Addams showing a guest the family portraits; among the horrible, deformed people portrayed was one of a respectable-looking man, whom Morticia explained as "(This one) Daddy always called the lost sheep."
One Far Side comic featured the sons of Barnum & Bailey, rebelling against their parents by running away to join corporate America.
Champions adventure The Circle and M.E.T.E.. Megan Pierce rebelled against her evil witch mother and became a superhero.
Candace Liao-Allard, formerly of the Capellan Confederation, later ruler of the St. Ives Compact in the BattleTech Universe. The rest of her family were either Axe Crazy (her dad, Maximilian and her sister, Romano, for instance) or dead by order or direct action of said Axe Crazy members. Deciding she didn't relish either option, she defected to the Federated Suns.
Mortimer Brewster of Arsenic and Old Lace is considered something of a black sheep by his aunts because he's a Deadpan Snarker and irreligious, but the aunts are (good-hearted) murderers and everyone else in the family is crazy and/or evil.
In The Addams Family, Wednesday believes she's losing some of her dark impulses after falling in love with a normal boy, much to her family's dismay.
Wednesday: I’m being pulled in a new direction/But I think I like it./I think I like it./I'm being pulled in a new direction./Through my painful pursuit/Somehow birdies took root./All the things I detested impossibly cute.
Show Within a Show example from Cabaret: the Mama of Don't Tell Mama seems to be the only family member not involved in something seedy, as her daughter is a dancer at a seedy nightclub, her husband is a customer of the nightclub, her brother or brother-in-law is her daughter's agent for the nightclub, her mother or mother-in-law is also a dancer at the nightclub, and her son is involved in something bad enough that her daughter 'will squeal on him' if he squeals on her.
The Polish play Tango. The protagonist's parents, despite being in their forties or fifties, are still carrying on their teenage rebellion and breaking down "traditional values" in a caricatural way. The son not only thinks it causes nothing but mess and anarchy, but also laments that there's nothing for him to rebel against (including his parents' rebellious lifestyle, which is too devoid of rules and characteristic qualities for that).
In Champions Online, the character Witchcraft was raised in a family of dark-magic users, but rebelled as a teenager and became the premier 'light' sorceress on the planet. Her twin sister 'Talisman' stayed evil, and is her primary nemesis.
Brentilda of Banjo-Kazooie is the only member of Gruntilda's family we ever see that isn't an evil witch with questionable hygiene, instead appearing as some kind of fairy godmother.
The character Lanky Kong from Donkey Kong 64 is subtly implied to be a Manky Kong (a clan of evil orangutang Kongs, the Black Sheep of the Kong family tree) who has chosen to turn his back on his birth clan's wickedness and mend ties with his fellow Kongs.
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dr. McNinja is an interesting case. He comes from a family of ninjas who are not too happy about his decision to be a doctor instead of an assassin. When Doc convinces his family that being a doctor doesn't make him any less of a competent ninja, they come around to respecting him.
Essentially the premise of Evil Diva is a young demoness rebelling against her devil family by becoming a Magical Girl for the forces of good!
In Girl Genius, the Heterodyne Boys are the "white sheep" of a long line of megalomaniacal, vicious, and extremely competent Sparky rulers.
In Something Positive,Vanessa is the only member of her large family who has never had any trouble with the law. Davan consoles her by noting all the church-burners and Klansmen in his ancestry, along with the one law-abiding judge who wouldn't bend for family loyalty.
In ''Worm, Theo Anders is the son of white supremacist supervillains, but he does not share their views, and wants to become a hero, which he eventually does.
Count Duckula is a literal Vegetarian Vampire and not at all ashamed of breaking with the bloody example of his ancestors/previous incarnations. In his case, it's explicitly stated that there was a screwup during the ritual that brought him to unlife.
In an episode of Darkwing Duck (I believe it was "Life, the Negaverse, and Everything") the Gosalyn of Negaduck's alternative universe is a sweet little girl, and, more to the point, Tank Muddlefoot is in moral rebellion against the evil Muddlefoots of the Negaverse.
In Batman Beyond, Melanie Walker's family treated her relationship with Terry as teenage rebellion. When she actually completed her Heel-Face Turn, they disowned her. Then Jack joined her when she paid his bail money after their parents left him in jail.
When Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender tries to stop a bunch of fire nation troops from being used as cannon fodder, he gets burned and exiled for his trouble. Later he makes a Heel-Face Turn and teaches the Avatar fire bending
The first, Artemis Crock, is actually the daughter of Sportsmaster and her mother was a former villain who reformed after getting out of prison. Artemis' sister, Jade, also known as Cheshire works for the League of Shadows.
Aqualadwas an unknowing version of this, since while he didn't know it, his father is Black Manta.
Good news as of the seventh episode of Season 2- The Face-Heel Turn was faked and Aqualad is still a member of the team, working with Nightwing, Artemis, and Kid Flash to infiltrate The Light.
The Scarab zigzags this trope. He starts out fighting against the Reach that created him, then gets put on mode and forced to fight for the Reach, and then gets crashed and goes back to good. He makes it pretty clear in "Intervention" that he was Good All Along, just controlled.
From Justice League Unlimited, we have Brainiac 5 from the 31st century, dedicated to undoing all his ancestors' work. He even describes himself as a black sheep. Ironically enough, Supergirl ends up dating him, which makes it very awkward when Green Arrow and Green Lantern have to tell Superman who his cousin is dating.
Beezy J. Heinous from Jimmy Two-Shoes, who is much more interested in hanging out with his friends and eating than in spreading misery like the rest of the Heinouses.
Zigzagged in Codename: Kids Next Door; Number 86 is one of the good guys - well, technically - and a high ranking member at that. Her father is the villainous Mr. Boss, one of the organization's worst enemies. Oddly enough, she and her dad seem to get along perfectly fine at home.
In Squidbillies is Cousin Durwood. He went against the family values by... getting an education and living a wholesome life.