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"I assure you, I am the Black Sheep of the family. And while that would normally make me a criminal or a lunatic, in my
evil family it makes me noble and decent!"
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
. Compare Evil Parents Want Good Kids
and Rebellious Rebel
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- 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.
SON: I really want to wear a suit, Dad!
Anime and Manga
- Karin of Chibi Vampire is like this (she's from a vampire family), though the fact that she can't suck blood and walks around in the sunlight may have something to do with it.
- Nunally and Euphemia in Code Geass are this to the Britannian royal family. Lelouch is more of a gray sheep who wants to annihilate the rest of the flock.
- Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist is an Anti-Villain who can't stand the thought of someone other than him ruling
the country the 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Toxin from Marvel Comics (particularly Spider Man). He has the same violent tendencies as his parent Carnage and grandparent Venom, but his host was actually sane and law-abiding and was thus forced into playing Adult With The Leash. Toxin is also a bit more childlike than the other symbiotes.
- 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.
Films — Live-Action
- Gabriel Syme in GK 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.
- Elric of Melniboné is the first of both his family and his civilisation to start wondering about things like morality, which is what leads him to give up his place as Emperor and start Walking the Earth.
- 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 am 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.
- Drizzt Do'Urden, everybody's favorite Dual Wielding Chaotic Good drow Defector from Decadence from R.A. Salvatore's The Legend Of Drizzt and the Forgotten Realms.
- 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 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 lacks of money but rather because their family is so embarrassing. Their mother's brother and 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.
- In George Mc Donald Fraser's Flashman chronicles, the anti-hero, bully, poltroon, liar, coward, cheat and all round selfish protaganist 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".
- 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.
- 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...
- Vlad on Young Dracula is an example of trying to fit in the evil family. The issue is that vampire kids have a Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday or the like and after that, go through Transhuman Treachery. Vlad wants to avoid this. Interestingly, his Fille Fatale sister Ingrid actually is evilish and she's the more rebellious of the two.
- 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 US 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. 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. 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).
- In a strange way, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be seen in this light. He goes from being a Badass, feared vampire who has killed two Slayers in the past to a lovestruck, 'neutered' vamp due to his being chipped and falling in love with the third Slayer he went after, Buffy. His love for Buffy leads him to actively seek out the return of his soul for a chance at redemption (or just a chance at a relationship with her). Despite the nature of vampires being Always Chaotic Evil, Spike chooses to fight for good, act heroically, recover his soul, and attempt to sacrifice himself on two occasions (he only dies once, and he doesn't stay dead).
- 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.
- 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.
- The Dukes of Hazzard has Boss Hogg's good twin brother Abraham Lincoln Hogg, whose name is just one of the things that make him an opposite of Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg, whose family has other villains. Abe's debut episode was named "Baa, Baa, White Sheep".
- 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.
- 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.
- Any player character Whateley from Deadlands.
- 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.
- In the Addams Family Musical, 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.
Wednesday (to her "normal" fiance): I'm crazier than you/That's just the overview/So get on board or simply move along.
- In Electra, Chrysothemis sometimes approaches being the Only Sane Man in her murdering incestuous family.
- 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.
- In Resident Evil 6, Sherry Birkin and Jake Muller are this. Sherry is the daughter of William Birkin from Resident Evil 2, and was infected with the G-Virus. She now works as a government agent trying to save the world. Jake Muller is the son of former Big Bad Albert Wesker, and he ends up helping Sherry. He even goes on his own to fight Bioterrorism in one of the endings.
- In Tekken Jinpachi is the White Sheep (Demonic Possession aside) of the Mishima family the only wholy good member of his family.
- 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 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 The Order of the Stick, the party is helped at one point by goblins. Since goblins are Always Chaotic Evil, it puzzles them until Haley, thinking about her past as a gloomy goth teenager, deduces that being Neutral Good is their way of rebelling against their parents.
- 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.
- 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 his parents refused to pay his bail money.
- Señor Senior Junior in Kim Possible. He is fine with being evil, but doesn't understand, for instance, what's with the complex death traps.
- Adventures Of The Galaxy Rangers: Shane Gooseman is the youngest of the Supertroopers, and the others gave him the derisive nickname of "Runt" as a result. He was unwilling to accept needless casualties, questioned his purpose as a living weapon, and developed compassion. The rest of his Supertrooper "family" (with the sole exception of Darkstar) turned out to be everything you'd expect a living weapon to be - amoral, cruel, and bloodthirsty.
- 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
- ThunderCats (2011) has Thundera's Catfolk Rebel Prince Lion-O, introduced as a conventional Black Sheep, a duty-shirking Cloudcuckoolander believer in Lost Technology in a Proud Warrior Race royal family, who inhabits a magical kingdom stuck in Medieval Stasis. Yet as his world is revealed, social stratification, Animal Jingoist Fantastic Racism and Cultural Posturing become more apparent, until it's obvious that Thundera is not The Kingdom, but an expansionist Evil Empire. When Lion-O decides to hear out some particularly vitriolic stockaded and enslaved Lizard Folk prisoners-of-war, he's forced to confront the idea that My Species Doth Protest Too Much, and ends up further alienating his father and his subjects as he defends the Lizards from a Vigilante Execution by Angry Mob.
- Several characters in Young Justice fit this trope:
- 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.
- Aqualad was an unknowing version of this, since while he didn't know it, his father is Black Manta.
- Bad news as of the third episode of Season 2- he's passed the Despair Event Horizon and done a Face Heel Turn after he found out, so he no longer counts.
- 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.