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Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough

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"If the crew doesn't hate the XO, then he isn't doing his job."
Col. Saul Tigh, Battlestar Galactica (2003)

This is a type of ensemble, in which the top authority figure rules in a more refined way and the under boss in a more straightforward way. That is, The Captain will be an Officer and a Gentleman and A Father to His Men. When he needs to intimidate he will use subtle means like a Death Glare. By contrast lower level bosses like a Father Neptune, a Sergeant Rock or, if the crew is unlucky, Drill Sergeant Nasty will be harsh and direct in their method of rule.

In villainous organisations, a Big Bad who is Wicked Cultured, Affably Evil or otherwise physically non-threatening is likely to have a more aggressive and in-your-face Dragon to put the fear of god into his Mooks and the good guys alike.

This is to some degree Truth in Television. Not only is it a holdover from class differences, but it reflects the fundamental difference between the two roles: The officer must concern himself with the big picture, providing direction to his unit in the form of plans and orders, while the NCO's business is in the details, enforcing discipline, maintaining the unit's proficiency, and personally directing his soldiers in battle. It can also be a useful psychological trick that bears relations with Good Cop/Bad Cop; the unit NCO (or executive officer, in a naval command structure) serves where necessary as the generic "bad guy" so that the officer commanding can retain the role of "good guy", which helps to maintain command authority, and also reserves the harshest of consequences for those cases where they're genuinely merited.

Readily capable of subversion, as that refined top figure is the boss for a reason and might be very dangerous if his full attention is called for. Contrast with Aloof Leader, Affable Subordinate, where the leader is cold and distant and their second-in-command is kinder and more personable.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Erwin Smith and Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan could count as this, with Erwin as the charismatic commander of the Recon Corps and Levi as his icy, bitter, and sometimes downright brutal second-in-command. This might be a subversion, though — Erwin can be just as dangerous as Levi in his own way.
  • Cells at Work!: Helper T Cell is a relatively laid-back desk jockey who reports on the goings-on of pathogens from behind his desk, while the Killer T Cell Squad Leader is a stern and scrappy front-line fighter who bosses around his subordinates, especially the rookie Naive T Cells.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has Colonel Roy Mustang and his two most well-known subordinates, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye and Edward Elric. It's Played With in that Mustang's Captain Smooth reputation is a mask to hide his status as a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing and Fiery Stoic, and that Hawkeye is perfectly affable when off-duty, with Edward being closer to a Bratty Half-Pint than an actual hardass.
  • In Futari wa Pretty Cure, the Principal and Vice-Principal of Verone Academy are like this, in that the Principal is more laid-back while the Vice-Principal often scolds and lectures the students. The same applies to the Principal and Vice-Principal in Maho Girls Pretty Cure! as well.
  • In Gintama, Hijikata Toushirou is maintaining order and discipline and is viewed as Demonic Vice-Commander, so Kondou Isao can be Shinsengumi's beloved commander.
  • The Blue King, Reisi Munakata, and his second, Seri Awashima, in K. Munakata is always rather genteel, while Awashima is always the one to suggest more drastic measures.
    Munakata: I want all our eyes and ears on this.
    Awashima: Of course. And if our eyes and ears don't quickly produce results, we shall eliminate them.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
  • Taki and Klaus of Maiden Rose fit this trope, although their positions are more analogous to "colonel" and "captain" respectively. Although Klaus is shown to have a lot of concern for his subordinates in action, he is distastefully viewed by Taki's compatriots as wild and rough-around-the-edges, and he is very frank with orders. In contrast Taki is idolized by his troops who see him as someone who can never do wrong, and the Death Glare is the most he will exercise on his own men. At one point Taki does come closer to the "rough" side however, when he uses training to vent his own frustration, resulting in him ruthlessly beating soldiers (one of whom was already injured) foolish enough to try their luck against him.
  • Shiro Amada and Karen Joshua of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team.
  • Lieutenant Filicia Heideman and Sergeant Rio Kazumiya of Sound of the Sky.
  • Minna and Mio of Strike Witches are a Wing Commander Smooth and a Lieutenant Commander Rough.

    Comic Books 
  • The comic version of 300 had a King Smooth and Captain Rough. Leonidas was usually very calm and stoic while his Captain was brutish and violent.
  • Captain America occasionally features this during his WWII adventures, with the Sergeant usually being Sgt. Nick Fury, but his first mission featured Bucky as the Sergeant Rough as seen in Wolverine Origin.
  • Deff Skwadron inverts this as much as possible with both being orks: Uzgob is the Skwadron Kommanda, cheerfully ordering his boyz to fire on (vaguely) friendly targets (and personally trying to shoot Raznuts), while his smartboy navigator Gimzod is the one telling the story. And then there's Killboy, who despite not being a smartboy actually manages to sound high(er)-class than any other ork.
    Uzgob: Killboy! Ain't you dead yet?
    Killboy: Minor wounds, sir. Nuthin' the mediks and a few more bionik bitz can't fix. 'Avin' survived the destruction of my own bomma an' liberated this 'ere enemy aircraft I wuz just about to take off an' re-kommence attackin' the target when you blew it up, sir!

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Godzilla is the Captain Smooth and Rodan is the Sergeant Rough when they're tutoring Monster X.
  • In Big Human on Campus, the new captain and vice-captain of the Enforcers, Tsukune and Ranma respectively, tend to fall into this category.
  • Legionnaire has the officers of the titular legion be at least a tiny bit more civilized than the enlisted, if only for the sake of brass and dignitaries.
  • Telny and Keffiyeh practically embody this trope in Racer And The Geek.
  • Lieutenant Philip Holtack, a Britsh Army officer stranded in the Discworld with part of his unit in Slipping Between Worlds, has cause to reflect on this and is thankful his platoon sergeant has slipped with him. Holtack also muses on the various types of Universal Sergeants based on several familiar Discworld characters.
  • The titular Dusk Guard from The Dusk Guard Saga has an inversion. Captain Steel is a stern, no-nonsense officer, while his second in command, Lieutenant Hunter, is an easy-going individual.
  • Inverted in the Bait and Switch (STO) Shared Universe. Captain Kanril Eleya is a Lad-ette with a blue-collar upbringing and a foul mouth, whereas her crew members tend to be more typically genteel Starfleet personnel. Justified in that Eleya originally came Up Through the Ranks and transferred to Starfleet from a different military service (the Bajoran Militia).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • John Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy":
    • In She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande John Wayne plays the commanding officer while Victor McLaglan plays his loyal sergeant. In the first film Fort Apache Henry Fonda is the commanding officer and Ward Bond as the Sergeant-Major.
    • In Fort Apache this trope is even discussed in a scene where the young lieutenant O'Rourke seems embarrassed as he is about to train a platoon of recruits, the sergeants comment that young O'Rourke is a gentleman and training recruits is not a job for a gentleman. And then they take it over.
  • Inverted in Crimson TideCaptain Ramsey is the hardass in contrast to the more reasonable XO Hunter.
  • Cry 'Havoc': Capt. Smooth and Lt. Rough in an Army nursing unit on Bataan as it is being overrun by the Japanese in 1942. Capt. Alice Marsh is calm and friendly, while Lt. Mary Smith is a stern taskmaster and disciplinarian bossing around the civilian volunteers.
  • The Departed has another non-military example. Mark Wahlberg's Staff Sergeant Dignam is much more coarse and rough when compared to Martin Sheen's diplomatic Captain Queenan.
  • Gettysburg — and The Killer Angels, the book it was based on — features Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his sergeant Buster Kilrain. Chamberlain is an academic and a professor, Kilrain is a rough, sarcastic, out-and-out career soldier. Between them they keep the 20th Maine up and running for its attack at Little Round Top.
  • In G.I. Jane, Command Master Chief John James Urgayle is Captain Smooth (only once does he ever bark at a trainee), while his two subordinate instructors jointly fill the Sergeant Rough position.
  • Glory: The commander is an Officer and a Gentleman while the two sergeants are rougher and less refined. One is a Sergeant Rock and the other a Drill Sergeant Nasty.
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Blondie (the Good) and Tuco (the Ugly) are captured by Union soldiers and brought to a harsh prison camp (they were both wearing Confederate uniforms at the time and Tuco had foolishly shouted some pro-Confederate remarks just before being captured). There are three officers shown to be running the camp, and the two most prominently shown are the extremely brutal Corporal Wallace and Angel Eyes (the Bad). The commandant is actually a decent guy who tries to get the two brutal officers to treat the prisoners fairly. Unfortunately, he's dying from an infected wound, and unable to stop the two officers from taking prisoners inside a building just so they can beat the crap out of them.
  • In The Santa Clause, Santa (formerly Scott Calvin) is a jolly Nice Guy; the head elf, Bernard, is a grumpy Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • A non-military example occurs in The Shawshank Redemption, with Warden Norton filling the role of Captain Smooth and Captain Hadley being the Sergeant Rough. These roles are apparent in the dressing-down of the new meat.
  • Star Trek (2009): At the end, the roles are flipped. Kirk, a former Jerk with a Heart of Gold and Military Maverick, is in the command chair with cool, collected Spock as his first officer. Note the original Kirk was not rough around the edges in any sense, but was an Officer and a Gentleman despite sharing certain traits (such as womanizing and hubris) with his AU counterpart.
  • Inverted in Three Kings. Here it's actually Captain Doug Van Meter who's the resident hardass, while Sergeant First Class Troy Barlow is the more laid back and easy going one.
  • Although both are officers, Von Ryan's Express has Colonel Ryan and Major Fincham. Ryan is a self-declared "90 Day Wonder" who was drafted in to serve as an Army pilot, earning his rank of colonel due to age and education. Fincham is a major but has lived his whole life as a battlefield soldier, and obsesses over discipline and adhering to a code of behavior that Ryan can't fathom. They clash early and often over every step Ryan implements, with Ryan proved right some times and Fincham proved right at other times.
  • Utu features the upper class British officers Lt Scott and the villainous Col. Elliot, an English aristocrat with a love of sherry and fox hunting. The loyalist Maori enlisted men are led by Noble Savage veteran Corporal Wiremu.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse features a paramilitary group variation — this is Professor X's and Mystique's dynamic with the X-Men in the final scene. Xavier is A Father to His Men who looks after his protégés as individuals, while it's Raven's duty as the Sergeant Rock to discipline the team so that it functions smoothly as a unit. It suits not only their roles, but their personalities as well: Charles is very sentimental and enjoys being affectionate, whereas Mystique was influenced by Magneto and she had adopted his mindset that the successful completion of a mission is much more important than sentiment.
  • Zulu In this, the sergeant is a fairly good natured fellow, but has an "unpolished" feel to him. The Captain is an upper class Dandy and Great White Hunter portrayed by Michael Caine.

  • In the Belisarius Series, Belisarius has Valentinian as his personal enforcer. When someone disobeys orders in the middle of a battle, Valentinian handles it very efficiently.
  • The main character of Codex Alera, Tavi, is the calm, refined, highly intelligent and singularly unpowered captain; his primary lieutenants are the absurdly powerful Boisterous Bruiser Maximus and the cynical, grizzled veteran centurion Valiar Marcus. This is one of the subversions, though — Tavi is probably the most dangerous of the lot, due to a combination of intellect, creativity, training, and sheer badass audacity.
  • As expected in Destroyermen, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy is the calm and calculating captain of the USS Walker. Chief Bosun's Mate Fitzhugh Gray, his Number Two, is a typical senior NCO who yells at the crew to do their jobs to avoid attracting Reddy's wrath. Brad "Spanky" McFarlane takes over after Gray is killed saving Reddy and tries to fill Gray's shoes.
  • Discworld:
    • Monstrous Regiment has Lieutenant Blouse as the soft, inexperienced "Rupert" with Sergeant Jackrum as the experienced, conniving, shouty NCO who actually makes the decisions. The main character eventually notices that the Sergeant is only as rough as he thinks each conscript can handle — no need to convince them to quit if being in the army is safer....
    • In the City Watch, the roles are reversed. People tend to respect Commander Vimes (a no-nonsense and bad-tempered unshaven figure in battered armour), but everyone seems to genuinely like his second-in-command, Captain Carrot (a clean-cut, well-read, and well-spoken type, who keeps his breastplate polished because those are the rules). Their class situation is too complex to be played straight or inverted: Vimes grew up in the poorest area of the city and has reluctantly been pushed to the top of the aristocracy, while Carrot is Lost Orphaned Royalty who chooses to keep quiet about it.
    • In Eric, the captain is "smooth" because he has zero idea what he's doing (his training being in composing victory odes and heroic poses) and the sergeant is Sergeant Rock (his training consisted of 50+ years of fighting and not getting eaten by the various horrible creatures the Discworld has to offer).
  • Inverted in the book Ender's Game, and Ender even has a psychological reason for it: mercy and good consequences should come from his troops' immediate commanders, discipline and bad consequences from he, Ender, as the overall commander, mainly so it bonds his squads into tighter units willing to protect each other.
  • Royal Navy novel HMS Leviathan has the titular aircraft carrier commanded by the affable and somewhat easy-going Captain McTeagueand his deputy, the martinet Commander Markready.
  • Halo: Ghosts of Onyx:
    • Invoked as the difference between Kurt and Mendez:
      Kurt: Chief, I'm sorry that order had to come from you.
      Mendez: I understand, sir. You're the CO. You have to inspire and command their respect. I'm their drill instructor. I get to be their worst nightmare.
    • Later when the Sentinels start to attack, the Spartans (on a training exercise) wonder if they're hearing artillery strikes. They conclude that while Kurt wouldn't use artillery against them, there's a good chance that Mendez would.
  • In the Harry Potter series, headmaster Albus Dumbledore and deputy headmistress Minerva McGonagall fit this pretty well. Dumbledore is the Eccentric Mentor and generally doesn't seem to care much about school rules being enforced. McGonagall is a serious Stern Teacher, although she is occasionally Not So Stoic. In Philosopher's Stone, Dumbledore catches Harry out of bed after curfew and his response is to have a nice mentorly talk with him. Later on in the same book, McGonagall catches Harry and friends out after curfew and her response is to remove 150 house points from Gryffindor and give them all detentions.
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • In one scene, a bosun beats up a recalcitrant sailor. Hornblower is grateful that he is a Captain and too exalted to do such things as he is probably not a good enough fighter.
    • Hornblower and his loyal first officer William Bush fit this trope quite well. Though Bush is in no way unusually rough for his time — it's rather that Hornblower has very modern views about discipline and punishment.
  • In Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy, it's mentioned a few times that the captain gives the orders and the first mate beats the men into line when necessary.
  • George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan series about life in a Highland regiment circa 1947 has this in spades. Best-illustrated by Lieutenant MacKenzie, the son of a baronet and "politically somewhere to the right of Louis XIV", and Sergeant McCaw, an ardent Communist and former labour union agitator, who run their platoon like a well-oiled machine despite a tendency to (loudly and sometimes violently) argue politics with each other in front of their men.
  • Captain Roenel and his First Mate, Pelez, play this very straight in The Reynard Cycle.
  • In first two novels of The Serpentwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, The aloof half-elven Captain Calis with super-human strength and senses, and the rough, foul-mouthed Sergent DeLoungeville are an obvious fit.
  • The Secret of Santa Vittoria: Von Prem and Traub, the leaders of the soldiers sent to seize the villages wine. Von Prem is a polite, restrained professional, while Traub is a bit of a swaggering thug. Although by the end of the story, after being thoroughly outwitted by the villagers, Von Prem is a lot less smooth and Traub has slightly softened.
  • In Stark's War, officers are notably fancier in their speech and manners than the gruff and forthright Sergeant Stark. Unlike a lot of examples of this trope, though, the smoothness of the officers is a distinctly negative trait — they're not so much Officer and a Gentleman as they are Pointy-Haired Bosses in uniform, addicted to a military version of management-speak and unwilling to listen to "impertinent" enlisted personnel who actually know what's going on. The officers stay unflinchingly smooth and urbane even as they get vast numbers of their troops slaughtered.
  • Starship Troopers has a couple of examples:
    • Lieutenant Rasczak and Sergeant Jelal. Rasczak is literally described as a "father to us" and is the benign, soft-spoken leader of Rasczak's Roughnecks. Jelal, as one would expect of a platoon sergeant, is much blunter and uses a 'tough love' approach with the rest of the unit.
    • Sergeant Zim and Captain Frankel. "Zim did everything with precision and style, as if he were on parade; Captain Frankel did the same thing with dash and gusto, as if it were a game. The results were about the same and it never turned out to be as easy as Captain Frankel made it look."
  • Tour of the Merrimack has this sort of contrast between John Farragut, the smooth captain of the Merrimack, and TR Steele, the rough colonel who leads its Space Marines.
  • Harry Turtledove is fond of this trope in general.
    • Over the Wine-Dark Sea: Menedemos, the captain is the Magnetic Hero while Diokles the Father Neptune type oarmaster, bellows at the men. Menedemos even describes to his cousin Sostratos the synergy between his method and that of Diokles.
    • Another use is the relationship between refined Roman tribune Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and his Sir Swears-a-Lot centurion Gaius Philippus in the Videssos series.
  • The Unknown Soldier has the Sugar-and-Ice Personality Lieutenant Koskela (who's also the Team Mom) and the Boisterous Bruiser Sergeant Hietanen (who's also the all-loving heart of the team).
  • According to various Warhammer 40k novels and video games, it is a normal relationship between CO's and commissars.
    • In Ciaphas Cain novel series almost everyone in Valhallan 597th is a surprisingly nice person. When dealing with some uncooperative civilians however, colonel Kasteen is the one being polite, while commissar Cain and major Broklaw are the ones threatening them with violence and/or prosecution.
    • Jarran Kell and Ursakar E. CREEEEEEEEED deserve special mention, as they basically embody the trope among Astra Militarum named characters.
  • In Watership Down Hazel is the Captain Smooth, and Bigwig is the Sergeant Rough. Inverted with their Efrafran counterparts: General Woundwart is a brute who rules by force and Captain Campion is a calm-headed strategist.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Andromeda, Hunt is the captain smooth, while Valentine bears some traces of sergeant rough.
    • At the start of the first episode we see First Officer Rhade drilling the ship's crew and demanding they go faster, while Captain Hunt calmly observes.
  • Winters and Speirs on Band of Brothers, kind of. Also Truth in Television. Inverted in the first episode. Captain Sobel is the Drill Sergeant Nasty while Lieutenant Winters is the nice officer the men like.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Admiral Adama and Colonel Tigh. Adama knows the name and face of every single member of his crew by heart, has demonstrated that he will go to war over every last one of them, and has a Death Glare with its own page on the Battlestar Wiki. Tigh, on the other hand, openly states in Season 1's first episode "If the crew doesn't hate the XO, he's not doing his job" and does no small amount of ball-busting to enforce discipline. While part of that is due to Tigh lacking Adama's charisma and natural authority, he is also consciously playing to this exact trope ("Got to make the Old Man look good").
  • To a lesser extent, Gustavo and Griffin of Big Time Rush fit this trope. Griffin (who owns the record company) is smooth and collected, while Gustavo (who works under him) yells a lot.
  • In Boston Public, Principal Steven Harper is smooth (shaved head!) and tactful, while Scott Guber, the Vice Principal, is a strict disciplinarian with a knack for intimidating...and the funny thing is that Steven is just a scowl away from being a Scary Black Man, while Guber is a short, slim, and normally unremarkable white guy.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Holt is Captain Smooth; he's a Father to His Men who is completely unflappable and an absolute stickler for the rules. Terry, meanwhile, is a nicer version of Sergeant Rough; he's the Team Dad who has no problem telling the other officers they're being stupid, and uses his physical strength to intimidate people.
  • Criminal Minds invokes this trope from time to time, with Aaron Hotchner as Captain Smooth and David Rossi as Sergeant Rough.
  • Inverted in Dad's Army where Captain Mainwaring is a oafish but brave amateur and Sergeant Wilson is a suave aristocrat with extensive military experience. Mainwaring's (and Wilson's) intense awareness of the class inversion was a comedy goldmine. Only in the last episode was it revealed that Wilson was indeed a genuine Regular Army Captain Smooth from the previous war. He was filling in as sergeant so that Mainwaring could be Captain if he wanted to; having been a real captain he had no intention of squabbling over who should be a Home Guard captain at his time of life.
  • Firefly inverts this: Malcolm Reynolds, who keeps his Sergeant Rough from his war days, calls himself a captain. His Lancer, Zoe, is calm, cool, and collected, even when she's about to end you.
  • Game of Thrones: Robb Stark and Greatjon Umber in Season 1. Robb is acclaimed as The King in the North during the War of the Five Kings and despite his young age, he commands great respect and is A Father to His Men. Greatjon Umber is Robb's chief northern advisor and is a formidable and proud bannerman of House Stark but can be a Drill Sergeant Nasty when commanding the men.
  • Shows up in Generation Kill, while commanding officer Godfather as Smooth and Sergeant Major Sixta as Rough. Also, to a lesser extent, Lt. Nate Fick as Smooth for Hitman, and Sgt. Brad Colbert as Rough, though both of them are usually calm and collected when leading. A scene added to the end of the TV series that was not in the book implies that Sixta intentionally cultivates anger towards himself as a way of keeping the men unified.
  • Inverted in the remake of Hawaii Five-0. Despite being in charge, Steve is the biggest wildcard on the team and is known for his inventive interrogation techniques, while Danny is much more by-the-book and civilized.
  • Inversion of sorts in the M*A*S*H episode "Deluge". The normally smooth Hawkeye (a captain) sees a gruff sergeant smoking a cigarette outside the operating theater. When Hawkeye tells him to put it out because of the gases:
    Sergeant: Hey. I'm a sergeant, buddy.
    Hawkeye: And I'm a captain, buddy. Which means that if we blow up I'll go higher than you. Now put it out!!
    • On M*A*S*H in general, this would be Captain Pierce (Hawkeye) and the militant but sniveling Major Burns.
  • Sharpe
    • Sharpe and Harper, though Sharpe is somewhat less refined than most officers.
    • Sharpe himself fulfills this role for a couple of his commanders, notably McCandless, Lawford and Wellington himself.
    • The India Trilogy also gives us the Heel version in Captain Morris and Sgt. Hakeswill. They're both devious, conniving villains, but Morris is a suave social climber who uses Hakeswill, a horrible thug, to do his dirty work. Hakeswill later returns as a sidekick for Wyndham, although Wyndham is a genuinely decent officer who only sees Hakeswill as a model sergeant and isn't aware of what he's up to.
  • Star Trek:
    • Captain Picard and Commander Riker in The Next Generation. Picard is the diplomatic and distant leader, while Riker leads the away missions and is usually the one to get into the rough-and-tumble situations. Riker is also the one who deals with most of the crew discipline and assignments.
    • Captain Sisko and Major Kira of Deep Space Nine. Sisko is rather more polite and refined about his orders. Kira is not refined, nor does she pretend to be. Her preferred manner of dealing with problems is to yell at them until they go away and/or resolve themselves. If this doesn't work, she resorts to fists. Deep Space Nine does muddle the trope a bit as Sisko himself starts the show as a commander, having been given his first real command on DS 9, and thus he shows an attitude far closer to the usual second officer: far more willing to get his own hands dirty to get a situation resolved. Furthering this Kira is a Bajoran officer, not Starfleet, and thus often it's Sisko who ends up dealing with issues pertaining to Starfleet personnel. And as many a character can attest, Sisko's not above punching people either to make a point, he's just less easily provoked than Kira.
  • In Ultimate Force, Col. Aidan Dempsey (Miles Anderson) is the Captain Smooth, while Ross Kemp's SSGT Henry 'Henno' Garvie fits the Sgt Rough trope to a T.

  • In Revolting People, the redcoats are represented by the polite and charming Captain Brimshaw and the obnoxious, cynical Sergeant McGurk.

    Myth and Religion 
  • In European traditions, Santa Claus is accompanied by a demon named Krampus or a Grumpy Old Man with a whip. Where Nick encourages children to be good with the promise of presents, the other threatens them with abductions or beatings.

    Video Games 
  • Contrast the relatively soft-spoken Cpt. Delaney with the more rough-and-tumble Sgt. Miller in Call of Duty 2.
  • The Circle Tower in Dragon Age: Origins is shared by the Circle of Magi and the Templars, with a First Enchanter and a Knight-Commander usually sharing the duties. In the game, Knight-Commander Gregoir is "Rough" and First Enchanter Irving is "Smooth," and the two of them butt heads much more often than one would usually see in this situation. Of course, the fact that the Templars' duties include killing rogue Mages might have something to do with it...
  • Inverted in Dragon Age II, Meredith is a lot more hard-line and brutal than her more diplomatic and practical second-in-command Cullen.
  • Final Fantasy XIII:
    • The Cavalry is led by the gentlemanly Brigadier General Cid Raines, and his more rough-and-tumble subordinate Rygdea.
    • Lightning, being an actual sergeant, literalizes this trope. Her solution to everything is to crack heads open, while her cooler-headed superior officer Amodar suggests she try to stay out of the business of Cocoon's leaders.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Sigrun and Tanith follow this trope. Sigrun is relatively kind and gentle, whereas Tanith is far stricter with her subordinates, to the point that Marcia is scared of the latter.
  • Halo:
    • Captain Keyes and Sergeant Johnson in Halo: Combat Evolved. Johnson later also has this dynamic with Keyes's daughter Commander Miranda Keyes in Halo 2 and Halo 3.
    • The UNSC Infinity in Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians has this dynamic with Captain Lasky and Spartan-IV Sarah Palmer; Lasky is something of a gentleman, while Palmer is sarcastic and sharp-tempered.
    • Halo Wars has Captain Cutter and Sergeant Forge.
  • In Mass Effect, Paragon Shepard tends to be Captain Smooth towards either Ashley in the first game, or Miranda in the second. Renegade Shepard inverts this, with Kaidan and/or Jacob being the more reasonable subordinate.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky, Guild Leader Wigglytuff and his second-in-command Chatot work as this. The same goes for Principal Simipour and Vice-Principal Watchog in the Super Mystery Dungeon game.
  • Inverted in Starcraft II, where Raynor is a Cowboy and Matt is a boyscout. Matt technically is a Captain, but he's also the subordinate of Raynor.
  • From Valkyria Chronicles, we have Captain Varrot (who is Welkin's direct superior and overall commander of the militia) and Largo (whose rank is unspecified but presumably that of an NCO). Formerly squad mates in the previous war, they still maintain a rather tenuous relationship, due to Varrot's inability to get over the death of her lover and Largo's unrequited feelings for her. In the end, she gets over it and settles down with Largo after the war.

    Web Animation 
  • Early in RWBY Professor Ozpin and Glynda Goodwitch have this dynamic

    Web Comics 
  • Inverted in Schlock Mercenary, where the eponymous Sergeant is easy going and friendly, even a little childish, while Captain Tagon is a tough, grizzled mercenary not afraid to shout at his men.
  • Unsounded: Captain Emil Toma is possibly the most noble character in the series, he is willing to let people his government would otherwise kill go in return for their aid and is generally kind, responsible and upstanding. His sergeant Elka is a brawler who likes picking fights and being unnecessarily rough with suspects.

    Western Animation 
  • Lieutenant J.T. Marsh and his second-in-command Sergeant Rita Torres in Exo Squad probably qualify, though they are less extreme than the usual description. Also, Nara Burns and Torres after Marsh is promoted.
  • Colonel Crumb and Sergeant Blast from Private Olive Oyl (a feature from the 1981 The Popeye & Olive Comedy Show).
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles: Lieutenant Razak is the leader of the Roughnecks, and while he is rather stoic, he rarely loses his cool, and all his men look up to him. His second-in-command, Sergeant Brutto, is much rougher, and frequently clashes with other soldiers.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars gives us Commander Cody and Captain Rex, much like the Jedi Generals they work under. Cody is calm, civil, and by-the-book even to the end of the war; while Rex is blunt, hard-headed, and eventually comes to question the entire purpose of the war and the clone troopers in it. And their respective fates are the exact opposites of the Jedi they serve under, as well.
  • Transformers: Animated has Ultra Magnus, a fair and ethical leader for the most part. His second and successor Sentinel Prime is a complete Jerkass who abuses his authority up, down and sideways.
    • A more shining and optimistic example of this trope is Optimus (Captain Smooth) and Ratchet (Sergeant Rough) for the Autobot team stationed on Earth.

    Real Life 
  • As noted above, this trope largely originates from the time when most of the officers were from aristocratic families, while NCOs were generally low-born grunts who had survived previous campaigns long enough to learn the "tricks of the trade" through personal experience. Today, officers and NCOs go through completely separate training programmes and promotion from one group to the other is rare (as they do different jobs, it's more of a career change than a promotion). In the modern era, it's also fairly common for sergeants to have a higher pay grade than their commanding officer (at least at the lowest levels), for this reason, because Ensign Newbie isn't really commanding so much as watching Master Sergeant so and so command the unit for him to learn what to actually do when becomes Captain. Yet it's still an effective chemistry, sometimes invoked a bit, but always lampshaded.
  • Most American high schools have the vice-principal as the chief enforcer and disciplinarian.
  • In the early years of independent India, these roles were filled by Prime Minister Nehru and Deputy PM Patel respectively. Jawaharlal Nehru was the refined gentleman who occupied himself with developing the new nation, empowering various branches of government and projected an air of hopefulness as the new country sought its place in the world. Vallabhbhai Patel on the other hand was a scrappy veteran of numerous protests during the freedom struggle and was given the not enviable task of integrating the country’s disparate ethnic groups. He accomplished this purely through the force of his strong personality, often bullying people to fall in line, and in the case of Hyderabad, ordering the army to annex it.
  • Before conscription was eliminated in Romania, all newly drafted individuals with a university degree would be enlisted into an academy that would train them into officers. While high ranking officers oversaw the education, the sergeants were still responsible for keeping them disciplined, leading to an inversion of this trope. On graduation day however, the trope would end up being played straight, with the students getting promoted, and outranking the sergeants who had been bossing them around for six months. The sergeants, of course, never participated in such events to avoid the humiliation.
  • In various parliamentary systems (as in the UK and the US), each party has a leader and a "whip" among its representatives, where the latter's job is to enforce party discipline by (almost) all means.
  • This is pretty much the unofficial role of the senior most NCO in a unit. If they hate that asshole sergeant, they aren't hating the officer who holds power over them.