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Cynic–Idealist Duo

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They weren't always so obvious.
The "Cynic–Idealist Duo" is a duo of close characters (either best friends, siblings, or teammates) that show contrast between their ways of seeing the world: one of them is The Cynic, a character who views the world in a negative way, while the other is The Idealist, a character who has faith and hope on the goodness of the others.

Although the duo has different ways of viewing the world, they are extremely close to each other. However, it doesn't stop them from bickering/fighting in a conflict situation, mostly invoking the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism trope (heroic example: They bicker because they don't know if they should shoot down the villain or try to convert them to the good side, or one of them will call them out of an idea they consider "risky"). The Idealist may be a Wide-Eyed Idealist, and the Cynic may be a grump. The idealist may say Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers! while the cynic may say Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!.

Can overlap with Red Oni, Blue Oni, Odd Friendship (if it's a best friend duo), Sibling Yin-Yang (if it's a sibling duo, and Hammy Villain, Serious Hero for when this occurs between a hero and villain. See also Four-Philosophy Ensemble, which adds Realist, Apathetic, and/or Conflicted to the mix.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Negative-kun to Positive-kun, we have the titular characters, grumpy pessimistic Jun Fujiwara and cheery perpetually optimistic Shin Tachibana, who are boyfriends.
  • This forms at least one dynamic between Negi Springfield and Evangeline A. K. McDowell in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Negi is naïve and idealistic, to the point where he genuinely doesn't understand the concept of mages who would use their magic for less than ideal intentions. Evangeline, being a centuries old vampire who has seen the worst humanity has to offer, tries to teach Negi that the world isn't full of sunshine and rainbows. They end up rubbing off on each other as the story goes on.

     Comic Books 
  • Just about anytime The Punisher has to work with another hero (with the possible exception of Nick Fury), Daredevil and Spider-Man being the more obvious cases. Frank won't kill another hero, but he will make his opinion on their Thou Shalt Not Kill attitude (and the Joker Immunity it causes) very clear.
  • The Wicked + The Divine: Cassandra is the Deadpan Snarker pessimistic one to Dio's idealist with a bit of Messianic Archetype. The trope is subverted in that someone says Cass, despite her attitude, is actually an idealist and expects people to do the right thing.
  • Whenever Superman and Batman have to work together (which tends to happen often), Superman is obviously the idealist, while Batman is the cynic.
  • Batman and Robin have generally been written as this since the 90s, with Batman being the cynic and Robin the idealist. This was common enough that a major twist of Morrison's Batman and Robin run was inverting the usual dynamic by having the well-adjusted former Robin Dick Grayson playing the role of Batman and the Sociopathic Hero Damian Wayne as Robin.
  • Astro City: In the beginning of the "Dark Ages" story arc, Charles and Royal Williams are this in regards to superheroes — Charles is highly suspicious and thinks that they're unaccountable vigilantes, while Royal is a wide-eyed optimist who fervently believes that they're paragons of virtue (most of them, anyway). Yet at the same time, they're reversed in their views of authority, with Charles trusting government figures implicitly and Royal thinking that "justice" is a bad joke.

     Fan Fiction 
  • In The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan, Twilight Sparkle serves as the more idealistic protagonist compared to cynical counterpart (and Love Interest) Nova Shine.
  • Half Past Adventure: Pugliacci and Bulcinella, a pair of mobsters from the Crystal Dimension, form one of these, with Bulcinella frequently exhibiting a lackadaisical attitude and attributing things to "the universe", much to Pugliacci's dismay.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: Briefly happens during the Wolf's time as Tyrion's bodyguard. Tyrion is by no means a Wide-Eyed Idealist, but the fact that he believes in Daenerys as a fair and just ruler clashes with the Wolf's assertion that she has the qualities needed to make a fine warlord. It culminates in a screaming argument which the Wolf loses, possibly because he realizes he was about to let slip that he was responsible for Daenerys setting King's Landing on fire.
  • Ragna and Ruby in BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant due to being partners. Ragna is the grouchy, angry cynic who initially prefers solitude while Ruby is the happy-go-lucky, open idealist who tries to help her partner lighten up.
  • Remnant Inferis: DOOM: The Slayer and Ruby respectively. The Doom Slayer is a grouchy, unscrupulous Anti-Hero driven solely by his unending rage and need for vengeance against the Slaves of Doom, while Ruby is a kindhearted, noble idealist who wants to help others simply because it's the right thing to do. As the story progresses, Character Development causes them to flip around. The Slayer becomes more noble and finds something to fight for beyond his need for vengeance while Ruby finds her idealism eroded by the horrors of fighting Hell and becomes more vengeful and crude.

     Films — Animated 
  • The Road to El Dorado: Our heroes are the enthusiastic dreamer Miguel (Idealist) and his more pragmatic and level-headed partner in crime Tulio (Cynic).
  • Nick and Judy from Zootopia. Thanks to the Fantastic Racism against foxes, Nick became a bitter and cynical Con Artist, whereas Judy starts out as a Wide-Eyed Idealist whose intention is to "make the world a better place".

     Films — Live-Action 


  • In The Broken Earth Trilogy, Ykka is an idealist who wants to build a society where orogenes, who are victims to a lot of Fantastic Racism, can be accepted members of society, while Essun is cynical and feels such a society cannot last and the other people will eventually turn on the orogenes.
  • Commander Vimes and Captain Carrot have this dynamic in the Discworld novels, and Carrot also has it with Captain Angua. Vimes is possibly one of the most cynical people on the Disc, which is saying something, and Angua spends a lot of time in an Only Sane Man Deadpan Snarker role. Carrot, meanwhile, is idealistic and trusting to a degree that would normally get someone in Ankh-Morpork killed in ten minutes, but for him, it works.
  • Dollanganger Series: Cathy is the cynic while Chris is the idealist. The story is told from Cathy's POV and she often thinks Chris is a "prisoner of hope," but she also loves him for this and depends on him as her counterbalance. This is one facet of their broader Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic, where Chris is the stable to the point of complacency, while Cathy is mercurial to the point of reckless.
  • The four Hogwarts Houses from Harry Potter have been defined this way, by their values. Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, both express optimism in life. People can always be depended on, to do the right thing in their understandings. Gryffindor aspiring courage and chivalry, Hufflepuff having faith in kindness and loyalty. Ravenclaw and Slytherin however, have been known to view others as more tools, to further their own desires. Both as you can imagine, aren't overly keen on the intentions of people (or the world they live in). Ravenclaw being the lesser evil, since they only want knowledge. While Slytherin is infamous for being dangerously power-hungry.
  • Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin of the long-running detective series tend to have this kind of dynamic. Wolfe tends to be the grumpy, misanthropic old recluse with little interest in or goodwill towards the world and the people in it, while Archie is the cheerful, friendly, and good-natured man-about-town who embraces life to the fullest. That said, neither is exactly stuck at the extreme end of either side of the scale; there's hinted to be an old-fashioned romanticism deep down under Wolfe's crusty exterior, while Archie tends to adopt a kind of seen-it-all snark as a way of protecting himself against the world when things get tough.
  • The Purple Cloud: Adam and Leda, the only surviving humans, debate whether to restart the species. Adam doesn't want to because humans were bad, but Leda says that humans had good in them and that if she and Adam raise their children with enough to eat and no bad influences, they won't turn to vice and crime. At one point Adam reads Leda the poem 'The Prisoner of Chillon' as an example of man's inhumanity to man, but Leda points out that at the end of the poem good people set the protagonist free, and says, 'If those who set him flee were so good when all the lest were cluel, what would they have been at a time when all the lest were kind? They would have been just like Angels!'
  • The Riyria Revelations has the duo of the emo, cynical and edgy Royce and the optimistic, good-natured and natural protector Hadrian. They are always at odds when discussing people’s nature and the extent of trust.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Dash & Lily: The titular characters. Dash is a cynical, brooding, Christmas hater with divorced parents and who has suffered a recent heartbreak. Lily is an optimistic, free-spirited Christmas lover with a tight-knit family and who has never been in love. They prove more than a match for each other.
  • During their time on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert invoked Irishman and a Jew, with Colbert as the idealistic Irishman, and Stewart as the cynical Jew.
  • Detectives Bayliss and Pembleton from Homicide: Life on the Street. Bayliss is naive to a fault and deeply idealistic, whereas Pembleton is a pragmatic cynic much more accustomed to working in Homicide. It's played with and deconstructed throughout the series; Pembleton actually has a rather idealized view of the police and is repeatedly horrified to find that his superiors only care about playing politics and that his fellow officers actively cover up corruption and police brutality, while Bayliss is much more adept at recognizing department politics and sidestepping them as best as he can.
  • Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold and Belle from Once Upon a Time operate as this as a couple respectively. Rumpelstiltskin is a Manipulative Bastard sorcerer that has faced such hardships as having his destiny of becoming a savior literally cut away from him by his insane mother, abandoned by his neglectfully-abusive father, permanently crippling himself so that his son would not grow up without a father like he has and branding himself as a Dirty Coward for the rest of his life and nearly losing his own son to be drafted in a hopeless war against the ogres before taking on a curse that imbues him with powerful dark magic at the cost of his humanity. Top that with losing his son to another realm due to his own cowardice, Rumpelstiltskin has little faith in himself and the goodness of others, viewing himself as a monster and believing in things like "love" in a purely rational, detached context. Belle, having spent her whole life reading about adventures and great things heroes do, believes in things like second chances and self-sacrifice, giving up her own freedom to Rumpelstiltskin in exchange for her village's safety and eventually seeing the lonely man beneath all of the darkness. While he rejects her and throws her out when he believes that she is just trying to manipulate him, he (as Mr. Gold) eventually reconciles with her after they are reunited. While their differing views have caused their relationship to falter and fluctuate as the series progresses, they eventually receive their Happy Ending in Season 7, Rumpelstiltskin having clearly changed for the better after she dies of old age in the Edge of Realms.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has Dr. Bashir, a Wide-Eyed Idealist who believes in the highest values of The Federation, and Garak, a former spy who keeps trying to make Bashir understand the darker side of the galaxy.
  • In the first season of Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure, this is a source of tension between the mermaids. Though she initially appears to be the cold loner, Lyla is the idealist, while Nixie, though seemingly more personable, is the cynic. Lyla's optimism gets her (and Sirena, who she ropes into a few of her schemes) into a few bad situations early on, but it's Nixie's pessimism that leaves her open to being manipulated late in the season.

  • Machinal is about a deeply troubled young woman who enters into an unhappy marriage with a cheerful go-getter businessman. Their optimistic and pessimistic traits are exaggerated in their last scene together, in which they are each reading a newspaper, with him only being interested in bland uplifting pieces and her focusing exclusively on morbid and distressing stories.
    Husband: Record production.
    Young Woman: Girl turns on gas.
    Husband: Sale hits a million—
    Young Woman: Woman leaves all for love—
    Husband: Market trend steady—
    Young Woman: Young wife disappears—

     Video Games 
  • The two main protagonists of BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm form one of these – Catie is the idealist, and Anonymous is the cynic.
  • Wandersong features an all-loving, idealistic, and pacifistic Quirky Bard teaming up with Miriam, a snarky, pragmatic Action Witch with a heart of gold.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Subverted. Johnny is both the idealist and the cynic among the protagonists. Where V is completely uninterested in anything beyond the next job, paycheck or thrill, Johnny is deeply committed to his anarchist, anti-corporate values. However, V is a generally happy, reasonably well-balanced individual with a wide circle of True Companions, where Johnny is a bitter, egocentric douchebag whose abrasive personality and unrelenting unwillingness to compromise his ideals has alienated pretty much every friend he ever had.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has the cynical Niko Bellic and his idealist cousin, Roman.
  • Assassin's Creed has the Templar Order and the Assassin Brotherhood representing this. The Assassins believe in the good of humanity, that allowing freedom to flourish could bring world peace. However the Templars aren't as naive this way, as they're convinced people are naturally selfish and can only be pushed towards peace through order. Ironically, this feud survived centuries throughout the world. Yet neither faction is better nor worse than the other in the end.

     Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, Tamara likes “to watch the world burn” and make people suffer if she thinks they’re beneath her, and Johanna likes to improve herself and support others in doing the same.
  • In Nikolai's route of Queen of Thieves, one of the key elements of the romance between Nikolai and the heroine is the contrast in their outlooks. Nikolai, the Mastermind of the story's Caper Crew, sports a serious pair of Jade-Colored Glasses and on more than one occasion expresses a very low opinion of humanity and the world in general. The heroine, on the other hand, has a much more positive, romantic outlook - when Nikolai, baffled by her capacity for positivity, challenges her on her idealism, she shoots back in no uncertain terms that it's not that she's never experienced the harder part of life, it's that she chooses to focus on good things and be happy rather than dwell on the bad.

     Web Animation 
  • RWBY: In Volume 7, Clover and Qrow are paired together for missions. Qrow is cynical, depressive and prefers to work alone while Clover is upbeat, chatty and prefers working with a team. Qrow's misfortune Semblance is uncontrollable and causes constant inconvenience for himself and others, while Clover has a controllable good fortune Semblance which aids him in combat. They both have a history of Undying Loyalty to a morally grey Huntsman leader: Qrow for Ozpin and Clover for Ironwood. However, when both Ozpin (in Volume 6) and Ironwood (in Volume 7) become Broken Pedestals to the heroes, Qrow and Clover's drastically different reactions drives an insurmountable wedge between them: Qrow turned on Ozpin, losing all faith in both Ozpin and his mission whereas Clover retains his loyalty to Ironwood and continues to obey him unquestioningly.

  • The most pronounced contrast between the Luck twins in Archipelago. Tuff worries all the time, often about Riley getting in trouble, while Riley seems incapable of worrying at all.
    Riley: What gift did you get from Dragonfly?
    Tuff: You tell me! As far as I know he just zapped me because he thought it was funny. Story of my life.
    Riley: Don't be like that. Maybe he cured your ulcers?
    Tuff: The ones you gave me?
    Riley: Very funny. I wouldn't worry, you always figure it out in the end.
  • Nevermore: Lenore is genuinely friendly and wants to save all her friends from the Land of the Dead. Annabel Lee sees the people around her as fodder to be exploited, and sees no point in aiding anyone other than Lenore. Ironically, Lenore was a fairly cynical person when she and Annabel first met, and it was through Annabel's influence that she lightened up.
  • Gumiya and Roll from NEXT!!! Sound of the Future are roommates with contrasting outlooks on life. While Gumiya is optimistic and believes in people pursuing their dreams even if they face hardship, Roll is cynical and thinks people should stick to what they know they can do. Best exemplified in their differing advice to Shine: Gumiya thinks she'd make a great idol, but Roll thinks she has little hope and should stay as a paparazzi.
  • In xkcd, a beret-wearing scone-obsessed Cloudcuckoolander existentialist and Cueball (usually filling the shoes of a nihilist) are often paired with each other in comics.
  • Willow and Iris in Questionable Content. While Iris has always been quite negative, the strips where Willow applied for a job at the coffee shop emphasised this, while showing Willow as absurdly chipper and optimistic by comparison.
    Willow: So I've got the job then?
    Dora: I said I'd get back to you.
    Willow: Oh, I love the feeling of anticipating good news!
    Iris: I wonder what that's like. Probably awful.

     Western Animation 
  • The Oracle Twins from American Dragon: Jake Long are a Played With example. Sara is bubbly and cheerful as a result of seeing only negative visions about the future (so she's got the powers of a cynic with the personality of an idealist). Her twin sister Kara is gothic and deadpan, because she only sees good things about the future (so she has the powers of an idealist with the personality of a cynic). This is explained as Sara seeing the positive things in life to compensate for her bad visions, while Kara has all the joy and surprise sucked out of life because she knows the good things that will happen.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee: Molly is a chipper young girl who always tries to see the best of any situation, while Scratch is a grumpy ghost who literally makes a living (so to speak) spreading fear and misery.
  • Dipper Pines and Mabel Pines from Gravity Falls. While Dipper doesn't have an excessively negative outlook, he does tend to be slow to trust anyone unfamiliar to him (and he is not helped by the craziness of his surroundings, either), especially in contrast to Mabel, who has a much brighter demeanor and is rather naïve and unsuspecting to the point of being an All-Loving Hero.
  • Over the Garden Wall has Wirt, a melodramatic and pessimistic teenager, and Greg, his Cheerful Child half-brother. Both perspectives are shown to have their flaws: Wirt's cynicism and pessimism are indirectly responsible for the circumstances that got him and Greg stuck in the Unknown, but Greg's naive optimism leads him to being tricked by the Beast and nearly succumbing to exhaustion and exposure.
  • The eponymous Rick and Morty, respectively. Rick Sanchez has been The Cynic and a nihilist for a very long time, since long before the series began, after having Seen It All in the universe and coming to the conclusion that nothing and no one really matters because there are infinite versions of existence and the people in it. Morty Smith, meanwhile, started out the series as idealistic but naive, and has become significantly more jaded over the course of the series thanks to Rick's influence, including having an progressively easier time committing acts of violence. However, he nonetheless still tries to help people and do the right thing as much as he can, and rather than turning into a Straw Nihilist like Rick, has instead become The Anti-Nihilist.
  • Rapunzel and Cassandra, of Tangled: The Series. However, by the time we're introduced to her, Rapps has managed to make Cassandra a little more optimistic than she used to be, so they're more of a Realist-Idealist Duo.
  • Wander and Sylvia from Wander over Yonder. Wander is the idealist, always seeing the good in others, even the bad guys, and will never resort to violence. Sylvia is the cynic, worried that Wander is being too naive and that his do-gooding will get him in trouble; also, when it comes to villains, she's all too happy to let her fists do the talking.


Video Example(s):


Na'el and Matthew

Despite being siblings, Matthew and his younger sister Na'el have very different outlooks on life which reaches a breaking point after the death of innocent children close to Na'el. Matthew is able to understand that the soldiers of Keves and Agnus are mere slaves to Moebius and seeks to free them, while Na'el blames them and dismisses them as blood thirsty savages not worth risking the lives of those she cares about, condemning them despite being victims themselves.

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