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Former Teen Rebel

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"I really used to be a bad girl
I got gang-banged in the bathroom at my high school prom
Yes, I used to be a real wild child
But now I am a Volvo-driving soccer mom."
Everclear, "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom"

An older character, who is seen as stodgy, virtuous, or law-abiding. We eventually learn that, in their youth, they were rather less so.

When the older character is a mentor figure to the protagonist, The Reveal that they fit this trope can sometimes be part of the process of turning them into a Cool Old Guy. It's also related to Mysterious Past, though there doesn't have to be any mystery involved. Rule-Abiding Rebel or Bourgeois Bohemian can be the result if the character tries to have it both ways. This can lead to a case of Generation Xerox if the former rebel now has rebel kids of their own. Overcompensating for their rebellious past by being stern with their kids may increase the likelihood of their kids turning out just like them while increasing the children's shock when they find out what Mom and/or Dad were like at their age.


People who were rebellious in their youth — especially if their actions included a strong sexual element — are said to have been "sowing their wild oats." (This is also said in the present tense of older philanderers.) The etymology of the phrase is explained here. "Sowing one's wild oats" is often a great understatement of reality.

On a few rare occasions, a former teen rebel was actually a closet rebel who was Living a Double Life. An extreme example might be The Fundamentalist kid you knew in high school and/or college, the one who always complained about all the other believers who didn't live exactly by their strict interpretation of As the Good Book Says.... Then — sometimes decades later — the truth comes out. That obnoxious bible-thumper had actually gone through high school and/or college regularly cheating, lying, stealing and/or screwing Anything That Moves. Of course, such people don't exist in a vacuum. Somebody — a cohort or an adversary — knew the truth all along, but their warnings usually went unheeded. The Reveal allows this person to say "I Knew It!" or "I Warned You" to all the doubters.


Definitely Truth in Television. Contrast with Used to Be a Sweet Kid where a villainous or otherwise unpleasant character is shown to be much nicer and polite as a child. Compare Parental Hypocrisy. Teens Are Monsters is often a strong factor of why the character used to be a teen rebel, which can lead to a Teenage Wasteland.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • England was a pirate in his youth but now considers himself to be a gentleman (though he still curses like a sailor). And everyone knows that...something happened during the '70s and England went through a punk phase. It's not really mentioned too much.
    • Denmark, Norway, and Sweden during their Viking phase; while Denmark remains quite boisterous, Sweden is mentioned to have calmed down considerably since those days, putting his energy into more domestic matters.
    • Hungary used to be a part of a group of nomadic warriors and spent her childhood fighting various invaders. Upon learning she's actually female, she decides it's time to be a "frickin' lady" and ends up being a maid at Austria's house, and later becomes his wife. She still retains much of her Hot-Blooded personality, though.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Danma Ryuji, the other half of Onibaku, is now a car repairman. Onizuka would himself apply, except that he's not that different than before.
  • Reki from Haibane Renmei was rebellious during her teens due to receiving Fantastic Racism related to her off-colour wings. She even tried to run away. As an adult, she's a kind-hearted Team Mom, though she keeps some old habits such as smoking often. Double subverted as, while her behavior changed, she's still a Broken Bird who just learned to be more friendly looking. Her decision to become friendlier was for selfish reasons of trying to reach salvation, though she ended up Becoming the Mask.
  • Late in Minami-ke, it is revealed that the oldest Minami sister, Haruka, who has previously been established as a thoroughly reliable Cool Big Sis with Yamato Nadeshiko tendencies, has been a legendary school Delinquent in the past.
  • Naruto:
    • Asuma Sarutobi, whose past was expanded on in the anime, had a falling out with his father Hiruzen, the third Hokage, when he was a young adult and joined the Guardian Ninjas, bodyguards to the daimyo of the Land of Fire.
    • Iruka Umino used to, like Naruto, be a prankster as a means of coping with his parents' death, making him strict but sympathetic with Naruto (he makes Naruto clean up his graffiti on the Hokage faces, but after Naruto points out he has no one to go home to, he offers to buy him ramen).
    • Naruto himself becomes this in the Distant Finale and Boruto. Long gone is the annoying, loud prankster. Now Naruto is the Seventh Hokage and a happy family man, now dealing with his own somewhat rebellious son, Boruto. That isn't to say he still isn't a knucklehead but he isn't the Idiot Hero he used to be.
    • As an adult, Sasuke is not the angry and rebellious boy he was throughout most of Naruto. He's calmed down considerably.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gendo Ikari was something of a delinquent in college before Fuyutuski was more or less forced to take him on as a kind of apprentice. Unusually, though he became very successful, in most ways he is even worse than he was before. Fuyutsuki had a partial role reversal in that he's now his Number Two instead of being his teacher, but still plays the beleaguered mentor trying to restrain Gendo's actions.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: The main character was a mild one, being rambunctious and hot-blooded as a kid. He would take this Up to Eleven in the revolution, though, as an assassin against the government.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Later on in the series, there are a lot of hints that the gentle, unassuming teacher, Jinroku, was a former member of the Yakuza and probably not the nice kind either.
  • Amagasa-sensei in Hyakko was feared throughout the school back when he was one of its students. Now he's a teacher.
  • Sawako-Sensei from K-On! was a Punk-Metal performer when she attended the school as a student. Very rebellious and goth-like.
  • A popular hairdresser in Ice Revolution fit the Japanese Delinquents archetype to a T in her teenage years. She states her reasons for being violent and aggressive was due to being a closeted Transgender woman. After transitioning she calmed down considerably.
  • Pokémon: Ash's loyal Charizard used to be quite the defiant and disobedient Charmeleon.
  • Mari Katsuragi from The World God Only Knows counts as well. While she was introduced early in the series as a Yamato Nadeshiko with a Meganekko, once The Glasses Come Off, one will realize why she was previously known as the Snow Lady of the Mountain Pass: she was previously a member of a biker gang.
  • Midori in Detective Conan looks like a very level-headed House Wife, but the flashbacks in the episode we "meet" her state that she was a membress of a delinquent gang.
  • Kyouko Katsunuma from Fruits Basket was also an infamous girl gangster as a teenager, but that left her emotionally broken. She decided to put her Dark and Troubled Past behind, married her handsome teacher Katsuya Honda (who was also the only one who cared for her), and became Kyouko Honda aka Tohru's beloved mother. (Well, dead but much-beloved mother)
  • Sentaro from Kids on the Slope is a gentle teenage boy but is constantly getting into fights and skipping class. The Distant Finale shows that some time between running away from home and the eight-year timeskip, he began training to be a priest.
  • The main characters' homeroom teacher Akari Koumoto in My Monster Secret used to be the legendary delinquent known as "Akari of the Hundred Visits". Nowadays her anger mostly shows up in reference to her Trollish multi-great-grandmother Akane, who loves rubbing Akari's singleness in her face, and an enraged Akari is said to be more terrifying than Godzilla. Akari herself treats her past as Old Shame, mostly since those "hundred visits" were her unsuccessful attempts at getting a boyfriend and flipping out when she failed. However, the story has a happy ending, since her past allowed Akari to connect with her student Sakurada and reform him into one of these, which lead to their becoming a couple later on in the manga's run.
  • Downplayed with Kaoru from I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying. Prequel series Metsuko ni Yoroshiku shows that her high school sempais were both Japanese Delinquents, but she never took place in any of their insane activities. Played straight by said sempais though, Akiko became the assistant to her cousin, the detective Destiny Fucker, and Yuzu became a mangaka. Akiko's friend Yuki also retired from delinquency and went on to have a successful music career (posters for his concerts can be found throughout The 'Verse).
  • Vol. 7 of High School Of The Dead reveals that Rei's mom used to be a girl gang leader.
  • Before Youichi of Father and Son got married and became a teacher, he used to be in a gang. He had quite a temper, which only shows when he's really angry as Shou learns the hard way every now and then.
  • Yukiko Kanzaki from Assassination Classroom is a variation in that she still is a teenager, but has gotten over a rebellious phase. Her parents were incredibly strict, expecting nothing short of perfection from her, so in order to rebel against them and let off pressure, she ended up visiting arcades and dressing more provocatively. This caused her grades to slip so strongly that she ended up falling to Class 3-E.
  • Zombie Land Saga: One episode reveals that Reiko, the leader of Saki's old biker gang, eventually settled down and became a housewife, but is worried about her daughter reviving her gang and going through the same tragedy.

    Fan Works 
  • Apollo Justice in Dirty Sympathy used to have been a delinquent in his teenage years.
  • The Muggle Foster Parents in the My Immortal parody Xtremly Scray, Billy and Mae Poseran turn out to have been goffic as teens in the Fifties.
  • Fail Better: Lucia is rather virtuous and her rebellious tendencies are always about bringing justice and mercy into a cruel system. Her adopted daughter is shocked when she realizes that she was a Hard-Drinking Party Girl in her youth.
  • Starlight Is For Always does this for most of the rebellious 1980s rock group The Misfits: Pizzazz became a born-again Christian and runs a conservative organization, Roxy went back to school and became a therapist, and Stormer's mildly rebellious attitude just went away after she had a baby. The sole exception is Jetta, who got into trouble with the law for fraud.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Inko, a doting and kind-hearted mother, worries her son Izuku is getting into trouble after he repeatedly lies to her about where he's going at night. She's relieved when he tells her that he's been meeting with a tutor for the past ten months to prepare for the U.A. Entrance Exam. When he asks her why she would ever think he would be smoking or meeting a girl, she admits she did some wild things when she was his age. Izuku immediately resolves to never to look into his mom's teenage years.
  • In the Jem continuation oneshot Rock Stars, the Misfits have long since disbanded due to the changing music scene of the 1990s. They've all seemed to have toned down their images. Stormer has an indie rock empire while Roxy is implied to be a Fashion Designer.
  • His History Revealed: A Dr. Robotnik Biography shows that Dr. Robotnik was a hippie for a while in the '70s. You wouldn't know that from his time as a muscular Vietnam vet or his current appearance as a mad scientist.
  • one day at a time: This is how Peggy Sue protagonist Jason Todd's gradual transition from Red Hood to Batman is portrayed. He even calls his younger self "an angst-ridden mess stuck in a constant phase of delayed teenage rebellion".
  • Subverted in Severance. Oak remembers Delia having a Hot-Blooded spirit like Ash when she was younger, but he assumed that Delia calmed down with age. Delia's attitude comes to light when her son is in danger.

    Film — Animation 
  • A few of the more famous Disney direct to video sequels made use this trope:
    • The Lion King (1994) follows Simba's character development from a rambunctious kid to a lazy teen to a responsible adult. The Lion King II: Simba's Pride shows Simba trying to emulate his father in raising his own cub, but taking a more strict, overprotective stance while doing so.
    • In The Little Mermaid (1989), Ariel often went up to the ocean's surface, despite knowing full well that her father forbade it because she thought he was being unreasonable and overprotective. Come The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Ariel's own daughter Melody does the very same thing (going into the sea when she knows it's forbidden), and Ariel becomes angry and scolds her when Melody reveals she did so. In both cases, it's about parents worrying for their children.
    • Disney would recycle the concept again with Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure. In the first film, the Tramp was a stray dog who railed against the domesticated life, and spent his time doing things like chasing chickens and helping other stray dogs escape from the dog catcher; this naturally changed when he met Lady, so the second film has their son Scamp growing tired of the domesticated life and wanting to be a stray, totally ignorant to the fact that his father was once one.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Back to the Future:
    • Marty's mother, Lorraine Baines McFly in Part I. We don't see much of her in the present, but when he goes back to the 1950's Marty is definitely shocked to see her smoking and drinking. She also flirts with Marty and wants to park with him, despite her assertion thirty years later that girls shouldn't chase boys and her insistence that she never did that kind of thing with a boy.
    • There's also Biff Tannen. Subverted at first with him being exactly the same as an adult in the '80s as he was in the '50s as a teenager. However, after Marty changes the past, he plays this straight in the new timeline.
    • Additionally, an original draft for the Part II had George and Lorraine as members of the hippie counter-culture of the 1960's.
  • The Beverly Hills Cop films. Protagonist, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy).
    Axel: You know, I wasn't always a cop; I fractured an occasional law.
  • Bubble Boy, the 2001 remake. The main character's mother was incredibly controlling, ignored all of her son's concerns in favor of her shockingly over-the-top Fundamentalist beliefs, and treats her son like an infant the entire way through the movie, even going so far as to lie about the actual state of her son's immune system; he NEVER needed the bubble after age 4. She's a bit of a Karma Houdini herself, really. And as it turns out in the end, she actually used to be "Wildfire", the former love interest of that motorcyclist tough guy that was one of the first people the bubble boy met on the road.
  • Word of Dante says Heath Ledger learned how to skateboard for The Dark Knight, as he considered The Joker a character who probably was a skateboarding teenage rebel.
  • The Edukators kidnap a wealthy, middle-aged businessman who reveals that he and his wife used to be members of a socialist commune and got up to all sorts of shenanigans.
    "We were six. Rolf, Bernard, I, Lizzy, Gabi, my wife. First, Rolf and Gabi were together. Then, Bernd and Gabi, then Lizzy and me. Then Bernd and Lizzy, then Lizzy and my wife for a while..."
  • Kelly Radner from Neighbors, claims to have managed to avert The Bro Code before, and proves it by instigating adultery by way of Girl-on-Girl Is Hot.
  • Renaissance Man a 1994 film in which Danny DeVito plays a laid-off advertising executive who gets hired to work with a group of misfit army recruits. The first thing he has them do is write essays about why they joined the Army. Several of them reveal that they fit this trope and the reason they joined the Army was to get away from it.
  • Superbad Officers Slater and Michaels reveal to Fogle/McLovin that they were this. They knew his fake ID was fake all along but let him slide and did all their shenanigans with him because they saw their younger selves in him.
  • What To Do In Case Of Fire, a German film is about a group of now-successful ex-anarchists in Berlin, who band back together after a bomb they had made 15 years earlier and forgotten about blew up, and they have to get rid of any evidence linking it to them.
  • Much of the premise of The Banger Sisters.
  • In the comedy performance movie Himself, Bill Cosby notes that one of the first things a parent says about their children entering adulthood is that they hope their child has children of their own, who will act just like they did as kids. Cosby says that is a curse, and it works.
  • Windtalkers Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage). His commanding officer tells him that he's done much better as a Marine than as a civilian, reading off from Enders' record that he stole a motorcycle and crashed it and got kicked out of high school for assaulting the assistant principal.
  • The World's End: Before things get all weird in the town of Newton Haven, this is the main premise of the film — school friends Andy, Steven, Peter, and Oliver have outgrown their wild ways and live normal, productive lives in middle age, while the leader of the old gang, Gary King, hasn't changed a bit since his teenage years.
  • Blue Ruin: The main character is a timid beach bum, but he sports a few heavy metal-style tattoos he got before dropping out of society. After cleaning himself up and reuniting with his old buddy Ben, who DJs at a club, Ben tells him that he looks "square."
  • Sound of My Voice: Lorna had her first hangover at 12. She lived an early life of decadence before straightening out and trying to become a writer/filmmaker.
  • In the Paddington films, Mr. Brown is shown in flashbacks to have been a wild, motorcycle-riding bad boy in his youth. The editing humorously implies that he changed to his current stodgy, adventure-hating self literally overnight when his wife gave birth to their first child.
  • A Clockwork Orange: This is the source of the friction between Alex and his droogs, as they, especially Georgie and Dim, are getting tired of their lives of meaningless, sadistic violence and sex, and wants to move on to making actual money, while Alex is still in love with his carnage so to speak. When Alex is released from prison, he's beaten by two police officers who turn out to be none other than Georgie and Dim. This is even more prevalent in the original novel, which includes a scene where Alex meets his fourth former gang member, Pete, as a married man with a family, which leads Alex to contemplate doing the same himself, as violence is losing its thrill for him as well.
  • The Hobbit: According to Gandalf, Bilbo used to go adventuring in the woods in search of elves as a youth, whereas the now-middle aged and stodgily respectable Bilbo balks at the mere mention of a possible adventure that'll make him late for breakfast. Although it turns out there's still enough of Bilbo's former adventuring self within him to get him to accept an adventure with dwarves after all.
  • In Snatched (2017), Emily finds a scrapbook of her mother Linda's younger years, full of real-life pictures of Goldie Hawn. She's shocked that Linda used to be cool.

Mother: What kind of behavior is that? When I was your age, I always stayed at home in the evening.
Daughter: Naturally you did. I was eight months old already by then.

Old Hippie: I used to do drugs in the '70s, now I don't care what the temperature is.

  • Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot has alluded to the "fast living" of his youth, but details are few.
  • Miss Marple has also made a few allusions to when she was a girl and looking for a man that her parents would disapprove of.
  • The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones. Christopher Chant definitely fits the bill. It's implied that Gabriel DeWitt, his predecessor, does as well, though we never learn enough of his backstory to be entirely certain.
  • Discworld:
    • In A Hat Full of Sky, when Tiffany's teacher Miss Level tries to confront a Hiver-possessed Tiffany, Tiffany claims she was "out" doing "nothing" with "nobody". Miss Level dryly replies "I remember going out and doing nothing as a girl."
    • In Thud!, Vimes was shocked to find his butler Willikins (gained when he married Sybil) was once a street thug and member of a gang even Vimes considered to be vicious bastards.
  • The Dresden Files Charity Carpenter used to be quite the rebel, running away from home when her magic developed and getting involved with a number of bad crowds, ultimately joining a cult whose leader was sacrificing its members to a dragon. When Charity was saved from the dragon by Michael Carpenter, she settled down as a good Catholic and Housewife and gave up her magic. Some of the other skills she picked up during her rebellion (notably fighting, metalworking, and vehicle repair) are still used to aid her husband and defend her family.
    • Anastasia Luccio, Captain of the Wardens and one of the most competent combat mages alive, apparently spent significant portions of her youth working as a nude model and exotic dancer, occasionally locking professional and romantic horns with Lara Raith. In one of the short stories, she finds her deeply apologetic boyfriend in the middle of what looks like a Destructo-Nookie orgy, and while he stammeringly tries to explain that it's Not What It Looks Like, she just rolls her eyes and says she's done worse. Note, done, not seen.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Marauders (save for Peter Pettigrew, who was less a rebel than he was a hanger-on). In their school days, they were some of Hogwarts' most notorious pranksters and illegally became underage Animagi to keep Lupin company during his werewolf transformations. That's without mentioning Sirius and James' years-long feud with Snape. James settled down and got married to Lily, while Lupin became the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, albeit temporarily. And Sirius Black, despite his incarceration and Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Peter... well, two out of four ain't bad.
    • In Goblet of Fire, Molly Weasley recounts her Hogwarts days and describes a time when she and her future husband snuck out after curfew to have a nighttime stroll. Her son Bill is quite surprised and impressed.
    • The epilogue of Deathly Hallows has Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny be this. After spending the books (most notably most of that same book) as resistance fighters against Voldemort, we see that they all married, got jobs (most of which were for the Ministry of Magic), and had several kids. Word of God details this happening for a good many other characters, including Neville (he becomes a Hogwarts professor who marries Hannah Abbott, who herself becomes the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron) and Luna (she becomes the wizarding equivalent of a naturalist, along with marrying another naturalist and having two sons).
  • Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Winifred Kraus is a matronly old maid who was a terribly rebellious teenager who got pregnant out of wedlock. Her overprotective father forced her to give birth to the child in secret and hid him in the caves. When her father passed away, she became just as overprotective and kept the boy there his entire life so she could "protect" him from the outside world.
  • In the memoir Heroin Story David (a former NYC Club Kid) pretends to be this for most of the book. He acts as if his drug-using, party-throwing days are over... all while secretly continuing to use heroin. Of course, his heroin use isn't very rebellious. It merely helps him keep his depression in check.
  • Skippy Dies: Acting Principal Greg "The Automator" Costigan was in a rock band as a teen that played anti-establishment music. Ironically, he's now an authority figure at the vanguard of forced conformity and corporate values and the opponent of the teen protagonists.
  • Tallstar from Warrior Cats is a diplomatic old Reasonable Authority Figure. When he gets A Day in the Limelight in the form of a prequel from his perspective, he turns out to have been rebellious in his youth, criticizing his clan's traditions and running away from his Clan to find a life on his own, not to mention wanting to kill someone in revenge because he had convinced himself that cat had killed his father.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This trope is the entire premise of Thirty Something. The series' protagonists are a group of members of the '60s counter culture and peace movement turned '80s yuppies.
  • Kate Beckett from Castle—up until she started college, she had a rebellious wild child-streak. It's kind of played with in Richard Castle's case, in that he's still kind of a rebel in some ways and likes getting on people's nerves sometimes, but it's generally in a more focused and mostly law-abiding way.
  • Angel: Fred. When a spell caused her to regress to her teenage self "It'd be cooler if we could score some weed, though!" was one of the first things she said.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Calling Giles a Former Teen Rebel is more than a slight understatement. Initially portrayed as the epitome of the stuffy Brit, the few clues of his youth reveal that he was an ultra-violent warlock known to his cronies as "Ripper". One of his former friends shows up in a few episodes as a sadistic priest of chaos who is more than disappointed that his big idol turned out to be such an uptight bore.
    • When first introduced Faith was an Ethical Slut and Blood Knight who didn't mind if she had to Shoot the Dog because Buffy wouldn't, such as whether or not Angel was good. After her Face–Heel Turn, she became a male-raping psychopath who killed and did wrong For the Evulz and actually tried to be this to attempt suicide by vampire. After breaking out of prison she has become one of the nicest people in both series, a Sergeant Rock to younger Slayers, and had not only seemingly grown out of her bad habits such as heavy drinking but she keeps others from doing so.
  • Jane from Happy Endings was something of a wild girl in college-with hot pink hair, revealing outfits, dating a ton of girls and guys flashing a police horse, but matured into a competitive, career-minded Control Freak.
  • Star Trek
    • Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation was a delinquent and skirt-chaser at the Academy, culminating in a bar fight with a group of Proud Warrior Race Guys in which he got stabbed in the heart. After that, he became rather more focused and regretted his wild years, but when Q gives him the chance to return to the past and relive them, Picard discovers they were necessary to make him the man he became.
    • Oddly inverted with Captain James Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series, who is...well, The Kirk in the present day but had a reputation for being a swot at the academy.
      • In the 2009 film, Kirk plays this straight, largely on account of not having a father growing up. He changes when he decides to follow in his father's footsteps. Though he certainly manages to hold on to part of his rebellious attitude.
    • Chakotay from Star Trek: Voyager is shown in "Tattoo" as a petulant youth who rejects his father's attempts to instruct him in The Ways Of His People because he'd rather run off and join Starfleet.
      • Tuvok was this as well, in multiple forms. As a young teenager, he fell in love with an alien girl and rejected Vulcan philosophy in order to pursue her, only to end up being rejected. Following this, he spent several months re-learning Vulcan logic from a master and became fully, deeply committed to the concept, but he swung so far to the opposite extreme that this became a new point of contention with his parents: he wanted to remain on Vulcan and continue those studies, but his parents wanted him to go to Starfleet Academy instead. He eventually acquiesced to them and joined Starfleet, but he continued to resent it and ultimately resigned from the service after his first mission. It was only after having children of his own that Tuvok finally found balance between the two, leading to his decision to give Starfleet another try.
      • Vulcans generally have a very strong tendency for this. Their philosophy of cold logic and detachment from emotion is their way to compensate for and restrain their violent and confrontational nature.
  • In Rumpole of the Bailey:
    • Rumpole's stuffy boss, "Soapy" Sam Ballard, president of the Lawyers as Christians Society, nitpicker about missing nailbrushes and anti-smoking crusader, once had long hair, called himself "Bonzo" and played lead guitar for an amateur rock group called the Pithead Stompers.
    • Rumpole himself is a subversion of this: he was probably quite the rebel in his youth...and he remained one for the rest of his life. Granted, it's a much more subdued sort of rebellion, but then his youth was during The Great Depression.
  • Dr. Gordon Gordon-Wyatt from Bones used to be a glam rocker.
  • The Red Dwarf gang go back in time and see Lister at age 17 with his head-banging "sham glam" band. According to Lister, the crazy whacked-out hippie drummer became a police officer and a Freemason, and the "neo-Marxist nihilistic anarchist" bassist became an insurance executive with his own parking space.
  • The protagonist of Welcome Back, Kotter was a delinquent in high school and now teaches a class of delinquents. He often butts heads with the principal, who taught Kotter back in his teenage punk days.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Captain Lochley joined the military to clean herself up after she found her best friend Zoe dead from a drug overdose.
    • Dr. Franklin is a minor example. He took up medicine partially to spite his soldier father.
  • Juken Sentai Gekiranger has an example in team mentor Miki Misaki to the point that she is still remembered and feared by the current batch of teen rebels. She's also capable of kicking more ass now than she was back then thanks to studying Geki-Ju-Leopard-ken (Fierce Beast Leopard-Fist) in the intervening period.
  • Joey Jeremiah and Christine "Spike" Nelson in Degrassi: Joey was originally a goofy prankster and Spike was a friendly punk rocker. When they reprise their roles in the sequel series as adults, Joey is now a successful car salesman and Spike has toned down her fashion sense and become a successful hairstylist, and both are good parents to their children (Craig and Angela for Joey, and Emma and Jack for Spike).
  • Modern Family: Claire Dunphy used to be much more like her wild-child eldest daughter Haley than she'd like to admit. Haley was actually conceived in the backseat of Phil's car after a Duran Duran concert.
    Claire: Your kids don't need to know who you were before you had them. They need to know who you wish you were, and they need to try to live up to that person. They're gonna fall short, but better they fall short of the fake you, than the real you.
  • Willie and Kate Tanner from ALF used to be hippies and rebels during the 1960s, but by the time the series takes place both have become responsible adults and parents.
  • Both Christy and her Mom Bonnie, were out-of-control drug addicts in their high school years with no real mother figure (Bonnie was a foster child, so never really got good at the whole “mother” thing for Christy) who got knocked up at sixteen. When they reunite, both are recovering alcoholics trying to get their lives together, with Christy even working to become a lawyer.
  • The Big Bang Theory Mary Cooper, Sheldon's mom, is devoutly Christian in the present. In "The Rhinitis Revelation" she tells Penny "When I was your age you could have me for a car ride and a bottle of strawberry wine."
    • In Young Sheldon it's revealed that his father used to wear a leather jacket and ride a motorcycle, and Sheldon's older brother was conceived pre-wedlock.
  • Hal in Malcolm in the Middle as a teenager was, essentially, Francis. His misadventures include running a pirate radio station as "Kid Charlemagne", which he attempts to revisit in one episode.
  • Felicity Smoak in Arrow, introduced as a very proper and easily flustered IT technician at Queen Consolidated, albeit one who has the skills and flexibility to deal with the boss's more "off the book" requests, eventually becoming part of Team Arrow. The Flash Back in her Day in the Limelight episode reveals that when she was a student she was a somewhat Gothy Playful Hacker.
  • A plotline in season one of Veronica Mars made use of this trope, when students in Neptune High paid PI in training Veronica to "dig up dirt" on their parents. Each of the students who came to Veronica came to find the trope was true about all of their strict parents, and their spotty records include reckless driving, Vegas weddings, and wet t-shirt contests.
  • Once Upon a Time: In the first season, Regina, the Evil Queen, is a very strict and harsh towards her adoptive son Henry, to the point of Gaslighting him. Little did he know then that in her youth she used to run away from her own evil mother, The Queen of Hearts, and was quite the Rebellious Princess.
  • In the Japanese Work Com Keishichou Nasi Goreng-ka, division head Detective Chief Kazahaya Kyoko is formerly Salt, the powerful yankee leader of Majisuka Gakuen, and goes undercover as her old self in an episode of the latter series.
    • An unnamed female detective in season 2 of Majisuka Gakuen is also a former yankee.
  • St. Elsewhere: In "Time Heals, Part 2", it is revealed that Donald Westphall was a rebellious teen in 1945 who skipped school and stole the pocketbooks of two patients at St. Eligius. His father Thomas sent him to Father Joseph McCabe to straighten him out. In order to pay back the money that he stole, Westphall began working as a shoeshine boy at the hospital. This eventually led him to study medicine and return to St. Eligius as a doctor, becoming Director of Medicine in 1975.


  • "Death or Glory" by The Clash, formerly in the page quote, is about the mellowing out with age. "Death or glory becomes just another story."
  • Everclear's "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom", as seen in the page quote, is entirely about this trope. Supposedly Art Alexakis wrote it after meeting a porn star who was a soccer mom.
  • "The Ascent of Stan," by Ben Folds, describes a man who used to be a "textbook hippie" who "wanted revolution", but has become part of the "institution".
    "And you wondered why your father was so you don't wonder anymore."
  • Clay Walker's "Fore She was Mama" is about a couple of kids who find a box of pictures in the back of a closet showing their mother when she was young, wearing skimpy clothes and hanging out with bikers.
  • Ace from The Who's Rock Opera Quadrophenia, as explained in the song "Bell Boy".
  • Allan Sherman's "The Rebel" ends when the Rebel decides to non-conform by going square. He marries his hippie girlfriend and moves out to the suburbs.
  • Huey Lewis and the News' "Hip To Be Square" is sung from the viewpoint of a 1960s hippie turned 1980s yuppie.
  • Judas Priest's "Parental Guidance" veers in this direction toward the end: "There's no communication / I'm tired of explanation / Is this message getting through? / You went through the same thing, too!" (Since Rob Halford was already in his mid-thirties when he sang those lyrics, the effect is doubly ironic.)
  • The first lines of TISM's "Greg! The Stop Sign!" are:
    The guy who slagged the football team, those yobs were not for him,
    He turns into a real estate agent who believes in disciplin'.
    The guy who's first to use cocaine, the wild boy breaking free,
    He'll end up in a court of law... as a prosecuting QC!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Zits: A Sunday strip has Jeremy having a nightmare where this happens to him. He meets his future self and is dismayed to discover that he is not a rock god but is dressed in a business suit, balding with a comb-over, and has a dental practice in the suburbs. The last panel has Hector asking him why he's dressed in a stereotypical thug outfit. Jeremy calls it "self-defense against my future".
    • More than a few flashback comics have implied this about Jeremy's parents, Connie more so than Walt, especially in the strips early days when it made sense for two baby-boomers to have a teenage son. Other strips imply they were pretty dorky back then too, so it depends on what the joke of the day is.
  • It's hinted in Calvin and Hobbes that Calvin's parents may have been like this, such as this memorable example when Calvin goes through his dad's old college yearbook.
    Calvin: Is this you with the keg and the "Party Naked" t-shirt?
    Dad: (snatching the yearbook from Calvin) GIVE ME THAAAT!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Inverted in Warhammer 40,000. Young Inquisitors are freshly indoctrinated and therefore puritanically orthodox. Those who survive to old age tend to lose their naivety and innocence to the setting's Black-and-Gray Morality, making them more radical and rebellious, and frequently the target of the next generation of Inquisitors.

  • Ash's mom Delia is his in Pokémon Live!. She even dated Giovanni, the future leader of Team Rocket, and was Team Rocket affiliated herself. Now she's a mild-mannered, loving if strict stay-at-home mom. Delia's quite ashamed by her past.
  • Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, by some definition of "teenage" and "rebel". He tries to keep his past as a convict a secret from his daughter Cosette, even going so far as attempting to move to America to escape his past. Eventually, he tells his son-in-law Marius, although begs him to keep the secret from Cosette, and eventually passes the information to Cosette on his deathbed.
    • Implied with Javert, who reveals he was born in a prison and that he upholds the law so strictly to escape his own past as the son of criminals.
  • Implied with Vi and Shaw Moore in the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of Footloose, the latter of whom implores Shaw to forgive their daughter Ariel for sneaking out, lying, drinking, and dancing by urging him to remember what they were like at that age.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Martin Septim is a priest but dabbled in Daedric magic (apparently until it resulted in the death of his friends).
  • Jolee Bindo from Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. And a Jedi one to boot!
  • If the Earthborn backstory is selected for Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, he/she was a gang member as a teenager who cleaned up and went straight before joining the military.
  • Jack in Mass Effect 3 is a mild version of this: she's now a teacher at a school for biotics instead of a criminal, but she kept the tattoos and still likes drinking and swearing (though she tries not to do the latter too much in front of her students).
  • Dragon Age:
    • Wynne in Dragon Age: Origins has got a milder variation, she tells stories of a time when she was significantly more hot-headed and rebellious than she is today. As her DLC reveals Leliana had very little in the way of morals: theft (from the church no less,) seduction, murder, humiliating people, her mentor did a number on her all right. Far from the sweet and pious girl in the main game.
    • Dragon Age II has Sebastian, who drank and whored so much in his teen years that his family forced him into a monastery, where he found religion.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition has Solas, a professorial mage who alludes to being far more Hot-Blooded and fight-happy in his youth. In the most extreme case thus far, he turns out to be Fen'Harel / the Dread Wolf, an ancient eleven rebel now remembered as a trickster god. Moreover, while he's less hot-tempered, his actual plans haven't mellowed out at all.
  • Metroid: Other M seems to show that Samus Aran might have been one of these. The Behind The Scenes trailer shows her former CO, Adam Malkovich, giving out orders, and while everyone else gives the thumbs up, she gives the thumbs down. Seen here at 07:56
    • The reason behind Samus' thumbs down was she was always at odds with Adam when she was under his command, but over time, her thumbs down became a sign of trust and understanding between the two of them. Towards the end of the game after Adam's death, Samus gives a thumbs up in Adam's honor.
  • Virgil from Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura was a thief and all-around careless thug, until other criminals he angered decided to make him care by taking it out on his brother.
  • Valkenhayn R. Hellsing of Blazblue is a profoundly loyal and unflinchingly polite Battle Butler in his old age, but humorously, in his younger years, he was actually very little different from Ragna.
  • FBI agent Francis York Morgan of Deadly Premonition fame was a punk rocker in his teenage years. It seems to have formed the basis of his current quasi-philosophical pop-culture obsession.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude Assistant Dean Abrahamson, a well known Dean Bitterman, was a member of a satanic, sex-themed metal band in his youth. In one story arc, Larry blackmails him with this knowledge to make him back off from trying to discipline one of his many crushes.
  • No Straight Roads: Tatiana used to be the Queen of Indonesian Heavy Metal. Then her band split up due to petty arguments and she pursued a hybrid career in pop star management / alternate energy. Her die-hard fans are bitter about her transition from rebel idol to corporate executive.

    Web Comics 
  • Chief Lara in Gifts of Wandering Ice fell in love with a Mute (a guy belonging to different human species related to Neanderthals) in her youth and married him against her mother's wishes. She used to be a tomboyish, reckless girl, quite the opposite of the austere, cold woman she became later.
  • Carson von Mekkhan and Old Man Death from Girl Genius both "rode with the Jägers" i.e. acted as auxiliaries to Europe's evilest overlord's Badass Army in their youths. Carson is currently retired from his position as seneschal to said overlord's family and lives with his daughter-in-law, and Old Man Death runs a deli. It's also suggested that Baron Klaus Wulfenbach used to be a famous heartbreaker when he was young, even having a "doomed romance" with the immortal Queen Albia of England. Gil literally cannot believe it when he hears it, convinced that an imposter must have been smearing his father's reputation.
    Gilgamesh: The man who thinks "romance" is a type of lettuce. He taught me not to shake hands with a girl until I'd met her parents!
  • Ki's father in General Protection Fault, didn't go nearly as far as some examples, but he, a Japanese man, committed the cultural taboo of marrying a Chinese woman. As he aged, he became more traditional, and after some unpleasant experiences with Ki's former fiance Sam, he becomes adamantly opposed to her marrying Nick.
  • Roommates' Inspector Javert, believe it or not. To elaborate: When we saw his younger self he swore like a sailor, picked fights with authority figures, and stole a child's cookie.
  • Ye Thuza in Sandra and Woo is literally a former teen rebel, having fought in the Burmese resistance in her youth before settling down to become a suburban housewife.
  • In The Order of the Stick comic, "How the Paladin Got His Scar", it is revealed in O-Chul's backstory that he was the son of a married bandit couple and that the soldier responsible for his parents' arrest later adopted him and turned him into one of the most Lawful Good characters in the entire comic.

    Web Original 
  • Koneko is revealed to have been like this in Nyan~ Neko Sugar Girls. She's currently a soft-spoken nice girl who wears a conservative style. In college, she wore heavy makeup, a midriff-baring shirt, shorts, and is shown popping bubble gum like the delinquent stereotype goes. Apparently she received a breast reduction as well because she no longer has Gag Boobs.

    Western Animation 
  • Principal Skinner aka Armin Tamzarian, of The Simpsons, who actually assumed somebody else's identity as part of getting over his rebellion. Accidentally. He honestly intended to tell Mrs. Skinner that her real son was believed to be dead - but she thought he was her son when he showed up at her door, and he just didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise. Fans hated this episode due to how crazily most of the cast was out of character in order to make the plotline work, but interestingly, the writers never retconned it in response—Lisa actually uses the plot as a threat against him in an episode years later.
    • Though "Boy Meets Curl" eventually retconned this by flash-backing to Mrs. Skinner pregnant with Seymour.
  • Ms. Finster from Recess, in the episode "Weekend at Muriel's".
  • American Dad!:
    • Francine Smith was quite the party girl in college.
    • In Season 2's "Bush Comes To Dinner" then-President George W. Bush brings this trope up to Stan after he angrily tells Hayley that she's a lost cause. Bush reveals that he was a very wild party boy when he was younger (which is Truth in Television) and that Hayley, due to her rebellious ways, is not a lost cause, but is on the track to becoming President of the United States.
  • Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond. His reputation as such is a big reason as to why he puts on the suit, and often comes back to bite him on the ass. As a teen, he was caught breaking and entering as part of a gang initiation. The way he describes it, he followed his best friend into the building and directly into the cops' hands. He also got into a lot of fights but said flat out that most of what he did before the arrest was penny-ante stuff.
  • Khan of King of the Hill, even looking like a '50s teen rebel, complete with pompadour, in the late '70s.
  • In South Park, Kyle's mom Sheila was once a wild Jersyite known as "S-Woww Tittybang". Today, she's the poster girl of Knight Templar Parent.
    • Sharon (Stan's mom) also appears to be an example of this. She and Randy were both hippies in the '60s. While Randy is essentially a Manchild (in later seasons), Sharon is a pretty strict and upright parent.
  • While not a teenager, Professor Utonium from The Powerpuff Girls was shown to be an obnoxious, bratty prankster as an elementary school student in the episode "Get Back Jojo".
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe:
  • Fillmore! and Ingrid are not even teen yets but otherwise fit the trope. As a throwback to a popular cliche in Cop Shows, the two used to be troublemakers until they both decided to stop. Now they're on their school's Safety Patrol.
  • Daria's parents, Helen and Jake Morgendorffer, were '60s flower children, while in the present, Helen is a workaholic lawyer and Jake runs a successful business consulting firm. The Season 2 episode, "That was Then, This is Dumb", focuses on their old hippie friends, The Yeagers, who still haven't changed.
  • Implied in a scene in the Rugrats episode "Naked Tommy". Tommy's mother Deedee is trying to convince Phil and Lil's mother Betty that stripping their clothes off is a phase all babies go through, but Betty isn't buying it.
    Betty: The sixties are over, Deed, and we lost, so just get with the program!
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Star's uptight mom, Queen Moon, is implied to be one in "Game of Flags".
    Star: You played Flags when you were my age!
    Moon: I did a lot of things you won't be doing.
    • The season 3 premiere paints this comment in a darker light when we learn Moon was forced to take the throne at a young age after her mother was killed by Toffee, then a rogue monster general.
  • Out There: Wayne, the father of main character Chad, is an uptight, somewhat conservative man who works as an optometrist, but was once a drug-taking hippie of the highest order. His experiences with drugs, especially one really bad trip that almost got him killed, has made him desperate to make sure his son never experiments with drugs himself, much to Chad's confusion since he's never even considered it, being far more preoccupied with girls.
  • Steven Universe: Amethyst's friend Vidalia used to be a rough-living rock groupie. Then she got pregnant with her son Sour Cream and decided to settle down, eventually marrying a fisherman.

    Real Life 
  • Some former gang-members and thieves have gone on to become police officers and security alarm manufacturers, using what they learned from their former life to their advantage in their careers.
  • Johnny Depp was once a conceited, self-centered Jerkass young actor who openly dissed the Academy and Hollywood in general. After several arrests and the birth of his first child, Depp has "grown up" and become a serious and respected actor. The Academy doesn't seem willing to let him live it down, though.
  • Right-wing Republican author P.J. O'Rourke was an anarchist hippy. What changed? "I got my first paycheck".
  • A common story with many hippies and flower children from the 1960s and '70s as well. After they got older, many of them out of the hippie phase, and had kids of their own. They freaked out just like their own parents once the kids started into Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll for themselves. They tried to differentiate their experiences from those of their kids, with the most common justification being that it was "just so much more innocent then."
  • Johnny Cash embraced Christianity after he earned a reputation as an outlaw in his twenties and thirties. He wound up using his experiences to serve as a strong advocate for social justice and prison reform, but themes of guilt and repentance were fairly common in his lyrics all the same. (He originally attempted to break in as a gospel singer, as seen in the biopic Walk the Line. He left his original label because they wouldn't let him record gospel stuff.)
  • Stephen Fry. As a teenager he was expelled from school twice, was a serial thief, and served several months in prison; now he's well-known as "the politest man in England."
  • Alice Cooper, original shock rocker, has a Christian summer camp for troubled youth and owns a sports-themed BBQ joint. Cooper found Christianity in the mid-1970s during treatment for alcoholism. While his music act hasn't changed much, he's very careful to keep his stage persona separate from who he really is.
  • Believe it or not, Ben Stein (of "Bueller....Bueller...." fame) wasn't quite so stuffy when he was in college 45 years ago and was protesting The Vietnam War. (Even more shockingly, his mother approved of it!)
  • And everyone's favorite sardonic moralist, Bill O'Reilly, was - by his own admission - quite the womanizer back in The '70s.
  • Mystery writer Anne Perry, who was revealed to be murderer Juliet Hulme after the release of the movie Heavenly Creatures.
  • Considering just how notorious Murphy Brown was In-Universe, it might not be a surprise that Candice Bergen was pretty rebellious. One prank she was a part of (when she was 21, which eliminates the "teen" part) required a temporary shut down of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Jack Kerouac, whose semi-autobiographical novel On the Road became a counterculture icon, ultimately became a political conservative and observant Catholic - albeit one still more than happy to partake in frequent recreational drug use. Stories tell of him getting smoking pot, watching the McCarthy trials on TV, and rooting enthusiastically against the communists.
  • Glen Matlock, former bass player of The Sex Pistols, named his autobiography "I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol". In an interview in 2005, he expressed contempt for gratuitous swearing in modern society.
  • It's very common for youth ministers and even general audience ministers to be former teen rebels. In fact, former teen rebels are among the most common adherents of extremist religious sects.
  • German foreign minister (1998-2005) Joschka Fischer of the Green Party used to hang out with Daniel Cohn-Bendit (himself an example of this trope) and other left-wing radicals in Frankfurt during the 1970s. He also beat up police and (in his own words) "Just threw stones in the air".note  When elected to the Bundestag in 1983, he was famous for his confrontational debating style, including one famous exchange in which he told the President of the Bundestag "Mit Verlaub, Herr Präsident, Sie sind ein Arschloch." ("With respect, Mr. President, you are an asshole.") In 1985, he left federal politics to became the Minister of Environment of his home state of Hesse—but he still had some of his old spirit, appearing in (gasp!) sneakers! Though if you believe his later statements the sneakers weren't his idea. His past caught up with him during his term in office when the conservative opposition held hearings into the violent acts he committed in the 1970s.
  • Fischer's coalition partner Gerhard Schröder reportedly banged against the fence of the chancellor's office screaming "I want to be in there" in his "wild days". He was also a member of the left-wing of his party in his youth, often clashing with the (more centrist) higher-ups. Given his policies as chancellor, most notably the "Hartz reforms" note  it is quite likely that young Schröder would have hated the breathing guts of old Schröder.
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo, who is described as sexually adventurous and frequently drunk during his youth. Before becoming a priest, he had several children out of wedlock, and famously popularized the mock prayer "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."
  • US Republican President Ronald Reagan was originally an outspoken liberal activist before becoming a conservative politician. As a young man, he strongly supported FDR's New Deal program, opposed nuclear proliferation and even sympathized with Communist ideology as his family benefitted greatly from government welfare. However, beginning in the 1950s, Reagan began moving rightwards in his political beliefs because of pressure from his corporate sponsors, his failed attempts to join the Hollywood Communist Partynote , his disillusionment with the Soviet Union and the then-ongoing Red Scare hysteria.
  • In the '60s, San Francisco was the capital of the counterculture. Nowadays, it's better known as the capital of the tech world, and the residents (at least those who can still afford to live there) are more likely to be yuppies than hippies. Some longtime residents bemoan the influx of straitlaced, business-minded go-getter newcomers to the city. It's probably no accident that Portland, Oregon has the reputation as the Quirky Town that San Francisco once enjoyed. Played straight with the personal computer industry in the Silicon Valley, as it was founded by people who were steeped in the counterculture in the '70s, and then became full-fledged businesspeople as their companies became successful.

Alternative Title(s): Former Delinquent


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