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Jacob and Esau

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"The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob."

In a family of two or more children, each child has a stronger affinity for a different parent. There are two main ways this can happen:

  1. Each child resembles a different parent in looks or personality.
  2. Each parent is closer to or favours a different child.

These tend to go hand-in-hand, but not always. Sometimes, even when parents strive to be impartial, they still find that each child is more like one parent than the other. Conversely, taking after a parent is no guarantee of being that parent's favourite; it may even have the opposite effect.

May lead to accusations of Parental Favouritism, or to each child feeling like one parent's Unfavourite. Can lead to Sibling Rivalry and even Cain and Abel, particularly when the parents are at odds with each other. May contribute to Middle Child Syndrome if there are more than two children.


On the other hand, a family like this may be perfectly happy if each child is content to be one parent's favourite. And — as so often happens — the children may well be closer to each other than to either parent.

If both siblings are the same gender, it is common for the tougher or "manlier" one to be closer to the dad, and the more sensitive or "girlier" one to be closer to the mom. A common variation with opposite-gender siblings is to have a Daddy's Girl and a Momma's Boy.

Compare Gender Equals Breed.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: While both Elric brothers have their father Hohenheim's coloring, Ed very strongly resembles him in his youth, while Al shares their mother Trisha's softer features and kinder personality.
  • Naruto and Boruto: Naruto's eventual son Boruto strongly resembles him in both appearance and personality, while his little sister Himawari has Hinata's coloring and is more down-to-earth and sensible than he is.
  • Zig-zagged in Dragon Ball Z. While Gohan spends the vast majority of his screentime in Goku's company, his reserved personality and clear preference for studying over fighting make him more Chi-Chi's son; he even shares more physical traits with her, such as skin tone, than he does with his father. By the same token, Goten doesn't even meet Goku until he's already seven years old, but he's the spitting image of him as a boy, both in terms of looks and behavior, which Gohan doesn't fail to notice.

  • In Holiday, Linda seems to take after her mother, while Julia is more in line with her father.
  • The Philadelphia Story plays a fairly subtle version of this with Dinah and Tracy, who resemble their mother and father, respectively. Dinah and Margaret both act pretty kooky at times. Meanwhile Tracy's rivalry with Seth clearly stems from the fact that they both have strong personalities, and part of Tracy's rehabilitation is acknowledging that they are not as different as she'd like to believe.
  • Thor: The Dark World: It's implied that Frigga preferred Loki while Odin favoured Thor; each parent gave their favorite child their iconic tools, illusions and Mjölnir respectively. Tom Hiddleston confirms this in this interview while promoting the film.
    Hiddleston: Rene Russo and I, always, from the very first film, part of the backstory we created was that Frigga was really the most attentive to Loki when he was a child. And Odin didn't really know how to connect. He connected much more with Thor. They were sort of cut from the same cloth. And Frigga and Loki had this kind of beautiful, sensitive, more artistic relationship. And it was actually her who taught him all his magic.
  • Star Wars: In terms of appearance and career choice, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia resemble their same-sex birth parents Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala, with Luke becoming a Jedi Knight and Leia becoming a political leader. But personality-wise, Luke takes after Padmé (calm, idealistic) and Leia takes after Anakin (quick-tempered, sharp-tongued).

  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The Stark children all physically take after one of their parents. Arya and Jon (Ned Stark's illegitimate son whose mother is unknown by most) inherit the Stark look from their father Ned. Robb, Sansa, Bran, and Rickon inherit the Tully look from their mother Catelyn. Personality-wise, Robb and Jon are the two children who strongly take after Ned.
    • Jon's resemblance to Ned causes Catelyn some amount of angst, at least before other concerns rear their head: Jon is the only son who bears the Stark look and takes after Ned, yet he's the illegitimate one. Or maybe not.
    • Sansa seems to be the most "southron" of the Stark children, taking after her mother in this regard, and is only one to be more culturally oriented toward the place her mother comes from, the Riverlands, delighting in the graces of court (until everything goes to pot). She identifies more with the Faith of the Seven than with the Old Gods, the faith of the North. Of course, she and Arya are the only two children who spend a significant amount of time at court in the South, and Arya ends up going on a rather different kind of journey by the beginning of the second book, while Sansa remains in the South.
  • Glynn and Ember from Isobelle Carmody's The Legendsong Saga. Glynn is much closer to her father while Eber takes after her mother in both looks and talents. It is mentioned that their mother didn't really want children at all, and is only able to love Ember because they are so similar. Strongly influences Glynn's personality.
  • John Steinbeck's East of Eden relies heavily on the Cain/Abel, Jacob/Esau motif throughout its entirety. There are two sets of brothers: Adam and Charles and then Aron and Cal (sons of Adam and a crazy maniacal whore named Cathy). Adam and Aron = Jacob/Abel, Charles and Cal = Esau/Cain. Adam and Aron are good boys who take after their dads. Charles and Cal are more... unstable... and tend to flirt with evil, taking after their mothers.
  • Lowlands of Scotland Series: Given that the books are based on the story of Jacob, the presence of this trope is unsurprising. Jamie is the more genteel, thoughtful, and sly brother who is close to and favored by their mother; Evan is the rougher, tougher, blunt hunter who is closer to and favored by their father. They have all the Sibling Rivalry of the originals, too.
  • Two of the princes of Númenor are described this way in The Silmarillion:
    No love was there between Ar-Gimilzôr and his queen, or between their sons. Inziladûn, the elder, was like his mother in mind as in body; but Gimilkhâd, the younger, went with his father, unless he were yet prouder and more wilful.
  • In Midnight Tides, book five of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, there are the Beddict brothers, and although their parents are long dead by the start of the book comparisons are drawn In-Universe. The oldest brother, Hull, and the youngest, Brys, both take after their father; Hull in personality, especially their father's weaknesses, and Brys in the physical aspects, to the point of being their father's spitting image in martial ability and looks, apparently. The middle son, Tehol, on the other hand, is a gender-flipped version of their mother, especially in regards to personality and brains. He even comments on how there is no need to keep alive their parents' memory, as there are walking, talking versions of them still around.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, both of the Bennet parents have clear (even stated) favorites. Mr. Bennet is closest to Elizabeth, who is clever, sardonic, and fond of books, as he is. Mrs. Bennet, a vivacious beauty in her youth — and indeed still a beauty — prefers the lovely Jane and the lively and strong-willed Lydia, who remind her of herself. Mary and Kitty are pretty much on their own.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Borgia: Rodrigo favors Juan to Cesare, while Vannozza favors Cesare to Juan. Juan laments that his mother let him be sent away to Spain when he was only 12.
    Vannozza: Thank God I have another son. Thank God I have Cesare.
  • Heroes:
  • That '70s Show: Red makes no secret of his preference for Laurie, while Kitty is subtler about her favoritism toward Eric.
  • Revenge: In the Grayson family, Daniel is clearly Victoria's favorite, while Charlotte seems to be Conrad's.
  • On Roseanne Dan's favorite is Darlene, while the title character is closer to Becky. They spend an episode trying to switch and each form a closer relationship with the other daughter. When everything blows up in their faces, they agree to go back to the way things were.
    Dan: So which one of us gets to ruin DJ's life?
    Roseanne: We'll flip a coin.
  • In Modern Family, Mitchell always considered himself closer to his mother, while Claire felt closer to their father.

  • In "The Garden Where the Praties Grow", the singer's family consists of "Two girls just like their mother / And a boy the image of me." (Some performances swap the sexes of the children).

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The prototypical example, at least in western culture, is probably Jacob and Esau from the Book of Genesis. They are twins, but Esau, the elder brother, is favoured by his father, while Jacob is his mother's favourite. They are very different, too; Esau is a great hunter and sports a Carpet of Virility, and Jacob is good at cooking and stuff like that, and not hairy at all. The latter two even conspire successfully to cheat Esau out of his inheritance, even though it ends up fulfilling what God had said about the sons, that "the older [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob]".


    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • As Azula sees it, Ozai preferred her, and Ursa preferred her older brother, Zuko. The reality is slightly more complex: Ozai held her up as a prodigy, encouraged her ruthless, Troubling Un Childlike Behavior and subsequently derided Zuko every chance he got. The second Azula perceives Ozai as not treating her with the favor she's accustomed to, she shouts "You can't treat me like Zuko!" Ursa, on the other hand, tried to teach Azula that no, wishing for your uncle to die so your father can be Fire Lord is wrong. Zuko, being naturally more empathetic and compassionate, didn't get these same reprimands with the same frequency as Azula (the only time we see their mother scold him is when he innocently mimics 'how Azula feeds turtleducks,' by throwing whole loaves of bread at them). Because Azula knows that Ozai's favoritism of her means he hates Zuko, she assumes that Ursa's reprimands to her means that she favors Zuko, and therefore hates her.
    • This gets reversed in Katara's and Sokka's family. While there's never any indication Hakoda or Kya favored one of them over the other, Katara and Sokka seem to have favorite parents. Katara is much more deeply traumatized by the death of their mother (in part because Sokka had her to mitigate the loss of their mother in his life), while Sokka is much more deeply traumatized by their father leaving them to fight in the war (in part because Katara had him to mitigate that loss). They both lionize the parent they identify with, go out of their way to take over the role their parent left to them, and while they love the other parent, Katara begins to resent her father for leaving while Sokka isn't sure he can remember what his mother looks like anymore, since Katara has so entirely subsumed her role in his life.
  • Daria has a subtle example where Daria and Jake seem particularly close while Helen bonds more easily with Quinn. However, Helen in particular still manages to help Daria on several occasions (generally more competently than Jake, if not quite as easy-going). In fact, one could argue that the reason Daria gets on with Jake is because he won't butt in on her life, for better or worse.
  • The Simpsons does this with Bart mirroring Homer's lazier, more irresponsible attitude and Lisa closer to Marge's responsible nature (including nigh-identical disapproving sounds). This is often particularly highlighted in episodes where the parents spend time with the "opposite" child (Bart and Marge or Lisa and Homer).
  • Non-parental example in Gravity FallsMabel bonds more easily with Grunkle Stan, due to their similarly extroverted (yet otherwise contrasting) personalities, while Dipper winds up getting closer to their other great-uncle, Ford, who is basically everything he wants to be.
  • Bob's Burgers: Tina is (mostly) sensible and even-tempered to the point of seeming catatonia, much like Bob. Gene is an ebullient scatterbrain like his mother Linda, and also a huge Mama's Boy. Louise is a curious mixture of her parents, but has enough of her mother in her that no one is safe on those occasions they're in conflict.

    Real Life 

Alternative Title(s): His And Hers Kids


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