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The Black Sheep is the one member of a family who does not fit in, the prodigal son, the castaway from The Clan or from the Big Screwed-Up Family unless he left on his own smashing the door and Calling the Old Man Out. Can be The Unfavorite, but not necessarily.

A Black Sheep is not just someone who doesn't fit in with the family -- it's someone who rejects their role in the family, either deliberately or not. Or possibly someone whose reputation or morality is at odds with the family reputation/morality, because it makes them different from the rest of the family.

The Black Sheep might be The Unfavorite but he can also be the Favorite instead. The latter case, of course, drives The Dutiful Son crazy as to why he's the favored one.

Sometimes the Black Sheep is really bad -- AKA a criminal. Other times a Black Sheep is just considered rebellious, and might be a Cool Big Sis or Cool Uncle. On occasion, he is actually the Defector From Decadence. Often, he is a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold.

In kids shows there is a common Aesop where a Black Sheep from one of the kids' families will show up as either a Cool Big Sis (or brother) or a Cool Uncle. Often the Cool Relative will inspire emulation by all the kids in town (sometimes excepting only the kid who is actually related to him). Eventually this emulation gets the kids into trouble. Either the Black Sheep helps the kids out and then delivers the Aesop that they really don't want to be like him, or he reveals himself to be a Jerkass and leaves the kids in their mess (often to be saved by the one kid who didn't emulate the Black Sheep).

Not to be confused with the New Zealand film about zombie sheep, or the Chris Farley film of the same name which was released over a decade earlier.

Contrast White Sheep, where all inversions of this trope belong.

Examples of Black Sheep include:


Anime and Manga

  • Urd from Ah! My Goddess is an example of the Cool Big Sis who is also a Black Sheep. Her reputation just doesn't quite fit with the expected behavior of a Goddess (being half-Demon doesn't help).
  • The lead from Kaze no Stigma was cast away from his clan for not being able to control fire. He chose to control wind instead. Then they want him to marry back into the family, which both irritates and amuses him greatly.
  • Kouhei from Tsukuyomi Moon Phase is the only magic-less Muggle in an entire family of mages. Fortunately, that also means he's immune to all sorts of magic.
  • Inukami!: Keita for failing to attract an Inukami during his clan's coming of age ceremony. Later revealed to be because Yohko, his Magical Girlfriend sorta kinda, scared all the others away so even though as a Kitsune she could form a pact with him when he would be desperate enough to accept. Why? Because You Were Nice to Me. When Keita was younger he gave her some chocolate cake. Since she was forced to live on a mountain with Inukami for a long time (aka supernatural dogs/wolves and as a Kitsune she is terrified of them) and lived liked this until she formed the pact with him.
  • Fist of the North Star's Jagi is so unlike the other three disciples of Hokuto Shinken, despite being the closest relation-wise to their master (according to the Jagi Gaiden manga, adopted son), that he is not considered among the "three Hokuto brothers."
    • Justified in the sense that he never truly mastered Hokuto Shinken, and in fact spent several years running around doing other things instead of spending time training.
  • It's implied that Ishida Ryuuken is sort of the Black Sheep of his family, for choosing to have a somewhat normal life instead of becoming a full-time Quincy like his father (yeah, and look how well that turned out for him) and his son. Of course, that doesn't stop him from being very good at the family profession when he chooses to be.
  • Uchiha Itachi is the Black Sheep of the Uchiha clan, being the only one in his family who does not believe that being an Uchiha makes one superior, he eventually kills his family. He is also is the only Uchiha who opposes a hostile takeover of Kohona.
  • Goku became this due to massive head trauma that seemed to have rewired his Saiyan brain. While he retains his people's love of combat (to a degree), senseless violence or revenge killing isn't his style.
  • Maya is actually revealed to be a black sheep (albeit one still loved by her family) in episode 4 of Burn Up Excess. She's a Tokyo cop while her family runs a criminal syndicate in Osaka. She's not a White Sheep because she doesn't hold it against them nor they hold it against her.
  • Wabisuke is the Jinnouchi's prodigal son in Summer Wars.

Comicbooks

  • Albrecht Strong of Tom Strong, who was conceived by his mother's rape of an unconscious Tom. He was raised to be a cruel Nazi, and represents the Aryan ideal. Just don't call him a "black sheep"; He would die before anyone lumped him in with that "schwarze" family of Tom's. He calls himself the family's "white sheep", instead.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage, Casey Jones' cousin Sid is considered the black sheep of the Jones family. A petty criminal, his first appearance shows him threatening at Casey at gunpoint in order to steal money supposedly hidden in his grandmother's house. Later on, he becomes a member of the Foot Clan. It does not end well for him.
  • Among the Batfamily, three characters fit this trope at one point or another of canon:

 Oracle: And what about the least favorite daughter?

  • The Prodigal, AKA Destruction of the Endless.
    • Unusually, he's probably the only member of the family that everyone else likes- he's also one of the most affable, rational and well adjusted of them.
    • Not counting Death, of course. In fact, it's one of the great, unspoken ironies of the series that the most relateable and most empathetic members of the Endless (at least, maybe until Daniel replaces Morpheus as Dream of the Endless)are Death and Destruction.
  • Parodied by Walden Woods in Dork Tower: his parents are perfectly fine with his homosexuality -- it's his Goth LARP gaming hobby that disturbs them.
  • Captain America's sometime-flame Diamondback has a brother, Cutthroat. Where Diamondback was once a ruthless criminal, her brother remains one without shame or conscience. She still cares for him, in spite of Cap's belief that a brother who abandons his family (as Cutthroat has done several times) will always choose the easy way out.


Films -- Live-Action

  • Dewey Cox in Walk Hard, after his brother died in that unfortunate machete fighting accident.
  • The movie Black Sheep has Chris Farley's character being a major pain to his politician brother because he's fat, loud, and clumsy...in other words, a Chris Farley character.
  • The other Black Sheep movie has two brothers who were fifth-generation sheep farmers. The younger one was considered a "Golden Boy natural-born farmer" until a combination of his brother traumatizing him and his dad's death at the same time caused him to develop a sheep phobia and he fled to the city while older one took over the farm and developed mutant-were-sheep-zombies that are also related to them.. The title could refer to any of these.
  • Sloth in The Goonies. He's mentally disabled and physically deformed, kept chained in the basement, and not even a candidate to be his mama's Un Favorite. More importantly, unlike the rest of his family he's a good guy at heart, opposing them when given the chance.
  • Joshua in Little Odessa: due to him being a hitman for The Mafiya, he is banished from home by his father.
  • Edmund Pevensie in the first Chronicles of Narnia movie is regarded as the black sheep of the family at least for the first half of the movie
  • Jason of the eponymous Mystery Team.


Literature

  • Harry Potter has Sirius and Andromeda from the Black family. The Black family actually tends to have a few of these in every generation, and they always get blasted off the family tree. Harry himself also starts as a Black Sheep: a wizard stuck with a Muggle family.
    • Ron's family is almost all wizards except one of Molly's distant cousins who is an accountant. "We don't talk about him much..."
    • The Weasleys also have Percy, a stuck-up, anal-retentive stick-in-the-mud introvert born into a family of humble, friendly, generous extroverts and who never fit in. For all his faults, Percy was mildly mocked by his brothers even prior to cutting off all ties from them. Eventually he decided to distance himself from the other members of the Weasley clan for political favor.
      • It's mostly the twins. Percy was one of their biggest targets, but that's mostly due to the fact that all siblings tease each other. Though, there is the fact that Percy and the twins in particular are polar opposites.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Brynden Tully aka the Blackfish got his nickname by punning on this and the family's sigil of the trout.
    • Euron "Crowseye" is the black sheep (squid?) of the Greyjoy family. And in that family, that takes a fair amount of effort.
    • Jorah Mormont earned his Black Sheep status when he sold some poachers into slavery in an effort to finance his wife's entertainments. Rather than face his punishment (which would be either execution by his liege lord, or going to serve on the Wall with a bunch of other Black Sheep), he flees the country.
    • And, of course, there is Jon Snow, who is the black sheep of the Starks due to his bastardy.
    • And Perwyn Frey, notably the only decent member of House Frey, and was sent away before the Red Wedding.
    • Lovable Coward Samwell Tarly was sent to the Wall by his father because he liked singing more than fighting.
  • Drizzt Do'Urden would be a "classic" example, though he's actually the "white sheep" of his usually Always Chaotic Evil race.
  • A Dr. Ecco puzzle features three heirs to a fortune, Alice, Brad, and Carla. Brad and Carla are stereotypical rich folk but Alice, the self proclaimed Black Sheep, wears a plastic earring and jeans. The reason she is the black sheep is because she doesn't fit in with her other two siblings.
  • A recent version of Alice in Wonderland has Tweedledee and Tweedledum claim that the Red King is the Black Sheep of the King of Hearts' family. Tweedledee: "Every family has one." Both: "We have two." The implication being that both Tweedles are perfectly aware that they're odd.
  • An inversion is found in Burton's Zoom Zoom Varoom Machine by Dorothy Haas. The entire family are eccentric inventors of one sort or another, except for Little Brother. He's the Black Sheep because he's the only normal one.
  • The Gray Spartan team from Halo: The Cole Protocol. They are the most independent and individualistic of the SPARTAN teams, trained to operate for long periods with little control or assistance. After their abduction and indoctrination into the SPARTAN-II program, most of the SPARTAN-II candidates were able to quickly adjust to their new lives as soldiers. Cooperation, teamwork, and camaraderie were easily integrated into their minds and within five months, they were fully willing to take on their training. The exception were the Spartans who would become Gray Team. Gray Team is comprised of the SPARTAN candidates who were the most difficult to control. These SPARTANS were loners who tried constantly to escape their training, and resisted indoctrination in any way possible. When these attempts to escape became increasingly costly, with numerous trainers with broken fingers and shattered knee caps and at least one Pelican dropship hijacked and destroyed, the three SPARTANS were formed into their own team, trained separately from the rest. Unlike the standard SPARTAN teams, Gray Team members are all trained to think and act individually.
  • Temuge in the Conqueror books. While his brothers are all Badass warriors, poor Temuge is a rather soft chap who can barely hold a sword. He eventually makes up for it by becoming The Smart Guy.
  • In the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong, Lucas Cortez is without a doubt the Black Sheep of the Cortez family. He's the illegitimate youngest son of the head of a Cabal (mafia corporation) who, despite his father's love and his father's making him his heir, has decided to forsake all the money and prestige his father has in favor of being a lawyer for those that would go against any of the Cabals. His half brothers have attempted to assassinate him multiple times for his inheritance.
  • In the Disgaea Novels, Flonne's sister, Ozonne believes in the power of money and rejects the concept of love.
  • Christian in Buddenbrooks.
  • Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind.
  • A common thread in the Heralds of Valdemar series. Talia Sensdaughter, Lavan Firestorm, Vanyel Ashkevron, Darian Firkin, to list a few. Many of the main and minor characters are regarded as black sheep at some point in their tales.
  • Nancy and Peggy's Cool Uncle Jim Walker, aka "Captain Flint", in the Swallows and Amazons series. Note that while Nancy describes him as "the black sheep of the family", he's actually quite close to his sister and her daughters.
  • As the one Nice Guy in a Big Screwed-Up Family, Bertie Wooster doesn't get along well with his relatives. His Aunt Agatha spends a great deal of time unsuccessfully trying to turn him into a credit to the family.


Live-Action TV

  • Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess claims to have been the black sheep of his family. Specifically, his father is a warlord, his mother is a warlord's wife, and his brother is an assassin of renown. He can't compare.
  • Sheppard is revealed to be one in "Outcast" when his wealthy father dies and he comes home for the funeral
  • A 1998 issue of Soap Opera Digest had a feature which discussed each show's creepiest family. A black sheep of each family was mentioned-in this case the member that was a relatively good and normal person compared to the rest of his/her family. The entry on As The World Turns had this (intentionally or not) funny line: "Paul is the only Stenbeck who hasn't, at one time or another, gone crazy and terrorized half the town. Not coincidentally, he's also the only one who's never 'died'"
  • Peter Petrelli. Peter's idealism and sweet nature naturally clashed with the corrupt and ruthless ambition of his family. He chose to become a nurse instead of a lawyer like his father and brother, and even after acquiring abilities, is derided by his family as naive.
  • The Palace featured the interesting case of Prince David, the late king's estranged brother. Unfortunately, the program was cancelled after one short series and the character never got to appear onscreen. Apparently he got divorced at some point, then lost his whole estate after his business went bankrupt, a situation precipitated by drug and alcohol problems. There's also a Cryptic Background Reference to "a silly joke at King James's expense" that "incur[red] the wrath of the monarch." (Coincidentally, David's nephew, Prince George, remarks that he saw him once and that he was "like a ghost.")


Music

  • The John Anderson song "Black Sheep" is about a guy who comes from a rich family who is considered an embarrassment to his family because he preferred to drive a truck for a living, instead of pursuing a more lucrative career.


Theatre


Videogames


Webcomics


Web Originals

  • In The Gamers Alliance, the demon lord Omaroch and the merchant Jeremiah both end up being the black sheeps of their respective families because they are more virtuous than their scheming family members.
  • Jonas from Lonelygirl15 was rejected by his family. Tragically, his parents used to be Resistance just like him, before they had their memories erased and were brainwashed by the Order. They now want nothing to do with him.
  • In Nodwick side story "Q4orce", Spawn of Santa has a style... rather different from his dad's.


Western Animation

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh is a bit of a Black Sheep because he doesn't seem to care about the throne and ceases to actively serve as a general in the war. Zuko is The Unfavorite, but not much of a Black Sheep, at least not until he specifically rejected his father.
  • Cow and Chicken literally have a black sheep in the family. He's actually a nice guy, it's just people tend to assume the worst of him because he's a black sheep.
    • That, and because he has an advanced vocabulary that the other characters write off as another demonstration of how horrible a person he is.
  • Jazz in Danny Phantom deliberately made herself a Black Sheep from her own family, unwilling to partake in their ghost hunting obsessions. She then got Character Development and now appreciates her family's lifestyle, equally joining the bandwagon at the same time. Sam even more so; her dark and dreary Gothic life doesn't quite match with her parents' cheery Stepford-like mannerisms.
  • Helen's sister Amy from Daria - apparently the brainy misfit who deliberately withdrew from the family to avoid getting caught up in her two sisters' constant rivalry and left home as soon as possible. Unsurprisingly, she's Daria's favorite aunt, and there's a strong physical resemblance between them as well as in personality.
    • Jane also actually uses the term Black Sheep when talking about her particular branch of the Lane family to Daria when she and Trent have to attend a family reunion.
  • Sheldon J. Plankton in SpongeBob SquarePants is an Evil Genius, while the rest of his family are country bumpkins easily bribed with root beer.
  • Shego from Kim Possible, who walked out on her annoying heroic brothers to become a villain.
    • In another episode, Drakken mentions that his cousin, Motor Ed, is the Black Sheep of his family. Probably because Drakken himself has thus far managed to hide his own Mad Scientist tendencies from his family.
  • Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb could qualify as this. He's divorced, without a job, his mother favors his younger brother, his father thinks of his dog as his son rather than Heinz and his parents even disowned him. To make matters worse, it's not exactly easy to compete with his younger brother Roger since he's the Mayor of Danville and seen as perfection in human form.
  • Scar is implied to be this in The Lion King.
  • In ThunderCats (2011) Rebel Prince Lion-O is a Cloudcuckoolander believer in Lost Technology in a royal family of Proud Warrior Race Guys who live in a magical kingdom stuck in Medieval Stasis. Though his interests eventually prove prescient, he's also genuinely irresponsible, shirking his duties as crown prince to the point of Culture Blindness, in favor of trawling his kingdom's Black Market and tinkering with Black Box acquistions. This heavily contributes to his status as The Unfavorite in his father's eyes, and infuriates his adoptive older brother Tygra, who knows that despite his own status as The Dutiful Son, he will never be eligible for the throne.


Real Life

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