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"I assure you, I am the Black Sheep of the family. And while that would normally make me a criminal or a lunatic, in my evil family it makes me noble and decent!"
General George S. Sternbeater, Bleak Expectations

Everyone is familiar with the teenager "going through a phase" or being an out-and-out rebel. Little can equal the shame to a family with a legacy of heroism than the prodigal son (or daughter, to be perfectly fair) who turns to villainy. Except, there are just as many families with a legacy of evil, so what exactly is a teen rebel supposed to do to rebel against people who are already rebelling?

Why, rebel against evil and make a Heel Face Turn!

Much like a Phlebotinum Rebel, Defector From Decadence, and not-strictly-political Cultural Rebel, the White Sheep rebels against their family's values by taking on "traditional" rebellious attitudes. Sometimes, one of two variations are seen: first, is when the character actually struggles to fit in with the evil family and feels bad that they don't. Alternatively, the "Sheep" is still fairly evil, but they rebel by acting like a normal person.

Naturally, some White Sheep may "grow out of the phase" and fully embrace their evil roots. Other times, they might discover that Good Feels Good (or that Being Evil Sucks) and make the change permanent. The parents of such a rebellious child may try to "correct" the problem by enrolling them in an Academy of Evil.

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

See also Anti-Anti-Christ. Compare Evil Parents Want Good Kids.

Examples of White Sheep include:


Advertising

  • There was a chocolate bar commercial in the 1990s with a father encouraging his adult son to pursue rock stardom, and sharing the chocolate bar allowed the son to confess his true feelings:

 SON: I don't want to be a rock star like you wanted, Dad. I want to go to law school.

DAD: (Puppy Dog Eyes)

SON: I really want to wear a suit, Dad!


Anime and Manga

  • Karin of Chibi Vampire is like this (she's from a vampire family), though the fact that she can't suck blood and walks around in the sunlight may have something to do with it.
  • Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist is an Anti-Villain who can't stand the thought of someone other than him ruling the country the world everything so he joins up with the heroes against Father.
  • Killua from Hunter X Hunter comes from a family of very scary assassins and rebels by taking the Hunter's Exam and eventually promising to stop killing people.
  • Dio from Last Exile is well on his way to being this when his sister catches up to him.
  • Nunally and Euphemia in Code Geass are this to the Britannian royal family. Lelouch is more of a gray sheep who wants to annihilate the rest of the flock.
  • In Nurarihyon no Mago Nura Rikuo is a decendant of youkai, who are considered to be evil or scary spirits. However Rikuo doesn't want to be like his family and protests by being a White Sheep. That is until he realizes this is a surefire of hurting more people than helping. So he becomes a Gray Sheep by accepting the youkai mantle and uses that power to protect his human friends.
  • Itachi Uchiha from Naruto is the White Sheep of the Uchiha Clan. At first he was the Black Sheep, until it turned out that the Uchiha Clan was evil.


Comics

  • Raven Princess Ashleigh in Scion rebels against her rather evil family by joining an underground movement devoted to freeing the kingdom's genetically-engineered slaves.


Films -- Live-Action

  • Mortimer Brewster of Arsenic and Old Lace is considered something of a black sheep by his aunts because he's a Deadpan Snarker and irreligious, but the aunts are (good-hearted) murderers and everyone else in the family is crazy and/or evil.
  • Michael Corleone of The Godfather was raised to be the white sheep; he was supposed to begin the family's shift into respectability. Vito expresses regret shortly before his death that he ended up being the one to succeed his father, since he'd wanted him to be "Senator Corleone" or "Governor Corleone," and Michael reassures him that "we'll get there."
  • While details aren't given about their parents, the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland closely fits this idea. She knows she has crazy running through her genes, and her sister the Red Queen, shows how she could act. Thus, she pretends to be Incorruptible Pure Pureness, but you can see her true nature in the loopy Perky Goth that shines through.
  • Scott Evil for a while.
    • Debatable while not as evil as his father he's not good either in the first movie while Dr, Evil wines and dines Austin and Vanessa Scott suggest they just kill them now.

  "What you're feeding them why don't you just kill them I got a gun in my room. Bam I'll blow their brains out"


Literature

  • Gabriel Syme in G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday comes from a family that rebels against everything. By the time he grows up, the only thing left to rebel against is anarchy, so he joins the police.
  • The younger Magpyres of Carpe Jugulum are quite evil, but they rebel by discarding all of the traditional vampire traits. They dress dowdily and pick the most mundane human names possible, as a pretty clear inversion of rebellious goth teenagers.
  • IIRC, he's referred to as a "gray sheep", but there's a blackly comic British mystery novel Death by Sheer Torture where the policeman hero is the estranged son/black sheep of a Big Screwed-Up Family made up of various cranks, nazi-sympathizers and psychos (and based on the Mitfords), and he has to come back to investigate a murder within the family.
  • Sirius Black in the Harry Potter novels acts like your typical "bad boy rebel" and is the Black Sheep of his family, but since said family are almost exclusively dark wizards, he's one of these. Ditto his favorite cousin, Andromeda Black, who marries a Muggle-born. And his younger brother Regulus, who, after discovering what the dark side really looks like, betrays Voldemort by stealing the Slytherin Locket, the Horcrux hidden in the cave, sacrificing his life in the process.
    • And to drive the point home, both Sirius and Andromeda have been disowned by the family, their names burnt off the family tree tapestry.
  • Agent Pendergast seems to be the only member of his entire family for generations back who didn't turn out criminally insane.
  • Elric of Melnibone is the first of both his family and his civilisation to start wondering about things like morality, which is what leads him to give up his place as Emperor and start Walking the Earth.
  • Played for Laughs in the Swedish YA novel Omin Hambe i Slättköping; the narrator's best friend comes from a family where everyone is basically a petty criminal - except his oldest brother, who does well in school and goes on to become a priest, which his family sees as a betrayal. However, it turns out he is also am embezzler, and he is welcomed back in the family by his parents, now very proud to have a son who is a whitecollar criminal instead of a petty thief!
  • In Rumpole of the Bailey, (Rumpole and the Barrow Boy) one of the Timsons (a large family almost entirely made up of criminals) goes to school, studies, and becomes a financier... and is the one set up to be blamed for financial irregularities at his place of employment by his father-in-law-to-be, who is not happy at finding out about young Timson's family, even though he's never done anything wrong himself.
  • Drizzt Do'Urden, everybody's favorite Dual-Wielding Chaotic Good drow Defector From Decadence from R.A. Salvatore's Dark Elf Trilogy and the Forgotten Realms.
  • In Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, Lethe Hades, or so we are told, since he hasn't made an appearance. Uses the exact phrase, too.
  • Similar to the Godfather example above, Richie Burke of the Sunny Randall series was deliberately kept away from the less legal parts of his family business, which contains several high ranking members of The Irish Mob.


Live-Action TV

  • Supernatural: Sam Winchester grew up in a family of con-artists and violent vigilantes, living on the road. It was his dream to settle down as a normal person and not fight anymore. Consider that his family consisted of warriors fighting monsters (although they didn't always look into whether those monsters were actually evil or even dangerous), he rebelled to go to school so he could become a lawyer, and his entire life has involved demonic influence, unsurprisingly he's the Black Sheep as well.
  • Worf from Star Trek:TNG / Deep Space Nine is a Klingon, who are normally enemies/anathema to the Federation; but because he's raised by humans, he becomes a valued Federation officer. However, at the time, Klingons were at the very least on and off allies of the Federation.
    • Same with Odo, who turns against his own people to help their enemies, the Federation.
    • Token Evil Teammate Garak is probably the straightest example of this trope. He leaves behind his father's business, the Obsidian Order, to help the Federation defeat the Dominion. Although he is reluctant at first, he eventually admits to liking Federation thinking.
    • Weyoun's sixth clone falls under this trope as well.
  • Ebeneezer Blackadder from the Blackadder's Christmas Carol. At the beginning, anyway.
  • Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess comes from a long line of successful warlords, including his two lookalike brothers. He tried, but he just can't get it to work. He called himself the "black sheep" of the family once, and not in a good way. He has a third brother who is a Camp Gay dancer, but he at least is successful at his chosen field. Joxer, on the other hand...
  • Vlad on Young Dracula is an example of trying to fit in the evil family. The issue is that vampire kids have a Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday or the like and after that, go through Transhuman Treachery. Vlad wants to avoid this. Interestingly, his Fille Fatale sister Ingrid actually is evilish and she's the more rebellious of the two.
  • Although her family are Friendly Neighborhood Monsters, Marilyn on The Munsters feels bad about not fitting in and thinks of herself as the ugly one - because she's a normal human and the family are Hollywood monsters who don't look scary to the audience, but terrify people in-series.
  • Mary Shannon on In Plain Sight is a US Marshal despite having a bigamist father with a serious gambling problem who has been a fugitive for decades, a lifelong alcoholic mother (now recovering) and a sister who trafficked drugs for her boyfriend, in Mary's house. Slightly subverted in that Mary is hardly a saint herself.
  • Michael and his son George Michael are the sanest, nicest, and most ethical members of the Bluth family on Arrested Development. Michael kind of plays with this idea as the family itself considers him a White Sheep (that's why helping it regain its wealth and prestige is his job), and he can be pretty snarky and dickish to his family members. His name was deliberately given as an allusion to Michael Corleone, who was similarly designated his family's White Sheep. Both families have a lecherous and impulsive brother (Sonny/GOB) and one who is nice but dim (Fredo/Buster).
  • In a strange way, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be seen in this light. He goes from being a Badass, feared vampire who has killed two Slayers in the past to a lovestruck, 'neutered' vamp due to his being chipped and falling in love with the third Slayer he went after, Buffy. His love for Buffy leads him to actively seek out the return of his soul for a chance at redemption (possibly). Despite the nature of vampires being Always Chaotic Evil, Spike chooses to fight for good, act heroicly, recover his soul, and attempts to sacrifice himself on two occasions (he only dies once, and he doesn't stay dead).
    • The argument could be made that Angel also counts; but, he was cursed with his soul, rather than seeking it out himself, and when he doesn't have that, he's Angelus, one of the most vicious and sadistic vampires ever to live, who isn't likely to act against his nature any time soon. Angel, when he has a soul, does fight off the vampire's base instincts for evil, but it's usually clear that the human soul is the part that's ultimately in control at these times.
  • The old eighties police drama Hunter was based on a lead character (something of a take-off of Dirty Harry) who was himself the son of a notable mobster. At one point Hunter muses that at works he's the cop who is a mobster's son, at family gatherings he's the mobster's son who became a cop, he doesn't entirely fit in either world.
  • The Doctor of Doctor Who. He stole a TARDIS and took his grand-daughter with them to escape the stuffy, boring old Time Lords and go and explore the universe. While later he would also go and use his powers and technology for good, directly against his species laws of non-interference, it took a while; his first appearence had him rather bored by humans and perfectly willing to kidnap or kill them, if push came to shove.
    • By the end of the Tenth Doctor's tenure, it is clear that he (along with two other nameless timelords) was definitely the white sheep of a truly terrible race.
    • This is noted in a Chameleon Circuit song; "I was a teenage rebel, and that stayed the same!"
    • You could also argue the TARDIS. She wasn't going to sit around and be phased out of use, oh no! So she stole a Time Lord and went out to see the universe, making sure to drop the Doctor off in placed that he could be of help.
  • Peter Petrelli. The Petrelli family are ruthlessly corrupt and ambitious with grand schemes. Peter is the sweet Genre Blind nurse who would rather help people out instead. He's also the family Black Sheep for the exact reason when the Petrelli family's plans are for good as Peter's Contractual Genre Blindness will eventually bungle things up.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard has Boss Hogg's good twin brother Abraham Lincoln Hogg, whose name is just one of the things that make him an opposite of Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg, whose family has other villains. Abe's debut episode was named "Baa, Baa, White Sheep".


Newspaper Comics

  • One Far Side comic featured the sons of Barnum & Bailey, rebelling against their parents by running away to join corporate America.
  • The Addams Family: One of Charles Addams' cartoons had Morticia Addams showing a guest the family portraits; among the horrible, deformed people portrayed was one of a respectable-looking man, whom Morticia explained as "(This one) Daddy always called the lost sheep."


Tabletop Games


Theater

  • In the Addams Family Musical, Wednesday finds herself losing some of her goth impulses after falling in love with a normal boy (much to her family’s dismay).

 Wednesday: I’m being pulled in a new direction/But I think I like it./I think I like it./I'm being pulled in a new direction./Through my painful pursuit/Somehow birdies took root./All the things I detested impossibly cute.


Video Games

  • In Champions Online, the character Witchcraft was raised in a family of dark-magic users, but rebelled as a teenager and became the premier 'light' sorceress on the planet. Her twin sister 'Talisman' stayed evil, and is her primary nemesis.


Webcomics

  • In Order of the Stick, the party is helped at one point by goblins. Since goblins are Always Chaotic Evil, it puzzles them until Haley, thinking about her past as a gloomy Goth teenager, deduces that being Neutral Good is their way of rebelling against their parents.
  • Essentially the premise of Evil Diva is a young demoness rebelling against her devil family by becoming a Magical Girl for the forces of good!
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dr. McNinja is an interesting case. He comes from a family of ninjas who are not too happy about his decision to be a doctor instead of an assassin. When Doc convinces his family that being a doctor doesn't make him any less of a competent ninja, they come around to respecting him.
  • In Girl Genius, the Heterodyne Boys are the "white sheep" of a long line of megalomaniacal, vicious, and extremely competent Sparky rulers.


Western Animation


Real Life

  • James Vincenzo Capone, the eldest brother of Al Capone, left home at 16, changed his name, and as Richard "Two-Gun" Hart became a prohibition enforcement Cowboy Cop, and the only brother not involved with Al's activities.
  • William Patrick Hitler fought in the US forces against his more notable relation. Along with Adolf, Alois Hitler was an abusive father and husband, and several members of Hitler's family were part of the Nazi government, but mostly through Nepotism.
    • Adolf Hitler also has another nephew who converted to Orthodox Judaism and is living in Israel.
  • Continuing the Nazi nephew theme, Hermann Goering had a nephew in the Luftwaffe, who was killed in the Battle of Britain. His other nephew, Werner, fared better: he was a B-17 pilot with the USAAF. He had a special co-pilot who was ordered to watch him for any sign of treachery, but according to the co-pilot the only time he wasn't entirely enthusiastic was when he had to bomb the city his grandmother lived in.
  • A few of Fred Phelps' children have ditched him and the WBC. At least one of them, Nate, is now, among other things, a LGBT rights activist, which is especially ironic given that the Westboro Baptist Church (classified by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate group) is infamous for protesting funerals, particularly those of homosexuals and soldiers. Typical slogans found on their picket signs include "God Hates Fags", "God Hates America", and "Thank God for 9/11".
    • A few of his children have claimed the entire church is a massive scam to make money by suing people they enrage into attacking them.
  • True Life once profiled a milder case of this, a girl came from a family of punk rebels who dropped out of high school, and was a straight-A cheerleader.
  • Former British Prime Minister John Major's father had been a trapeze artist. The joke was that Major was 'the only boy who ran away from the circus to become an accountant.'
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