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In media there's a tendency for siblings to be portrayed as opposites. Enter the Foolish Sibling and the Responsible Sibling.

In this trope there will be one sibling who is foolish, usually acting melodramatically and prone to doing irresponsible and impulsive things. He or She may be louder, more outgoing and usually more popular (or at least try to be), desiring attention, especially from the opposite sex. Usually they don't have outright bad intentions, they just doesn't understand that anything they do can have consequences for themselves or other people. Alternatively, he or she may just be a Horrible Judge of Character and get involved with the wrong people on a regular basis; they refuse to believe their "friends" could be anything but pure of heart, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Their antics will be their undoing, getting them into trouble for which there is no one but him or herself to blame. The Foolish Sibling may be a Bratty Teenage Daughter, Alpha Bitch, Fille Fatale, Casanova, Man Child or The Ingenue.

The other sibling is usually the elder of the two and will follow all the rules about how one is supposed to act and behave, being an exemplary version of a Proper Lady or The Dutiful Son. He or she is often more of a parental figure in the other sibling's life, even if their actual parents are still present. She or he might be quieter or plainer, though usually they are only quiet or plain by comparison to their obnoxious other sibling, and doesn't qualify as a Shrinking Violet or The Quiet One at all. Is almost undoubtedly smarter though, and may be portrayed as a Bookworm, or just very concerned about rules, social and moral. Generally the responsible sibling will try to steer their foolish sibling to the right path, taking it on him or herself to look after the kid, and make attempts to curb the other sibling's behavior. This seldom works, however, at least not until the end when the Foolish sibling gets their comeuppance or realizes the error of their ways.

A subtrope of Sibling Yin-Yang. Usually involves an Aesop about the right way to act, that is to say, be more like the responsible sibling and not the foolish sibling (although the responsible sibling may learn a lesson about "loosening up" and "having fun"). And while the Responsible sibling is usually the elder of the two, the roles can be switched, with the younger sibling being the responsible one. Another possibility is a middle child being the responsible one to his or her older and younger siblings. Also compare Right Way, Wrong Way Pair, The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry and Cain and Abel.

Examples of Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Lucky Star, Kagami is Responsible and Tsukasa is Foolish.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Leo is the foolish one and Luna is the responsible one.
  • In Sailor Moon, the main character Usagi is ditzy, fun-loving and lazy, while her younger brother Shingo is much smarter and more responsible.
  • Inuyasha plays with this. Kagome isn't flighty per se, but often forgets to bring her homework to class, only for Sota to pick up the slack. Then again, considering she's spending most of her time in the Feudal Era, she can hardly be blamed for losing focus on her supposed off days.
  • In Kekkaishi, Toshimori and Masamori are Responisble. Yoshimori is foolish enough for the both of them.
  • In Blue Exorcist, older twin Rin is Foolish while younger twin Yukio is Responsible.
  • Eyeshield 21: Agon and Unsui personify this trope. Unsui is serious, hard working, and a team player. Agon is a lazy hedonist whose also the team's star player.
  • K-On!: Yui is the Foolish and Ui is the responsible one
  • At first glance, this appears to be the Elric brothers from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, with Ed as the foolish, reckless, overly dramatic one, and Al as the more responsible one. As time goes on, however, it becomes increasingly clear that Ed is nowhere near as foolish as he seems, and he drops it altogether by the later seasons of the series.
  • In Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, Chiri is the responsible sibling, and Tane, her older sister is the foolish (mostly just a complete slob) one.
    • Mind you, in reality it's the other way around, as Tane purposely sacrifices her own organization skills to keep her sister's extreme OCD in line.
  • May/Haruka and Max/Masato from Pokémon.


  • In Twenty Seven Dresses, Jane is the elder, responsible sister and her younger sister Tess is Foolish.
  • In Sucker Punch, Sweet Pea is the older, responsible one and Rocket is the irresponsible one, in Baby Doll's imagined fantasy. To the point that Rocket ran away from home even though their situation wasn't a very bad one and Sweet Pea followed her to make sure she'd be okay, which lands them in a brothel.
  • The first part of The Prince of Egypt showed this dynamic with Ramses as the responsible sibling.
  • In Four Brothers, Jeremiah and Jack are far more responsible and rational than their more impulsive and hot-headed brothers, Bobby and Angel.


  • Jane Austen:
    • Sense and Sensibility, with responsible Elinor and foolish Marianne, is an even more straightforward example than Pride and Prejudice, albeit one where the "foolish" daughter is portrayed fairly sympathetically. It's even reflected in the title (when you realize that "sensibility" meant to Austen something like what "sensitivity" means in modern-day English).
    • The younger sisters, headed by Lydia, of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are the foolish sisters, while Jane and Elizabeth are the Responsible Sisters.
    • Mansfield Park does it with brothers — the foolish Tom and the responsible Edmund Bertram; the heroine is in love with the latter.
    • Despite her inability to successfully matchmake, Emma, as Mr. Knightley observes, is much more clever and level-headed than her ditzy, hypochondriac sister Isabella.
    • Charles Musgrove of Persuasion wanted to marry responsible Anne Elliot but had to settle for her foolish sister Mary.
  • In Shades Of Milk And Honey, Jane is the Elder and responsible sister, while Melody is the younger, foolish sister.
  • Discworld example, in Witches Abroad we discover Granny Weatherwax wanted to be the irresponsible evil one, but because her elder sister, Lilly, beat her to the punch on that she felt forced to be the responsible good one. When both sisters are witches you can see how this complicates family relationships.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The stories of Cain and Abel, Joseph (Son of Jacob) and The Prodigal Son from The Bible.
  • Agatha Christie:
    • Betty and Megan Barnard in The ABC Murders.
    • Lancelot and Percival Fortescue in A Pocket Full of Rye. In Lance's words: "I blew my pocket money, he saved his. I had disreputable but entertaining friends, Percy made what he called 'worthwhile contacts.'"
    • After the Funeral gives us Richard Abernathie, a responsible businessman who raised his younger siblings, at least as compared to his brother Timothy (a self-absorbed hypochondriac) and his sister Cora (a 50-year-old Enfant Terrible). There were also four other siblings, but they were dead before the story started and aren't described enough to know how they fit into this trope.
  • In Harry Potter everyone in the Wizard world thinks that Albus Dumbledore is the Responsible Sibling while his brother Aberforth — an illiterate(?) bartender who "practiced inappropriate charms on a goat" — is the Foolish Sibling. When we hear their tragic backstory in Deathly Hallows it turns out Albus was the insanely foolish sibling and Aberforth was the responsible one.
  • Prior to Character Development Seth was the foolish one to Kendra's responsible in Fablehaven
  • Plato discussed a version of the Greek myth of Prometheus ("forethought") in which his foolish, absent-minded brother Epimetheus ("afterthought") completely bolloxed everything when the two brothers were given the job of creating humans and animals. With humanity almost ruined by Epimetheus, Prometheus had to steal fire and give it to humans to prevent our extinction. From Hesiod comes the story that Epimetheus enthusiastically received Pandora from the gods, despite all of Prometheus's warnings that she would be a blight upon humanity. He was right, she was.
  • Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield of Sweet Valley High, respectively.
  • A cousin example with Bess Marvin and George Fayne of the Nancy Drew series.
  • Sisters Amy and Erin Bennett in Lurlene McDaniel's The End of Forever duology, with Amy as the fun-loving life of the party and Erin as the responsible sister who feels taken for granted as she's expected to clean up Amy's messes.
    • Initially played straight with Heather and Amber Barlow in the Angel of Mercy/Angel of Hope books. Heather is idealistic and dedicated to making the world a better place, while Amber just wants to have fun without her parents trying to lecture her. Amber grows out of this fast in the second book due to Heather's sudden (and ultimately fatal) illness and a trip to Africa that ends with Amber and Heather's old friends fleeing from a raid on their village.

Live Action TV

  • Van and Meg on the soap opera Love of Life is a prime example with Van as the responsible one and Meg as the foolish one.
  • Discussed & Inverted on Mad About You, where Jamie's older sister is the foolish one.
  • In Sister Sister Tia is Responsible and Tamera is Foolish.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Cody is Responsible and Zack is Foolish.
  • Joe (Responsible) & Brian Hackett (Foolish) on Wings. Helen (Responsible) and Casey (Foolish) also qualify.
  • Arrested Development's family tree is a bit too large to fit nicely into this trope, but George Sr. lampshades it by comparing two of his sons.

 "[Michael] and GOB were like those biblical brothers, Gallant and, um... Goofeth"

  • Unhappily Ever After: Older son Ryan is foolish, middle child Tiffany is responsible (and hot!). Ryan went to High School on the Five Year Plan, Tiffany got a full scholarship to an Ivy League school. Both ended up going to a local community college for a year.
  • Its worth noting that the middle child often falls into this role as well in Sitcoms. Notable examples of this are Malcolm in the Middle and its titular Malcolm, who is much more responsible than Dewey and, well... just plain smarter than Reese.
    • To be fair, Dewey is, like, six.
    • Interestingly, later on, the roles are shifted. Dewey becomes more responsible and down to earth while Malcolm becomes more and more cynical and pessimistic. Francis, who got sent away to military school because of his behavious, actually gets his crap together, has a happy marriage and a good job.
  • An interesting variation is used in That 70s Show, with Eric, a nerdy stoner, being much more responsible and level headed than his slutty and ditzy older sister, Laurie.
  • Explored in My Name Is Earl with Earl evolving over the course of the show from being one of a pair of idiot siblings to being a resposible one and taking care of his brother Randy who remains the foolish one. At one point Earl has a minor Heroic BSOD when he realises he has become the guy everyone looks to for answers and help.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Family, we're introduced to Captain Picard's older brother Robert, who attributes his bitter, jealous, and bullying behavior from their youth to this trope, claiming himself to have always been The Dutiful Son while Jean-Luc "broke every rule [their] father made and got away with it."
  • Responsible, high-achieving, conservative-dressing Alex and Foolish, interested in dating rather than school Mallory in Family Ties
  • The premise of the series Simon and Simon involved two brothers who worked as private detectives. Rick was a blue-collar Vietnam veteran (Marine Corps, no less) who drank considerably and had unsavory friends. The younger brother A.J. was the white-collar half of the duo. He attended university during the Vietnam era, and often scolded his brother. Rick was supposed to be streetwise, carefree and unflappable, while A.J. was straight-laced, anxious, and upwardly mobile, given to fretting about retaining his P.I.'s license.
  • Stepsibling Example: Drake (Foolish) and Josh (Responsible) on Drake and Josh.
  • Subverted in Frasier — both Niles and Frasier are firmly convinced that they are the responsible brother and the other is the foolish one. In reality, they are both a mixture of foolishness and responsibility, each of them having weaknesses exactly where the other has strengths, which perpetuates this running argument.
  • How I Met Your Mother has Ted (responsible) and Heather (foolish) Mosby, which forms one episode's plot when Ted is skeptical of Heather's claims that she's grown up, seeing as how the last time she tried to clean up her act, she sold Ted's belongings to buy Nine Inch Nails tickets in Spain on the day of her admissions interview at NYU. Also, there's Barney (foolish) and James (responsible) Stinson, who have a different sort of development — they used to both be foolish (compulsive manwhores who were constantly getting into trouble), and Barney feels abandoned when James matures and gets engaged.
  • Kelly and Bud Bundy of Married... with Children.
  • Eric became the foolish brother to Cory's responsible brother in the later seasons of Boy Meets World.



  • The premise of the song "I'd Rather Have A Bottle In Front Of Me Than A Frontal Lobotomy". The irresponsible one is a drunk and the narrator; the responsible one is now a mental patient.

Video Games

  • Maya and Meena from Dragon Quest IV. Maya is a lot less serious then her fastidious sister, and loves to gamble.
  • Played with in Vampire Bloodlines with Voermann twins--the responsible Therese and the foolish Jeanette. And by "played with", we mean that they are actually two extremely split personalities inhabiting the same body; they are actually Malkavians and this is how their madness manifests itself.
  • Mega Man Battle Network has the foolish sibling be Lan/Netto Hikari, who likes to sleep in and neglect his studies, and Megaman/Rockman.EXE Hub/Saito as the responsible sibling who has to be his brother's alarm clock and personal nanny at times.
  • Despite being equally talented at fighting, Kim Dong-Hwan and Kim Jae-Hoon, Kim Kaphwan's sons from Garou: Mark of the Wolves, are this, with Dong-Hwan being the Foolish one (a lazy slacker who prefers the Korean nightlife to strict training, but is still naturally talented) and Jae-Hoon being the Responsible one (taking more after his dad in both looks and dedication, to the point of actually inheriting his Hou'ou Kyaku).
  • Solatorobo gives us Red and Chocolat. He's somewhat Hot-Blooded and is the one who actually fights, while she is Mission Control and manages the team's financial issues. In this case, the responsible sibling is only 13, while the foolish one is 17.
  • Lampshaded in Persona 3. When Ken Amada joins the team, Junpei assumes a Big Brother Mentor role. Yukari metions something to the effect that Junpei's is like the foolish sibling, while Ken's the responsible and mature one.
  • Miwako (responsible) and Yumi (foolish) Shimizu from the Nancy Drew game Shadow at the Water's Edge. Though also a bit of an inversion-- Miwako's prudency renders her very apprehensive and unwilling to help Nancy with the mystery, instead attempting to discourage her from continuing, while Yumi is actively helping her, albeit in a very cryptic, indirect manner.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Makalov and Marcia are a textbook example in the Tellius duology. This is discussed quite a bit throughout Path of Radiance, and Marcia was forced to give up an illustrious career as a Begnion pegasus knight thanks to the debt collectors hanging around looking for her foolish big brother.
    • Foolish and lazy Hilda Valentine Goneril and her never-seen brother Holst in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. This is lampshaded many times in the story, especially the Golden Deer route. Hilda explains in her Heroes appearance and a few supports that it's because Holst is so responsible and gifted that she doesn't try, because she knows she can't measure up to him and doesn't want to disappoint their parents.

Web Comic

  • Julie is mostly the responsible sibling and Angelika is mostly the foolish sibling in Our Little Adventure.
  • Elon and Myari of Ears for Elves, oh so much; they fit the opening paragraphs of this page to a T. Older brother Elon is cautious and methodical where Genki Girl Myari is impulsive and excitable.
  • Theodore and Abigail DeCarlo in Dangerously Chloe appear to have solved their problem by taking turns: when one of them does loonie out, the other gets serious. It helps that their personalities complement each other. Abby as the young sister gets to be foolish one most of the time, but she's also cooking, and jumping to protect her brother (and once to protect an armed attacker from her brother - it's not clear whether she was a loonie or knew something we don't, especially given that he was gadgeteering with explosives shortly before that).

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Bart and Lisa are extreme versions, Bart being Foolish, Lisa being Responsible.
  • Dexter and Dee-Dee. Dexter being the smart one, and Dee-Dee being downright stupid and foolish one.
  • The Boondocks has Riley Freeman as the foolish younger brother and Huey Freeman as the older responsible one.
  • Mako and Bolin from The Legend of Korra. The two of them grew up on the streets, but while the stoic and reserved Mako is dedicated to winning the probending tournament and the purse that comes with it, Bolin is a casual lady's man who loves to have fun.
    • Then again, Bolin proves that he can be serious too, taking up the team leadership in "The Spirit of Competition," for example. "The Revelation" seems to imply that he realizes this dynamic exists and is trying to change it (by getting a job), but unfortunately he kind of screwed that one up.
  • In Daria, the title character is the responsible sibling compared to her sister Quinn. Jane could also be the responsible one compared to Trent, but only because he's irresponsible compared to anyone.