Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Random Ridiculous Realization:

Okay, so my roommate was forcing me to watch old Power Ranger episodes again, when I suddenly noticed something...

In one season a character's little sister was kidnapped by bad guys and made evil.

In another season a character's older brother was kidnapped by bad guys and made evil.

In yet another season, a character's older brother was possessed by some sort of disembodied spirit that while not exactly evil, did begin antagonistically.

And something occurred to me.

The "evil sibling" plot is pretty common, whether it's in books, movies, comics, television shows, anime, whatever. But, in the instances when the evil sibling isn't a twin of course, it's usually goes the same way.

The evil sibling is either an older brother or a younger sister.

I seriously can't think of any instance where a hero has an evil older sister or an evil little brother. And that strikes me as very weird. I'm sure there are a few, but it seems to be a much rarer situation. Why does the evil older brother or evil younger sister end up so much more common.

I theorize it might be because a little sister is someone we're supposed to protect. She's got the dual hits of being a girl and being younger. Thus when she ends up revealed as a villain, there's a perceived element of failure. A little brother is not, I think, considered quite as helpless or needing protection. Writers, I'd imagine, decide if they're going to go with the "I was supposed to protect you" failure element, they might as well do it with a girl.

Whereas older brothers are supposed to be protectors, being both male and older. Thus they're always considered in a position of power so when they're then an adversary, it adds to the power dynamic. An older sister (usually) lacks the size component (older brothers are usually drawn bigger than their heroic siblings), and the perceived power element. Older sisters are considered nurturers rather than protectors, I'd guess, and are thus not as scary?

I don't know really, I'm just guessing out of the blue. It's a very strange phenomenon though, isn't it?


  • At July 17, 2006 6:54 AM, Blogger Doc Hall said…

    That sounds about right to me. I'm sure there's plenty of different takes on the story that could be done with the evil older sister/younger brother, but I think they tend to get overlooked in favour of the more traditional versions of the story simply because they're more accessable to the viewers.

    I'd be interested in seeing if there's any correlation between different characters with older brothers, or between characters with younger sisters.

  • At July 17, 2006 6:56 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    That would be interesting to consider. Maybe after that...other list is completed, I'll make myself a new project. :-)

  • At July 17, 2006 7:30 AM, Blogger Neil said…

    I think there's another element of the older brother dynamic. An older sibling is a role model for the younger kids in the family.

    I think of Mace Gardner, in this case. Guy's father basically saw the perfect son in Mace, and was disappointed that Guy wasn't more like Mace.

    In these cases, it usually ends up in the "I looked up to you, I wanted to be you..." cliche. As a tool for writer's, it allows them to show you why their protaganist is unique and their own person. That, in a way, they are who they are because they didn't follow the path of this older brother.

  • At July 17, 2006 7:36 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    *nod* I was thinking about that too.

    Though the protection aspect gets interesting there as well. Especially as Mace's idea of scaring his little brother straight involved having cop friends bring him, handcuffed, to a football field at night, so Mace could beat him up.

    While still handcuffed.

    Mace was a piece of work. *nod* (Makes for a fascinating parallel with Hal though)

  • At July 17, 2006 7:40 AM, Blogger Centurion said… Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe its the little brother the 'goes evil' and turns everyone in to the witch, right?

    He wasn't really evil though, just manipulated with pastries. He was really annoying in any case.

  • At July 17, 2006 7:41 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    True, but I always tend to remember most of that story being from either his or the littlest girl's point of view. And to her, he was the older brother.

    Of course I could be misremembering. :-)

  • At July 17, 2006 9:27 AM, Anonymous Denis said…

    As always an interesting thought, but there are many counter examples where the younger brother goes astray.

    Off the top of my head, in Kurt Busiek's Astrocity-The Dark Age, isn't it the older brother who becomes a police man, and the younger who becomes a small-time gangster? What about the story of the prodigal son - that was the youngest of the brothers, too (I think - I'm not that bible steady)?

    I think this pattern is based on the observation (even in reality?), that it is very often the older brother who is the responsible one in the family, and gets a decent job etc., while the younger brother is the "spoilt brat", who rebels and goes astray.

    In regards to evil elder sister(s), how about Cinderella? Okay, those were STEPsisters, but still, I think, generally in fairy tales, it's usually the younger female siblings who are "pure" and innocent.

    I think we can throw examples back and forth, but for both patterns there are good reasons and rationalizations. I feel there is too little evidence for either side to dare a generalisation.

  • At July 17, 2006 9:58 AM, Anonymous Sally P said…

    In addition to Mace going bonkers
    and evil, didn't Ice's older
    brother lose it as well? Any other
    JLA'ers with siblings?

  • At July 17, 2006 10:29 AM, Blogger Tom Bondurant said…

    This may be the exception that proves the rule, but Komand'r/Blackfire was Koriand'r/Starfire's older sister. Komand'r would have been ahead of Kory in the Tamaranean line of succession, but because she couldn't fly she was considered too sickly to rule, or some such. This caused her to resent Kory and the rest of the family, and eventually betray Tamaran to the Citadel in exchange for her being set up as its ruler.

    Anyway, Komand'r's big deal was that Kory had usurped what was rightfully hers, etc.

    Also, Geoff Johns' first Flash arc depends on an older brother allowing a younger brother to become king, only the younger brother turns evil and the older one has to kill him. The older brother is the villain as far as the main story, but it's because of the younger brother in the backstory.

  • At July 17, 2006 11:10 AM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    Tom's example is a good one, that leads us to many other evil-little-brother examples: the usurpers. Scar from 'The Lion King', Thomas in Stephen King's 'Eyes of the Dragon' (although he wasn't really evil), Prince John in the Robin Hood legends... Others.

    Evil big sisters are tougher. Susie from Enid Blyton's 'Secret Seven' series was pretty bad.

  • At July 17, 2006 1:23 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    denis: Those are good counter examples. I can't honestly remember who was older in the bible story.

    Though in fairy tales the evil ones are always step sisters, I think. With blood sisters, the youngest is always most desirable, but I'm not sure there are any older by blood sisters. Something to think about though, certainly.

    sally: That's true!
    And off the top of my head, I don't know of any others. Hal has brothers, none of whom have gone bad AFAIK...

    tom: Starfire and Blackfire are good examples. There are a few other evil older sister stuff, but I think more commonly they're older siblings to girls and not boys.

    Might be wrong though. The flash story sounds fun...

    matthew: I'm not sure I'd count those, if only because the older, usurped character isn't really the main, focused character (except in EotDragon, but Thomas wasn't really evil as you say. :-P)

    With Lion King, the main character is really the younger Simba. Robin Hood legends, it's Robin Hood not King Richard. So it's less told from the point of view of the older, betrayed brother than it is the younger hero. Still the usurpers are an idea I hadn't considered.

    Really though, since they seem to stick with royalty, I'm not sure I wouldn't stick usurpers in a different category altogether. :-) YMMV of course.

    I admit, I've not read the Secret Seven. I'll have to check it out. :-)

  • At July 17, 2006 2:57 PM, Anonymous green means wheelpower said…

    An example of little brothers going bad is Urza's bro Mishra

    JSYK Edmound WAS Lucy's younger brother, she was youngest

    My favorite example in line W/ your theory is Borimir & Faramir the prized older falling to the Ring, The neglected younger earning greater glory for his people earning both princedom in ithilian and Eowyn's heart.

  • At July 17, 2006 3:36 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    Hmm...evil little the top of my head, there's Clark from the Robert Heinlein novel Podkayne of Mars, Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory, the recurring villain called Brainchild from The Tick animated, the little brother from Lizzie MacGuire...okay, I'm stretching it with that one. But I'm sure more examples will come to me.

    What interests me even more are the examples that started this post, cases of not-actually-evil siblings being made to act evil. I wonder what psychological component of family dynamics this is playing into? Maybe the ambivalence a child feels toward a sibling -- "I'm obliged to love you, but you compete with me for attention and approval from our parents"? That's just a guess...

  • At July 17, 2006 3:41 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: I'll take your word for it. :-)

    rab: Hmm, that's true! So maybe it's not that my theory is flawed (as certainly there *are* many counter examples), but it's misdirected. All the evil little brothers mentioned are truly evil, where a good many of those older brother/little sister types are evil through no fault of their own.


  • At July 17, 2006 4:03 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    Brainchild on 'The Tick' wasn't a little brother. He was a little kid, but he was the oldest child of the family. He had a little sister who he treated like a henchman but who was only playing at being evil.

  • At July 17, 2006 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As cranky as she was on Yu Yu Hakashu (sp?) Shizuru wouldn't exactly count as an evil older sister, would she? I mean, she drinks and smokes and fights and beats up her brother, but she seems to care about him.

    All the little brothers I can think of were to be protected (Wrinkle in Time, Labryinth, Pratchett's Wee Free Men) even when massively annoying.

  • At July 17, 2006 4:45 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    RAB hangs head in shame at having gotten Tick trivia wrong.

    Oh, it may not seem shameful to nomal people, but when you consider how many times I watched each episode, it's pathetic!

  • At July 17, 2006 7:17 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    matthew: Good to know!

    anon: I definitely wouldn't count Shizuru. She's a bit...tetchy, but she's a good sister in the end. :-)

    rab: Aww, well we all slip up sometimes

  • At July 17, 2006 8:09 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    Isn't Ocean Master Aquaman's younger half-brother?

  • At July 17, 2006 8:17 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ooo! That's one I hadn't thought of!

  • At July 17, 2006 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Well, Havok has had his fair share of being brainwashed or unstable or untrustworthy, and he's the younger Summers brother.

    And if you've read Bone, there's a relationship there too that breaks from this scenario. A couple of them, in fact (IIRC).

    Mind you, I suppose there will always be exceptions to any rule, but those are the ones that did spring immediately to mind.

  • At July 18, 2006 11:34 AM, Anonymous SallyP said…

    Now here's an interesting twist on this topic. As you have pointed out yourself (and quite well) before, look at how well Guy Gardner ACTS as an older brother to Kyle. Certainly better than Hal (or Mace) ever did with him!
    Of course...everyone likes Kyle.

  • At July 18, 2006 11:49 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    To me the evil little brother is a staple of more romantic situations. When the lovers are about to get a little private time it's always the evil little brother whose mission in life is to spoil it.

    Can't think of any specific examples right now as my brain has turned to glue, except for a song by Nerf Herder. Or maybe it just happens in real life.

  • At July 18, 2006 1:20 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anon: :-) That's true. But then I figure the Summers brothers are just cursed. :-)

    I've never read Bone. I should check it out.

    sallyp: I love examining the sibling-esque relationships in Green Lantern. And Guy was a teacher at one point...

    Also I think the manner of Kyle introducing himself in Zero Hour probably helped. (All endearingly nervous and respectful, "Mr. Gardner" indeed. :-))

    marionette: I'm not sure I'd call that *evil* per se, but it's a good point. :-) In romantic stuff, little brothers are possessive little monsters aren't they.

  • At July 19, 2006 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What about Edmumd from King Lear, the original evil little brother? (Well, if you believe E.D. Hirsch when he says that Shakespeare invented literature. Which I don't, but it's hard for me to think of an earlier example of an evil younger brother, from what I'm familiar with in ancient literature and mythology. I'm sure there are examples, but Edmumd is the only one I can think of right now.) Also from King Lear, we get the evil older sisters (not step-sisters, biological sisters) who ruin the life of their father and the good, youngest sister.

    Also, Lady Jaguara from Wolf's Rain was an evil older sister.

    - nenena on livejournal

  • At July 19, 2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's interesting to note that out of all the exceptions mentioned in the comments, nearly all are the little brother thing.

    It really makes me wonder why there's so few instances of evil-older-sister things; I do think it probably has something to do with the nurturing aspect, since there's always been a tendency to try to ease a story away from the evil nurturer, such as when the mothers in fairy tales were turned into stepmothers. Maybe it's such a blow to ingrained notions of what the older female family figures should be that people are afraid to even consider them.


  • At July 19, 2006 2:55 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    nenena: Ooo, good examples.

    furikku: Also most of the little brothers are royalty types, though there naturally are exceptions. (I'm not sure I'd count Dexter for example, because evil or not, he's the protagonist). :-) They are more frequent than I tend to remember, though.

    I'm not sure why evil older sisters seem so rare.

  • At July 21, 2006 1:47 AM, Anonymous Maria Wood said…

    I don't know if this is quite what you're looking for, but wasn't Morgan le Fay Arthur's older half-sister? And she's often evil, or at least hostile to Arthur's goals.

    It's an interesting insight. I'm glad I found your blog.

  • At July 21, 2006 1:52 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ooo, I'd totally forgotten about her.

    I tend to think she's misunderstood. :-P


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