Created By: KingZealMarch 9, 2012 Last Edited By: KingZealSeptember 30, 2014

Height Equals Badassery

In fiction, the badasses are usually above average height.

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Trope
Do We Have This One?

(NOTE: I'm creating this because of a problem I've been noticing with some tropes, such as Statuesque Stunner and Pint Sized Powerhouse. Namely, those tropes are aversions of viewer expectations and societal norms. But, I can't find a Super Trope which demonstrates this. So, I'm creating the Missing Super Trope.)

In fiction, if a character is a Badass, you can usually pick them out. They're either dressed in a unique costume or carry a unique weapon. However, another surefire way to demonstrate that a character is more Badass than the norm is to make them tall. Not necessarily the tallest character in the setting, but taller than the average. This height may likely vary depending on the time and place it was created (the average human height has increased significantly just over the last century, and some areas have a taller height index than others).

Since the second half of the 20th Century, this has increasingly become a Discredited Trope to the point that it's a Dead Horse Trope more often than not. In some forms of media, (such as American Superhero Comic Books), it is still played overwhelmingly straight. Even Spider-man, considered to be the quintessential Everyman in comics, is taller than most Muggles in his setting. In other media, such as Anime, playing it straight is considered the oddity. For example, three of the four Big Bads in Dragon Ball Z (Vegeta, Frieza and Kid Buu) were smaller and more powerful than the heroes they faced against, and two (Vegeta and Frieza) were smaller than their Mooks and Dragons. Japanese media in general tends to subvert this trope regularly, which is often accredited to different values.

As already stated, this is an Enforced Trope in comic books, along with its cousins, Heroic Build and Most Common Superpower. Comic book superheroes have always been drawn to be "larger than life", but they became more stylized toward this at some point between the Silver Age and the Bronze Age. Now, characters like Wolverine are seen as aversions or outliers.

Examples

Community Feedback Replies: 65
  • March 9, 2012
    Aries
    This is Truth In Television. Many psychological studies have shown that humans perceive taller people as people with leadership skill. Dr. Mair Underwood, an anthropologist from the University of Queensland who specialises in cosmetic surgery, stated that, "[Taller people are] perceived as stronger leaders, more influential, confident and capable, more persuasive, more impressive."

  • March 9, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    • Darth Vader and Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars are described as being approximately 2 meters (6'7") tall. Both are powerful, commanding characters.
  • March 9, 2012
    lebrel
    I would say "above average" or something like that rather than giving an exact height.

    And for anime, I don't think that it's "other media" so much as "other demographic groups"; anime/manga are often aimed at kids/teens, and kid's shows are more likely to have characters designed to be highly-relatable. You can see the same in American kid's shows; they're usually not about the tall, impressive-looking kids. Anime/manga for adult men is much more likely to feature huge, imposing badasses.
  • March 9, 2012
    KingZeal
    The exact height is a necessary qualifier, for the same reason that it was included into Statuesque Stunner. We need to make the description as unambiguous as possible, so that means including a standard height in addition to the possibility of the character simply being taller than everyone else. For example, if the person is the tallest mouse in Mouse World, they'd still count.

    What I will need to add, however, are a few more stipulations, such as the requirement that character is admired, revered, feared, or mythified in-universe.

    Either that, or we leave this as Too Common For Examples.
  • March 9, 2012
    Ryuuma
    All the three admirals in One Piece, and also Whitebeard and a lot of other powerful characters. The exception may be Luffy himself, who's about 6 feet tall at most.
  • March 9, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    The hero of the Monster Slayers series of novels is six foot ten inches and 300 lbs of solid muscle- which is how he survived hand-to-hand battle with a werewolf in the first novel.

  • March 9, 2012
    HaggisMcCrablice
    Subverted in Real Life, as a surprising lot of bullies and world tyrants are rather short, yet intimidating, men. Osama bin Laden, at six-five, may have been one of the few exceptions.
  • March 10, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Compare Large And In Charge

    Truth In Television, sort of:
    • In many animal species, particulary highly territorial ones, height often equals the perception of asskicking. This gives humans an advantage when dealing with cheetahs, as a cheetah will usually only attack a prone human because standing ones are too intimidating.

    Tabletop Games:
    • In Dungeons And Dragons, there are a number of general types of creature where the badassery (or, more specifically "challenge rating") of the sub - types varies almost linearly with rarity and height.
      • Baatezu / Devils: all devils are a nasty opponent, but the weakest devil race is the short, stupid, common lemure, while the most dangerous are the massive and rare pit fiends.
      • Giants: The smallest giant races (such as ogres or hill giants) are tough enough, but the biggest giants (such as titans) are an appropriate one - on - one opponent only for the highest - level characters.
      • Goblinoids: Goblins are short, common, and not much of a challenge to higer level characters; Hobgoblins are bigger and tougher; Bugbears are the next step up.
  • March 12, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    bump? I like the idea of this trope.
  • March 12, 2012
    Chabal2
  • March 12, 2012
    Hedgi
    Keladry in the Protector of the Small books ends the series at close to 6 feet.
  • March 12, 2012
    TrustBen
    In addition to being naturally tall (usually somewhere between 6'1 and 6'5) Batman adds height with the ears on his cowl.
  • March 13, 2012
    somerandomdude
    A notable aversion is Tintin, who in the comics appeared to be no taller than 5'4" - 5'5".
  • March 13, 2012
    MorganWick
    "I'm creating this because of a problem I've been noticing with some tropes, such as Statuesque Stunner and Pint Sized Powerhouse. Namely, those tropes are aversions of viewer expectations and societal norms."

    As most Statuesque Stunners are Action Girls, I don't think this is the trope they're averting (either would have Unfortunate Implications).
  • March 13, 2012
    Premonition45
    Bruce Lee, widely believed to be the greatest fighter ever, was 5'7" (1.7 meters).
  • March 13, 2012
    KingZeal
    ^^ Statuesque Stunner has nothing to do with Action Girl. It subverts No Guy Wants An Amazon, focused on the height aspect of Amazon. The character need not be action oriented.
  • March 13, 2012
    Ryuuma
  • March 13, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Invoked in the "Archeology Today" sketch on Monty Pythons Flying Circus, where a TV presenter is fascinated with an archeologist played by John Cleese (6'5") and dismissive of his professional rival at a mere 5'10" (with bad posture). The presenter also has a thing for Watusis.
  • March 13, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^^^That's why I said most.
  • March 13, 2012
    Deboss
    I think this would work best as a "discussions, invocation, references, and exaggerations only" type of trope examples. Otherwise you get random characters who do and don't fit badass+height requirements. Perhaps something not in the Badass relations, something like Intimidating Height or Heroric Height or something.
  • March 14, 2012
    Antonym
    Isn't 5'7" a bit Amerocentric? In the Netherlands 5' 11' for a man is below average; in Southeast Asia 5' 5" might be average to tall. And since the average height has gone up over time, doesn't that mean that all those tall characters in books 200 years ago may well be average or short now?

    PS: It occurs to me that doesn't actually affect anything if they're PORTRAYED as being tall. But I think the point about specifying measurement is still pertinent.
  • March 14, 2012
    Thanatologist
    In Artemis Fowl, readers are reminded at least once a book that Butler is very big.
    "Luc didn't argue, then again who'd argue with a six-foot-plus Eurasian man with muscles like a Michelangelo statue?"
    -Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
  • March 14, 2012
    KingZeal
    ^^ I was going for a median range. If you have a better average for worldwide media, I'd be happy to hear it.
  • March 14, 2012
    somerandomdude
    ^^^5'7"-5'8" is average height for men in the world total.
  • March 14, 2012
    pyroclastic
    Yeah, "above the 25th percentile" isn't exactly synonymous with "tall."
  • April 13, 2013
    ikissfrogs
    I think most important thing is that a character is tall in comparison to their fellows, as with the Mouse World example. To use The Hobbit as an example, Bullroarer Took (a total badass) is described as being "so huge, for a hobbit, that he could ride a horse". He definitely fits this trope in spirit, but he wouldn't qualify on the basis of the lower height limit of 5'7". This makes the trope quite restrictive.
  • April 13, 2013
    Astaroth
    In The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim The Ebony Warrior from the Dragonborn DLC is one of the toughest individuals in the game, challenging the Dovahkiin to a duel only once they're at least level 80 and armed with some of the best armor and weapons in the game. He's also the tallest, standing at least a head taller than any other NPC.
  • April 13, 2013
    AmyGdala
    I like Deboss's suggestion. Call this Intimidating Height. and limit it to invocation, exaggeration etc. It's certainly a trope, but it's also an unremarkable norm.
  • April 13, 2013
    JonnyB
    Dark Helmet in Spaceballs is an obvious subversion and parody of this, as Rick Moranis is the shortest member of the main cast.
  • April 13, 2013
    KingZeal
    ^^^^ "Not necessarily the tallest character in the setting, but taller than the average."

    I think that concern is covered.
  • April 13, 2013
    MrRuano
    • Referenced in Spinnerette, who laments the fact that the titular superheroine barely even breaks 5'2". Of course, she found it a sore point when she finds that a newspaper photoshopped her image to be larger than she actually is.
  • April 13, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    Xerxes as portrayed in Three Hundred looked to be about 8 or 9 feet tall.

    Literature

    In The Bible, the Philistine warrior Goliath was described as measuring "four cubits and a span"--about 6' 9" tall. (Per The Other Wiki, this is per the Dead Sea manuscripts. Some later manuscripts actually read "six cubits and a span", which would be 9' 9" tall--possibly an inflated value to further emphasize this trope (and the bravery of David who faced and slew him), which is Older Than Dirt).
  • April 14, 2013
    1810072342
    If this isn't deemed Too Common For Examples, then:

    Video Games: Sagat from Street Fighter is one of the tallest characters in the entire series, and is known as 'The King of Muay Thai (kickboxing)'.

    Comic Books:
    • Galactus is the exaggerated form of this trope: he is big enough to crush planets between his hands, and is unbelievably powerful - often referred to as The Power Cosmic.
    • The Hulk is bigger than a normal person, and a damn sight stronger too.
    • Dormammu, debatably the Arch Enemy of Doctor Strange, is taller than most normal people, especially highlighted in his appearance in Marvel Vs Capcom 3. He commands dark magic, pyrogenics and has his own personal dimension, in which he is virtually omnipotent.
  • April 14, 2013
    azul120
  • April 14, 2013
    CaptEquinox
    This needs to be about perception and relative height, like the comment about Bullroarer said. Tolkien was all about observing and undermining (deconstructing, I think) the idea that height and nobility are always connected. People in Middle-earth associated height with kingship because the Numenorean royalty were all skyscrapers. Aragorn was about 6'6" (5'11" Viggo is a shrimp in comparison!). But -- look who saved the universe. And of course didn't get as much credit as Merry and Pippin, who were significantly taller after drinking Entdraught.
  • April 15, 2013
    KingZeal
    I'm not seeing how that's not conveyed in the current description. Can you explain a little more?
  • April 15, 2013
    JonnyB
    Another subversion and parody: Stewie plays Darth Vader in Family Guy's "Blue Harvest" episode.
  • April 15, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Since not everyone knows what kind of character "Stewie" is, that example ends up being a Zero Context Example.
  • April 16, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Subverted both ways with Master-Blaster in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Master is a midget that controls the utilities that sustain Bartertown. Blaster is actually a Gentle Giant that hurts people only on orders from Master.
  • November 7, 2013
    CaptEquinox
    Well, you can say "Stewie, a super-intelligent toddler in Family Guy, plays Darth..." like that.
  • November 8, 2013
    DAN004
  • November 8, 2013
    kjnoren
    Agree wth Amy Gdala and Deboss. Since people are of different heights anyway, and intimidation (badassery et c) varies too, what is tropable is when the connection between the two is pointed out in-work.

    It also let us avoid us making bad asses out of ourselves with another Badass clone.
  • November 8, 2013
    KingZeal
    It might be a good idea to make this a narrative trope and not a character one.

    Meaning, a work can play this straight (certain tall characters are presented as badasses), but it shouldn't be put on character pages because then you'll get a bunch of ZC Es and such.
  • November 10, 2013
    ryanasaurus0077
    Invoked in a trailer for The Streetfighter. "Terry Sugury, 6'6" of half-breed fury!"
  • September 29, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    Why did this ykttw have four hats? I don't understand something. I feel like discarding it.

    Half-baked, general, snowclone.
  • September 29, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    Invoked in Invader Zim: the alien race featured on the series have a hierarchy that revolves around height.
  • September 29, 2014
    Arivne
    • Namespaced a work name.
    • Moved the "example" to the Description as per How To Write An Example - Keep it an example. Examples are about appearances of a trope in a specific work, not blanket statements.
  • September 29, 2014
    DAN004
    Japanese works make their characters (or at least their heroes) short so they can be relatable. Because Japanese people find more appeal on short characters; that's the reason why Japanese ppl look down (lol) on Huge Schoolgirls.
  • September 29, 2014
    Daefaroth
    ^^^The Zim example is Large And In Charge. The Tallest rule because of their height but they never do anything badass and are not described as badass or anything similar.
  • September 29, 2014
    Chabal2
    • Hero units in Warcraft III are around half as tall again as basic units.
    • Thorkell the Tall of Vinland Saga. As his name indicates, he is extremely tall, but he's the leader thanks to his fighting skills.

  • September 29, 2014
    KingZeal
    Wow, another of mine rises from the grave.

    Nemuru, the reason it has so many hats, I'm supposing, is because it's a Missing Supertrope. That was made apparent in the description.
  • September 29, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ But then it has no examples.
  • September 29, 2014
    hbi2k
    References to exact heights (such as the 5'7" thing) need to be removed. It's only significant if the person is taller-than-average for the setting or compared to others. In the U.S., the average adult male is 5'10", meaning that you've got a full three inches worth of dudes who would technically fit this trope yet could very well be the shortest dude in the cast.

    Comparisons with worldwide height averages, without even accounting for gender, are beyond irrelevant.
  • September 29, 2014
    acrobox
    Agree with above. Though the avg American male height is 5'9

  • September 29, 2014
    KingZeal
    Fair enough. For now, I've edited it out.

    However, I'd like to note that this trope is not cast-relative. There are ways for this trope to apply without relative height being a factor. For example, if you have a World Of Badass and they are all visibly taller than the average Real Life person, or if they are made to look like such by cinema magic, then that is still this trope played straight.
  • September 29, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    We already have this. It is called Prejudiced For Pecs.

    Okay, its called Muscles Are Meaningful but that's because it was renamed by people who didn't pay close attention to the description. Regardless of the poor title though, we already have a page for unrealistic expectations related to size.
  • September 29, 2014
    KingZeal
    Only musculature, though. Not height. Although if Muscles Are Meaningful has been expanded to cover this, then I'm fine with that. But the current description doesn't suggest that at all.
  • September 29, 2014
    Pastykake
    • Bleach:
      • Zaraki Kenpachi is the strongest Shinigami in terms of sheer power, perhaps second to only Commander Yamamoto, and is 6'6" tall—which is considered tall anywhere in the world, but especially in Japan.
      • Juha Bach, the Quincy leader, is a badass Combat Pragmatist who is at least nearly as tall as Kenpachi, given that he can hold Kenpachi off the ground by his collar.
  • September 29, 2014
    DAN004
  • September 29, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    Well it should be, Prejudiced For Pecs was just a trope about body size in general(well more specifically, it was a rant about The Giant trope but tropers are amazingly adept at their ability to ruin wrestling trope pages in their attempts to expand them), never limited to muscle. I brought it up at the Trope Repair Shop but the thread got closed due to lack of interest, so now I'm bringing up where I find it relevant, in hopes maybe something could be done about the butchered page further down the road.
  • September 29, 2014
    KingZeal
    Surely there's a rule about hijacking a YMMV to make a point about a failed TRS?

    In any case, the current Muscles Are Meaningless doesn't do what you suggest it does.
  • September 30, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    There's a difference between hijacking a you know that thing where and arguing that one is unnecessary. But you're right, the page in its current state doesn't illustrate the point.

    This was the original image put on the page though, which made the point pretty clear. Rey Mysterio Jr's a fairly buff dude, he's just short. Khali, while buff, is not monstrously so. He's just really tall.

    You could appropriate the image for yourself, if you remain unconvinced. No one else is using it. There might be a merger down the line is all I'm saying. We had a large guy stereotype page already and if it ever gets back in line, this one will be redundant.
  • September 30, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ I doubt it will ever "get back in line" (if by that you mean refer to size as opposed to visible musculature) with either the current name or the previous one, both of which specify muscles right in the trope name. Doesn't matter what you do to the description, people will go with what the name suggests.

    Nor do I think it particularly needs to, as right now both trope name, trope description, and examples are all more or less in line with each other and perfectly tropeworthy.
  • September 30, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    1. Having muscles is not a trope, that's the human condition. Its the details about muscles that make a story. Muscles for manliness is a trope. Muscles for sex appeal is a trope. Doing things that require them without them is a trope. Having them for no good reason, grossly overstating their importance or tacking them on for fear of not being taken seriously are also tropes. But that's not the message one gets from the title is it?

    2. The old title referred to pectoral muscles, the description compares the use of different muscle groups and says The Giant will have a similar portrayal even when mostly fat. It wasn't a good title either, but it was better at getting its point across.

    3. The fact that the page started as a rant on The Giant, a trope mostly about height, means height was taken into consideration, but the topic expanded to mass in general. It made sense to broaden the subject anyway. NJPWAJPW ect refusing to train Justin Thunder Liger for being too short? Bryan Danielson joking about not getting pushed in Japan because "they like big Americans too."? Art Barr being the most important member of Los Gringos Locos? The exact same mentality as drawing a taller superhero. The extant and proposed pages discuss the exact same storytelling device. Just because an extant page is bad doesn't mean it needs duplicates, especially not narrower duplicates. It foremost needs attention.

    That's what I think.
  • September 30, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • The Looney Tunes assess the Nerdlucks as diminutive creatures who'd be laughable at basketball in Space Jam. However, when the Nerdlucks convert to their gigantic Monstar form, the Tune Squad has a collective Oh Crap moment.

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