Darwinist Desire YKTTW Discussion

Darwinist Desire
Characters select partners solely based on perceived genetic advantage
(permanent link) added: 2011-10-17 15:14:20 sponsor: Earnest (last reply: 2013-08-21 20:06:08)

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Characters with a Darwinist Desire only value one thing in potential mates; their perceived genetic fitness. They don't care for love, personality (except as it relates to their genetic suitability), money or social status. Then again, social standing probably is identical or strongly linked to their genetic desirability, and their genetic superiority is assumed to make acquisition of wealth a given.

They can be very ethical about their interest, but the creepy factor of this trope can be played up if they’re also an Evilutionary Biologist or Social Darwinist. Even if they’re neither of those, some characters aren’t above acting like a Stalker with a Test Tube if their intended partner refuses to marry or mate with them. Darwinist Desire can manifest in both individuals or entire cultures/species, and while some depictions of this trope involve mating the "old fashioned way", Genetic Engineering and Gattaca Babies aren't off the table. The preference may be dictated either because of culture (valuing "true" natural selection, for example) or because of a pragmatic lack of (mad) science skills. It's also worth noting that Darwinist Desire can be broadly or narrowly focused on traits; some may favor overall fitness, or specific traits like physical ability, beauty, intelligence, or even nose size.

On an individual level, the goal tends to be to have children fit enough to survive (or master) the world. On a societal level it may be to go up in terms of Evolutionary Levels, create Super Soldiers, or gain Psychic Powers. It would likely take a very weird culture, or one faced with a very unusual environment, to develop this attitude. Living beings are adaptation-executers, not fitness-maximizers.

This trope is generally known as Eugenics. The practice is now viewed with some element of disfavor, partly because it's still very imprecise, but mainly because of its more extreme form, as practiced by the Nazis, which goes as far as "culling" those whose genes are deemed to be "inferior".



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • The Mucbak in Level E are stated to find mates from other species this way.

[[folder:Comic Book]]
  • This is the basis for Recognition in ElfQuest, but it's a completely unconscious telepathic urge that takes no account of personal preference or pre-existing relationships.

  • In The Invention of Lying has marriage be based only on this. The romantic interest is struggling with picking between this trope and her love of the protagonist.
  • That's pretty much everyone's modus operandi in Gattaca. It’s an interesting case because sentimental partners are chosen based on how good their genes are, even though couples (who were both already designer babies) would frequently repeat the process on their children, making such genetic discrimination either purely social or as a sign of continued financial success.

  • There's an urban myth that Marilyn Monroe (or Isadora Duncan, or Sara Bernhardt, depending on who's telling the story) once propositioned Albert Einstein (or George Bernard Shaw, or Groucho Marx) with the question: "Don't you think that with my looks and your brains, we should have the most wonderful children?" Albert/George/Groucho responded, "But what if they were born with my looks and your brains?'."

  • The Abh in Crest of the Stars consider "I want your genes" to be one of the highest compliments you can give someone and is seen as something akin to a marriage proposal, considering they are all test tube Designer Babies.
  • In Dune, the Bene Gesserit actually have Darwinist Desire Matchmaking. They've been secretly manipulating the marriages of all the members of the noble houses to produce the Kwisatz Haderach, a being capable of omniscience.
    • Emperor Leto the II continued this on a grander scale, however he created a line of people immune to being scryed through omniscience.
  • In the Horus Heresy it’s mentioned to be the modus operandi of one planet.
  • In Roald Dahls' novel My Uncle Oswald, Oswald collects the sperm of geniuses in order to sell it to women who want to have genius babies.
  • Justified in Raptor Red since the character is a Utahraptor. She rejects a yellow snout raptor who tries to court her despite being another subspecies and later, another suitor is rejected because he has parasites. Eventually, she is persuaded by a red snout male to pair up. Her thoughts are that he's strong and smart. Another female, meanwhile, keeps getting rejected because she's freakishly big and the males sense something wrong.
  • In the Uplift series eugenics programs are a standard part of uplifting new species. Earthclan chooses a "card" system for their clients with green, blue, and white cards (unrestricted breeding rights) awarded to scientists, artists, war heroes, etc.
    • At the end of The Uplift War Fiben gets annoyed that now that he has a white card every female chimpanzee on the planet wants his genes, and his wives (themselves blue and green) aren't helping much.
  • The early days of the Howard Families (from Robert A. Heinlein's works) were pretty much "your family is long-lived, my family is long-lived, lets have long-lived kids together".

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
  • Nietzchians in Andromeda are a species of Social Darwinists who compare pedigrees when courting.
  • In Bones, Dr. Brennan initially justified her interest in having a child with Booth by claiming he possessed favorable genetic traits that would compliment her own, she later decided she wanted to have a baby via IVF and decided that Booth had the best genes for it. Then the plan went by the wayside when Booth was diagnosed with an early-stage brain tumor.
  • A made for TV Skiffy movie about a post-disaster society had as one of the gimmicks colored patches one wore to indicate which partners would make good genetic matches with the expectation that one would mate within one's color grouping.
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon tries to find which of his friends is the best genetic match for his sister, on the hope that the offspring might be a genius like him. When she finds out, she lets her feelings known to Sheldon... by kneeing him in the groin.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Theater]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • The salarians in Mass Effect keep records of their family's genetic pedigree for exactly this reason. Their species doesn't really connect the concept of sexual desire with reproduction, since, as amphibians, they reproduce via external fertilization.

[[folder:Web Comics]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search it's revealed that Fire Lord Ozai only married Azula and Zuko's mother Ursa because The Fire Sages thought the decedents of Avatar Ruku and and the Fire Nation royalty would produce powerful offspring. Of course Of course, Zuko may not have been Ozai's offspring anyway.
  • Zoidberg's people in Futurama do this, with Zoidberg's main love interest for that episode flat out telling him that she isn't interested in him because he's an "inferior male specimen".

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • Truth in Television. It's just not done consciously (many signs humans and other animals find attractive have been found to correlate with fertility and other desirable traits).
  • In a biography of Shirley Temple there is an account that women would proposition her father (who looked like her), hoping to get a Shirley of their own. They may not have actually meant it but her mother wasn't pleased.
  • In evolutionary biology, this is referred to as "good-genes sexual selection". It's not the only factor that determines mate choice, though. For example, a female may choose a male who holds lots of resources that can be ploughed into their offspring, even if he came by those resources by chance rather than on account of superior genes.
  • Also, "eugenics" is what you'd call it when an entire society or subculture embraces this trope systematically. When it's something that only a handful of people are doing to choose their own reproductive partners, without any attempt to promote or impose their own standards on anyone else, it falls short of being eugenics.
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