Created By: Earnest on October 17, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on August 21, 2013
Troped

Darwinist Desire

Characters select partners solely based on perceived genetic advantage

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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 theyíre also an Evilutionary Biologist or Social Darwinist. Even if theyíre neither of those, some characters arenít 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".


Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

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

[[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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • 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. Itís 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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Jokes]]
  • 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?'."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • 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 itís 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]]

[[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]]

[[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]]

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

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender Ė 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]]

[[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.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 47
  • October 17, 2011
    Bisected8
    • 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).
  • October 17, 2011
    CharacterInWhite
    ^I was about to argue this. Maybe it's the biologist in me objecting but, we all do this to an extent, whether we realise it or not. It's the sole reason of reproduction (to pass on desirable traits).
  • October 17, 2011
    fulltimeD
    The Bio-Anthropologist in me agrees with Character In White.

    Also, "Eloper" doesn't mean what the OP thinks it means.
  • October 17, 2011
    Earnest
    ^Didn't you read the OP? I'm not taking any name suggestions at all. None. This trope will launch with exactly this name because it is absolutely perfect in every way. I did not just think of the first marriage related word starting with E and stuck it there. Nope. So there's no point in pointing out flaws in this YKTTW's proposed name, and even less in proposing a much better name were it to hypothetically exist.

    Summary: What do you suggest then?
  • October 18, 2011
    NateTheGreat
    No, the name is not absolutely perfect in every way. "Evolution" concerns populations over large amounts of time. What you're talking about is "Eugenics."
  • October 18, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    We have Stalker With A Test Tube, which is related.
  • October 18, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    Ooh, I think I got one: Darwinist Desire?
  • October 18, 2011
    SirPsychoSexy
    I like Darwinist Desire.

    The Mucbak in Level E are stated to find mates from other species this way.
  • October 18, 2011
    Earnest
    ^^^^ Nate, I'm being sarcastic. This whole thing is a joke, I purposely threw a bad name on this to get proposals because 9 times out of 10 just asking gets no response. I have no intention of launching it as Evolution Eloper.

    I didn't make the sarcasm obvious enough, and it didn't really net a downpour of proposals, just points on innacuracy. So, strategy scrapped.
  • October 19, 2011
    NetMonster
    That's pretty much everyone's modus operandi in GATTACA.
  • October 20, 2011
    LeeM
    This is the basis for Recognition in Elf Quest, but it's a completely unconscious telepathic urge that takes no account of personal preference or pre-existing relationships.
  • October 20, 2011
    MorganWick
    ^^^You didn't make the sarcasm obvious enough because there was no reason to say what you said. What sort of point would you be making? I'm not sure it jives with the alleged "summary". That would be more like, "Gee, it's lucky I have a million name ideas for this trope stuck in my head and might as well have pulled this one at random."
  • October 20, 2011
    Earnest
    ^What is this exchange adding to this YKTTW? I've said I was wrong, and that the tactic didn't work. At this point, do you want me to say I was wrong and stupid? To go into detail over my poor redaction? I can. I have no pride left at this point, and would rather just let this argument end with a white flag. I have no intention of defending a shortsighted mistake, and I would appreciate it if we could focus on the task at hand. If not, I'm discarding this YKTTW if it gets derailed and reposting it some months from now.
  • October 20, 2011
    MorganWick
    ^It's a habit of mine.
  • October 20, 2011
    Earnest
    Don't sweat it, everyone needs an ego-check every so often.
  • October 21, 2011
    fulltimeD
    @Earnest: sorry if I seemed rude or mean in my response. That being said, "Darwinist Desire" is a way better name for this. YKTTW is a place to take something with the expectation that people will make suggestions you might not necessarily agree with, though, so please keep that in mind when posting here, and I will try to keep my tongue in check.
  • October 21, 2011
    SKJAM
    I'm not remembering the title just now, but 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.
  • October 21, 2011
    Generality
    Generally this is 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".
  • October 24, 2011
    PacificState
    Actually it would take a very weird culture to develop this attitude. Living being are adaptation-executers, not fitness-maximizers.
  • October 24, 2011
    isk2837
    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".
  • October 27, 2011
    TBeholder
    (scratch-scratch...) but how it's related to darwinism?
  • September 27, 2012
    EDog19
    ^It's referring to The Social Darwinist mindset, not the actual Theory of Evolution. Check that page out, it explains things better than I could.
  • September 27, 2012
    NimmerStill
    The purpose of reproduction is to pass on *your* genetic traits, not just desirable ones.
  • September 28, 2012
    TBeholder
    ^^ Indoubitably. :] But do you really know what "darwinist" means? And if so?..
  • September 28, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Truth In Television: To an extent, people donating gametes are subject to this, potential parents prefer donated eggs and sperm from parents who don't have hereditary illnesses, etc, and various companies and agencies promise eggs and sperm solely from people with high I Qs or the looks of a supermodel.
  • September 28, 2012
    TrustBen
    Zeroth Law Of Trope Examples: In Henry V, Hal tells Catherine "thou must therefore needs prove a good soldier breeder."
  • September 28, 2012
    Antigone3
    The early days of the Howard Families (from Robert Heinlein's works) were pretty much "your family is long-lived, my family is long-lived, lets have long-lived kids together".
  • September 28, 2012
    SharleeD
    ^^^ That's donating gametes, not donating zygotes. A zygote is what you get after egg and sperm have merged into a new genetically-distinct cell.

    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.

    • On Bones, Temperance initially justified her interest in having a child with Booth by claiming he possessed favorable genetic traits that would compliment her own.
  • September 28, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I'm not sure Gattaca is much of an example, it was shown that some people take genetic samples of people they like to see how good their genes are but they make Gattaca Babies anyway so the source material isn't that much of an issue.

    Tabletop Games
  • September 28, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Sharlee D: oops, altered it.
  • September 28, 2012
    Waterlily
    • 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?"

  • October 4, 2012
    tardigrade
    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.
  • October 4, 2012
    nitrokitty
    • The Abh in Banner 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.
  • October 4, 2012
    saintdane05
  • October 4, 2012
    Waterlily
    "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?' "

    I also read in a biography of Shirley Temple 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.

  • October 5, 2012
    IsaacSapphire
    There is a real life dating service based on this theory.
  • October 5, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ That wouldn't by any chance be www.beautifulpeople.com would it?
  • October 5, 2012
    chicagomel
    Raptor Red by Robert Bakker has this,though it's justified, since the characters are raptors, therefore animals, and operate on that sort of instinct naturally.

    Are any other Bones fans here? I want to say this has leaked into some of Dr.Brennnan's comments a few times, but I can't remember for certain.
  • October 9, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • 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.
  • October 9, 2012
    StarSword
    @chicagomel: Yup, when she 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.

    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.
  • October 9, 2012
    zarpaulus
    By the way you should probably clarify the "Andromeda" entry.

    Like how Nietzscheans are Social Darwinists and they compare pedigrees when courting.
  • October 10, 2012
    TonyG
    Futurama should be moved to Western Animation.
    • 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.
  • October 10, 2012
    Duncan
    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.
  • August 19, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Webcomics
  • August 19, 2013
    chicagomel
    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. (Literature)
  • August 19, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    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.
  • August 21, 2013
    zarpaulus
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=p281069yozmb73mdbqloalzz&trope=DarwinistDesire