Certain ideals are expected to be embodied by male and female characters for them to be seen as attractive to the opposite sex. Sexy female characters are physically desirable; Sexy male characters are strong and proactive. This is a consequence of Men Act, Women Are
as applied to sex appeal: A woman's attractiveness is mostly due to her passive physical attributes, while a man's attractiveness is mostly a result of his behavior.
For female characters, passivity does not detract from their attractiveness. In extreme cases, female characters who are very
active will be seen as undesirable
, or that they can only love a man stronger than themselves.
Further a physically unattractive woman will always be unattractive regardless of how proactive she is.
Male characters are viewed as less attractive if they are passive. In fact a dynamic evil man
is more likely to be viewed as attractive
then a decent but weak man.
A physically unattractive man's dynamic qualities can also make him more attractive.
Some male characters who are physically attractive-particularly in a "pretty boy
" kind of way- will be seen as weak
, less than a man, or suspected of being gay.
This holds doubly true if they spend time cultivating their attractiveness
. (In fact, many male characters with a large female following
tend to be disliked by male audience members- possibly because he's a threat to their sense of masculinity
In summary, physical attractiveness only ever adds to a woman's sex appeal while being active may
or may not
detract. Whereas for men being proactive only ever adds to a man's sex appeal while being physically attractive may or may not add to his desirability.
These differing standards lead to the genders being held to equally damaging but different standards of attractiveness and have numerous Unfortunate Implications
For women the implication is that your actions are irrelevant to your attractiveness to the opposite sex. As long as you're beautiful
, even if you're 105 lbs of useless deadweight
or utterly psychotic
you're still desirable.
The Unfortunate Implications
for men is that men are shallow and only after one thing
, thus they don't care if a woman is a dynamic, active character. Also, male characters will end up pulling more then their own weight, emotionally
, in works where this trope is in effect.
And, just like the beauty ideal puts incredible pressure on women to be beautiful, the strength ideal puts incredible pressure on men to judge themselves against an impossible standard of stoicism
and physical strength
. These pressures have not received as much press or attention on their effects on men and boys, partially due to the idea that men aren't as emotionally fragile as women
, that things that affect women are worse than things that affect men
. This in turn enforces another Double Standard
: That women must be defended
from the evil media, while men should be able to just shrug it off
In the last few decades there has been more of a push to create attractive, dynamic female characters
. Unfortunately this often seems to come at the expense of the male characters they are paired with who are portrayed as incompetent and emasculated. It is a hard balance to strike, and difficult to imagine a work
in which a beautiful
, virgin male character
is saved from peril by a grizzled female Anti-Hero
who is changed for the better
by his pure heart
, without the man seeming like a useless wussy-pants
whose wuss-ness disqualifies him from being a man and, more importantly, from being saved
This is the supertrope for Ugly Guy, Hot Wife
, Beast and Beauty
, Cookie Cutter Cuties
, Hollywood Homely
, Non-Action Guy
. See also Beauty Is Never Tarnished
, and the unequal application of Dirt Forcefield
- In romantic comedies, an undesirable woman can easily remedy her faults with a makeover, and, surprise, surprise, discover that She Cleans Up Nicely. An undesirable male's transformation is less of a physical one, and more about growing up and accepting responsibility for his actions.
- The tropes Cute Monster Girl and Green-Skinned Space Babe- even non-human creatures must be conventionally attractive to human males.
- Beast and Beauty and Ugly Guy, Hot Wife- men want women who are more attractive then they are. If they choose women based on qualities other then looks, then they are suspected of being gay and the women they're with is obviously an attempt to deflect from their gayness. In this dynamic, women are not expected to want attractiveness in their mate. Often because they are above being selfish and petty.
- No Guy Wants to Be Chased, No Guy Wants an Amazon, All Amazons Want Hercules, The Red Sonja- women want men who are stronger then they are. Some women are seen as attracted to weak men however the assumption is that they are attracted to these men in order to dominate and abuse them. Or, in lighter versions where the man is justifiably weak, she is attracted to him because of his need for healing. The man in these more acceptable scenarios is still a Badass or a former badass.
- Compare male superheroes with their female counterparts.... yeah.
- The fact that Faux Action Girls can exist- it's not really necessary to establish them as strong as long as they're hot. A male character who is supposed to be Badass needs to live up to his reputation through acts of strength and manliness, while a female character does not.
- Our so-called modern attitudes regarding sexuality betray this trope. Men are seen to give women pleasure through their actions; while men get pleasure from women's bodies in a way that women don't from men's. Thus the emphasis is on men's technique, or their agency, and women's bodies, or their passive attributes, in sex.
- Pretty much every shonen nakama. In good shonen manga, every character in the group is useful in their own way. Meaning the majority (the men) can be gonks as long at they're also badasses. Women however, no matter how competent, must ALSO be (at the very least) cute. And of course, in poor shonen manga, the females tends to be regulated to being eye candy, her looks being her only interesting point.