A female character who resembles a pretty, androgynous boy
, but in a positive way
, usually coupled with an appropriate 'masculine' outfit. Swooned over by confused females
as much as outright Schoolgirl Lesbians
. Sometimes in the episode they're introduced, they're confused for men until the other characters recognize and treat them as girls. Occasionally, it's also a roundabout way of adding a stereotypically 'male' role to a show that doesn't have (or want
) one. Very often subject to at least one Stupid Sexy Flanders
gag, sometimes even after The Reveal
of their true biological sex.
Interestingly, most versions are Prince Charming
types and overwhelmingly 'good' characters
. Bifauxnen are, from an artistic standpoint, everything that is positive about masculinity while also not losing anything fundamentally 'woman'. Many characters, in fact, simply heavily associate with traits typically praised in men; the appearance is just another path to that. Most of the time the Bifauxnen
a Butch Lesbian
, and is mostly oblivious
to reactions they incite.
The major distinction between them and Tomboys
is a direct association with elegance and style, and they often appear older than they really are
. Tomboys are often associated with playfulness and immaturity, but are still clearly female. While it is common to have both types of characters in a series, two bifauxnen are less common, and tend to become playful or sexy
Bifauxnen, however, do not include trans men, as the latter are
men, and not simply 'mistaken' for men. Usually they can be distinguished by how they identify, such as Takatsuki from Wandering Son
This is mainly a Japanese trope. Western examples do exist, dressing this way either throughout a work or in a single scene, but the Western example is generally not
straight. Rather, dressing a female character up as a Sharp-Dressed Man
was, in European and North American works in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a standard Getting Crap Past the Radar
way to imply that she was lesbian or bisexual when open acknowledgement and depiction of her sexuality, even in a negative way, would have been forbidden by taste-and-decency standards.
A subtrope of Lady Looks Like a Dude
. The male equivalent is Bishōnen
. Not to be confused with Sweet Polly Oliver
, who only dresses like a man to achieve a goal that requires her to seem male. Compare to Samus is a Girl
, where the gender simply isn't discernible until The Reveal
. Can also be a case of Bifauxnen and Lad-ette
if there's more than one in a particular work or Everybody Wants the Hermaphrodite
if she just happens to have a few male bits in the end. Also see The Lad-ette
and Attractive Bent-Gender
. May involve a Gender Reveal
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Anime and Manga
- Happened to Jubilee of the X-Men at least once. In a slightly odd turn of events, the dinosaur-riding tribe who made the mistake actually had her half-way to the altar with a choice bride standing by before the misunderstanding could be cleared up.
- In the early Star Wars comics, the ones produced by Marvel, there was a prince who went to Luke Skywalker for help; later in the arc it was revealed that this character was that prince's twin sister, as the prince himself had died. In order to keep her planet's morale up, she'd needed to keep his death a secret. At the end of the arc the princess also died, and the two of them met Yoda in the afterlife - the princess was clearly shorter and somewhat narrower-shouldered than her brother, but still fairly androgynous. Without looking at the word balloons, it's actually rather difficult to tell that she's female.
- Carrie Kelley, the successor to the Robin mantle in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, is mistaken for a boy by the police. Somewhat of an inversion on how Robins on New Earth are either mistaken for or portrayed in other media as girls.
- Fey Truscott-Sade, from the Doctor Who Magazine comics.
- Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight, was mistaken for a boy in Seven Soldiers and mistaken for a girl in Demon Knights. In the latter case, the truth is a little more complicated...
- Luci (yes, that Luci) from The Wicked And The Divine, doing a damn fine impression of Bowie's Thin White Duke
- The title character of Irya Sheen Ace Attorney notes she used to wear pants, but after being mistaken for a boy enough times, she settled on a skirt.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! fanfic writers like doing this to Setsuna (see above). Suit Up! (one big Shout-Out to How I Met Your Mother) has her invoke this to such an extent that all of the girls get hot and bothered around her, while Egg Belly has her don a tuxedo for her date with Konoka.
- Oblivion has Marley Flowers, who looks sufficiently male-like that she and her fiance are Mistaken for Gay at first.
- Fate Stay Night: Ultimate Master's version of Avenger is a female, but dress like a male in her civilian attire, and looks quite good in it if Ben's opinion is anything to go by. Not so surprising considering who she is implied to be.
- Dee from DJINN Way To Home is short-haired and fairly flat (she's only fourteen), so she looks a lot like a boy, albeit a cute one. One of her future teammates teases Will (the woman who plans to adopt her) about her much younger "boyfriend," even when said boyfriend is wearing a Dangerously Short Skirt.
Film - Live Action
- In Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat the vampirized Gabrielle, Lestat's mom, usually adopts male clothing and hair style to be free to do as she wished. During the time (late 18th century) it was difficult for women to get away with living so independently, so she does this for practical reasons.
- Nan Astley and Kitty Butler, of Tipping the Velvet. Both are male impersonators in late Victorian England.
- Played with (and subverted) in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Secondary protagonist Bree is a six-foot-plus, strapping Scottish redhead who waltzes around in the 18th century in trousers— but only passes for a man if you're really not looking, and is goggled at, flirted with (with cracks about stepladders) and horrifies her father.
- Many female fans were extremely pissed off to discover that Maladict from Monstrous Regiment is, in fact, a girl.
- Jame from Chronicles of the Kencyrath is mistaken for a boy on a regular basis, is declared to be officially a boy in a fair few contexts throughout the books, and is mistaken constantly for her twin brother.
- Subverted at one point in God Stalk: The courtesan Melissandwho's flirting with her at the timeis entirely aware that Jame is a girl, is amused that Jame thought otherwise, and doesn't particularly care.
- Leisl in the Ravenloft novel Vampire of the Mists is a thief who dresses as a boy to survive better on the streets.
- In "A Scandal in Bohemia," Irene Adler admits to Sherlock Holmes that she frequently dresses as a man to go out in public because of the freedom that male costume allows her. As shown in theatrical versions of the story, the result is apparently Bishonenesque.
- In Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson, Kumiko muses that Molly greatly resembles the stereotype of the Japanese bishonen: "elegant, deadly and fey."
- Kitai from Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, partly to do with the fact that she's an underage Marat with vaguely boyish features (until they come of age, Marat wear baggy tunics and aren't acknowledged to actually have any biological sex except in the academic sense). Tavi doesn't much care for her initially, because she was kind of hostile for little apparent reason, but once he realizes she's a girl, he starts to notice she's kind of pretty.
- Tzigone, one of the central protagonists of Counselors and Kings, is a very slender and flat-chested young woman, and as she's a Master of Disguise she's quite practiced at tricking people into thinking she's male. She does female disguises too, though.
- In the world of A Brother's Price, whores service women. Many of them try to look as much like men as they can, and it's to be noted that men in this world are seen as soft, beautiful, graceful creatures. These wear ivory strap-ons called bones at their groins to complete the look.
- Keladry from Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small is often mistaken for a boy becuse of her height, muscular build, and short haircut.
Live Action TV
- Jade Dimagiba/Yuan Sy from My Binondo Girl.
- Shane from The L Word. And in Real Life, Katherine Moennig, the actress who plays Shane. In fact, fans of the show often conflate the actress with her role, which is lampshaded in this tongue-in-cheek interview.
- The Doctor Who character Romana (in both her incarnations) is at times, most notably in The Stones of Blood◊, The Horns of Nimon◊, and State of Decay◊.
- Ace gets in on the act in Ghost Light◊, not only wearing a Victorian tux, but convincing her new friend Gwendoline to wear one too.
- In Blackadder, poor, poor Bob.
- In the original pilot for the Get Smart TV show, this was done with Agent 99. When Maxwell Smart first meets Agent 99, she has a pageboy haircut and is dressed in a not-very-flattering chauffeur's outfit. It takes Max most of the episode to realize that she's female.
- Actually she comes off quite sexy and clearly female right from the start...but this is Max we're talking about.
- Anjali Jay as Djaq in Robin Hood; the most stunningly beautiful "boy" you've ever seen.
- The recurring skitcom character, "Pat" from Saturday Night Live was based on this trope. Played by a female actor (Julia Sweeny), nobody (including the audience) ever found out if Pat was male or female.
- Marcy from Married... with Children was often accused of being a boy.
- Ironically, in one of the final episodes of the series Amanda Bearse appeared as an Expy of herself (a classic ladette). It was probably the most obviously female she'd appeared through the entire series.
- Franky Fitzgerald from the third generation of Skins, but only in Series 5.
- In the Seventh Heaven episode Don't Take My Love Away, the youngest daughter Ruthie wants to wear a tux to her parents' vow renewal ceremony. In the same storyline she doesn't want her brother Simon to move out of their bedroom.
- Annie Lennox of Eurythmics deliberately plays up her androgyny. Some American audiences were shocked by the video Love Is a Stranger because they thought that Lennox was a man in drag.
- The dancers in the video for "Blame It on the Girls" by Mika are half-Bifauxnen: their costumes and wigs make their right half look like a girl in a dress with a bob, while the left half looks like a man in a tux with Beatles hair. See it here.
- Elly Jackson, singer of La Roux, often invokes this. Yes, she's not the only person involved.
- Shirley Manson of Garbage dresses this way in the video for "Androgyny." Seen here.
- Hitomi Yoshizawa got this treatment during her earlier years with Hello! Project. It's especially obvious in this video.
- Tenth-generation member Haruka Kudou is currently filling this role, to the point where she refers to herself as a boy in blog posts and interviews.
- Thai singer Zee Matanawee Keenan.
- They Are My Noble Masters: Averted was Natose, who is a semi-bifauxnen, the only thing is she has boobies (huge ones in fact), and she wears panties under her clothes.
- Both Colonel Sebastian Moran and Henrietta Irving in Shikkoku No Sharnoth. In the beginning, Mary doesn't know the latter's true gender and has a bit of a crush.
- Chris in Princess Waltz. She not only dresses like a boy, and has the interest of all the girls; she was told she was supposed to be born a boy and plans to become one through magic. Even after she starts sleeping with the main character, her ultimate goal doesn't change. Somehow Chris' gender isn't obvious to Arata after the second chapter. No, not even after seeing her in the bath.
- Fate/stay night: Saber aka Arturia Pendragon, having been stopped in her natural growth at around the age of fifteen, can and has posed as a man several times, although a very Bishōnen man. However, it's also implied that she's been under a genuine Gender Bender spell at times in her backstory.
- She dresses in more contemporary menswear in Fate/Zero, a sharp, formal black suit. Irisviel fixates on what a handsome protector Saber makes, and contemplates what a beautiful couple they make when she's escorted in public by her. Kiritsugu's partner Maiya also dresses rather austere and masculine, and keeps her hair short.
- Rei Ijuin, of Tokimeki Memorial 1, who has to pose as a boy in front of everybody due to a family custom, and this until her coming of age. It's a well-kept secret the Ijuin family zealously protects, to the point that even her little sister Mei doesn't know she's actually a girl!
- Kriska Stares from Sunrider.
- Cybersix: The title character's secret identity involves wearing glasses, recombing her hair and dressing as an English teacher named Adrian, and manages to fool everyone). She dresses in much looser clothes which hide her figure and speaks in a lower voice.
- Sonic Sat AM: Sally Acorn is an unintentional example. She is pretty much one of the only female characters in the entire franchise to dress in the same manner as the males.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smellerbee looks very boyish, but is actually a young girl. She's pretty sensitive about it, too.
- Female crossplayers are a particular real-life version of this trope, as groups will often pick their most masculine-looking female friends to cosplay Bishounen characters. This will often lead to bizarre situations occurring at Anime conventions, though people have generally learned not to question the gender of those entering bathrooms.
- "Otokoyaku" (boy role) actresses in Takarazuka. Often leading to copious amounts of Even the Girls Want Her.
- Pop singer/rapper Amber Liu of the Korean girl group f(x), whose androgynous image has resulted in lots of Even the Girls Want Her among the group's female fans. Look at her in this music video. I dare you to think otherwise.
- Janelle Monáe, the genre-blurring Genki Girl singer, is rarely seen without her proper tux and a white starched shirt. It also helps her bifauxnen image that she has what can only be described as "epic hair."
- Taiwanese singer Zhang Yun Jing, known for her androgynous image. She has been described as both "handsome" and "beautiful". Even the Girls Want Her, as her a large part of her fandom is comprised of females who take great pleasure in squee-ing over her various attractive features, masculine or feminine.
- In Andrew Loomis's Drawing the Head & Hands, he more or less sums up this trope when he talks about how artists have more leeway in drawing masculine looking women than feminine looking men (keeping in mind this was in the early 20th century, before bishonen characters became popular).