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Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa

Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean,
And so between the two of them, they licked the platter clean.
- "Jack Sprat", an English nursery rhyme

Frequently, when a couple is introduced, you'll notice a considerable difference in their figures. The man will often be slender or trim; scrawny, even; while the woman is more likely to, well, have a little more to love.

This trope can be implemented for a variety of different reasons. In some cases, it could be to allow the wife to have a more imposing presence, while making her husband appear more demure and submissive in comparison. By the same token, an artist may purposely draw the wife with soft, rounded features in order to convey warmth and hospitality, rather than dominance (the husband, by contrast, will have sharper, more angular features). Note that the couples who fit this trope do not necessarily have to be parents, but the wives and husbands who do will typically have traditional maternal and paternal traits, respectively.

While most inversions of this trope fall under Ugly Guy, Hot Wife (since we tend to see fatness as unattractive), the trope itself is not generally used to make the wife look ugly.

May overlap with Tiny Guy, Huge Girl (though that usually refers to a different kind of 'hugeness').


Examples

Advertising
  • This Slim Quick weight loss product commercial shows an animation of how an equally-overweight couple went on some weight-loss program, with the woman dropping one size while the man dropped six sizes (and his pants). The Slim Quick product is billed as "weight loss for women" (apparently accounting for common differences in metabolism between the sexes).

Film
  • The Master of Disguise has Pistachio's parents, Fabbrizio and Mama Canoli. In this case, Mama Canoli's girth is used to convey motherly love, particularly a fixation with feeding her son. In fact, just before she gets kidnapped, we see her making a canoli for Pistachio.
  • Old Man Nebbercracker, who lives in the Monster House, is lean and wrinkly, befitting a man his age. His wife, Constance, however, was so corpulent that she used to be kept in a cage on display as a circus freak.The ongoing torment and ridicule by the circus patrons has made Constance viciously antisocial. Nebbercracker's cantankerousness is his way of shielding the neighborhood children from his wife's murderous malevolence.
  • Norbit provides a rather extreme example, though the difference in girth between the titular protagonist and his wife, Rasputia, is mostly Played for Laughs.

Literature
  • Lady Sybil Vimes from Discworld is described as being much larger than her husband, Sam. While the other characters tend to be intimidated by her imposing presence, the book describes her as kind hearted and compassionate. She also abides by most traditional maternal roles, though she does so out of duty and obligation, rather than necessity.
  • In Harry Potter Molly was frequently described as a short, plump, kindly-looking woman, whom Harry was shocked to see that she could so easily look "like a sabre-tooth tiger" when she was angry with her sons. She was also described as "porky," by Draco Malfoy, in the course of his typical taunts about the Weasley family, and "dumpy" by Vernon Dursley, despite the fact that he and his son were much larger than the slightly plump Molly. Her husband Arthur Weasley possessed the tall, thin build inherited by his sons Ron, Percy, and Bill. Arthur was less strict than his wife, and his children usually thought he was funny.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire provides a rare example of this trope being invoked and by a young couple. Lord Roose Bolton is a bit of a Medieval health nut, leeching himself constantly and drinking hippocras rather than wine. When he was given his pick of women to marry from the House Frey, he was offered his bride's weight in silver for her dowry. Upon hearing this, Roose purposely chose Walda, the fattest one.
    • Played straight with Jenna Lannister and Emmon Frey, Tywin Lannister's sister and brother-in-law.
  • In Journey To The River Sea Mr. and Mrs. Carter, who are the protagonist's Jerkass guardians.
  • The Wormwoods are this in the book version of Roald Dahl's Matilda. Reversed in the movie: they're played by Danny DeVito (Mr.) and Rhea Perlman (Mrs.)
  • Jack Sprat and his wife, as pictured above. Other depictions often have him shorter as well, emphasising the Tiny Guy, Huge Girl even more.

Live Action TV
  • This phenomenon is referenced in Andy Richter Controls The Universe as part of the reason Byron gives for hating racists: all their women are fat and their men are all skinny.
  • The That 70s Show episode "The Crunge" had a flash-forward of Hyde and Jackie in married life, where Hyde has a bit of a beer paunch (but isn't that big relatively speaking) but former cheerleader Jackie has really let herself go and is quite a bit bigger than Hyde. You Tube clip here.
  • Dr Harold Abbott and his wife Rose from Everwood visually fit as Harold is tall and lanky, while Rose is chubby. However, she's fairly tall and in no way fat. They also have a healthy family dynamic and consider themselves Happily Married.

Musical Theater
  • In most productions of Hairspray (as well as in the original John Waters film), Tracy's parents, Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, are cast to fit this trope. This is partially done to visually establish a bond between Edna and Tracy. Part of the reason why Edna is initially reluctant to let Tracy audition for Corny Collins is her fear that Tracy will be ostracized because of her weight (and she, as a plus- sized woman herself, should know exactly what it's like). Wilbur, on the other hand, plays a relatively minimal role in the plot, so directors usually have no problem casting him as a smaller, more slender man.

Newspaper Comics
  • Snuffy Smith is a lean and mean li'l runt, while his wife Loweezy has let her girlish figure go south. Loweezy does almost all the work around the homestead, thus she has the build of a bull ox. Snuffy spends most of his waking hours brewing moonshine, stealing chickens, and cheating at cards. His lean figure is partly due to meager jailhouse grub.

Video Games
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has Luv and Bertie, the couple that runs the potion shop. From their dialogue, it is evident that Luv is the dominant one in the relationship, while Bertie is a shy, ineffectual Henpecked Husband. He also seems to be primarily responsible for looking after their infant child.

Western Animation
  • The Cleveland Show has Lester and Kendra Krinklesac. While Lester has a rather weedy physique, Kendra's years of compulsive eating have rendered her so morbidly obese that she needs a Rascal scooter to get around. Due to her debilitating obesity, Lester has to take up the responsibility of being the primary breadwinner and caretaker of the household.
  • Muriel and Eustace from Courage the Cowardly Dog fall into this. In this case, the contrast is definitely used to convey softness and roughness, respectively; the plump-figured Muriel is defined by her warmth and motherly instinct, while the stick-like Eustace is a hot tempered curmudgeon who only smiles when he wants to laugh at someone else's pain. Considering the way Eustace's mother treated him, his behavior isn't all that surprising.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has the couple that runs Sugarcube Corner, Mr. and Mrs. Cake. Mrs. Cake isn't exactly large, but she's considerably more pudgy than her husband. From their few appearances in the show, we can tell that both of the Cakes tend to be even tempered and sweet, but Mrs. Cake in particular is defined by her affectionate nature, addressing nearly everyone she knows as 'Dearie'.
  • In South Park, Kyle's parents, Gerald and Sheila Broflovski, definitely qualify as this. In earlier seasons, Sheila's size was used to convey dominance and aggression (earning her the 'Big Fat Bitch' moniker), but as the series went on, that aspect of her character seemed to fade away. She's still quite protective of Kyle, but her Mama Bear tendencies have been downplayed considerably. After The Movie, the writers made a special effort to show her warmer, more affectionate side. Gerald, on the other hand, has consistently been portrayed as a bit of a Jerk Ass (though no more so than most of the other South Park residents).
  • The 1936 Van Beuren Studios cartoon "Toonerville Trolley" has the lean and wily old goat The Skipper operate the trolley, while his hefty emigre wife keeps house. However, whenever some hazard impedes the trolley's progress, either The Skipper's ingenuity or his wife's magnificent muscles remedies the situation. This cartoon typifies an Acceptable Ethnic Target of the time that women from East Europe / White Russia were fat, ugly and manly strong.
  • Emily and Mac Duff, the parents of Elmyra from the Tiny Toon Adventures episodes, "Take Elmyra Please" and Grandma's Dead".
  • Rudy's parents, Joe Tabootie and Millie Tabootie, from ChalkZone.

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