Compensating for Something
It's not the size that counts, it's how you use it!
"How come you park a tank outside the studio?"
"'Cause I got a really small penis?"
Like building an Evil Tower of Ominousness
or wielding a BFS
, there are just some things that have to make other characters wonder if a male character must be compensating for certain other inadequacies
rarer, a female character may be compensating due to A-Cup Angst
instead, but this is a relatively new spin on this trope.
Despite the joke, sometimes bigger really is better
, in a non-Freudian way. In these cases, you're not Compensating for Something, you're sane
Theorized by some
to be the reason Heroes Prefer Swords
If you actually have
a small penis
, it would unfortunately make you an Acceptable Hard Luck Target
See also Phallic Weapon
, Midlife Crisis Car
The examples are limited to In-Universe
. Please do not add your own speculations.
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Anime & Manga
- It's explicitly stated by the narrator. K (Vice's master) from Ultimo buys impressive vehicles and weapons to make up for his low intelligence and lack of physical power.
- Uzu Sanageyama of Kill la Kill wears a uniform with three large metal spikes jutting from the belt, and his Nudist Beach attire has three suggestively placed guns instead of the usual one. Now combine that with his canonically confirmed "size", and you got a guy covering for some obvious insecurities.
- In The Unfinished Spelling Errors of Bolkien, Martin Pearson notes that Saruman's Evil Tower of Ominousness is completely hollow, and wonders if he could be compensating for something.
- In his "We Like War" routine, George Carlin says that this is the whole reason for wars.
Men are terrified that their pricks are inadequate and so they have to compete with one another to feel better about themselves and since war is the ultimate competition, basically men are killing each other in order to improve their self-esteem. You do not have to be a historian or political scientist to see the "bigger dick foreign policy theory" at work. It sounds like this: What? They have bigger dicks?! BOMB THEM! And off course the bombs and the rockets and the bullets are all shaped like dicks. It is a subconscious need to project the penis into other peoples' affairs. It is called FUCKING WITH PEOPLE!
- Sad variation in Hivefled; Eridan was sleeping around as much as possible with the fleet to compensate for the fact that he found sex repulsive and terrifying, and if anyone suspected he wasn't perfectly normal he would be killed.
- Trixie likes to take potshots at the villain, Lord Umbra, with this remark in Unlikely Allies, referring to his imposing fortress and the immense beast he commands, respectively. He has plenty to compensate for, actually. Se also thinks that Twilight is compensating for something else with her massive magic power.
- In Every Class is Different, the Spy accuses the Engineer of this, citing the Engie's "ridiculously overpowered guns".
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- The RiffTrax edition of Spider-Man 3 suggests this is why Harry bought M.J. a bigger bouquet of flowers.
- In Stranger Than Fiction, this trope is invoked in reference to a double-necked guitar.
- There's a rather long monologue in M. Butterfly (a Deconstruction of Madame Butterfly and many Asian Stereotypes that's very vaguely based on a true event) related by the protagonist that his ex-girlfriend said that boils down to this: "Big Cars, Big Buildings, and all the great, big inventions are done by the guys with the smallest dicks."
"Say I'm a guy with a small weenie. I'm gonna take over this BIIIIIIIG country, or build this really TALLLLLL building, or write this really LOOOOOOOOONG book, so the other guys don't know, right? But the problem is, you're still wearing clothes, so you conquer the country or whatever, but you're still wearing clothes, so no one can prove who has the bigger weenie."
- Discussed in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, when a Mook questions why the heroes have such bigger guns than they do; his compatriot replies, "It's a phallic thing, I dunno."
- Even mentioned in James Cameron's Titanic, during a scene in which one of the boat's backers is bragging about the ship's capabilities, claims which our heroine Rose greets with some skepticism. "Do you know of Doctor Freud, Mr. Ismay? His ideas on the male preoccupation with size might be of some particular interest to you."
- In Undercover Brother, after noticing the size of Undercover Brother's car, hair, and jewelry, Sista Girl believes that he is "overcompensating for something." And of course, there's the matter of his "big, black, fuzzy balls" hanging from his car's rear view mirror.
- From Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time:
Amar: (to a Hashansin warrior with a huge sword) You know what they say about men with big swords... (bends finger).
- In the pre-credits sequence from Goldfinger, a girl asks James Bond why he always carries a gun. He just shrugs and says he has a "slight inferiority complex".
- Averted in the 1987 movie version of Dragnet:
Connie Swail: (who has just been rescued from becoming a virgin sacrifice) How come his is so much bigger than yours?
Officer Joe Friday: Miss?
Connie Swail: The gun.
Officer Joe Friday: I've never needed more.
- In the first sequel to Police Academy, it is revealed that gun obsessive Tackleberry is still a virgin.
- In Taken, Liam Neeson's character implies this is what his ex-wife's new man is doing when pointing out all the ways to rescue the girls that involve him utilize his wealth.
- In Iron Sky, the female commander of the U.S. fleet utters "That guy has to have the smallest dick in the world" when she sees his gigantic moon fortress.
- The entire message of Dr. Strangelove in one sentence: "Men make war to prove they have big dicks and it'll destroy the world now that there are nuclear weapons." In particular, General Ripper launches World War III specifically to compensate for his own sexual impotence, which he has blamed on the Soviets using Insane Troll Logic.
- In Freddy vs. Jason, Kia tries to distract Freddy by trash talking him. Among others things, she says that the knifes on Freddy's glove are probably his way of compensating for the obvious. She also notes that in contrast to him, Jason wields a huge machete instead.
- What Tony thinks about all the guns strapped on the War Machine armor in Iron Man 2.
- Adrian from Pain and Gain, who gets involved to pay for ways to make his penis work again.
- Death Proof. Lee and Abernathy watch Stuntman Mike burn rubber out of the service station in his Dodge Charger R/T 500 and conclude, "Little dick." Given that he gets his kicks by killing women with his car, and is later shown sitting with the hood ornament between his legs, they may be right.
- Joey, the resident Jerkass in 10 Things I Hate About You, drives a very flashy large car, and is revealed to have a very small penis.
- There is a joke about a man who wants to buy a gun. He tries every model in the shop, but always finds something wrong - not big enough, not shiny enough, wrong balance... In the end, the shop owner gives him a note and says "Here is my brother's address, he can help you." Once the man leaves, the assistant asks "Who's your brother, a private armorer?" The owner says "Nah, he's a sexopathologist."
- Erik Scott de Bie once mentioned a trend in his books: "I just got why all my annoying NPC wizard villains carried around blasting scepters... compensating, you know."
- Used hilariously in The Dresden Files: Harry has a standard revolver (it's really the only gun he can use), while Psycho for Hire Kincaid has an entire trunkful of weapons of all different sizes, all clearly built for this exact sort of mission. Harry looks at Kincaid's guns, looks at his gun, then looks Kincaid in the eye and says "My dick is bigger than your dick."
- A Song of Ice and Fire. After Queen Cersei burns the Tower of the Hand, and the new Hand announces that he's going to build his own tower twice as tall as the old one, she jokes that maybe he's hinting at something.
- In Shibumi, we have this passage:
In his experience, Hel
had found that only older North American drivers, with the long distances they habitually travel on good roads with competent machines, have become inured to the automobile as toy and as manhood metaphor. The French driver's infantile recklessness often annoyed him, but not so much as did the typical Italian driver's use of the automobile as an extension of his penis, or the British, driver's use of it as a substitute.
- In Jingo, Angua says "You know what they say about men who like big weapons." Her boyfriend Carrot says he doesn't know what they say, and Angua says, "They're, er, rather small." Carrot still doesn't get it and thinks she's referring to their height, since dwarfs and short watchman Nobby love big weapons. (Specifically, he says dwarfs love a big "chopper" ... one of those points where the reader wonders if Carrot is really as naive as he lets on.)
- Margin Play:
- At Thom Cullens's, Amber compares his skill with his weapon to his ability with his, ah, gun.
- Later, Amber makes a reference to this to Vadim ...and then Kasey repeats it later, just to be a dick.
- In Noob, the second novel only Mauve Shirt Shaadö has has a two-meter long BFG. Later, Omega Zell, while asking about him, refers to him as (paraphrasing) "the guy with a big gun who, if you want my opinion, must have been compensating for something".
- In The Man with the Golden Gun, M reads a psychiatric report on Scaramanga speculating that he uses a Hand Cannon because of his ambiguous sexuality. Which explains why the manly James Bond only has a Beretta .25 at this point in the novels. Bond does keep a long-barreled Colt .45 in his glove box though; does that imply he might 'come out of the glove box' some day?
- A Mage's Power: Because Culmus carries around a BFS, he is subject to many of these jokes. When Tiza makes fun of him for joining a joust (and using a lance), Basilard tells her to knock it off.
- In the Cheers episode "From Beer To Eternity", Diane confronts Gary, the arrogant rival of Sam's who has made it an obsession to prove his own bar as superior to Cheers. In a polite and classy "The Reason You Suck" Speech which for the most part consists of rebuking him for choosing "silly competition" over art and music, Diane innocently throws in a speculation that "perhaps you are compensating for some physical shortcoming"....
- On Top Gear, they stick nearly all flashy supercars in the "Uncool" section of the Cool Wall for this very reason:
Jeremy Clarkson: Let me put it to you this way: you would have to have literally no penis at all to buy a car like that. [...] The flashiness of your car is inversely proportional to the size [of your penis].
James May: Is that right? And you're saying that to a man with a 1.2 litre Fiat Panda? Mister swollen-wheel-arches Mercedes CLK Black.
Richard Hammond: He does have a point there. He does...
Jeremy Clarkson: You've got a Ford Mustang!
Richard Hammond: Let's move on!
- Hilariously, the Hummer H3, one of the most flashy and preposterous cars they ever had on the show, ended up being an exception to this rule because it was a giant middle finger to political correctness and it pissed off environmentalists.
- One episode of A Bit of Fry and Laurie has a hospital patient who has just had his genitals removed. The doctor, in order to help him cope, gives him a pet Doberman, a rusted white van, a subscription to Guns and Ammo, and a lot of camouflage clothing, telling him that it's standard policy. This joke doubles up when the patient complains about needing to urinate. The Doctor's response? If he drives around in that car, in those clothes, with that dog, people will be taking the piss out of him all the time.
- Doctor Who:
- Squeaked past the radar in "Robot", where the Doctor, speculating about what the robot's motivation could be, starts talking about Freudian psychology and 'compensation'. Cut to the Brigadier blasting the robot with a disintegration ray by firing from the hip. Causing the robot to get taller.
- In the reboot series of Doctor Who, the Master's "Laser Screwdriver", longer, thicker and more dangerous than the Sonic Screwdriver. It's never brought up in the show, but the producer claims that on the first day the prop was brought on set, he received a text message from David Tennant saying "His screwdriver is bigger than mine".
- When the Eleventh Doctor meets his earlier incarnation in "The Day of the Doctor", they whip out their sonic screwdrivers to establish each truly is the Doctor. Ten is disconcerted to see that Eleven's sonic screwdriver is bigger and fancier than his, even after he extends the tip.
Tenth Doctor: Compensating?
Eleventh Doctor: For what?
Tenth Doctor: Regeneration — it's a lottery.
- Happens in an episode of Supernatural, "Playthings"
Dean: Of course, the most troubling question is, why do these people assume we're gay?
Sam: Well you are kind of butch, they probably think you're overcompensating.
- On another occasion, Dean implies that Cas is doing this when Cas boasts to another character about how large his true form is.
- Stargate SG-1. Shortly after returning as a regular cast member, Vala makes an accusation of this to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. General Landry was not amused.
- In an episode of Friends, "The One Where They All Turn Thirty", Ross buys himself a sports car:
Ross: How hot do I look in this? Huh?
Chandler: Ross, a sports car? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just stuff a sock down there?
- In the episode "Night Of The Nearly Dead" of Father Ted, the character Eoin Mc Love is an arrogant manchild who gets what he wants regardless of the effect it has on other people. Eventually, his PA makes him apologise and he confesses to Ted and Dougal: "I haven't got a willy".
- Noah's Arc: This exchange between Noah and Wade in the first episode:
Noah: "Wow Wade, thats one big truck. Hope you're not compensating for anything."
Wade: "Nah playa, it's all good in my hood."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer - in "The Zeppo", Xander, trying to establish a cool identity for himself, shows up at school in his uncle's flashy '57 Chevy convertible, referring to it as "my thing". Buffy asks "Is this a penis metaphor?"
- Vampire Spike gets a Restraining Bolt that prevents him from attacking humans, and a Running Gag involves this situation being compared to impotence. In one episode he tries out a pistol, but finds he can't even aim it at someone. He responds by demanding a bigger gun.
- Averted when Spike fights Buffy for the first time in "School Hard". They're both holding weapons and Buffy asks if they're really necessary. Spike replies; "I just like them. They make me feel all manly." He then tosses his weapon aside.
- Exaggerated by dance duo Captain Ahab on I Don't Have a Dick, in which the singer brags wildly about his material possessions (all of which have Axe Cop levels of awesomeness, but lack in terms of practicality) in between shouts of the Title Only Chorus.
Subverted in the studio version, which features a monologue in which the singer points out that there is absolutely no correlation between his lack of genitalia and his ridiculous levels of awesomeness.
- In Low Life, this is the name of an Edge which grants a bonus to Spirit rolls whenever the character in question is wielding an oversized weapon.
- Averted in Warhammer 40K as far as orks are concerned: True, they fervently believe Bigger Is Better applies to every aspect of their lives, including ridiculously oversized guns and vehicles, but seeing as they reproduce asexually, there's nothing to compensate for (indeed, they reproduce by dying, so their oversized guns tend to help with that by making them priority targets).
- When looking at Richtofen's portrait in the Kino Der Toten map of Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, the player's character can be heard saying, "His portrait's bigger than anyone elses. Must be trying to compensate for somethin'."
- Admiral Vigoro in Skies of Arcadia just oozes this trope. His flagship, The Draco, has a giant cannon on it that looks sort of like... Yeah. His main taunt before his ship boss fight starts is that said gun, in his own words, is "bigger than yours." Aika loudly suggests that he has a complex and is obviously compensating for something.
- The Brotherhood gang of Saints Row 2, fans of excessive tattoos and big cars, use a giant truck called "The Compensator".
- If you choose to upgrade The Ravager in the Baldur's Gate II expansion Cespenar wonders if this is why.
- "That is quite an impressive body you've built. But I believe only 30% of it is truly necessary. Are you perhaps, compensating?" — Rachel Alucard on defeating Iron Tager, BlazBlue.
- Orlok the Eternal from The Hierarchy in Universe at War will frequently decree "I compensate for nothing."
- One of the more expensive cars in The Sims 3 is called the "VFN Kompensator".
- In Fallout: New Vegas, Rose of Sharon Cassidy thinks that Caesar's choice of a Bull for his insignia means he's compensating for something. She also thinks the Two Rangers Shaking Hands statue at Mojave Outpost is this as well.
- In Mass Effect 1, Joker seems to make a snarking comment about it when his tiny Normandy passes the absolutely homongous Destiny Ascension by saying that "size isn't everything". But he then clears it up that he didn't meant to imply that he was feeling inadequate, but that the Ascension's firepower is even more impressive.
Anders: You've got a real chip on your shoulder, you know.
I've got a big blade
on my shoulder, magey.
Anders: Right. Wonder what you're compensating for?
- In Exit Fate, Trevor's ridiculous Ridiculously Huge Sword is mocked by both Daniel and Sick for this reason.
Daniel: And what's with that ridiculous sword anyway? It's like a huge slab of iron!
Sick: He's compensating.
- Naoto of Persona 4 is a rare example. Naoto is actually a girl, who both dresses up and acts like a boy as she feel that her being a private detective would be ridiculed by the authorities due to gender bias. Her shadow manifests as her desire to be accepted for who she is, and attempts a (possibly fatal) gender change operation on Naoto. It doesn't help that her Persona, Sukuna-Hikona and its evolutions, Yamato Takeru and Yamato Sumeragi, have extremely long swords compared to their small bodies. Not to mention they based on male legendary figures, making her the only one in the game that has Persona not in a same gender.
- Salvador, the vicious "Gunzerker" of Borderlands 2, stands at a tiny 5'4" due to steroid abuse stunting his growth. His ability to wield Guns Akimbo is called "gunzerking", and he knows exactly what it looks like. "TIME TO COMPENSATE!" Whether he's compensating for his height or that other thing is open to interpretation.
- In Halo4, The Mammoth is the size of an ocean liner, with wheels the size of houses, and the biggest gun right on top of it. Cortana being Cortana...
Cortana: Well. Someone's overcompensating.
- In Zap Dramatic's Move or Die, Wilma suggests that the nursing home guy needs a gun to compensate for "a lack of firepower elsewhere." Predictably, he attempts to shoot them for it.
- This idea permeates just about everything to do with the sleazy stripclub owner/porn czar Mars from Broken Saints, from the way he talks to (surprise) his gun.