Characters with a Darwinist Desire only value one thing in potential mates; their perceived genetic fitness. They don't care for love, sexual pleasure, 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
. To some extent, sexual selection takes this path - many traits which represent fitness are selected for by partners, though mostly without conscious purpose in the case of most animals.
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".
of Chosen Conception Partner
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Anime and Manga
- The Mucbak in Level E are stated to find mates from other species this way.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search revealed that Prince Ozai only married Ursa because Fire Lord Azulon and the Fire Sages believed that combining the bloodlines of Avatar Roku and Fire Lord Sozin would produce powerful firebending offsprings for the Royal Family.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?'."
- 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 Dahl' 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 white and green) aren't helping much.
- Also, at puberty all clients have a gamete sample taken and frozen, and are then surgically sterilized. If they get a green card or higher their fertility is restored, otherwise they have to have kids by IVF and are often required to adopt children produced with higher-rated gametes in addition to or instead of their genetic offspring. Red cards aren't allowed to reproduce at all, and Probationers aren't even allowed to be near children.
- 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 and get the money offered by the Foundation". In Time Enough for Love Lazarus Long, the oldest human on record, finds that there's still a bit of that attitude among the Howards when several women (most of whom are his descendants) ask to bear his children.
- In Digital Fortress, Hale has a few thoughts along these lines (feeling that the protagonist's genes would be wasted on her Love Interest while if he had children with her they would be "perfect"). Amongst other signs he's a jerkass.
- The all-female dryads in The Witcher series mate only with (human) men whose genes will strengthen their race. This also makes them utterly uninterested in getting it on with the eponymous witchers, who are all sterile (although Geralt can woo a dryad in The Witcher game by pointing out that sex is good for health, too).
- In False Memory, by Dean Koontz, this is Claudette's reason for choosing Mark Ahriman to impregnate her with her first child when her then-husband proves infertile. She didn't like the sperm donor as a person, but loved his genes. Unfortunately for the baby, she was born with trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and was murdered by her mother. The grudge between the bio-parents of the ill-fated infant is still affecting the lives and in some cases deaths of those in contact with either decades later.
Live Action TV
- Nietzchians in Andromeda are a species of Social Darwinists who compare pedigrees when courting. Tyr married a member of a Pride his crewmates were fighting after he attracted her attention by besting one of their strongest warriors. And even after he left her and forced her Pride to leave their home she decided to keep his child (their relationships move quickly), in part because in defeating them, he had shown himself to be extremely cunning and capable.
- 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, when the guys meet Sheldon's sister and all want to try and date her, one of them makes the mistake of getting Sheldon involved by convincing him he should care who his sister may end up producing children with since they share genes (on the hope that the offspring might be a genius like him). Sheldon of course, gets way over involved in determining which, if any, of his friends would be the best genetic match with her. When she finds out, she makes her feelings known to Sheldon... by kneeing him in the groin.
- Leonard sees this in his pursuit of Penny:
Leonard: (gazing wistfully at Penny) Our children will be smart and beautiful.
Sheldon: Not to mention, imaginary.
- 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.
- 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".
- Subverted in Gargoyles, as when Xanatos proposes to Fox he tries to justify it with how they're a genetically good match, and when she asks about love his response is "I think we love each other; as much as people like us are capable of that emotion." But by the end of the episode, he's surprised himself with the fact that he truly does love her.
- 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.
- Note that historically, actual eugenics programs were not neccessarily good at determining genetic fitness. The Nazis believed in a "master race", but as anyone with a understanding of genetics can tell you the most genetically superior individuals tend to be mutts, involving a principle called 'hybrid vigor'.note There ARE cases where breeding with the member of the same race is better genetics wise, but has less to do with race posturing and more to do with the fact that the same members of certain races (African) can vary more genetically on average then if they interbreed with members of a different race. In other words race has so little to do with genetic superiority that the Nazis were actually right about interbreeding in some cases, for the COMPLETE opposite reasons of what they proposed.