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Hen Pecked Husband

Howard: Your wife pushes you around? But you're a big scary cop!
Mr. Rostenkowsi: Well you're an astronaut and your wife pushes you around. And she's only 4 feet tall!

The poor guy; he squirms under the thumb of a domineering wife, very likely a Grande Dame. Her word is law, and he can only obey, with a meek and humble, "Yes, dear." We laugh at his misfortune, and maybe pity him a little.

Frequently, he will be a small figure, literally overshadowed by his behemoth of a wife. Bigger than he is, she nevertheless expects him to carry all her packages when out shopping, to run all her errands, and to care for whatever snarling pet she dotes on. All the while his own hobbies and sources of personal enjoyment will fall by the wayside ("No, honey, you can't watch the game Sunday, we're going antiquing!" — and he will).

Some of these men are resigned to the horror of their lives; others try to escape, oftentimes to their regret. There are two possibilities if the Henpecked Husband actually succeeds in standing up to his wife: either she'll hold her ground, provoking him to divorce her and revel in the newfound freedom, or his wife will not only back down, but instantly swoon and throw herself at him — she was secretly yearning for him to grow a spine all along.

A common feature in the Awful Wedded Life Dom Com genre. Originally, this trope was a subversion of expectations — a husband dominated by his wife was funny because it was the reverse of the normal, proper situation where the man was in charge of the household. After all, a real man could never be dominated by any mere woman, so the Henpecked Husband must be a wimp who deserves it. Today, the notion that the man must be the head of the family is mostly a Discredited Trope, but the idea that there's something inherently hilarious about a woman dominating a man still lingers. While cries of Henpecked Husband are sometimes raised at the slightest implication of a wife being in charge of anything, it's only very recently that it's started becoming common for the truly overpowering examples to be held up as abusive.

If it's a relationship where the two of them really love each other, this will be played even more for laughs, with the joke more likely to be not that the husband is suffering, but that he's delusional. Maybe the husband starts talking about how he "wears the pants in the family". The wife will then make a comment or suggestion, and he'll immediately cave. Yeah, he's whipped.

Compare Momma's Boy and My Beloved Smother in the case the husband is replaced by his son. See also No Accounting for Taste. In the process of slowly becoming a Discredited Trope in favor of Parenting the Husband.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga  
  • Goku in Dragon Ball is a zigzagged example. Even though Chichi usually seems completely in control of him, when he really wants to defy her wishes (which is usually for world saving business) he proves to be entirely capable of ignoring her. Normally, his easygoing personality just makes him happy to defer to Chichi's more forceful nature.
    • Krillin also qualifies, it's just that unlike Goku, it's more downplayed. He's shown to be very submissive to his wife, Android 18.
  • Japanese manga later turned into (a short-lived) anime Dame Oyaji (1970) takes this to the next level, by having the wife AND kids beat the snot out of the dad solely because they hate him. For those who don't know Japanese, the title translates to "Useless Dad".
  • The men of the Nara Clan in Naruto seem attracted to these types of relationships. Shikamaru claims his dad Shikaku is whipped by his domineering mother, the Tsundere Yoshino; not wanting to fall into that mess, he routinely states that he hates women like that. Yet he's stuck with Ino Yamanaka as a partner, then gets matched up against Kin Tsuchi, Temari, and Tayuya in the Chunin Exam and Rescue Sasuke arcs, with the second even saving him against the latter. He and Temari seem to be getting a little closer after the Time Skip, which they both deny.
  • Mr. Number One from one episode of Nerima Daikon Brothers. Poor guy.
  • In Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, Haruka's dad is this. Although he's an Over Protective Dad, and has the respect/command of a small commando unit and shareholders, he's largely afraid of his wife, who forces him to reluctantly accepts his daughter Haruka's relationship with Yuuto, and her interest in manga/anime. In one situation, another girl, Shiina, confessed to who she thought was a sleeping Yuuto, only to find out it was Haruka's dad. Although he was completely innocent, his wife still retaliated by accusing him of cheating on her.
  • Benkei in Sora O Kakeru Shoujo. Being a sentient space colony, he and Tsutsuji aren't technically husband and wife, but they fit...
  • In the first season of Slayers, there's a scene where a man falls under the influence of a cursed knife and starts attacking Lina and Gourry. His wife opens a window and yells at him, and he slithers meekly back to his shop. Lampshaded immediately afterwards as Lina comments that an angry wife is more powerful and influential than a cursed knife.
  • In My Bride Is a Mermaid, San's father is one of these. This is probably a good thing, given that he's an Overprotective Dad to the point of psychosis. Nagasumi's father is also a bit of a wuss compared to his wife.
  • Otsuka Akio, Ren's dad in Poor Poor Lips. On his first appearance alone, it's revealed that he needed to get permission from his wife just to visit Ren after she was disinherited, and that required a whole year of pleading to his wife.
  • Bleach plays with this by having every member of the Gotei 13 henpecked by Captain Unohana Retsu (who leads the meek and submissive 4th division) who needs only give a simple glare to make any of the other captains (and Ichigo) fall in line. Later becomes less funny when it's revealed she was the first Kenpachi, the most notorious criminal and murderer in the history of Soul Society.
  • Shaman King has an interesting example in Anna and Yoh... partially because they're both 14 years old and technically just ENGAGED to be married once they've both grown up. This, however, does not stop Anna from referring to herself as his wife - or treating him like a Henpecked Husband. Indeed, she tends to henpeck ANY man who goes near her, recruiting Yoh's True Companions to clean her house, do the shopping and cook for her, since she's busy making sure the laid-back Yoh doesn't slack off on his training! She has shades of a heroic Lady Macbeth too, in that she pushes Yoh towards his ambition of becoming the Shaman King - according to her, solely so that she can enjoy an easy life as the Shaman King's wife. Of course, in truth, she really cares deeply for Yoh and has enormous faith in his abilities. Her henpecking is simply the only way for her to break through his lazy "It'll work out somehow" attitude and make him undertake the Training from Hell he genuinely needs in order to achieve his ambition.

    Arts 
  • This is a staple of French cartoonist Albert Dubout's illustrations. He especially pushed the size difference to Exaggerated Trope level, having the husbands being midgets compared to their huge, heavyset battleaxe wives with Gag Boobs. Observe.

    Comedy 
  • Ralphie May comments on this in quite a few of his shows, bringing it down to you having the choice of either being "happy, or right, gentlemen."

    Comic Books  
  • General Alcazar from Tintin. He's a ruthless dictator and revolutionary but is completely submissive to his wife, whose temper is just as bad as his. The dissonance between his macho persona and his role in his marriage is Played for Laughs.
  • A one-shot side story from Will Eisner's The Spirit has a man running away from his overbearing (and possibly abusive) wife just as a criminal Identical Stranger is escaping from prison. The two agree to switch clothes, and the henpecked man is arrested and sent to solitary confinement — which suits him just fine, because at least he's got some peace and quiet. The criminal, meanwhile, is found by the police and sent back to "his" wife, which apparently turns out to be a pretty severe punishment in its own right.
  • Rajiv Bohdgi in the Yank Wilson story in the first issue of Next Issue Special. His wife, hotel heiress Berlin Holiday, is a domineering shrew who rants and raves at him day and night. Bohdgi, it should be mentioned, is an infamous supervillain. After their marriage, his actions become wild, destructive, and unpredictable — because he wants to be captured so he'll be taken away from his wife. Upon detaining him and learning all this, Yank Wilson has good news for the happy couple: they'll be sharing a cell in Fort Leavenworth.
  • Superman and Batman, of all characters, are portrayed in this manner in Bob Haney's "Super-Sons" stories in ''World's Finest Comics".
  • In the German comic Werner: Herr Hüpenbecker.
  • Several couples in Lucky Luke fall under this. One particularly amusing example was in "The Stagecoach", where the poor guy can barely open his mouth without his wife telling him that's enough out of him. She's also proving far more competent than he is at shooting. But, surprisingly enough, winning several poker games made him far more assertive.
  • This trope was made a central part of the Silver Age reimagining of Archie Comics' The Web as a superhero who constantly had to deal with his wife's constantly disapproving haranguing of being a superhero behind her back.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In Boys Und Sensha-do, Miho's father is implied to be this, as Miho says that "(her) mother runs the family and really dominates over (her) father." Miho's father does, however, vocally object to when his wife disowns Miho.

    Films — Animation 
  • Chicken Run, appropriately, has Mr. Tweedy in this role. His wife constantly berates him for his stupidity and never believes his claims that the chickens are plotting to escape. In the end, when Mrs. Tweedy's "chicken pie" plan backfires, he tells her, "I told you they were organised!"
  • The King of Hearts in Walt Disney's version of Alice in Wonderland. He at least tries.
    King: Consider, my dear. Uh... we called no witnesses... Uh... couldn't we... uh... maybe one or two? Ha? Maybe?
    Queen: Oh, very well. But get on with it!
  • In Fantasia 2000's "Rhapsody in Blue", one of the characters is a fun-loving husband who is forced to foot the bill and carry all of his wife's belongings, most of which are going to pamper her dog, who she seems to love more than him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A non-comedic example in Scarlet Street, where Edward G. Robinson's Chris is yelled at and pushed around by his domineering, shrewish wife. Chris's unhappiness in his marriage leads him into an affair, with tragic consequences.
  • Rebel Without a Cause has Mr. Stark being unable to stand up to his wife as a significant character point for their kid. In one scene he even wears an apron. In the Fifties.
  • The entire premise of Norbit.
  • The root of the character Bobby Davis in Wild Hogs.
  • The landlord in Kung Fu Hustle. To be fair, she was mad at him because he was cheating on her. But not that she is ever nicer to anyone else. Though him and the landlady are in fact Happily Married. And both of them are kung fu experts.
  • The Big Bad of the second Spy Kids movie turns out to be like this. At the end, when his plans have finally caved: "Wait till I tell Mom you tried to take over the world again." He responds appropriately.
  • In Madhouse, Fred is henpecked until he decides to take a break from his wife. When he returns, he refuses to serve her and she accepts him as her equal.
  • Used in Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor, where his own father is henpecked by his wife, seen in a flashback. It does change by the end of the film.
  • Many old Laurel and Hardy comedies feature this trope.
  • W.C. Fields would either play a henpecked husband or a Con Man (usually a Card Sharp) in his movies.
  • Dr. Ernest Menville from Death Becomes Her, at least until he starts developing a spine. In fact, he prefers suffering a near-fatal fall to being with his bothersome wife for the rest of his life. However, he is fairly tall and athletic, in contrast to the physically weak part of the trope. Also, he's played by Bruce Willis
  • Claude Rains was nominated for an Academy Award for playing one in Mr Skeffington.
  • Murray Seidenbaum in Stay Tuned.
  • Ryan O'Neal's character in Whats Up Doc.
  • The Yakuza boss in The Machine Girl is a complete sponge to his wife. She's the more dangerous of the two by far; he doesn't even want to punish the title character for her supposed misdeeds.
  • The fourth story of Creepshow, "The Crate", has this in the form of Henry Northrup and his alcoholic wife Wilma (but call her Billy, everyone does) to the point he imagines killing her several times. He eventually does kill by feeding her to monster in the title crate.
  • One of these is a supporting character in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao; his wife becomes nicer after surviving being turned into stone by Medusa.
  • School of Rock had this in the form of Ned Shneebly, who has a VERY domineering girlfriend that never hesitates to give him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • In The Baker (a.k.a. Assassin In Love), a fat slob of a woman constantly insults her meek husband, who doesn't have enough of a spine to defend himself. He turns out to be not so meek after all when he hires an assassin to have her dealt with.
  • Buster Keaton's Three Ages, during the scenes set in the 1920s. The father of the Love Interest is one.
  • Toshiro Mifune's character in Samurai Rebellion, until he decides to stand up for himself.
  • Ned in Imagine Me And You.
    Beth: So, Ned. How long have you guys been married, then?
    Ned: Thirty Years.
    Beth: (tenderly) Oh.
    Ned: If I'd killed her when I first thought about it, I'd be out by now. A free man.
  • George Putnam in Amelia is more then a little like this. They remain Happily Married despite what the title character puts him through because he is something of a Fool for Love.
  • Played for Drama in The Family That Preys. Andrea constantly belittles her husband and also rubs in his face the fact that she is a business woman and he is a construction worker.

    Jokes 
  • One Henpecked Husband tells: "In my marriage, I make the big decisions — what should be done about the Middle East, what the government should do about the debt... My wife makes the small decisions — what car we should buy, what house we should buy..."
  • Another one:
    Henpecked Husband: In my family, everyone is commanding. My wife commands the servants. My kids command the dog.
    Friend: And what about you?
    Henpecked Husband: I care for the flowers.
  • There are two gates for males to heaven. One reads "Men who are in charge", the other one reads "Men whose wives are in charge". There always is a long queue in front of the latter. One day, Peter noticed that there was one guy standing in front of the first gate. He asked "Why are you standing here?" The man answered: "My wife told me to stand here."
  • "I always get the final word in any discussion. It's 'Yes, dear.'"

    Literature 
  • In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the King and Queen of Heart may either be this played straight or as an aversion. On one hand, the Queen domineers and frightens everyone and the fact that her husband pardons all the people she asks executed (at one point, everyone present except for her, her husband and Alice) has to be kept secret. On the other hand, the King orders a few executions himself and is quite clearly the one heading the trial which ends the book, unlike how the Disney movie portrays it.
  • In The Silver Chair, the Black Knight is brainwashed into being utterly subservient to the Lady of the Green Kirtle. When Jill tells mentions people "don't think much of men who are bossed around by their wives" where she's from, he tells her she'll doubtless think differently when she's married herself. Jill finds this answer even more repulsive.
  • Barry Hughart's novel Bridge of Birds has the appropriately named Henpecked Hou. (The novel is an exhaustively well-researched fantasy set in "an ancient China that never was," and the Henpecked Husband is a Stock Character in Chinese comedy.) Hou eventually has enough and chops his wife to pieces with an axe. She really deserved it, though, for crimes much bigger than just being a nag.
  • Many James Thurber heroes.
    • One of the more famous examples in literature is Walter Mitty from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, about a grown man escaping constantly into light-hearted fantasies to avoid his wife. There are some Alternate Character Interpretations about both Mitty and his wife.
    • A lesser-known but rather outrageous example is "Mr. Preble Gets Rid of His Wife", where the title character attempts to murder his wife so that he can run off with his secretary. He's so spineless that she stops him just by complaining... and then she starts yelling instructions for her own murder at him.
    • Ironically, in reality Thurber was a documented serial wife abuser and general all-around unpleasant person. (It's very common for Real Life male domestic abusers to portray themselves as Henpecked Husbands — and, often, even believe it's actually true — which explains why they have to beat their awful, domineering wives in self-defense.)
  • The original Rip Van Winkle was trying to get a few moments' peace from his wife when he fell asleep.
  • The tales of The Brothers Grimm had a few examples of this. In "Hansel and Gretel", it's the wife who badgers her husband into abandoning the title characters in the woods. In "The Fisherman and His Wife", the wife is constantly demanding her husband ask grander and grander wishes of the magic fish. Until said fish is fed up and takes everything back.
  • Percy Hamleigh in The Pillars of the Earth is thoroughly under the thumb of his wife, Regan.
  • Every married man in The Wheel of Time series has some degree of henpeckery going on. In Ebou Dar, women wear knives to slice up or murder their husbands when they misbehave.
  • Mr. De Vil in Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians.
  • Peter Jerzyk from Stephen King's Needful Things.
  • Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter series, though it's an affectionate kind and they are Happily Married.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Jerome Squalor. If the guy says anything that his (ex)wife Esme doesn't like, he gets shot down faster than an enemy plane.
  • Agatha Christie
    • Inverted in The Hollow, in which the rooster-pecked wife is utterly devoted to her husband, and is treated with the same mix of pity and contempt that the Henpecked Husband typically is.
    • Dame Agatha also created several couples, usually American, in which the mercilessly talkative wife is waited on hand and foot by a compliant and apparently happy husband. Plus various husbands suspected (sometimes correctly) of doing away with disagreeable, domineering wives.
  • Maroof the Cobbler from one Arabian Nights story. Later however, The Dog Bites Back, if you know what I mean.
  • In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Goodman Adam Cruff is very much under the thumb of his wife, so far as he doesn't dare speak against her abuse of their daughter...until at the end of the novel, that is.
  • Discworld
    • Sir Samuel and Lady Sybil Vimes are a played-with example, as is usual with this author. They're deeply in love, and Lady Sybil's "nagging" just makes sure he eats properly and occasionally gets a day off, whether he wants it or not — which is something he actually needs, being an incredible Workaholic. Vimes' preferred method of arguing with her, however, is by exaggerating how henpecked he is until she feels guilty:
      Sybil: And you will try to look dignified, won't you?
      Vimes: Yes, dear.
      Sybil: What will you try to look?
      Vimes: Dignified, dear.
      Sybil: And please try to be diplomatic.
      Vimes: Yes, dear.
      Sybil: What will you try to be?
      Vimes: Diplomatic, dear.
      Sybil: You're using your "henpecked" voice, Sam.
      Vimes: Yes, dear.
      Sybil: You know that's not fair.
      Vimes: No, dear.
    • In Night Watch, a minor character named Rutherford is overshadowed by his loud, domineering wife, who can be as snobbish as nobility. Vimes imagines that he's the sort who would not actually murder, but would happily imagine spousal homicide on a regular basis.
    • From Snuff: the Colonel, though he unpecks himself at the end (and a Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moment).
    • In Mort, there's a guy who goes fishing every day because it keeps him out of reach of his wife, with whom he enjoyed six months of marital bliss. Some twenty years prior.
    • Thief of Time shows that War became this after marrying a retired Valkyrie, who keeps him from beer and red meat, threw all the undead warriors out of his longhouse, installed modern cooking appliances in place of the traditional fire pit, and insists that he wrap up warm and not exert himself when riding out to herald the end of the world. This is actually a plot point; each of the horsemen is shown to have picked up human traits over the course of their existence that prevents them from wanting to ride out, and in War's case this manifests as settling down, becoming soft, and coming to think himself susceptible to growing old and weak when he is immortal and shouldn't be able to.
  • The Other Father from Coraline. To be fair, it's hard to stand up to your wife when she's a giant spider monster. (Who created you.)
  • Harry Bannerman in Rally Round the Flag, Boys!, a tired businessman who tries to achieve inebriation on the 5:29 train home because he knows what awaits him there. Not that he doesn't regret providing his wife with a nice house in Suburbia and three too-perfect sons (though all of these were really her plans, requiring no more than absent-minded consent from him), but he is rather more interested in sex, even after ten years of marriage, than the community issues she considers more important to married life.
  • Henry Wilt in the Wilt series by Tom Sharpe fits this trope — a college lecturer who has had any lingeing ambition crushed out of him by years of discouragement who is married to the awful Eva, a woman keen to relate her own disappointment in Henry at every possible moment. Physically, Henry and Eva Wilt also fit the Tiny Guy, Huge Girl trope: in line with Sharpe's female leads, Eva is an Earth Mother, a larger-than-life woman who does everything to excess, including motherhood — she is mother to quad girls, also to Henry's discomfort. And they all take after Mum...
  • Emmon Frey from A Song of Ice and Fire is dominated by his wife Genna Lannister, to the point where he allied himself with Genna's house during the War of the Five Kings when the rest of his family took up arms on Robb Stark's side.
  • Ephraim Kishon in his satirical short stories, at least sometimes.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Played as straight as an arrow! Collateral Damage reveals that Karl Woodley has turned into this for his wife Paula Woodley. It's justified, because he was abusive and broke every bone in her body, and the Vigilantes broke every bone in his body in turn. Paula Woodley wants him to pay for all those wasted years! Unfortunately, this trope is not quite as justified with the relationships between the Vigilantes and their men.
  • Varien pretends to this to amuse his wife Lanen at one point in Tales of Kolmar. Really they are Happily Married; he tends to do as she says and their biggest argument in the trilogy happens when she tells him what she wants him to do and he immediately declares that he won't do it, but she doesn't order him around much.
  • The elf king in Everworld.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, there is a legend that Emperor Dorcas's Dragon "Pierre le Sanguinaire" was only afraid of two people, the Emperor and his wife. And some were doubtful about the Emperor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first half of the show, Pete Campbell of Mad Men was about as far from this as can be in the first two or three seasons, as can be seen in "The Mountain King" and "The New Girl". However, towards the end (last two episodes) of season three and then on, his wife Trudy becomes very nagging of the man.
  • A Running Gag in Roseanne is that Roseanne is the head of the family and pushes her husband Dan around. Or, in her own words, "I don't push Dan around. I am trying to put him in touch with his submissive side."
  • Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole calls his wife She Who Must Be Obeyed, but their relationship is this trope inverted; while she often bosses him about and has the apparent upper hand, he's usually manipulating her or undermining her anyway.
  • The entire premise of the 1970s Britcom Lollipop Loves Mr. Mole, with the fearsome Peggy Mount bossing around the meek and mild Hugh Loyd.
  • Keeping Up Appearances (pictured, above) beat this to death, then resurrected it to beat it some more.
  • Friends: Chandler after he marries Monica. A functional and healthy example though, as Chandler is happy letting Monica take control with the little things, but when big issues arise, (e.g. moving in together, planning for their wedding, new jobs, having children), they make decisions fairly, with a balanced, give-and-take dynamic. He's just a lot more relaxed and doesn't care how the crockery is organized.
  • Hal from Malcolm in the Middle seems like an example, as Lois is pretty clearly the one in charge in their marriage. However, Lois doesn't boss him around for fun, just to make sure that nobody ends up in prison, the hospital, or the morgue. In episodes that have Lois going out of town without the family, he does things like tear down the outer wall of their bedroom, or build a killer robot with a laser-guided bee cannon.
  • "Harcourt Fenton Mudd, you dirty, rotten lazy—" "SHUT UP!" "—thing... thing... thing..." In I, Mudd from the original Star Trek, con man Harry Mudd, trapped on a world of mostly obedient androids, has them create a duplicate of his nagging wife, who he reveals he was running from; only this version had an "off" switch. After the Enterprise crew frees itself, they leave Mudd on the planet with 500 more copies of his nagging wife — without the "off" switch — as punishment for his misdeeds.
  • Niles, from Frasier, when it came to Maris. Originally it was just played for comedy but, after he got a bit of Character Development, they got some pretty good emotional moments from it too (this also came with some characterization from Maris, who went from "selfish but oblivious" to downright spiteful.) Niles is quite weak-willed, so it's no wonder that his utterly monstrous first wife Maris, his second wife Mel, and his later-to-become third wife Daphne trample him on a daily basis.

    However, between leaving Maris and marrying Mel, he has had quite a bit of Character Development and learned to be much more independent and to take on more challenges. Thus, when Mel comes around, it is hard for him to slip back into the Henpecked Husband position. When he goes through his long separation from Mel before their divorce is finalized he is increasingly stressed out by her controlling manipulations and continued refusal to finalize the divorce, probably largely to punish Daphne. It is a Crowning Moment Of Awesome when he finally stands up to her — publicly, no less — and she is forced to acknowledge their agreement. By the time he gets involved with Daphne, he is still the same person and so very indulgent and in some cases weak-willed, but their relationship is nowhere near the imbalance of power that he had with his previous partners, and when they argue he is able to hold his own ground rather than just bribing her, begging to her, or giving in to whatever she wants.
  • Marcy D'Arcy was like this with both of her husbands on Married... with Children, with hilarious results.
  • Jerry Leadbetter in The Good Life; however, unlike most examples, he doesn't hesitate to put his foot down when he needs to.
  • Greg Warner on Yes Dear is this, complete with a classic Double Standard: if he even tries to put his own comfort first or asks Kim to give in during an argument even once, he's portrayed as selfish. But Kim gets to badger him mercilessly all she wants.
    • He actually uses his status as a Henpecked Husband to fix a problem that his wife couldn't. After their living room is redecorated by a professional, Kim notices a large flaw that she expects the decorator to fix. When he doesn't return her calls, she proceeds to leave hundreds of angry and threatening messages. Greg finally gets the guy to fix it by explaining that Kim is insufferable because of this, making Greg's life a living hell (the guy fixes the problem out of solidarity). When Kim finds out, she's initially angry, but then calms down when he points out that his approach worked.
  • The famous The Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough At Last" had the banker's wife refuse to let her husband read, at all, to the point where she won't let him read the condiment bottles at the dinner table and eventually rips up his poetry. Why she does this is never explained, and nobody cries when the bomb hits. (Well, not for her at least)
  • Trey in Noah's Arc increasingly becomes this as Alex's demanding nature is highlighted as the first season progresses. Interestingly, rather than being Played for Laughs its taken as a serious relationship issue (for which they even go to counseling).
  • Spoofed in the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer pretends to have a real corporate job for about a week. Jerry falls into the role of nagging House Wife.
  • Jon Gosselin from Jon And Kate Plus Eight was frequently portrayed as this on The Soup. Once news broke of what their relationship was really like offscreen, Joel McHale noted that the show was "just kind of sad now."
  • A droll Alfred Hitchcock episode starred Bob Newhart as a henpecked husband who orchestrates a clever plan to get rid of his wife — unfortunately for him, he goes straight from the frying pan to... another frying pan.
  • Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. As he is perhaps the archetypal Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, we laugh even harder at his misfortune.
  • Rory of Doctor Who. Lampshaded at his wedding:
    The Doctor: From now on, I'll leave all the kissing to the brand new Mr. Pond.
    Rory: Wait, what? No, I'm not Mr. Pond, that's not how it works.
    The Doctor: Yeah it is.
    Rory: ...yeah it is.
In "A Good Man Goes to War"...
(banging on door)
Amy: Who's that? Who's there? You watch it, because I am armed and really dangerous, and... cross.
Rory: Yeah, like I don't know that.
However, they do genuinely love each other; Rory's pretty badass himself, just not as dominant a personality as Amy is, so he's content to let her take the lead.
  • Ray from Everybody Loves Raymond, who went from being controlled by his mother Marie to being bossed around by his physically and verbally abusive wife Debra. Debra virtually lives on the Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male trope. She attempts to control every aspect of his life (she even tells him when he's "allowed" to hang out with his friends, while she hangs out with her own friends whenever she wants) and she is infuriated whenever he attempts to rebel. In one episode, it is revealed that she even convinced the poor man's own children to look at him with contempt.
  • Pete Cavanaugh and Ed Montgomery from Dharma and Greg.
  • The Sopranos. Tony Soprano's late father, according to Tony:
    Tony: Now that my father's dead, he's a saint. When he was alive, nothing. And my dad was tough. He ran his own crew. A guy like that, and my mother wore him down to a little nub. He was a squeaking little gerbil when he died.
  • Brett from Kath and Kim gets treated quite horribly by Kim, to the point where it becomes completely understandable why he eventually cheats on her.
  • George Mainwaring in Dad's Army acts like the tough, hard-hearted and indomitable bank manager and Home Guard platoon captain, but one phone-call from his never-seen wife Elizabeth can reduce him to complete spinelessness. While it's often played for laughs, a touch of melancholia was injected with the all-but-outright-stated implication that his fanatical devotion to the Home Guard is because it gives him not just power and authority in the town but because it gets him away from her and gives him validation he is sorely lacking from her.
  • In one episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert discusses the new evidence that Jesus might have had a wife.
    Colbert: You know things are gonna change, when I go to confess my sins, you know he's gonna tell her, you can't have secrets in a marriage [...] Oh, and listen up, he can forget that beard and the robe. From now on it is clean-shaven and a polo shirt. And when he comes again in glory it's gonna be in a minivan.
  • A very common sight in The Benny Hill Show, usually with Benny as the Henpecked Husband (and more often than not, Bob Todd in drag as the nagging wife). Up to and including Dr. Jekyll and Dracula (married to the Bride of Frankenstein) in the "Wonder Gran" skits.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, it's revealed that villain Gyp Rossetti is henpecked by his entire family of bossy women. When one of his stooges is about to leave, Gyp glares at him to force him to stay so that Gyp won't be left alone with the women.
  • In Lois and Clark, Lois ends up in a parallel world where Clark's parents died in a car accident, and he ended up marrying Lana Lang, who strictly forbid him from using his powers. Yes, Superman can't be Superman because his wife won't let him. Luckily, Lois changes all this and creates this world's version of Superman. Actually, the lack of Superman was why Tempus chose this reality in the first place.
  • Denzil from Only Fools and Horses was one, before his wife Corrine left him.
  • Amusingly, General Martok of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who is both clearly in love with, and obviously completely terrified of, his wife Lady Sirella. That's right, one of the most formidable military men in the galaxy is a henpecked husband. See this exchange from "You Are Cordially Invited", when Worf wants Martok to put in a good word for Jadzia with Sirella:
    Martok: That's not such a good idea. I ... don't want her to think that I'm ... interfering in her domain.
On Good Eats, Alton attempts to appease a giant with his green-bean casserole after an incident involving a magic beanstalk. The giant enjoys it, saying it's better than the one his wife makes, then two seconds later is responding to his nagging wife offscreen.

    Music 
  • Sean Morey's "The Man Song" is all about this trope.
  • In Pink Floyd's The Wall, the school teacher in "The Happiest Days of our Lives":
    When they got home at night, their fat and
    Psychopathic wives would thrash them
    Within inches of their lives.
    • This is also highlighted in the film version where the teacher is forced to eat a bad piece of meat by his wife, after which the film cuts to him taking out his aggression by spanking a student, and later in "The Trial" where the main character, Pink's, embellished, imaginary version of the school teacher appears as a marionette controlled by his wife.
  • Great Big Sea's rendition of "Scolding Wife".
    And if the devil would take her
    I'd thank him for his pain
    I swear to God I'll hang meself if I get married again
  • "My Wife", by The Who. The singer feels compelled to find "a black belt judo expert with a machine gun", among other things, to protect him from the little woman.
  • "Oh my commanding wife, she want to destroy my life." — Los Rabanes
  • Ricardo Arjona 's song, "El demonio en casa" talks about a man convincing a girl to move with him, and regreting it when she forbids him from going out with his friends and inviting her mother to dinner, among other things.

    Myths & Religion 

    Pinballs 
  • [[Film/Frankenstein1931 Frankenstien's Monster]] is implied to be one in Monster Bash; the Bride of Frankenstein's mode is called "Ball & Chain", during which she repeatedly hits him in the head with a Frying Pan of Doom.
    Bride of Frankenstein: How's this for a kiss? *CLONK!*

    Puppet Shows 

    Radio 
  • Fibber McGee and Molly had Wallace Wimple and Sweetie Face; we never hear from the wife, but apparently she's terrifying, and "Wimp" often puts Sweetie Face in situations likely to kill her — it never works. He was so iconic, that for years after, any character appearing in a cartoon from The Golden Age of Animation that copied his distinct voice and mannerisms could safely be assumed to be hen-pecked without further evidence.
  • Dylan Thomas managed this twice in Under Milk Wood. On one hand, you have the Pughs — Mrs Pugh nags and Mr Pugh reads books called Lives of the Great Poisoners. On the other, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard bosses both her dead husbands. Yes, there's no escape.
  • Swedish character Lille Fridolf, who started in radio and moved on to films and comics, was thoroughly dominated by his wife Selma, with Selma frequently swinging a rolling pin or other household object at Fridolf.
  • John Bickerson of The Bickersons is constantly henpecked by his wife, Blanche. Unlike most in this trop, John snarks right back at her, the Battles Royale between them is the point of the show.

    Theater 
  • Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is dominated by his wife, appropriately named Domina. (She gets it from her mother, it seems.)
  • Brian in Avenue Q, though it's a possible subversion since there's no indication that he actually minds it.
  • Thenardier to some extent in Les Misérables. This is in contrast to the novel, in which it's exactly the opposite.
  • Clyde from The Witches of Eastwick. Ends up killing her with a frying pan. With her dying breath, she jams his tie in the garbage disposal and hits on.
  • The title character in Shakespeare's Macbeth.
  • Inverted in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, in which a woman is psychologically abused into submission. Oh, and it was originally playing this for laughs.
  • Arcadia features Lady Croom, a noblewoman who rules over her husband so much you have to wonder if she's instated some sort of matriarchy in Sidley Park.
  • Daddy in Edward Albee's The American Dream.
  • Andrey Pozorov in Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters.
  • Chrysale in Molière's The Learned Ladies, although he gets better as the play progresses.
  • In Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood we have Mr. Pugh and the ghosts of Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard's two late husbands (Mr. Ogmore & Mr. Prichard); in the latter case, she continues to bully them even after they're dead!
  • Amos from Chicago is more henpecked in the original play, where he faithfully supplies alibis and money to a wife who cheats on him and treats him with contempt. He does consider divorce when he hears the news that she's about to have a baby, which he's sure couldn't be his, but is soon brought around to reconsidering.

    Video Games 
  • When Super Arrow from F-Zero proposed to Mrs. Arrow, he took too long to get to the point, so she ordered him to marry her. He even gets an allowance from her.
  • Jade Empire
    • Henpecked Hou. He's a homage to the one in Bridge of Birds (see under Literature, above).
    • Also the farmer you meet in the swamp very early on.
  • Baldur's Gate
    • Khalid, who speaks in a Porky Pig Pronunciation, and his wife Jaheira: he's perfectly happy with the situation, and the backstory reveals that his personality was like that long before he met her. They're Happily Married precisely because Jaheira's willingness to take charge gives him the kind of emotional support he needs.
    • The sequel has an NPC nobleman found inside the Copper Coronet, who has a wife of this kind: He's hiding from her in the back room of the establishment, along with the "escorts". The player character can force a confrontation between the two, which will lead to a Cat Fight to the death between the wife and one of the prostitutes who is smitten with the nobleman.
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, depending on the ending you get, Harry Mason may be potrayed as this. It's Deconstructed horrifyingly in the ending with this, however, and not played for laughs.
  • Suikoden has Hix from the first and second game.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, if Alistair was romanced by the Female Human Noble and later became King, his cameo in the sequel makes it very clear just who wears the trousers in their relationship;
    Alistair: Just because she killed an Archdemon, doesn't mean she scares me!
    Teagan: You just keep telling yourself that, your Majesty!
  • Among the colorful assortment of individuals you meet in Ordon Village during the prologue of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess are Sera and Hanch. Hanch is a rather diminutive man who is always hunched forward and seems rather morose who owns the town's general store. That being said, his wife, Sera, is the one who handles the actual sales. It's also heavily implied that she cares far more for her cat than her husband, and she constantly makes comments about her "good for nothing husband."
  • Mrs. Loomis, the unseen wife of sex-starved Deputy Loomis in Harvester, exaggerates this to a disturbing degree, beating him bloody with a broomstick if he ever catches him with dirty magazines (or hears about him even asking about them.) Like nearly everything else in the game, though, it's still played for very Black Comedy.
  • Abbot Hugo in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Being the Smug Snake he is, he resorts to invoking I Have This Friend while privately requesting some wine his wife demanded.

    Visual Novels 
  • Battler implies that this is the sort of relationship his father and stepmother, Rudolph and Kyrie, have in Umineko no Naku Koro ni. Battler also considers his father an irresponsible, philandering manchild, so he doesn't really mind that his stepmom "has an iron grip on [Rudolph's] balls", as he puts it.

    Web Comics 
  • Lenny frequently bows to Julie's wishes in Our Little Adventure. She's not a nag at all and a rather good person, though, so it's rather for the best. Indeed, Word of God is that Lenny's Character Alignment moved from Neutral to Good under Julie's influence.

    Web Original 
  • In Bite Me!, Lauren forces her boyfriend Mike to work out in order to get any. Even during the Zombie Apocalypse, she's constantly bugging him about moving out to their own home, away from Jeff and Greg.
  • Donnie DuPre in Demo Reel. He tries to make everyone think he's committing Financial Abuse by leeching off her paycheck, but it's quickly revealed to us that she's cold, distant and emotionally stonewalls him until he leaves her alone.

    Western Animation 
  • The Venture Bros. have an inversion of the trope in Sally Impossible. Richard Impossible acts like the worst sort of cold, jealous, controlling Bastard Boyfriend, keeping his wife shut up indoors at all times so the disfiguring condition he inflicted on her won't embarrass him. This is portrayed as pretty clearly abusive and disturbing, but on the other hand, it's Played for Laughs at the same time. Sally is much more sympathetic than her husband, but she's also portrayed as sort of comically pathetic in much the same way the classic male Henpecked Husband is. In fact, she's possibly even more absurdly spineless — she throws herself at any male character she meets, begging them to take her away from Richard, but makes no attempt to leave him without another man to take care of her. At least male Henpecked Husbands usually aren't shown to be waiting for a decent woman to come along and save them!
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson sometimes slips into this, but since he's by far the most extreme example of the Bumbling Dad, it's hard to imagine how the family could possibly function otherwise.
    • Ricky Gervais played one in the Simpsons episode he guest starred in and wrote, "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife". His character Charles Heathbar is married to a domineering woman named Verity, and then when Charles gets paired with Marge on a Wife Swap-esque show, he falls in love with her, but eventually gets over it and separates from his wife.
    • There's another humorous version in the episode where former President George H.W. Bush (the first one) and his wife Barbara move to Springfield and buy a house across the street from the Simpsons. When Bush spanks Bart for shredding his memoirs, he provokes an Escalating War between himself and Bart and Homer, which culminates in Bush and Homer having a fistfight in front of Bush's house just as former Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev has stopped by to give a housewarming present. Fed up with the whole conflict, Barbara orders her husband to apologize to Homer.
      George: But Bar, we can't show any weakness in front of the Russians!
      Barbara: (glaring at him with her arms crossed) GEORGE...
      George: (grumbling under his breath) Yes, dear.
      (Gorbachev smiles evilly and says something in Russian to his aide)
  • Used several times in Looney Tunes:
    • The early Daffy Duck cartoon The Henpecked Duck did this with a wife, complete with him being the one forced to sit on the egg being hatched. ("Yesth, m'love!")
    • Daffy is also married to a battleaxe in the later shorts His Bitter Half and Quackodile Tears.
    • In Honeys Money, Yosemite Sam marries a rich widow and quickly turns into the trope, having to do all the chores around the house.
    • At the end of the early Bugs Bunny short Hold the Lion, Please, after Bugs makes fun of a Lion named Leo who's wife calls him up and orders him home, aborting their chase, a Mrs. Bugs Bunny suddenly shows up and demonstrates that she's the one who wears the pants in the family.
    • Life with Feathers involves a lovebird who's so fed up with his domineering wife that he attempts to commit suicide by having Sylvester the Cat eat him.
    • The first Pepe LePew short, Odor-able Kitty, has Pepe turn out to be one of these... and we learn that he's actually an American skunk named Henry!
    • Porky's Romance, the first appearance of "Petunia Pig" in a Warner short, ran on this trope. Porky buys a box of chocolates to propose to Petunia and is thwarted by Petunia's annoying little dog repeatedly, as well as Petunia, who seems only interested in wanting to eat the chocolates. Porky, heartbroken, attempts suicide (aren't old cartoons grand?), but ends up hitting his head and imagines marrying Petunia and a sexy honeymoon period. After a "Time Munches On!" title card, Petunia and her dog are shown stretched out on the couch, fat as houses, and happily gorging themselves on seemingly infinite boxes of chocolates strewn all about the house while Porky slaves away in the kitchen doing all the cooking and cleaning and caring for the children while Petunia bosses him around. One really does have to wonder how the writers of this one viewed marriage, and if they knew that chocolate is lethal to dogs. Porky gets better. Waking from the nightmare, he runs away, returning only to take back his chocolates and give the dog a deserving kick in the rear!
    • In The Hole Idea the inventor of the Portable Hole is one of these. At the end of the story, she talks about how fed up she is with all his "useless inventions" and declares that "One of us has got to go!" So he drops her down one of his holes. Unfortunately, Satan pops up with his wife in tow from the very bowels of Hell, and moans "Isn't it bad enough down here without her?!"
  • On The Fairly Oddparents, Jorgen is brought to his knees by The Tooth Fairy. On live TV, no less.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Molotov is domineered by his wife, which offsets his Drill Sergeant Nasty persona at work.
  • A staple of The Flintstones and The Jetsons, which tended to follow the source material very closely in this respect — minus the obvious underlying affection. Sadly, Cosmo Spacely has his own power issues in dealing with HIS spouse! Seems like what Spacely gives to Jetson at work, Spacely gets at home! Call It Karma.
  • In one of the Clyde Crashcup shorts in The Alvin Show, called “Crashcup Invents a Wife” named Pictorial. Their relationship turns out like this, and Clyde eventually reaches the breaking point:
    Clyde: Now look here, Pictorial, my patience is wearing thin. I am a scientist, not a chambermaid. Leonardo is my able assistant, and I demand that you release him this instant. Your presence is this household has become unbearable! Do I make myself clear??
    Pictorial: ...You all through?
    Clyde: ...Yes, Pictorial, sweetheart.
At the end, Crashcup throws Pictorial out of the house and promises the fourth wall, "I'll be back next week, a bachelor at work."
  • On Phineas and Ferb, there is the recurring character, a meek man who is always shown being berated by his wife, usually for forgetting a key component of a new business venture (like buying a rabbit farm but no rabbits). To complete the Running Gag, the missing component falls out of the sky, usually due to Doofenshmirtz and Perry's antics.
  • Moral Orel:
    • A rather unfunny version with Clay and Bloberta, the latter of whom practically forced him to be his wife after being emotionally abused by her mother. The sad thing is they were actually hitting it off when they first met, with Clay a devout religious man. However she had to introduce him to alcohol and it went downhill from there till both were stuck in a loveless marriage with two kids.
    • Bloberta's father Raymond was also shown to be this, with her mother being overbearing towards her as well. Raymond was implied to actually be sympathetic and helpful towards Bloberta, but was too much this trope to be able to.
  • The Smoggies: Clarence is this to Emma.
  • Pongo from 101 Dalmatians: The Series is this in the episode, "Splishing and Splashing". Perdita forbids the pups from going to a pond on a hot summer day until they apologize to Lucy. Pongo asks her if that seems to harsh but he quickly knuckles down when she glares at him. And when they leave, Perdita dismisses Pongo when he comments that he hates being tough on the pups.
  • Inverted on Hey Arnold! with Oskar and Suzie. Oskar constantly nags Suzie to do things for him while he doesn't help out with any chores.
  • 1973/74 Superfriends episode "The Mysterious Moles". Maximums Mole is very weak-willed and dominated by his wife Minimus Mole. She's about twice his size, has a loud voide and regularly insults and demeans him.
  • Ed Bighead is constantly bossed around by his wife Bev in Rocko's Modern Life. She is the only person (well, toad) that he fears. His hot-headed personality makes it hard to feel too sorry for him. The fact that she's much nicer than him (most of the time) doesn't help either.
  • In Gargoyles we have Oberon, Lord of the Fae. He is often seen being either manipulated or "requested" by his wife, Titania. A line of dialogue explains it nicely.
    Titania: You have nothing to fear from him. On Avalon, Oberon's word is law.
    Princess Catherine: Does that mean he's always right?
    Titania: Not while he's married.
  • Shaggy's father, Colton, is this in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. He's quiet and timid in response to his wife.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch
    • The episode "King Klong vs. the Masked Marvel" has an obese battleaxe in the sports arena audience who volunteers her milquetoast husband Herbert into fighting the Masked Marvel.
      Wife: Herbert, I need a new fur coat. So get up there and win that money!
      Herbert: But, poopsie...
      Wife: Don't "poopsie" me, you spineless wonder! (to ring announcer) Hey, hold it! Here's somebody to fight that big tub of lard!
      Announcer: You're big enough, madam, but it's against the rules for women to wrestle ag—
      Wife: Not me, dum-dum! (holds up Herbert) Him!!
    • It nearly happens to Mr. Peevly in "Bridal Boo Boo." The bears send his name into a singles club and a similarly obese battleaxe named Bertha shows up. She henpecks Peevly, Botch and all the other zoo animals as well, going so far as to make Hair Bear keep his afro combed straight and neat.
  • one Famous Studios cartoon "Sudden Fried Chicken" dealt with Herman the mouse saving his friend Henry the rooster from his abusive domineering wife who constantly beats him and tells him how worthless he is, when Herman sees how well he takes her beatings and enters him in a boxing match.
  • The Scotsman from Samurai Jack is absolutely lorded over by his even bigger and more violent wife. And if the giant smile is any indication, he loves every minute of it.
  • Adventure Time: Finn becomes Marceline's henchman and is forced to do morally ambiguous things as a result. While helping Marceline "feed" on an old man (she actually just sucks the color red out of his bowtie):
    Finn: I'm sorry, sir. I'm bound by my code of honor to do what she says.
    Old Man: I understand, son. I was married myself once.

    Real Life 

  • Mary Todd Lincoln was reportedly rather abusive to Abraham Lincoln. She would throw potatoes at her husband and had once smacked him in the face with a piece of wood when he didn't build a fire quickly enough to please her. There was also at least one incident where she chased him outside with a kitchen knife, but when Abe saw a crowd of other people in town he picked her up and took her back inside, telling her not to do it in front of the neighbors. She suffered from severe mental illness (likely bipolar disorder) and was institutionalized by her own son later in life. The fact that Lincoln himself was killed by an assassin right in front of her probably didn't help her condition.
  • Maria Theresa was this to her husband Francis, although she did care for him. Being married to a beautiful, charming, and intelligent queen who has palaces and hundreds of thousands of soldiers, and lives in Austria, has its advantages obviously. But it can get awkward, particularly given that she is the ruler of a vast Empire, and that even though you are the one with the title "Emperor," you have it because you were fortunate enough to marry her...
  • By some accounts, Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons. One really wonders why he allowed men to have several wives, then. Maybe so they would henpeck each other instead of their husbands?
  • According to Napoleon Bonaparte, Marshal Edouard Mortier was "a brave man, but his wife pushed him around". Incidentally, Mortier was the tallest of the Marshals and a consummate if underrated Bad Ass.


GaslightingAbuse TropesHilariously Abusive Childhood
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Keeping Up AppearancesImageSource/Live-Action TVKenan & Kel
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alternative title(s): Whipped; Henpecking Wife
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