Lean and Mean
"Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;Black robes not fitting properly? Just try being a little more evil! Kicking puppies is good exercise after all! And don't worry about those meals you skip while you're scheming to take over the kingdom. Yes, the combination of your new villainous lifestyle and the laws of narrative causality will make those annoying extra pounds vanish before you can say "Are they even feeding Yzma?" Sometimes used for a Freud Was Right explanation, where the villain is nasty and vicious because she's so hungry. Very common among fashion-oriented shows to explain why the size 0 model is so cranky. Also they can be the Thin in the Big, Thin, Short Trio when being an evil group to contrast with the fuller member and the squat member. The reverse Villainous Glutton / Fat Bastard style is also relatively frequent (cf. Ursula, the Blob), but nowhere as lampshaded as the Lean and Mean look. Also contrast Large and In Charge. Particularly skinny or gangly-proportioned villains may qualify as Noodle People. Villainous Cheekbones often winds up overlapping with this trope. When the hero is stronger and/or dumber, this often leads to Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good.
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."
— Caesar, Julius Caesar
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- One Piece: Pre-Time Skip, the three Admirals are all tall and thin. On a side note, Aokiji doesn't quite fit the "Mean" part of this trope unlike his fellow Admirals (namely Akainu).
- Wapol is normally a Fat Bastard, but his Extreme Omnivore powers allow him to swallow his excess bulk and become sinisterly slender. He actually describes this form as "lean and mean" in both the 4kids and FUNimation dubs.
- This also applies for Van Augur and Laffitte of the Blackbeard Pirates.
- Caesar Clown.
- Hellsing's Rip Van Winkle is extremely tall and thin. For that matter, Alucard also counts.
- Death Note has Amane Misa. She appears as The Ditz to most people, despite being rather clever herself and she is the Second Kira, though her low weight and lean figure can also be explained due to her job as a model.
- L is not quite "evil" but he definitely is not a purely good person, and he is shown as being very pasty (due to lack of sleep and not going outside too often) and thin (despite shoving cakes and other sugary treats into his mouth a lot).
- Bleach: Nnoitra and Nanana are both very thin villains, even by the thin standards of the story's characters.
- Eyeshield 21: Purposely invoked with Hiruma, who's supposed to resemble a devil. He's mean, but he's more an anti-hero than a villain.
- Yoshiyuki Tomino liked his women with a bit of meat on their bones, which was why the villainous Kycilia Zabi of Mobile Suit Gundam was noticeably skinnier than the rest of the female cast.
- Viper Snakely from Kimba the White Lion.
- Orochimaru from Naruto is a fairly tall, lean man. Lean like a snake is more like it.
- Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist, more so in the 2003 anime version. Incredibly slim and muscular with a form fitting body suit that really extenuates the slim physique. And "mean" rarely defines someone as it does him/her/it.
- Beerus from Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods sticks out for being very lean compared to the more muscular members of the cast, even sporting visible ribs and mostly resembling a humanoid hairless cat, and he's also the God of Destruction who could order Frieza around.
- In Guardian Fairy Michel, Boogy is the thinnest of the Black Hammer Gang besides Salome, and is her second-in-command.
- The demonic Violator from Spawn seesaws between this and Fat Bastard; as his alter-ego, Clown, he's an obese Depraved Dwarf with vaguely clown-paint like facial markings. As his true self, he's a spindly, emaciated, lanky-looking demon.
- Most incarnations of Ragdoll in The DCU, but in The Batman it was taken to serious extremes; the Ragdoll is a tall, rail-thin thief and contortionist who is literally capable of fitting inside a top hat. Also, as he is often depicted as frail.
Ragdoll: I weight seventy three pounds.
- One of The Joker's many nicknames is "The Thin White Duke of Death."
- The Batman villain Scarecrow is so thin that he was bullied as a child for his resemblance to Ichabod Crane.
- The Joker is also almost always depicted as being very thin, but with a wiry strength that makes him a better physical fighter than his frame would suggest.
- Many skinny aliens in Sillage turn out to be villains. Most notable of them is consul Atsukau, a corrupt politician and collector of lovers from different species, obsessed with the protagonist.
- In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, it's mentioned several times how skinny Johnny is.
- Mesmo Delivery: Sangrecco, a people smuggler/hitman/demon? In his spare time he's an Elvis Impersonator presumably of the king's earlier period.
- Loki is probably the skinniest male in Asgard. He is also one of Thor's meanest villains. Mind you, it only holds when compared to Asgardians. When compared to most normal humans, he seems pretty toned.
- Invoked by Big Eater Volstagg in Journey into Mystery, who explains his distrust of kid Loki by saying that, like his previous incarnation, he picks at his food.
- Volstagg would be proud to see the obsession Loki developed with breakfast meats (especially bacon) in later series though. Oddly after the body snatching. So this is partially that "not trustworthy" previous incarnation we're talking about. What this means is anyone's guess.
- Rake of the Bounty Hunters in Gen¹³. 6'5", 135 lbs, he's called Rake because of the long, metal claws on his hands. He's also a sadistic killer who likes to carve people like pumpkins.
- Judge Dredd: The mass-murdering Judge Death is a very skinny fellow, mostly because he's an undead spirit inhabiting a corpse. He's quite tall but only weighs around 67 kg. He's also surprisingly strong for his size, being able to throw boulders into the air with ease and lift people up as if they were nothing.
Films — Animated
- Ratatouille: Straw Critic Anton Ego is thin for someone who eats for a living. As he explains, "If I don't love it, I don't swallow."
- Franklin Bean in Fantastic Mr. Fox is just as thin as in the book, for the same reason.
- Many, many Disney Animated Canon villains: Cruella de Vil, Jafar, Madame Medusa, Frollo, Prince John, Maleficent, Scar...
- Yzma of The Emperor's New Groove takes this to a new extreme, although it's not unreasonable to assume she may have been most attractive a century or two ago. She was shown to be quite attractive as a teenager in the episode "Cool Summer" of the show.
- Scar of The Lion King is much skinnier than Mufasa and Simba or even some of the lionesses. He even points out his lack of brawn earlier in the movie.
- And then there's Dr. Facilier from the new The Princess and the Frog. He's thin to the point of stylized in an otherwise rounded, naturalistic-proportioned world. He also shows off his belly-button with a midriff-bearing shirt.
- Honorable mention must be given to Mulan's Obstructive Bureaucrat Chi-Fu.
- The Other Mother's true form in Coraline.
- Tzekel-Kan, the evil High Priest in The Road to El Dorado, highlighting his asceticism and religious devotion beside the comfortably worldy (and obese) Chief Tannabok.
- From Kung Fu Panda 2, we have Lord Shen, an albino peacock who is the movie's Big Bad.
- An Extremely Goofy Movie has Bradley Uppercrust III, the rail-thin Faux Affably Evil Jerk Jock.
Films — Live-Action
- Charlie's Angels: Creepy Thin Man from the movie had a Heel-Face Turn which triggered Redemption Equals Death.
- Metropolis: Joh. Fredersen, ruler of Metropolis, has an assistant only credited as "The Thin Man". And while most of his scenes got chopped out in subsequent releases, it's indicated in the 2002 restoration that he beat the crap out of Josaphat trying to find out what Freder was up to. (This may need to be edited once the full restoration with the missing scenes comes out.)
- Star Wars:
- In Pan's Labyrinth, the Pale Man.
- Home Alone: Inverted in the first two movies, where short, round Harry is clearly the more malevolent half of the Wet Bandit Gang. Tall, skinny Marv, by contrast, borders on Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain much of the time.
- In the first Hellraiser film, all Cenobites are rather slender, except Butterball, of course.
- Loki in Thor, as consistent with the comicbook basis above. Tom Hiddleston even said he was precisely going for this look.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day: T-1000, contrasting the muscular and bulky T-800.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger
- In the Loop: Malcolm Tucker. Commented on by a portly American general, who says he looks like a "squeezed dick."
- The Thick of It: Malcolm Tucker keeps his weight down by running everywhere, being permanently stressed out, and living on a diet consisting mainly of coffee. Policy adviser Olly Reader likens him to "a thin white Mugabe".
- Frasier: Controlling, self-centered Rich Bitch Maris Crane was such an extreme example of this that there wasn't an actress thin enough to actually portray her.
- In Harry Potter, Voldemort is often described as being tall and thin, with long, thin fingers. Snape is often described as thin, perhaps to invoke this trope, even though he is not evil per se. It's more implicit in the first five books, but definitely true of Draco Malfoy in Book 6 when he starts to visibly lose weight as a result of the stress of his assassination mission.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: Villain Count Olaf is tall and thin, and said to have a hungry look in his eyes.
- Several characters in Discworld have this aesthetic, even if they're not necessarily evil:
- Lord Vetinari is a scheming Machiavellian dictator and is thin as a rail, voluntarily subsisting on nothing but bread and water. However, while he describes himself (and everyone) as evil, he is never an outright antagonist and is often on the heroes' side. Strangely, his (unnamed) appearance in the first book is as a Fat Bastard, and was generally considered to be his predecessor until Word of God confirmed they were the same character pre-Characterization Marches On (his predecessor, "Mad" Lord Snapcase, had been deposed long before).
- Granny Weatherwax, a manipulative Good Is Not Nice character in the same vein, is also tall, thin and wears black, though her slimness is not quite emphasized as much. It's more obvious contrasted with her fellow witch and lifelong friend, the short, plump, amicable Nanny Ogg.
- Lacrimosa in Carpe Jugulum, who actually is evil, is the epitome of this, though, especially lampshaded in that she's mostly seen from the POV of Agnes Nitt, a large girl of roughly her own age...
- Utilized, and oft-lampshaded, in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time novels, in that all skinny innkeepers that the protagonists come across in their journeys are invariably up to no good.
- Timeline-191: Jake Featherston, the Hitler-esque Southern dictator of the Harry Turtledove alternate history series, is described as whipcord-lean.
- In Peter David's book Knight Life, Morgan le Fay has grown obese without the presence of Arthur or Merlin. But when Arthur suddenly appears in present day and decides to run for Mayor of New York, she not only becomes evil, but thin again.
- David Eddings' Elenium has ascetic Primate Annias.
- In Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Father Hugh MacPhail's lean body and harsh exercise regimen underline his determination to destroy free will.
- Dracula: Drac himself. For adding slimming power he could slip through the cracks of doors if necessary.
- From Isaac Asimov's Foundation, part 2: The Mule, who poses as his own escaped jester, Magnifico.
- The Phantom of the Opera: The titular character is described as being downright skeletal.
- Ship Breaker: Most crew are pretty lean, but Richard Lopez, Archnemesis Dad and Combat Sadomasochist adds a naturally whippy build and an addict's decaying physique, for a truly ravaged appearance.
- Professor James Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is described as being very tall and thin and like a lizard. This is probably to make him an Evil Counterpart of Holmes, who is himself very tall and thin.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Vargo "the Crippler" Hoat, leader of the murderous Bloody Mummers, is described as a tall scarecrow of a man. Bronn, the badass sellsword, is said to have a lean, wolfish look to him.
- In his appearance in Galaxy of Fear, the Dark Jedi Jerec is described as being painfully gaunt and on the verge of emaciation. In his later appearances, like the Dark Forces Saga, he's got more weight and muscle, perhaps because he knew he'd have to rely on the Force less and fight more, and bulked up.
- Franklin Bean in Fantastic Mr. Fox is noted for being skinny because he subsists only on cider, unlike his two Fat Bastard friends.
- Cophthera-gn of The First Dwarf King is a Humanoid Abomination that is just a little too skinny....
- Pathruushkč is even worse, being downright emaciated.
- David Bowie's late seventies persona, The Thin White Duke, although not being evil, per se was definitely a bit sharper edged than his other characters and more than a bit coke-fueled, therefore somewhat delusional. This incarnation of Bowie has been described as "an amoral zombie", "an emotionless Aryan superman", "a mad aristocrat" and by the man himself, "a nasty character indeed". As far as the lean side goes, his weight plummeted to less than ninety pounds, extremely underweight for a 5'10" frame.
- Many punk rockers in the 1970s were regarded as this by the establishment.
- Warhammer's Dark Elves fit the trope very well, being a people composed entirely of vicious heartless sadists and having the slender, lean physique common to all elves. The leanness doesn't cause the meanness here, however, as their High and Wood Elf cousins are just as thin.
- The Mourngul monster (from Monstrous Arcanum) is a causal version, however. It's a giant-mouthed ever-hungry ghost creature with a stick-thin frame and a ragged tear curtailing it at the waist. Mournguls died an agonizing death from hunger (usually after a stretch of starvation-induced cannibalism) in the frozen wastes, and their dark, all-consuming but futile hunger is all that is left of them.
- Warhammer 40,000: The Dark Eldar are half Lean and Mean, half Spikes of Villainy. It even extends to their vehicles.
- The Necrons, being an army of Skele Bot 9000 terminators.
- The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons gave this option to characters with the Willing Deformity feats Tall and Gaunt. In this case, the Mean comes from the prerequisite of an Evil alignment, the assumption that people willing to fast themselves to half their natural weight or stretch themselves out on the rack probably have a few screws loose, and mostly the fact that the feats were introduced in the Book of Vile Darkness.
- Super Mario Bros. series: Waluigi from the games, much like how Wario is heavier than Mario in an evil sort of way, Waluigi takes Luigi's leanness and exaggerates it to properly despicable proportions.
- Chzo Mythos: The Tall Man; more than seven feet tall, skeletal in build, but an awful lot stronger (and faster) than "he" looks...
- Metroid: Ridley, Samus Aran's bony archnemesis.
- Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid. Justified in that he's a psychic who floats using telekinesis rather than walking, causing his muscles to wither away to nothing.
- Count Veger from the Jak and Daxter series is tall and skinny. And responsible for ruining Jak's life.
- Battlefield Heroes: Arguably, the Nationals. Granted, it's Not exactly clear who started the war, but looking like the Nazis probably goes a long way in deciding which side they are.
- The Spy from Team Fortress 2 is incredibly impolite (he has banged the Scout's mom and loves to boast and troll the Scout about it, which could make you feel sorry for the biggest Jerkass in the game that Scout undeniably is) and very tall and slender, which his badass-in-a-nice-suit attire makes even more noticable. Furthermore, also alongside Scout and Sniper, he's the most prone to calling the Heavy "fatty" and "morbidly obese".
- The Administrator, when she appears in the supplemental materials, is very thin, and seems to be totally amoral and have no emotions other than anger.
- Both Mitsuhide and Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara are Ax-Crazy White Hair Black Hearts who are also tall and almost skeletal in appearance. In Mitsunari's case it's because he's too busy angsting to eat, while Mitsuhide is probably just that evil.
- The liquid armour troopers from Syndicate (2012) are very lanky. It's particularly obvious when they spawn next to normal mooks.
- Battle Realms: The entire faction of the Lotus clan. Everyone is tall, skinny, and gangly, this is because of the paths their clan follow, in which they have to endure painful rituals which cause their bodies to rot in order to master death.
- Andrew Oikonny of Star Fox.
- Validar of Fire Emblem Awakening. Evil sorcerer, cult leader, noodle person.
- The Thin Men in XCOM: Enemy Unknown are quite lean, and in Classic and Impossible difficulties, they are notorious for their Rookie body count.
- Baron Flynt from Borderlands and Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2.
- Homestuck's Jack Noir is very lean, and very mean.
- Daddy-Long-Legs has Mr. Scapegrace, who is one of the thinnest characters seen so far and the creepiest.
- Janice Jamison, the head of Magical Research in the Souballo Empire in Our Little Adventure.
- Fructose Riboflavin in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! Most Nemesites seem pretty skinny, but Riboflavin is old and emaciated. Subverted when he disguises himself as a muscular human.
- The alternate-universe psion Minmax in Goblins. A well-balanced diet presumably isn't much of priority for an Omnicidal Maniac Reality Warper.
- Richard from Looking for Group is this, but it's because he's dead and therefore dried out/decomposed/missing organs/literally just skin-and-bones (and some green goop).
- Mom in Futurama is evil and thin, but wears a selection of "fat suits" when she wants to appear as the kindly matron.
- Brother Blood in Teen Titans
- Mandark in Dexter's Laboratory.
- The Monarch in The Venture Bros..
- The Green Goblin/ Norman Osborn and Vulture from The Spectacular Spider-Man
- Lean and Mean works for robots, too. Just ask Starscream of Transformers Animated.
- Later Wasp(inator), to some degree.
- Oil Slick is probably the best example.
- You can also add Shockwave to the list.
- Starscream, Soundwave, and Airachnid of Transformers Prime also qualify.
- The Hulk vs. Wolverine version of Deadpool, which has lead some people to call him "Skinnypool".
- Courage the Cowardly Dog has Katz.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: Ren Hoek is very thin and he has a short temper.
- The Simpsons: Mr. Burns is an excellent example. Sideshow Bob and the Blue-Haired Lawyer as well.
- Bratz: Burdine and the Tweevils.
- Lawson from Recess.
- Ms. Bitters of Invader Zim, in keeping with her snakelike demeanor.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Nightmare Moon, Discord, The Flim Flam Brothers and Queen Chrysalis.
- One episode of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! features an evil (and creepy) museum curator who's quite thin.
- Butch from Mr. Bogus.
- Mantus from The Pirates of Dark Water. Imagine Yzma's little brother with an underbite, then make him uglier.
- The Legend of Korra had the rawboned Dark Messiah Unalaq in Book 2 and the deceptively frail-looking Dark Action Girl Ming-Hua in Book 3.
- Azhdarchid pterosaurs. The largest of them could be as tall as giraffes, with lanky builds and extremely long necks and heads. They were also predatory...
- The Southern white-faced owl takes full advantage of this trope to intimidate larger animals. It's bizarre.