White Male Lead

Guess who's the main character.

"Our team consists of two black guys, two white women, and one white guy, so I guess it's pretty clear who's in charge."

No matter how diverse a show's cast or how positive its portrayal of minorities, the lead character will almost always be a conventionally heterosexual, caucasian, vaguely Christian, and often American male. Common wisdom in the Western entertainment industry is that a show or film needs a lead character that the target demographic can identify with. At least in the target of "caucasian men", that despite being a diverse country, are still majority in Hollywood, especially considering the same creators of content are mostly caucasian men, and some think they are more "Identifiable", at least in places where they are majority as in the same country and more "profitable", so this is usually an Enforced Trope. The Caucasian Male Lead is often The Hero.

You may be surprised to learn that this trope has less to do with Western bias (though that's still prevalent, make no mistake) and more to do with courting the international dollar. In the United States, for example, you're more likely to see female, and LGBT leads in TV shows, where the viewership is mostly domestic. But in big-budget blockbuster films, such actors don't do nearly as well in international markets, particularly China and Russia; LGBT characters are outright banned due to the countries' laws against "gay propaganda", and a woman as The Hero might upset social mores depending on the movie. As a result, Western studios often play it safe by casting a plain male as the lead.

Adaptations aren't safe either; even if the main character is explicitly a person of color, they are often subjected to Race Lifts in TV or film so that there will be a white guy in the lead role. And if they were gay, expect them to be turned straight or have their sexuality downplayed as much as possible. Another common tactic is for an adaptation or historical piece to focus on a white male who played a minor role in the original story, then overblow his importance so that he's the lead.

Tropers are reminded that tropes are not always bad. Many works with white male leads have been praised for their positive portrayals of minority characters. And of course it's a vicious cycle of investors who want to put their money in a sure thing and studios who want to have something to point at to seem like they know what's going to "sell" to their Target. It is also due to self-insertion, whether from the same creators, writers or producers who are mostly Caucasian men in Hollywood; there's no one group to blame.

Compare Girl-Show Ghetto and Minority Show Ghetto (which this trope is intended to avoid), Ridiculously Average Guy, and White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Compare and contrast Mukokuseki, making characters racially ambiguous so that multiple demographics can relate to them. Unless a work is consciously avoiding it, he is often the leader of a Token Trio or Five-Token Band. If the one white person is not the lead character, then he's the Token White.


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  • Averted in many martial arts films, especially those starring Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. The martial arts genre is perhaps the only genre in which a large number of films with Asian leads found success in the United States.
    • The Forbidden Kingdom takes place in ancient China, but its lead is a white male from the present day. One reviewer said "As a Hollywood blockbuster, The Forbidden Kingdom offers no apologies for its American-centrism. In fact, it wears it with pride like a badge of honor." It was star Jackie Chan's own idea that the protagonist be a white kid, precisely to attract interest in the West for what was basically a Wire Fu movie. This example is unusual in that the White Male Lead is not featured prominently in any of the advertising. The purpose of a White Male Lead in a movie with a minority-heavy cast is usually to attract white audiences, but as mentioned above, Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies usually do not have this problem.
    • Unfortunately, played painfully straight in Birth of a Dragon, a film that was advertised as a Bruce Lee biopic but turned out to focus more on his white friend who didn't even exist in real life.
  • Universal's 47 Ronin, based on the Japanese historical legend of The 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves is a debatable subversion, since Keanu Reeves is part-Asian, but he is not Japanese and no character like his (a British-Japanese "half-breed") appears in the original story. Executive Meddling had several scenes reshot because the originals did not give enough focus to Reeves. Keanu tends to play this role a lot — a generic-looking blank that is easy for audience members to project themselves onto (even if this doesn't speak well of his acting ability).
  • The Last Airbender is based on a cartoon with two lead characters of ambiguous race (tan skin and blue eyes) and a culture based on Inuits. The film cast unambiguously white actors to play the lead roles and Inuit actors as the rest of their tribe.
  • No Escape: Despite being set in an Asian country, the film is focused solely on Jack Dwyer (played by the very white Owen Wilson) and his desire to protect his family, and not focused on any Asian character.
  • Come See the Paradise is a story about Japanese internment camps centered on Dennis Quaid.
  • In the original novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the narrator is the Native American Chief Bromden. The film version centers on the white male Randle P. McMurphy without any narration from the Chief. This is a case of Pragmatic Adaptation, because Chief Bromden is a Supporting Protagonist who does not speak for the vast majority of the film (and it's a surprise reveal in the movie that he actually can), while the main conflict in both the book and the film revolves around McMurphy and Nurse Ratched, not Chief.
  • Glory is about The American Civil War's 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African-American men. The movie's viewpoint character is Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), the 54th's white commanding officer.
    • This is the case in Real Life as well. The relief sculpture on the Boston Common commemorating the 54th centers on Colonel Shaw, who was a Boston native.
  • Go For Broke, a movie about the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, starred the very blonde Van Johnson.
  • Averted when Neil Gaiman was approached by film studios wanting to adapt Anansi Boys; he refused because they wanted to cast white actors in place of the all-black leads.
  • Averted and parodied in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. The opening scene contains two white guys rather than the actual lead characters and sets up their storyline, which happens almost entirely offscreen. The film's creators initially feared that Executive Meddling would turn Harold and Kumar into "Joe and Dave." The two white guys are the movie the creators were afraid that Harold And Kumar would become.
  • Christian Bale played a funeral director in Nanjing Heroes (Now called Flowers of War), a story about the Nanjing Massacre during World War II. Fortunately, there were many foreigners in China prior to the rise of communism. This example is unusual in that the movie was made by a Chinese studio.
  • The 2011 film Tower Heist was supposed to have a mostly black and Latino cast with Eddie Murphy in the lead. The lead role instead went to Ben Stiller.
  • Inverted in Lilies of the Field. Sidney Poitier plays a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who decides to help out some rather disaffected German nuns.
  • In the film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Quartermain is the lead character and the team leader. In the original comic, Mina Murray is the team leader. But he's Sean Connery!
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Every hero with their own movie is white and male. This seems to be changing with film adaptations of Black Panther and the Carol Danvers incarnation of Captain Marvel being announced. Iron Man came out in 2008 and Black Panther is scheduled to come out in 2018, meaning a decade and 17(!) films before a non-white male lead movie in the MCU. However, Black Panther has since gone on to challenge the notions that a white male lead is necessary, becoming the highest grossing superhero origin movie to date and one of the top five highest grossing superhero films overall, when adjusted for inflation.
    • Marvel's various TV shows are more diverse. Daredevil and Iron Fist star a white man, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has an ensemble cast that includes multiple women and people of color but is led by a white man; but Agent Carter stars Peggy Carter, and the Jessica Jones and Luke Cage series star a woman and a black man, respectively. This isn't too surprising, since the small screen is generally better than the big at featuring women and minority characters in lead roles.
    • Rumor has it that one of the reasons that the long-planned Runaways languished in Development Hell is because of the lack of white male characters in the team. Of the characters from the comic, Alex Wilder is black, Nico Minoru is a Japanese-American girl, Karolina Dean is a lesbian, Gert Yorkes is a Jewish girl, Molly Hayes is a girl, Victor Mancha is Latino, and Xavin is a shape-shifting alien that usually settles on the form of a black girl. Chase Stein is the only straight white male on a team of 5-6 characters.
  • During the time Jeff Robinov (who infamously said in 2007 that he would never greenlight a film with a female lead after the box office disappointment of The Brave One) was there, most of the films at Warner Bros. consisted of these. In June 2013, Robinov was finally fired (over greenlighting Pacific Rim) and replaced with a three-person committee (two men and one woman). It has yet to be seen if Warner Bros. will change their practices.
  • Danny Glover blames this trope for his biopic of Toussaint L'Ouverture being stuck in Development Hell for years. The script was finished long ago, but every time he shows it around the studios demand the inclusion of "white heroes" as a condition to produce it. White heroes in a L'Ouverture biopic.
  • The Last King of Scotland: A movie (and its source novel) about Idi Amin's dictatorship in Uganda, with a fictional Scottish doctor as the lead. Though, admittedly, it is a heavy plot point, with at least one Lampshade Hanging. And it's Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
  • Max from Elysium is a light-skinned Hispanic, but is played by the very WASPy Matt Damon. While it's true that not all Latinos have olive skin, the fact remains that they cast Matt Damon for the role instead of someone of the appropriate ethnicity, when pretty much all of the background characters were non-white.
  • One of the most common criticisms of the film adaptation of World War Z. The novel was a collection of interviews with a large variety of witnesses and survivors of varying genders and nationalities, while Brad Pitt's character — the sole protagonist in the film — might as well have been named Punch Whiteman.
  • This trope backfired HARD with the 2015 Stonewall film, a Been There, Shaped History account of the Stonewall Riots that kicked off the modern gay rights movement. The real-life riots were headed by Butch Lesbian Stormé DeLarverie and two Transgender women of color: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, among many others. However, the movie focuses on fictional Danny Winters, a white Straight Gay teenager from Indiana who bused to New York City after being kicked out of his home. Filmmaker Roland Emmerlich stated in interviews that he created Danny to appeal to straight white audiences, which pleased nobody. LGBT activists and historians were angered that the film did no justice to the real heroes of Stonewall, film critics were unimpressed by the Cliché Storm plot, and even many straight white people—particularly the ones who'd be interested in seeing this movie in the first place—were insulted by the notion that they'd be unable to empathize with minority characters and would need the most whitebread kid possible (not even a native New Yorker but someone from the rural Midwest) to identify with. Predictably, the film was an utter bomb in the box office.
  • In the Power Rangers reboot film, Power Rangers (2017), the only Ranger played by a white actor is Red Ranger Jason Lee Scott, the leader of the team. The film attempts to balance it out by giving Kimberly and Billy prominent amounts of screentime and focus.
  • The movie Abduction of Eden is based on a true story about an Asian-American girl who was kidnapped and sold in to sexual slavery. Jamie Chung, the lead actress, has said the movie struggled to find funding or a distributor because the executives wanted to add in a likable white male protagonist who would ultimately rescue Eden, even though such a character never existed in real life.
  • The Last Samurai is a loose retelling of the Boshin War and Satsuma Rebellion rolled into one event. It stars fictional American advisor-turned pro-Samurai defector Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise), whose real inspiration is Frenchman Jules Brunet. While the studio insists that the "Samurai" in the title is plural and does not reference Cruise's character (who is not a Samurai) but Ken Watanabe's Lord Katsumoto (a reimagined Saigo Takamori) and his allies, the advertising featured Cruise prominently and the final scene where Sole Survivor Algren schools the young Emperor of Japan into respecting his own country's history drew some criticism.
  • The Ghost in the Shell has cast Scarlett Johansson as the very Japanese Major Motoko Kusanagi, a decision leading to a Broken Base. However, her name in the movie is Mira Killian which is only revealed a month before the movie's premiere. What really clinches this trope, however, is the claims that at one point the production team were seriously considering CGI-editing her to look Japanese. It would be more acceptable, apparently, to have a white actress in yellowface—and not just boring old makeup yellowface but expensive computer-generated yellowface—than an actual Asian actress in the lead role. The response to this has been rather universal bewilderment. The Broken Base was broken even further by the movie's Reveal that Mira actually was a Japanese girl who had been placed inside a caucasian android body against her will, with some arguing this made the whole thing even more offensive.
  • Speed Racer, though based on a Japanese cartoon, is cast mostly with actors of non-Asian descent and has Emile Hirsch playing its lead; one of the supporting roles went to a Korean. Even though Speed Racer was very much a Mukokuseki series, the casting is still vaguely odd.
  • Dragonball Evolution, a Live-Action Adaptation of one of the most popular and iconic Japanese anime/manga series, cast Asian actors in every important hero role... except for Goku and Bulma, who were played by white actors.
  • The Great Wall pushed the top billing on Matt Damon in a predominately Chinese cast which made many accusations of the Mighty Whitey. The movie is co-produced by Chinese companies and American companies which deliberately aimed for the international market, thus explaining Matt Damon's top billing. His character, William, and Pedro Pascal's character, Tovar, are actually mercenaries who were searching for the explosive black powder only to get involved in the Chinese Imperial Army's war against a horde of green-skinned monsters. The Chinese characters are portrayed as heroic and being veterans in fighting these monsters while William and Tovar are amoral and contribute in the fighting only to save their own skin. However, William slowly learns his lesson after his experience with the Chinese Army while Tovar abandons him with the black powder during his escape but gets captured by the Chinese soldiers and stays out in the final battle.
  • Pacific Rim: Pan-Pacific Defense Corp is very multinational (American, Japanese, German, Russian, Australian and Chinese) but the protagonist is a white man. This was reversed in the sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising, where John Boyega is cast as the protagonist whose father is Idris Elba's character.
  • During early meetings with prospective producers for Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan recalls being asked if the female lead could be changed into a white woman in order to make her more relatable to an American audience. Kwan resisted, and Constance Wu from Fresh Off the Boat eventually landed the part.
  • Edge of Tomorrow received some criticism for its Adaptational Nationality. It's based on a Japanese light novel and changes the setting to Europe, casting Tom Cruise as the lead character. The supporting cast have some minorities, but the only other character with prominence in the story is also white.

  • In A Brother's Price, 90% of the population are women, but the lead is ...male. Justified in that the gender-inversion of many tropes wouldn't be interesting if we just got the point of view of the women, as it would then be almost exactly like any other novel with a male lead. Confusing, but it makes sense if you read the novel. And the second narrator is female. Played straight with the cover, where the protagonist carries an unconscious woman. While this does happen in the novel, it doesn't really represent the role this woman, and other women, play in the novel; they aren't nearly as passive.
  • Played with in Gives Light. The main character is a light-skinned Native American boy (his father is Shoshone and his mother was white). As a result other children on the reservation see him as white, and because he was raised off of the reservation (but by the aforementioned Native American dad) he doesn't always fit in with them.
  • Remnants plays the trope unfortunately straight. The cast was enormously diverse, filled with minorities, but Jobs, the lead, is a white male.
    • One of the authors who co-wrote Remnants, Michael Grant, later did the exact same thing in Gone with Sam.
  • Max in Bryan Miranda's The Journey to Atlantis. Not only is he this trope, even his (last) name is White.
  • The Heroes of Olympus series:
    • The series amps up the minorities compared to its predominantly white prequel, but Percy and Jason are still the attractive, straight, white, male leads of the Greek and Roman camps, as well as of the Seven.
    • Subverted in Son of Neptune - Frank is the official leader of the quest. And again in House of Hades, when Jason promotes Frank to praetorship to lead the ghost army.
  • In Animorphs, the titular Animorphs group consists of a Hispanic male (Marco), a black female (Cassie), a white female (Rachel), a white male permanently trapped in the form of a hawk (Tobias), a blue alien (Ax), and a white male (Jake). Guess which one of them is the group leader. (Though it should be noted that the series gives pretty equal POV time and attention to each character.)

    Live Action TV 
  • Outsourced, a fish-out-of-water story about a white male American running a call center in India.
  • Glee
    • Glee has a very diverse cast, boasting characters of all different races, sexual orientations, and levels of ability, but the stars of the show always seem to be the white, heterosexual teacher Will, and the leaders of Glee club: white, straight couple Finn and Rachel (albeit Rachel is ethnically Jewish, but the point remains the same). Lampshaded by Emma at one point.
    • It gets to the point where one episode has a tacked-on musical number for the black Mercedes and the Asian Tina. This number is explicitly said In-Universe to have been added to give two underutilized characters something to do.
    • ...Until the fifth season with the untimely death of Finn's actor Cory Monteith, which led to Kurt and Blaine becoming Glee's Official Couple, though they are both white males.note 
    • Finn is also an example in-universe. Apparently he is the only suitable "male lead" for the Glee club at the time the other two boy members are white, but one is a Camp Gay and the other one is disabled. Shortly later three other boys join in, but one is Jewish, one is black and one is Asian, so Finn, the only non-minority boy, stays as the designated lead, soaking in Will's favoritism, despite definitely not being the best male singer in the group and actually being one of the worst dancers.
      • It helps that the other boys do not seem that interested in being the lead, so it could be also the fact they don't fight for the position like the girls do.
  • Saved by the Bell: Zack, Screech, and Mr. Belding are all white males. Zack is the protagonist during the most popular 1989-1993 run. Screech and Mr. Belding were in all the incarnations. Mark Paul Gosselaar is part Indonesian on his mother's side, but he sported bleached blond hair during the show which made him look decidedly more Anglo.
  • Community probably qualifies as a subversion of this. When it was first being advertised, it came off to some as yet another show about a white guy and his new quirky minority friends, but the show's Troperiffic nature quickly put an end to that. While Jeff isn't the main character in all the stories, he often is. He is certainly the one the group expects to come up with solutions to most of their problems, even if they know he's often self-centered and egotistical. While the 'mother figure' in the group alternates between Britta and Shirley, the "father figure" is firmly in Jeff's ballcourt. The only member who would challenge him is Pierce, who is also white and comes with a whole host of problems. To be fair to the show, Joel McHale was the cast member with the most TV credits to his name (save for Chevy Chase, who—not being the main character at all—was given the And Starring credit).
  • Death in Paradise has a racially diverse cast, with a black women and two black men as the main characters, as well as several black side characters. The head of the show always ends up being a white man, however, with the arrival of Richard Poole, later replaced by Humphrey Goodman.
  • Doctor Who
    • All the Doctors through Peter Capaldi (Twelfth) were white males, though it was eventually confirmed during Steven Moffat's tenure that Time Lords can change race and sex when they regenerate. There had long been debate among fans — and indeed, the BBC, who've considered black actors for the role — of getting a female or alternate race in, but this quickly degraded into accusations that it would be wrecked. The announcement in 2017 that the Thirteenth Doctor would be Jodie Whittaker, a white woman, caused the notoriously Unpleasable Fanbase to erupt and break — some were overjoyed, some would rather have had a male Doctor of an alternate race, some wanted a non-white woman, and some wanted another white man (the British public, judging by polls, were generally neutral or positive to the idea).
    • For the run on the classic show, the Doctor was treated as asexual, but the TV movie and the revived series frequently make overtures of the Doctor having sexual tension with orientation-appropriate companions. There are conflicting stories as to whether Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth Doctor) wanted to make him aromantic again when he took on the role. What is clear is that initially the show seemed to be going in that direction in his first season...but by the end of Series 9 it was clear that the Doctor and Clara Oswald's relationship ran far deeper emotionally than simple friendship (to the point that the season finale has him mocked for claiming she's just his friend, given that he would risk the universe to bring her back from the grave), while the post-season Christmas special was an out-and-out Romantic Comedy involving him and River Song, one of his several wives.
  • The Singoff's third series was won by a now famous group called Pentatonix. Despite all the singers being diverse and talented, the lead singer during the show was definitely the conventionally good looking white male.
  • The Law & Order franchise usually has one of these, typically from a salty, no-nonsense, working class background, plus or minus an Olivia Benson or two.
    • Averted as of season 13 of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit when Olivia Benson moves into the role of lead character, and the male lead, Nick Amaro, is Latino. By season 15, all of the regular male cast members (Ice-T, Danny Pino and Raúl Esparza) are black or Latino. Though in season 16, one white man is added to the regular cast.
  • Despite boasting a far more diverse cast than it's parent show, the NCIS: New Orleans team is lead by one of these in Special Agent Dwayne Pride. Technically, two, as his second-in-command Agent LaSalle is one of these too.
  • Jim from The Office (US) isn't exactly the only white male at his small paper company in small town Pennsylvania, but he often served as being the young, attractive, savvy wisecracker who would make fun of the middle aged eccentric losers around him. Naturally, the spotlight gets stolen from him on a regular basis. After a good deal of Characterization Marches On, he's learned to be Not So Above It All.
  • The CSI shows, at various points. The two spinoffs, CSI NY and CSI: Miami all the time and CSI started out with white male William Petersen and then went into an aversion phase with Lawerence Fishburne as its lead, and now back to the white male lead thing with Ted Danson.
  • As diverse as Star Trek: The Original Series tried to be in the racially charged 60s, they still had to have a white man as the Captain; the meddling executives wouldn't even stand for a female Number Two. This was followed by Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jonathan Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise. It was averted with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which the eponymous space station is commanded by Bald Black Leader Guy Benjamin Sisko, and Star Trek: Voyager, in which the eponymous ship is captained by the female Kathryn Janeway.
    • TOS went even further in its final episode, where a character is given a line which, in one reading, may be explicitly stating that in Starfleet, women can't be Captains. (It's possible, however, to parse this line as meaning Kirk doesn't have room in his life for a steady relationship, because he's too obsessed with the job. It's possible...)
    • One episode of Deep Space Nine revolved around a war-weary Ben Sisko slipping between the world he knows and one where he's a struggling sci-fi writer in the 1950's who is writing short stories about DS9. The biggest problem he faces is that nobody wants to publish them. His editor suggests that Ben replace his black lead by applying this trope.
  • Inverted on Benson: the main character is black while the rest of the characters are white.
  • When the Sci Fi Channel adapted the Earthsea novels into the mini-series Earthsea, they decided to make the main character white. This did not sit well with the original author.
  • Criminal Minds
    • Although more properly an Ensemble Cast, in its first two seasons billed Mandy Patinkin and Thomas Gibson as the show's leads. Furthermore, the pilot only had one female lead character (Elle Greenaway) and one African-American lead character (Derek Morgan) surrounded by white males, indicating that they were tokens. More female characters were added or became relevant, and Morgan's character has gained depth and prominence as the series progressed, but the show's "stars" are still white males- Gibson and Joe Mantegna.
    • The UnSub in "Broken Mirror" lampshades this when he "profiles" the team while taunting them during one of his phone calls, deriding Morgan as simply a "side of beef" and telling Elle she had no chance of "joining the all boys' club".
    • The first spinoff Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, in its pursue to be radically different from the original series while keeping faithful to its basic structure, had a Bald Black Leader Guy played by Forest Whitaker among an otherwise whole white main cast. The character "Prophet", who had been originally envisioned as black, was made white.
    • Played straight in the second spinoff, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. The team includes two white females (one played by a Hispanic actress though the character is not), a half-Asian male, a black male and an older white male played by Gary Sinise, who is the team leader.
  • Dexter: Taking place in Miami, the series features many Hispanic characters and those of other races and ethnicities/nationalities, though Dexter himself is white.
  • Elementary: Despite genderbending and racebending Watson (Lucy Liu) and having a host of genderbent original characters from the Sherlock canon and the racial diversity expected of a New York show, Sherlock Holmes remains the White Male Lead.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: The 99th precinct has a good number of racial minorities and women as main and one-shot characters, but the lead character is the white Jake Peralta. Although he does at least subvert the "vaguely Christian" part of the trope, being Jewish.
  • Marco Polo is about the eponymous Italian merchant's adventures in the court of Kublai Khan. He is the only major white character.
  • Sense8 features protagonists from all around the world, two of which are white males. Of those two, Will, a clean-cut Chicago cop, is the only one to receive any sort of training in their newfound abilities and possesses Chronic Hero Syndrome. The first season finale focuses on his efforts to save another member of the cluster from dying. Subverted, though — he may have started out as this, but he ends the season as The Load and has to stay unconscious or heavily medicated, the others now having to look after him.
  • Firefly: Four white men, two white women, one Latina woman, one black woman, and one black man in the main cast. The captain and pilot make up two of the white men. However, the black woman is second in command, and the captain avoids the "vaguely Christian" description by being belligerently anti-spiritual.
  • Subverted in Dark Matter - the show started out with the most milquetoast white guy in the racially diverse crew acting as the lead and audience sympathy character (he wakes up first and he's the only human character who doesn't have a criminal background). But then at the beginning of season 2, the writers kill him off (right after a new plot line for him started, no less), and then they also kill off another, much less moral recurring character the same actor was playing, just in case you thought he was supposed to take over the lead now that the rest of the crew had become more sympathetic. And, just to drive the point home, another, new white male character who joins the crew and seems like a replacement in terms of personality gets killed off even more abruptly after a few episodes, with the rest of the crew not even caring to find out what happened to him. A black female character gets to permanently join the regular cast instead. And the Asian female Action Girl love interest from the first season becomes the primary protagonist (and captain of the ship). By the end of the second season, the only white male character still on the crew is the show's Jayne-expy, who is perfectly content just being the muscle for "Boss Lady".
  • Narcos: DEA Agent Steve Murphy serves as a subversion. He's one of the few American characters on a show with a primarily hispanic cast and looks the part of the square-jawed white lead leading the fight against the narco-terrorists, but for most of the series he's really more of a First-Person Peripheral Narrator with the Colombian characters getting more focus than he does. In Season 3, he's written off the show and the narrator role is given to his Mexican partner, Javier Pena.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • In Magic's earlier years, the Weatherlight was crewed by a diverse bunch of people - men and women, with many skin tones, and even including elves, minotaurs, and cat-people. But who is their leader? That would be Commander Gerrard Capashen, a light-skinned human male. And he gets extra discomfort points for being the product of Urza's bloodline project, meaning that he's genetically perfect for fighting the Phyrexian invasion.
    • Later on in the story, the planeswalker Jace Beleren - another light-skinned male human - was introduced and poised to be at the center of many of the story's most important plots, including the Eldrazi invasion of Zendikar and the Maze crisis on Ravnica. In recent years he was chosen to be blue mana "representative" of the Gatewatch, an Avengers-style alliance of planeswalkers dedicated to protecting the multiverse from extraplanar threats; and, like before, he's had a central role in solving each problem that the Gatewatch has thus confronted.

  • In RENT, despite its racially and sexually diverse cast and high praise by the LGBT community, the two central characters are still the straight and white Mark and Roger (Ho Yay between them notwithstanding). While Mark is explicitly Jewish, Roger's race isn't discussed but he's usually cast as white due to his grunge rock style.

     Video Games 
  • Zig-zagged with the Assassin's Creed franchise. The Vanilla Protagonist in the present-day storyline is just Ambiguously Brown enough to be considered any ethnicity (including white) by those who wish, while his ancestors in the historical storyline are of various ethnicities (Arabic Hashashin, Italian, British and Native American). He was eventually replaced by you, the player, starting with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which was also where the historical protagonists began to play it agonizingly straight to the point where the parade of white male leads can be hard to tell apart. This was not helped by the fact that the titles centering on a half-black woman (AC III: Liberation) and a black man (AC IV: Freedom Cry) are a Gaiden Game and Downloadable Content respectively, neither of which received much promotion, to the point where few have heard of them. Assassin's Creed: Syndicate featured a woman as a co-player character alongside her twin brother, although both of them were white. To their credit, Ubisoft looks to be attempting to rectify this problem with the heavily-promoted Assassin's Creed Origins, whose Ptolemaic Egyptian protagonist has appropriately dark skin.
  • Subverted in the early Metroid games. For the first two games, Samus wears armor that completely covers her body and is described as male in the manual. At the end, it is revealed that Samus Is a Girl.
  • The original North American localization for Persona, Revelations: Persona, turns the Japanese main protagonist into a white American red-headed teenager, along with making the rest of the characters diverse. This would be an example of a Race Lift.
  • Averted in the online dollmaking game Doll Divine, in which most of the dollmakers are for female characters, but the default for skin, hair, and eye colors, shapes, and styles is totally random.
  • Also averted in any other character customization system that starts out with a randomized appearance, like World of Warcraft.
  • Lampooned in South Park: The Fractured but Whole, taking particular aim at the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the gag.
    SuperCraig: Marvel is making a black superhero movie.
    The Coon: Yeah, now! They waited years to get to that! We follow their plan - we do all the real people first, then we sneak the black guy in at Phase 3.
  • Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite is able to walk about Columbia because he is neither an ethnic minority nor Irish. He has Native American heritage, but there's no indication of this at all in the advertising materials or on the game's cover.
  • Aiden Pearce, the main protagonist of Watch_Dogs.

    Web Animation 
  • Chris from Bravest Warriors is the only white character in the show, and also the main protagonist and leader of the group.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Tarquin has one blind spot in his Genre Savvy dominance: he believes the hero of the story is Elan (white male), when in fact Elan is part of an ensemble and the de facto protagonist is Roy (black male). A large part of Tarquin's Villainous Breakdown is that other characters are overshadowing Elan, whom he insists should be the hero to his Big Bad—and according to Word of God, it's no accident that Elan and Tarquin both are straight white males while the characters sidelining Elan include a black man, a woman, an individual outed as genderqueer in that very piece of Word of God, and a Latino guest star. Tarquin not only can't stand losing control of his carefully-crafted narrative, he can't stand the idea that the character who best fits the White Male Lead mold isn't the lead.

     Web Original 
  • Cracked parodies this in A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever with Wealthy, Successful Protagonist. They cover this trope again here.
  • The Nostalgia Critic likes calling these out in movies, often expressing belief that the female sidekicks/love interests should take over because they're usually more interesting. He's also called himself this, although if you know him, you'll get that he fits the description In-Name-Only.
  • Deconstructed with Donnie DuPre from Demo Reel. He's the "main" Innocent Bigot in a show that has a woman, a black man and two foreign guys, but he's very bisexual, very nice and very woobie, really wants to be a good friend to all of them, and after some firm prodding, works to make up for his initial racist/sexist comments.
  • The Daily Currant: Ann Coulter walks out of star trek claims too many minorities
    Apparently in the future the liberals have extinguished all the white people, Coulter explained, I mean they got a black girl running the communications, an Asian guy driving the ship and a pointy-eared alien doing pretty much everything else. I guess we're supposed to just accept that minorities will be the new majority. This isn't an entertainment film - it's nothing but a pro-Obama, multicultural piece of propaganda. And of course its not even realistic. Since when have black people been able to speak foreign languages? And shouldn't Sulu have crashed the ship into a quasar by now?
    Now Ann, you know I love you, a puzzled Hannity said, but I've seen the film, and although there were minorities, there were also plenty of whites. So I guess I don't see your problem.
    Sean, the only other white people are foreigners, she retorted, you got one Communist from Moscow and a lazy, socialist engineer from Scotland. There's only one red-blooded American white person in the whole movie - and thank god he's the captain. The ship would fall apart in minutes without him.
  • Chrono Hustle is fairly diverse in it's cast but, while it isn't explicitly mentioned, Jack seems to be white based the fact that his race likely would have come into play otherwise when he went to the Old West.
  • Given a Lampshade Hanging in the Honest Trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy after the narrator goes over the many factions of differently colored aliens.
    Narrator: In case you get confused, the hero is still the white guy.
  • A theory known in some internet communities as the Galbrush Paradox posits that the reason that straight white male characters (especially leads) are so ubiquitous is that they are the only type of characters who creators feel like they write as realistically flawed without being required to use Positive Discrimination, and that often the people demanding better representation for women, minorities, LGBT, etc. end up calling for the creators' blood when those characters are portrayed as anything less than perfect. The name comes from the Monkey Island series of video games, as the theory explains that if the protagonist Guybrush Threepwood was a woman named Galbrush instead, the developers would be called misogynists if they portrayed her as the exact same hopeless dumbass that Guybrush is.
    "A white male can be a lecherous drunk. A woman can't or it's sexist. Sexualizing women and what all. A white male can be a mentally disturbed soldier whose mind is unravelling as he walks through thehell of the modern battlefield. A woman can't or you're victimizing women and saying they're all crazy. [...] Men can be comically inept halfwits. Women can't. Men can be flawed, tragic human beings. Women can't. And why? Because every single female character reflects all women everywhere."

     Western Animation 
  • Futurama's main cast includes a robot, a mutant woman, a Jamaican, a Space Jew lobster-thing and a Chinese-Martian woman, but the main character, Fry, is still a white male (admittedly, one odd in being from modern times).
    • Notably, as the show evolved into more of an ensemble comedy, Fry lost his status as the sole lead character.
  • Played straight in Teen Titans, where Robin is the leader, main character, and the only white male on the team (unless one counts Beast Boy, who is ethnically white but physically green). Justified in the original comics, where the Bat family are trusted mostly because they are unpowered (not because they are white men). Knowing that your boss can't casually mind-rape or lobotomize you with a glance is important.
  • Notably averted in Young Justice, which also focuses on DC's young superheroes- while the show doesn't have a single central character, the closest is team leader Aqualad, who is black. Notably, this Aqualad, Kaldur'ahm, was created for the show.
  • Averted in The Legend of Korra, in which the titular character is both female and the universe's equivalent of an Inuit and confirmed via Word of God as a bisexual. Notable because in doing so, the creators risked the Girl-Show Ghetto in addition to the obvious Animation Age Ghetto, though the former proved to averted when young boys responded very positively to the character during initial test screenings, and the show's first season proved popular enough to be renewed for three additional seasons.
  • Played (almost) completely straight in Steven Universe. Steven, the lead character, is an alien-human hybrid, yet he still entirely appears to be a white, male human. The alien Gems tick many boxes: they're all female, (or at least present themselves that way), they're Discount Lesbians, and their voice actresses are almost all nonwhite women, but the central figure is always Steven. He's also, however, The Chick, and the White Mage in a show where all the combat-oriented characters are women including his sword-wielding Indian-American girlfriend, and no one sees it as a big deal.
  • In Adventure Time, Finn is a white male lead in a world where he is actually the only human.