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Mac. vs. P.C.

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The working genius contrasted by the cleaner Genius.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
matthewsychantha on Oct 27th 2013 at 11:34:41 AM
Last Edited By:
Arivne on Feb 13th 2018 at 6:17:31 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Our hero is a working every man who uses a lot of cobbled together or blocky machines to give him an every man feel. By contrast, his rival will be immediately contrasted by a clean, futuristic and curvy design to show him either as an immediate equal or superior. This is immediately to create a character contrast between the two rivals that otherwise do the exact same work. Also in contrast, frequently our hero's technology will be housed either underground or above ground and his rival the opposite.

Note that like in real life, the trope does not immediately imply that the hero or his rival is a good or bad person, it is really only used to establish the legitimacy of the rival. However, frequently does the rival with their cleaner architecture hold a feeling of superiority. If said rival's design only applies to the surface, then the rival has a Crapsaccharine World.

Car designs often go through phases of blockier and sleeker designs to entice buyers against the advertised public image of the last models.



  • In Despicable Me, Gru and Vector are contrasted by their design choices. In actuality, Gru's devices seem to work just as well as Vector's when comparing to Vector's, but there is definitely a feeling of superiority to Vector's equipment.
  • Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 features the contrast of Flint vs. his hero, Chester V. Flint's technology, which is frequently brilliant and quickly cobbled together with multiple uses, is contrasted by the utilitarian nature of Chester V.'s technology, which usually serves one purpose but is very clean and appealing.
  • In the 2009 Star Trek reboot, the Enterprise with its clean design and white interior is contrasted by Nero's spiky black and blocky interior ship.
  • In The Lord of The Rings, Mordor is black and blocky, contrasted by the sleek, white curved architecture of Rivendell and Gondor.
  • WALL•E. In a completely non-villainous example, Wall-E is shown to be resourceful and more critically intelligent compared to the superior designed EVA.
  • In Toy Story. Buzz Lightyear's curved, futuristic design is contrasted by Woody's lumpy, natural human shape.
  • In many, if not all Sherlock Holmes adaptations, Moriarty is usually shown to work in clean environments with very fine cut clothing in opposition to Sherlock Holmes mess and random assortment of clothes.

Live-Action TV

  • In Doctor Who, both the Rani and the Master would have black Tardis control rooms with furniture in contrast to the Doctor's control room which was white and normally had nothing more than a coat rack for furniture.
  • In Firefly, the often cobbled together Serenity is juxtaposed by the clean and sleeker Alliance ships.

Video Games

  • In Portal 2, Glados's clean, white testing facilities are contrasted by Cave Johnson and Wheatley's (respectively) cobbled together and black designs.

Western Animation

  • Dexter's Laboratory has Dexter's blocky designs and blue lab contrasted by Mandark's curved design sand white lab.

Real Life

  • The PS 3 is black and blocky while the X Box 360 is white and curvy. They both play many of the same games and use wireless remotes.
  • This was Motorola's strategy against the iPhone when they launched the Droid line of smartphones.

Feedback: 41 replies

Oct 27th 2013 at 11:51:40 AM

Needs A Better Name. The title "Mac. vs. P.C." brings to mind the Apple commercials with those two people (I'm a Mac. And I am a Windows PC.), but those commercials have nothing to do with this trope.

Oct 27th 2013 at 12:20:40 PM

I disagree. Apple products will always look cleaner and shinier than P.C. products in ads because Apple has sort of cornered the market on the whole "shiny object on white background" market. Even the music sounds clean, simple and polished. Are they so advanced that they render their blocky ugly-looking competition obsolete? No. Are Macs unequivocally better than P.C.'s? No. Are Apple products better than P.C.'s because they are sleeker and shinier and play simple music in their ads? No, but they do look shiner, sleeker and more pretty than most P.C.'s do and therefore many people instinctively assume that they are better for those reasons.

Oct 27th 2013 at 1:52:35 PM

Make the name focus on the dichotomy of shiny vs workmanlike.

Oct 27th 2013 at 2:34:56 PM

Form Versus Function would be another trope. This sounds more like Art Nouveau Versus Functionalism, but even that isn't that fitting.

Oct 27th 2013 at 2:41:57 PM

  • In Earthbound, there are two kid genius inventors in Twoson. The Orange Kid is cleaner, acts like an Insufferable Genius, and the girls in town love him. Apple Kid, in constrast, lives in a house that could best be described as a junkyard, he has a rat for a roommate, and when you first meet him he asks if he can mooch food off you. You need to invest in Apple Kid's inventions to progress throughout the game, while Orange Kid's inventions won't do anything to help you on your journey.

Oct 28th 2013 at 4:12:22 AM

Form Vs Function plz.

That said, some examples don't fit.

Oct 28th 2013 at 4:24:21 AM

The thing is, as a trope namer, Mac vs. PC is fitting because of how well known it is at the moment. While The Aesthetics of Techology comes close, we're talking about a deliberate design choice to establish characters and instantly show a rivalry as opposed to simply imply to the viewer that new product B should grab your attention than product A.

In practice, it does crossover a lot if said rival is introduced halfway through a TV season or if the entire world is Mac-like, however it doesn't necessarily create a personal rivalry unless the aesthetic choices are personified by two characters or specific settings on bad terms with each other.

If this was pre-ipod though, I would have called this trope "Edison vs. Tesla". However, in the short run of things, people aren't going to stop seeing Macs or iProducts any time soon, and this trope tends to go back and forth as to who's the protagonist depending on what the creator's opinion on Macs are at the moment.

I also think there is room for a third trope, which would work best if the name stays for "The Linux", which would be when the hero of a story isn't either of the two feuding sides, and is instead an independent genius of his own side who gathers a following of the disenfranchised. In this case is technology will look even more ramshackle in contrast to the blocky, but more complete and refined pc(in this case) and the sleek mac.

Like in any of the Star Wars games in which you play as someone who's not a force user, one side will have very clean, polished designs, the other will have a workman's design, though functionally polished, and our third rogue element of a bounty hunter or the like has something completely cobbled together out of nowhere and has to deal with both sides.

Oct 28th 2013 at 8:21:39 AM

^^ Except that any great designer will tell you that form follows function (or put another way by Steve Jobs: "Design is how it works").

If anything, the difference here isn't really about form or function or design at all, but on production versus finish (for lack of a better word). One focuses on getting the actual product out as quickly (and possibly cheaply) out as possible, the other focuses on getting an as good a product out in the end.

Oct 28th 2013 at 8:24:11 AM

If you're going to use the Mac/PC name I suggest making the title something like "Mac character vs. PC character" to avoid confusion.

Oct 28th 2013 at 9:32:48 AM

Confusion to what? Has anyone raised any existing tropes or even you know that thing wheres that this could be confused with? If anything, it is thematically similar to Everything Is An I Pod In The Future so tropers should figure it out quickly enough.

Form is function? How exactly? That may apply to my car, or my spoon but how exactly does the curves or shine on my laptop help its function? Remember, Steve Jobs was the inventor who created a revolutionary company, by stealing from Xerox, then ran that company into the ground with his pet project Macintosh until Bill Gates bailed him out. (Yes, Gates also stole from Apple but the fruits would have fallen in the waste bin even if he had not).

Oct 28th 2013 at 12:59:57 PM

Form vs. Function doesn't work because we're not implying a rivalry based on design so much as we are implying that we have creative equals immediately so that we can have a rivalry without going through a whole establishing scene to waste extra time. See the examples: We never have to establish that Vector is on Gru's level(and we only find out he stole the pyramid later on after his introduction) because he's got shiny, sleeker technology.

We never have to see the Enterprise outrun Nero in Star Trek(2009) or even fight him in an interstellar battle because we see how sleek and majestic the thing is, and the implication is that despite Nero's ship being from the future, with it's sleek interior it's implied that the Enterprise can keep up and do what has to be done.

Oct 28th 2013 at 5:34:34 PM

Argh everyone's angry with my title. :P

Anyways Mac Vs PC is pretty much Trope Namer Syndrome. How about Rough Tech Sleek Tech?

Oct 28th 2013 at 5:55:09 PM

I think that this might fall under The Aesthetics Of Technology.

And I think it ironic that the Xbox is listed as a "shiny and white" example when it's made by Microsoft.

Oct 28th 2013 at 8:56:25 PM

Namespaced and italicized work names and grouped examples by media.

Oct 29th 2013 at 2:45:08 AM

Thought up an example, which also inspired a possible trope name: Slapdash Versus Elegance


  • Vorkosigan Saga: In the discussion about the origin of the bioengineered apoptotic prokaryote in Memory, the design of the prokaryote is noted as "slapdash". When the question if it's Cetagendan work, the answer is that it's not their style at all.
    "Oh, no, I don't think so," said Weddell. "It's not in their style at all. Genetically speaking. Cetagandan work is distinguished by its quality, originality, and, how shall I put it, elegance. This is, by comparison, slapdash. Effective, mind you, but slapdash. On a molecular level."

Oct 29th 2013 at 3:53:35 AM

In the original Star Wars (since relabeled, "Episode IV: A New Hope"), the Empire's ships were sleek, angular, shiny, clean and neon-lit (though still dark within, using lighting to a minimum), while the Rebel Alliance tech was generally bulky, oddly-shaped, dirty, used, and frequently lit by harsh fluorescents.

Compare the Sliding Scale Of Shiny Versus Gritty.

Oct 29th 2013 at 6:45:34 PM

hmm, Linux has the reputation of being cobbled up together more than windows if you ask me.

so Mac Vs Nux, bonus points for both being *nixes, so fits the Not So Different aesop mostly used on whatever uses these aesthetics.

nyways, if that's to TNS, I think Sleek Vs Scabrous works.

as for an example,


  • in Hyperdimension Neptunia Lastation (Playstation, under CPU Noire/Black Heart) is pretty steampunkish yet modern, contrast with Planeptune(SEGA, under CPU Neptune/Purple Heart) which has a sleek futuristic feel, fits the dynamic of their corresponding Red Oni Blue Oni CPUs too.

Nov 13th 2013 at 9:13:59 PM

i'm sorry for resurrecting this, i feel that this needs to be reconsidered. there's certainly a trope here, the name's just terrible.

Nov 14th 2013 at 5:08:57 AM

After watching it is just a matter of name since it could be filed under dueling scientists/inventors/creators. There are a few more examples but the name needs a fix otherwise it would be stuck onto the YKTTW forever.

Nov 14th 2013 at 4:04:04 PM

I know, right? swhat would be a good name for this though, as this is more about aesthetics ( i think?) and less about inventors.

also comparable to Ascetic Aesthetic vs Used Future(or any "tech" that isn't smooth).

Nov 14th 2013 at 4:17:46 PM

Should this be No Real Life Examples Please? Already one slight whiff of console fanboy warring. Not to mention the potential for Mac vs PC flamage.

Nov 14th 2013 at 5:26:38 PM

^ I guess that would include the old case of Edison vs Tesla as well.

Nov 14th 2013 at 7:04:56 PM

^^ i dunno. this's about aesthetics. i don't think there'd be a Flame War about Mac fanboys claiming macs are "as rugged as windows" or winfans claiming "pc's can be just as smooth as mac" (both examples are Straw Man, but whatever.). Either side is pretty proud of their own assets.

Nov 15th 2013 at 3:12:38 AM

^ That's why title needs to change.

Nov 15th 2013 at 3:19:02 PM

Mac v PC - Those adverts with Mitchell and Webb in, pretending to be computers? I thought these were pretty much dead now?

Nov 16th 2013 at 7:29:22 PM

You people are weird. What is so offensive about the console entry? I mean, it is not a lie or anything nor does it attack anybody. And the name is fine. At most I would change it to Mac aesthetic vs P.C. Aesthetic but that seems too wordy of its own good.

Nov 17th 2013 at 12:06:32 AM

^^ their issue probably is Trope Namer Syndrome. which isn't a problem in this case due to the names' ubiquity.

^ more like Polished Vs Rugged. Pragmatic doesn't quite fit.

Dec 31st 2013 at 6:04:36 AM

Very poor current name, poor description, no efforts from the OP to fix the issues. Motion to discard.

Dec 31st 2013 at 7:26:20 AM

Motion denied. This is a very good one and I don't have a problem with the title either. Rough Tech / Sleek Tech would be ok too if you wanna avoid Trope Namer Syndrome. The other proposed titles are bad in my opinion.

Dec 31st 2013 at 11:04:23 AM

I wouldn't go as far as discard this, but I agree with kjnoren on the Trope Namer Syndrome part. I think the connection between the traits mentioned in the description and Mac and PC are ambiguous at best. Considering that this has been tagged with "Better Name" five times already, the claim is a rightful one.

Dec 31st 2013 at 12:11:31 PM

What about Gritty Vs Shiny? Opposing Aesthetics?

^^^^^^^^ I wouldn't call the PS 3 blocky exactly... especially with all the fingerprints on

Dec 31st 2013 at 12:22:01 PM

This feels incredibly similar to Elves Versus Dwarves,and also Harmony Versus Discipline or Slobs Versus Snobs, if it isn't the same as one of those. The trope name reminds heavily of Right Way Wrong Way Pair and of course needs a change.

Dec 31st 2013 at 1:52:22 PM

^It's not the same as Right Way Wrong Way Pair because neither is wrong or right. It's a difference in method and aesthetic that sets them apart, but both get the job done.

If anything, there needs to be a Super Trope of these.

Dec 31st 2013 at 7:29:15 PM

^^ If that's what you said, then we already have Technician Vs Performer

Feb 13th 2018 at 5:49:54 AM

^ That's what I thought, it's that trope plus a visual aspect.

Feb 13th 2018 at 6:17:31 AM

Lousy name, and while the description says the hero uses blocky tech several examples have the heroes using sleek tech and the villain using blocky. Needs either massive surgery or discard-and-start-over.