You know this trope. It's the one where people of different genders are treated as if they were more like different species, and species that can't communicate or get along at that. Since characters in works using this usually don't live in one-gender worlds, and tend to be overwhelmingly heterosexual, they are nevertheless compelled to seek interaction with each other. This usually works out about as well for all involved as you would expect.
Although often "officially" a Discredited Trope, this is often also claimed as Truth in Television, sometimes with an edge of brave speaking out against Political Correctness Gone Mad, or with a Debate and Switch or "Just Joking" Justification approach.
Subtropes include Men Buy from Mars, Women Buy from Venus, along with just about every "war of the sexes" trope in fiction.
Key signs that this trope is in effect in a work: you appear to have come into a world where
- The ways of men are by their very nature incomprehensible to women, and vice versa: a great deal of the dialogue will be attempts to decode the mysterious ways of wo/men ("What did s/he mean by [insert action/dialogue]"). This will rarely involve asking the particular wo/man in question, but will often involve the protagonist asking another opposite-sex character to explain their incomprehensible significant other.
- For extra bonus points, have the protagonist ask their opposite-sex best friend, who is secretly pining for them, to help them understand (and win) Alice/Bob.
- For the grand prize, have the protagonist ask their same-sex friend, who claims to be an expert on the opposite sex and has no idea what s/he's talking about.
- The goals of women and men by their very nature diverge and may even conflict outright: even if a relationship between opposite-sex partners manages to get off the ground (not always the case), the ride will continue to be bumpy.
- Bonus points for this leading to a crisis about getting married and/or moving in together, and for complaining to third parties about the significant other's gender-specifically annoying ways, such as (according to gender and matching stereotypes) refusing to talk about their feelings/putting cutesy stuff and scented candles in the bathroom/never putting the toilet lid down/filling the house with shoes.
- Both these points will tend to be lampshaded, shape characterization, and drive the plot, whether Played for Laughs or Played for Drama, or both.
Characters need not be (entirely) flat, but women will tend to be stereotypically female and men stereotypically male. Deviations from stereotype, where they appear, will tend to be plot points in their own right as exceptions that prove the rule, and are usually resolved by a return to something more stereotypical (e.g., Tomboy Wrench Wench gets her man when she finally cleans up nicely).
Which particular gender stereotypes are invoked may vary considerably, and inconsistently, even within the same work; e.g., women want romance/men want sex, women want to talk about feelings and go to the opera/Men Are Uncultured, All Women Love Shoes/all men hate shopping, Women Are Wiser/men are all Man Children, etc. Stock contrasting stereotypes (hello, Betty and Veronica) substituting for nuance will often also be in play. Outright logical contradiction between different stereotypes will rarely, if ever, be addressed.
Insofar as this trope tends to rely heavily on binary gender stereotypes, it also functions (in a somewhat complicated way) as a Super Trope of several other Gender and Sexuality Tropes: expect regular joint appearances by complementary tropes such as All Men Are Perverts and All Women Are Prudes.
The key point, whichever particular stereotypes are invoked, and even where they are/seem to be avoided, is that male and female characters align so as to allow the first three points to apply. Whether men or women (or neither) come off better for the comparison may vary. Expect Double Standards to apply fairly frequently if the work does take a side for one or the other gender.
Works using this trope often also tend to outright celebrate the stereotypes they invoke (embrace your inner Manchild/Imelda Marcos!), and see them as making an essential contribution to the value of opposite-sex relationships, which just wouldn't be as meaningful without this particular source of misunderstandings and tension. Conversely, though, even where this trope is combined with outright misogyny or misandry, obtaining (at least) one of the opposite sex as a partner is still usually viewed as essential and urgent.
In works that use this trope as a central element, naturally, both male and female characters will also, as noted above, tend to be overwhelmingly or even exclusively heterosexual. Gay men, usually of the Camp Gay variety, may appear, often as a female character's Gay Best Friend.note Lesbians tend to appear even less frequently, except as fantasy objects for male characters (and viewers): Bait-and-Switch Lesbians may appear for similar reasons, but rarely get beyond a Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss.
Characters male and (especially) female who are affected by this trope may occasionally get wistful about the idea of how much easier things would supposedly be if they could only get together with someone of their own sex, but this rarely goes anywhere lasting, and the work will rarely notice how many potential Unfortunate Implications and internal contradictions there are in this line of thought. Transgender characters are also rare, but not entirely excluded, though expect treatment of any Gender Blending Tropes to reinforce rather than bring into question more traditional/mainstream gender binaries.
The presence of certain actors (Jennifer Aniston, Meg Ryan, Sarah Jessica Parker, and on the Spear Counterpart side, Michael Douglas, Vince Vaughn, and Seth Rogen) tends to indicate this trope will come into play.
A common feature of observational Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy. Oh, and there's just a tiny bit of this in advertising, too, as seen in Men Buy from Mars, Women Buy from Venus. This trope is also most of the raison d'etre of magazines specifically meant for one or the other gender (Cosmopolitan, FHM, etc.).
Do not expect works that invoke this trope heavily on a regular basis to be shining examples of gender equality.
That said, in a perverse way works of this type emphasizing the male perspective tend to do better than average on The Bechdel Test, as in order to set up this trope they will normally introduce multiple female characters alongside the male ones, and by law of averages a few of the female characters' discussions will not be directly related to the opposite sex.
Likewise, in works emphasizing the female perspective, there will also usually be at least one straight man who believes that Real Men Wear Pink. Although this will usually be countered by the character "making up for" this with an excess of machismo in other areasnote , he will often serve as an example of how even a character Rated M for Manly does not have to mean a character who is unrefined or childish.
The Heteronormative Crusader probably believes in this trope, the Straw Feminist will see every difference or conflict between characters of differing gender as this trope, and the Straw Misogynist will decry any attempt to defy it.
For contrasts along cultural lines rather than gender lines, see Culture Clash.
- One Piece: Nami proves to be an archetypal character for this trope. As the series unfolds, it's clear Nami simply doesn't get men's way of thinking, be it their values, attitudes, behaviors, codes, intentions, decisions, or actions. Specifically, she doesn't understand the tacit communication between Luffy and Zoro (as seen in Buggy arc), is the only character who hates to be in a Wanted poster (in contrast with general cheerfulness male characters react with to publications and updates of those posters) and her opinions and advice are usually disregarded in topics like adventures, honor or discipline, and respect, who are important for men (like her permission for Luffy and Zoro to fight Bellamy in Jaya arc, her attempt to ruin Luffy's adventure in Skypiea and her refusal to have a campfire in Upper Yard, the whole Usopp affair in Water 7, or the "Monster Trio" accepting or supporting the "Davy Back Fight" challenge against the Fox Pirates). Even after the Time Skip, that situation doesn't change at all, as seen in Punk Hazard arc or the Whole Cake Island arc, wherein Nami decides to cut bonds with Sanji, only to see how Luffy, unlike her, stays totally loyal with him, overriding Nami's decision in the process.
- Vandread: Men and women are literally from two different but neighboring planets and have vastly different cultures. Then three men get stuck on a female pirate ship sent nearly a year from their homes. They must journey back together. Hilary ensues.
- The fourth episode of Boruto features all the boys and girls in Shino's class facing off against each other after Boruto and Sarada get into a fight over lunch.
- An episode of Pokémon does this, with Ash and James engaging in a double battle with May and Jessie after both groups (Ash's friends and Team Rocket) get into arguments over who is more competent. It ends with Jessie deciding to cheat by using an extra pokémon, which Brock says disqualifies the girls' team, but by then Team Rocket are only interested in stealing Pikachu, anyway.
- Spoofed in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Satan and Saddam Hussein are in bed together, and while Saddam Hussein waves dildos suggestively at Satan, Satan is reading Saddam is from Mars, Satan is from Venus and bemoaning their inability to communicate.
- Played with throughout When Harry Met Sally....
- In A Brother's Price, Eldest Whistler explains to Jerin that this is due to the different upbringing. They spoil and coddle the rare boys, who as a result will be emotionally open and trusting, but teach the girls to mistrust everyone and search for weapons before hugging anyone.
- Harry Potter
- Harry at one point complains that it's as if girls speak an entirely different language. Justified because the characters are fourteen at the time - among adults and older teens in the Harry Potter universe this isn't nearly as much of a problem. Fourteen-year-olds are incredibly susceptible to this trope; people that age generally suck at communicating within a romantic relationship due to lack of experience and/or lack of maturity, and the ones in heterosexual relationships can blame it on their love interest being an incomprehensible girl/boy.
- Hermione is smart and mature enough to explain some such misunderstandings. She still has difficulties with Ron later, but that's mostly because he has similar difficulties understanding himself, let alone others.
- The Wheel of Time makes this central to the setting, even building it into the Functional Magic. It's also played for Hypocritical Humor, with each sex accusing the other of traits they obviously hold themselves, such as stubbornness or an obsession with gossip.
- This is also the case for Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series, at least in the beginning — only men have magical training; women's magic is a byword for incompetence and for malice.
- The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop
- The Dresden Files:
Murphy: Let me get this straight. You want him to talk to you, but you won't actually tell him or ask him any questions. You sit around with the silence and tension and no one says anything.
- In the novelette Aftermath, told from Karrin Murphy's POV, Murphy keeps telling us that men speak their own language, largely composed of grunts and physical postures, that has nothing to do with English without even realizing it. She calls it Martian and insists that while she learned to speak and understand it by necessity, she has no idea what thought processes are responsible for it.
- Another quick example pops up in Proven Guilty when Harry complains about wanting to talk with Thomas, but not telling Thomas that.
Harry: That's right.
Harry: You need a prostate to understand.
- In Cold Days, Harry goes on for several paragraphs about how women communicate on five separate levels at once, according to a magazine article he read, so it's no wonder that men can't understand them.
- The first time Murphy meets Susan, Harry comments that Susan gives Murphy "the scan", a quick overview and analysis of clothing, makeup, shoes, posture, appearance, probable relative wealth and social status, which will dictate how two women will interact. Harry muses that men's equvialent is "Does he have beer, and, if yes, will he let me have one?"
- Dave Barry's works, especially Dave Barry's Guide to Guys.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: In this series, men are unable to understand women at all, except for Jack Emery, and even he has failed in his attempts several times. The author firmly sided with women in this series, with an unhealthy dose of misandry thrown in. Naturally, you have Double Standards, Henpecked Husbands, Unfortunate Implications, as well as a cringe-inducing speech by one female character about how men are little boys at heart, and you just need to give them a few things to keep them happy! Indeed, women in this series are presented as understanding men completely, except evidence in the series points to the fact that the author and, by extension, the female characters don't understand anything about men!
- The Belgariad. Women are incomprehensible to men, who almost never win an argument against them, and there are some things about each gender the opposite is just unable to comprehend.
- Self Made Man: My Year Disguised As A Man by Norah Vincent explores some of the tropes surrounding this in real life
- The Gods Themselves has a world where there are three sexes - and they still have a version of this: Rationals, Emotionals and Parentals often baffle each other. Justified in this case, as the three sexes are only able to think and act in line with their gender stereotypes: Rationals are only interested in learning, Parentals are only interested in mating and raising children, and Emotionals are Exactly What It Says on the Tin. On the other hand, this trope is absent when humans deal with each other, though that's mostly because there's only one major female character in the book.
- The Trope Namer was a self-help book from The '80s, which referred to men as Martians and women as Venusians. They were the same species, and used the same language, but lived in very different ways on two different planets. In the books, Martians valued status and achievements, stoicism, direct communication, and practicality. Venusians, meanwhile, valued very nuanced communication, art and pleasure, expressing of feelings, and placed somewhat less emphasis on status and achievements. Martians apparently need time to sulk and navel-gaze, and Venusians apparently go through a regular cycle of feeling good and feeling crappy. Eventually, the Martians figured out space travel, and launched a Benevolent Alien Invasion on Venus, after which they and their new Venusian wives and girlfriends headed to Earth to build a new society. But because their communication styles, emotional needs, and values clashed, they developed problems in their relationships with each other that Martians rarely or never experienced with other Martians, and Venusians never or rarely experienced with other Venusians, and began to resent one another, leading to relationship drama and messy breakups. The solution to this problem, as posited by the book, is that men and women need to learn and get back to traditional roles and relationships.
- Sex and the City and the whole Hes Just Not That Into You spin-off industry.
- In Married... with Children Al goes so far as to form an organization dedicated to promoting the well being of men.
- Many episodes of According to Jim end with an Aesop about the differences of men & woman and what it means to be a good husband/wife, that are treated as universally applicable. One episode has Jim countering the new metrosexual trend by becoming a flannelsexual advocate for traditional gender roles.
- Cheers and Frasier both have tendencies to this, if less overtly so for Frasier.
- Home Improvement- a definite example of Men Are Uncultured as both something men are/should be proud of, as well as a way in which Women Are Wiser.
- In the universe of The Big Bang Theory, almost all nerds are male and their nerdiness can be awkward when trying to talk to women.
- After the fourth season, when Amy and Bernadette were added to the permanent cast, this has been the case more often than not. Either the girls have a separate storyline involving "girl time," or we see the "female perspective" on one nerd-issue or another.
- In an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch Sabrina casts a spell on herself to become a boy because she wants to understand how they think. Hilda does the same.
- Many, if not most, episodes of Two and a Half Men rely on this trope to a large degree.
- A major plot-driving force in Friends .
- Even more so in Coupling.
- That '70s Show derive alot of their trademark splitscreen humor out of this.
- The Office takes a look in Season 2's "Boys and Girls" episode. Jan holds a "women in the workplace" seminar, and Michael takes the "boys" down to the warehouse—where's he's just as unwelcome.
- David Byrne's "Women Vs. Men":
Women have their world, and men, we have ours.
We're into sports, and they're into flowers.
The women are talking. We do not understand.
They speak in a language we do not comprehend.
No one knows how it started, and God knows how it will end.
The fightin' continues, women versus men.
- Byrne also covered this topic with his band Talking Heads on the song "The Girls Want to Be With the Girls" from More Songs About Buildings and Food:
The girls don't want to play like that,
They just want to talk to the boys.
The just want to do what is in their hearts,
And the girls want to be with the girls.
- Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes believes this, because he's at that age. At one point when witnessing Susie (gasp!) doing her homework, he finds the idea of doing it voluntarily so strange that he dubs girls "the gender from outer space!"
- The boys of Zits seem to believe this. It was done with nuance during the early years, showing that it's only true to a certain extent, but in later years, it seems to be played more and more straight.
- Parodied by Laura Shavins on The Now Show, "celebrating" the anniversary of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus:
He wrote that all men are stupid, all women are mad,That's why mixed-sex relationships will always go bad.The best advice to give any young girl or lad,Is that all men are stupid, and all women are mad.
Some comedians that rely heavily on this trope:
- Jo Brand
- Bill Hicks (see "Chicks dig jerks)"
- Denis Leary
- Chris Rock
- Adal Ramones
- Christopher Titus
- Whitney Cummings
- Margaret Cho, although it's more a case of Gay Dude Straight Dude
- German comedian Loriot who coined the quote: "Männer und Frauen passen einfach nicht zueinander!" (Men and women simply don't fit together!)
- Appears in Camelot, when King Arthur, after an argument with Guinevere, starts wishing that Merlin had included women in his childhood education:
And what of teaching me by turning me to animal and bird,
From the beaver to the smallest bobolink?
I should have had a whirl
At changing to a girl,
To learn the way the creatures think!
- The degree to which this trope applies to Catherine would be a good, essay-length discussion of how the game portrays the intricacies of gender relationships. On one hand, the central plot element is about a laid-back slacker trying to decide whether he'd be happier settling down or remaining unchained, with a Betty and Veronica Love Triangle externalizing his decision. Mars-and-Venus symbolism abounds: the planetary symbols are ubiquitous, one of the background tracks is a Classical Music remix of an ode to the planet Mars, and one of the worst things that can happen to the player is the "Curse of the Morning Star" (i.e., Venus). Most of the protagonist's friends don't "get" women, or make assumptions about the fair sex that are flat-out wrong. When their favorite waitress—the most approachable female character—tries to set the poor boys straight, none of them take her advice. Instead, they scoff because it's assumed she wouldn't get it either. Though this is because she is MtF. The other women don't get as much screen time, but don't fare any better: "Betty" is a straight-laced Ice Queen type, while "Veronica" shows early signs of Yandere behavior. So, what does the game ultimately decide about this Trope? It doesn't. You do.
- Questionable Content - full of Female Character X explaining to Male Character Y that "girls all..." and vice versa (though these seem like they're meant to be rules of thumb rather than statements of literal fact), and occasional examples of the 'men and women don't speak the same language' subtrope that usually lead to severe confusion, painful misunderstandings, or both in combination. It gets off pretty lightly compared to most of these examples, though, since none of the characters are defined utterly by their gender and the stereotypes thereof (although Steve sometimes comes close to being a stereotypical man, especially when drunk), nor is it Anviliciously heteronormative.
- Something*Positive doesn't employ as many stereotypes as some examples, and has more non-heterosexual characters than most examples, but still portrays an inherent and quite deep divide between men and women.
- Sluggy Freelance has many such moments. Torg, Riff and Gwynn especially can be pretty stereotypical. And then there's Aylee, who sometimes naturally acts clearly "female" but at others still has huge difficulties understanding how that works in human society. Some characters are not affected at all, such as Sasha or Bun-bun.
- Present in this article here.Not a parody. For a Distaff Counterpart, see also . Note: these are examples of this trope because they both present the dynamic as being true to the fundamental nature of the genders, and of individual people as members of them - which is rather different than just saying some people like sub/dom dynamics on an individual level, or without the gender-based essentialism.
- The website Girls Ask Guys revolves around this concept, providing a place for people of either gender to ask questions and share their life experiences, in a general bid to attempt to better one anothers' understanding of the mysteries of the other side.
- One episode of The Fairly Oddparents has Timmy wishing he was a girl so he could figure out what his crush wants for her birthday. Justified, since the kids still believe that Girls Have Cooties. Chester discusses this when he sees Timmy as a girl going into an arcade and freaks out: "Boys like comic books, girls like dolls. Boys like video games, girls like makeup. We're different! That's why we have different bathrooms!"
- Parodied with the Omicronians: "It is true what they say. Women are from Omicron Perseii 7, men are from Omicron Perseii 9."
- The later episode "Neutopia" exaggerates the differences between men and women for comedic purposes, before introducing a Sufficiently Advanced Alien who creates harmony by making everyone gender-neutral. Everyone's fine with it until they realize it means no more sex, at which point they demand their genders back — only the alien gets a few things wrong.
- Lampshaded in the Kim Possible movie "A Sitch in Time", when Kim discovered that Shego, not one of her male villains, was destined to become the "Supreme One" who would conquer the world. The fact that Kim herself is female is never brought up.
Rufus 3000: Wasn't it clear that Shego was the only one smart enough to take over the world?
Kim: Uh, well, I guess it always seemed more like a guy thing.
- Hilariously subverted in Phineas and Ferb by Candace, who has a tendency to overcomplicate things by assuming this is the case. From "The Baljeatles":
Stacy: I think it's going really well; he asked me to save him a dance.
Candace: He did? What do you think he meant by that?
Stacy: I'm pretty sure he meant he wants to dance with me.
Candace: Hmmm.... Men and their impossible endless riddles.
- And that's not even getting into the fake mustache...
- This trope was given a Take That! in Rugrats where Phil and Lil switch the hairbow so that Tommy can see it won't be hard for him to pass as a girl. Phil cries while wearing Lil's bow and Betty rushes to her side.
- Betty: (in a soothing voice) Oh, whats the matter with beautiful baby girl? (turns to Didi) Girls seem to cry more at this age. (turns to Lil without bow in a buffer voice) Oh, my big baby man. Guess they're ok Deed, now where were we?Didi: We were talking about the difference between men and women.(Phil and Lil soon switch the bow while the Mom's backs are turned)Phil and Lil: See?
- Sharon and Randy Marsh in South Park, as well as the whole town when the plot asks for it.
- In the Teen Titans Go! episode "Boys vs. Girls" Starfire and Raven beat Robin, Cyborg and Beast Boy in a contest 3-0, resulting in Cyborg and Beast Boy assuming girls are better than boys in general, rather than two particular girls just happening to be more competent and having better powers than three particular boys.
- Igra: The girl draws things like flowers, while they boy draws cars, tanks, planes, etc. For that matter the boy takes most of the aggressive actions, while the girl's actions are mostly defensive, at least until she draws herself a gun.