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Southern Gentleman

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Now boy, ah say boy! Get us one of them captions over he-are. And a mint julep while you's at it.

The Southern Gentleman is the Spear Counterpart to the Southern Belle.

Common virtues: Well-dressed, well-spoken (even when swearing up a blue streak), charmin', suave and invariably polite to the opposite gender.

Common vices: Racism (including, in the appropriate period, actual slaveholding), drinking, smoking pipes and/or cigars, gambling, pride.

Other attributes: White suit of light material (especially in summer), corncob pipe that nevertheless manages to look dignified, mint julep.

Habitat: Romance novels, westerns.

Notes: Subject to severe Values Dissonance for modern audiences, as, depending on time period, he usually either owns slaves or is nostalgic for the era of slavery (even if he doesn't harbor any actual racist views, the romanticism of the south's "golden age" is what matters).

Associated tropes: Dixie accent, Officer and a Gentleman. Villainous portrayals include Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit and Villain in a White Suit, and may overlap with Southern Gothic Satan. May be Affably Evil or Faux Affably Evil as well, if the character is a villain.

Status: Nearly extinct. Some are still known to moonlight as simple country lawyers or fast food mascots.

Compare and contrast The Friendly Texan.


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    Anime and Manga 


    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Django Unchained (being set during the Antebellum South) features two particularly vicious deconstructions: Spencer "Big Daddy" Bennett and Calvin J. Candie. Both are plantation owners and slavers, and Deliberate Values Dissonance is in full effect with their monstrously brutal treatment of slaves.
  • Like Hatfield, Sergeant Beaufort in Fort Apache is a "fallen" example. A former Confederate officer, he enlisted in the U.S. Cavalry as a private after the Civil War. While not exactly conforming to the stereotype visually — he is played by Pedro Armendáriz — he is easily the most polished of the regiment's non-coms (some of whom had been officers in the Union army).
  • Gone with the Wind: Rhett Butler is the Trope Maker, but also a subversion, just as Scarlett O'Hara does for the Southern Belle trope. The whole point of the character was that he wasn't exactly a gentleman.
    • Ashley Wilkes, the other object of Scarlett's affection, is a more conventional example of the trope.
  • In Gun Fury, Frank Slayton used to be an officer in the Army of Northern Virginia, and still fancies himself as a southern gentleman. However, he becomes increasingly paranoid and murders three of his own gang for various real and imagined offenses.
  • Buck Cantrell from the Bette Davis film Jezebel is a classic example. Amongst other attributes, he is a skilled duellist and Julie attempts to goad him into fighting a duel against Pres, the suitor who spurned her.
  • Lionel Barrymore plays one in The Little Colonel, which is set in the 1870s. He's a Grumpy Old Man nostalgic for the Old South and full of hatred for "Yankees". Then Shirley Temple comes along and cheers him up.
  • Lots of this is lampshaded throughout Maverick.
  • Jeff Custer (full name Jefferson) from Hitchcock's Mr and Mrs Smith.
  • Murder in Coweta County: Sheriff Lamar Potts is a blue-collar version of the trope, being a dutiful, well-spoken man who is always polite and courteous toward women, doesn't gloat about his victories and cares deeply about justice.
  • One of Walter's daydream personas in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) is that of a riverboat gambler. Not the most respectable profession, perhaps, but in his manners and appearance, he's a true gentleman.
  • Hatfield from Stagecoach is a down-on-his-luck example. After the end of the Confederacy he went west and makes a living as a gambler, but recognizing Mrs. Malory as the daughter of his late commanding officer, he immediately starts to fuss over her. In a slight deconstruction of the trope, he is very class-conscious and thus his courtesy to women emphatically does not extend to Dallas (implied to be a prostitute). He also has a marked difference of opinion with Doc Boone, a veteran of the Union Army, as to how the, um, late unpleasantness should be referred to.
  • Thank You for Smoking brings us "The Captain," who is this trope made flesh, right down to the mint julep. He's described as "the last great man of tobacco."
  • John Henry Holliday, better known as Doc Holliday from Tombstone and other films. Also a real-life example.
  • A modern and heroic example is Benoit Blanc from the Knives Out films. He has the (possibly embellished) accent, the stylish dress, and the charm and politeness, but without the associated prejudices.

  • In a lot of black southern folk tales, especially from closer to the time of slavery, the Devil often takes the form of one of these guys. For obvious reasons, considering they were usually also the cruel masters under whom slaves suffered.

  • In Auntie Mame, Mame's husband Beauregard Burnside, as the name suggests, is a filthy rich oil tycoon from Georgia.
  • Several, most notably Colonel Sherburn, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Drake Morrell from Louis L'Amour's Bendigo Shafter.
  • The Caster Chronicles: Macon is a kind-hearted, immaculately dressed man who is quite courteous and eloquent, both when he wants to be friendly and when he's being snarky to his enemies.
  • Quincey Morris in Dracula is one of Lucy Westenra's suitors and a very Friendly Texan. Even after Lucy turns down his proposal Quincey remains on friendly terms with Arthur Holmwood (who she agreed to marry).
  • Several patriarchs from the upper-class Sartoris family from the works of William Faulkner. While there is much to admire about these men, they are still clearly presented by Faulkner as racist and, often, lost in the past.
  • Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird fame is a Simple Country Lawyer and a shining example of this trope. Unfortunately, Go Set a Watchman reveals that he does have the racist views common to this trope — though that book appears to take place in an Alternate Continuity, being an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird that Harper Lee considerably changed before it became the finished product.
  • Most of the major Southern characters in Victoria are some variation of this; for example, General Laclede is a classic type, while Colonel McMoster is a somewhat more rugged middle-class example.
  • O. Henry was very fond of depicting this type. Notably, in "The Duplicity of Hargraves," the eponymous actor makes a study of Major Pendleton Talbot, a real, stereotypical Southern gentleman (whose characteristics, including literally every one of them listed above (except the corn-cob pipe, for which he substitutes a clay) are specifically cited) in order to caricature him on-stage as "Colonel Calhoun."
  • Holmes on the Range: Julius Horatio Riggs from the short story "Bad News" is a well-dressed man with a thick Southern accent and a gracious, good-humored manner. The "Southern" part outweighs the "gentleman", though, as his demeanor can quickly get colder (although still relatively civil) toward anyone who disagrees with his politics, which includes sitting around a saloon with a Confederate flag proudly displayed in it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lucas Buck masquerades as one in American Gothic (1995).
  • In Boston Legal, the prosecuting attorney who argues against Alan Shore when he visits New Orleans.
  • Blanche's father, who was known as 'Big Daddy', on The Golden Girls. Interestingly enough, one episode reveals that he had a long-term relationship with a black woman.
  • Occasionally, on Good Eats, if the recipe has definite Southern roots (fried catfish, for example), Alton Brown will dress and speak like one of these, an Affectionate Parody of Col. Sanders. (Brown is, of course, from Georgia — and despite his studied neutral "General American" newscaster accent, he comes from true old Southern stock — "Ma Mae" Skelton, who appeared in his original biscuits episode, was his actual grandmother, and his recipe is an updated version of hers — and all its culinary traditions.)
  • The Kirby Buckets episode "Kirby to the Max" has Kirby go to a maximum-security Saturday detention program run by a Southern Gentleman known only as "the Colonel". Turns out, the Colonel is actually a Faux Affably Evil Corrupt Corporate Executive in a white suit who forces students to compete in the "Tickle Pit", a for-profit underground fight club where people have to tickle each other until one of them laughs. If you lose, you instantly become less respected amongst your peers, while if you win, you're stuck competing in the pit until you lose. This makes the Colonel easily the most evil character on the entire show.
  • A couple of times, The Nightly Show has poked fun at this trope. When discussing Mississippi's attempts to maintain a ban on gay adoption, Beechum Grady (played by Rory Albanese) personifies this role during an interview in which he explains Mississippi's "pro-yesterday" policies. This is later extended in a different segment about a state senator's Christmas cards featuring the Confederate flag that features an entire table full of Southern Gentlemen (including one who doesn't seem to realize slavery's been abolished) going over Christmas card designs that all feature Confederate flags, with Mike Yard playing the Only Sane Man at the table.
  • The Peripheral (2022): Corbell Pickett, the drug lord who controls the small town of Clanton, very much wants to be this, always being immaculately groomed (including, naturally, elaborate cowboy boots) and usually speaking in a friendly, fatherly tone. None of this changes the fact that he's a sadistic killer who is happy to crucify his enemies and mutilate his own men in public.
  • Don Johnson plays one of these as "Sir" in A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017). The photo above is not from that role, as he appears to have a penchant for this type.
  • Sharpe: Captain Leroy in Sharpe's Eagle is an unusual example, being an American Loyalist fighting for Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. His family made its money on "slaves, cotton and molasses". The working-class Sharpe calls him out on the first of these near the end of the episode.
  • The Sports Night episode "Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee" includes two characters discussing that this trope as it relates to the Confederate flag and the history of the south. When Isaac points out to Danny that their CEO, Luther Sachs, is a southerner who likes to consider himself a Southern Gentleman. As Isaac puts it, "the difference, Danny, is all the difference"; the implication being that Sachs confuses his own wealth and elitism with the class and personal nobility that is associated with the trope.
  • Dr Leonard McCoy from Star Trek: The Original Series. Jerk with a Heart of Gold, genuinely compassionate and dedicated to his role as a healer, but also considerably more prejudiced than the other crew members, especially towards Spock and Vulcans in general. Played with when one considers that Spock gives back as good as he gets, McCoy engineered a way out for Spock when Spock was double-crossed by T'Pring in Amok Time, and the two of them would willingly sacrifice their lives for each other. Spock even goes so far as to leave his katra in McCoy when he dies at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan even though Scotty was also available.
    • Star Trek: Discovery brings us Captain Gabriel Lorca, who is a considerably nastier take on the trope, as a domineering and manipulative officer only interested in what people can do to help him achieve his goals.
  • Asmodeus, one of the Princes of Hell in Supernatural, likes to evoke the image. He wears an entirely white suit, has a well-trimmed beard, and speaks with a sophisticated southern accent. Dean refers to him as Evil Colonel Sanders.
  • Bill Compton from True Blood is a variation, he's probably the most polite vampire ever.
  • Yancy Derringer, the gambler-hero of the western Yancy Derringer.

  • Satirised in Tom Lehrer's "I Wanna Go Back To Dixie", from Songs by Tom Lehrer, where the phrase refers to the Ku Klux Klan:
    I wanna talk with southern gentlemen
    And put my white sheet on again,
    I ain't seen one good lynchin' in years!


  • Senator Beauregard Claghorn of Charleston, South Carolina from The Fred Allen Show; the character who would be the inspiration for Foghorn Leghorn. Most of Foghorn Leghorn's catchphrases (Like "That's a joke, son") originated with Senator Claghorn.

  • Edward Rutledge of South Carolina in 1776. His refined mannerisms are a veneer over his iron control of the Southern delegations, and he forces the removal of the Declaration of Independence's anti-slavery clause after singing the damning "Molasses to Rum," where he correctly points out that Northerners are the ones sailing the slave ships.
  • Big Daddy for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Dignified, chivalrous, and autocratic.

    Video Games 
  • In After the End: A Post-Apocalyptic America, the evolution of this trope, combined with a dash of misremembered history, has led to the rise of a new knightly warrior elite in the post-apocalyptic American Southeast.
  • Sinclair from BioShock 2, one of the Voices With An Internet Connection who helps you throughout the game. Atlas from the first game was originally meant to be one, but they decided to make him Irish instead.
  • Wainwright Jakobs from Borderlands 3 plays this trope straight and goes against it in several ways. On the one hand, he speaks with a strong Southern accent (despite being from an alien planet), wears a light grey suit that looks like a white suit, runs a family business, and cares about tradition in both behavior and the guns he makes. On the other hand, Wainwright is not big on adventure and excitement, is a terrible shot, is eco-conscious, cares a lot about the well-being of his employees, and (most damning of all) is gay and dating a black guy.
  • Captain Keyes from Halo, though not explicitly said to be from the Southern United States, he fits this trope in his accent and manner of speaking.
  • Frank "Hitman" Hennessy from Jagged Alliance is a friendly smooth sweet-talker and notorious for enjoying Charlene 'Raven' Higgens' company a tad too much for Ron "Raider" Higgens, her husband's liking.
  • In L.A. Noire, Dr. Harlan Fontaine speaks with a noticeable Southern accent and is a polite, sophisticated, highly respected member of society. He's actually a Faux Affably Evil Villain with Good Publicity who's part of a Big Bad Duumvirate.
  • Mafia III: Remy Duvall, the leader of the Southern Union, has a public persona as a businessman and radio host. On his program, he comes across as a charming and avuncular fellow, if you ignore his blatant racism and classism. As the player tears down his criminal empire, the gentleman act goes out the window and he reveals himself to be a vicious madman.
  • John Marston of Red Dead Redemption, despite being a former outlaw, can actually fit into this trope, with the clothing being the only other concern (in which case, you could put him in the gambler outfit or the duster).
  • Arcturus Mengsk of Starcraft is portrayed as one, with him going so far as to wear clothes resembling a CSA general's outfit. Ironically, the corrupt government he overthrows (only to replace as equally-corrupt) is called the Confederacy, and its flag looks exactly like you'd think.
    • Mengsk's right-hand man and former Confederate general, Edmund Duke, also has a touch of this trope.
  • Clem from The Suffering.
  • Calm, polite, multiple PhD-having Engineer from Team Fortress 2.


    Web Video 
  • In his "Groundhog Day Explained" video CGP Grey tells about Georgia's resident groundhog seasonal predictor "General Beauregard Lee, who one must assume has stylish facial hair and fans himself on the veranda of his plantation home while drinking mint julep and pining for the day when the South will rise again."

    Western Animation 
  • Foghorn Leghorn is a parody of such.
  • Gilbert Dauterieve, Bill's cousin on King of the Hill is a parody, with the added twist of being Ambiguously Gay. Modeled on Tennessee Williams.
  • Colonel Shuffle from the Looney Tunes shorts "Mississippi Hare" and "Dog Gone South". "Ah, magnolia!"
  • The Simpsons:
    • The unnamed Southern Colonel, the last person cocky Homer challenges to a duel in The Simpsons episode "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)".
    • In "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment", Southern gentlemen request bootleg mint juleps at Moe's Speakeasy.

    Real Life 
  • Colonel Sanders cultivated a Southern Gentleman persona for the latter part of his life, and this image now adorns KFC materials all over the place.
  • You'd be hard-pressed to find a version that's more recognizable or admirable than Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.
  • During The American Civil War, one Union general invoked this trope to protect his written orders from spies: he sealed them in a fancy envelope, daubed them with perfume, and had them signed by a female hand. His orders were reportedly never intercepted, because he'd guessed correctly that no southern gentleman would dare be so uncouth as to open, never mind read, a lady's love-letter.

Alternative Title(s): Southern Gentlemen