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Vanity Is Feminine

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Don't hate him because he's beautiful.

"Vanity, thy name is woman."

The notion that vanity (in the specific sense of being preoccupied with one's physical attractiveness and desirability to others) and femininity are intrinsically linked: to be feminine is to be vain and to be vain is to be feminine. A woman who is not vain (and preoccupied with how beautiful others perceive her as) is not fully feminine, while a man who is vain is not fully masculine, quite possibly a weakling or homosexual. Handsome men are often described as "ruggedly good-looking," emphasizing their lack of attention to presentation.

When it comes to characterizing women, this trope takes three basic forms, although sometimes there is blendover.

  1. Women are vain, and this is a bad thing. Sometimes the trouble brought on by vanity will be strictly limited to comedy — e.g., women will pack two week's worth of clothing for an overnight trip and primp and preen in front of any shiny surface they happen past. At other times it will cause more serious plot-related complications, as even the most level-headed female types will promptly turn into a Horrible Judge of Character if they are paid an appearance-based compliment by an antagonist. Women will also be tempted, far more than their male counterparts, by promises of youth and beauty at whatever cost. There's a reason the Vain Sorceress and the Plastic Bitch are an almost exclusively female character type. At the most misogynistic end of the scale, women being vain is linked directly to their own downfall and often the downfall of any men who fall for their wiles, thus presenting women as the inherently less moral sex, and vanity as an inborn proclivity to sin that women must strive much harder to overcome if they wish to be truly virtuous. In such a narrative, a non-vain, or less-vain, woman is shown as a model of virtue (and often an Unkempt Beauty). Makeup Is Evil is often in full play, with vanity leading naturally to deceit, and in older works, reckless endangerment of health, perhaps with lead-based or arsenic-based makeup.
  2. Women are vain, and this is the natural and correct state of affairs. A shy girl who starts primping and preening might be said to have "come out of her shell". A tomboyish child who suddenly starts caring about high heels and lipstick will be "growing up". This narrative to a degree reverses the notion of vanity-linked immorality, so while a vain woman may still be flawed, a woman who shuns vanity utterly may be seemingly "unnatural" (in the worst-case scenario, Butch Lesbian with all that implies). This kind of approach seemingly lends itself very easily to notions of Mars and Venus Gender Contrast, and in particular often likes to couple itself with the All Men Are Perverts trope—all men want to look at women, but all women want to be looked at by men, so it all balances out in the end, right?
  3. Women are vain, and this is not right or wrong so much as necessary. In historical settings (or other deliberately misogynistic settings), this trope is sometimes also played as a natural reaction to their circumstances. Women in these worlds obsess over their appearance because beauty and charm are considered "women's weapons"—possibly their only weapons in a world stacked heavily against them (or at least, the only culturally acceptable ones). When handled in this way, the message isn't that women are intrinsically vain, but that they behave that way because the structure of their society legitimately means their appearance can have a dramatic impact on their life.

The implications of this trope tend to be equally nasty when applied to men, where having such a feminine vice implies that this character is "not a real man." The audience may get a chuckle out of a manly man evaluating his Perma-Stubble in a store window, but a consistently and overtly vain man is a joke. He will be foppish, cowardly, and quite possibly gay (especially in a narrative that assumes rugged heterosexuality is the default male state). The Sissy Villain owes much to this trope. On the other hand, Drag Queens typically embrace the trope, and have no end of fun making jokes about how well it fits "girls" like them.

The trope's premise in any incarnation is the polar opposite to the concept of metrosexuality, and its popularity has waned as morals change and gender stereotypes are discarded, but it is not yet a Dead Horse Trope.

Contrast Real Women Don't Wear Dresses; Girly Bruiser and Agent Peacock (badasses who fight fiercely while still looking fierce). Compare Men Act, Women Are and Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty.


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  • In a 2018 Australian fashion promo video, there are two male models, and the one with black hair (whom Trekkies would recognize as Evan Evagora, the model-turned-actor who portrayed Elnor on Star Trek: Picard) is presented as being more androgynous than his more manly friend in various ways, including being vain. Evagora's character is a slender, clean-shaven Pretty Boy who wears a fancy woman's hat which is no less elaborate than the female model's, his suit features a very distinct floral print, he briefly glances at the camera as if it were a mirror and checks if his hat is on correctly and if his face looks nice. Later, he adjusts his blazer.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½
    • Kasumi confronts Ranma after he'd once again insulted Akane on her appearance, saying he needed to apologize and cheer her up. When he needs to know why, she replies that while Akane may be stubborn, awkward, and tomboyish... "she's still a girl."
    • Ranma's own Sex Shifting demonstrates this trope handily. Though he believes himself handsome in either form, insulting his looks as a man will merely annoy him. Insulting his looks as a woman will send him into an absolute berserker rage.
  • Mumu Momoyama in ChocoMimi is the girliest-looking member in the group and also the vainest character in the series. He's often at odds with Mimi over who is The Cutie and even told off Bambi when he noticed she looked more feminine with long hair.
  • Vandread: Men and women both exist on two separate planets, one with an abundance of resources, and one with hardly any. The men's world is therefore much less advanced and has no concept of holidays, luxury, or design as anything but practical. As such, they have become highly resourceful, learning to do as much as they can with as little as they can. By contrast, the women's planet is far more advanced and plentiful. However, they take their vanity to the extreme, wasting their resources thoughtlessly. One example is making their homes nicer looking than their neighbour's, which results in blackouts the likes of which caused many of the space pirates to lose their home.
  • Mitsuba Higashikata from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: JoJolion regularly goes to T.G. University Hospital to receive beauty-enhancing treatments (which started with a breast enhancement surgery). What she doesn't know is that these "treatments" are actually experiments by the Rock Humans to test the powers of the Rokakaka fruit. While she initially goes along with it without question, she changes her tune when her unborn child is threatened.
  • Hinted at in Ayakashi Triangle: Matsuri is for the most part indifferent to his Attractive Bent-Gender, but still gets upset when Soga manages to Ignore the Fanservice for once (unknown to Matsuri, because of magic). He may not understand it, but Matsuri seems to unconsciously want the attention his senpai pays him for being a sexy girl.
    Matsuri: Wait, what? This kinda makes me feel like I lost.

    Comic Books 
  • The Mighty Thor: Amora the Enchantress is a Vain Sorceress whose entire identity (and much of her power set) flow directly from her epic, supernatural beauty, and its effect on both men and gods. Her vanity (though certainly not unfounded) is nearly as legendary as her beauty, and she never hesitates to mock women who are not as attractive (Jane Foster) or who she sees as too 'mannish' for any male to find appealing no matter what their actual appearance (The warrior goddess Sif). The comic itself seems to be of two minds regarding The Enchantress: On the one hand, she is most often treated as a shallow, selfish, and bratty annoyance by many of the more powerful Asgardians. On the other hand, her exquisite face and body do give her immense influence over most males, be they god, human, or superhuman, and even such wise individuals as Heimdal (and, occasionally Thor) have either succumbed to her wiles or sought them out willingly. So, basically, the excessively vain girl is silly, petty, and should be dismissed accordingly... but she happens to be so genuinely, insanely hot that in practice she usually gets exactly who and what she wants.
  • Sha: the soul of a witch who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in the 14th century returns in the 22nd century to exact revenge on the five reincarnated demons responsible for killing her in their past lives. While the four men among them are all killed one by one, the woman who betrayed her is instead left alive with a debilitating disease that will slowly take away her beauty from her.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): In one issue, Sally cuts her hair, and coyly asks Sonic if he likes it, with Sonic responding that he'd never known her to be "so... girly." (Ironically this was intended as a sign of her de-Chickification, which had had her mooning and crying and generally being passive and ineffective.)
  • Wonder Woman: Believe it or not, Wonder Woman was a pretty big example of this back in The Golden Age of Comic Books, where she was much more of a Girly Bruiser than the more hard-bitten warrior woman portrayal today. One particularly infamous story had her deliberately go blindfolded through enemy territory, rather than pull at the duct tape her kidnappers put over her eyes (which would've risked damaging her eyelashes).

    Fairy Tales 
  • In one Avar fairy tale, there is a beautiful maiden who lives in her castle and shows herself to no one. Should you come to the castle and call her three times without her answering, you turn into stone, and there are plenty of statues there already. The hero tries to get her to come out but fails. His sister comes to rescue him, calls the maiden twice, but fails as well. Then she shouts, "Are you more beautiful than me, that you are so vain!?" Three seconds later, the doors slam open with a loud "Who Dares?!"

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Troop Beverly Hills uses this comedically and positively. Phyllis and all her girls are vain and are able to charm a female judge by complimenting her. When Annie does her Heel–Face Turn, it is accompanied by a new and more flattering wardrobe. The villainess Velda is plain, mannish, and cruel, plainly uncomfortable the one and only time she's seen in a very conservative dress. She is portrayed as a bad mother (who doesn't even like to be addressed as such), and her unattractiveness is made fun of.
    "Or we could leave her be toyed with by lonely mountain men. [Glances at Velda.] Really lonely mountain men."
  • 10 Things I Hate About You:
    • Used humorously when feared bad-boy Patrick (played by then-relatively-unknown Heath Ledger) is told Katerina prefers "pretty guys."
      Are you telling me I'm not a pretty guy?
    • The nastier version comes into play with male model Joey, a Jerk Jock who winds up getting his comeuppance via a thrashing from the petite Bianca.
  • Dr. Frank N. Furter from the The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He's extremely vain and does have a feminine (if rather harsh and demanding) personality to him.
    Whatever happened to Fay Wray?
    That delicate, satin-draped frame?
    As it clung to her thigh
    How I started to cry
    'cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.
  • Gender-flipped in Casino Royale (2006) with a scene of Bond checking himself out in the mirror after Vesper gets him an exquisitely-fitted dinner jacket.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the T-X (a female "Terminatrix") walks past a mirror while battling the male T-850, and her head immediately whips to the side for as long as she's reflected in it. There was no reason offered for why she'd do this in the middle of a fight (aside from the obvious point of this trope) and it happens so fast that many viewers likely missed it. In fairness, there's a moment in the first film where a male Terminator (after gouging his eye out and hiding the damage with sunglasses) then takes a moment to fix his hair.
  • Night Angel: Lilith is the villainess of this movie, a demon who goes around seducing and devouring hapless people (not just men). It seems that she can supernaturally charm literally everyone, but she specifically goes after the staff of a glamour magazine rather than something more bold like a politician. Apparently, it's pure vanity: she wants to be a cover girl so people will fawn over her.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • Downplayed with Professor X, whose habit of always being dapper isn't treated as a negative trait In-Universe. However, the attention he pays to his appearance does subtly distinguish his brand of androgynous masculinity from the other two male leads in the franchise (namely the macho Wolverine and the manly Magneto).
    • X-Men: Apocalypse:
      • Vanity, thy name is Charles Xavier. Although his preoccupation with his looks is an aspect of his androgyny, unlike most other male examples, it's not presented as being demeaning to his character. Professor X's feminine side is his most valuable asset in the story, and because Beauty Equals Goodness applies in his case, taking pride in his attractiveness is an extension of him being thoroughly at ease and joyful with his inborn empathy.
      • Quicksilver checks his hair and teeth in the mirror of this commercial, and he's a Manchild. When Evan Peters was asked in this interview to describe his character in only three words, the actor replied, "Fast, cheeky, stylish," so preening is important to Peter Maximoff.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: While they're on Earth, Thor (the macho man) has plain denim clothing while Loki (the androgynous male) is in a chic all-black suit. Thor insults Loki's fashion sense by directly comparing him to a woman, which further accentuates Loki's depiction as the masculine equivalent of a Vain Sorceress.
    Loki: I can't see into the future, I'm not a witch.
    Thor: No? Then why do you dress like one?
    Loki: [offended] Hey.
  • Cat Women of the Moon. After blasting off in their Retro Rocket, the first thing The Squadette does on getting out of the acceleration couch is not check her instruments but open a wooden desk drawer, take out a comb and mirror, and start doing her hair. One of the other male crewmembers made a Side Bet that she would too.
  • Justified type 3 in The Wasp Woman. The female lead is the face of a cosmetics company. If she doesn't look young and beautiful, her products don't look good, and her business falters. This causes her to resort to dangerous beauty treatments when it's clear that she's now considerably older than her company's usual target market.

  • In A Brother's Price Keifer Porter was very vain and very evil, a gender-flipped variant A of the trope. Then it is somewhat inverted with Corelle, who lets her hair grow longer to impress the neighbour boy. Her elder sister tells her to cut it - only the boys are allowed to have impractical long hair.
  • The Wheel of Time. Some women are more inclined to it than others, but this always bears out as a cultural thing, where some societies encourage or discourage such behavior. A great deal is made of female hypocrisy as the characters look down on women who blatantly play up to male desire, but ultimately they all do it, deliberately embracing it after circumstance or jealousy drives them to it. This is seen as the natural and correct state of the world, as women who don't cater to male attention are even more underhanded and often outright villainous.
  • The Narnia books have a fair amount of this. The otherwise down-to-earth Polly immediately starts to trust Diggory's Obviously Evil uncle after he calls her pretty. Lucy, generally shown as more virtuous than her older and vainer sister Susan, is so tempted by the idea of being more beautiful and desirable than her that only the appearance of Aslan stops her from casting a spell allowing her to do so.
  • Xanth takes the All Women Are Vain and All Men Are Perverts approach. Xanth's archaic prohibition against female rulers is presented as unfairly sexist, but the concept that all women desire to be considered beautiful more than almost anything else, and enjoy being seen as beautiful more than the promise of privacy, is inoffensive and simple truth.
    A pretty girl could express shock and distress if someone saw her bare torso, but privately she would be pleased if the reaction were favorable.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Gender flipped with Gilderoy Lockhart who is extremely attractive and extremely vain. He's unable to get through a sentence without talking about how awesome he is. He eventually proves to be a lying, ineffectual coward whose triumphs are a scam. Vanity is bad, in this case, but not a specifically feminine quality.
    • Inverted with Hermoine. She dresses up for The Yule Ball and considers it too much of a hassle to do again.
  • The Belgariad plays with this trope. Certainly no female is established as neglecting her physical appearance when she had any other option available. While 7000-year-old Belgarath appears as an old man (and in fact takes care to look like a vagabond), his 3000-year-old daughter Polgara appears eternally 20 — by (subconsciousnote  — the idea only comes up in The Malloreon, and it's explicitly just a theory) choice, since while an elderly male sorcerer may appear learned and formidable an elderly female sorceress would be seen as a crone. As a child, she kept herself filthy and unkempt but after her sister's marriage she came out of her shell and went to the opposite extreme entirely; constantly bathing, preening, and dressing flatteringly.
  • Joanne Bertin's The Last Dragonlord has the Lady Sherrine, her mother Anstella, and Mauryanna all be exceedingly interested in looks. Sherrine and Anstella have a rivalry based on who is the fairest, and all interactions between the three have clear jealous undertones. These are also the only female characters to display any sexuality; all others in the book are children, old, dwarfs, or more interested in food.
  • In Sarah Addison Allen's The Girl Who Chased The Moon, Emily's mother Dulcie had squelched her objections to an ugly photo of her to discourage vanity.
  • Andre Norton:
    • Ordeal in Otherwhere: the prospect of looking more feminine than was allowed on Demeter cheers Charis up, though she is effectively a slave. She objects to the notion of too garish an appearance.
    • Forerunner Foray: Ziantha toys the notion of having her nondescript appearance changed for good as her reward.
  • Most of the lead characters in the Tortall Universe are Action Girls of one stripe or another and each has her own relationship with vanity, though all of them are used to getting dirty and bruised.
    • Alanna grows up disguising herself as a boy in order to become a knight, but in her teens she starts to yearn to be a woman and seen as one as well, so she starts moonlighting as a lady. After she's forcibly outed, she can be herself and clearly female so while normally she does wear breeches and dresses like a given male knight, now she gets her ears pierced and wears nice dresses on peaceful occasions. A man she picks up on her journeys, Liam Ironarm, is an Amazon Chaser to the extent of becoming very uncomfortable seeing her in one of those dresses; that, and his discomfort with her magic, makes Alanna realize she and him are not going to last. She wants a man who can love all of her.
    • Daine is a common-born girl who on coming to Tortall was first hesitant to replace her skirt with breeches, then enthusiastic. As her status rises she's expected to dress elaborately from time to time, such as when she's with a diplomatic mission to Carthak. She admires her fancy clothes and likes how she looks in them but isn't particularly attached, though she winces whenever she realizes that she's Covered in Gunge and has ruined something.
    • Kel is, thanks to Alanna's example, able to train for knighthood while openly a girl. She soon proves a stocky, muscular girl who's usually mistaken for a boy, something she finds amusing. Because so many of her fellow trainees and the training master hated knowing there was a girl in their midst, she takes up wearing dresses at dinner so that they can't forget what she is, and has to send for more dresses from home, since she'd only brought a few. Spite seems to be her motive; as an older teen she's stopped this and only gussies up for Cleon, though looking in the mirror she finds the vision of who she could have been if not for combat training to spark an odd feeling, more good than bad. After that relationship ends she's not really shown dressing up again.
    • Beka Cooper is usually at work and in her police uniform, but at sixteen she really takes to opals and begins to collect and wear jewelry. When off duty she has quite a collection and likes to be pretty.
    • Arram is the one male lead in the series. He only shows a bit of this in his teens, having opinions about what colors look best on him, but by the time he's The Archmage Numair in The Immortals he's become incredibly vain and tells Daine that men are just as vain as women, they just show it differently. Being a mage who hurls spells from the back lines, he can afford to be more conscientious about his appearance.
  • Journey to Chaos: This trope is averted by Ataidar's Royal Ordercraft Security and Compliance Team. They don't carry hand mirrors to check or correct their beauty. They are for monitoring their progression of silver-grey hairs which mark the level of ordercraft corruption within them. They are all professionals.
  • The poem "The Spider and the Fly" focuses on a specifically male Spider trying to coax a Fly (referred to with feminine pronouns) into his den. While the Fly avoids most of the Spider's enticing offers and starts to leave, the Spider pulls out one last trick to get her: complimenting her beautiful shiny wings and calling her good-looking, while putting down his own drab appearance. That was enough for her to come back, and he whisks her up into his den to eat her.
  • The Sunne in Splendour: In a case of #3, Elizabeth Woodville is justifiably vain as it is what has allowed her to rise above her station and become queen. She knows it, and she's scorned for it. Even other, less wicked, aristocratic women like the Neville sisters and Elizabeth's daughter Bess, are aware they are valued for their beauty.
  • The Faerie Queene: The only woman among the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins is Vanitie. She serves most directly for the queen of the sins, Lucifera, who spends most of her time staring at herself in the mirror.
  • In Queen of the Tearling, Queen Elyssa's excess and focus on beautiful things while her people suffer is a source of shame to her daughter Kelsea. At the same time, Kelsea is very ashamed of her plain face and overly sensitive to any mention of it, and in her worst moments wastes magic to change it.
  • Holo in Spice and Wolf is extremely proud of her tail, often grooming it when traveling on the road and always interested in human items to help her fur look better. Lawrence tends to be prompted on its quality when she prepares to go into her full wolf form.
  • Pretty much all the women, god or mortal are vain in the novel Psyche. Even the good-hearted protagonist balks at losing some of her beauty, even though she doesn't think she cares about it.
  • Throughout her body of work, Mercedes Lackey has written a lot of characters to be vain. With how high of a value she places on practicality, if any of these characters have any opinion to speak of on decoration and their own appearance it's basically considered a minor character flaw if they think about it much and has to be 'earned'; they're usually accustomed to trudging through such wet and messy conditions that a hot bath and clean clothes of any sort are a Mundane Luxury to be savored. You can tell a good noble or rich person in her settings because no matter what kind of fashions are in fashion, the good characters wear clean, plain garments.
    • It's especially prevalent in Heralds of Valdemar, where to contrast with the men and Action Girls who are her usual protagonists she often has a heavy emphasis on Real Women Don't Wear Dresses, having her characters call women who care about their looks things like "empty-headed creatures" with various levels of scorn and condescension. Gay men fare a bit better but there's usually an air of frivolity to descriptions of them. Frequently Beauty Equals Goodness in this setting but it has to be "natural" beauty brought on by being clean in a uniform, or inherently by being magical. Makeup Is Evil, as is any attempt to use magic to manipulate one's appearance.
      • Companions and gryphons, male and female alike, are universally vain and in love with their own appearances and quite a lot of page time is spent on grooming, and on other characters becoming enraptured by their beauty, but it's a case of unquestioned Beauty Equals Goodness and their vanity is treated as a lovable annoyance.
      • Vanyel, protagonist of the Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, is on the flamboyant side when he starts out; his mother's favorite, he's learned lute and fashion in her bower, but despises her as weak and simpering and has a much higher opinion of his tomboyish Action Girl older sister. After the Time Skip between the first and second book he's almost completely left the peacock side of himself behind and is perpetually on the bedraggled exhausted side, but is a White-Haired Pretty Boy per excellence thanks to his magic.
      • In the Mage Winds trilogy Herald Elspeth indulges in a moment of smugness about her position vs that of the Tayledras, who are a Non-Heteronormative Society in which men are all somewhat effeminate by her standards - her Tayledras boyfriend lends her his clothing and it fits fine. The Tayledras live in a magically-warmed valley and enjoy a level of decoration and comfort far beyond what she as a Herald is familiar with, and often sport very elaborate hair and clothing. She allows after seeing bloodied Tayledras scouts brought back to the valley that they've earned this luxury and maybe aren't soft and frivolous.
    • Played somewhat more neutral in The Black Swan and One Good Knight, where Queens Clothilde and Cassiopeia (respectively) weaponize their looks and struggle to stay attractive in a world where beauty is a woman's main virtue. Nevertheless, they remain the villains, and the fervor to which they cling to their charms mirrors their fervor to stay in power. The female protagonists, by contrast, are pretty but largely indifferent to their looks — Odile may have been magically altered, but she gets a pass since it was done without her knowledge or consent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The hosts of What Not to Wear take clients (mostly female), who don't wear flattering clothes or apply makeup and then do their very best to assert that this lack of vanity is due to some very serious psychological issues and that the only cure is to take over their wardrobe and convince them otherwise. Men are given the treatment too, but without the psychological aspect. Men not caring about their appearance is just slovenly; Women not caring is a denial of their very gender.
  • Queer Eye For The Straight Guy: Straight, "masculine" men are not expected to know about matters of style and taste, but gay men can be their tutors.
  • Played with in Frasier, where not only Frasier and Niles' excessive vanity about their clothes and grooming but simply the fact that they have good taste and style, is seen as effeminate and therefore undesirable. This is despite the fact that they always look good because of this — oh no, men are supposed to just accidentally throw on random clothes that they happen to look dashing in.
  • Played with in Community: Jeff, while known for being obsessed with his appearance, tries to make said obsession look as casual as possible.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, all of the female characters were very pretty, and Uhura was by far the most vain of the main cast. When they were all tempted into staying behind on a land run by robots, Spock was offered great knowledge and opportunity for learning, McCoy was offered great medical facilities, Chekov was offered beautiful robot women to obey his every command, and Uhura was offered eternal youth. Even more obviously, in And The Children Shall Lead the characters' worst fears were shown: Kirk's was losing command, Sulu's was facing certain death that he had to maneuver the ship out of, and Uhura's was...being old and ugly.
  • Extreme Male Beauty: On the one hand, the presenter Tim Shaw examines how vanity has become more commonplace amongst men today and reveals that straight manly men can be just as vain as gay men. On the other hand, it's criticising the model industry in every other scene and the final episode hammers home the Aesop that a man who takes pride in his appearance will come across as fake and arrogant and should have that kind of thinking stamped out of him.
  • The Bridge Bunnies of UFO (1970) all carry a shiny metal pouch on the belt of their catsuits. In one episode it's revealed that the box contains not a high-tech Everything Sensor or repair tools for Zeerust computer equipment, but a pop-up mirror and makeup kit!
  • Many of the versions of the Doctor in Doctor Who are ridiculously vain as a rule, and convinced whatever ridiculous crap they choose to wear looks absolutely amazing on someone as fantastically good-looking as them. This is not used in the show itself to feminise the character (besides some throwaway lines by the snarkier companions) and is mostly just a facet of his general weirdness, but some fans interpret it as Camp behaviour and consider it part of the reason for the show's legendary LGBT Fanbase.
  • Game of Thrones: A darker take on the trope, judging from the way Balon treats Theon and his rather gaudy choice of dress, which is nevertheless positively understated compared to some of the styles we see in King's Landing.
  • Tales from the Crypt: In "Only Sin Deep", one of Sylvia's fellow hookers comments sarcastically on the amount of time she spends preening in front of mirrors. Sylvia shrugs it off and seems to assume that it is the natural state of affairs for someone as beautiful as she is.
  • Creeped Out: Kiera is obsessed with taking selfies, but when she’s not taking selfies or working at her job, she is obsessing over her face and putting makeup on. She takes selfies with loads of makeup on and claims the selfies are showing how she wakes up, but they're not. After Kiera loses one of the things that she is most vain about, she becomes more mature, stops constantly taking selfies, and even starts to be less lazy.

  • Shania Twain's song "That Don't Impress Me Much" says vanity in men is unattractive but in the next verse is says machoness is also a turn-off.
    I never knew a guy who carried a mirror in his pocket
    And a comb up his sleeve — just in case
    And all that extra hold gel in your hair oughta lock it
    'Cause Heaven forbid it should fall outta place
  • Katy Perry's "You're So Gay":
    I can't believe I fell in love With someone that wears more makeup and...
    Cue the chorus: You're so gay and you don't even like boys.
  • Demi Lovato's "Heart Attack":
    But you make me want to act like a girl
    Paint my nails and wear high heels
  • HoneyWorks:
    • Confession Executive Committee features the positive variant—that girls wanting to look more attractive is the norm and the standard. "I Want to Become Cute" is an anthem all about how all girls want to look their best for themselves and especially the person they like, and a prominent part of Hiyori Suzumi's character arc is her wanting to be more feminine and fashionable like all of the girls she knows. Tellingly, in the equivalent of this arc in Heroines Run the Show, the ending theme of the episode where she has her makeover is "I Want to Become Cute". Only one boy decides to focus on his looks—Koyuki Ayase—and he was already described to be feminine both in appearance and personality, while his character arc is wanting to do himself over so he's not perceived as girly anymore. Notably, the masculine equivalent of the song, "I Want to Become Cool", is more about how the singer wants to live up to the masculine ideals expected of a boy and a lover, rather than about him dressing up or the joy of looking good.
    • The collaborative song "I Don't Look Cute Just For Guys!" is another version of this theme. Leaning more towards "I Want to Become Cute", this song's more explicitly about a girl who likes dressing up and wearing makeup because it makes her happy, and not because guys ask her or expect her to.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Narcissus of ancient Greek myth makes this Older Than Feudalism, in fact as the root of the word "Narcissist," he might even count as the Ur-Example. He is vain to the point of starving to death because he couldn't tear himself away from admiring his reflection.
  • The Ancient Greeks were big on vanity in general — maybe it had something to do with their obsession with Hubris — but they often connected this specific trait to femininity. The most flagrant example is when the goddess Eris throws a golden Apple of Discord into the wedding of sea goddess Thetis, with a message inscribed: "For the Fairest." This caused an all-out brawl among all of the goddesses and female spirits at the wedding, and the fighting went on for years. By the time the married couple's first child had grown up into a great warrior, the bickering had finally died down to three of the most powerful goddesses of all: Hera, Queen of Olympus; Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty; and Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, who usually didn't seem to care about her reputation as a beauty. Suffice to say, when an outsider judge finally did pick one of them as the Fairest, the other two were not happy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia adventure "Send in the Clones". The Teela O'Malley clones in the final battle are dangerous opponents. However, they can be neutralized by giving them a small mirror, which causes them to primp and fuss with their hair and check their eyeliner and complexion.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000: Followers of Slaanesh are the only ones who give any attention to their appearance and are directly opposed by devotees of Khorne, who are of the brutal, real-men-don't-wear-makeup-or-wash-themselves persuasion (Sigvald the Magnificent has a special rule where his entire unit stops moving so he can admire his reflection on their polished shields). Slaanesh being both male and female (and not always at the same time), many of his champions and up partially hermaphroditic as well.
    • Subverted in the case of Lucius the Eternal, 40K's champion of Slaanesh. He was once the prettiest of the Emperor's Children (the Legion that would eventually turn itself over to Slaanesh), but a fight with a Space Wolf broke his nose in a way that couldn't be fixed, and later acquired facial scars in battle. This pretty much broke his mind, now he actually seems to seek out disfiguring scars when fighting, and his face looks like it's been used as a Tic-Tac-Toe board since.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Cross's Pierre is first met admiring himself in the mirror and joins your party stating they will be the thorns decorating his lovely rose. He turns out to be Miles Gloriosus; a phony and all but useless in combat. However, if you get him a complete set of 'Hero' equipment, he becomes Agent Peacock. This only works for him.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition provides an interesting case, Vivienne is a stand-out example of a type three where Decadent Court of Orlais regularly sees assassinations and murders at parties. This is all part of the game where everyone needs to take care to keep an eye on their appearance and presentation as any showcase of weakness is an open invitation. The only difference is that Vivienne is an exponent of the politics there and is the player's guide to that world.
  • Dynasty Warriors has Zhang He, the Ambiguously Gay officer of the Wei kingdom who is comically obsessed with beauty in almost all forms.
  • In I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, Marz is a Girly Girl among her peers who is most obsessed with her appearance and fashion tastes.
  • Sonic Lost World has Zeena of the Deadly Six, who largely cares more about doing her nails and makeup than helping her teammates take care of Sonic. Sonic, being Sonic, takes the time to mock her about it:
    Zeena: The last time we met, you ruined my nail art. Now I have to reapply a whole new coat.
    Sonic: Oh, my gosh, are you serious?! I am so, so sorry.
    Zeena: Oh! Well, in that case...
    Sonic: Uh, no. What I meant to say is I am so sorry that you have nothing better to do in life!

    Visual Novels 
  • Downplayed in Melody. Becca and Amy both like dressing up (and Melissa liked to as well), and Melody eventually learns to appreciate it. However, one person who is instrumental in helping Melody to appreciate dressing up in more formal and feminine clothes is the protagonist, who, despite being a self-proclaimed t-shirt-and-shorts kind of guy, tells Melody that some occasions and settings warrant looking more presentable.

    Western Animation 
  • The Smurfs (1981): Vanity Smurf fits the bill; a narcissist never seen without a mirror at hand. Naturally, he is Ambiguously Gay.
  • The narcissistic Peacock from the Polish animated series Hip-Hip and Hurra. While he has a very manly voice, he's not only very feminine but tends to faint every single time his beautiful tail gets dirty.
  • A Hey Arnold! episode plays around with this when the girls throw a makeover party and deliberately exclude the tomboyish Helga G. Pataki. When Helga tries to play with the boys instead, they mock her for being ugly and unfeminine. Helga caves and dolls herself up then joins the other girls at the party. After a while, she starts to realize how ridiculous the whole thing is, considering their age. "We're nine years old! We don't have signs of aging!" She persuades the other girls to her side...and they wind up administering the intended makeover to one of the unfortunate boys who tried to crash their party and found himself outmatched.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Toph Beifong is a complicated case. After joining The Team, she was the only one who wouldn't join the morning grooming session. Being blind, she's less concerned with visual appearances than most people. When Katara said that she was dirty, she called it a 'healthy coating of earth' (which also makes sense since she's an Earth-Bending prodigy that relies on the sensory aspect of her powers to compensate for her lack of sight). Despite this, she hides a side that wants to be pretty, was deeply hurt by girls mocking her appearance, and shared a bonding experience with Katara as they went to a spa.
  • Neil, descendant of Narcissus, from Class of the Titans. Like his ancestor, he's exceedingly vain and spends half the episodes he's in admiring his own reflection. This coupled with his problems wielding weapons, fashion expertise, and tendency to emit a high-pitched girlish scream when frightened makes him a part of this trope.
  • Rarity from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is the most feminine of the Mane Six and also the most concerned with her appearance. Her fussiness has caused conflict in a couple of episodes, but she's usually willing to overcome these bad habits for the sake of her friends. "Sisterhooves Social" showed her willingness to hide in a pool of mud as part of a ploy to make amends with her little sister Sweetie Belle, though Rarity insisted on a trip to the spa to clean up afterwards.

Alternative Title(s): All Women Are Vain