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Playing With / Top Wife

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Basic Trope: A polygamous marriage where one of the wives is dominant over all the others.

  • Straight: Bob has multiple wives, of whom Alice is the one with the highest rank, which gives her authority over the others.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Alice is the leader and decision-marker of the family, over not just the other wives but also their Henpecked Husband Bob.
    • Alice is a monarch or dictator, while Bob's other "wives" are slaves owned by one or both of them.
  • Downplayed: Alice is merely the first among equals. This means the other wives treat her with respect, but she doesn't get to just order them around.
  • Justified:
    • Alice is the only one legally married to Bob, and she exercises the legal protections this gives her. While Bob treats the other women as his wives, they have no such legal status.
    • Under the laws of his country, a man who's already married can have other wives, but he needs permission from his first wife. This means Bob's other wives had to do something to convince Alice to let her husband marry them, and reassuring her that she'd still be the one in charge was how they did it.
    • Of all of Bob's wives, Alice is naturally by disposition The Leader, and the others view her as such.
    • Bob is a monarch and his wives are assigned ranks based on family status. Alice is the one in charge because her father is an emperor, while Bob's other wives are the daughters of kings, non-royal aristocrats, or even commoners.
  • Inverted: Alice is the lowest-ranked of Bob's wives, and she gets bossed around by the others.
  • Gender Inverted: Alice has multiple husbands, of whom Bob is the highest rank, which gives him authority over the others.
  • Subverted:
    • Alice is legally Bob's top wife, but in practice, she's generally regarded as equal to the others and acts it.
    • People assume Alice is the top wife because Bob married her first, but Bob is a devout Muslim, and in Islam the condition of polygamy is that the wives be treated equally. Bob takes this very seriously, and makes a concerted effort to not treat any wife as a favorite.
  • Double Subverted:
    • However, that's only because she prefers to be viewed as a peer rather than a superior. When she actually gives an order, the other wives still obey her.
    • However, even without a husband-designated favorite, Alice still ends up at the Top Wife because by personality she's a natural leader.
  • Parodied: ???
  • Zig-Zagged: ???
  • Averted:
    • Bob and Alice are monogamous or single.
    • All of Bob's wives hold equal rank to each other.
  • Enforced: ???
  • Lampshaded: "Well, if someone's gotta be top bitch, it might as well be me."
  • Invoked:
    • Men with multiple wives are legally required to elevate one over all the others for the purposes of simplifying inheritance matters.
    • Bob is a king and while he can have multiple consorts, only one of them can hold the title of queen.
  • Exploited: ???
  • Defied:
    • Bob loves all his wives equally and refuses to hear any talk of treating any one of them as better than another.
    • None of Bob's wives are willing to be ranked, even if they have the theoretical chance of being the one on top.
  • Discussed: "If one believes in the theory that humans are naturally hierarchical, then it's only natural that one wife would rise to the top."
  • Conversed: "You know, a lot of harem anime seem to have one girl obviously in charge of the others."

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