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Name That Trope: She's hot! She's cool! She's one of the guys!

A few of us saw The Change-Up for the most recent Popaganda podcast (the things we'll do for you...) and one of the many things I was struck with during the movie (among an inexplicable plot, a million penis jokes, etc.) was the character of Sabrina, played by Olivia Wilde. Around the time she called her date out for ordering a bottle of wine (the nerve!) and ordered a manly scotch instead, I knew what we were in for. She's a conventionally hot and sexy legal aid who loves drinking, sports, and daring people to get tattoos: A version of a trope—a woman who likes "dude things" yet is still traditionally feminine—that we've all seen before in countless movies and TV shows.

screen shot of Olivia Wilde holding up a pair of baseball tickets
The dogs are hot and so am I! Baseball! (Watch the clip of this scene here.)

However, my scouring of TV Tropes for a name and a clever description yielded no results. Thus, it's time to Name That Trope!

First, an exploration of the as-yet-unnamed trope, then on to the naming!

This character is almost always defined in opposition to other women. She's not like "girly" girls, with their book clubs and their conversations and their foreign films; she wants a macho dude with whom to chug a beer and eat a hot dog at the ballgame. Similar to the ways in which the Manic Pixie Dream Girl embodies a male fantasy (in that case, she's there to "teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures"), this character is there to teach shallow young men who are in a state of arrested development that they can get drunk, watch sports, and have sex with a hot woman without ever having to care about "lady stuff" like communication. Cameron Diaz' Mary in There's Something About Mary is a prime example:


"I want a guy who can play 36 holes of golf, and still have enough energy to take Warren and me to a baseball game, and eat sausages, and beer, not lite beer, but BEER."

This character will also usually appear in at least one scene eating something that is dudely and wholly unladylike (ribs, chicken wings, steak)—helping perpetuate the notion that a dream woman is remarkably thin but can still magically eat like a linebacker (yes, some women have high metabolisms, but I'd wager that Cameron Diaz isn't going home every night to a foot-long chili dog). Though I couldn't get a great clip of her kicking ass at the manly sport of video arcade gaming, Drew Barrymore's Erin in Going the Distance does cover her face with wing sauce in the film's trailer:


It's OK because I'm hot!

Jenny McCarthy's pre-anti-vaccine persona was all about this move as well:


Mmm... balls.

Speaking of McCarthy (remember her from Singled Out?), there's typically an element of bullying and aggression when this woman appears. She's likely to cajole her suitor with lines like, "Don't be a pussy!" and, "Get that sand out of your vagina!" (further serving to distance herself from other women as well as emasculate the man she's with, natch). Miller Lite has based an entire ad campaign around this premise. Sandra Bullock's character in Miss Congeniality, a tough-talking, beer-swilling FBI agent who turns out to be secretly hot and sexy, provides a tamer example:


Man up!

This dish-it-out attitude helps the character to get in good with her dude's friends, which is handy because she almost always joins her suitor's group of friends instead of the other way around—often winning them over by being crude and fitting in as "one of the dudes," as in Minnie Driver's blow job joke scene from Good Will Hunting—or at the very least, she mainly interacts with men because of her bro-ish appeal, as is the case with PJ from My Boys:


A woman can be just as jerk-y as a man!

And for an example that combines a "man up" attitude with a penchant for greasy meat and sports on TV, here's a clip of Jenna from the show Wilfred (note: this clip is from a particularly transphobic subplot wherein the Elijah Wood character is trying to "out" Jenna as possibly having a penis. None of that shows up in this clip, but I still wanted to mention it):

Tofu is for nerds.

Unlike her Manic Pixie Dream Girl counterpart—who is almost always portrayed as a young white woman—this particular character is played by non-white actors as well. Rosario Dawson's role in Clerks II as a nerdy fast food cook fits the bill (the video of Kevin Smith discussing her "one of the guys" character is non-embeddable, but you can watch it here), as does Tyra Banks' portrayal of Jackie, the cute basketball player from Will's Philadelphia days, on Fresh Prince.

Olivia Munn has also made a name for herself by titillating bros and dudes the world over:


Or maybe she just really likes hot dogs?

Another trait of this particular character is often that she loves casual sex (in a male gaze-y way, of course). She may in fact be too much for some guys to handle (see PJ in My Boys) because she wants to fuck like a dude with no strings attached. (Again, there is nothing wrong with this attitude, but when it clearly exists to fuel a male fantasy, becomes a trope.) Mila Kunis' character in Friends With Benefits provides an example:


Yep, you heard right: She called him a pussy.

Keep in mind that these are but a few illustrative examples of this character type, and that there are plenty of women on screen who exhibit many of the aforementioned traits, but because they're well-rounded characters with their own motivations and lives (Deb from Dexter comes to mind), they aren't examples of this trope—they're just women who like sports and sex and beer. The character in question, on the other hand, exists for the men on screen and in the audience, offering a fantasy of a hot woman who behaves like a bro-ish dude (but not really) that comes straight out of a Budweiser ad in a porno magazine (does Budweiser advertise in porno mags? If so, this is probably what they're going for).

So, without further ado, it's time to NAME THAT TROPE! I conducted a brief poll around the office and on Facebook and got a few suggestions. Please add your own suggestions and examples in the comments!

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Comments

45 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I propose Exceptional Woman,

I propose Exceptional Woman, after exceptional woman syndrome.

YEP!

YEP!

Good suggestions

I do like OOG, but I'd also like to throw in the option of 'Dude Bro Hottie.' The remarkable thing about this trope is that it can be applied to "hot chicks" meant to fulfill male fantasies, but when applied to women who are not conventionally attractive or overtly feminine in appearance, the character is usually played for laughs, such as Shannon Beiste on Glee (at least in her initial appearances).

The titillating tomboy

The titillating tomboy

I like this one.

I like this one.

Love it!

I'm a sucker for alliteration. Plus "Titillating Tomboy" describes this trope well.

Yes.

This. FTW.

Yes

I definatly like his one.

+(!)1

+(!)1

Titillating Tomboy seems to

Titillating Tomboy seems to fit.

perfect!

perfect!

Ladette?!

Ladette entered (nerd alert) the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001 after nearly 10 years of use in the UK, where it referred to "Young women who behave in a boisterously assertive or crude manner and engage in heavy drinking sessions." (Concise OED). 'Ladette culture' as it was known began with TV presenters such as Zoë Ball, Amanda de Cadenet, Sara Cox and Rachel Williams, as well as musicians like Justine Frischmann and artists like Tracey Emin, who were sexually frank, liked partying and spoke their minds. It had (I think) a classist edge to it as well: these were working-class women behaving 'badly,' or middle class women affecting supposedly working class manners. That classed use is visible in the hideous British 'reality' show From Ladette to Lady, which transpires to replay the Eliza Doolittle narrative.

I'm curious as to whether there's a class or race element to the current wave of 'push-up bros' (nice one) in US film and TV: you mention that this is a trope open to female performers/characters of colour, but I'm wondering whether it is, for example, an extension of the 'sassy Black best friend' trope.

Macho Pixie Dream Girl also seems like a possible name.

Great points!

I think there is a definite relationship between the ladette and this character. In fact, they might be describing the same thing, although in my (USian) understanding, a ladette isn't necessarily a sexy sex object. Is she?

Interesting point about class! I'd venture to say (though I'd love to hear from others on this) that the class issue at play with this trope is almost the reverse of the "Ladette to Lady" phenomenon: It's OK for these women to behave crudely because we know that they aren't *actually* crude (read: lower-class) people at heart. Olivia Wilde's character in The Change-Up for example, is a wealthy-seeming legal aid with a nice house and a fancy haircut, so therefore it's OK for her to be sexually aggressive and swear a lot. As far as the differences go when it comes to actors of color, the examples I've seen appear to be pretty straightforward examples of the trope—more bro-ish than sassy, though I definitely see a connection. Great thoughts!

I like "Macho Pixie Dream Girl"! What do others think?

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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I love Macho Pixie Dream

I love Macho Pixie Dream Girl! Esp since she is casted as the polar opposite, yet total twin of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. It's got my vote!

pixie?

I like the "macho dream girl" part, but unlike her manic counterpart, this one frequently isn't the pixie type. While certainly never a "big girl," she tends to occupy more physical space. At any rate, her vocal pitch--including, often, a dry delivery of her zingers-- and her body language don't evoke the flighty and etherial pixie.

I also vote for Macho Pixie

I also vote for Macho Pixie Dream Girl. It's the best one to reflect how the character exists to fulfill a male fantasy.

This is pretty similar to

This is pretty similar to Female Chauvinist Pigs, described in Ariel Levy's book of the same name. But as a TV/Movie trope, perhaps it is something a bit different - less focused on raunch culture specifically. But it's definitely close!

Totally!

This trope is definitely an offshoot of the Female Chauvinist Pig! Since that phrase is already taken (and used to aptly describe a disturbing movement that basically gave birth to the trope we're talking about), I figured a new name was in order.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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Tomboy Temptress?

I think Female Chauvinist Pig

I think Female Chauvinist Pig is apt.

There's a book with the same title by Ariel Levy that talks about this very thing. Women who act like men and reject certain aspects of femininity in order to be a lot more like boys. Women who believe certain things about other women and reject them, socially (like preferring to hang out with men) and in mannerisms (preferring to do overtly male things so as not to be perceived as girly and not "done").

bimbro!

bim-bro, as caroline posted on facebook, is the best i've seen so far...

Bim-bro seconded

My vote also goes to bim-bro.

Bimbro thirded

Yeah, awesome.

I like "titillating tomboy,"

I like "titillating tomboy," personally.

But! I do want to take issue with some of the examples used, especially in light of the distinction made between well-rounded characters who happen to like "dude" things, and trope-representing characters who exist only to embody a shallow male fantasy.

Specifically, I'm looking at that trailer for "Going the Distance," and that sure doesn't look like a movie aimed at dudes at all. In fact, if that trailer is any indication, Drew Barrymore's character seems pretty well developed. On what basis do you conclude that she is a uni-dimensional manifestation of an adolescent male's ideal woman? 'Cause I don't see that in the trailer at all. Come to think of it, I also question the inclusion of the "Friends With Benefits" example. I haven't seen the film, but the whole premise is supposed to be about friends trying to have a non-emotional, sexual relationship (and, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess, failing and falling in love?). Just because Mila Kunis' character has a desire to engage in sex without emotional attachment, does not mean that her character is not multi-dimensional, or that she represents this "bro hottie" trope. I mean, maybe she does, I haven't seen the movie. But I don't think it's fair to assume.

Also, "Miss Congeniality?" That's a movie specifically aimed at a female audience. Yes, Sandra Bullock's character is rough and tough, and acts like a dude. But the whole point of the movie is that her edges must be softened; she has to learn to be more ladylike and pretty, so she can catch herself Benjamin Bratt. It's really not a male fantasy, but rather a female fantasy, about how it's okay to like high heels and manicures; being feminine doesn't make you weak, it makes you better.

I do think this trope definitely exists -- "There's Something About Mary" is the prime example, as well as Jenny McCarthy's (former) persona, and I'm sure there are lots of other great examples. But I think some of the examples used here don't stand up.

Thanks for your comment,

Thanks for your comment, Gyno-Star! I see what you're saying about some of these characters being in female-driven films. However, to my mind that doesn't mean they weren't written as embodiments of male fantasies (especially given the prevalence of men in most writers' rooms). Drew Barrymore's character in Going the Distance, while someone women are meant to relate to, still exhibits lots of these behaviors (chowing down on chicken wings, bullying Justin Long's character and kicking his ass at video games, etc.) but you're right that some of these examples are tropier than others.

For more about Friends With Benefits and how it fits in here, check out Sara Reihani's review: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/dark-of-the-matinée-21st-century-fck-friends-with-benefits

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Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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Thanks for the Link

Thanks for the link - that review is a hilarious read.

But why should being feminine

But why should being feminine make anyone better? That movie to me says that Sandra Bullock was an unconventional woman who made men uncomfortable, and therefore all MEN took it upon themselves to change her and make her fit their idea of a perfect woman. I think it is a good example of the trope. As for names, I like bimbro and macho pixie dream girl.

Friends with Benefits

I have to say that since working on developing social awareness of media when I was in high school, it's been hard for me to go to most movies without being easily offended by something. I found Mila Kunis' character to be absolutely delightful. I felt like the sex scenes were some of the best sex scenes I'd ever seen for empowering people to communicate their needs during sex. I thought the dynamic of friends who also sneakily have crushes on each other highlighted the common misplaced discrepancy between friendship and love (like, shouldn't love involve friendship? I'm so annoyed with movies where there's obviously "love" going on but there's no substance to the female character and no evidence of any real relationship) really well. I thought Mila's character did a good job of poking fun at masculinity in healthy ways (I enjoyed both that she called JT a "pussy" even though I dislike that word as a put down, and that he was actually scared to jump down. I'm usually too scared to jump down too!) It did leave a lot to be desired, and then ends of both this and "No Strings Attached" left me feeling sick because they invalidated all the wonderful work they'd been doing when they decided they were "in love". I do think "Friends With Benefits" was a good step in the right direction for movies about couple dynamics.

Fem-Bro?

I also like the Ladette and Macho Pixie Dream Girl suggestions.

Having identified as a feminist tomboy, I'm not so keen on the suggestions that involve tomboy. It's not a great term itself, and I'm not sure I'd use it nowadays, but for me it at least connotes a girl/woman who, among other traits, knows who she is and what she wants, and is not out to please, define herself in terms of, or necessarily fit in with men. A tomboy, as I've always seen it at least, has an internally derived strength of character (not exclusive to tomboys of course!), as opposed to needing to denigrate other girls or women to secure her status among men; and has likely made a conscious decision to transgress certain feminine stereotypes because that's what feels right for her, not as an act to please others. There's no question that women in this as-yet-unnamed trope are straight, for example; whereas when I was growing up, being a tomboy meant facing assumptions or accusations of also being a lesbian (true for some tomboys, not for others).

This phenomenon was already

This phenomenon was already defined in "Food Court Druids, Cherohonkees and Other Creatures Unique to the Republic" by Robert Lanham as a

JOCK TEASE.

Totally holds up.

I think this trope falls

I think this trope falls under the TV-Trope "Lad-ette" http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheLadette, perhaps she's a sub-category of the Lad-ette because of the emphasis on conventional hotness. Lad-ettes are sometimes tomboyish, like Kara/Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica.

I second this. When I saw

I second this. When I saw Kelsey's post (and having wasted many, many nights on TV tropes), I thought it was almost unbelievable for this type of character to be so common yet undocumented on the wiki.

Debra Morgan

I love Deb from Dexter! I think the writers and the actress do a solid job of portraying her masculine and feminine characteristics co-existing successfully in the same person. She doesn't use her interest in alcohol or casual sex to degrade women or to impress a group of men. I love the scene in which Quinn tells her she is like a man, and she gets pissed until he explains himself. Deb doesn't need male approval to be who she is despite having a plethora of relationship story lines. I do hope she gets a better plot in season 6.

Anyway, I'm casting my vote for Dudely Do Right.

Why not Ladydude?

It was a throwaway reference, I think, but it's quite apt.

However, I also like bim-bro :) It's concise.

Breastosterone Bud

She's just like one of the dudes, but with a nice rack.

I can only accept the term"OOG" if it's used tongue-in-cheeck-ly

I hate the "she one of the guys" as compliment. I hate it! How condescending! It's like she has to assume a "guy's" demeanor to be considered fun, or respectable. And how smug men are when they think that a woman is flattered to be identified as "one of the guys."

Naming of the Trope

Hollydude Fantasy Girl

This has been named in Ariel

This has been named in Ariel Levy's book "Female Chauvinist Pig."

Jenny McCarthy

The Jenny McCarthy example is an interesting one, because she often talked about how that persona was a direct result of horrible, sexist catcalling, harassment, groping, and violation she experienced working on that show. She talked about how awful it was and how she would take every opportunity to humiliate the men when the cameras were rolling who had been groping her and treating her like an object beforehand. Whatever the cause, the net result for the viewer was to reinforce this OOG/Female Chauvinist Pig stereotype, which is sad, because the backstory got totally lost in translation. Its interesting to think about how these behaviors develop and how the things people do to survive and take back their power end up maintaining the status quo.

Tomboy Barbie?

Has ridiculously "feminine" physical look of all those other barbie dolls but her dream job is "to be just one of the boys"!

YES. It's that level of

YES. It's that level of objectification under the guise of "fun."

Bro with a Bra. Because

Bro with a Bra. Because that's basically what she is, you know?

Sucks to Be That Dude Too

It sounds like these particular female characters are supposedly appealing because they present all the fun guy stuff (drinking beer, watching sports, winning belching contests) without the "lame"girl stuff (needing commitment, wanting to be treated like a princess, loving to shop and wear pink), which is really pretty degrading to men too...Makes a lot of assumptions about what the typical guy is into. My vote goes to Bimbro.

One of the Guys

I actually read a male friend's screenplay that included one of these characters and he patted himself on the back for including a "strong female character" in the form of a "girl who has sex like a guy" (e.g. likes casual sex). I couldn't help but think: that's really not a personality trait so much as a phase a lot of people go through in between relationships. Writing a female as though she's a male does not a well rounded character make.

Had to go with "one of the guys" for my vote, since I've heard the phrase used by someone out to perpetrate the stereotype.

Funny and also awesome...

This was SUCH an awesome look at the ways this image of pseudo-feminism is marketed to both men and women as a sort of neo-liberal sexual revolution (patriarchal) fantasy. I've never heard the term "trope" nor have I ever really sat down and figured out what, exactly, is troublesome about these characters, with their conventionally attractive looks juxtaposed with "quirky" (not really) habits. You articulated the values platformed by trope characters so well, but I especially appreciated your focus on differentiating from women characters who genuinely enjoy some "dudely" pasttimes.

PS. Many bonus points for your use of "dudely". I hope to use it in a sentence at the next available opportunity.