Compensating for Something

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"Do you think he's maybe compensating for something?"

Shrek (while looking at Lord Farquaad's huge castle), Shrek

Like building an Evil Tower of Ominousness or wielding a BFS or BFG, there are just some things that have to make other characters wonder if a male character must be compensating for certain other inadequacies.

Despite the joke, sometimes bigger really is better, in a non-Freudian way. In these cases, you're not Compensating for Something, you're sane. Usually.

Theorized by some to be the reason Heroes Prefer Swords.

If you actually have a small penis, it would, unfortunately, make you an Acceptable Hard Luck Target.

See also Gun in My Pocket.

The examples are limited to In-Universe. Please do not add your own speculations.

No real life examples, please; real people are not defined by a single trope.

Examples of Compensating for Something include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • It's explicitly stated by the narrator. K (Vice's master) from Ultimo buys impressive vehicles and weapons to make up for his low intelligence and lack of physical power.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

Deadpool: Hey, y'know what money can buy? A solid gold gun. That shoots diamond bullets. I call it "The Compensator". Whatta ya think?

  • Herr Starr from Preacher (Comic Book) develops an obsession for large handguns after he gets his junk bitten off by a trained dog. He poses in front of the mirror holding one in front of his crotch and goes: Doom cock. DOOM COCK! DOOOOOOM COOOOOOCK!!!!!!!!!
  • In Doom Patrol, one minor villain was an impotent man with a... size problem... who designed a phallus-shaped multi-purpose crotch weapon and dubbed himself "Codpiece" before a short-lived crime spree (see the page pic).

Films — Animation[edit | hide]

  • The first Shrek movie includes this as a Parental Bonus joke with Shrek saying the above quote to Donkey. Kids take away the meaning of compensating for being short, and adults take away the other. Note that, when Shrek first sees the castle, he hasn't meet Lord Farquuad yet.

Films — Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • The Riff Trax edition of Spider-Man 3 suggests this is why Harry bought M.J. a bigger bouquet of flowers.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, this trope is invoked in reference to a double-necked guitar.
  • There's a rather long monologue in M. Butterfly (a Deconstruction of Madame Butterfly and many Asian Stereotypes that's very vaguely based on a true event) related by the protagonist that his ex-girlfriend said that boils down to this: "Big Cars, Big Buildings, and all the great, big inventions are done by the guys with the smallest dicks."

"Say I'm a guy with a small weenie. I'm gonna take over this BIIIIIIIG country, or build this really TALLLLLL building, or write this really LOOOOOOOOONG book, so the other guys don't know, right? But the problem is, you're still wearing clothes, so you conquer the country or whatever, but you're still wearing clothes, so no one can prove who has the bigger weenie."

  • Parodied / lampshaded in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, when a Mook questions why the heroes have such bigger guns than they do; his compatriot replies, "It's a phallic thing, I dunno."
  • Even mentioned in James Cameron's Titanic, during a scene in which one of the boat's backers is bragging about the ship's capabilities, claims which our heroine Rose greets with some skepticism. "Do you know of Doctor Freud, Mr. Ismay? His ideas on the male preoccupation with size might be of some particular interest to you."
  • In Undercover Brother, after noticing the size of Undercover Brother's car, hair, and jewelry, Sista Girl believes that he is "overcompensating for something." And of course, there's the matter of his "big, black, fuzzy balls" hanging from his car's rear view mirror.
  • From Prince of Persia the Sands of Time:

Amar: (to a Hashansin warrior with a huge sword) You know what they say about men with big swords... (bends finger).

  • In the pre-credits sequence from Goldfinger, a girl asks James Bond why he always carries a gun. He just shrugs and says he has a "slight inferiority complex".
  • Averted in the 1987 movie version of Dragnet:

Connie Swail: (who has just been rescued from becoming a virgin sacrifice) How come his is so much bigger than yours?
Officer Joe Friday: Miss?
Connie Swail: The gun.
Officer Joe Friday: I've never needed more.

  • In the first sequel to Police Academy, it is revealed that gun obsessive Tackleberry is still a virgin.
  • In Taken, Liam Neeson's character implies this is what his ex wife's new man is doing when pointing out all the ways to rescue the girls that involve him utilize his wealth.
  • In Inception, Cobb is haunted by the death of his wife whom he accidentally manipulated to kill herself and the moment he gets alone with another woman in a shared dream, his subconsciousness creates a massive freight train that bulldozes through everything in its way, aiming directly at them.

Jokes[edit | hide]

  • There is a joke about a man who wants to buy a gun. He tries every model in the shop, but always finds something wrong - not big enough, not shiny enough, wrong balance... In the end, the shop owner gives him a note and says "Here is my brother's address, he can help you." Once the man leaves, the assistant asks "Who's your brother, a private armorer?" The owner says "Nah, he's a sexopathologist."

Literature[edit | hide]

"No, she's absolutely right," said Zeb, patting the enormous pistol at his hip. "This is a penis substitute. After all, if I could kill at a range of thirty meters with my penis, I wouldn't need to carry this thing around, now would I?"

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • On Top Gear, they stick nearly all flashy supercars in the "Uncool" section of the Cool Wall for this very reason:

Jeremy Clarkson: Let me put it to you this way: you would have to have literally no penis at all to buy a car like that. [...] The flashiness of your car is inversely proportional to the size [of your penis].
James May: Is that right? And you're saying that to a man with a 1.2 litre Fiat Panda? Mister swollen-wheel-arches Mercedes CLK Black.
Richard Hammond: He does have a point there. He does...
Jeremy Clarkson: You've got a Ford Mustang!
Richard Hammond: Let's move on!

  • One episode of A Bit of Fry and Laurie has a hospital patient who has just had his genitals removed. The doctor, in order to help him cope, gives him a pet Doberman, a Jeep, a subscription to Guns and Ammo, and a lot of camouflage clothing, telling him that it's standard policy. This joke doubles up when the patient complains about needing to urinate. The Doctor's response? If he drives around in that car, in those clothes, with that dog, people will be taking the piss out of him all the time.
  • In the reboot series of Doctor Who, the Master's "Laser Screwdriver", longer, thicker and more dangerous than the Sonic Screwdriver. It's never brought up in the show, but the producer claims that on the first day the prop was brought on set, he received a text message from David Tennant saying "His screwdriver is bigger than mine".
  • Happens in an episode of Supernatural, "Playthings"

Dean: Of course, the most troubling question is, why do these people assume we're gay?
Sam: Well you are kind of butch, they probably think you're overcompensating.

    • On another occasion, Dean implies that Cas is doing this when Cas boasts to another character about how large his true form is.
  • Stargate SG-1. Shortly after returning as a regular cast member, Vala makes an accusation of this to the chairman of the appropriations committee. General Landry was not amused.
  • In an episode of Friends, "The One Where They All Turn Thirty", Ross buys himself a sports car:

Ross: How hot do I look in this? Huh?
Chandler: Ross, a sports car? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just stuff a sock down there?

  • In the episode "Night Of The Nearly Dead" of Father Ted, the character Eoin Mc Love is an arrogant manchild who gets what he wants regardless of the effect it has on other people. Eventually, his PA makes him apologise and he confesses to Ted and Dougal: "I haven't got a willy".
  • Noah's Arc: This exchange between Noah and Wade in the first episode:

Noah: "Wow Wade, thats one big truck. Hope you're not compensating for anything."
Wade: "Nah playa, it's all good in my hood."

Music[edit | hide]

  • Exaggerated by dance duo Captain Ahab on I Don't Have a Dick, in which the singer brags wildly about his material possessions (all of which have Axe Cop levels of awesomeness, but lack in terms of practicality) in between shouts of the Title-Only Chorus. Subverted in the studio version, which features a monologue in which the singer points out that there is absolutely no correlation between his lack of genitalia and his ridiculous levels of awesomeness.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In Low Life, this is the name of an Edge which grants a bonus to Spirit rolls whenever the character in question is wielding an oversized weapon.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Admiral Vigoro in Skies of Arcadia just oozes this trope. His flagship, The Draco, has a giant cannon on it that looks sort of like... Yeah. His main taunt before his ship boss fight starts is that said gun, in his own words, is "bigger than yours." Aika loudly suggests that he has a complex and is obviously compensating for something.
  • The Brotherhood gang of Saints Row 2, fans of excessive tattoos and big cars, use a giant truck called "The Compensator".
  • If you choose to upgrade The Ravager in the Baldur's Gate II expansion Cespenar wonders if this is why.
  • "That is quite an impressive body you've built. But I believe only 30% of it is truly necessary. Are you perhaps, compensating?" — Rachel Alucard on defeating Iron Tager, BlazBlue.
  • Orlok the Eternal from The Hierarchy in Universe At War will frequently decree "I compensate for nothing."
  • One of the more expensive cars in The Sims 3 is called the "VFN Kompensator".
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Rose of Sharon Cassidy thinks that Caesar's choice of a Bull for his insignia means he's compensating for something. She also thinks the Two Rangers Shaking Hands statue at Mojave Outpost is this as well.
  • In Mass Effect, Joker seems to make a snarking comment about it when his tiny Normandy passes the absolutely humongous Destiny Ascension by saying that "size isn't everything". But he then clears it up that he didn't meant to imply that he was feeling inadequate, but that the Ascension's firepower is even more impressive.

Anders: You've got a real chip on your shoulder, you know.
Carver: I've got a big blade on my shoulder, magey.
Anders: Right. Wonder what you're compensating for?

Daniel: And what's with that ridiculous sword anyway? It's like a huge slab of iron!
Sick: He's compensating.

Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • This idea permeates just about everything to do with the sleazy stripclub owner/porn czar Mars from Broken Saints, from the way he talks to (surprise) his gun.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Kevin and Kell has had fun with the SUV and this trope on a couple of occasions, including one that was owned by a flea (don't ask how it could reach the wheel and the pedals at the same time, please), prompting a comment about "The bigger the car, the smaller the man"; and Ralph Dewclaw, who was obviously compensating for his complete lack of hunting-ability.
  • Bob and George
    • ObviouslyCompensatingForSomething Man of the subcomic Jailhouse Blues sports "More Ammunition than God" as his special power, and was defeated by Yo Momma Man's Jazz's Smack Talk power regarding his... deficiencies.
    • Done in the main comic, also; upon seeing Wily's gigantic fortress, a character remarks that he must be compensating for something. When he targets them with an absurdly large laser cannon (shaped suspiciously like a phallic symbol), one says "He IS compensating for something!"
    • After the character Dive Man destroys the cannon, he says something along the lines:

Dive Man: Did I symbolically castrate you now?

  • Girl Genius implies this about the Wulfenbach household here, in particular taking note of the giant floating Castle. There are lots of jokes about this in general, involving "death rays" or "tool belts".
    • Dot's nottink. One of participant brought to the assault on Mechanicsburg troops riding something between a Walking Tank and the lower half of Powered Armor. That is, "vehicles" looking like wide pants... with a big gun set on the fore end.
  • Is mentioned once in Beyond Reality in regards to Orion's BFS, as well as having much of the fanart (especially about the time a dragon snapped it in half) talk about it in a certain way.
  • Lampshaded in this Antihero for Hire strip.

"Wow, that gun is pretty accurate for its size."
"Well, I don't have to compensate for things like some people."

  • In The Last Days of Foxhound, Vulcan Raven has a pet peeve for "Compensation" jokes made at him because of his weapon of choice. Later on, Grey Fox outright asks him if he's got a small penis, to which Raven responds that he's officially made his death 25% more painful.
  • In a rare female example, one furry comic called Vitaboob has this as the punchline. The main, female fox girl in it (selling some kind of breast enhancement drug which she gleefully tells you she uses regularly) has ENORMOUS, perfectly spherical breasts bigger than her head, a HUGE poofed out tail twice as long and big as her body, and MASSIVE feathered Farrah Faucett 80's hair, and you kind of wonder why she needed her breasts enlarged in the first place... except she's like a tiny, little, itty-bitty thing about 4'10" tall. See, she's really small, and wants to make up for it by being as big as possible. What was that Rev. Lovejoy said? "To compensate for my own smallness"? Yeah, she's got you beat there Reverend.
  • The comic Chaos Campus has a similar female example, in the character Jamie Schaffer, a goth poser who is unusually short and compensates by having massive, cartoonish, 72"-of-inadequacy breast implants.
  • Exterminatus Now in the strip named after one stunt from Predator:

Eastwood: "What in the bloody fucking hell is THAT, and how small do your man parts need to be to justify using it?"

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The series Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns milks this joke for all it's worth in one episode with an SUV that's literally called the Compensator, which looks more like a tank than anything else.
  • Family Guy
    • When Peter discovers that Chris has a bigger penis than him, he buys a very long Midlife Crisis Car, and says to a driver of a normal car: "When you pull that thing into your garage, does the garage say "Is it in yet?" He gets his own car crushed a minute or so later. The episode also implies that this is the case for every man in the NRA.
    • Also in the episode "Peter's Progress", Stewie (who is a baby) is King Stewart of England. When someone asks Brian why the King is so nasty (which is normal for Stewie), Brian replies it is due to Stewart having an extremely small penis. He describes it as "that one grape in a group of grapes that never really became a grape."
  • In an episode of Futurama, the crew visits Washington, D.C. We see them fly by the Washington Monument, and the Clinton Monument, which looks just like Washington's except twice the size.
  • In The Simpsons, Rev. Lovejoy just comes right out and says it.

Marge: Why do we need a church steeple that big?
Rev. Lovejoy: To compensate for my own sense of smallness.

  • Used openly on Robot Chicken, when a dweeb who's shopping for a new vehicle demands something appropriate for a guy with an extremely small penis.
  • Invoked and Parodied in South Park several times, most prominently the episode Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants". Its pre-censorship title contained a reference to Osama having a small dick, and in one of the scenes several magnifying glasses focus on bin Laden's microscopic wiener.