Lean and Mean

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Nothing burns calories quite like evil.

"Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;

He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."
Caesar, Julius Caesar

Black robes not fitting properly? Just try being a little more evil! Kicking puppies is good exercise after all! And don't worry about those meals you skip while you're scheming to take over the kingdom. Yes, the combination of your new villainous lifestyle and the laws of narrative causality will make those annoying extra pounds vanish before you can say "Are they even feeding Yzma?"

Sometimes used for a Freud Was Right explanation, where the villain is nasty and vicious because she's so hungry. Very common among fashion-oriented shows to explain why the size 0 model is so cranky.

The reverse Villainous Glutton / Fat Bastard style is also relatively frequent (cf. Ursula, the Blob), but nowhere as lampshaded as the Lean and Mean look. Also contrast Large and In Charge. Particularly skinny or gangly-proportioned villains may qualify as Noodle People.

When the hero is stronger and/or dumber, this often leads to Brains Evil, Brawn Good.


Examples of Lean and Mean include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Most incarnations of Ragdoll in The DCU, but in The Batman it was taken to serious extremes; the Ragdoll is a tall, rail-thin thief and contortionist who is literally capable of fitting inside a top hat. Also, as he is often depicted as frail, one of The Joker's many nicknames is "The Thin White Duke of Death."
  • The Batman villain Scarecrow is so thin that he was bullied as a child for his resemblance to Ichabod Crane.
  • Many skinny aliens in Sillage turn out to be villains. Most notable of them is consul Atsukau, a corrupt politician and collector of lovers from different species, obsessed with the protagonist.
  • In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, it's mentioned several times how skinny Johnny is.
  • Mesmo Delivery: Sangrecco, a people smuggler/hitman/demon? In his spare time he's an Elvis Impersonator presumably of the king's earlier period.
  • Loki is probably the skinniest male in Asgard. He is also one of Thor's meanest villains. Mind you, it only holds when compared to Asgradians. When compared to most normal humans, he seems pretty toned.


Films -- Animated[edit | hide]


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Harry Potter, Voldemort is often described as being tall and thin, with long, thin fingers. Snape is often described as thin, perhaps to invoke this trope, even though he is not evil per se.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Villain Count Olaf is tall and thin, and said to have a hungry look in his eyes.
  • Several characters in Discworld have this aesthetic, even if they're not necessarily evil:
    • Lord Vetinari is a scheming Machiavellian dictator and is thin as a rail, voluntarily subsisting on nothing but bread and water. However, while he describes himself as evil, he is never an outright antagonist and is often on the heroes' side. Strangely, his (unnamed) appearance in the first book is as a Fat Bastard, and was generally considered to be his predecessor until Word of God confirmed they were the same character.
    • Granny Weatherwax, a manipulative Good Is Not Nice character in the same vein, is also tall, thin and wears black, though her slimness is not quite emphasised as much. It's more obvious contrasted with her fellow witch and lifelong friend, the short, plump, amicable Nanny Ogg.
    • Lacrimosa in Carpe Jugulum, who actually is evil, is the epitome of this, though, especially lampshaded in that she's mostly seen from the POV of Agnes Nitt, a large girl of roughly her own age...
  • Utilized, and oft-lampshaded, in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels, in that all skinny innkeepers that the protagonists come across in their journeys are invariably up to no good.
  • Timeline-191: Jake Featherston, the Hitler-esque Southern dictator of Harry Turtledove alternate history series, is described as whipcord-lean.
  • In Peter David's book Knight Life, Morgan le Fay has grown obese without the presence of Arthur or Merlin. But when Arthur suddenly appears in present day and decides to run for Mayor of New York, she not only becomes evil, but thin again.
  • David Eddings' Elenium has ascetic Primate Annias.
  • In Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Father Hugh MacPhail's lean body and harsh exercise regimen underline his determination to destroy free will.
  • Dracula: Drac himself. For adding slimming power he could slip through the cracks of doors if necessary.
  • From Isaac Asimov's Foundation, part 2: The Mule, who poses as his own escaped jester, Magnifico.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: The titular character is described as being downright skeletal.
  • Ship Breaker: Most crew are pretty lean, but Richard Lopez, Archnemesis Dad and Combat Sadomasochist adds a naturally whippy build and an addict's decaying physique, for a truly ravaged appearance.
  • Professor James Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is described as being very tall and thin and like a lizard.


Music[edit | hide]

  • David Bowie's late seventies persona, The Thin White Duke, although not being evil, per se was definitely a bit sharper edged than his other characters and more than a bit coke-fueled, therefore somewhat delusional. This incarnation of Bowie has been described as "an amoral zombie", "an emotionless Aryan superman", "a mad aristocrat" and by the man himself, "a nasty character indeed". As far as the lean side goes, his weight plummeted to less than ninety pounds, extremely underweight for a 5'10" frame.
  • Many punk rockers in the 1970s were regarded as this by the establishment.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]


Theater[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Mario series: Waluigi from the games, much like how Wario is heavier than Mario in an evil sort of way, Waluigi takes Luigi's leanness and exaggerates it to properly despicable proportions.
  • Chzo Mythos: The Tall Man; more than seven feet tall, skeletal in build, but an awful lot stronger (and faster) than "he" looks...
  • Metroid: Ridley, Samus Aran's bony archnemesis.
  • Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid. Justified in that he's a psychic who floats using telekinesis rather than walking, causing his muscles to wither away to nothing.
  • Count Veger from the Jak and Daxter series is tall and skinny. And responsible for ruining Jak's life.
  • Battlefield Heroes: Arguably, the Nationals. Granted, it's Not exactly clear who started the war, but looking like the Nazis probably goes a long way in deciding which side they are.
  • The Spy from Team Fortress 2 is incredibly impolite (the Spy has banged the Scout's mom and loves to boast and troll the Scout about it, which could make you feel sorry for the biggest Jerkass in the game that Scout undeniably is) and very tall and slender, which his badass-in-a-nice-suit attire makes even more noticable. Furthermore, also alongside Scout and Sniper, he's the most prone to calling the Heavy "fatty" and "morbidly obese".
    • The Administrator, when she appears in the supplemental materials, is very thin, and seems to be totally amoral and have no emotions other than anger.
  • Both Mitsuhide and Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara are Ax Crazy White Haired Pretty Boys who are also tall and almost skeletal in appearance. In Mitsunari's case it's because he's too busy angsting to eat, while Mitsuhide is probably just that evil.
  • Metal Face from Xenoblade while still bulky, has a much more slender, speed-emphasizing frame than most of his fellow Faced Mechon, which works well since his strategy is to jet around at high speed and cut people to ribbons with his incredibly sharp claws.
  • Charkravartin from Asura's Wrath is incredibly thin and tall, which really makes him stand out in a world full of incredibly muscular characters (Even pretty boy Sergei is muscle-bound despite being on the waifish side!) and helps to sell how alien and otherworldly he is. As for the mean part... well, he is at the heart at just about everything that goes wrong in the game, all starting from the Gohma's creation.
  • The Mega Man X series seems to be split between major villainous Mavericks that are bulky like Sigma, to thin and willowy. Among these guys are Agile of the X hunters, the cackling Geemel, pretty-boy mercenary Dynamo, Mad Scientist Gate, and cold-blooded Lucifer analogue Lumine.
  • Most of the animatronics from the Five Nights at Freddy's series of video games are all rather bulky, which is to be expected by robotic entertainers. The exception to the rule is the prize corner Marionette, who is incredibly spindly and clownish, and very mean should his music box stop playing...
    • There's also Foxy who is a great deal less-heavier built than the other members of the Fazbear Four (Which probably aids in him jetting towards your office at high-speed) as well as his Toy Animatronic counterpart "Mangle", who counts even more thanks to being a snakelike, spidery mess of tangled limbs. And while her older counterpart is bulky to the point of almost being fat, Toy Chica is incredibly slim.

Web Original[edit | hide]


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Homestuck's Jack Noir is very lean, and very mean.
  • Daddy Long Legs has Mr. Scapegrace, who is one of the thinnest characters seen so far and the creepiest.
  • Janice Jamison, the head of Magical Research in the Souballo Empire in Our Little Adventure.


Western Animation[edit | hide]