Muscles Are Meaningful

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Then, Tatsu allegedly stomped across the kitchen and proceeded to open up a can on Sheamus, with some reports even characterizing the beating as bad enough to elicit tears from the future WWE Champion.

Let this be a lesson to you folks: Size doesn't matter...unless you want to get pushed in the WWE.

One of the most prevalent stereotypes of fiction is that characters with big muscles must be strong. In most media, this almost forces creators to make large characters seem strong (or at least stronger than smaller characters) and small characters seem less strong, or risk forcing the audience out of the story.

Often, this carries the opposite meaning as well: small characters are usually elusive, quiet, agile, stealthy and quick, while large characters being such will not be believable.

In Professional Wrestling, this is taken to extremes. Few fans will accept a smaller or average sized wrestler as a main event contender without years of development, whereas larger wrestlers may be advanced to the main event scene almost immediately after debuting.

Related to Bishounen Line. Polar opposite of Muscles Are Meaningless. The Giant will always be portrayed this way, even if they're mostly fat.

Examples of Muscles Are Meaningful include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • This trope is almost the entire plot for the Hulk, as any character's superpower can be easily identified by which body part is the largest (The Leader, the Abomination, etc.)
    • For a while, the Hulk himself would also get larger as he got angrier/stronger.
  • This is also prevalent in many Rogue's Galleries.
    • For Spider-Man, the "strong" villains were always large and muscular (e.g. the Rhino) while the villains who had other powers were slimmer (e.g. the Chameleon.)
      • Carnage subverted this trend; he was at least as strong as Venom if not stronger (and thus stronger than Spider-Man) but was actually smaller and less muscular than Peter Parker without his symbiote.
      • Venom himself is something of a subversion; he's much larger and muscular than Spider-Man, but also somewhat faster, more agile, sneakier due to his use of the venom-suit's camouflage, and just about the only Spider-villain who could reliably catch Peter by surprise. Stealth and psychological intimidation were Venom's favored tactics, even when his size and strength gave him an advantage in fights.
    • Batman had Bane, Clayface, Solomon Grundy, and other "melee" villains who were larger than Batman.
      • Batman is an especially obvious example of this trope. In comics where he had to fight, he was drawn larger than average (The Dark Knight Returns). In comics where he used his detective skills, he was drawn slimmer and less muscular (The Brave and the Bold).
      • In films, Batman traditionally wore a padded Bat-suit, but appeared slim as Bruce Wayne.
    • Superman's villains who fought with him were drawn larger (e.g. Doomsday.)
      • However, the villains that outsmarted him were drawn smaller, e.g. Mr. Mxyzptlk, Luthor, etc.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The Pacifier - Lulu (10 year old girl) is so impressed by Shane's pecs, she hopes that when she grows up she'll have boobs like him.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Both teams and fans of The Amazing Race fully believe this trope, no matter how many times the show subverts it or deconstructs it. At the beginning of each season it's the biggest and strongest teams that are generally the most feared by the other teams, and who are usually picked to win by the fans. Though justified in the first four seasons, where physical strength was only challenged by those with travel knowledge, in later seasons it's much more likely for an "Alpha Male" team to eliminate themselves with a stupid mistake than to dominate a season.
    • Derek & Drew serve as an excellent deconstruction of this concept on the Race during Season 3. On the tails of fit male teams winning the first two seasons, many of the teams became immediately obsessed with beating the "wonder twins", despite Derek & Drew viewing themselves as barely hanging on for the first few legs. At the same time, Ken & Gerard talked about how no one was giving them any thought because of their pudgier physiques, and Teri & Ian were outright disregarded as fodder. While Derek & Drew did end up being formidable opponents, so did Ken & Gerard and Teri & Ian, who both edged out Derek & Drew to make it to the Final 3. The twins lost not because they got beat in some head-to-head competition, but simply because they couldn't find a clue.
    • Season 5 winner Chip was a huge proponent of this trope, especially when writing for the "Return of the Racers" blog for CBS.com. He constantly talked about how "alpha male" teams had a unfair advantage over all other teams, and how he and his wife never would have had a shot against one of these teams (even though they did beat the arguably stronger team of Colin & Christie). When he made a list of the strongest individual racers, the top 11 spots all went to men, with the top female racer being a physical trainer.
  • Survivor has a similar situation. In the early stages when tribes compete for team immunity, women and older players often get targeted due to percieved weakness; and when it shifts to an individual competition then the young fit guys become the targets due to being percieved as threats in immunity challenges. Like in The Amazing Race, physical strength usually doesn't affect challenge success as much as some people think it does, and the social game is more of a factor overall.
    • Survivor: One World has a good example of the perception vs. the reality of this. Matt, an alpha male, picked out some other alpha males to work with and believed they ran the tribe; at one point describing them as "roosters" leading the "chickens" around. Then the tribe acutally had to go to Tribal Council; and it was pointed out to him that there were five "chickens" and only four "roosters". Goodbye, Matt.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • In Professional Wrestling, "large" wrestlers (275 lbs or more) are usually given squash matches and power finishing moves. Smaller (200 lbs or less) are usually in matches that demonstrate acrobatic or high-flying moves.
  • In general, the only women that are allowed to compete against men were the female bodybuilders who were equal to them in size. Chyna is by far the most famous, but see also: Nicole Bass, Midnight, Asya.
    • Recently, "The Glamazon" Beth Phoenix competed in the Royal Rumble.
    • On the indies smaller women can bypass this but they'll normally have to rely on Waif Fu during matches.
  • With the advent of the light heavyweight division of the WCW and WWF during the Monday Night Wars, smaller wrestlers doing power moves became more common, and larger wrestlers doing acrobatic moves like the kip-up were also common.
  • ECW averted this often, and even squeezed in a series of subversions with the "Little Spike Dudley: Giant Killer" gimmick, where the 150-pound-soaking-wet Spike would somehow, after having been beaten half-to-death by men 3 times his size, and with commentator Joey Styles begging for the ref to stop the match, find a way to prevail in the end.
  • Inverted by Hydra of CHIKARA, who must weigh 150 pounds, but is treated by announcers and other wrestlers as a behemoth.
  • In Professional Wrestling, this is taken to extremes, as few fans will accept a smaller (Rey Mysterio, Jr., AJ Styles) or average sized wrestler (Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, even Stone Cold Steve Austin himself) as a main event contender without years of development. Whereas larger wrestlers (Kane, Brock Lesnar, The Great Khali) may be advanced to the main event scene almost immediately after debuting. This is particularly noticable in WWE, where 1) the promotion has access to much larger wrestlers than smaller promotions, and 2) the CEO, Vince McMahon, doesn't like smaller wrestlers and is reluctant to push them. Nowhere is this mentality more apparent than in the career of Paul "The Big Show" Wight, who had his pro wrestling debut (not just his first televised match, but his first match ever) in the main event of a WCW Pay-Per-View for the world championship—and won!
    • Other good examples are Sheamus, Wade Barret, and Alberto Del Rio in decending order. Sheamus first appeared on TV as a (supposed) jobber before plowing through on his way to being a monster heel.
  • In the women's division Beth Phoenix and Natalya are often thought by casual fans to be the only women in WWE that can wrestle (they're not) because they're noticeably more muscular than the rest of the Divas who nearly all look like supermodels (some are, some aren't). Tamina sometimes benefits from this as well, despite being one of the less experienced Divas. In a bit of possible Unfortunate Implications Aksana is in the same build as those three and doesn't get this because she's frequently dressed in more feminine clothing. Observe.