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.
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:
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:
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!