Big Guy, Little Guy

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Tropes and genres
Related tropes/genresHeight Rule
See alsoSize Kink, Height Difference, Uke, Tall Woman Lifting Short Woman
Related articles on Fanlore.

Big Guy, Little Guy is a story trope where a) characters traits are given to characters solely because of their large or small size, and/or b) where character sizes tend to be exaggerated when there is a significant different in size between the two major characters, or pairing, in a fandom. The trope is usually applied to males, but can be other genders as well.

Big Guy, Little Guy in Canon

In cartoons, especially with bad guys, the little guy is virtually always the brain of the operation; the big guy is always a little stupid. This attitude seems to bleed over into non-cartoon fandoms fanfic, even when there is no canonical evidence that the smaller guy is supposed to be the smart one.

Worse, fans tend to attribute all of the emotional skill and intelligence to the little guy as well, to the point that (in the late 90s) fans of larger characters started to push back against their characters being seen as arrogant, thuggish, emotionless, etc.

This trope overlaps with fans who, in any given pairing, always like to see one guy penetrate and the other penetrated; fans who like larger guys complained that their guy never got any bottom action in stories.

The above issues tend to bother big guy fans, who have a dog in the fight, after all. Drawing the characters as widely different sizes tends to bother all fans except those who like to exaggerate their differences.

Complaints of Size Exaggeration

Given enough time; enough fiction, almost any fandom will start to show signs of size exaggeration, but fandoms that start with a relatively clear size difference will tend to have even more difference in fiction in no time.

Han and Leia by Zawiah, from the zine Bloodstripe #6 (2005)

These complaints are all taken from Big List of Fanfic Peeves, i.e., Ten Little Peeves, written back in 1999:

  • Napoleon is only a couple of inches taller than Illya—and Illya is NOT built like a 10-year-old boy, thankyouverymuch!
  • Tom Paris is taller than Chakotay (and recently...nearly as chunky)
  • Avon and Vila are approximately the same height.
  • Blair's palms are as big as Jim's. (I know, I know, Jim's fingers are longer. So...?)
  • Blair's eyes are roughly on a level with Jim's mouth—Jim can't rest his chin on top of Blair's head without standing on a box.
  • Bodie is only an inch or so taller than Doyle.
  • Krycek wears underwear! He has VisiblePantyLines in numerous episodes. (Ok, that's not a size difference, but while we're looking there...)
  • Most of our guys could never get a job as an underwear model. They're not that buff, nor that hard bodied. Deal. (For more on this subject, I highly recommend "Bodie's Bodies," an essay by Miriam Heddy, at the FanFic Symposium.) [1]
  • Fraser is not particularly taller than either Ray.
  • Despite directing choices that seek to disguise this fact, Bashir is taller than Garak. (Check out the beginning of Our Man Bashir for proof.)
  • Methos is slender, but he's got broad shoulders and he's basically Duncan's height: Duncan's sweaters do not "hang off his arms as if he were a child."
  • Mulder is not Slight, nor is Skinner a Hulking Mountain of Man Meat.

Examples in Fanworks

from the cover of the zine To Lie Down By His Side: Blair Sandburg is, in fact, travel-sized for convenience
  • Blair Sandburg is often portrayed as being the size of a child. From Unexpected by Arianna: "Banks shivered and drew the slight body closer in a tighter embrace. "God, he's [Blair] not much bigger than Daryl," he whispered with raw anxiety, as if he'd never noticed, never thought about it, hadn't ever seen Sandburg as someone so young and vulnerable before."

Zines Focused