top of page

Not Like Other Girls. Not Like Other Boys? A Rant

I Google the Not Like Other Boys Trope, and I got a long list of websites that have written articles about the Not Like Other Girls trope. There is very little on the internet about Not Like Other Boys. Is that because the trope doesn't exist? Are all boys like other boys? Identical clones of masculinity? What's going on with all the little boys who aren't like other boys? Fair warning, this is an unhinged rant where I try to put my thoughts and opinions to type. OPINIONS!


All About The Not Like Other Girls Trope

The Not Like Other Girls trope is about female characters (traditionally teenage, YA books, tv shows, and movies) who eschew female characteristics in favor of male characteristics. So what would the male equivalent be? So I suppose A Not Like Other Boys boy would be a male protagonist who rejects traditionally male characteristics in favor of traditionally female characteristics.

Of course, the issue with the Not Like Other Girls girl isn't that she doesn't like the color pink. It's that she's so PROUD that she doesn't like the color pink. It's a defining characteristic, one that she is so chuffed with that she judges other girls and women for their alternative preferences. Considering them as 'less than' because they like dresses, pink, high heels, and makeup. Maybe they cry and don't like sport. So lame, so girly.

What Are Traditionally Male and Female Characteristics According to The Internet?

We have plenty of male protagonists who do the same; judge female characters for being, well, female, but do we have male characters who judge male characters for their traditionally male characteristics?

To better answer this question, I googled traditional male characteristics and traditional female characteristics. This is what I got.

Traditional Male Characteristics According to Google:

  • Aggression

  • Self-affirmation

  • Social dominance

  • Lack of consideration for others

  • Strength

  • Independence

  • Leadership

  • Assertiveness

Traditional Female Characteristics According to Google:

  • Nurturance

  • Sensitivity

  • Sweetness

  • Supportiveness

  • Gentleness

  • Warmth

  • Passivity

  • Cooperativeness

  • Expressiveness

  • Modesty

  • Humility

*I don't agree with these characteristics. They are just what the internet gave me. I did not include any suggestions of 'positive' or 'negative' characteristics for either gender query, simply 'characteristics.'

Male Characters are Defined By Their Specialness; Female Characters are defined by How Much They Resemble Male Characters—Too Much, Too Little, Just Right.

The Not Like Other Girls trope is a complex problem that follows female characters around. There is validity in the argument against the trope. There are female protagonists who put down any woman who doesn't adhere to some uber-masculine ideal. Their 'specialness,' which makes them a Chosen One, isn't the same as for men. It's not a magical bloodline, amulet, or experience that marks them apart; instead, it's that they reject the idea of femininity. But is that really so different from the host of male characters made 'special' by their feminine characteristics? Through their compassion, empathy, and sympathy for the world. Wasn't Harry Potter set apart by his use of disarming spell instead of the killing curse? He was made more special by his 'feminine' ability to choose paths of non-violence. He fled when he should have fought, leaned on his friends, and was ultimately saved by his capacity for love.

For a long time, our media, written primarily about and for men, revolved around the narrative of a male protagonist who was something special. He was braver, more noble, a man born or made better than other men. That specialness was frequently attached to a higher level of compassion, of a nobler spirit above his peers. He's tough as nails, strong as an ox, a real man's man except when he isn't. The male protagonist's character arc frequently (but not always) follows a softening of his edges. Maybe a nice, one-dimensional female character falls into his orbit and teaches him how to love. Teaches him how to feel all the feeeels.

It's hard to write your female character as tougher and stronger than everyone else. Everyone, including all the muscled men in her orbit, it's easy to write her as better than all the women around her. When a male character is written as rejecting the traditionally negative characteristics of his male counterparts, we laud him because those other, weaker men are written as bloodthirsty monsters. When we write a female character as being 'above her gender,' those other, weaker females are vain, silly, and stupid. And it's hard to applaud a character for rising above caring about wearing dresses or the state of her hair.

I Blame Disney

Why don't female protagonists have any truly bad characteristics? Men have fits of jealousy that are closer to the behavior of a psychopath than a potential love interest, yet we forgive them everything as they learn and grow and become better men.

Female protagonists are stuck with being submissive, passive, and "overly concerned with the welfare of others to the detriment of one's own well-being." Negative character traits that make for a dull character arc.

Cinderella, Arial (The Little Mermaid) and The Not Like Other Girls Trope

Cinderella. Disney. Pointing at her shoe. Ballgown. Line drawing. Illustration. Copyright Disney
Cinderella | Disney

Cinderella starts her story as a loving, patient, kind, and abused scullery maid whose content to wait on magic wishes and be home by 12. Her step-sisters and stepmother arguably have more interesting personalities. They strive and fight for a better place in life. Unfortunately, they are also the worst, which puts them out of the running for female protagonists.

Ariel. Little Mermaid. Brushing her hair with a fork. line drawing. illustration. disney.
Ariel | Little Mermaid | Disney

The Little Mermaid, (Ariel) must grow a pair of great pins (legs) and shut up for a minute. Brushing her hair with a fork until the prince notices her. She overcomes next to nothing. Her big character flaw is… being super nice? She wants a little bit more out of life? Falling in love with a dude based purely on his cartoonish good looks and his adorable dog?

She also has a bevy of bratty, vain sisters. And a loving father who needs to overcome his dominating personality and let his daughter walk about on land. The more I write, the more annoyed I'm becoming—but in a cute, charming way, cos I'm a girl. I don't have any sisters, so that's a blow. I must inform my mother that she needs up the evil if I'm ever going to nab me a prince.

Aladdin, Simba (The Lion King) and The Not Like Other Boys Trope

Aladdin. Disney. Line drawing. Prince Ali. illustration.
Aladdin | Prince Ali | Disney

Aladdin is an insecure, lying weirdo, but he's a good person under the street rat. He's a hustler, but a hustler with a heart of gold who has to learn how to value himself. Simba from the Lion King starts as an arrogant lion prince, a little bit too confident in his abilities, and arcs to a guilt-ridden mess before being helped to overcome said guilt and take his er… rightful place as King—a cool lion King who roars into the rain and gets the girl. Characters like Jafar and Scar are great foils for our male leads. They are super evil (almost identically evil.) They want to take over whole Kingdoms, not win a dude's affections, coincidently nabbing a kingdom.

The Lion King. Simba. Cub. Baby lion. Diseny. Line drawing. illustration copy
Simba | The Lion King | Disney

Ladies and gents in Disney movies both get a similarly gendered adversary. The sisters and mother want to defeat the female protagonist by nabbing their princelings. The male antagonists want to take it. It's a tale as old as time. But the female characters are sweetness and light, just waiting to be discovered. The male characters have flaws. Real flaws that they need to overcome.

Being charmingly arrogant is cute on a boy but not so on a girl. Being jealous is a sign of a true love interest in a man, but it's a sign of a weirdo in a girl. An alcoholic male protagonist is a brooding hero, too wise for this world. He's seen things, man, crazy things. He's been to war, not actual war, but like, mental war. An alcoholic female protag is a mess, a "Woo girl" whose very sloppiness weakens her. At best, she might be fit for rescuing as she falls over a few times.

Disney Heroes and Heroine's Best and Worst Traits

Ariels Best and Worst Traits according to Screenrant:


  • Confidence

  • Curiosity

  • Open Minded

  • Cheerful

  • Bravery


  • Flaky

  • Not the Best Listener (she doesn’t listen to her dad)

  • Rebellious

  • Impulsive

  • Selfish

Cinderella’s Best and Worst Traits according to Screenrant


  • She Is Positive

  • She Is Strong

  • She Is Kind

  • She Is Hardworking

  • She Is A True Princess


  • She May Have Been A Bit Of A Pushover

  • She Could Have Spoken Up More For Herself

  • She Does Have A Sarcastic/Snarky Side

  • She Was Scared Of/Taken Advantage Of By Her Stepmother

  • She Blurred The Lines On Cleanliness

Aladdin Best and Worst Traits According to Screenrant

*Not Found

Simba's Best and Worst Traits According to Screenrant

*Not Found

Maybe The Not Like Other Girls Trope Is Just a Symptom Of Bad Writing

When I was a kid, I read a series of books called Pendragon, I remember being surprised that the main character (whose name escapes me) liked and was good at sports. He was a male lead, and he liked sports. And for some reason, that was odd. He was too much like other boys, an anomaly from the traditional male leads I was used to reading. Artemis fowl wears suits and sneers at boys his age who aren't managing hedge funds and kidnapping fairies in their spare time.

Let's face facts, the first time we meet Harry Potter (when he does more than coo and poop his pants—when he's not a baby), we are quickly told just how Not Like Other Boys he is. The chapter is literally called 'The Boy Who Lived.' Differentiating him from all the other boys, the ones with the bad taste to die. Harry is compared to Dudley, fat, blonde, sniveling, and spoilt, Dudley. Then he's compared to Dudley's mate Piers, who is also just the worst boy ever, not like Harry. Harry's not like other boys. Harry is bullied by other boys.

The difference is that it's well-written. It slowly creates the idea that Harry is better than your average bloke without coming out and saying it. It's showing, not telling, isn't it? We aren't told that Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl aren't like other boys. We are shown. The information is dribbled to us through scenes, and then we are left to conclude that these boys AREN'T like other boys.

And I guess that makes all the difference?


bottom of page