With the arrival of season four of The Good Place on Netflix, I was reminded of one of my favorite characters: Jason Mendoza. Jason is a dopey, lovable and characteristically good-looking guy. He’s sweet and respectable, but he’s not the brightest — the human equivalent of a puppy, if you will. He is the perfect example of a “himbo,” a male trope rising in popularity among audiences today.
"Himbo" is a combination of “him” and “bimbo.” The word first appeared in a 1988 article by The Washington Post titled, “THE HIMBO ALL POWERFUL AND ALL BEEF! IT'S THE REEL MEN!!!” The label himbo now encompasses a wide spectrum of personalities. What was once a trope defined by testosterone-fueled-yet-gentle-at-heart Schwarzeneggers and Stallones, the himbo has evolved into characters like Jason Mendoza: a sort of antithesis to toxic masculinity.
To examine the full scope of the himbo, we first need to look at the bimbo. She’s hot but she’s dumb. An overplayed stereotype, the bimbo is (usually) blonde. She wears high heels and tight dresses and acts as if she doesn’t understand “normal” things. The bimbo exists for the male gaze. She’s supposed to be made fun of or gawked at— like Karen from Mean Girls, for example.
In the past, being a bimbo or “dumb blonde” meant that reputation followed you, even after your “role” ended. Take Paris Hilton, for instance. After years of being subject to tabloids and gossip, she’s recently revealed that her supposed lack of intelligence was an act.
Recently, I came across a Vice article by Annie Lord titled, “Where Did All the 'Dumb Blondes' Go?” The article makes a good point. We barely come across the bimbos and dumb blondes that dominated 00s media, and if they do exist today, it is not without some (rightful) scrutiny. Nowadays, the “dumb blonde” has taken a new role.
As Lord writes, “The dumb blonde has morphed into a #GIRLBOSS who idealizes Richard Branson and talks about maximizing profit margins. There’s no better example of this than Netflix’s Selling Sunset, where meticulously preened women sell property porn through multi-million dollar retail company The Oppenheim Group...You could call these women plastic, as they are by their own admission, but you certainly couldn’t call them dumb.”
However, himbos rarely receive the negative connotations bimbos do. No one hates himbo king Michael Kelso from That 70’s Show, and Ashton Kutcher doesn’t face the same objectification that many other bimbos do. People, especially women, love himbos, but for different reasons. For the most part, they’re funny and innocent. It’s kind of rare to meet a guy nowadays who isn’t an asshole in some way. Himbos don’t deride their female counterparts. Occasionally they objectify them, but they seldom insult their intelligence.
But himbos aren’t without criticism. A 2012 GQ article states that, “The bimbo is forever a curse to women, but the himbo ends up being a male fantasy: You can be an idiot, renounce any obligation to string a decent sentence together or even be a decent person, and still have lots and lots and lots of sex.”
I disagree slightly. The himbo can be a sign of progress for both male and female characters. No, I don’t think men have to be stupid, but himbos certainly represent a male trope that doesn’t vilify women. Take the “nice guy” for instance, whose purpose is to shame women for going after the “bad boy.” Or the super macho guy who has to protect *insert name of woman here* at all costs, inadvertently displaying themes of toxic masculinity. Himbos can truly be good guys, and it’s important to show these characteristics and instill good traits in future generations.