Wow, guess this is a topic people have opinions of now huh.
What’s a himbo? Why, it’s a term used to describe a particular character archetype. It’s a term like tsundere or neet, where it’s used as a tool to explain the ways of perceiving a character or talking about the ways those characters operate within their narrative. In this case, the idea of the himbo (ヒンボー in the original Japanese), and there be himbo discourse.
The typical model I’ve been able to find about himbology is what I’d describe as a threefold model. To qualify as a himbo, a character needs to satisfy the following criteria. A himbo describes a man (generally) who is big (generally) and strong (generally) and stupid (generally) and nice (generally). These are often simplified into paired groups, and some sort of triangle model ensues:
This is used as a generaliser, of course. This model is not strictly adhered to or agreed upon (unless you’re of a particularly aggressive gatekeeping bent on some particular tumblr hashtag). This model is definitely practical for a lot of people, and I’d certainly understand if people needed to keep this model for when they wanted to describe a character as being a himbo. Another axis that I see some models wanting is that the character’s got to be, ahem, dosed up on that respects women juice.
Some assert that himbos must be male, but that gets to ask the weird question about what a male even is in some cases, with alien or robot himbos suddenly left adrift as they no longer count because they don’t have someone’s idea of the right chromosomes.
This is a great example of a reactive model. You hold it up and see if a character fits it, and that can create some weirdness because there are things you can tell should fit it, but kinda don’t? You may be familiar with this as a situation like a common definition for pornography: I don’t know what it is but I know it when I see it.
As far as an outlier, let’s look at Bulkhead from Transformers Animated, which is the best Transformers series, by the way:
Bulkhead is the powerhouse goon of the Autobots. He is big and round and slow and tough, and he can use a wrecking ball to trash stuff. Ostensibly, he is considered to be Not Bright. He regularly shows himself as caring for Sari and doing things with her and for her benefit as a sort of brotherly figure to a human child. This gives our simple three-point model a pretty clear yeah he’s a himbo on all three spots. That’s leaving out the definition like ‘needs to be hot,’ because… well, look, I am not about to tell you that Bulkhead is hot. I actually find ‘hot’ to be a problem on the definition of Himbo just because I find most ‘himbo’ characters that are used in this space to be kinda fuggos.
We do get to look at what Bulkhead looks like as a human though, and like:
I … question how to necessarily extrapolate that.
Like, I’m pretty sure that’s someone’s idea of a big hot idiot.
But the thing is, despite being big, and strong and nice and all those other things, Bulkhead is also an expert in space briges. He isn’t just a technical expert, he’s a leading technical expert in his field, and it’s just that that field is obscure that keeps this from being relevant in most situations. Bulkhead isn’t smart most of the time, but in his particular field of smartness – which is expressed in a practical, pragmatic, there’s yer problem kind of way, Bulkhead is really smart.
Does that unhimbofy him?
Does he become an unhimbo when 99% of the time, he acts and behaves like a himbo and is even smart like a himbo would be?
It requires us to have a vision of dumb, and that dumb then gets tied to particular models of intelligence as a characteristic and not a behaviour. I don’t like that that much! I think that treating intelligence as a characteristic can create weird situations where people fool themselves into thinking ‘I’m too smart to have dumb ideas’ or ‘that person’s ideas must be dumb because they are dumb.’
This isn’t really limited to the smart axis, by the way! If a character is nice to 99% of people but a total asshole to one, that probably doesn’t stop them being ‘generally nice.’ If they are a male 99% of the time, but a girl sometimes, that probably doesn’t stop them being ‘generally a male.’ But it’s this specific vision of intelligence and dumbness that sticks in my own handle on the term.
Now I am not uninvolved here. See, on my own, in my RP character spreadsheet (there’s a spreadsheet), I had a field for every character, asking the question ‘how himbo are they’?
But this indicates that I clearly have a model for himbos that doesn’t include being stupid. A character in this spectra can be eliminated from being a himbo for not being big and strong, but also for not being openly sweet. And that’s where this model sticks in my brain.
See, the thing is, it’s not that a himbo has to be dumb. The himbo has to be a person who doesn’t make intelligence the predominant way he engages with others. The dumbness of a himbo is tied to kindness. They don’t have to be stupid, they don’t have to be emotionally clueless — they just have to be the person who when they hear something, their default question is “Yeah?” because knowing is not the important thing to them, but listening is.
Now that’s not to say the other himbos people prefer aren’t idiots. I mean, kronk speaks multiple languages, something I can’t do, but he has difficulty reasoning through simple tasks and is challenged at object permanence when he’s not creating mneomics for managing a short-order cook’s job. Hm, okay he’s a really bad example, isn’t he? Because if you want to treat him like he’s a real person who exists in a space that has a coherent continuity, may be everything that makes him seem ‘dumb’ is just attention and focus problems coupled with bouts of hyperfocus, which seems… really wiffy to treat as if it’s ‘stupid.’
But anyway, look, the point is, my model doesn’t require a character to be dumb but it doesn’t exclude himbos who are dumb.
Also note in this chart, I have the category of honorary himbo, for women and other not-men who otherwise fulfill the traits and are actively willing to accept the term himbo. For example, there’s a trans woman character in this lineup who is big and strong and openly sweet, but she doesn’t like being called a himbo because she feels the term misgenders her. On the other hand, there’s another woman in that category who’s happy to be called a himbo, because her particular aesthetic is tomboyish and athletic, and therefore she feels like it fits.
This is to draw to the important point that in my model, a himbo is not the other-gendered counterpart to the bimbo. Bimbo is extremely focused on a particular visual aesthetic (usually a hyperfeminine-coded, highly sexualised appearance), and then sometimes it is tied into an extremely… complicated history of gender transformation and mental health stuff that means it doesn’t really just directly translate. I’ve seen ‘herbo’ used? And ‘thembo’ is obviously a gender neutral that sometimes is used as a blanket term to include himbos and bimbos. I’m not wild about that, but I understand that the language in this space is inexact.
These terms are also just basically related to lots of porn, and that’s okay, porn is great and people should have porn they like assuming it doesn’t hurt anyone (and don’t bring me media effects models, puritans). Keep it away from the people who don’t want it splashed on them, okay?
But if she’s big and strong, and she’s openly sweet in a way that doesn’t foreground her intellect as her primary way of engaging with the world, regardless of if she wears pink or plate mail, I’m happy to call her a himbo as long as she wants to be.