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The Ridiculously Average Guy is pretty much middle-of-the-road in all things. He's not ugly, but he's not particularly handsome (or pretty) either. He's not a moron, but he's not one of the best in his class either. (He will probably tend towards the low end on grades, possibly even failing his entrance exams, but he's not portrayed as aggressively stupid, either.) He has no special powers, even if the rest of the cast does pretty much as a rule. He's not a complete weakling, but nor does he excel in any physical ways.
So why the hell is he the main character?
Well, obviously, it's because the writers intend the audience to find him easy to relate to. Of course, considering that he winds up completely and totally overshadowed in almost all things by everyone around him, this fairly easily winds up turning into This Loser Is You. Pretty much everyone around him will constantly be telling him just what a loser he is, and the Ridiculously Average Guy usually has very little, if anything, to say in his defense- unless he is the Only Sane Man of the group, and even then...
Of course, despite his aggressive and all-consuming mundanity, he will also likely be central to some world-saving plot, come out on top at the end of every chapter, and have exceptionally beautiful and sexy, cute and fun, or just plain goofy girls hanging all over him and begging to be allowed to fulfill his every fantasy, usually along with one who acts like she hates him but will probably wind up with him in the end anyway.
This trope is most noticeable (and confusing) for how he winds up with these girls, this fate, or those victories. The girls especially... sure, he's a decent guy and all, but often the only explanation seems to be that girls, when offered chances to be with the most handsome, richest, most famous, and in all other ways exceptional guys, actually prefer the dude who's going to give them a life with the absolute fewest surprises and least excitement possible. Can be (and probably has been) an example of Wish Fulfillment on the part of the writer. Or alternatively done so for the male audience.
Sometimes, the guy isn't a main character... he's just some plain, normal guy that nevertheless tempts a strong female character with her own life of excitement and adventure with the prospect of settling down to a nine-to-five in a city apartment to possibly have 2.5 children. He's also the surprise a lot of writers have waiting in the wings to make sure that the Romantic Two-Girl Friendship actually turns into Bait and Switch Lesbians.
Of course, some might claim this is Truth in Television, since some women do want stable guys they always know what to expect from, but just like the idea that All Girls Want Bad Boys, it's a generalization.
Most of the time he's the the hero of the story.
Anime and Manga
- Tsukune from Rosario to Vampire is probably king of this trope. A dead-average guy sent to a school full of monsters, he has every single woman he meets either wanting to be his one true friend, his girlfriend, his wife, or his... uh, devourer, but still. The only thing that isn't average about him is how ridiculously average he is.
- He does get Ghoul powers later on in the manga, and once he controls it, he swiftly kicks ass with them. Of course, since it's a highly dangerous (to him) Super-Powered Evil Side, he stops using it voluntarily and goes back to Rosario removing.
- Even apart from that, it does help that his reputation is much better than truly warranted before too long.
- Most of the guys in Mai-HiME are just sort of background noise, unless (or until) they're plot-relevant. And yet they have some of the prettiest and most popular (and superpowered) girls in school longing for them, and in the manga one of them became the main character and had Mai and Natsuki actively fighting over him. (At least there they came up with the excuse that he could unleash their full powers.)
- The character Nami Hito from Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei is the most average person in the entire show. She hates this and hates when people call her average, but the fact is, even her name means "run of the mill."
- In addition to that, she was supposed to be the main character when the comic was first forming. Later it became the teacher, but being surrounded by weird classmates still fits the trope.
- In Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Linna's mother sets her up on an omiai date with a nice, normal, unexceptional guy. Linna is actually tempted into giving up her life of independence and excitement in the city (and moonlighting as a Knight Saber) to settle down and marry the guy.
- Keitaro from Love Hina. Struggling to squeak by on his grades, average as far as looks go, and for most of the series his only exceptional physical trait is his ability to survive the horrendous amounts of abuse Naru, Motoko, and Kaolla heap on him. But practically every girl in Hinatasou (and a few without) wind up falling head-over-heels for him, and in the end he gets to marry his chosen one, while several of the others are left quietly pining over him.
- Rock from Black Lagoon was a well-educated but otherwise dead-average working stiff until he crossed paths with the Lagoon Company. Of course, once he meets up with them he shows that he can pull some amazing stunts out of his ass, but still most of his character centers around the idea of tossing your average Japanese Salaryman into over-the-top situations, and often having some of the most interesting (and most psychotic) people on the planet find him utterly fascinating.
- Maybe because he can be so batshit insane compared to the more level-headed (and yet violent) characters that it amazes them. Dutch certainly never would've thought of using a wrecked ship as a boat ramp to launch a torpedo into the cockpit of an attack chopper, and Balalaika ends up indulging Rock by wiping out a whole Yakuza group at his request, even though she was ostensibly there to ally with them.
- Sakai Yuuji from Shakugan no Shana fits this trope.
- Hikyou Banchou looks like this when not in his banchou getup, which he often uses to get close to his enemies and sabotage them.
- Keita of Gakuen Heaven is an ordinary boy who sticks out like a sore thumb in a school full of handsome, talented males. Said males find his lack of extraordinariness the very attribute that makes him so interesting to them.
- Kyon of Haruhi Suzumiya, though he's probably lying about not being very smart. Still, he is the normal hole in the SOS Brigade's donut of secret weirdness. And still manages to be awesome instead of drastically overshadowed. Itsuki even says that his Agency has run checks on him and found him to be "completely normal". But then again, he's not totally straightforward with the truth either.
- Kyon is essentially the exception that proves the rule on this trope being an annoyance. He's a very average guy... but he's a realistic average guy, instead of the bland doormat other uses of this trope usually are. He actually hits that range of being easy to relate to because he completely avoids the pitfall of This Loser Is You.
- Just about any male character in a Harem Genre manga/anime or Bishoujo Game or any manga/anime with a large female cast will be average and easy for the audience to project onto as possible and will still end coming out on top, saving the world and getting all the girls to love him without really even trying.
- Tenchi Muyo!: Tenchi Masaki was this before he started getting power upgrades. While he did have a laser sword and was actually pretty good with it, most of the female characters dwarfed him in power. Special abilities aside, he still fits the type to a T... he's average in looks, sort of bland in personality, and doesn't seem to be of particularly remarkable intelligence. And one of the most recurring plots of the franchise is still "some ridiculously powerful female falls in love with him and tries to take him for herself".
- The manga (possibly unintentionally) lampshades just how fully this trope is in effect. Ryoko has memories of a Tenchi-like boy she met and embraced tightly long before coming to Earth, and begins to fear that what she feels for Tenchi is actually just a shadow of what she felt for him, her true love. When they finally meet this character, he pretty much has all of Tenchi's good qualities, but even moreso; he's handsome, extremely brave, kind to a fault, heroic without being pushed into it, and outspoken in his love for Ryoko. Eventually Ryoko finds out that because of a Timey-Wimey Ball, what she felt when she embraced this guy all those years ago was actually an echo of her affection for Tenchi instead, and she happily bids him goodbye forever to go back to squabbling with the others for the chance to marry Tenchi and settle down to farm carrots.
- Kyohei was basically invented to be this and tacked on to Burst Angel simply because it's such a prevalent anime trope. He doesn't appear in the original manga, he's in absolutely zero of the promotional materials, and his contribution to the story is usually literally to show up, make some food, and then go home for the day while the actual plot happens somewhere far away from him. And yet the series is still billed as if it were about him, and his involvement with the others.
- Page three of Mission School states this trope straight out in regards to its male protagonist, essentially defining the whole phenomenon:
This is the protagonist of our story. His grades are lower middle. Athletic ability is nonexistent. No special skills. No motivation.
- Shiraishi from Zero In is a completely and totally average high school boy, who is constantly beaten up by bullies and lets them push him around endlessly. This continues even after he joins the supposedly elite private police force Minkei (whose other agents are capable of near-superhuman feats)... he still lets bullies beat him up, and he usually stumbles through missions like an unlucky civilian who just happened to be dragged along.
- Tadakuni in Daily Lives of High School Boys is intended to be this to play a tsukkomi role to his slightly more oddball friends. This, however, made him Out of Focus as the series goes on.
- Normalman himself is so unremarkable that his name is never capitalized. In fact, you may know that in comics, every letter in every word is usually capitalized, but none of the letters in norm's name ever are. Damn. Of course, that's mainly because he's the only guy without powers on the planet Levram, where being completely mundane makes him incredibly important to several key figures, from the Ultra-Conservative, who wants to give him powers so he won't disrupt the status quo to Sophisticated Lady, who finds his scrawny figure and utter helplessness maddeningly attractive.
- Recurring Spider-Man side character Joe Smith, better known as "Just A Guy Named Joe". Somewhat ironically, he's had an incredibly eventful life from certain perspectives; Boxer, wrestler, movie star, tv star, Super Villain, Superhero... it's too bad he's a born loser and failed at each of those professions.
- Joe's spiritual counterpart Guy Jones, "Just A Joe Named Guy", as well.
- For Better or For Worse- Anthony friggin Caine. Absolutely average, yet everyone in the cast is convinced he's the best man on earth, and of course the lovely Elizabeth gives up her exciting life teaching in a native village to move back to her home town to settle down and live a nice, respectable life with him.
- There is a Donald Duck short comic spoofing the story "Null-P" mentioned below: Donald is selected by a computer to be completely average, which makes him an instant celebrity. However, he does not get to enjoy it much, and in the end is saved by a literal computer bug.
- Joe from Idiocracy was selected for the suspended animation experiment because he's so totally average. At least in 2005, he is. Several generations of declining intelligence later, he's the smartest man on Earth. Or at least, the only one with any common sense.
- Nemo from Little Nemo. What makes him different than any other kid? In the movie, he mostly just says "Yippee!"
- Something that's really creepy about Ulrich Thompson as The Consultant in The International (for some, at least) was how average he seemed to be.
- Martin from The Dresden Files is described as incredibly bland. He manages to even do things that should be dramatic in efficient but unimpressive ways. Or at least Harry sees him this way. Of course there is the fact that he's a half vampire that's running a Thanatos Gambit against the Red Court in order to Harry to destroy them with their own ritual. The fact that he manages to seem completely average (except for the half vampire thing) right up until the end of Changes shows the power of this trope.
- Somewhat similarly, in The Hardy Boys Casefiles, Frank and Joe's contact in the Network was a man who was only ever called "The Gray Man." He invokes this deliberately, making himself as dull and unremarkable as possible to make it easier to blend into a crowd and to be difficult to remember.
- In the short story "Null-P" by William Tenn, it is discovered that a man named George Abnego happens to be statistically average in every way. This makes him a celebrity of sorts, and he ends up becoming President.
- Part of the Backstory for The Freedom Trap by Desmond Bagley is that Alison Mackintosh's father raised her to be a superspy -- licensed pilot, expert shot with pistol and rifle, karate, things like that. And then she fell in love with and married an accountant named -- wait for it -- John Smith.
- The hero of Zarkorr The Invader was apparently The Chosen One because, of all the people on Earth, he's dead average on every axis. He's a schlubby white middle-class American.
- Dreams of Yoghurt by Neil T Stacey features Average Man, whose characteristics at any given time reflect the average of the planet's makeup. At most times, he is an Asian woman named Mohammed Smith. He gets kidnapped by the CIA, who intend to interrogate him instead of collecting census data.
- The Mysterious Benedict Society: Reynie Muldoon. "He was of average size, of an average pale complexion, his brown hair of average length, and he wore average clothes."
- In the Xanth novels, Grey Murphy has, according to his driver's license lists his eye color as "Neutral" and his hair as "hair-colered". He's also the sun of the Magician Murphy and the Sorceress Vadne, and a Magician in his own right.
- John Doe from JPod, who grew up in a lesbian commune in British Columbia. To compensate for is insane upbringing, he has dedicated his life to making himself as statistically average as possible up to and including his favorite snack foods.
- The Idiot discusses this at length:
- Varvara Ardalionovna Ptitsyn, her husband Ivan Petrovich Ptitsyn, and her brother Gavrila Ardalionovich Ivolgin are all described as completely ordinary people. Ivan Ptitsyn is stated to be blissfully unaware of how ordinary he is, and Varvara knows she's ordinary and has more or less made peace with that fact, while Gavrila knows that he's ordinary and is constantly striving to distinguish himself but lacks the ability to do so.
- In addition, the author launches into an aside describing how the vast majority of people in Real Life are "ordinary", and wondering how an author, interested in realism, is supposed to accurately portray these ordinary people.
- Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld. He is easily the least interesting character in the whole show despite being the main character. The main reason for this is to show a contrast between him and the crazy people he hangs out with. He has a different girlfriend almost every time he's seen with one, and breaks up with them for the pettiest reasons, yet has such a relaxed attitude about the whole thing that we rarely see him upset. He does get annoyed when Kramer comes into his room and 'borrows' his possessions/food, though.
- Ted Moseby from How I Met Your Mother. His worst faults are that he corrects people and he wants to find true love. Plus he doesn't go all the way with his crazy friends. Oh wow, he's so daring.
- He's a borderline example, due to Flanderization making him more distinct as time goes on. He's more of the Ego to Barney's Id and Marshall's Superego. His desire to have a family and his single status as a thirty-something-year-old male living in New York City still sticks him with this trope, however.
- In one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Janeway is sincerely tempted to give up her life as a Starfleet captain and her promise of getting her crew home to settle down with a decent but fairly bland guy she met on a planet and become a minor power plant supervisor.
- Todd Dempsey on Outsourced (TV series). One of the main reasons the show received claims of being racist was because there was so much focus on him when the Indian characters had better personalities.
- Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: Out of all the Gokaigers, Don "Doc" Dogoier, aka Gokai Green, is the only one without a Backstory or known past. Initially, he was planned to have a back-story as the son of a scientist who was murdered at the hands of the Zangyack forces. However, Naruhisa Arakawa, the show's head writer, discovered that he preferred to leave Don without a back-story.
- On The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, there is a Running Gag that Mitt Romney is an extremely bland guy. For example, a joke on The Colbert Report was that he got indigestion from a "particularly spicy Wheat Thin".
- The gaming magazine Shadis had a recurring comic strip about the adventures of "Joe Genero, the Average Man" which consisted of amazing or absurd things that characters with "average" stats in various games could accomplish.
- Aran Ryan was this in Super Punch-Out!!, a series known for wild characters, but thankfully, Next-Level Games gave him a Hot-Blooded Scotireland/border-line Ax Crazy personality in the Wii version of the game. Now, he's probably the most memorable character in the entire cast!
- Also, based on seeing his name in the game's code, Kid Quick from the original arcade Punch Out was supposed to make a comeback in the Wii version, and its assumed he was "cut" because his only trait in his original appearance was his speed. However, it seems Next-Level Games tried so hard to give Kid character, he became an entirely new character: Disco Kid.
- Played for Drama in Rainbow Six. The Dragon, Renegade Russian Dmitriy Popov's features are so unremarkable that no one really knows how to look out for him until learning the extent of the Big Bad's plan prompts an Even Evil Has Standards reaction and something of a Heel Face Turn, causing him to voluntarily approach John Clark.
- Russel Bagman is the most normal guy in Super Robot Wars. Literally. As a result of this, he stands out even more. Ironically subverted by Fanon though, considering he gives his Hot-Blooded commander a Bright Slap once, leading many to apply Memetic Mutation and refer to him as the Original Generation Bright Noah.
- The protagonist of MDickie's The You Testament is just some generic schmuck (so that you can use a photo of your own face to make him you) who fulfils the role of every incidental person in The Bible who encounters Jesus without becoming a dedicated disciple. This occasionally necessitates that a story be mangled out of shape so that "some generic schmuck" can learn the lesson instead of "the very specific person who Jesus actually talked to in the Bible whose very identity was instrumental in giving the lesson meaning".
- A non-romantic example is Tyler Marlocke from PS 238. He's a completely average kid who has been sent to a grade school for superheroes, because his parents refuse to believe he isn't one.
- Except that he's the future Nightwing.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob is about Bob Smithson, officially the World's Most Average Man. As time goes on though, it becomes clear that he does have one significant thing going for him: a higher than average wisdom score.
- Adlai Atkins from the Futurama episode "The Cyber House Rules". He's probably above average when it comes to qualities that attract women (Leela: "A tall doctor you say?"), but in everything else, he strives to be average. This includes having his Hawaiian shirts "toned down" (by taking out the colors and replacing them with greys), wearing ties with square bottoms, and generally wearing grey and beige tones around the clock. He gives Leela surgery to make her look like a normal human and then starts dating her. His desire to be average cause him to give Leela some humorous "compliments":
Adlai: Leela, you're 999,999 in a million.
- In Darkwing Duck, there is Ordinary Guy, the only man on the planet Floog who does not have any superpowers. The job of all the superheroes is to protect him - from everything, resulting in a complete lack of privacy which drives him mad and inspires him to become a tool-using Super Villain.
- Carson Daly. On Saturday Night Live, a skit about TRL had this line- "Hi I'm Carson Daly, and I'm average in every way."
- One study found that the most typical face on Earth was that of a 28 year old Chinese male.
- Dev Patel was chosen for the part of Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire because the director wanted a completely ordinary looking guy to play the role rather than any of the muscle bound guys which had auditioned for the role before.
- Similarly, Tim Burton chose Michael Keaton rather than an action star for the role in 1989's Batman because Bruce Wayne was an "average" (albeit rich) guy who became a vigilante.