What’s a ‘Manlet’? Recounting some of Fandom’s Finest Weird Guys
All hail the short kings and weird dudes of the fictional world
If you’ve been in fandom circles on the internet over the past couple years, you might’ve encountered the phrase ‘manlet’ as a part of the ever-growing online lexicon. What’s a manlet, you ask? A manlet is a completely bizarre guy who you almost can't help but take a shine to. Generally speaking, manlets are kinda short too. This is because the phrase is borrowing the suffix "-let" from words like "eaglet" or "owlet" to represent them being, well, small. Let's not limit ourselves to that, though - the manlet harvest is bountiful this year.
Originally, the term was generally in referral to men under six foot tall, who felt the need for overcompensate for their masculinity (of which they falsely felt was compromised by their height) through super trad demonstrations of masculinity, such as excessive weightlifting. Since then though, the phrase has generally evolved among fandoms into one that is referring to weird guys that you want to study like a quirky new species (whether that is a derogatory or complimentary statement is another question entirely). But, let’s not limit our options here: there are some taller manlets on this list, because their manlet energy is just unbeaten, regardless of their height. They're weird little guys at heart. We're equal opportunities oriented here, after all. (Also, surely not everyone under six foot tall is short, right? Right?? Please say right.)
There's no kind of moral implication to being a manlet: you can be a good manlet, or a bad manlet, or just… some guy. Manlets aren’t inherently positive representations of masculinity, nor are they necessarily bad ones. They’re weird men that you Just Think Are Neat. They're just funky little guys who have picked up some weird habits. They can be your prides and joys, your trophy blorbos, or they can be an absolute scourge on their canon. It's really up to the individual manlet. With no further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best and wildest examples of manlethood from TV shows, films, and beyond. Starting with…
Herbert West - Re-Animator (1985)
Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) belongs to an important niche of manlets: weird little queer-coded science men who will transgress all ethics if they get to make history. (Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein was, of course, one of the earliest manlets of this genre. I won't hear otherwise.) He gives off the energy of a nameless creature who just appeared in your basement one day and refused to leave, like something from r/TwoSentenceHorror. Like that’s basically the relationship he has with his roommate, fellow med student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). He shows up with moving boxes and, within days, Dan’s basement is accumulating body parts.
At one point he’s being toured around the med school morgue, being introduced to his classmates and professors, but he responds monosyllabically to the niceties - he’s still in some very Gender mourning garb himself for his last professor (whose death he was, of course, mysteriously involved in), and he can’t take his eyes off the corpses and their limitless potential. Herbert is hilariously dedicated to raising the dead to the point he’ll resurrect people actively dangerous to him - he’d kill and die to see his theories come alive. But his own self-assuredness in his obsession is freeing, especially because he doesn’t suffer much for it. The bodies pile up in the first film - despite his best efforts! - and he ends up in a tight spot, but the ending and the two terrible sequels show he survives and gets the guy, in the form of Dan’s devotion to him and his cause. So I guess if there’s anything to learn from Herbert, it’s to follow what keeps our heart beating and stand by our monsters. Lovely. ~ Mal Morgenstern
Seymour Krelborn - Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Seymour Krelborn, my beloved. My gender icon before I knew what gender was (bravely implying I know what gender is now, of course). A balm of positive masculinity for the weary soul. An honorary transmasc if I’ve ever seen one. If only he could evade being consumed - literally - by the perils of capitalism. Don't worry, Seymour - it happens to the best of us.
Part of what makes Seymour such a perfect manlet, besides the fact he’s depicted by the wonderful Rick Moranis (who is, arguably, the ideal manlet in every role), is his gentle, nurturing nature. He tends to his plant babies, he supports his friends and colleagues, and he ultimately feeds Audrey’s (Ellen Greene) abusive ex-boyfriend to his plant, Audrey 2 (Levi Stubbs). Poetic justice. Although he is a deeply imperfect man, Seymour takes a pretty good run at being a "good guy". On his journey towards being a good man - whatever that may mean on Skid Row - he rejects a lot of the more trad notions of masculinity presented by some of the other men in the film. As a product of this, we end up with one dorky, delightful little dude leading our story.
Seymour isn't just a manlet - he is THE manlet (complimentary). The moment. The blueprint for a bunch of deranged little guys who were yet to come. Men could learn a thing or two from Seymour: support the women in your life, be a plant dad, see off misogynistic arseholes (with your man-eating plant), and rock hideous knitwear (while tending to your plants of both the man-eating and benign varieties). Be more Seymour. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.
Kimchee - Kim's Convenience (2016-2021)
Kim’s Convenience is a show that thrives in its wonderful chemistry between characters. Whether the relationships are platonic, familial, or romantic, the dialogue is always fantastic, hilarious, and real. I don’t think any character feels as real as Kimchee (Andrew Phung) does, though. He’s the most important character to the show who isn’t directly a part of the Kim family, and he brightens up every scene he’s in with his hilarious sense of humour.
As Jung’s (Simu Liu) roommate and oldest friend, there’s plenty of opportunities for ribbing and jokes between the two of them, and it’s here that Kimchee shines brightest. Whether it’s at home or at work, he’s always the funniest person on screen. He’s more than just hilarious, though. More often than not, he’s the shoulder that people go to lean on, from Jung to his boss, Shannon (Nicole Power).
His true manlet nature shines through like a laser at his job. We follow his career progress from car washer to assistant manager, and it’s a joy watching how his character develops. You can take the manlet out of the car wash, but you can’t take the car wash out of the manlet. His dependable nature is often offset by his laissez-faire attitude to work and commitments, and that’s often his downfall. That doesn’t make him any less loveable, though. By the show’s conclusion, he’s essentially the fifth member of the Kim family, and it’s warm to see him join the central cast. Every character in the show is wonderful, but there’s no one quite like Kimchee. ~ AC
Charlie Kelly - It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2004-)
Amongst the narcissists, scammers, and sociopaths that make up the Paddy’s Pub gang, Charlie Day’s illiterate goofball provides both the heart and the glue that keeps our found family of five functioning (quite literally if we’re talking about his history of solvent abuse).
Charlie Kelly is a man child who’s worn the same clothes for at least 17 years and is delighted to share a disgusting single room flat with an even more disgusting 70 year old man (Danny Devito’s Frank, the other funny little manlet in this show whose vile brand of anarcho-capitalism injects the gang’s shenanigans with both chaos and cashflow).
Compared to Dennis (master-manipulator but not much else; Glenn Howerton), Mac (with Sunday-school naivety; Rob McElhenney) and Dee (as ruthless as she is clueless; Kaitlin Olson), Charlie’s lack of book-smarts and attention span often leave him low in the pecking order. But it’s possible that he is, as many fans have posited, secretly the smartest character on the show. He’s a Randy Newman-esque musical savant and in the latest season it’s also revealed he can unknowingly speak fluent Irish. But these gifts aside, it’s in his blue-collar niche as King of the Rats where Charlie reveals his true genius; like in stand out episode Charlie Work which sees him running the bar like a battleship to pass health inspection and deliver his crewmate’s hair-brained scheme at the same time. Give the man a clogged toilet, a wall full of cats, or a new rat-stick and watch him shine.
Charlie also seems capable of genuine charm and romantic attachments when they appear, like rich girl Ruby or rival gamer QueenOfThrones, both in Season 8 - or even his Season 10 dalliance with Dee, which comes about because the others have stopped bullying them and they are free to pursue their own interests. These of course all turn out to be scams (he is in the Paddy’s crew above all), mistakes, or just minor stops in his deeply problematic passion project, The Waitress who he has been stalking since the very first episode. Because at the end of the day, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the darkest of dark mirrors where no one learns their lesson and no one deserves redemption; not even sweet little Charlie. ~ JC
Wallace Wells - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
Ah, Wallace Wells. Everyone’s favourite chaotic gay polyamorous bitch. He may not have been the first gay character I saw on screen, but he was certainly my first favourite one. From his hilarious one-liners to his defence of Ellen Wong's Knives Chau (“You’re too good for him. Run.”), I’m sure I’m not alone in walking away from watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World with Wells as my favourite character.
Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) works so well as a character for so many reasons, a good chunk of them being how he plays off of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) himself. Scott is a complete asshole who makes terrible choices and treats people badly. While Wallace isn’t the only person who points this out, he’s perhaps the person who gets through to Scott the best. For all his ultimatums and barbed comments, it’s all in the best interest of others, whether it’s protecting Scott's misfortunate love interests or looking out for Scott himself.
Of course, it’s also really fucking fun to see a messy gay man live a realistically messy life on screen, and that’s a big part of why Wallace works so well as a character. His personality is comically large, but never to the point of stereotype or parody. For a series that has video games coming to life, lactose-inhibited superpowers, and people who somehow find Scott Pilgrim attractive, perhaps the most incredible thing of all is Wallace Wells, manlet supreme. How can you not love this little gremlin? ~ AC
Guillermo de la Cruz - What We Do in the Shadows (2019-)
In a world where vampires are real, someone needs to pick up their slack. Especially when those vampires include an ancient, Persian warrior king who has ended up in suburban New York completely clueless to the modern world. That’s the situation at the heart of this TV spin off to Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s 2014 mockumentary film, What We Do in the Shadows and that’s where Guillermo de la Cruz (Harvey Guillen) comes in; the long suffering familiar to said vampire Nandor (Kayvan Novak) as well as dogsbody to the other undead residents of their Staten Island gothic mansion.
A self confessed vampire fanboy who sleeps next to a picture of Antonio Banderas in Interview with the Vampire (a Latino vampire icon), and has entered servitude under the impression that he will one day be turned by his master, a pretence that he clings to despite being clearly false. But still he stays, running errands, finding virgins for sacrifice etc., partially because of his tragic unrequited love for Nandor but also because, frankly, he doesn’t have many other career options.
That is until, foreshadowed by his very catholic surname, his innate gift for killing vampires reveals itself, at first by accident and then later in defence of his friends. Guillermo is special after all, as the descendent of legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing. But instead of accepting the mantle, he makes the choice to stay with the vampires who mainly see him as some kind of pet, applying his badass slaying skills in the shadows as just another way of thanklessly keeping the household together. This fucking guy! ~ JC
Bender - Futurama (1999-2003)
I know what you’re all thinking. How can Bender (John DiMaggio) be a manlet? He’s not even a man*, let alone a manlet! In response, I ask that you broaden your manlet horizons. What Bender lacks in gender, he makes up for in energy and attitude. Almost any scene this chaotic metal bastard features in contains pure, undiluted, manlet energy.
It’s hard to pick out specific examples of Benlet’s manlet-ness, as it’s drip-feeded throughout pretty much every Futurama episode. Maybe I’m so confident that he’s a manlet as he’s the first character I ever heard use the phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass”? That stuck with me when I heard it as a child. Maybe that’s all you need to be a manlet. Either way, I’m writing the article, and I get the say so here, and that’s all I need. Bender is king of the manlets.
*I’ve now decided that Bender is nonbinary. ~ AC
Greggory Lee - Night in the Woods (2018)
Night in the Woods's Gregg Lee may be a fox, but he’s a man in my heart, making him an honorary manlet. I love this fucked up little gay furry so much, from his shitty bike to his blade fixation to his oversized leather jacket. He’s the embodiment of “be gay, do crime”, and I’ve got to say - I’m a sucker for wild, ridiculous gay rep.
When you focus on the Gregg route, he takes you on all kinds of ridiculous adventures and criminal activity, from knife fights in the woods to Frankenstein-ing creatures out of old parade float animatronics. Despite what he seems to think is a “bad boy persona” (fursona, technically) with his tiny little leather jacket and frequent petty crimes, he’s actually a complete loser. This is what, to me, makes him a perfect manlet: he’s a dork. He’s adorable. He just doesn’t know it. He thinks he’s the most badass guy in town. He, most decidedly, is not. He's probably the antithesis of cool. But please - no one try and tell him that. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.
Abed Nadir - Community (2009-2015)
Community is a show about a diverse group of peers at a Colorado community college learning to communicate and become a found family. But it’s the presence of Danny Pudi’s Abed that allows the series to zap back and forth through spacetime into the perfectly crafted, low-stakes genre homages that made it a cult favourite; the spiritual sequel in many ways to its UK forebear Spaced.
Abed doesn’t know how people work, but he knows how movies work. He is a human TV Tropes with a deep well of learnt characters to kickstart any plot the Study Group may find themselves in, for better or worse: Goodfellas, Apollo 13, Batman, uh, My Dinner With Andre… and the fact that his life resembles an episodic sitcom is not lost on him either. He’s the cinephile with a heart of gold but that doesn’t mean he wont test his friends’ patience for pastiche or spiral into messianic levels of meta movie-making.
Show creator Dan Harmon has been very candid that writing Abed as a self insert helped him to discover his own place on the autism spectrum. While references and meta-humour are his primary ways of making sense of the world, the way Abed forms attachments to his friends provides much of the hugging and learning at the heart of the series, particularly his adorkable bromance with best friend Troy (Donald Glover), an unplanned pairing that was written around the two actors’ lovable chemistry and whose antics ended up influencing the dynamic of the whole series for the better. ~ JC
Cecil Gershwin Palmer - Welcome to Night Vale (2012)
Diversity win! The weird radio host in your fucked up little desert town is gay. Cecil Palmer (voiced by the silky-smooth tones of Cecil Baldwin) is the ultimate “weird guy” to end all weird guys. I love him. While the ultimate aim of Welcome to Night Vale is to get to know the wild lore of Night Vale, Cecil's narration allows you into his inner world a little, too - and boy is that world a weird place.
Not only is Cecil a fantastic example of a manlet, he also comes as a package deal with his similarly eccentric scientist husband, Carlos (Dylan Marron). They are, arguably, in a manlet-4-manlet relationship; manlet-loving-manlets, even. Listening to him muse about his beloved, bizarre town throughout the podcast is truly a privilege. 10/10 manlet-ing; primo-grade. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.
Caspar von Bergliez - Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a manlet’s paradise. No matter which of the titular houses you ally yourself with, there’s at least one top-tier manlet to be found, whether its Ignatz Victor of the Golden Deer (Christian La Monte), or Ashe Ubert of the Blue Lions (Shannon McKain). However, the games greatest manlet is undeniably Caspar von Bergliez (Ben Diskin), resident hothead of the Black Eagles house. Hailing from a royal family but lacking both a crest and any noble etiquette, he’s unique among his classmates in many ways. For one, he’s the only character in the game who can be won over into your class on the condition that you’re a good enough fist fighter. When does that ever happen?
Caspar has developed a dubious reputation among certain sections of the Three Houses fanbase as being one of the worst characters in the game, due to lacking in certain combat skills (particularly archery and magic), having a slow start in the game’s difficult early chapters, and being a bit two-dimensional as a character. The first two points are fair criticism - Three Houses is a hard game, and more so than many characters, it’s easy for Caspar to fall behind if not given dedicated training.
But Fire Emblem is so much more than a combat game - it’s got a rich story, and developing relationships with the game’s varied cast is half the fun. It’s here where Caspar really comes into his own. More so than most characters, he has a strong internal sense of justice, and is never afraid to put his neck on the line to protect people. Sure, he has his ridiculous moments - it’s a Fire Emblem game, who doesn’t? Caspar is a character you can’t help but root for, as he becomes braver and smarter, confronting his traumatic family history, and standing up for his friends. One of his potential endings sees him as a “roaming instigator”, traveling the land, causing mischief wherever he goes. Who could want more? ~ AC
George Constanza - Seinfeld (1989-1998)
George Costanza is a terrible human being all round. I mean, I just finished watching the mini-arc where he fakes disability at work, and when he’s rumbled, refuses to get fired by embedding himself in the workplace like a parasite. Because that’s the niche that Jason Alexander’s manlet has found for himself in Seinfeld’s absurdist 90s New York: a parasite whose gift is the ability to always go one morality-level lower than all others. Well, almost: one of my favourite episodes sees him mistaken for a famous neo-nazi and when he gets hit on by a sexy aryan lady you can see his brain finding that boundary in real time.
Whilst Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up knack for observation sends him spiralling into success-preventing neuroses every week, and Cosmo Kramer’s (Michael Richards) complete lack of self awareness sees him fail upwards via chaos, we have George who, once he accepts his role as a scummy little man in an epiphany of honesty, ends up gaming the system and landing a cushy job doing… something… for the New York Yankees; the Gen X American Dream of prestige and a paycheck with zero responsibility; the kind of thing Fight Club warned about - but Costanza thinks it’s just great as long as he can worm his way in and out of careers and relationships without consequence (for him).
Despite being an actual villain, it’s Costanza’s escapades that reveal the hidden satire in this “show about nothing” and pushed the radical envelope for sitcom characters who we’re supposed to laugh at and not sympathise with at all. Speaking of envelopes, did I mention that he straight up kills his fiancée via apathy towards her needs? Yeah, he’s an awful little man. ~ JC
Newton Geiszler - Pacific Rim (2013)
I think that Charlie Day is the first person to appear in this article twice. For good reason, though - he seems to bring the most chaotic vibes in any role. Pacific Rim’s wild-as-a-bat cryptobiologist Newton Geiszler is absolutely no exception. His dedication to his dubious cause, almost excessive enthusiasm, and all-around poor life choices are quite the combination - all tied up in one five-foot-something heavily tattooed package.
Unlike Day’s alternative manlet-sona, the aforementioned Charlie Kelly, Newton is pretty much as equally charming as he is vile. I think that fits the manlet archetype pretty well: in one moment you want to pat him on the head, and in the next you want to investigate him as a specimen in a lab (much like one of his many Kaiju organisms). It’s a tough line to walk, but one that Newton manages to tightrope along flawlessly nonetheless. If Newton saw Newton from the outside, he'd be obsessed - and I am too.
The combination of Newton’s overarching character and Day’s exceptional performance puts me in mind of earlier bumbling genius manlets, such as Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ Wayne Szalinski (it’s a day ending in Y, therefore I am once again bringing up Rick Moranis’ brilliance), somehow without becoming too stale or overdone. I think that’s achieved by completely leaning into the fact that Newton is, ultimately, a completely fucked up, annoying little man who probably ends up doing terrible, terrible, terrible things to a preserved Kaiju organ. This mixing of creepy and cute gives Newton an edge that some of the more wholesome - or, indeed, more awful - manlets might miss out on, making him one of my absolute favourite examples of the trope. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.
Tadano - Aggretsuko (2016-)
There’s so many brilliant manlets in Aggretsuko who show their manlet-iness in different ways. You could definitely argue that Anai (Billy Kametz) and Resasuke (Max Mittelman) are both manlets, despite being polar opposites of each other. However, the crown jewel manlet of the series is one of the most loveable of them all, despite being an utter fuckboy. His relationship with Retsuko (Erica Mendez) is at once charming and infuriating, and any time he’s on screen, you know you’re in for some great content.
I’m talking about Tadano, of course. While some would consider Haida (Ben Diskin, making his second appearance here - what a guy!) to be the ultimate manlet of the show - and they’d have a very strong case - it’s Tadano (Griffin Burns) who’s my runaway favourite. A bumbling tech genius with easy-going charm, he’s at once a high-flying businessman (in the most literal sense) and also a complete wet blanket when it comes to interpersonal relationships. He works incredibly well as a character in his own right, but even better when he’s bouncing off others: see his underrated chemistry with Gori (G.K. Bowes), for instance, or his rivalry with Haida. The scene in season 4 where he shuts down Haida’s posturing masculinity over an arms wrestle is at once hilarious and heart-warming.
Tadano isn’t a perfect character, of course. His relationship with Retsuko is a disaster, and he often lets his naivety get in the way of things. None of this stops him from being any less of a manlet, of course. In a show full of oddly loveable weird guys, Tadano may be the oddest and most loveable. ~ AC
Dale Cooper - Twin Peaks (1990-1992)
Agent Dale Bartholemew Cooper, you may be about six foot tall, but you’re still just one weird little guy. No amount of being tall, dark, and handsome can stop Kyle Maclachlan from being cast as notorious manlets - Twin Peaks' Dale being perhaps the cream of the crop (Garmonbozia pun intended). His hallmark eccentricities, boyish nature, and wide-eyed optimism is a dream combination for cementing his manlet-status.
I think part of what hits Dale home as being an Ultimate Manlet is his absolute uninhibited expressions of joy. He makes, seemingly, zero attempt to hold back his whimsy and general love for life - even when, perhaps, the situation calls for it. See, for example, the way he almost explodes because he saw a cottontail rabbit - no, a snowshoe rabbit - just moments before addressing the entire town of Twin Peaks to inform them that a serial killer may be on the loose (there's so much to unpack just in that scene alone). Incidentally, this enthusiastic nature seems to be a powerful part of his toolkit as a detective. His extensive passion, knowledge, and tenderness provides him with almost everything he needs to do the impossible in his fight against the darkness (almost). We love a bit of weaponised manletry.
Dale basically ticks all of the boxes on the manlet quotient: adorable, bizarre, and at least a little bit fucked up. It’s hard not to fall in love with Dale from the moment he first appears on screen, as he furiously rants into a dictaphone to (his probable fag-hag) Diane (Laura Dern) about the “magnificent” trees in the area, but if you don't - it'll happen in time. Whether he’s enthusing about astrology, trees, or desserts, he just manages to exude the best, weirdest vibes imaginable. Big up David Lynch and Mark Frost for making one damn fine manic pixie dream boy. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.
Paddington Bear - A Bear Called Paddington (1958-)
Look this little bear in the face and tell me that he isn't just one weird little guy. Go on. Do it. That's right: you can't. It's because I'm right. Manlets can come in all shapes and sizes: even teddy bear sized. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.
AC is the Head of Written Content at QSO Media. Read more of their writing here.
Mal Morgenstern is a writer, visual artist, and musician. Follow them on Twitter here.
Toni Oisin H.C. is the Head of Audio at QSO Media. Read more of his writing here.