Oh, So Tropical: The Nose Bleed

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: tropes exist because they work. If you’re a writer like I am, tropes is your friend.

Here’s a question for you: WHY do they work?

Well, in certain ways a trope is the equivalent to a symbol in the linguistic (as opposed to the artistic) sense. It’s something whose meaning we agree on, not in any formal sense, but we all act as though it means what we all say it means. So long as we do, Lo! it is true!

I mean seriously, think about it. If we act as though a word or an image or a gesture means a certain thing, isn’t that all that really matters?

Here’s a good example: the nosebleed trope. If characters get nosebleeds, it means they are sexually aroused.

Now, this isn’t the best example because the connection between a bloody nose and (in a male character) a raging erection isn’t exactly what we could call obvious. I mean seriously, if my blood is flowing south, so to speak, it’s manifestly not heading north!

Not that I would know anything about that. Even though I’ve been rereading The Shinji Ikari Raising Project to keep myself warm on these cold winter nights (wink wink nudge nudge). (For those of you unfamiliar with that game or manga, it’s a harem story with the Neon Genesis characters. R-rated, just for the record. Misato is exactly as impressive as you knew she’d be.)

But here’s the deal: The nose is one organ that is frequently associated with the, um, tallywacker. I’m going to say “tallywacker” because I don’t want to type the word “pns” about eight hundred times and have Google decide my blog is a porn site. Plus tallywacker IS a slang term for that particular body part.

But supposedly a gentleman who is equipped with a nose of heroic proportions – let’s call him Cyrano de Bergerac, and if you don’t get that one, look him up – is similarly equipped in the pants snake department. That was a literary reference, by the way. It was T. S. Eliot who used the phrase “One-eyed pants snake.”

Another such body part is the foot. Big feet, big whipper-snapper, or so it has been said.

So a nosebleed, that is, a rush of blood to the nose, gets conflated with a rush of blood elsewhere.

It’s such a common trope that it can get mocked mercilessly at times. In the Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi manga (not the anime, praise Bog) 12-year-old Sasshi gets a nosebleed so powerful they use it to destroy a castle’s wall.

And my favorite subversion of the trope is in Kill la Kill: Ryuko has gone to school without her suit Senketsu. Oops, she needed it bad! Here comes Mako’s horny old dad, Barazo. He sees Ryuko’s panties – and they aren’t even white panties, they are red and white striped (not that I was looking) – and gets a nosebleed so severe he drops Senketsu.

Here comes Mako’s horny young brother, Mataro. He grabs the suit, sees the panties. The rest, as they say, is history.

So now Guts, the family dog, takes up the task. He charges up with Senketsu. He sees the panties.

Dudes, the DOG gets a nosebleed. THE DOG.

Guts, why is a good dog like you interested in a human girl’s pantsu?

Okay, so anyway, why do you want a nosebleed to stand for sexual arousal?

1) It’s funny at the level of smuttiness, that is, it’s like that Monty Python sketch where the guy (Eric Idle) makes a sexual double entendre and then says, “Wink wink nudge nudge know what I mean?” Character gets a nosebleed. Wink wink nudge nudge know what I mean? It’s just a tad bit on the sly side, and you’re in on the joke: “Oh, ho, I know what’s going on.”

2) More importantly, it keeps the visual image, manga or anime, away from the tallywacker. I mean, seriously, would you want to see a closeup on the bulge in Shinji’s shorts every time he sees Rei coming out of the shower? That’s not sly, it’s not funny, and it’s more than a little offensive in mass market media.

Besides, if Rei is coming out of the shower, I want to see Rei, not Shinji’s shorts! I was being facetious as I wrote that, but it’s actually true: whether she is clothed or unclothed, Rei, or just about any character, is more interesting than Shinji’s shorts.

So, instead of showing the arousal, we show a symbol of the arousal. That’s how symbols work: you don’t need the object (the reference) if you have the symbol for it. It gets the point across once we know the code. And so long as we all act like the symbol is there in place of the thing, it works.

Damn, I love semantics. I wish they’d let me teach it.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Oh, So Tropical: The Nose Bleed

  1. “So a nosebleed, that is, a rush of blood to the nose, gets conflated with a rush of blood elsewhere.”

    I’ve always thought it was a reference to the increased blood pressure/heart rate, as these things can cause nosebleeds.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s