The Napoleon Complex

Anyone one of you lily livered bone-legged varmints care to slap leather with me, in case any of you get any ideas, you better know who you're dealing with. I'm the hootinest, tootinest, shootinest, bob-tailed wild cat in the west. (Shooting) I'm the fastest gun north, south, east, aaaaaaand, west of the Pacos. I'm the… (Bugs Bunny: Ehhh... Shut up!)
~ Yosemite Sam before being quiet by Bugs Bunny.

The "Napoleon Complex" (also spelled "Napoleonic Complex"), also referred to as the "Napoleon Syndrome" (also spelled "Napoleonic Syndrome") or "Short Man Syndrome", is a term which describe a theorized condition occurring in people of short stature. It is characterized by overly-aggressive or domineering social behavior, and carries the implication that such behaviour is compensatory for the subject's stature. This term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives.

The Napoleon complex is named, of course, after Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I of France. The conventional wisdom is that Napoleon compensated for his lack of height by seeking power, war, and conquest. Though he was long reported to have stood at only 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 m), historians have now suggested Napoleon was actually 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) tall, taller than the average Frenchman of his time. Napoleon was often seen with his Imperial Guard, which contributed to the perception of his being short because the Imperial Guards were of above average height.

In psychology, the Napoleon complex is regarded as a derogatory social stereotype.

One very known example of this complex in fiction is the Ruler of the Planet Mars in Looney Tunes Universe; Marvin the Martian, a short-height wrathful alien who in most of his appearances he is trying to destroy the Planet Earth with his superweapon; the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, and leads an army of anthropomorphic birds bio-designed by him; the Instant Martians, to meet his objectives of greatness. Althought in classic toons the reason of destroy the Earth was because it obstructed Marvin the view of the Planet Venus, in The Looney Tunes Show he affirmed it is to compensate the inferiority complex imposed by his peers on him during high school.


In 2007, research by the University of Central Lancashire suggested that the Napoleon complex (as terms of the theory that shorter men are more aggressive to dominate those who are taller than they are) is likely to be a myth. This study discovered that short men were less likely to lose their temper than men of average height. Its experiment involved subjects dueling each other with sticks, with one subject deliberately rapping the other's knuckles. Heart monitors revealed that the taller men were more likely to lose their tempers and hit back. University of Central Lancashire lecturer Mike Eslea commented that "when people see a short man being aggressive, they are likely to think it is due to his size, simply because that attribute is obvious and grabs their attention".

The Wessex Growth Study is a community-based longitudinal study conducted in the UK that monitored the psychological development of children from school entry to adulthood. The study was controlled for potential effects of gender and socioeconomic status, and found that "no significant differences in personality functioning or aspects of daily living were found which could be attributable to height"; this functioning included generalizations associated with the Napoleon complex, such as risk-taking behaviours.

Abraham Buunk, a professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, found evidence of the small man syndrome. Researchers at the University found that men who were 1.63 metres (5 ft 4 in) were 50% more likely to show signs of jealousy than men who were 1.98 metres (6 ft 6 in).


  • Napoleon Bonaparte (Looney Tunes): Warner Bros' version of Napoleon.
  • Commander Red (Dragon Ball): He had plans to ask Shenron to make him taller. Which, when his right hand man finds out, gets him shot in the face (Red earlier led Black and his army to believe that they'd use the Dragon Balls to conquer the planet).
  • Dolf (Alfred J. Kwak): The main complex of this bird is that he is only half crow because his mother was a blackbird and is forced to compensate it spreading racial purity. However it is seen that some characters from the series as he, Alfred or Henk, are shorter than the rest, so this might also influenced his delusions, which would explain his remarkable Napoleonic uniform.
  • The Penguin (Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot) (DC Comics): One of the most famous Batman's enemies, the Penguin is the picture of Napoleon Complex in DC Universe. In many versions, he was always rejected and dismissed as undesirable by the opposite sex due to their physical degrading with whom he got his nickname and, of course, his short stature. This is because he is forced to compensate it accumulating more money and power than he already has and surrounding himself with beautiful women which pimp.
  • Lord Farquaad (Shrek): Farquaad takes great lengths to appear taller, such as by attaching false legs to his stirrups. Upon seeing Farquaad's massive tower, Shrek suggests that he is "Compensating for Something", which could actually go a few ways.
  • Dr. Jacques von Hämsterviel (Lilo & Stitch): Dr. Hämsterviel is an evil though small alien rodent with serious grandiose delusions who always tries to appear to be bigger than he is with his sly voice, a phone book for support or his enlarged image for video calls.
  • Chef Skinner (Ratatouille): Skinner is a short-height stature and maybe he wanted to compensate it with its great role as the chief of Gusteau's restaruant. He is so obsessed that strives to achieve this goal preventin Linguini from discovering that he is the son of Gusteau and killing Remy and all the other rats or anyone who sides with him
  • Ludo (Star vs. the Forces of Evil): Ludo is a diminutive Dark Lord who seeks to steal Star's magic wand and use its power to conquer the universe (and make himself taller). He's also not above nagging his minions, all of whom are at least three times as tall as him, about not doing enough training after Star and Marco kick their butts.
  • Dr. Noah (Jimmy Bond) (James Bond: Casino Royale (1967)): Like the Penguin he was always rejected and dismissed as undesirable by the opposite sex due to their physical degrading and his short stature and surrounded himself too with beautiful henchwomen. But as if this were not enough to compensate it, he also tried to expand a germ which would make all women beautiful and destroy all men over 4'6" and take over the world replacing its rulers by robotic replicas.
  • Lord Cutler Beckett (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest): Cutler Becket is the closest thing to an outright-evil character in Pirates of the Caribbean films. He has no fear of gods, and no sense of honor; he's cold, heartless, tyrannical, and severe.
  • Rumplestiltskin (Mr. Gold) (Once Upon a Time): In series fits, given he's the shortest of the male cast and is still the person everyone fears because he's the Dark One, one of the most powerful beings in the series. Considering the actual fairy tale version of Rumpelstiltskin is an imp (and Rumple's called that numerous times), it makes sense.
  • Emperor Percival Tachyon (Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction): Emperor Tachyon is an small alien insectoid determined to conquer the universe and exterminate lombaxes, including Ratchet and Alister Azimuth.
  • Ripto (Spyro: Gateway to Glimmer (Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage)): Ripto typically rides on a dinosaur to make himself appear taller, and the heroes often make jokes about his height.
  • Dr. Neo Cortex (Crash Bandicoot): When the series began, Dr. Cortex was so short that his in-game model could never even walk properly due to the insufficient length of his legs. It is implied in the introduction of The Huge Adventure that abuse related to his height (along with his ideas) was what drove him towards a life of trying to take over the world. It should be noted that he has gotten taller in later games; his official height is given as 5'3" in the Nintendo DS version of Crash of the Titans, and he now has visible knees.
  • Plankton (Spongebob Squarepants): Plankton is miniscule compared to the rest of the characters, whose height is typically less than 10 inches.
  • Stewie Griffin (Family Guy): Stewie is not only the shorter member in Griffin Family, but also he learnt he will grow up to be 5'1. That is because he has always trying to kill Lois Griffin, who he considers an obstacle to his compensation plans of world domination.
  • The Brain (Pinky and The Brain): The Brain was even mistaken for Napoleon in one episode, securing him control of France. That is, until the real deal walked under the "You must be this tall to enter" signs Brain set up at the border specifically to keep him out.
  • Professor Dementor (Kim Possible): Dementor is quick to anger and generally follows a pattern of gloating, followed by exasperation, with a course of ranting to follow.
  • Dr. Diminutive (Phineas and Ferb): Diminutive introduced himself to L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N. by saying, "I don't have a Napoleon complex! Napoleon had a me Complex! DON'T CROSS ME!!" and was quickly disqualified by the organization for being too short.
  • Aloysius O'Hare (The Lorax): O'Hare is a short-height mayor who only wants to proliferate in his fresh air business even if it meant the complete pollution of Thneedville.


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