I once had a friend who had a crush on Legolas from The Lord of the Rings. This puzzled me greatly.
Granted, Legolas isn’t ugly. He has two eyes, which is generally the preferred number of eyes. That’s a good start. Legolas also has a nose, all his teeth, and a full head of hair. (At any rate, in the movies, he wears a nice wig.) So far: so good. His skin is healthy—no leprosy there—and he isn’t painfully thin or morbidly obese. Legolas also seems to have “the smolder,” a trait considered desirable by females of the species… I think.
Look, I’m no expert on what ladies find attractive in gentlemen. I’ve simply been told Legolas is a smokin’ hot stud or some such, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to argue.
All of this, however, doesn’t explain the adoration my friend (whom I’ll call Socrates) lavished upon this imaginary elf. She thought Legolas was the sexiest thing since Hugh Jackman’s abs in the X-Men movies, and I thought Socrates was crazy.
Nah, my crush was on Daphne from the old Scooby-Doo cartoon.
Of course, that was back when I was in kindergarten: a faraway time when I was tiny and blond, barely knew the alphabet, and didn’t drink coffee.
By the time I reached high school and met Socrates, my secret crush on Daphne was a thing of the distant past. As the Apostle Paul wrote, doubtless referring to childhood crushes on fictional characters, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
By high school, I had put childish ways behind me, and Daphne from Scooby-Doo with them. No, I was enamored of Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables.
My point here is that fictional characters can be attractive, and real-life people can be attracted to them. This is a common enough phenomenon. In geek culture, however, it is sometimes embraced wholeheartedly… even to a point that is frankly weird.
Let’s talk about waifus.
A waifu is a fictional character to whom a person is attracted, to the point of considering that character a significant other.
The word waifu comes from an exaggerated Japanese pronunciation of the English word wife. (Thanks to anime and video games, a lot of weird geek culture originates in Japan.) A waifu doesn’t have to be female, by the way; the term can be used for characters of either sex.
By calling a character his waifu, a geek wryly acknowledges his crush on that character. It’s basically a form of shipping in which a real person ships a fictional character with himself.
Is it weird? Yes. Do I support waifus? Nah. Do they worry me? Not really. I’m pretty certain the waifu phenomenon is the sort of harmless, silly nonsense the Internet does best. At any rate, I hope it’s no deeper or darker than that!