The 6 Male Characters Women Never Get to See in Movies
If you have spent time on the Internet, you're probably tired of hearing how we need more Strong Female Characters. For some reason, people don't seem to realize that sexism no longer exists today and both sexes are treated with complete equality, especially in the entertainment industry. If anything, men are the ones being discriminated against.
Seriously, think about all those roles that women selfishly hog up (e.g., passive victims requiring rescue, femmes fatales, joyless nags) that are off-limits to even the most talented male actors. It's time to stop this woman-centric hand-wringing on how to make female characters better and focus on helping the real victims of Hollywood sexism by asking: How can we make male characters worse?
I teamed up with fellow strong female writer C. Coville and we came up with what I think are some pretty good suggestions.
Here is a picture of a pretty lady. It's going to be a dry spell before there's another one, so get your fill.
The Homme Fatale
He wants power and is not afraid to use sex to get it. Sometimes he keeps his fly unzipped as a way to get easy access to police files and lawyers' offices. Other times he is hiding something behind him and attempts to distract the heroine by standing in front of it and lowering his pants suggestively while smiling and raising an eyebrow. If he is being interrogated, there's no need for him to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights or even lie; he just wears really short shorts without any underwear, and when the cops are in the middle of interrogating him, he leans back, opens his legs, and lets his testicles fall sexily out of one leg hole.
If your show or movie has supernatural themes, you can use demonic possession or some other spell or curse to transform a formerly "good boy" character into an homme fatale. No matter what the character was like before, or how many similar transformations have come before it, you can always show demonic possession thusly: Make the possessed man pout seductively at the camera and then jump on the nearest character, male or female, and rub himself against her while talking about how happy he is that he is finally free to be a bad boy. If the possessed man has a chance to change his clothes after he turns evil, make sure his new clothes are far more revealing and show off the lines of his crotch.
If someone is forced to exorcise or otherwise harm your demon-possessed homme fatale, feel free to put in a few jokes about how he's always liked it rough, and make him moan and toss his head around sexily while he's in pain, occasionally pausing to gaze sultrily at the heroine, his chest heaving.
The Wet Blanket
The girls in your movie know how to have fun, but at least one of their husbands is a crazy killjoy. This guy yells at her that she does not have responsibility, and she looks at her friends and rolls her eyes. Sometimes the girls are doing crime together, and the man is at home worrying that they will be caught for their crime. "What were you doing? Were you out doing crime?" he yells when she comes home late, while tears drip into his beard. He is upset and unfulfilled because he can't have as much fun and excitement as the character who is doing crime, but he's just too uptight to loosen up.
Maybe this character was once fun, back when he first met the main character. But now he's always caught up with things in the house, like mowing the lawn and chopping lumber and worrying if the joint compound he used on the drywall looks just right. Whenever the main character wants to go out and have fun with her friends, he is always pointing at that big pile of lumber he has chopped for her and complaining about how she is not using it. Even if his wife has a job or mission that is extremely important, like being a superhero or invading a country because she is president, the nagging husband will still bug her to spend time with him and help him fix the drywall, because nags have no sense of priorities.
If the movie is more serious, maybe the main character occasionally flashes back to when her husband was younger and more fun, and had longer hair and more clearly defined abs. The main character might even be tempted to cheat on him with a young waiter at her favorite breakfast bar, who has no personality other than being there to flirt with her when the plot demands it. One time the main character spills tomato juice all over the waiter's pants and starts to dab it dry without even thinking what she is doing. The waiter just blushes and giggles, and it sets up a major moral dilemma.
Whatever she ends up deciding, the waiter is fine with it, because who cares how it affects his life, he's just a test.
The Contest Prize
Remember in high school how all the girls were always scheming about how to get the guy of their dreams to notice them, while all the guys stood around coyly, waiting to be won? Hollywood movies are unforgivably lacking in these trophy men.
This much-needed character is a hot chunk of meat that all the girls in school want to get with, but he is unattainable, either because he is dating the most important girl in school (who is of course a mean bully) or because he got a head injury while reading Grimm's Fairy Tales and is compelled to only date people who have completed arduous quests to win his hand. Our enterprising lady hero is neither the hottest girl in school nor the strongest, but this underdog has concocted a madcap scheme where, with the help of her friends, she is going to win the talent contest or volleyball championship or hog farming competition or some other minor contest the whole school/town is inexplicably focused on.
Once she wins (beating the mean, popular girl in the final round), the guy will automatically date her, because everyone knows hot guys automatically date contest winners regardless of their other qualities. "I never gave you a chance before because you kind of have a lazy eye, your laugh is annoying, and you keep saying racist things, but damn if you didn't raise one hell of a hog," he says as he takes her into his arms.
This works for grown-ups too. Say you have a lady action hero with a crappy marriage. Maybe she drinks too much, maybe she comes home late all the time, maybe she spends too much time shopping, maybe she is a scrapbooker -- you know, something that justifies why her husband divorced her. Luckily some terrorists take over a building or hack the Pentagon or something, and she saves the day (please credit me if you use one of my original movie ideas, thanks), and her estranged husband leaps back into her embrace even though she does not change a single thing that led him to leave her. Because men, like coffees, are for closers.
The Sexy Gay Henchman
The sexually adventurous man does not bother with an undershirt.
As everyone knows, there is nothing sexier than same-sex hand-to-hand combat. Torn clothing, sexy snarls, dirty groping, bodies rolling around in the mud, scrotums rubbing against each other ... whew! This is some hot stuff. Feel free to take a break to let off some pressure.
OK. We want to see the heroine's boyfriend (Chris Hemsworth) fall to the floor, wrestling shirtless with the villain's hot, possibly bisexual henchman (Justin Timberlake), crotch to face like a pair of MMA fighters brawling in some kind of outdoor Octagon, abs glistening in the rain. We don't want any punches or anything that would mar their chiseled faces, beyond one drop of blood on, say, Justin Timberlake's lip, which he licks off seductively before lunging at Chris Hemsworth again. Other than that, they'll stick to hair-pulling, grunting and groaning in arm locks, face-butting each other's crotches, and calling each other bitches until someone comes up with a male equivalent of the word "bitch." Throughout this, they need to make a lot of sexual sounds that make no sense for a life-or-death struggle.
There probably should be a comic moment where the heroine and villain stop their fight for a moment to watch the manfight, and one of the guys catches them watching and glares, and the other guy stops too and says, "Do you mind?" and the girls clear their throats in embarrassment and get back to their sword duel.
You probably also want some lead-up scenes where the henchman (Benedict Cumberbatch) confronts the heroine's boyfriend (Jon Hamm) alone in an alley while he is walking home from his pickup basketball game, threatening him so that his girlfriend will stop investigating the villain for mail fraud or whatever. He presses the boyfriend against a wall, faces close enough to kiss, and probably makes some kind of triple entendre using the word "balls," encompassing a threat, a veiled sexual come-on, and the basketball the boyfriend is holding, all at once. You'll need your top dialogue writer on this.
The Dude That Reminds Everyone He's a Dude
"He's able to do the job even though he's a man!
This dude is all about breaking glass floors. He is all attitude and don't take no guff from nobody -- man or woman. He bursts onto the secretary scene with a bang -- after acing the interview and typing faster than any of the other candidates, he rips off his purple sun hat and oversized muumuu to reveal that he is a dude. Everybody gasps, but they can't argue with the numbers -- he typed 200 words per minute.
His first day on the job, he smacks the hand of anyone trying to help him adjust his monitor or set up his voice mail, telling them he doesn't need anybody's help; a man can do that sort of thing just as well as a woman. Every time he accomplishes something, he reminds everyone in the room that he is a man, with sassy phrases like "You want something done right, you got to give it to a man." Any time someone tries to stop him from putting toner in the coffee maker or something, he says, "You think I can't do this just because I have a penis?" If they look, then he says, "Hey, my eyes are up here!" He snaps at anyone trying to be friendly to him and accuses them of just wanting to get what's in his pants. This shows how independent he is and is guaranteed to make male viewers identify with him, since men are always high-strung, irrational, and obnoxious whenever they try to break barriers and will naturally root for anyone who is the same.
Later on, though, he will confide to a sympathetic female colleague that he is only so prickly because it's tough being a man in a woman's field. People keep assuming he is gay and setting him up on dates with other men, and when the bosses slap all the women in the office on their asses, they always pass him over. Not once has he been threatened with firing if he refuses to sleep with an executive, and nobody will take coffee he has made. The female colleague helps him stop being so prickly and solves his job problems and they get married. He continues at his job or quits his job or finds another job, who cares, he found the right woman and got married, that's the important part.
The Plot Advancer
It's considered clumsy storytelling to have your main character simply tell viewers how great she is, or to have other characters verbally list her personality traits. Good writers should show, not tell, and therefore it's best to add an ornamental male character or two to show us what your heroine is like. Besides, you've got to shoehorn some men into the movie somewhere. If you don't have at least one man on the movie poster, people might think all your copious female characters are lesbians.
The Plot Advancer's actions might be confusing to viewers at the beginning. For example, we might first see him when he approaches the heroine in a bar. He licks his whiskey glass seductively and whispers to her that he has two tickets to the gun show. In the next scene, it'll be revealed that he has a serious girlfriend who's also in the bar, and all of a sudden he is standing back and smirking while this girlfriend picks a fight with the heroine. His personality is so unstable that it seems like the scriptwriters split up his lines between them and then didn't talk to each other until after the movie started shooting. But it's really because the Plot Advancer isn't a character at all: He's just a sexy, muscular vessel for the story arcs of the women around him. Even if more than one of these plot-advancing men are on screen together (say, when they are on a hunting trip, or at a war), they'll still spend all of their time talking about their wives, sisters, and girlfriends. This way, moviemakers can slip in some good off-screen character development about the really important people in the movie.
If you're writing an HBO show, this "use distracting sexiness to sneak in dull exposition" method can be even more explicit. For example, a main character can be shown talking at length about her important-to-the-plot childhood while two naked lumberjacks in the foreground lovingly stroke each other's beards and chest hair.
So these characters should be a pretty good start. Some of you might be thinking, "But if we just add two-dimensional objectified male characters to all the two-dimensional objectified female characters out there, won't we just make all our movies two-dimensional and boring?" Oh sure, if you want to look at it that way, but what's the alternative? Make all your characters fully developed, complex human beings? Come on, you can't expect anyone to work that hard.
C. Coville can be found on Twitter.
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