"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.
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.
Christina can be contacted, more or less, on Twitter and Facebook.
C. Coville can be found on Twitter.
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