I enjoyed this Cracked article so much, I thought I’d explore a bit further. The article cheekishly suggests that Hollywood doesn’t need more Strong Female Characters (it does) but more weak male ones. C Colevill and Christina H then parodied six female character tropes. After a twitter whip-around and a bit of memory delving, I reckon there are a few more:
Unobtanium Man is successful, good looking, privileged and charming. However he feels constrained by the high society he moves in, and wishes he could see the wider world. Luckily a plucky peasant girl shows up to win his heart, but wait! Their marriage, their very love is forbidden by Unobtanium’s overbearing, snobbish, possibly evil parents. Peasant girl is the wrong race, species, class or caste to exist in their presence.
Peasant Girl is persistent with her affections, and Unobtanium clearly pines for her. Snob Father, after trying to set his son up with suitable suitoresses, concocts a plan to get rid of Peasant Girl blamelessly: he will set her a simple quest, and if she succeeds, the two can marry.
Turns out the quest is actually pretty difficult. It involves mortal peril, huge time sacrifice, extensive travel, dabbling with dark magic, winning a kingdom. That sorta thing. Peasant Girl is sorely tested, not least because Snob Mother is behind the scenes, setting her up to fail. Poor Unobtanium Man sits pining in his mansion, writing shit poetry and picking the best suit for his dream wedding.
Potentially a rom/com sequel.
Before Sensible Bride proposed to Hysteric Groom, we just thought he was a vapid, materialistic but unimaginably hot construction of flesh. Then the pin dropped.
Hysteric Groom is obsessed with his marriage. Like, in a big way. It’s all he talks about down the pub, though his mates are excited too. He’s got all the magazines, he’d picked his ushers in junior school, and his dream of a perfect marriage is so detailed that everything has to be just right. His Sensible Bride is sympathetic and wants to give Groomy all he desires, but is more realistic about costs etc, leading to tearful fights about the venue, what kind of cravat the Best Man will wear, how tall the vicar should be, and whether to sing all the verses in Jerusalem.
The script cleverly implies that Groomy is fixated on not only the perfect wedding, but on having children, often to the deranged extent of temporarily frightening Sensible Bride off. When we get to the climatic honeymoon scene, Hysteric Groom isn’t really interested in sex for pleasure and connection in and of itself: he lies back, winces and ‘Thinks of England’.
Might descend into…
Homme has been left to keep house for longer than he can remember. His wife is a high-powered businesswoman and whatever love they had at the start is gone, replaced by latent bitterness that overflows into petty sniping whenever they’re actually in the same room. Homme keeps a perfect house and socialises with the other house-husbands, indeed prides himself as alpha-bitch, but it’s never enough. He fucking hates his spoilt brats.
Homme’s taken to daytime drinking, a bottle of vino at lunch. He swears by lithium, and lady, is he horny. Some unsuspecting gardener/pool-girl/neighbour might find herself ensnared in his adulterous web any minute. Then their quiet suburbia will be ROCKED BY SCANDAL.
Insecure man probably has a mildly absurd name to telegraph his lack of social acceptability to the audience. So let’s call him Bulstrode. Bulstrode has serious body issues, no self esteem, and is very shy…so shy that those around him never really see if he has much personality. He has a backstory of childhood humiliation or outright abuse, and the only way to save him is for Unusually Charitable Woman to gradually gain Bulstrode’s trust. By showing him sexual attention.
Bulstrode is gradually integrated into the world of normal people, displays wonder and trepidation at the bitchiness of actual people, but blossoms into a total hunk almost overnight. Charitable Woman must be careful not to muck up, or the Bulstrode is liable to go ape and kill everyone at prom.
Dark Past Man
He goes by ‘DPM’ because he’s edgy and cool. He’s working as an exotic dancer, porn star, night club host or gigolo. Back home, a squalid flat in the bad part of town, he’s got one dependant child with the face of an angel, the mother either offscreen or given a fleeting cameo to confirm her vileness.
To deal with his demons DPM abuses alcohol or drugs, often to escape a childhood trauma as well as his current situation. Not dangerously, though, just enough that we know this poor working dad is secretly sad despite his sassy exterior and confident sexual persona. DPM starts off fiercely proud of his choices and independent lifestyle, but soon the Good Woman sees his inner vulnerability and he breaks down about how horrible it is. He may be saved, or may lapse into his former ways.
Manic Elfie Dream Boy
Luca has a boundless exuberance, colourful hair, a zany taste in music and art, and is irrepressibly impulsive. He is very much a side character in the early scenes, and is used as juxtaposition for Broody Girl. Broody, our main character, is serious, geeky, awkward and pensive – she cares deeply about stuff.
Broody often watches Luca, fancies him even, but cannot imagine how she’d win his heart. He notices her glaring at him across the subway/classroom/coffeeshop and bounces up, receptive to her halting romantic advances. Their relationship is a whirlwind for Broody – Luca sweeps her out of her comfort zone and awakens her to the wondrous possibilities of the world. Luca is fickle without being manipulative, and can be illogical and infuriating because…comedy. Cynical side characters expect it’s all an act to make him more appealing, and it might just be. He’s so high on life, so optimistic, so childishly marvelling at miracles like pavements and window panes, that Broody’s initial joy might even wear off as she seeks grounding in a good grump.
SPOILER ALERT: Luca may be magical or nonhuman.
Bitter Old Man
Bitter Old Man lives deep in the woods. When playing children come upon him, they are shocked by his ugliness and anger. They run off for help.
Adults come to confront the solitary hermit, but are terrified when he reveals he’s a wizard. Not a powerful wizard with designs on the kingdom or the ability to raise armies – just a conjuror who can and will make the townsfolks’ lives hell, particularly the good-looking lad who first spied him in the woods.
This chap could be a rounded, likeable character but makes the mistake of falling for, or simply being cared about by, the Heroine. Said Heroine is difficult to kill, so to screw with her mind, disadvantage her or simply be cruel, the Villain threatens, intimidates, abducts, assaults, sexually abuses, hypnotises or otherwise is mean the poor Weak Man.
This motivates Heroine to an aristeia wherein she manages to defeat the Villain and save the poor Weak Man. He is grateful and probably rewards her with sex. Often, Weak Man does not spot the pattern and continues to suffer repeated attacks due to his lover’s double identity – instead he thinks their relationship troubles extend only to Heroine being too busy and self absorbed to pay him proper attention
In extremis, Villain might unmask Heroine, potentially forcing Weak Man to dump her or become a sympathetic antivillain himself. Alternatively, Villain could go too far and actually kill Weak Man, providing motivation and brooding potential for Heroine that lasts hours.
Uptight and bookish, Social Justice is a peripheral member of an ensemble cast. He only appears to lecture his friends and family about how ‘problematic’ aspects of the plot are from a racial/class/gendered/LGBT point of view. He uses the word ‘intersectional’. A more popular cast member such as happy-go-lucky sk8er grl may redeem him by convincing him to stop worrying and enjoy life, probably by introducing him to marijuana on a rooftop/sunset.
Social Justice is incidentally a faux ugly duckling miraculously transformed into a hunk by wearing new clothes and heeding advice to smile more.
…whose sexual or gender preference is totally incidental to the plot.
I can think of partial exceptions to a few of these, but they are exceptional. For example, Gordon-Levitt’s character Neil is an underage prostitute in Mysterious Skin – but Mysterious Skin is an indie film funded by Dutch art house that made a grand total of $1.5m. Likewise Di Caprio’s Jack in Titanic is kinda Manic Elfie, but for the latter 2/3 of the film he becomes unambiguously HERO MAN. Massive outliers just prove how rare these kinds of male character are.
MPDG, Cracked – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hyIlrfGR5g
Hawkeye Initiative – http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/
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