You know, there are characters that are hard to figure out, and you can stare at the screen for hour and hours saying, “Wow. This is working and I don’t know why.”
Then, if you’re me, you try to figure it out.
And sometimes you’re just walking around outside with your mask on, staying away from everyone else, and you mind starts to roam around something you thought was simple, and you realize that it’s simple.
The protagonist is a _________ but __________ , right? They have a main attribute that defines them, and they have a “but” that is a distinct weakness that crates the possibility they could fail. That “but” creates dramatic tension.
Gene Starwind from Outlaw Star is an action hero but he’s a horn dog.
If you prefer “womanizer” to “horn dog,” have at it. But I like the term as it stands, because it’s amusing, and that’s what Gene’s weakness does for him. It makes him funny.
The tension here is that the traditional action hero is traditionally a man’s man, and that includes in the arena of sex. Look, the very concept of a “Bond girl” says it all, right? James Bond overcomes the villain and has his way with the woman. Boom. That’s what the action hero – and James Bond is an action hero, although maybe with the suave dialed up to eleven, make no doubt of that – does. That’s who the action hero is.
Sure. Look at Afro Samurai. He beats up all the baddies and makes love to all the babes. (Yeah, I cleaned that sentence up some.)
And that’s how we’re introduced to Gene, right? He’s big, he’s brawny, he’s fast with the caster gun, and when he first meet him he’s saying goodbye to his paramour of the night before. Of course he does. That’s what an action hero does: whups the baddies and schtups the babes.
Then he meets Melfina, and what does Melfina do?
Well, it takes a while. After all, he and Jim are supposed to be her protectors. But the time comes that he can’t keep it in his pants and he hits on her.
She says no to him.
Wait, what? Women don’t say no to the action hero! They look into his eyes and see the hormones simmering in them and they melt into his arms. Fade to black or not, depending on whether you want a PG-13 or an R rating.
The scene where Melfina turns him down isn’t comic, not even remotely funny. It’s actually very serious, and borderline rapey, although in the end Gene takes no for an answer. If he couldn’t, he’d be destroyed as a character.
What that does instead is start his development as a character. Gene is the character who develops across the series, right? Jim is still just a kid (and so is Aisha), Melfina is a Princess in Peril so she doesn’t go anywhere, and who knows what’s up with Suzuka. It’s Gene who changes. From then on his womanizing becomes a comic element, most noticeably on the vacation planet where he is promised caster shells in return for nude photos of a goddess. Yeah, no horniness going on there – and while he’s off looking for the pictures he misses the opportunity to check out Aisha’s spectacular whoziwhatzis.
It also does something powerful that I like a great deal: it separates sex from love in Gene’s mind, therefore demonstrating the power of the distinction to the viewer. By the end of the series it’s clear he loves Melfina, right? It’s why he goes to save her in an arc covering the last three episodes. But he no longer thinks of her of a sex object, or JUST a sex object. That’s established. He’s never done anything for the women he’s actually had sex with, except boot them out in the morning.
But for Melfina, who told him no, he’s willing to brave anything
It’s interesting how the writers took something that was supposed to be part of the repertoire of an action hero and turned it into a weakness. Because for Gene it IS a weakness: if he “has his way” with Melfina after she says no, he’s totally unsympathetic. Well, that doesn’t work, so he takes no for an answer. From then on his desire for other women is treated as comic, a source of humiliation for him. Isn’t being the butt of a joke a form of failure?
Gene Starwind is an action hero but a horn dog. He can fail because he has a weakness, even though, ultimately, he doesn’t. What matters is not that he succeeds; what matters is that he could fail. That’s what puts tension into a story.
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.