As a writer I love tropes. Tropes are tropes because they work in telling good stories. Sure. Take the “Hero-Sidekick-Girlfriend” trio, right? You can use that interrelationship to create tension in lots of ways, especially if Sidekick and Girlfriend don’t get along. The two of them squabble between themselves and can be used to force the Hero into action, and so forth.
Some tropes just irritate the heck out of me, even though they work, too. Sometimes I want to find the guy who thought it would be funny to have a ten-year-old boy deliberately stick his face between an adult woman’s breasts and then grin like he’s gotten away with something apart from sexual harassment.
Does it work? Sure.
You know why, right? Because it’s a violation of expectations. Ten-year-old boys know what breasts are, but probably don’t care. The ten-year-old girls they know look pretty much the same as they do in that department; I don’t know when the libido starts to develop, but for most people it’s not as early as ten.
So you contrast normal ten-year-old behavior (“Who cares?”) with Horndog behavior (“Ooh la la!”) and you have created tension. To release that tension as humor all you have to do is cue the audience to expect humor.
One place where the audience is surrounded by Pre-pubescent Horndogs (From now on I’m just writing PH, okay?) is an oldie called Miss Machiko. Miss Machiko, you see, is an attractive and well-developed young woman who is also an elementary school teacher. Just about every male member of her class invests his homework time in trying to invent ways to sexually harass her.
How does she cue humor? Instead of bashing the little PHs into the floor, she giggles coyly and pretends that everything is just fine. Over and over again. She never seems to figure out they’re doing it deliberately.
She also never figures out she’d be less exposed to the world, so to speak, if she, you know, wore underwear, too.
But that’s the real function of the PH trope. You create a character like Miss Machiko who is intended as a sex object. And she IS intended as a sex object: She has a spectacular hour-glass figure, showers nude during the opening credits, and I’ve already remarked on some of her clothing choices. (Mini-skirts are another.)
Now, who’s our audience here? Teen-aged Japanese boys, right? And you know why they’re watching Miss Machiko, right? Fan service, right?
If it was a teen-aged kid who assaulted Miss Machiko, he’d rightly be thrown out of school, because he’s supposed to be old enough to know better. A teen-ager, pubescent, is supposed to be aware of la difference, as our French friends say.
But our teen-aged viewer is another question. He’s not going to get thrown out of school for just watching and he wants to see the goodies.
So you let our young, “innocent” PH pull her blouse up. Or her skirt down. Or her sweater open.
“Oh, look at that,” Miss Machiko says. “Well, isn’t that cute. It’s not like a boy that age is interested in this.” She even giggles. (I was going to say “titters,” but there are some puns so outrageous even I cannot make myself type them.)
Create tension and release it. Cue humor. That’s how a gag works.
The problem with the PH character, of course, is that there’s not much else you can do with them. If they show any sort of maturity, then the presumption of youthful innocence evaporates and the gag doesn’t work. And there are only so many times this kid can jam his face into the female protagonist’s goodies, right?
Well, for me there is a limit, which is why I find the trope annoying. While I haven’t finished Miss Machiko yet (her students are not the only ones who sexually harass her, so it starts to wear thin after a while), it goes on for quite a while so it seems like SOMEONE must have been watching.
After all, the PH is only ten. Nothing but good fun going on here, right? Wink wink nudge nudge.*
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.
- Obligatory Monty Python reference.