For someone who loves watching Action and Superhero movies, I sure get wound up by some of the more ridiculous clichés and plot holes. A couple of movies have had me gnashing my teeth in fury at the screen recently. I won’t name names because I suppose it would technically count as a spoiler for those who hadn’t seen the films (although frankly, these plot twists are anything but unpredictable. I’ve come to expect stupid twists that make no sense).
The dumb twist that particularly irks me at the moment is the reveal that the hero’s girlfriend has been coerced into betraying him by the villain, usually because the villain masterminded the whole scheme and kidnapped her parent/sibling/pet gerbil and forced her to do it. Obviously, no attractive girl could be evil in her own right. She has to be the puppet of a smarter male villain. Of course, she has naturally fallen in love with the hero (because he’s so awesome) but betrays him away (because women are weak and treacherous).
The whole set up is far-fetched and ridiculous. It’s purely contrived so that the hero can have a suitably tragic background, and that the tragic background can be his girlfriend’s fault. Ideally, the victim/traitor girlfriend should die as a result of her actions as well. Thus the hero can yell in anguish over her dead body and emerge dark and tormented, unbridled by any pesky lingering relationship.
The fact that it seems a rather haphazard plan for any self-respecting villain to have thought up as a means of trapping the hero does not get addressed. I mean, it’s basically ripping off the plan Wile E. Coyote has to catch the Roadrunner where he sets up an attractive lady roadrunner (complete with long lashes and big red lips so you know it’s a lady cartoon character) under a cliff and then waits for the Roadrunner to fall into his trap. Roadrunner approaches, double-takes at attractive lady roadrunner, his pupils turn to love hearts and Coyote attempts to drop an anvil on him.
It never worked for the coyote but at least he had the decency to generally use a cardboard cut-out for the lady roadrunner bait. The movie plotline is forcing the lead female character who should be a fleshed out and believable character in her own right to stand in as a two dimensional cut-out in the movie.
I can presume that the popularity of this form of the ludicrous woman-as-reluctant-bait plotline is due to the fact that it combines two of Hollywood’s favourite misogynistic stereotypes: women as attractive but helpless victims and women as untrustworthy temptresses.
Still, rather than rant on about how offensive and annoying the woman victim/traitor plot is, I’ve decided to take a more elucidating approach by revealing one of the sadly deleted scenes from these movies in which the implausible arrangement between the EVIL VILLAIN and PRETTY GIRL is negotiated.
SCENE – a busy café. EVIL VILLAIN is sitting alone at table, his fiendish fingers wrapped around a macchiato. PRETTY GIRL enters and sits down across the table from him.
PRETTY GIRL: I got your message. You said you wanted to meet?
EVIL VILLAIN: Actually what I said was that I wanted to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, the terms of which I am sure you’ll find yourself unable to refuse.
PRETTY GIRL: Whatever. I’m here now. What’s this arrangement then?
EVIL VILLAIN: It may have come to your attention that your parent/sibling/pet gerbil is missing.
PRETTY GIRL: Er, no. Do you think I’d be casually having a latte with a complete stranger if I knew my parent/sibling/pet gerbil was missing? How do you know about this? Are they OK?
EVIL VILLAIN: They are unharmed, at least for now. (He slides a photo of kidnapped parent/sibling/pet gerbil across the table to her). Whether or not they remain unharmed is in your hands now. I’m holding them hostage until you acquiesce to my demands and I warn you PRETTY GIRL, if you refuse to meet my terms, they will suffer a slow and most agonizing death. After a period of even slower and more agonizing torture that is. I’m afraid I tend to be a little excessive in these matters.
PRETTY GIRL: Ohmigod. I’ve got some savings in the bank. I’ll give you all of it. Everything I have, I promise. Just don’t hurt them.
EVIL VILLAIN: No, I have no interest in the paltry sum of money you could give me. I’m an incredibly powerful and wealthy villain. I’m not interested in taking your pathetic savings.
PRETTY GIRL: Well, why did you kidnap my parent/sibling/pet gerbil then?
EVIL VILLAIN: I have a task I wish you to perform for me. If you accede to this one small request, your parent/sibling/pet gerbil will be returned to you safely.
PRETTY GIRL: Sure, what do you want me to do?
EVIL VILLAIN: I want you to seduce AWESOME ACTION HERO, become his girlfriend and make him fall in love with you. Then you’ll move in with him, live together for several months, apparently blissfully happy together and then, once you have gained his trust, I’ll contact you and give you instructions to lure him into a diabolical trap that will lead to his demise.
PRETTY GIRL: That’s what you want? That’s insane.
EVIL VILLAIN: Insane? Really? Ask yourself, is it really madness or is it genius?
PRETTY GIRL: It’s insane. Like stupidly insane. It’s crazy and lame and there’s no way it’ll ever work.
EVIL VILLAIN: It’ll work. I think I have a little more experience at evil plans than you do, young lady. I know a winning plan when I see one.
PRETTY GIRL: OK, firstly I’ve never even met this guy and now I’m supposed to just snap my fingers and seduce him.
EVIL VILLAIN: I don’t think snapping your fingers will be required. Trust me. You’re just his type. Get one or two drinks into him and you won’t have any trouble on the seduction front.
PRETTY GIRL: Just his type? Do you know how many times I’ve been told that about guys I’ve been set up on blind dates with? It’s virtually never true. Your friends tell you that they know this guy who’s perfect for you and then he turns out to be a complete jerk. Or sometimes he’s not a jerk. Sometimes it’s just that there’s no real connection there, you know? It’s just like this awkward conversation over dinner where you have nothing in common and then you end up not ordering any dessert just so you can leave sooner.
EVIL VILLAIN: Yeah, I’ve had a lot of those dates. Come to think of it, women never order any dessert when I take them out to dinner. I had always just thought they were watching their weight or that women didn’t like rich, sweet foods like crème brulee and cheesecake.
PRETTY GIRL shakes her head.
EVIL VILLAIN (takes a moment to recover from this painful realization before continuing on with his diabolical plan): This is all immaterial. You will go out with AWESOME ACTION HERO and you will order dessert or else your parent/sibling/pet gerbil will pay the price.
PRETTY GIRL: But if you just want some girl to go out with him and pretend to be his girlfriend so that they can set him up for some trap later on, why don’t you just pay someone who does that sort of thing for a living? You know like an escort service or something. I’ll tell you what. I’ll even pay for it with my own money. You’d be better off with a professional prostitute who has loads of experience with the whole seduction thing and besides, I’m really not comfortable with the way you’re using this whole kidnapping-extortion thing to try to control my love life, you know? It just feels icky.
EVIL VILLAIN (outraged): How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t need your money? God, you’re worse than my mother. Why can’t you accept the fact that I’m a very successful evil villain.
PRETTY GIRL: OK, OK. I get it. You’re rich and powerful. Calm down.
EVIL VILLAIN: I could afford a legion of extremely expensive prostitutes if I wished. And they’d all be way sexier than you.
PRETTY GIRL: Touché. My point remains that clearly I am not the best person for this whole evil seductive girlfriend thing.
EVIL VILLAIN: But you are. You see AWESOME ACTION HERO might suspect a super-sexy seductress but not you. You’re attractive but only in a chick flick kind of way, not a male fantasy in skin-tight revealing clothes.
PRETTY GIRL: You’re telling me that you decided to kidnap my parent/sibling/pet gerbil and blackmail me into dating some guy just because I’m not sexy enough to make any man suspicious of my intentions?
EVIL VILLAIN: Yes, precisely. You will meet AWESOME ACTION HERO in some typical cute scenario. Perhaps you’ll spill your drink on him at a crowded bar or run into him whilst jogging in the park. You know, something endearingly clumsy. That will make him think that he can trust you and maybe is just in a romantic comedy. He’ll ask you out on a date and everything will go according to my plan.
PRETTY GIRL (grumbling): I hate jogging. And crowded bars.
EVIL VILLAIN: Me too. However, your preferences are none of my concern. Remember, I am only dictating your social life to entrap AWESOME ACTION HERO.
PRETTY GIRL: Look, even supposing that I do meet him and somehow get him to ask me out him through one of your stupid suggestions, there is no guarantee that it will lead to anything.
EVIL VILLAIN: You will make it lead to something!
PRETTY GIRL: Right, he’ll just fall in love with me, phone back the next day after our first date and ask me to move in with him?
EVIL VILLAIN: Yes, that’s how these relationships work, isn’t?
PRETTY GIRL: Clearly, you’ve been single for a long time.
EVIL VILLAIN: You doubt my strategy. I assure you I am a master of manipulation and bending people to my will.
PRETTY GIRL: Really? If you think you have the secret to how women can make any guy fall for her and instantly realize that he’s ready for a commitment, you should write a book. It’d be a best-seller.
EVIL VILLAIN: You are trying my patience. Remember the life of your parent/sibling/pet gerbil is in my hands.
PRETTY GIRL: Yeah, I know. I just think there has to be a better way that I could help you out. I’m an accountant, you know. Not an undercover spy. Couldn’t I just do your taxes for you or something?
EVIL VILLAIN: No, you must seduce AWESOME ACTION HERO and lead him to his untimely demise. (Passes a photo of AWESOME ACTION HERO across the table to her).
PRETTY GIRL: (Looking at the photo). Wow. That’s him? That’s one tasty slice of beefcake.
EVIL VILLAIN: So you’ll do it?
PRETTY GIRL: Well, I guess I could meet him for coffee or something but I’m not making any promises that it’ll work out like you’re expecting.
EVIL VILLAIN (puts his fingers together in evil steeple gesture): Excellent.