Hey everyone, Flobo here!
Of course, with ScriptFrenzy dominating my writing life these couple of weeks, things have been a bit quiet here. With that said, let’s get the ball rolling with two of my favorite things:
Sex and Violence, baby!
Today, I want to talk about two types of professions you see in media (films, TV, comic books) that essentially get the same characterization. Prostitutes and Contract Killers. Both usually appear in material created for adults. Both characters usually have some sort of checkered past. Both consider their profession as “just a job” and both (at some point) ends up developing that Heart of Gold.
I’ve always wondered about the proliferation of these character types. They also seem to run along gender lines, because female hitmen (hitwomen?) and male prostitutes don’t appear nearly as often. Usually, when one of these characters show up in a film, they are usually “at ease” at their job. You know what I mean? The cliche low-level politician being taken out from our hitman hero from behind a sniper rifle as he coolly walks away from the crime scene. Or what about in the film “Pretty Woman”?:
The first half of that trailer has “so much sass”. Fast talkin’ street walkin’ powers are ON!
Now obviously from a conflict standpoint, something happens that changes the audience’s perspective on these characters. We find out the prostitute just wants to be loved. Our stone cold killer finds someone that reminds him that human life is important.
We are fascinated by these worlds as Average Joes and Janes, and it’s the reason why I can see so many movies feature these tropes. Though being killer for hire is a very real job, I would argue that most writers would try to “guestimate” the motivations for someone to go into that line of work. We would assume, someone who is destined to kill others for a living must be detached from the whole deal enough to be more stoic than three David Carusos on CSI: Miami. Much like how we would “guestimate” that a prostitute must be selling herself because she was put into a situation where she needed the money (and these reasons can range from drugs, to putting themselves through grad school), so she jumped in the craft to make ends meet. These are just “good people” that are just victims of circumstance (and pimps, and “clients” who supply contracts).
I’ve never seen a movie about a hitman packing his gun into a bag and signing “Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to shoot someone I go,” for example.
You would NEVER see a mass marketed movie that tries to justify a character who’s into CANNIBALISM or INCEST. These are the only two modern taboos we have, and they are damn near impossible to justify for a protagonist in fiction. No seriously, if a character in any of your works did any of those things, you have yourselves an instant villain.
Don’t get me wrong, I love myself a good sniper flick every now and then. I just challenge you, the beautiful creators of things awesome and rad, to try to “reinvent the wheel” with these character archetypes. How about that woman of the night, that tries to start a brothel ring a la Scarface? Or about that hitman that is as cocky as the star player of a sports team? Actually no, those ideas are terrible, but you get the idea. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Until next time,