On the recommendation of a close friend I’ve tried to read William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER multiple times. I always quit around the same spot. There are multiple reasons for my leaving the book unfinished, but the final straw in every attempt is a scene where the badass woman in the novel, Molly, a cybernetic “street samurai” suddenly and inexplicably* has sex with Case, the protagonist and anti-hero.
Most male creators fall into a trope of what I call the “irresistible protagonist.” This is well-documented, and (in my mind) is a combination of three well-known tropes, as detailed at TV Tropes: 1) The Pornomancer, 2) Chick Magnet, and 3) Most Writers Are Men.
In NEUROMANCER the moment feels random, unearned on the author’s part, and more like the author making himself the protagonist and then inventing a hot woman to desire him. I find this in a lot of storytelling. It’s so prevalent that there is a well-worn sitcom joke about the hot chick with the dumpy guy. In its worst cases, it feels like someone else’s fantasy playing out in front of the audience.
In real life, sex and relationships tend to be subtle things (unless they’re purposefully not–that’s a different story). What bothers me about these types of tropes, of the the irresistible protagonist in general, is that besides from being creepy it’s uninteresting. The nuances of attraction, the dance of courtship if you will, are where the interesting things happen between two people. For a character to meet someone and ten minutes later (seemingly for no other reason than an overwhelming physical attractiveness) they’re banging it out sucks the dramatic energy from the relationship. As with anything in storytelling, it’s more fun if the author earns it.
To me, there’s a fine line for suspension of disbelief for an author to walk. The irresistible protagonist is a good way to lose me.
*I know from later reading synopses of the novel that the sex is more about Molly than it is Case and therefore probably isn’t the best example to open this post. While reading, though, it feels random, which is exactly my pet peeve.