So your TV show needs a sexy female lead who’s going to be the male star’s lover. How do you construct her so she appeals to men without getting women like me coming after you with pitchforks? Can you, dare I ask, perhaps even write her so she’ll appeal to women like me as well? Yes, you can. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. got it right with Dixie Cousins (Kelly Rutherford), and here are their secrets, starting with the superficial and moving inward:
- If sexy is a requirement, make her a showgirl. Not a doctor, lawyer or scientist. Giver her the job shared by Marilyn, Mae and Madonna. That way, her sex appeal is a built-in feature, not a discordant add-on.
- Make her costumes gorgeous and elegant, instead of Victoria’s Secret heroin-hooker chic. Leave something to the imagination.
- Don’t have her use sex acts or flirtation to get what she wants. It’s as cliched and unbelievable as deus ex machina: believe me, if men were that easy to manipulate, women would rule the world.
- Give her a life aside from her love affair with the star. Brisco never knows when he’ll see Dixie again, and whenever they meet up, it’s usually under unusual circumstances brought about by whatever she’s been up to.
- When you do visit cliches, such as her wanting to settle down and him not being ready for a commitment, personalize it. Show us why they feel this way, instead of assuming we, like you, accept the cliche as a norm in male-female relationships.
- Never put her in direct competition with the lead guy. Give her a separate set of strengths and weaknesses, so he can remain #1 at his important Lead Guy stuff, and she can be #1 in other ways. Equal doesn’t necessarily mean “same”.
Follow these rules, and you’ll have a massively elegant, sexy, street-smart leading lady for your leading man, and even I will become a shipper for them. Seriously. I love how Dixie and Brisco begin with a simple, quickly-consummated sexual attraction, and slowly over the course of the show fall in love – plausibly, with no steps left off-screen. I love the conversation where she tells him that, much to her own shock, she’s finding she wants to settle down, and he explains that he’s not ready to commit because he saw what his dad put his mom through – finally, a man gives a reason why he has commitment issues, instead of leaving me to assume it came with the Y-chromosome. And I can’t speak for everyone, but I love how there’s no understanding between Dixie and Brisco. When their separate but equal lives pull them in different directions, with Dixie’s path being just as important as Brisco’s, they make no promises of fidelity or future encounters; but somehow they always inevitably drift back together. It’s the height of romance and sexiness, all in one package.