You know this character. We see her only in the first few scenes of the film/tv series, or maybe only in flashbacks. Our male protagonist loved her dearly – she was his wife or fiance, maybe girlfriend. Someone killed her or turned her into a demon or Goa’ulded her or something, and Mr. Protagonist is now off on a big, exciting (often, strangely, sex-filled) quest to rescue or avenge his beloved.
There’s a lot wrong with this setup. For one thing, the overwhelming lack of stories about women questing to avenge their murdered loves (and boinking lots of hot men along the way, I guess). Also the fact that this woman – who’s really a prop, not a character – often makes up 50% or more of the female cast. But I want to focus on something else that bugs me.
Have you noticed that the dead wife who launches the quest is always traditionally beautiful? She’s never fat with crooked teeth. She never has thinning hair or adult acne. She’s always slim, nearly always white, and often has this sort of bland beatific smile, like she
used to be a model was already lookin’ down on her menfolk from Heaven before those nasty people sent her there. (You’ll see the smile, almost inevitably, in a framed photo that sits on Mr. Protagonist’s desk whenever he’s not using it for a quick shag with the lady guest star of the week.)
Anybody else get a meta-message that if you’d killed Mr. Protagonist’s fat, thin-haired, crooked-toothed wife, he’d have written you a thank you note instead of chasing your ass over three continents?