Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Problem of ManPain

After observing Thomas Olde Heuvelt get piles of harsh comments for his Hugo nominated story this year, I’ve been racking my brain to come up with a scenario where “ManPain” could actually work in a dramatic context. This was all I could think of right off:

Now you might think that Chance there is just one person ragging on one poor author and that this guy really doesn’t deserve this sort of treatment, but wow… the “OFFICIAL blog of science fiction” has an entire separate tag for this. There are more than a few people making this error. More will make this dreadful mistake in the future. Something must be done!

But before we go off half cocked here, we probably better be sure of what we’re talking about here. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m unclear on terminology, the first place I go is TVTropes. And then I get distracted for a few hours and forget why I even went there in the first place. But after that? I find a draft of an unfinished blog post, realized what happened, and then very very carefully cite just the thing I need to reference over there. In this case… it’s their entry on Mangst:

A man who feels Mangst is the kind of guy who carries around a picture of the wife and child, both of whom were killed by the villain. Every once in a while he picks up that picture….. when no one is looking… and stares at it for a couple of hours. He never talks to other people about his private pain because several things keep him closed up about it…. One of the things that turns basic Angst into Mangst is the source of the character’s pain. When That One Case involved someone dying (especially if it was an innocent kid), the hero will most likely end up Mangsting. Having one’s wife or girlfriend horribly killed is the most common cause of Mangst. Guilt over some past misdeed, or from failing to stop someone else’s past misdeed, can also be a cause.

This… this explains everything! Note all of the things that follow from this:

  • A man’s pain is first and foremost private. Nobody wants to know the gory details of it. If anyone finds out about it, it’s due to an intrusion. Generally people choose not to pry and maybe even help cover up this excess.
  • A man’s pain is due to something which can no longer be addressed. If it could have been fixed, our hero would have done something about it, naturally enough!

It’s almost like ManPain has been known to be a problem for ages… and we’ve developed over time a range of tropes and conventions in order to protect ourselves from it! I mean, sure… men have feelings and stuff, yeah. But there’s only so many ways you can convey that without triggering peoples hardwired contempt for the very idea that that might be the case.

Now I’m sure by now you’re already thinking of several good counterexamples to this. I am, too. So let’s look at ’em.

  • There’s that time Jean Luc Picard went off on an over the top rant against the Borg. I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And I will make them pay for what they’ve done!
  • There’s that time Khan Noonien Singh went into complete meltdownTo the last, I will grapple with thee… from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!
  • There’s that time Kirk finally saw the writing on the wall and explained life, the universe, and everything: Damn it, Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!

Actually, forget that last one.

There is only one emotion that men can safely express in a dramatic context: a pure rage and contempt that presages a the opening of a can of whoop-ass. After all, we need a little help understanding just why it is that all those spaceships are exploding.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s error was in writing a male character that expected the world to alter itself for his benefit simply because he didn’t like the hand that got dealt to him. Even worse, he actually expected to obtain a woman’s favor as part of the bargain. That’s insane! Honestly, anyone paying attention to the movies should know by now that that sort of thing can’t work. Take a page from Clint Eastwood: the only time you play the Mangst card with a girl is when you’re rejecting her and you want to soften the blow a little. Except for that, you need to keep your pain to yourself!

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8 responses to “The Problem of ManPain

  1. Cirsova May 12, 2015 at 8:56 am

    The thing about ManPain is that it needs to be manly. The twinkle of pity and longing in Rutger Hauer’s eyes when he’s strangling Harrison Ford. The sad look in Kurt Russell’s eye when he knows he has no choice but to brutally kill Jason Scott Lee. That troubled look on Shatner’s face when he realizes he could never do more than bed Grace Lee Whitney and that would not be enough. Every time that Kenshiro holds the broken and dying body of a martial arts master he’s just killed and he sheds a tear for the camaraderie which could’ve been but wasn’t. Batman.

    The thing required for manpain to be a workable plot device is that the dude has to otherwise be badass, but there’s this one thing that stands in the way and stands out from his badassery, and, properly executed, helps to amplify our understanding of just how badass he is.

    It doesn’t work in the Day the World Turned Upside Down because the main character is a tool.

    • jeffro May 12, 2015 at 9:17 am

      It’s a garnish not a plot point. It comes down to whether it adds gravitas to the character or not, but like you say… he has to already be a respectable badass first.

      (Congrats on making File770 again, by the way.)

      • Cirsova May 12, 2015 at 9:27 am

        I got how the votes work wrong, and everyone is quick to point that out! :D

        We don’t have IRV here in ‘muricah!

      • Cirsova May 12, 2015 at 9:29 am

        …which kind of illustrates in my mind that there’s not really enough writing out there for people who are new to the Hugos effectively explaining how things works, but a lot of posts saying that people don’t know jack about the Hugos. :/

    • jeffro May 12, 2015 at 9:41 am

      What blows my mind is that suddenly you’re some kind of spokesman for all of Puppydom. I kind of thought you were more of a freelance evil doer to tell you the truth…!

      • Cirsova May 12, 2015 at 10:37 am

        I’d never heard of any of these people until two months ago. Back in 2014 I didn’t know who you were ‘working for’ at Castalia house. I thought the guy recommending Summa Elvetica on one of your posts was just some random dude. Except for you, none of the other Puppies know me from Adam. My only gamergate claims to fame are that people keep posting direct links to a graph I stole from James Desborough for a post where I explained “this doesn’t quite mean what a lot of people are saying it might mean”. I don’t get named in the post, but maybe I’ve gone from “less identifiable” to merely not worth mention. Really, I’d like to see more traffic to my reviews of cheesy 70s short fiction!

        [Jeffro: Even an official spokesman for Puppydom can’t bring himself to say the name. Bad things happen if you say the name!]

      • Cirsova May 12, 2015 at 1:23 pm

        I shouldn’t have looked over there or even commented, because now I’m stuck in the File 770 tar baby (am I allowed to say that anymore?)

        That filk lady is trying to tone police me. I’m pretty sure even if I hadn’t called straight ticket No Awarders jerkass ideologues I wasn’t going to be changing any minds over there.

        Hands down, the Entertainment Weekly article and those like it are where the argument against the puppies should’ve been forever lost. But, it wasn’t. The fight, and life, goes on.

        [Jeffro: Yeah, I saw that. My jaw hit the floor! (I won’t tell them that I get half my culture war fix from you.) It made my day when she referred (I’m pretty sure) to me as being an “author.” Quoting Pigpen from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, “sort of makes you want to treat me with more respect, doesn’t it?” Yippy!]

  2. Cirsova May 12, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Wow, really? I’m honored! Cuz it’s kind of the other way around for me. I’m not kidding when I said your G+ feed is like Drudge for nerds. The stuff you find is amazing.

    I think the next logical step is the accusations of collusion because I don’t put disclaimers about following your blog when I talk about the Hugos. All my posts are now suspect! I’m part of gaming journalism, now. Nevermind that it’s a good day that my hits break triple digits, largely because of various europeans and metal heads looking for reviews of the Burzum guy’s RPG I did over a year ago.

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