Ask GV: When Protagonists Flirt

Eviltron asks:

Dear GV, lately I think my heroic counterpart has been flirting with me. I am interested, but what if this is a trick? What should I do?”

Dear Eviltron:

The facetious part of me wants to ask “Are they cute?” Even we have to have fun sometime. And there’s always the opportunity to demonstrate that the dark side has a lot more than cookies to offer, or just to get them where we can backstab/blackmail/otherwise inconvenience them properly. But heroic flirtations are far more complicated than a mere question of “Okay, does this one fit my specifications?”

The first thing to figure out is whether the perceived flirtation is actually flirtation, and whether it means anything. Yes, aside from those pesky deceptive protagonists, the heroic types don’t tend to be much for falsehood, but there are still a number of reasons why they might give us the wrong impression. Some of them just happen to incorporate a flirty element into their combat styles, for whatever reason—I’ve seen ones who did it to throw their opponents off, ones who were doing it for some vaguely ‘I’m bored, so I’m going to play to a theme today’ sort of reason, and of course ones who did it in pursuit of the Wallbound concept called fanservice. Others, particularly the ones who are shiny and pure and squeaky-clean, might not even realize they’re flirting, and taking them up on that? Awkward.

Next, there’s the issue of what happens if you play along. See, entering in any sort of relations with protagonists—or with any opponent, really—is rather like accepting their surrender, only more so. It’s not a simple victory, there are a lot of potentially dangerous factors to take into account—and unlike surrender, which might still be your request, heroic flirtation is pretty much invariably their decision one way or another.

So—does it make sense for them to be propositioning you? It helps, of course, if you know a bit about the target. Do you fit their known preferences? Do they even generally lean that way? Look for warning signs like preexisting love interests fitting the OTP mold, sudden and abrupt flirtation without any prior hinting of interest… you know, the works.

Then, what might they get out of it? Note that this is no time to overestimate your rating as a romantic partner; yes, it’s tempting, but that might lead you to ignore little things like the remote control for a doomsday device worn around your neck, the combined factors of your foe’s tendency towards self-sacrifice and the fact that she’s “competing” for your dubious affections with someone it might make sense for her to want to rescue, or other potential better reasons. Pride brings us all down, remember? As with surrender, once you’ve found the advantages, figure out how to mitigate them and play up your own advantages for your agenda—and please, for the love of the Dark Powers, make sure you know what that agenda is, even if it is just have a nice fun one-night stand. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this should also include worst-case-scenario analyses of how following up might impact your other plans.

In short, my friend, be clever.

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