Around an hour or two ago, I read an essay by Robert E. Powers about characterization of Transformers. That inspired me to write this commentary.
A lot of people have complained about the quality of my fanfics - mostly due to my "mischaracterization" of the cartoon characters. Their biggest complaint is over how I handled Lana, so I'll use her as an example.
The fans are upset because I:
1) wrote Lana as being bisexual
2) wrote Lana as having any homosexual feelings period (because "there are no gay people in Videoland")
3) had Lana "cheat" on Kevin with Kristen and Zelda
4) had Lana masturbate in Season 7
5) had Lana kill her father to save Kevin (because "there are no bloody deaths in Videoland"; everyone "de-digitizes" out of existence when shot)
6) had Lana become Captain N (because "Captain N isn't just a title; it's Kevin, the chosen savior of Videoland")
7) had Lana treat Kevin like "crap" after his rescue in Season 7
I'm sure that there were other complaints about how I wrote Lana, but let's go with those for this commentary.
1) Lana being bisexual. How do we know that she isn't? Sure, Lana's romantic interests (such as they are) are Kevin and Simon, but the few kisses (not to Simon), looks, and laughs that she gives them in the series could be attributed to nothing more than hero worship.
Even if Lana was romantically interested in Simon (unlikely) and/or Kevin, who's to say that she doesn't like girls, too? We certainly have no proof one way or the other from the cartoon series itself.
My point is that the cartoon series itself gives no proof that Lana isn't bisexual, and we certainly can't tell if she is or not simply by watching what was on TV.
2) No homosexual people in Videoland. How do these fans know this? They're saying this just to keep the cartoon series "pure" and "innocent".
3) Lana "cheating" on Kevin with Kristen and Zelda. Okay, I admit that I went overboard on the relationships. When the cartoon series was still running on NBC, I had thought that Lana and Zelda would make a cute couple. I thought that for Lana and Stacey, too.
The problem is that I had forgotten about those things when I started writing my fanfic continuation of the series in 1996. I made up Kristen as a one-shot character (to cut Lana's hair and flirt with her) then brought her back to compete with Kevin for Lana. Then a certain fan (whose name I won't mention, but you can find him on the Web), pointed out a certain scene in "Having a Ball", where Zelda had her hand on Lana's breast, and neither girl bothered to move Zelda's hand. Another fan (I have a Link to her site on mine) introduced the Lana/Zelda romance in a Season 5 episode, and I wrote a set-up for it in my "movie" fanfic. Then, in Season 7, I started a Lana/Stacey romance. Looking back on it, I would have not created Kristen and simply paired Lana with Zelda and Stacey.
Of course, looking back, I would have started the series from scratch, rather than basing it on the cartoon series, but I digress.
Regarding the "cheating", the cartoon series never showed Kevin and Lana in a serious relationship. In fact, in one episode, Lana is enchanted by Simon in front of Kevin with no worries, and, in another episode, Lana stops herself from kissing Kevin when Simon vocalizes his jealousy. Of course, that contradicts an earlier episode (written earlier by the same writer), where Lana kisses Kevin on the lips in front of Simon with no worries, but anyway.
So, what's so wrong with me writing Lana as having girlfriends that she neglects to tell Kevin about? Maybe she thinks that it's none of his damn business who she dates.
4) Lana masturbating. Putting any religious beliefs (which can't be applied to Videoland anyway) aside, how does this make Lana a bad person? I realize that it was the masturbation more than it was Lana doing it that upset people, but really. How does masturbating contradict the characterization (such as it is) that Lana was given on the show? Is there any way to tell that she doesn't masturbate in private from watching the show? No. Does a masturbator have any one particular personality type in public? No. He or she can be publicly evil, indifferent, or the nicest person in the universe.
5) Lana killing her father. Her friend was in danger. She had very little time to make a decision. She chose to kill her father to save Kevin. Anybody, regardless of previous experiences and moral convictions, could do that.
6) Lana becoming Captain N. This may be difficult for some of you to believe, but the cartoon series never officially established who the leader of the N Team is.
It's presumed that Lana was the leader before Kevin arrived. After Kevin arrived, Simon tried to pull rank on Kevin (claming to be the highest-ranking officer of Lana's Court). In a later episode, the Eggplant Wizard called Mega Man Lana's "right-hand man".
Sure, most people assume that Kevin is the leader of the N Team, seeing as he's called "Captain N", but consider that Lana is the ruler of Videoland, so she would, logically, outrank Kevin. Of course, then you have to ask why the ruler of the entire universe is going off on dangerous adventures every week.
One fan (I can hear the Blair from his stereo right now; okay, okay, I'll cut it out) theorized that Kevin is the field commander, and Lana is the overall leader. That seems to be a good enough explanation.
But the real complaint here is based on the assumption that, besides the "fact" that "Kevin was the original leader" (which he wasn't), Captain N is a title that applies to only Kevin. ("The Legend of Videoland fortells of a young warrior...from another land...and shall warp into our world and lead you to victory. He is Captain N: The Game Master.") That makes no sense. It's like saying that Captain Volleyball applies to only a certain newcomer to a volleyball team, even if someone else later replaces that person as the team captain.
7) Lana treating Kevin like crap. I think that Lana's arguments in that story of why she should be the leader of the N Team (which are pretty much identical to the ones I made above) are sufficient. Most fans don't agree with me. Besides those arguments, though, consider Lana's motive for being Captain N.
There's a scene in "The Trouble with Tetris", where Lana is disappointed in her older brother Lyle's decision to claim his (rightful) place as ruler of Videoland. After he leaves the room, she tells the rest of the N Team that Lyle isn't ready to be ruler. Is that her only reason, or is Lana selfish and power-hungry? We can't tell what's in her mind.
So, why did Lana want to become Captain N in my fanfic? It certainly had nothing to do with her leadership skills. The TV series showed that she was a lousy ruler of Videoland by having her ignore the public's problems throughout all of Season 1 before finally addressing their complaints in an episode of Season 2 (and that episode indicated that she hadn't taken a break from addressing their problems since she had started to do so). Even then, she doesn't have the sense to delegate cases (such as which farmer a cow belongs to) to local leaders on the various worlds.
I'll refrain from mentioning all of the time that Lana wastes by watching TV and playing sports.
Lana became Captain N out of greed. The cartoon series doesn't give us anything to make us believe that Lana would never do that if given the opportunity.
One fan tried to defend the characters' actions by saying "Blame the writers, not the characters". This view is based on the idea that the characters would behave differently if the stupidity was removed from the cartoon series. ("Yeah, it looks like Lana didn't do anything official in Season 1, but the writers just didn't communicate with each other or bothered to watch previous episodes, so ignore that! Lana is really a caring, competent leader!") However, the characters aren't real. They can't make decisions on their own. We have to accept what the writers gave us as being true to the characters' personalities, whether we like it or not. To do otherwise would be to create an alternate universe with different characters.
What I'm trying to say in all of this is that the TV series didn't detail the characters. There are many gaps and unknowns. When writing fanfics, you have (or should have) a lot of freedom. Borrow from the TV series and/or comic books - or make up something totally new for the characters. Have fun and don't worry about "defiling Captain N".