Project Runway and the Power of Love

tim_gunn ETBScreenwritingI am a BIG fan of Project Runway.  One of my favorite characters is Tim Gunn.  He plays the role of the classic Power of Love character in the series.

Although typically seen on TV as a female character (Betty Suarez in Ugly Betty or Marge in The Simpsons for example), a Power of Love character can also be a compelling male character.

Their function in a story, as is Tim Gunn’s function, is as a caretaker or a mentor: to cajole others into doing what is “best for them;” encourage others to take advantage of possible opportunities for advancement or improvement; soothe the hurt feelings of others; encourage others to do their best; to be patient and giving toward others; and to anticipate others’ needs.  Gunn does this par excellence with his “designers.”

His catch phrases always express his care and concern:  “Talk to me”, “Make it work”, “This worries me”, “Don’t bore Nina”, “That’s a lot of look”, “Designers, gather around” and “Carry on”.

Power of Love characters— often soft and gentle on the outside— are made of strong, even steely, stuff on the inside.  There is an iron fist in their velvet glove. These characters can be interfering, domineering, dictatorial and obsessive when they believe they know what is best for others.

Tim Gunn never goes to that extreme but he also doesn’t ever hesitate to deliver the harsh truth needed to improve a contestant’s work.  (And some of his charges DO experience his advice as domineering and/or dictatorial). Notably, those are usually the ones who lose out on a challenge.  The man has a good eye and sincerely wants to bring out the best in everyone under his strong and capable wing.

Anyone looking to develop a compelling male Power of Love character would do well to take a look at Tim Gunn in action on Project Runway.

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