Time to take a break from Disney bashing and take the opportunity to discuss female characters.
While slaving away at SPSS (a stats software), during my breaks where I’m allowed to experience what sunlight feels like I’ve abandoned that privilege for something better: I’ve been catching up reading A Song of Ice And Fire book 4, A feast for crows. Recent chapter-character perspectives and my Disney Princess bashing posts, I got to thinking about female characters.
In Game of Thrones, we are presented with several female characters. From the typical all girlie and all “princess-y” Sansa Stark to Asha Greyjoy “Man with breasts”.
The problem with most media is that female characters are often on two extremes of a spectrum. We got the Sansa side (Disney Princesses, Welcome) and on the other side Asha Greyjoy (one of my favorite characters). A while ago I mentioned there are very few female characters I’ve seen that have managed to be strong and yet retain their femininity without forgoing their individual strength.
Growing up, the media taught me women’s strength (no matter the character development) were the following:
- Beauty: Duh.
- Sex: Cersei Lannister is currently teaching this lesson.
- The Love interest: What? He’s a badass dude who has loads of superpowers? You don’t need a silly thing called inner strength dear. You got a MAN!
- Innocence: Yes, this is a weapon. Allow me to explain, throughout certain types of media and even in real life, women have known the value of acting (or not) innocent. The writer will protect her and in the real world, the dudes fall for this tactic.
- Intelligence: More recently, the ‘nerdy’ girl has been showing up. Cunning and all that jazz is creeping up too but still underplayed.
No wonder there’s no ‘real’ character role model for young girls. As a child, I always preferred the male characters (which made my parents question why wasn’t I like other little girls) because they were more developed, independent and dealt with their faults. Female characters, on the other hand…
Don’t get me started with inner conflict issues. Donald Maass wrote inner conflict for a character is important to set them apart and such. Most female characters’ inner conflict deals mainly, on a general level, with the ‘romance’ issues or body/confidence issues. Yet, there’s a variety of literature and other media outlets probably showing every type of inner conflict imaginable.
Yet, every now and then someone wrote a real female character without polarizing the spectrum.
The problem with female characters is its a sort of Pandora’s box of extreme characterizations (Sansa Vs Asha). The other won’t be caught dead dressing or acting like the other. Occasionally we get the fem fatale type character but that’s used more of the whole sexy but dangerous angle (and again reinforces certain issues about female sexuality). The problem with staying in the middle is that writers’ often write a great female character until Mr. Love Interest shows up.
This has often been the case in society if we think about it.
I’ve seen many young women have all sorts of dreams and goals, but everything gets tossed in the wind when “Mr. Right” shows up and relationships need their dues (compromises) paid.
There was even a research article I came across stating how female scientists’ goals and ambitions change when romance strolls into the lab.
With this in mind, its obvious that the media still wants to cling onto its ‘construct’ of what women want and what will make them happy. Then people watch, get influenced by the media, and the cycle continues.
My washing machine has more originality than this. It has lots of buttons for so many options (and breaks down to keep things interesting). Wait a sec…I don’t think that metaphor is right….
Why do we do this? Because its safe, its known, its-
Happiness, goals, and ambitions cannot be generalized. According to the media and ‘construct’, as a little girl I would’ve wanted to be a princess and have a handsome prince to come to tea or something.
Instead, my parents got a kid who wanted to be a Beast Wars Transformer (I wanted a Fox for my beast mode) or be part of the SG1 team and kick some serious ass. Funny enough, I did own a few Barbies but my sister and I made them part of this magical kingdom (with our other toys) that was always under threat from evil monsters. Their adventures required tactical espionage, using decoys (what the Ken doll was for), breaking defensive positions and I think we even cut off the bad guys’ supply lines at one point.
To make your characters more memorable and realistic in their world and life, you have to find out what will make them happy not what a template says.
The good thing is we’re seeing an emergence of strong female characters based on their individuality, history, family background and circumstances (a quick thank you to GRR Martin and several other writers out there). However, there’s still a long way to go before the playing field is equal.