As we were discussing the other week (see comments), the trend in books these days seems to be one of weak female characters. What’s up with that? As I pointed out, you don’t have to have a weak female character in order to have a strong man.
Example: Twilight. A very dangerous vampire is hunting Bella. Edward loses his shit and tries to run away with her. She protests that she, you know, has parents that might wonder where the hell she is if she disappears without a trace. (Also, her father’s a police officer who would stop at nothing to find her). Plus there’s, like, school she needs to go to. Because, unlike Edward and the other vampires, she hasn’t graduated even once.
I take a different tack. When Anselm is presented with the problem of what to do with Kalyn–keep her happy or keep her safe–he, gasp, lets her choose.
“If you want to go to Chicago with your Aunt Norma, you can; I know you have family up there. But… you can stay with me and Micah, if you prefer.”
“If you ever decide that being with us is too much, or if you just need a break for a little while, we’ll put you on a plane to Chicago—or send you back here, if you want to stay with Rose.”
No kidnapping. Kalyn is allowed to choose what she wants to do because she’s legally (in their society) an adult.
And Anselm doesn’t have to be an ass to look like a badass. And Kalyn doesn’t have to be treated like a child to demonstrate that Anselm is that strong, protective man which many women find appealing.
“What’s that?” she asked him, looking down at it.
“A Glock 30. It’s a .45, so make sure you hang onto it with both hands; it’s a lot of gun. You’ve got ten rounds in the magazine, plus one in the chamber, ready to go. There’s no external safety, so all you have to do is aim and pull the trigger. Don’t be afraid to use all of your rounds and reload,” he said, as he shoved a spare magazine into her pants pocket.
“Um… what am I shooting?”
“God willing, nothing,” Anselm said, as he put on his own holster. “Micah and I plan on taking care of everything ourselves, but if something should happen to us, I don’t want to leave you defenseless. Get away and call Rose to come get you.”
Micah handed a pump-action shotgun to Anselm. “This has the chain shot in it,” he said.
They both looked at Kalyn. After a moment, Anselm passed it to her. “There’s seven rounds in it, with one already in the chamber,” he told her. “All you have to do is turn off the safety and it’s ready to go. It’s good to fifteen yards or closer. But don’t shoot anything unless we tell you to or your life is in danger.”
See how easy that is? Anselm and Micah protect Kalyn by giving her weapons so she can defend herself. It doesn’t make them less badass to treat her like she’s reasonably self-reliant. If anything, it’s more loving to give her a way to defend herself.
(Of course, Twilight fans will point out that those vampires can only be killed by the shape-shifters and other vampires. But most books don’t have a demi-god for an antagonist, so there’s no excuse for the woman to not be able to defend herself.
This is why I loved the old Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton (before the series turned into plotless erotica). Anita was a ball-buster who didn’t need a human man’s help ever and rarely needed to enlist the help of a supernatural being. Even though she was human–and a petite woman to boot–she was a notorious vampire slayer. She was the first strong female character I had read in vampire fiction, and the fact that Kalyn knows how to operate a gun–and will start shooting people later in the series–was all inspired by Anita Blake.)
While Dana’s critique of Twlight makes it easy to demonstrate what I’m taking about, it’s certainly not the only offender. Fifty Shades of Grey is apparently just as bad (or worse) when it comes to a weak female character. Someone reading it told me, “I just want to give that girl [the protagonist] a shake and tell her ‘Don’t do this!’ She’s making such bad decisions. I’d stop reading it, but I really want to know if she manages to get out of this terrible, terrible relationship.”
Here is a short story description I found on Smashwords:
A young woman alone in her bedroom late at night hears an intruder in the other room. She tries to hide but he finds her, binds her and has his way with her. __________ is approximately fifteen hundred words and the story contains graphic depictions of sexual acts between consenting adults.
My first thought is: OMG, what is consensual about being tied up raped by an intruder? And if it’s not rape, then what, in the name of all that’s holy, makes your protagonist decide that, hey, you know what, I don’t know you, and I know you broke into my house and shit, but I kind of like the ropes and things, so let’s get busy.
When I lived in an apartment alone, I slept with a knife beside the bed so I could kill anyone who came into my bedroom. Now that I’m older, I sleep with a gun. I know it sounds crazy and everything, but I really don’t want to have sex with some random man that walks into my bedroom.
And there is example after example of romance and erotica on real and virtual shelves where the man dominates the woman physically or emotionally, or forces himself on her in some way and she likes it. Do authors really think that, deep down, women like to be treated like shit? And why are women buying this stuff???
The more of this I read, the more fights Kalyn and Anselm have, just to prove Kalyn isn’t spineless. And the more people she starts killing.
If the trend gets any worse, she’s going to wind up ripping off a bear’s leg and eating it raw for breakfast.
BTW, Barbaric Poetries has a slew of archived posts on female characters in television, movies, and comic books–and the fact that they used to be cool and strong, but now they’re not strong or are all together non-existent.