Tag: Social Issues
This video is rather long, for an internet video, but well worth watching. It will help you understand an aspect of U.S. society you may or may not be aware of.
Seanan McGuire, author of the October Daye series, Discount Armageddon, and Newsflesh series (under the name Mira Grant) wrote a rather thoughtful discussion on the role of female heroines and secondary characters in urban fantasy novels.
If you’re interested in the portrayal of women in fiction or just writing in general, I suggest reading it all. Here are some choice excerpts:
It wasn’t until I read the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter that I noticed the creepiest thing about the Disney princesses: they never look at each other. Get six of them in a group, and they will all strike independent poses, they will all gaze at independent points off in the distance. They never make eye contact. They never acknowledge each other in any way. Why?
Because if you’re going to be the fairest in the land, you can’t ever admit that anyone of comparable fairness even exists. To be the prettiest princess, you must also be the only princess. So all you other princesses can just step off; this is my spotlight.
Urban fantasy heroines have a lot in common with Disney princesses.
The standards for “fairest of them all” are different when your kingdom is a city and your ballgown is a pair of leather pants. You need to be the best ass-kicker, the best snarker, the best crime-solver or magic-user, or whatever. But they’re still high standards to live up to, and it’s easier to do when there’s no one else in your sandbox. If no one else is kicking ass in leather pants, you don’t have to try as hard to be the best. Consequentially, we keep seeing urban fantasy heroines with no peers. No other women who kick ass. They might have sidekicks, or even other strong female characters in supporting roles, but it feels like a lot of them…well. Like a lot of them just don’t have any friends.
It can be easy, as an author, to smooth and sand the story until all the unnecessary characters are gone, and I can see where that might mean you have to lose a few of the members of the Breakfast Club. At the same time, if that process leaves six male characters and one female, and only one of those male characters is Prince Charming, why are the other five all dudes? Can’t we balance things a little? For me, female characters are more believable when they have friends. When there are other women around to talk to, trade tips on wearing leather pants without chafing with, and generally enjoy.
I’m not sure if her claim about the Disney Princess brand is true but thinking through what I have seen, it certainly seems true. Urban fantasy heroines in a lot of novels I’ve read also seem to suffer from this problem as well. Buffy is one of the few exceptions that I can think of off the top of my head.
It may have been okay back in the day to simply have a strong female heroine as a main character and call it progress from the perspective of gender equality but these days we should consider if it is more meaningful for our heroines to have peers and rivals to compare and contrast against, be they men or women.
There have been times when I’ve wanted to discuss social issues with people, not to convince them of the point, but to try to help evolve my own understanding by getting their opinions and beliefs. And instead of having the discussion, the person decided they didn’t want to discuss it. This has happened to me multiple times with different people, from close friends to friendly strangers.
But there are some social issues that need to be discussed. Over on my Tumblr I posted a video that explains the fight for women’s suffrage to the music of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. Do you think at the time discussing whether women had the right to own property or vote in political elections was a polite topic at the dinner table? A good majority of men and women felt different than a smaller group of women regarding the issue. It required people like Alice Paul to bring the issue to people’s attention and get them talking about it, realizing the idea and implications. As more people thought about it, rather than simply forming their beliefs based upon the status-quo, the movement garnered support until women were considered equal citizens to men, at least in word if not always in practice.
One social issue that also needs to be discussed is sexuality. I could explain why but a recent post by Seanan McGuire, author of over a dozen stories, I think sums it up a little better. Show, don’t tell: why they need to be there by Seanan McGuire.
I was recently talking to a friend* of mine who is also a writer about inclusion and inclusiveness in fiction. He was frustrated. Why did people keep asking him to include a non-heterosexual character in a starring role in his work? After all, he’d said that non-hetero characters existed, and were actually the norm. It was right there, in black and white. So why wasn’t that enough?
I explained how, when I was a kid, the only smart blondes I could find were Marilyn Munster and Susan Storm. How I wound up identifying with the Midwich Cuckoos, rather than the humans who they were threatening, because the Cuckoos looked like me and were isolated like me and no one understood them. How, as I got older and realized that what I wanted wasn’t necessarily the kind of marriage my mother had, every gay character became a magical revelation—even the ones I would look at now and think of as stereotyped and cardboard. It was enough for me that they were there.
This argument, of course, hinges on your personal beliefs regarding if certain types of sexuality are morally wrong or right. It appeals to that time when you finally found someone, be it a fictional character or real life hero, who you felt was going through similar problems and conflicts as you, and how you drew strength from the fact that they survived. Maybe not everybody had this experience but I believe that to be unlikely.
Discussing social issues is hard but challenging what we know to be right and understanding that it may be wrong or at the very least, partially incorrect, is a part of what makes us human and what helps us to continue to improve ourselves.