When asked why his works featured so many strong female characters, Joss Whedon once answered: “Because you keep asking me that question.” I’m not much of a fan of his work, truth be told, but I think that we share a common “problem”. That problem being that the things we write are female focused and often times female driven.
Why is that a problem? Well it’s not. Besides, there are plenty of movies and books with almost no female representation and no one ever seems to ask where the women are then. No one really should be bothered about one gender being there more than the other for the most part. Yet it always comes into play when there are too many girls running around.
I bring this up because of the storm of interest surrounding the release of Hunger Games this coming weekend. I loved the novel, thought it was fantastic and I can’t wait to see the film. But this idea that it’s the next Twilight is an asinine comparison to make. The book is hardly supernatural in nature, deals with none of the same issues, and there’s actually more to the plot than which boy the leading lady picks.
Hunger Games features a strong female lead, who for most of her time just tries to survive a situation she’s forced into. The character does what she does to protect someone she loves, not to get the guy and that’s one of the main issues I see in female driven stories. Every leading female character seems to be more defined by which guy she’s after or which one is after her than anything else going on in her life.
It’s refreshing to see a female character that’s special for more than how she looks and who actually has a talent. Now I know Hunger Games isn’t time this has happened, you have Ripely from Aliens or (for something more recent) Hermione Granger. Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs. Zoe from Firefly had the run of her relationship and was second in command on the ship and Samus Aran from the Metroid games is a female bounty hunter who has single handled destroyed a solar system’s worth of planets over the years.
Strong women in fiction aren’t rare. But all too often weak female characters are accepted, even when they’re badly written and generic and the only thing driving their plot is a man (or some men). In my latest work I’ve taken steps to avoid temptation. My main character from the e-book has no desire for romance or any attraction to anyone because of her condition.
I don’t write romance, nor do I ever see myself trying to since I see it is as the battered, over used prostitute of the fiction world. It is literally the most done thing out there and I don’t think straight romance can be interesting, there has to be more there. So from here on out and in anything I can go back and edit to make the changes, I will make a pledge not to weaken any positive female characterization by staking everything that defines them on men or their looks. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of myself really…