Pennies About PC Characters

Half.com is making my life DIFFICULT. Won't let me order a few measly books. Grr... Anyway, while I'm trying to sort out that mess, I happen onto Tumblr, where I find EscherGirls posting [so on and so forth]. Anyway, stuff about Strong Female Characters, blah-de-blah. This Person wants a ratio of 1:1 male-to-female and the complexity of Sherlock Holmes. (That's actually a really crude and insulting way of interpreting an excellent article, but Sherlock Holmes isn't a male character, he's asexual. So's the Doctor.)

Chuck Wendig has some sound opinions on the matter of strong characters.

I, of course, have my own thoughts on this.

If a man can't write a woman character well, he shouldn't. Let the characters default to male. It bothers me way less than those fembots-with-a-gun that are the result of trying to diversify casting. Frankly, most single men don't understand women very well. Unless they have half a dozen sisters or are a total mommy's boy, they're ignorant. The moment they understand a woman well enough to create a character appropriately complex and engendered, they're celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary.

Unless the character is beating guys up without mercy. Assuming a lot of male writers weren't the most popular jock in high school, I'm sure the image of a "strong" girl and a tiger devouring prey don't look too different.

The social responsibility to "rehabilitate" interactions between men and women via fiction shouldn't be a deliberate act on the part of popular media. That is, we should never try and bully in exact ratios for casting and character depth. It's popular media.

Instead, anyone who cares about that sort of thing should cry foul when female "characters" are there to look pretty/hot/sexy rather than contribute to the story. But, really, we're just as bad. I mean, what exactly is yaoi besides spectator mind pr0n for dissatisfied girls? (Note my use of the word "spectator" --- BL is for girls to make little heart-shaped eyes at and get into internet shipping wars over.) Guys just take advantage of the opposite sex in a less politically correct way.

So, what do I do about this?

I LET MY CHARACTERS BE WHO THEY ARE. And my last concern in creating a character is their sexuality. I think about that when I'm going over my fourth revision for the story: Is there any chemistry between these two? If there's an established relationship, it's because it's important to the story. Imperative, actually. Sometimes, I even change the gender of my character. Not because I say "There's not enough males/females". It's because I think the character would work better gender-switched.

And writing boys is hard for me. I don't write many as protagonists, because I have to be really comfortable with the character to write him confidently. It's a lot of effort to write a truly male protagonist that I can be proud of. It's a lot like gender-switching yourself.

So I don't mind if the gender ratio is off in fiction created by men. One awesome female character they've put heart and soul into making is way better than littering a story with unremarkable PC female presence.

What I want is just equal opportunity as a creator. I want to know that my graphic novel about superheroes where women outnumber men 4:1 has a shot. I want to know that they'll stop hem-hawing about making a Wonder Woman movie rather than rebooting Batman again --- or at least have proper Barbara Gordon. And I want Brave to have done better in theaters. I want to see Carol Danvers cosplayed in her new Captain Marvel persona more, and I want Kelley Sue DeConnick's autograph. And I don't want to hear Joss Whedon called a closet misogynist for having an archaic villain use an archaic insult to try and tear down his enemy. And I certainly don't want to hear anyone giving Jennifer Lawrence flack for choosing not to starve herself for a role that millions of impressionable girls will by influenced by. Nor do I want to hear people doing the reverse to Anne Hathaway for doing so for a role that's target demographic wasn't kids.

And I never want to hear Emma Frost described as "in charge of her sexuality" again, because an X-shaped pastie or less is fanservice, and disguising fanservice as female empowerment IS insulting. Otherwise, I'm a very cool person. I may not agree with you about something, but I'm not going to be pushy about it. I'm going to appreciate a good story and good characters no matter what their chromosomes look like, and I'm going to hate a terrible story and cardboard characters regardless. And I won't approve of demands to genderbend characters for the sake of a ratio. Do it because it suits that character better. For movies and TV, do it because the actor you want has all the other qualifications (this go for race too) for the role.

Otherwise, just write a fanfic with appropriate disclosures.

And one more thing: Cinderella? Snow White? Rapunzel? They may have been "damsels in distress", but the story is still all about them. No one even bothered to give the "hero" of the story a name. ("Charming" doesn't count --- unless Charming's accrued a larger harem than an ecchi anime. And if there's a fic like that, I don't even wanna know.)

Which is why I like Shrek, the first movie. It was about two people struggling to overcome not just a stereotype, but a stereotyped life they accepted for themselves. So the point isn't that all princesses know kung fu now, it's that maybe they always knew kung fu.

I don't even know if this post is coherent now, it's so late.

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