Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Go away!" "I'm grievously wounded!"

 Wherein Jack has come BACK from the dead! And Wherein she explains her thoughts on girl characters.

 I complain about girl characters a lot, I know I do. I've tried to get better about it and not whine as much, but I still have a tendency to do so. I thought it was time I did a post explaining these complaints.

 First off, I don't dislike girls. I'm a girl myself - sure, a girl who grew up with brothers and therefore doesn't get girls sometimes, but I still like girls. Some of my best friends are girls. 
 That said, I've never been huge on the whole....I don't know the term for it. Women power thingy....I know, that is likely to get me in trouble, but let me explain.

 I don't believe girls should be weak and cowering in corners, singing songs about how bad their lives are while waiting for their Prince Charming to come riding up and save them. For one, not all girls are distended to have a Prince Charming. Some girls might never get married, for some reason or other. (I sometimes think I might end up as one of those girls...though marriage doesn't sound horrible to me and I'd love to have at least five kids.)

 For years, these were the kinds of girls put into movies and books. Helpless, defenseless, unable to stand up for themselves. (Think Disney Princesses for a basic example.) But then this idea of helpless women began to change until now we have the Disney movies were girls are mostly saving themselves. And while telling a girl she can stand up for herself, can fight for herself and those she loves isn't so much a bad thing, how it was handled - I believe - is.

 As an author, I know there are tons of ways to handle characters. One could start with a shy, scared girl and by the end of the book have her facing her fears and fighting for something she believes in. Or you could have the independant girl who thinks everyone around her is stupid and she doesn't need their help and in the end having her rely on her friends. This is called character development and I am all for it in boy and girl characters. I love it, it makes characters more endearing. So that is  not where I am targeting my complaint. 

 In the book Seraphina, this is used. Phina is shy and withdrawn and scared. She is too scared to accept help, to admit to the world what she is. In the end of the book she stands up to her worse fears and at the same time allows her friends to come to her aid. She is confident at the end of the book, able to stand up for herself. But she is still sweet. 

 Rapunzel, from Tangled, is another example. In the beginning she does what she is told and even though her means of facing her fears might not have been the right thing, in the end she was able to stand up for herself - even if Flynn did kind of save her in the end - though they were even, because she saved him back.

 Both are girls that normally would be looked down on. Why? Because of extremities.

 Let me go back a little, to the Disney examples above. In Snow White she is sweet and innocent and childish and trusts everyone and it gets her killed, then her Prince Charming comes in and saves the day. In Mulan she dresses like a boy, fights like a man, and saves China. (Though she's kind of a bad example because she never thought boys were dumb and didn't need their help, she was just doing what she could to save her dad. But I will use her as kind of the other side of the coin. A girl who didn't need anyone to save her.)
 Characters like Mulan were created to tell girls, "Hey, look. You can stand up and fight. You can be brave and courageous and you don't have to just stand back and wait for someone to run in and save you. Sometimes you can save yourself." 
 Good message, right? Girls shouldn't have to suffer some things in the hopes someone will fix it. Sometimes they will have to fix it themselves.
  But my problem with this is all the sudden it wasn't, "You can be like this," but the message was, "You MUST be like this! And if you like sewing and singing and girly things you're a wimp and the world is going to walk all over you." Like with Snow White, girls were being told what they HAD to be if they are to be admired. (Note, I like Disney. I am just using examples because they are ones most people will understand.)

 So what if a girl likes sewing? Baking? Fencing? Hiking? Farming? Flowers? Why can't a girl have the kind of characteristics that are embedded into her? Why does society think they have to tell a girl how she should act and what she should like? (Same goes for boys.)

 And this is why I have girl character issues. I am so tired of reading books and watching movies where it is considered wrong for a girl to accept help, to take an interest in girly things. Where it is bad for a girl to want to be a mother. Is that what we want girls to grow up thinking? That being mothers is degrading, that they should all get jobs that are considered man jobs? That of they like flowers and butterflies they are somehow doing something wrong and will be miserable for the rest of their lives? That they should look down on men and never accept their help? Why not have different kinds of characters - which, I am pleased to say, I have been seeing more of - and show them that, no matter what you like it is okay. (You know, within moral laws and such.)
 My point is, so much time and effort has been put into making girls more manly that I think the real problem has been overlooked. The whole point of books and movies and characters. It is meant to give a vast range and difference, to show that no matter what kind of characteristic you have, you always strive for something better. 

 I was one of those girls so this hits close to home. I was taught liking dolls and pink and frilly dresses and painted nails was a bad thing. It turns out, I like all of those things, and I also like swords and battles and adventures. 
 It even got to the point where I thought it was horribly bad to let anyone - especially a boy - help me with anything. I thought if they offered I had to turn them down with great protests. It has taken me a long time and many years to realize there is nothing wrong in accepting help and it is still hard to say yes when someone offers to assist me with something.
 It took me a long time to figure myself out because the things I would have enjoyed I always thought were very bad. And in my writing, I have determined to try and do all I can to fight against these trends and show people that the best person they can possibly be is themselves.

 And now we come to the last part of this post. My one iffy point with The Hobbit. The girl elf.
 Generally, I didn't mind her. Having elves in Middle Earth movies is never a bad thing. And she was kind of fun and I loved her hair - I wanted her hair. It was WHY she was there that irked me. In the book there were no girls. I don't think Tolkien had anything against girls, read some of his other works, but in The Hobbit he just didn't put any in. (Sometimes authors just don't want girls in. Maybe because they have hopelessly romantic characters and would like to write a book without romance and the best way to do so is leave out any and all possible love interests. I speak from experience.) And I never saw a problem with this. So what if it was just boys? It was a great book!

 Therefore, the girl elf in the movie was there for only a few reasons.

 One, to add a bit of romance to draw the girls in. As if it was needed. Plenty of Ringers are girls and they would have come without the romance. (And those that weren't Ringers would have likely gone for Kili and Thorin.) Therefore, she was a marketing scheme which really wasn't needed.

 Two, having a movie with just guys in it might have ruffled the fur of those for women's...power or whatever. And there would have been rites in the streets over how unjust Tolkien was to leave out women. Another thing I don't think anyone had to fear. How many of them even know of The Hobbit?

 Three, she was there to show up Legolas. *Snort* As if anyone can do THAT.

 Four, Peter Jackson just wanted someone in there with fabulously long hair. Yes, that might be a good reason. Any excuse to show off that amazing again.

 Five, she was needed to add some more gracefulness to the elven fights. Doubtful. Legolas is graceful enough. He was gracefully shooting Orcs from the dwarves' heads.

 Six, she was in one of the in between stories and I have yet to meet her. (Anyone who has read them...was she?)

 Seven, she was there to had a feminine touch to all the killing. Because, apparently, the world needs more feminine touches, even while killing Orcs.

 Aside from the possibility of her hair, I just don't like the REASON she might have been there. Herself, she was pretty cool. If only she was there for another reason though.

 And now I shall end.

 What do all of you think? Do you agree or disagree? And what kinds of girl characters do you like or dislike?

 Quote is from The Avengers, a conversation between Steed and Mrs. Peel - another well done girl character. They've been trying to find a murderer in a department store and things have been going badly. Steed gets punched, and his Britishness can't get over the fact someone did that too him. (There has never been and never will be a character more British then John Steed.) And he is whining to Mrs. Peel but she, as usual, has no sympathy for his pouting. 




  1. "He was gracefully shooting Orcs from the dwarves' heads." <--Haha! And yes, he really was.

    And I'm so with you on Tauriel. I, too, covet her hair, but not so much her reason for being there. I didn't need the girl power angle to get me to see a LOTR film. Just Benedict Cumberbatch's voice...

    I enjoyed this post. I'm glad you came back from the dead to write it.

  2. Yes, I agree. A lot of feminists have already been talking about Tauriel, and it's mostly been positive. And I agree with a lot of things feminists say -- though I don't often agree with the principles behind it.

    So yeah, Tauriel wasn't a necessary character. I'm sure she's a good character, but the book was fine without her and I think the movie would have been, too.

    As for girl characters in general, I think you have a very good grasp on them even if you may not always like writing them. I mean, Darcy and Jack are FABULOUS. They're similar in some ways, but they also have their own unique personalities and they're great :)

    And I still haven't seen The Desolation of Smaug but since the book is, like, 75 years old, obviously I know the basics of what happens...lol. I laugh at all the people who are terrified of spoilers. Read the book, I say! Hopefully I'll get to see it soon, though, I've heard it's great.

    Good good good post.

  3. Tauriel actually isn't in any of Tolkien's books. Peter Jackson made her up. For one of the reasons you stated - simply because there were no girls in The Hobbit. There aren't actually many girls in Tolkien's world at all, that are main characters. You could probably list them all on your two hands. Galadriel... Rosie Cotton... Arwen... Eowyn... Mrs. Sackville-Baggins... and that one elf-lady that fell in love with a human man and I can't remember either of their names, but Aragorn sings about them in the first movie.

    Anywho... I agree with you. I think that it's horrible that girls today are supposed to be equal to men. Seriously, people would hate me if they heard my honest opinion (which is that the woman should be at home with the children, teaching them to be moral, God-fearing people). I also think that women should have opinions, and the right to vote and such... and to be able to have jobs and stuff. I'm not against that. But I think that femininity should be encouraged too. And motherhood.
    I was the girl who never had boys help too! And boy there's a time I really regretted it... My dad and I were moving the communion table at church (and it's really. heavy.) and the pastor turns to his son (who is my age) and says, "Why don't you help Abbey with that." And I was like, "No. I don't need any help. I've got it handled." RIGHT to the pastor and the PK! Man... I feel so bad about that now.

    By the way... (I don't think I replied to this comment yet...) I think it's SO COOL that Darcy is gonna yell allons-y! That is going to rock! I can't wait!
    And to your other comment...
    To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that I think everyone should read at least once in their life. It's not a cute-sy book, though, or even an epic adventure like LotR's. It will make you think. And it will make you laugh. And it might even make you cry if you're that sort of person (which I don't think you are). It's about two kids growing up in a sleepy town and their dad is a lawyer. The book starts a bit slow... the kids have lots of adventures... their dad gets a huge trial... and ultimately, it's a story about humans and human prejudices and human racism (even 70 years after the Civil War).
    Did you know that Alek and Deryn have a couple name? It's Dalek!
    Haha, that's the brilliancy of The Princess Bride! The author makes you think that you're reading an abridged book but really, he IS the original author. I think it's absolutely brilliant.

    Well... off to bed... I didn't mean to reply to this post tonight because it's late, but I decided to do it anyway.
    Great post!

  4. As the eldest daughter with no brothers until I was ten, I've ended up pulling up a lot of the slack that a brother would have otherwise growing up. I thought it my duty since there were no boys to do it. And since my only interaction with boys was in AWANA (I was the only girl my age and the next youngest was about five or six years my elder, so every time I moved up to a new class, I was again surrounded) I had to keep up with them at game time. Trust me, there is no room for chivalry in AWANA game time. None. Especially if the games were all written for boys. So I was a very tomboyish child. But since when it came to the end of the day it was often just me, my mom (who had been the eldest of four girls), and little sister, my feminine side didn't lack in the slightest. Have I ever mentioned how much I love glitter.

    I love kids, and am fulling looking forward to motherhood, and I'd like at least a dozen kids - maybe a few sets of twins in there. (There are some in my family tree, so it's not out of the question.) Indeed, I really don't understand girls who would forsake their God-given privilege of training and nurturing the next generation.

    And I've attempted to write a large array of female characters in my writing. Some of them have RPS (Rebellious Princess Syndrome) but I like to have Good Reasons. Robin, it's her gift. It's difficult to be the best swordsman in the world and not show some signs. Clara, on the other hand, was the only daughter of parents who wanted a lot more, so like me, she felt that she had a duty to fill the rolls that other children would have filled. Not only that, but both of her parents were instructors in combative skills, she's good at showing up the guys. But I also have a lot of gentler characters, like Rosamond and Jill Anna.

    Of course, you have to remember to have a wide array of guys, too. Not all boys are capable of picking up a sword and being amazing with it. Not all of them will have amazing muscles to ooh and ah over. (Pardon me a moment, Clara it giving me an an unamused look because she thinks I'm talking about Andrew. I need to go throw a shoe at her.) Sure a vast majority of my guys are the dashing Prince Charmings, but some of them are Roberts ... and like sewing.

    I haven't seen the second hobbit movie yet, (still only halfway through the first) and I'm not going to pass judgement on Tauriel until I have. And I'm going to try to remove from my mind the reason she's there and focus on the character herself. If Peter Jackson and her actress did a good job with her, and she feels Tolkien enough ...

    Though I'm not sure what's so great about her hair... Sure it's a pretty color, but I much prefer the curlier hobbit hair.

  5. I didn't mind her in the movie - gave us guys something to look at. (And there was Galadriel in the first film.) But there's nothing wrong with a story that is all men. (After all - I wrote one.)
    Women can be tough, but they shouldn't lose their feminine side.

  6. I totally agree. What I really hate is the idea that girls can't be strong and weak at the same time. My character Lydia is lame and has never touched a weapon in her life. She cooks and sews and she even spends time waiting to be rescued. Her story is one of learning to be strong but I never have that become physical. She never has to lay down her spoon and pick up a sword instead I focused on her strength as a person.

    I LOVE being a girl. I enjoy being protected and loved I find immense satisfaction in nurturing and I get really really tired of society telling me that i should be a man. I'm not a man and I don't see why I need to "fight against the labels and the prejudice." Women are generally weaker than men in some areas like physical strength and women are stronger in areas like pain tolerance and understanding. And that's the way God made us!

  7. Personally, I love characters that develop. Snow White is an iffy one for me because, you're right, she doesn't do anything! B.o.r.i.n.g. Rapunzel was a better heroine, because she still had that feminine side and was gentle and all, but she didn't puff herself up in the manner of never needing anyone, let alone a man's, help. Don't get me wrong - I love who God made me, and I do believe that girls and guys have their differences, and that girls shouldn't run around acting like guys all the time, but there's a limit to how innocent we can be. Look at Deborah, Rahab, Abigail... and those are only a few examples. They didn't sit around, protesting their innocence. As women, they kept who God made them as the forefront of their lives, but they weren't afraid to hide behind that maiden-in-distress image and claim absolutely no action whatsoever.

    Alright. Now I feel like I'm getting on a soap box, but I'll admit I have some pretty stubborn opinions about this subject. And I really like what Anne-girl said.

    Abbey ~ The names you were thinking of were Beren and Luthien. They were a couple in Tolkien's The Silmarillion.

  8. I had the same reaction! I actually had no problem with Jackson adding a girl elf - captain of the guard, cool.
    But why do they have to throw in a romance just because a girl is there? Can't she just be cool and not start swooning over the first tall dwarf she sees?

  9. Excellent post - and I agree with you on everything when it comes to girl characters.

    Tauriel, however, for some strange reason I still just love her. I'm not so sure her motivations are love - I think it's compassion, and sympathy, and possibly a desire to disobey Thranduil because she recognizes that he's being a jerk. It's obvious that Kili is in love with her, but I'm not so sure she's in love with him back.

    Anyway - I don't know. I understand why she was added, and I'm not a fan of the reasons (no, she isn't a real Tolkien character, she's a Peter Jackson fabrication), but I still thoroughly enjoyed her addition to the movie... even though, as a self-proclaimed Tolkien purist... I really shouldn't! :)

  10. Jack ~ This is a great post. I am one of the in-between sorts of girls myself. I have mostly sisters, but all the cousins my own age growing up were boys, which meant I grew up as... well, a feminine tomboy. As an adult, I am still both. I am terribly domestic. I love keeping house, and cooking and cleaning. But I also like fencing and hiking and don't mind getting bruised - in fact, I rather enjoy having "war wounds" I have lace in my house, and flowers and girly things, but I also have toy soldiers on display, and swords, and tons of plaid accents. I am also a huge romantic - I just think that most storytellers these days don't know *how* to tell a true and resonating love story. Which is why I usually hate romances with a profound hatred :-)

    I think the problem is that people have forgetten that being *feminine* is a good thing, and that it takes a lot of strength of character. It is not about sewing and cooking. It is about being *womanly*. One of the things I really liked about Pixar's Brave, was that it addressed this. Queen Elinor was hugely feminine - that scene where all the clansmen are fighting, and she just sweeps regally through the room and everyone is suddenly ashamed of themselves - that is the power of true womanliness. It is the sort of quiet strength that people admire in men (think Sam in Supernatural) but mistake for weakness in women. Sure, we all sympathise with Merida wanting to ride about with her hair flowing free, firing arrows into the sunset, but she was not a fully developed character like that. She needed to grow up - to learn sacrifice, because that is where true womanliness (and manliness too, for that matter) come from.

    As for Tauriel... Nope, she is not a Tolkien character. There is some slight basis for her woman-warrior character - I can't remember if it made it to the Silmarillion or not, but in some earlier version of Silmarillion stories, Tolkien made Galadriel something of a warrior, but only during a sort of 'wild' period in her younger days. I went into the Hobbit excpecting to hate her, and was surprised that I didn't. As a character, she is fine. I just really, really hated that attempt at a love triangle. That was terrible, and I don't think I shall be forgiving PJ for that for a long time :-)

    1. The only problem with the Queen Elinor example is that she is contrasted in a movie filled with buffoon-ish men-folk... none of whom are even remotely attractive. (eh, not my favorite movie)

    2. Brave has its faults, no doubt, and while I di enjoy it, it is not my favourite Pixar film. It would have been nice if not every single male character had been a muscle-bound moron. However, it is the only movie I have ever seen that bothers to question whether the girl-power prototype is really such a good idea. At the very least, it can lead to an excessively self-centered view of the world. At worst, it is as destructive to the proper growth and developent of character as allowing girls to be too weak and passive. When Merida is out trying to master of her own fate, she doesn't come off as brave, she comes off as a spoiled brat. It takes far more courage to accept resposibilty, which she ultimately did - not something you see happen in these sorts of stories. Usually, the rebellious child is treated as a sort of hero, and her parents as old sticks in the mud.

      In contrast to her antics, there are two scenes in which the female characters take complete control of a situation by simply being strong, old-fashioned ladies. Elinor does it at the beginning, and Merida does it later. However the men are behaving, the *point* of both those scenes, is that a woman does not have to act like a man to get attention and respect, she just has to be a confident woman. I found the point of view very refreshing.

  11. It's like you took all of my feelings and put them into words! YES. JUST YES. This is something I think about all the time!

    I think it's unfair how society teaches us girls that it's wrong to be girly. God made females to be females. Why are we being taught to act like males? I think we should embrace our feminine side. And if we like tomboyish things? Then embrace that as well! I love sword fights and the Marvel movies but my favorite color is pink and I'm about as girly as they come. All the girls in literature and the media aren't allowed to paint their fingernails and be nurturing without being ridiculed. God made us each for specific purposes. What would the world be if we were all men? Or all women for that matter? We should just be who God designed us to be. And, as you said, strive for something better. But not something totally different than who God means for us to be.

    I also absolutely share your feelings on Tauriel. I was basically enraged when I discovered she was going to be in The Desolation of Smaug and I was all set to hate her...but I didn't. She was actually a pretty cool character. But I did hate the WHY, as you said. She does not belong in this story. She isn't in any of Tolkien's stories. She was completely made up my Peter Jackson in order to expand Mirkwood and add a female in there. As far as I know, that's the only reason she's there. And that really annoys me. Everyone loves the book! There was absolutely no need to expand or add anything. But I could rant about this for hours, so I'll just stop there.

    But thank you for this post! I wholly agree with everything you said. It's nice to see other people share my same feelings on this subject. ^_^

  12. You make many excellent points in this.

    I just pretty much agree with everything. So there. I cannot add or subtract to this post, because you covered all that needed to be covered.

    I think Feminine Tomboys are the best because they can be girly and still be tough, but not be like... "I am woman, hear me roar!" and not need guys. I think it's good to have a mix like that. Like Jules or Darcy. (And yes, I used your character as an example, because she's super cute. You're so far, the only person who can make a girl be a boy and not make her annoying, so good job. *pats back*)

    Everyone else has said pretty much everything I could say so I'm just going to sign off with:




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