Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Heroines

Now Playing: Martin O'Donnell and Micheal Salvatori - Excerpt from the Union and All Ends Are Beginnings (Destiny OST)

Short post because I've been thinking about this a lot and finally sorted out my thoughts.


Something odd happened this weekend, where I saw Mad Max Fury Road, loved it, praised it, want it to make a million thousand hundred dollars so the most successful MM movie is a feminist icon of awesomeness, and then I saw Game of Thrones on Sunday and every little bit of love I had left for the show got ran over, set on fire, pushed off a cliff, and--

Okay, you get the point.

It's weird to think about it. To know I am actively and constantly writing about women, focusing on women, sometimes explicitly alluding to "women" issues, sometimes (hell, most of the time) completely ignoring them in favor of other, more broad issues. And I look at something like Mad Max 4, and I think...yeah, that's what I want. I want us to be written as people. I want our issues to be our issues, and I want them to be varied, and different, and bold, and explored to the fullest consequences. But I also want us to be heroines for ourselves, not to be trampled over because it's what's shocking or because it'll help someone else grow. I want our gender to be acknowledge and then sometimes I want it not to be acknowledge. I want there to be a balance, and I want it to be smart.

In Mad Max, there are so many women with so many different wants and needs. Yes, partially, some of them are escaping a lifetime of horror, of rape and abuse and slavery. But others are in it for redemption, and hope, and changing their world for the better. It has the more common "women" issues that we so often see in media, but it also has the broader issues. It's a balance. And it's just so brilliant, because it's so simple, and it's so human.

That's where I want to be in my writing. I want to get to Fury Road levels.

But there's also this tendency to look down on the more...pandering side of fiction.

(I don't actually know who this is IRL.
But the picture was in the book's wiki...)
Over the week, I've been thinking a lot about this series by Tahereh Mafi called Shatter Me. Keep in mind, on Goodreads, I gave each of those books like, one star. I think I gave the first one two stars because it made me laugh for all the wrong reasons. They're not really well written, though I sort of applaud Mafi for trying to be original in her prose--it certainly was an attempt, though not a particularly successful one. In terms of characters and plot, they are so, so stupid.

But oh my god, you guys. On top of just making no logical sense in terms of worldbuilding and even character-wise, those books are cheesy as hell. They explode with the Girl Power atmosphere. The protagonist is just such a beautiful, lethal young woman. Her very touch makes you collapse in pain and potentially could kill you. And she's loved by two guys--one of them who is a) at first evil and b) promptly obsessive over her--and she makes friends easily, and at first she's a Tortured Soul but THEN her powers develop and oh my goddd. She's not just untouchable, by the time the last book is ending, she's crashing through walls, flinging entire crowds to the side and at her feet. She's using a gun to put two bullets in the antagonist. She wears fashionable clothes but she doesn't have to because she's already so fucking beautiful. At the end, even though she's just a teenage girl who spent most of her adolescence locked up and had barely developed into a warrior, let alone a leader, she's all, "lol I'mma rule the nation now even though I have no idea how to restructure this government, all I did was shoot someone in the face."

And you know what...?

Two years ago--hell, even a year ago, I hated this book. And I've hated all stories like it. Because I want stories like Mad Max Fury Road, where we're human, and we're scared, and some of us have suffered atrocities, and we're not magically stronger for them. And some of us rise, and some of us fall.

But I'm starting to understand why something like Shatter Me exists. Hell, even think of the concept. When we live in a society that makes us feel in peril, that wants to hurt our bodies and our minds, how fucking awesome would it be to be untouchable? To be dangerous? And, even if it's at first scary and isolating, how fucking incredible would it be if we just wielded that power and made it our own?

I don't think I hate the Shatter Me series anymore. I don't think I'm going to read about Mary Sue's and want to set them on fire. Because there's a place for them.

Boys get to have their brooding, tortured, brilliant, millionaire playboy with the complex backstory and the ability to kick ass and take names. And sometimes he can be more complex, sometimes he can be super flat and boring and just have a really cool nickname and even cooler gadgets.

So we should be able to have that too. There's a place for stories like it, and theirs might be part of a path toward other, more complex stories.

I have no doubt that we can go from Juliette Ferrars to Imperator Furiosa. They'll co-exist, and as the world grows and learns, we'll see more of them. (Though not gonna lie, I'm gonna want to see more Furiosa's).

I guess what I'm saying is--I'll keep writing and hope one day I can create something like Mad Max. But I doubt I'll be hating the other variations of heroines any time soon,
Becky

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