Looking For Some Good Heroine
I feel like a drug addict these days, searching for some good heroines.
Seriously, if you look at film, books, comics â€“ heroines are scarce and even scarcer is a *good* heroine. I’m not looking for a Lara Croft who is a man with boobs. I’m not looking for girls who save the day with cute antics. I want a heroine who is a woman with her own skills, who is uncompromised by super powers or a need to appeal to men.
You see, what I really want is an Allura. I was a big Voltron fan at the age of 4 (and still am to some extent). Image Comics‘ publishing of a nostalgia comic based on the cartoon that aired in the U.S. (which is basically a rip of a Japanese show) only fuels the love I have for this badly animated, repetitive show. Despite all its flaws, it managed to have what I would consider one of my favorite role models as a main character.
Allura is a princess in a hard situation. She has lost her parents, her kingdom is in shambles, and suddenly this ragtag band of space explorers resurrects the fantastic Voltron. Not only does she rule the kingdom, she also takes a place as one of the pilots of Voltron, slowly learning (she isn’t a natural, thank goodness) a new role and responsibility. All she has going for her is book-learning and a knack for governing that she gets from her hero-worship of her father. She stays true to herself throughout the cartoon. She wants to be one of the boys, but she has her royal duties. She knows the risks in piloting a lion, but undertakes them to help her people. She balances her own frustrations and wants with what she has to do. And not to be too serious, goes swimming in a bikini innocently enough.
In short, she kicks ass. She kicks it without having to be a boy with boobs (like Lara or Trinity), she kicks it without having to be so silly it’s ludicrous she can do it (Charlie’s Angels, anybody?). She’s a heroine â€“ she saves the day and does it in a style to be admired and looked to for inspiration. In comparison, many heroines are merely girlish wet dreams. Don’t you ever wish you could be a cool, sleek killing machine the guys all lust for but no one can have? So independent you don’t need anyone, but with a haunted past? Or a fun girl with tons of friends who just wants a boyfriend who happens to have a double life as a spy and inexplicably has mastered many forms of fighting? Who doesnâ€™t, but more importantly, who isnâ€™t sick of seeing this stereotype? Those are awful characters outside daydreams â€“ fun characters, but merely fun. They don’t stand up well as role models or speak to any part of us but the part that wants to escape to the realm of kick-butt. They’re often Mary Sues in this wish-fulfilment sense.
I am loathe to see the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie in great part because of Miss Mina Murray. In the print comics she captivates me. The woman leader of a ragtag bunch of gentlemen who manages to hold them all together and tame the most savage of them, without doing much fighting that doesn’t involve smacking someone with her parasol. She has such inner strength and courage it daunts people, but in the movie she is reduced to a vampire who "kicks ass". I say "reduced" for a reason. I find it compromising that this woman who has this strength no one else can touch is made into just another one of the group. Just another man, except with a sexy outfit and boobs. It reminds me of the famous line from As Good As It Gets: "How do you write women so well?" Melvin Udall is asked.
"Easy." he says, "I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability."
That is exactly what it seems like went through many a writerâ€™s head when they write in their females. A group cast â€“ a leading man, a sidekick, a rebel, a clown â€“ is written and only after their creation is a character singled out to be the woman. Of all the stories Iâ€™ve seen in so many different media lately, Trinity from the Matrix stands out most strikingly as an example of this, whatever the writers may tell us about her genesis. What would change if Trinity were a man? Except for Neo being in a relationship atypical for Hollywood, nothing. That is her flaw as a character. Who she is, how she has experienced life has no bearing on her personality if she can be so easily interchanged with a man. Why make her a she, except for some romantic interest and eye candy? Even the Genesis story in the bible has a more noble purpose, though many feminists condemn it for causing so much inequality. These same feminists may have done some wrong in asking that women be interchangeable with men. I condemn them for the bland, masculine female characters that have taken over popular media.
At the same time, Allura would be someone these feminists would applaud. She is as good as any man and better at some things. But she is also worse. What makes her interesting is her acknowledgement of her faults and how she deals with them. She feels trapped by her gowns and princess duties in this female role, but she makes it her own, bucking traditions and doing what she feels is best. Sheâ€™s a complex character in the midst of this repetitive, hokey show. And yet in complex, layered stories we get repetitive, hokey ladies who are interchangeable with men. I donâ€™t know about you, but if Iâ€™m forced to go to the back alleys of storytelling for my heroine fix, then Iâ€™m going to have to make some bad comparison to the war on drugs.
Letâ€™s face it â€“ there are women who are tomboys or otherwise, but there is still a difference between men and women. Today we have less emphasis on it in raising children in United States (the culture Iâ€™m most familiar with), but itâ€™s still there â€“ a cultural difference in how women are perceived and perceive themselves as apart from men. One of the reasons tomboy characters are so fascinating is because they have to deal with the compromise they put themselves through in order to think of themselves as men. Where does this shame for being female come from? Why the need to sublimate or even disguise it? A tomboy is drastically different than the female character who is merely a man (except in build and who she is attracted to).
A good heroine should not just be a man plus or minus some things. And thatâ€™s darn hard to find on the streets these days.