learning from “tropes vs. women”

I swear, I’m forever behind the curve on pop culture things.  I only realized how awesome Led Zeppelin was after they’d broken up.  I only saw maybe one or two episodes each of Cheers, Friends, and Seinfeld.  I started watching Lost after Season 2 had started (I caught up by watching Season 1 on DVD, and I stayed with the show despite how awful Season 6 was).  My friends rave to me about Quentin Tarantino movies, and I’ve never seen one.


So at the risk of breaking my ban on discussing socio/political items on this blog, I’ll tell you that I’ve only recently discovered Anita Sarkeesian, her site Feminist Frequency, and her video series “Tropes vs. Women.”  I don’t agree with everything she says, and her facts are not always correct (Gwen Stacy, discussed in “Women in Refrigerators,” was not a a superheroine in the original Spider-man comic book; Sarkessian gets the Immaculate Conception wrong in “The Mystical Pregnancy”).  Nevertheless, I find her blog posts and videos interesting and informative.


If one wants to write well, one must recognize poor writing Sarkeesian identifies and explains hackneyed ideas to avoid: I’ve learned quite a lot from her.  In particular, I appreciate her episode dedicated to “The Smurfette Principle,” which discusses the paucity of female characters in several popular series.  I don’t believe you have to belong to a particular party or subscribe to a certain ideology to see the wisdom and benefits of having, where appropriate,* several well-defined female characters in one’s writing.



(*I say “where appropriate,” depending on what story you’re writing.  If your story’s set in an all-male prison, then maybe you don’t have ANY female characters, never mind being “well-defined” or not)


Back when I was a student at the University of Maryland, one of my business professors, Bill Nickels, taught us, “To succeed in business, find a need and fill it.”  I believe that there is a need in fantasy and sci-fi for unique characters who are well-defined, are multi-faceted and interesting, and who seem like real people.  These characters improve one’s story and make it more appealing to more readers.


And the more of these characters that readers can relate to, the better.  If one excludes female characters for no story-related reason, one risks not engaging with female readers.  I want more readers, not less: to me, one is not doing one’s readers or one’s self any favors by not having well-done female characters.


That’s one of the many reasons why I’m proud of my novel Dragontamer’s Daughters.  Isabella, Alijandra, Juanita, To-Ho-Ne, and Governor Guzmarr are, I hope you’ll agree, interesting, well-defined, complex characters who seem like real people.  I’m going to continue doing that with Lost Dogs, even—and especially—with the canine characters, and on into the future of my writing career.



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5 Responses to learning from “tropes vs. women”

  1. Fabulous Orcboy says:

    Seriously, you’ve never seen a Tarantino movie? Really?

    The “top 5” I’d recommend is some combination of the following:

    Pulp Fiction. Django Unchained. Jackie Brown. Inglourious Basterds. Kill Bill.
    (that’s my order. Other people will probably have similar lists)

    He also has some earlier works like Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, From Dusk till Dawn (the last two he wrote, did not direct). They’re all wild. WILD, man!

  2. I’m most inclined to check out “Pulp Fiction.”

  3. Fabulous Orcboy says:

    “Pulp Fiction” is probably quintessential Tarantino — it shows off all the cinematographic and narrative skills that make him an impressive filmmaker.

    “Jackie Brown” is probably the least gratuitously violent, and also the one that’s the most subtle, narratively speaking. It’s also the least like the rest of his work, unsurprisingly.

    Django & Basterds are ridiculously, over-the-top violent. If they weren’t, the topic would be much too hard to watch.

    Kill Bill is a bloody homage to Kung Fu movies. True Romance has Elvis. Dusk till dawn has Mexican Vampires.

  4. Keith Gatchalian says:

    A good character is a good character. What I dislike is when a character is inserted into a work or changed to appeal or attract viewers. For example….Eowyn in Lord of the Rings is a fantastic character. Her scene at Pelennor FIelds is one of the best in all Tolkien’s works. (Oddly enough, I think it worked better in the animated version…).
    Now in the Hobbit, Jackson has created a female Elf warrior. The Hobbit is a very male dominated film…so it is obvious that the character was not created to be a good character but to “attract/appeal” to viewers. Don’t even get me started on the fact that Elven women would not be warriors, if you adhere to the traditional concepts of the race….
    Ditto characters like Heimdall and Nick Fury. If there is a lack of African American characters in comics and the movies, then develop some and market them etc. Don’t change established characters. I think a Luke Cage/Powerman movie would be incredible if done right. GI Joe 2, while a lame movie, had Roadblock as the focus character and he was great.

    Sorry, went off on a tangent. I’ll just end by saying I am sad when I go to the bookstore these days and read the backs of so many fantasy novels….they read like romance books. Give me Rob Howard or Fritz Leiber or Michael Moorcock or Poul Anderson or Rob Heinlein anyday of the week.

  5. Keith, while the character of Tauriel in the next two Hobbit films might smack of tokenism (which Sarkeesian discusses in one of her videos), I’m going to reserve judgement until the films are actually out.