2017/03/29

Mary Sues Linked to Suicide

Ubiquitous and unfailingly dull Strong Female Characters™ aren't just deadly to the waves of expendable male villains they routinely slaughter in today's Narrative-driven books, movies, and video games. Author Dawn Witzke speculates that SFCs may pose a threat to their readers' life expectancy.
Whether we realize it or not, fictional characters shape our views and actions. If these superwomen, who can do no wrong or ever fail, are the standard bearers for the sex, what is it doing to readers who can never relate? My guess, the same psychological damage caused by the standards set by photo-shopped anorexic models. Is it any wonder that suicide rates have risen over 200% in pre-teen and teen girls, not to mention the 60% overall rise in the past 15 years, according to the CDC.
This is of course speculation. However, psychological studies have found that one of the leading factors of the rise in suicide is being attributed to unrealistic life expectations. And that romance novels can give women unrealistic views of relationships. So, it’s reasonable to think that the unrealistic examples of SFCs in entertainment is contributing to this dissatisfaction with the ordinary.
Science agrees with Dawn's theory.
How can one be satisfied with the ordinary, when the examples in literature and movies aren’t satisfied with the ordinary? And when you do get a female character with weaknesses, they are just as awful the other direction. Bella Swan in the Twilight series was an emotional wreck who is just shy of being a suicide victim. The two dimensional character of Anastasia Steele in 50 Shades of Gray was little more than a sex doll for Gray. And, while some claim her as an SFC, Katniss Everdeen was little more than a puppet of circumstances and the people around her. She was used and abused, first by President Snow and then by President Alma Coin.
What I want to see more of are female characters who are complicated. Give me characters who accept that they have weaknesses, that they need help from, not only other female characters, but from males as well. Give me characters who are okay with being rescued, failing, and not being the smartest person in the room, but still have a will of their own. Give me characters who are flawed, who make mistakes, who aren’t perfect. 
Give me characters that I can relate to.
Read the whole thing here.

Observation: consider how SF SJWs insist that readers can only identify with characters who are exactly like them; yet flood the market with inhuman Mary Sues that no one can relate to.

For the platonic ideal of this phenomenon, witness Stefan Molyneux's dissection of Beauty and the Beast by Disney, the studio that's dedicated to finding new and special ways to hate you.


As a counterexample, I've written two books with female protagonists. One is an immortal magic spaceship pilot. The other can bench press a Volkswagen, commands the elemental forces of fire, and controls an entire city with her mind. Yet they're both deeply flawed (thieving wino and emotionally unstable psychotic, respectively), and I've gotten a stream of compliments talking about how much readers love and sympathize with both of them.

Strong female characters can be written well. The key lies in a) understanding the differences between masculine and feminine strength and b) actually giving them vulnerabilities so retain some semblance of dramatic tension.

@BrianNiemeier

15 comments:

  1. I think the issue is further complicated in that when a man writes what he thinks is a Strong Female Characters™, it comes out completely different from when a woman writes a Strong Female Characters™. A male written Strong Female Characters™ usually involves a woman displaying attributes and personality associated with masculinity often with female anatomy played up to offset those traits. The male written Strong Female Characters™ jumps into the thick of danger guns blazing, etc. Rambo, James Bond, or any number of action heroes, just gendered swapped.

    The Female written Strong Female Characters™ that I've seen (and I'm happy to be proven wrong)strength almost invariably comes down to her ability to make multiples of men fall in love with her. I've lost track of headstrong spinsters at the top of their careers suddenly having themselves in the middle of a heated love triangle, despite never showing a personality trait beyond caustic.

    (And I could argue a third feminist created version exists, where it is a female with completely male attributes, but lacking the heroic attributes of the male written version.)

    As usual these are simply generalities and observation where exceptions still exist. But I think I've made my point.

    I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with trying to make what you think is a Strong Female Character™, it's just that we are currently oversaturated with them, and like anything in a glut a small handful are okay, and the vast majority are either mediocre, boring or crap. So as a writer be prepared to make your character good enough to stand out.

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    1. Yep. Male Pink SF authors write Men with Boobs. Female Pink SF authors write Harlequin Romance in Space.

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    2. No different in other media. The writer on the first X-Men reboot in '79/'80 was a clear "men with boobs" writer. His women were distinguishable from the men mainly due to their spandex being legless for hose and heels.

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    3. Chris Claremont, I believe it was.

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    4. >His women were distinguishable from the men mainly due to their spandex being legless for hose and heels.

      Not to mention the various fetishes Claremont and Bryne inserted, but that's a whole different discussion.

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    5. Aw, I just didn't want to name names, and all. And Clairmont and Byrne were straight up, all da Girlz are better den da Menz, 'cept Wolvie, 'cuz Johnny lurved him!

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  2. Oddly enough, Rita Repulsa in the Power Rangers 2017 movie isn't a classic Strong Female Character. That aspect of her is surprisingly downplayed.

    http://rawlenyanzi.com/manufactured-rangers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And the creators still don't get why so many people root for the Bad Guys in modern Hollywood films.

      Maybe if they just double down one more time ...

      Heh.

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    2. Likable characters are key -- and the Rangers failed at that.

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    3. Most modern ones fail badly. One of our greatest assets is the stupidity of our enemies.

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  3. But 3rd Wave Fems *ONLY* want Version #1, and preferable written by a damned-strong WOMAN, not a stinking MAN. Because, EQUAL, dammit!

    Those other two versions are NOT REAL and *SEXIST*. Authors and their books in these categories should be preemptively burned, shot, drawn-and-quartered, then Internet shamed!

    Because Faux Men are the only Women that really exist for 3rd Wavers.

    They so silly!

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    Replies
    1. Whoops. This was in response to anonme.

      http://www.brianniemeier.com/2017/03/mary-sues-suicide.html?showComment=1490801330577#c2535348839684809325

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    2. Yeah that's the thing. Not only do they want men with boobs. They want miserable men with boobs.

      Which kind of doesn't make for compelling entertainment.

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    3. Does, *IF* you recognize it, then laugh at the bitter of the bitterest 3-wavers because they made their own bed and all.

      Now, does nada for the entertainment problem ...

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