Monday, September 20, 2010

Why I Think We're Too Hard on Our Heroines

This past week and weekend has been my own personal hell. I had a test on Tuesday and a test earlier today, both of which required me to study. So, in spite of the fact that my word count on my WIP was trundling along nicely, I had to stop around Saturday and pretend to study because I felt way too guilty writing.

Over this dreadful past week I contemplated many things (like why am I a finance major? am I a masochist? or just stupid, and my teachers are too nice to tell me?). One of these things was, of course, about YA books.

I'm going to give it to you straight, gentle reader: I am an exceptionally picky person. I hate lots of people for lots of trivial things, and it only gets worse when it comes to fiction.

However, I do think that we are a little hard on our heroines from time to time.

There are a lot of demands on an author who's writing a teen girl these days. The girl has to be independent, but not unbelievable. She needs to be witty, but not so sassy she's annoying. Being too upbeat isn't realistic, but being a downer all the time isn't okay either. She needs to be completely whole without a man, but have many hot smooches.

Basically, you're screwed, authors.

The problem is that real girls do have flaws, and while people talk about needing a heroine to be flawed, there are certain flaws the YA community is awfully hesitant to accept: being whiny, being helpless in the face of lots of danger, and being dependent on a guy for validation. All three of which are EXTREMELY realistic flaws.

That's why it didn't bother me that the whole of Bella's self worth centered around whether or not Edward liked her. Because guess what, this is precisely what teenage - and let's face it, older - girls do. They fixate on a guy and obsess about him until their brain dribbles out their ears. While it isn't the most desirable state of being, it's not an unrealistic one and I didn't have a problem seeing it in a book.

No, Bella bothered me because she was boring.

So, authors of the world, here is my opinion: I don't care what flaws your character has, who she's codependent on, or what validation she needs. If she's interesting and 3-dimensional, I will read about her. If she's interesting and doesn't pay the slightest attention to guys, I will still read about her, but I'll be awfully skeptical. Because I don't care if you're a werewolf assassin from a future dystopian society; if you're 15 and have the giggles for that cute leprechaun glassblower, you are going to be 100% fixated on that.


Erinn said...

What bothered me about Bella wasn't that she was boring but she was stupid.

Hope your test went well.

Horserider said...

My main problem with Bella isn't that she's whiny, completely centered on Edward to the point where she almost kills herself when he leaves, or boring.

It's the fact that she never changes.

Jules said...

I personally agree with you, that it was highly realistic that Bella would place Edward center stage in her life and applaud until her hands bled. What was unrealistic to me, and what taught a terrible lesson to impressionable young girls reading the book, is that it turned out okay to do this. Edward didn't break her heart (in the end). Edward loved her just as much. And this, as much as we might want to think it is, just is not realistic, and if young girls (or even older girls!) treat boys as their saviors and their Edwards, they are going to be painfully disillusioned. They are going to get - possibly irreparably - hurt.

But yes, I agree. Bella was hella boring. :D