Saturday, July 7, 2012

Trends: The Female/Male swap (Can anyone say "Suffragettes"?)

So I've decided to start writing "Trend" articles about popular trends in fiction or movies or whatever. Most of them are probably going to be about stuff that annoys me, but some might be stuff I rather like. This one today is one that annoys me. It's the trend of putting a female character into a male's place.

I'm talking mostly about when they re-do a classic or something of that nature and change the male protagonist into a female character. I'm sure everyone here can name a book or movie that you have seen that does this. For some reason it is a really popular ploy. Why? I have no blasted clue. Another popular thing is changing around the hero and heroine's roles in a story. I.E. Sleeping Beauty actually wakes up Prince Charming. This isn't quite so annoying, but it just breeds overly strong female characters and gives the lads nothing to do, thus making them look stupid and incapable of anything.

Yes, I am a woman, but I am really mad at how everything in this century seems to revolve around women and men are just getting demeaned all the time. So many movies out now, especially kids' ones, have the men be the stupid side-kick type characters while the only one who gets anything done is the heroine. I hate this. In fact, I'm almost to the point where I do not read books with female protagonists. Seriously, especially ones written within the last ten years or so. And if I do, even if I enjoy them, I have to have a backup of a good military adventure story or something else with all guy characters in it.

My friend, Mara (over at 667B Baker Street) and I have been talking about that new show that is coming out this fall, Elementary. What is this? First of all, I'm going to tell you that we are both true Sherlockians, we've been reading Doyle's original stories for years, so you can't tell us our opinion on this doesn't count for anything. This show does not only portray Holmes wrong (yes, we can tell this even from the previews. I mean, come on. Holmes does not have tattoos. He would never have had tattoos) but it does the cardinal sin and that is turn our dear Dr. John H. Watson into--yes everyone--Joan Watson. Yep, Watson is a woman.

And you know exactly where this is going. She's going to have to be all high-and-mighty over him just because she is a woman because this is the way all heroines are portrayed in TV shows lately. And that's something Watson never did. It was all he could do to get Holmes to eat and sleep after a case, but this was taking care of a friend--he and Holmes were like brothers--never in a nagging way. And he never tried to put his nose into Holmes' investigations because he knew Holmes could and would do it the way he wanted to and when Holmes asked him to do something, no matter how crazy it was, he did it because he trusted him. Do you think this is the way it's going to be turning Watson into a girl? I highly doubt it! And it would be even worse if (and they probably will) they put a romantic interest in between Sherlock and Joan. It would be wrong on so many levels I'm not even going there.

There's also this book I came across--I haven't read it yet, but I get the idea, obviously--called "Scarlet". It's a Robin Hood novel--and don't get me wrong, I love Robin Hood novels--I love ones with different twists in them, but turning Will Scarlet into a girl is not the kind of twist I'm going for! I always loved Will and it always makes me mad when authors take a good character and turn them into a girl. I'm not saying this book is bad, if that's the kind of thing you like, but I don't like it. I think guy stories should have the chance to stay guy stories and Maid Marion should stay on being the only female character in the Robin Hood stories. Read Robin McKinley's "Outlaws of Sherwood" if you want to see Marion as a strong heroine. She was strong in this book but didn't have a blasted attitude! You can read Mara's review of "Scarlet" here.

So to my point: this all reminds me of the Suffragettes. And do you know what they did? They starved themselves, they threw themselves under horses and for what? So they could vote? Ladies, did you really think you could show men that you're smart enough to vote by doing this? Come on. Real women stand by their men, they don't hate them. They do what they need to do because it needs to be done, not because they want to prove some stupid point. So keep your heroines strong enough so they are not airheads, but don't give them an almighty attitude either. I'm not going to call them "strong heroines" anymore. I'm going to call them "Real Heroines" Like Joan of Arc. (They never re-created a story about John or Arc did they? See, women never get turned into men, it's always the other way around.)

Support Smart Heroines! Or support the original guy novel where there are damsels in distress. One of my favorite ploys is what Louis L'Amour does. Before the hero goes off to fight the baddie, he says he loves the girl and when he comes back the book usually ends with a kiss or a marriage proposal. Love it!

I'll be back soon to talk more about my upcoming novel "On a Foreign Field"!

Slainte, Hazel

(If anyone has any trends they have seen running around the literary world let me know what they are and what you think of them!)


  1. Hazel, I wonder if your problem with the popular trend involving switched gender roles is generational. The reason for the trend is that younger people want to see women who are capable of acting as men do. The world has changed. Women are performing jobs previously reserved for men and they want to see books, films and television reflect their reality.

    I haven't read the female Scarlet novel, but I recently read Robin, Lady of Sherwood and found it to be a great deal of fun.

    I belong to a Sherlock Holmes list that has the same attitude toward Elementary as you do, but I love the actor who is going to be playing Holmes, so I'll watch it before I judge it.

    I suppose we can agree to disagree about this issue.

    I am looking forward to On A Foreign Field.

  2. We all have our own opinions ;). And I know exactly why they do that so much in this generation. But people seem to have forgotten that you can still have a strong heroine without making them seem like men-haters with a serious attitude. Rosemary Sutcliff writes wonderful women characters--they are strong and still relatively female. I think it is almost insulting to women to always portray them as having "the Attitude" and I don't think it's a very good thing for young girls to read/watch because if they choose to idolize opinionated female characters with the wrong opinions, then they will have those same opinions. But that's just my outlook on it.

  3. Ditto, Hazel. In older years, women were always depicted as weak and helpless, but now the pendulum has swung completely the other way. Now the trend is to put men down, make them look weak and stupid, and you know what - that doesn't make the female look capable and independent; it just makes her look stupid. And also, the way female characters seem to express their "independence" is through twisted morals and being jerks, which goes back to your statement about how it's not a good thing for young girls to read/watch that kind of portrayal. Why can't Authors simply write balanced female characters? For instance, I am actually reading "Scarlet" right now and have to report that it is pretty disappointing. And one of the reasons it is is because Scarlet, as a girl, sports a "well, I can do anything because I'm a woman, and because I'm a woman I'm going to put down every man who offers to help me" attitude. She's always negative and snaps everyone's heads off if they so much as look like they're thinking of offering their assistance. If this attitude were gone, Scarlet would be a wonderful character, but for some reason Authors assume that in order for a female character to be strong, they've got to have The Attitude.

    And Shomeret, I must ask you: what is your opinion of BBC's "Sherlock" series?

  4. And that's exactly my feelings whenever I read a book like that. And even the old books did not portray women badly. I love Alcott's books because her girls don't have "the Attitude" and they are just lovely stories. R.L. Stevenson's character Joan in his book "The black Arrow" was a great strong female character. She dressed as a boy to run away, but yet she was not better than Dick because he ended up having to rescue her several times. It didn't make her seem weak, it mad her seem realistic because she was just a teenager after all. I know I've said this before, but I still think that men authors write real women better with a few exceptions on both sides. Mara, I can't wait until you read Rosemary's book "The Sheild Ring" because her female protag Frytha, is just the kind of heroine I like and the kind I love to write about in my own books. =)

  5. I'm thinking more of old black-and-white movies than books when it comes to weak females (though a lot of Charles Dickens's females, with the exception of Kate in "Nicholas Nickleby" and Esther in "Bleak House," are kind of useless). I love Alcott's stories, too; Jo is a good tomboy without being a man-hater or having The Attitude. I agree about male Authors writing better female characters. I had never really noticed until you said that, and now I think back on all of the books I've read that had good female characters, and the majority of them have been written by men. I think part of it might be because male Authors are more inclined (I'm not saying all male Authors, but a lot of them) to write a story for the story's sake, rather than writing emotionally messed up characters for Readers to "connect" with. And they're not making a point about gender roles when they have a female character. I think that's what really gets in the way of good female protagonists - so many female Authors are trying to make a point about "girl power." The Author of "Scarlet" (which I just finished, by the bye) said as much in her Author's Note.

  6. Yeah, most of the YA books I read and enjoy are written by men. They also handle romance better, I think, at least in YA ;) And I'll admit that a couple of my characters in "On a Foreign Field" are emotionally messed up, but for understandable reasons and ones that were very common to the time period. You'll see what I mean when you read it. But I can't stand books where a woman is say, abused by a man and she hates all men because of that. I just want to say, get over it! They're not all like that, duh! ;P

  7. Ha,ha, Hazel! John of Arc! Yeah, poor Joan of Arc only did what she did because it had to be done and no one else would step up and do it! Here's to men who are allowed to be men, and the strong women at their side who are allowed to be women!