Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why I Write: I Want Better Heroines

I think this post is rather weak and a bit slow to get to the point, or maybe it misses the point entirely -- I'm a bit too sleep-deprived to tell. I will say that this is part of my process of making myself write something every day without fail, and sometimes the quality just isn't going to be so great. This will teach me to A) get on a better sleep schedule, and B) to keep writing even when it's not so great. Again, this blog isn't just about explaining why I write, it's about keeping myself at the keyboard.

When I was about eight years old, I begged and pleaded my parents to get me Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES. I wanted this game not only because I loved the original Super Mario Bros., but mostly because I knew in this game I would have the opportunity to play as Princess Peach. These were the days before Lara Croft and her awesome polygonal dimensions, and while there was Metroid, you never really noticed Samus was a woman beneath all that armor. I was eager to play as Princess Peach because she wasn't the damsel in distress this time; she was part of the action and was going to help defeat the Big Bad. Not only that, she was going to be doing all her butt-kicking while wearing a pink dress and a tiara. I wasn't ever really into wearing dresses, but I did love the color pink and I was partial to tiaras at the time, so it was a win-win situation for me.

Twenty years later, I still remember the disappointment I felt after playing through the first level as Peach. No, it wasn't because the American version of SMB2 was actually Doki Doki Panic and thus not a Mario game in the truest sense. What really disappointed me was that Princess Peach was the weakest physical character in the game; it took her longer than any of the other characters to pick up objects and toss them, which was a definite disadvantage when going against some monsters. Also, her unique ability was that she could float for a limited period of time, an ability that was almost similar to Luigi's ability to jump really high and have a bit of a hang time (though admittedly not quite as long as Peach's). I wasn't stupid and even at eight years old I was able to understand the message loud and clear: Girls are weaker than boys and not very good at fighting. When Super Mario Bros. 3 came out, Princess Peach once more became the damsel in distress, incapable of defending herself against the monster Bowser.

It was an ugly lesson to learn about gender roles and society's expectations for women, especially for a girl whose favorite activities included butterfly hunting and exploring the woods around her house rather than dressing up and putting on makeup. I've always wondered why it's so hard to find television shows, movies, or books that depict heroines capable of saving their own butts without the need for a parental figure and/or a man to step in and rescue them. This isn't to say there haven't been some amazing fictional heroines out there -- Buffy Summers, Xena, Caitlin Todd, Ziva David, Abby Sciuto, Hermione Granger, Anita Blake, Calliope Reaper-Jones, Riley Jensen, etc. -- but there's still not enough of them I'd say, and some of those names I listed are supporting characters to male leads, or who started out strong and became less so, which brings me back to my point of heroines being seemingly incapable of taking care of themselves without the assistance of a male figure. I have to admit it's one of my biggest pet peeves and one of the reasons I want to write.

I suppose it might sound a bit egotistical to say that one of my biggest motivators for writing is that I want to write the sort of heroine I feel is missing from most media. I'm tired of disappointing books, movies, and shows that promise strong female leads and fail to deliver in one or more ways, and I think I've just come to the conclusion that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Granted, I may lack the skills necessary, but maybe by writing what I want to see I can learn how to better articulate my hopes for heroic female leads on to writers and directors who do have the talent and ability to transfer an idea from dream to reality.

Of course, that won't stop me from writing about women who wield swords, kick bad-guy butt, and still get the man/woman in the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment