Saturday, October 25, 2008

The proliferation of Mary Sue

At Overthinking It, mlawski argues for more weak women in movies. After all, the movies are full of women who are bright, talented, and authoritative, but they still get rescued by men, and they still get dressed up as sex objects.

That’s the last straw. It’s bad enough that they make movies that objectify women, but then to call those women Strong Female Characters?

And at least in the olden days, when women were weak and *needed* to be rescued, they got the hot hero men for the job.

Apparently somewhere along the line directors decided that film heroes should be more like audience stand-ins: lame, scrawny, nerdy. So you wouldn’t have Hot “Strong” Marion sleeping with Hot Strong Indiana Jones at the end anymore. You’d have Hot “Strong” Megan Fox sleeping with Weaselly Weak Shia La Beouf at the end. Um, WHAT?! If this female character is so strong and so hot and so great in every way, why in the world would she end up with that loser? Oh. Because he’s the audience stand-in. That makes perfect sense.

So she argues for weak female characters. Weak, that is, in the sense of flawed, just like male characters are. Strong in the sense that they have goals of their own, goals other than "make the male hero happy and have his babies." Make them human, just like the guys.

After all, it would make the stories better.


Steve Perry said...

Nonsense. Anybody who is threatened by strong women characters is probably lacking in self-esteem. Not the writer's problem to fix that.

Kai Jones said...

But they're not people, Steve, they're fantasy cardboard cutouts instead. They challenge suspension of disbelief.

Mark Jones said...

I'd rather replace the weak, scrawny audience stand-in guys with strong, heroic men. Stories with strong characters of both sexes would be an overall improvement.

Kai Jones said...

So Mark, you want the stories to all be heroic myths? No everyday people stories?

Mark Jones said...

Well, yeah. Sort of. If the choice is weak, scrawny audience stand-in guys and shrinking damsels in distress or heroic men and women--yes, I'd rather read or watch heroic myths.

But having read the article, I suppose the disconnect here is that I have a different definition of "weak" than the writer does.

Steve Perry said...

There are places for weak, scrawny guys and simpering helpless women in fiction, but not as protagonists in some kinds of fiction. You can play with this, of course, if you are good enough, but most readers who venture into genre don't want a hero who curls into a ball and cries like a baby when confronted by the villain. Doesn't make for good drama.

Easy stereotypes abound and too many writers default to these when they -- we -- are feeling lazy. It find it is every so much more fun to have the Girl rescue the Hero now and then, and in most of books, this tends to happen.

Princess Leia would be boring if all she did was wait for Luke and Han to show up to save her. She works better as an equal.

Sarah Conner doing chin-ups and bashing the guard's head in is much more attractive to watch because she is strong and tough. Some of us don't need stand-ins and aren't threatened by strong women.

Guys who are? Not my audience.

Kai Jones said...

False dichotomy, Steve. You don't have to choose between superheroes (women who are sexy, smart, talented, objectified, and attracted to the weak hero) and simpering helpless women. Leia is a great example; she has her own goals, her own motivations, and her own responses to the events in the movies. She's not perfect: she has issues, she's rash and resentful. And she isn't just a support system and reward for the hero (whether that hero is an immature kid with shockingly good skills or a middle-aged cynic with a heart of gold). She's a real person, as much as any fictional person is.

Steve Perry said...

"False dichotomy, Steve. You don't have to choose between superheroes (women who are sexy, smart, talented, objectified, and attracted to the weak hero) and simpering helpless women."

Nothing false about it. The choice is offered all the time. The variations on Prince Charming going to save Sleeping Beauty have been legion.

Leia is flawed, but so are Han and Luke (and Darth and Obi-wan, for that.) None of them are "weak" in the sense I'm using the term. All of them are movers and shakers.

(I didn't mean that Sarah Conner was preferable to Leia, by the eay, but that *both* were preferable to weak sisters.

Who was the weak hero in Terminator or T2, by the way? Being overmatched by a robot tougher than a showroom full of Volvos doesn't translate as weak to me.

Master Plan said...

It's tricky. Looking for realism or accuracy in fiction and movies is probably not the best place to find it. Too many artistic or authorial compromises, perhaps coming from the editors. Too much need for certain roles to filled with hot air and hand-waving.

Of course then you get in to the issue of lacking "good" role models for folks to model\enjoy in fiction as well (if all the black folks die and all the women are simpering facades of humanity that'd seem to take some of the fun out of things for members of those populations (and occasionally for the rest of us too)) but there again....are fiction and fictional films really where we want folks searching for their role-models?