Monday, December 17, 2012

The (Female) Character Controversy: Introduction

"Women should be owners of their own bodies and should be able to dress slutty do they want, women shouldn’t be sluts be respected business women, women should be treated equal with men, women should have special attention because stuff is harder for them, women shouldn’t accept the extra help because they should be self-sufficient and independent, women shouldn’t be portrayed as clothes crazy cause that’s a stereo-type, women should be allowed to be clothe crazy as that shows they are proud to be women WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT FROM ME?"- Sofie

I saw this posted on a blog by a Danish reviewer named Sofie and I thought it summed up A LOT of my reasons for not completely feeding into the "Feminist" movement. After reading her post (which is linked above) and agreeing with some (not all) of her points I decided that it was high time I added my 2 cents in this discussion as a writer and artist myself, so this one is for you ladies..All two of you...

Let me start out by saying I am a writer and an artist, but I was an artist before I was a writer. I'd draw characters and make up stories around them, and for a long time of my life I kept those stories locked up in my head. Then one day I decided to express those fantastic stories on paper...

Proof positive that I have NO social life...

As I began my journey in writing, hand drawn graphic novels one reality became crystal clear...
I COULD NOT DRAWN WOMEN! I absolutely SUCKED AT IT!! SUCKED COMPLETELY! I'd provide early examples but thankfully I can't find any, but sadly all my female characters looked like really effeminate dudes. Granted NOW I can draw women quite well, at least in my opinion, but for the LONGEST TIME I COULD NOT DRAW WOMEN! Because of my inability to draw women, women became cursory characters in my stories, often mentioned but NEVER seen. But just because I didn't have female characters in stories until mid-high school I was NOT unaware of the stigma the word "Female" character carried and the stereo-types that came with it. Thankfully, I grew up with GREAT examples of AWESOME female characters and I wanted my chicks to be just as awesome as they were!

Also, just because I couldn't express my awesome female characters on paper didn't mean I was without a means of creating them. I am an AVID player of Wrestling games and CREATE-A-WRESTLER is like cocaine to me! One of my first female characters was a little bad ass named Stacy Golem who was Lita, Daffney Unger and Lydia Deetz rolled into one and I still kick major ass with her. Next was Vox Stargetter, Amy Steele, Rose Gaignun and many, MANY others. So despite my inability to draw them, I maintained a strong dedication to female characters. When I finally learned how to draw women, I was excited to introduce my first ACTIVE female character to the page, and her name was Katrina.

Given the story...she was...not the best example of a good character...then again hardly any of the characters were...and that was kinda the point of the story...but that's another topic. When that story ran it's course, my next female character was Sara! Ah Sara. Sara is such an awesome character, she's kind, smart, caring, but she also has an edge to her, she's VERY competitive and has a bit of a temper to boot. Sara reminded me a lot of my friend Debbie from high school who was very much the same way, minus the competitive part (although I never played games with her as I am certain she would kick my you Debbie n_n;;).

In truth, I never thought of Sara as a female character, I thought of her merely as a character. She was a member of the team, the team leader, the task master to keep everyone in line, I needed a character who was sharp, direct and didn't take any guff from anyone, and the first thing that popped in my head was a woman. Which is a no-brainer considering I was raised by my mother and grandmother. So when I thought of Sara, she fit naturally into the story I wrote. She wasn't the main character, and the main character was hardly THE main character as it was more of a team book and the main character was merely the character we're introduced to to learn about the world, a world that Sara was already fully familiar with.

I've always found the term "Female Character" slightly offensive, as if to suggest that gender has something to do with whether or not a character is good or not, as if to say "HEY LADIES THIS IS A GIRL, YOU HAVE TO LIKE HER BECAUSE SHE'S A GIRL!!"...another reason why I don't say "Black Character". Not that gender doesn't play a role in things (because let's face it, it does for certain things) but over all it doesn't really. Anyway, I got older I became aware of the backlash against Female Characters and the Feminist movement in comic books and I was more or less thunderstruck as to what the big deals was. Well apparently a lot of female characters were being used as either sex-props or damsel's in distress and the schtick was getting old. Which again, lead me to ask "What's the big deal? Why can't these guys change that, end of story.", Why are these guys having such a hard time writing for female characters? What's the problem?

My philosophy behind writing female characters is the same for writing ANY character, Who are they? What's their motivation? What are their strengths? What are their flaws? Every character I write I try to make them as 3 dimensional as possible without a care of things like race or gender. However I feel like some writers are intimidated by the prospect of a female character and they end up making their gender dictate their character (ie, personality) rather than their character (personality) dictate the character. For example, the attributes I described for Sara: "kind, smart, caring, but she also has an edge to her, she's VERY competitive and has a bit of a temper to boot" and just as easily apply to a male character and DO apply to male characters.

As far as Sara's flaws, she can be overly headstrong at times and very stubborn, especially about her pride. Yeah those are TOTALLY flaws that ONLY a girl can have...this isn't rocket science! She's a person, she has strengths, she has weaknesses and she has flaws. Unfortunately when some writers get their hands on "female" characters they try to make them so "bad ass" that they no longer have a person but a caricature of what Guys THINK Female Readers want...

Yes, I'm still blaming you Alice!

I'm NOT saying female characters CAN'T be Alice...I'm just saying all too often we get one or the other and rarely do we have a middle ground. So in this series of articles I'm gonna hopefully address The Female Character Controversy and try to figure out if I know what I'm talking about when it comes to What Women Readers Want In A Female Characters and How To Give It To Them. Once again, this one if for you Ladies!!

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