Ever since The Amazing Spiderman movie came out this summer, I've been on an extended rant. Don't get me wrong--I loved it. My sister and I saw the movie while we were staying in Cardiff. We didn't have cars, didn't feel like getting cabs when we weren't burdened with luggage and happened to live a good distance from the theater, so during the long walk back we attempted to discuss how Gwen Stacy is a much better character than Mary Jane.
We didn't really get to talk too much though
because we were derailed repeatedly by the two intellectual guys who
were with us and thought it would be more interesting to talk about
coming up with the perfect phrase to describe when men and women want to
talk about different things. For. Forty. Five. Minutes. The irony was
not lost on me, but it was absolutely 100 percent lost on them, which is
hilarious in retrospect. I guess.
Anyway, the reason
I've never liked Mary Jane (keep in mind I think I've read three
Spiderman comics, so I'm really just going off the movies and cartoon)
is because she doesn't act like a real person. She doesn't make
decisions that real person would make were they in her place. She
doesn't talk like a real person. She doesn't react to anything like a
real person. She's acted upon. She's furniture that you can occasionally
build a plot around.
Gwen Stacy, on the other hand,
does react like a real person, at least in the newest movie. I
understand her decisions, even when I would have done something
different. She has realistic motives and emotional responses as well. Go
I've heard lots of male writers say things like
"I have trouble writing female characters, because I just don't know
what a woman would do in that situation."
In the case
of the guy who said almost those exact words to me, I think I set his
chapter down, face palmed and responded with "Well, not that."
the big secret to writing realistic women. It's pretty much exactly the
same as writing realistic men. That's what is so insulting about the
whole 'writing female characters is hard' whiny-oisty. Writers are
encouraged to make their characters actions make sense, but too often I
read these female characters who either do and say things that just
don't make sense, or they don't really do anything at all and are just
Writing a good female character should
be like writing what any rational/irrational person would do, depending
on the circumstances and the character in question. What are her
motivations? Is the real problem that you didn't give her any to begin
Guinness and I did eventually get to talk
about well-written female characters, after the guys went into the
kitchen to continue their in-depth conversation about talking to
women... also hilarious in hindsight.
I will say that this isn't a universal problem. Off the top of my head, I can actually name several male writers who consistently write good female characters. Most of them are married, or have lots of sisters. At least one is married and has lots of sister.