Thursday, January 24, 2013

Male Writers and the Female Characters Who Hate Them.

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 Gwen.

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."

Here's 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 danced around.

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 with? Nice.

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.

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