Women as Heroines in SciFi/Fantasy

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Undomiel, Mar 24, 2004.

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  1. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    [rant] Has anyone noticed the plethora of superheroes are almost exclusively men, with only the occassional woman dressed up like a Playboy Bunny? Otherwise, women are pretty much dissed in the films and literature. In Dune, both Paul and Leto II are treated with a great deal more consideration, than Alia, for example. Alia is presented as ...well the words just don't come to me. Her life was so horrific that "superbeing" or "heroine" are the last titles you would think to apply to her. Irulan, who stood the chance of being a fairly decent leader, is shuttled off into the background where she becomes the official peon, scheming b_ _ _ _ and imperial nanny.

    In The Matrix, the real hero is one man. Neo. Sure he needs his lady, but he doesn't ACTUALLY need his lady She can't do what he does because....Uh.. I mean, come on! The battle is in the Matrix! It doesn't take real physical strength to fight in the Matrix! Why, oh why, did they have to make even that part the purview of a male heroic figure?

    In Star Wars, the real hero is one man. Luke.

    In Spiderman, the real hero is one man.

    Even freakin' Harry Potter has one real hero, a boy named .... Harry Potter.

    The list is lengthy and somewhat depressing. Of the myriad movies and stories with heroic figures, only one comes to mind that features a female heroine (Terminator), and even she spends most of her life preparing her son to be the REAL hero of the story (remember John Connor)? By the time he realizes she's not joking, she's already so battle hardened and cynical, he has to correct her for her bitterness towards the men who designed the atom bomb. He's so wise and has so much life experience at the ripe old age of what? 14? that now he can correct his mom, the woman he claimed was just a nutcase, who taught him everything he DID know. *chuckle* And just where is our heroine when her son finally realizes she's not crazy afterall? In the looney bin....of course. Don't all our heroines come from the nutfarm?

    Oh, and lest I forget, the next villian for the Terminator films is... *drumroll* ... a woman. And the hero, of course, is ...*lengthy drumroll* ... a man or to be more precise, a male cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. Yada, yada, yawn.

    Anybody know who the heroic figure of "X-Men" the movie was? Honestly, he's the man! Wolverine!

    What about True Lies? Commando? Predator? Total Recall? Die Hard? The Fifth Element? Battlestar Galactica? Babylon 5? Star Trek? Lord of the Rings? Conan?

    Okay, okay, Ripley is the only scifi heroine that is an honest to goodness heroine in the Alien movies. I'll give you that one. ... Notice I said "one"? Cause I honestly don't think people know what to make of female heroic figures or even how to write the part without resorting to some very distressing stereotypes. They seem to want to make them into Joan of Ark or the damsel in distress in the psycho ward or Bambi from the Penthouse centerfold.

    I know this sounds like a complaint, and well, to be honest, it is. We need some heroines who are steady on their feet, not portrayed as nutcases, or screaming banchees, or martyrs, or playmate of the month, who don't require Lance from the Gym to come to their aid because they are too stupid or untalented to do the job themselves.

    We have a society that is increasingly putting the burdens of responsiblity on the shoulders of women [there are so many single mother families out there, you would just be astounded at the number] and yet, we give them very little encouragement for strength in their daily struggles, in literature or the movies. Instead we show them movies where the heroic figure is almost always a guy, or the woman is a sexy bombshell or psychopath or a total BEEP. Such role models are pretty much useless to women who are struggling with every day life and the responsibility of raising a family. No wonder our society is descending into chaos. 50% of us (women) are considered to be a subspecies by the other 50% (men) and are frequently treated that way in our art form
  2. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Haven't had time to read your full post; have to get to class. But I think that Ripley outclasses Connor when it comes to filmic SF heroines.
  3. zvezdy Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 26, 2003
    star 2
    Female heroines gross me out for some reason. I don't know, but every one I come across reminds me of a xena warrior princess for some reason. It just seems too masculine a roll if she isn't clad in nothing but a leather bodice. Maybe I'm antifem???
  4. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    Err, but your mom didn't have to wear a leather bodice while raising you right? What about the positive female role models in your life? Was there NONE?
  5. Darth Dowe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 4
    You have to look at your target audience: young males aged 13-27 or so. They want to see the manly hero beat the bad guy, and go home to sleep with the woman. James Bond movies are like that too. Each viewer wants to be the hero, and get the girl. That's what they want, and that's what the movie companies give them.
  6. Leto Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 19, 2002
    star 4
    If you want a female heroine you should read David Weber's serie Honor Harrington. Honor is a captain on a ship in the Mandalorian Space Navy, and she can kick any man's ass. Both in space and on a duelling field.
  7. JediTrilobite Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 17, 1999
    star 7
    I'm surprised that I'm the first to bring out the old LOTR argument. Tolkien has several heroic characters that are women in LOTR. Eowyn kills one of the biggest threats to the army in ROTK, and hides herself as a man to get to the battle in the first place.
    One of the big arguments is that that wasn't how women were preceived at the time of the writing.

    You should also check out samuel r. delany, who has a prominent female character in his book Babel-17 and Nova. I don't know about his other novels.
  8. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    Darth Dowe,

    See now, that's not my point. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver's "Alien" series character) is really quite popular, yet hardly another scifi writer has sought to duplicate what made her role in the film famous. She wasn't famous for her brawn, but rather her skill with weapons and her sharp mind. She could improvise and think fast on her feet (who's mom can't do this?! lol). It didn't detract at all from the scifi theme. It didn't detract at all from the popularity of the films. IT's still considered one of the classic scifi film series. Guys and gals of any age, like the films. Yet Ripley is not half naked in a leather bodice, nor is she an escapee from the looney bin, nor is she a martyr (well at least not in the first couple Alien films), nor is she butch, she's just a smart woman with military training who manages to outwit some aliens. I doubt any men felt threatened by it, and it was a positive role for women as far as it could be.

    I imagine some single moms feel like Ripley sometimes. lol Hey life ain't easy out there - add children who rely on you and it gets infinitely more complicated.
  9. DarthArsenal6 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2001
    star 5
    You have to look at your target audience: young males aged 13-27 or so. They want to see the manly hero beat the bad guy, and go home to sleep with the woman. James Bond movies are like that too.

    erm we live in the new millenium not in the 1930's !

    EDIT: those audience no longer exists
  10. Jansons_Funny_Twin Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2002
    star 6
    There are some heroines in anime. Naomi Armitage for one. Miko Mido is another ( [face_mischief] :p ). Asuka Langley Sohryu is yet another, as is Rei Ayanami.




    God's in His heaven, all's right with the world.
  11. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    Leto,

    Well my thought is not that the woman should necessarily be able to kick a man's tush, but that she is capable of defending herself, protecting others who rely on her, improvisational, smart, or any other number of positive roles, as this happens EVERY day in real life but is frequently overlooked by writers. Women have to be both mom and dad alot more these days, and that means we're growing an entire breed of ladies who are tough as nails, who are being treated to films where the only female role model they can find is a lady who is completely off her noodle (Alia) or rescued from being completely off her noodle (Sarah Connor) or rescued before she's driven completely off her noodle (Leia), and on and on.
  12. MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2001
    star 5
    I think Asimov did a fairly good job with women in his stories from what I can remember. Dr. Susan Calvin comes to mind. Not an action hero but still a smart woman.
  13. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    DarthArsenal6,

    Funny thing is, there seems to have been more quality female role models in older stories than there is today. Today the movie guys seem to want to focus on a woman's sexuality alot more (because sex sells). But that does diddley squat for the ladies out there who are facing a harsher reality than their mothers did.
  14. SaberGiiett7 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2002
    star 6
    The best Fantasy heroine I've come across thus far was the character Kahlan from the Sword of Truth series. Intricate, mysterious, and well written. :)

    <[-]> Saber
  15. --Darth_Dude-- Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jan 6, 2004
    star 3
    There are some heroines in anime. Naomi Armitage for one. Miko Mido is another ( ). Asuka Langley Sohryu is yet another, as is Rei Ayanami.

    Now I see what you meant with me not being the only one to refer to NGE on these forums :D

    But yeah Jansons_Funny_Twin is right. Anime has alot of heroines. True, some are dressed in leather bodices, but in more serious animes like, indeed, Neon Genesis Evangelion, we can see women like Misato Katsuragi. She's not some shiny heroine but a true woman. I think alot of women could relate to her. Then we've got Rei Ayanami, who pretty symbolises self-sacrifice. And I think that you all people, Undomiel, would agree that mothers sacrifice their lives every day in order to raise their children.

    So, maybe you should try to look post the Hollywood flicks, because you'll have a small change finding what you're looking there. And no, that's most likely not going to change.

    EDIT: oh and I think we're all forgetting Padmé here. She's not some shiny heroine in a leather bodice either.
  16. flying_fishi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2002
    star 6
    oh and I think we're all forgetting Padmé here. She's not some shiny heroine in a leather bodice either.

    [image=http://www.padmeswardrobe.com/images/episodeII/padme/leather/IIBD021.jpg]

    Of course not.
  17. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    I think they are trying to up the quality of women's roles. They just keep getting waylaid at the pass by the selling feature of sex appeal or martyrdom, which is all fine and good, in moderation. Ripley wasn't sexy per sey, she was just really good at her job, bright, fast on her feet, quick-thinking, and efficient. She had a plethora of survival skills, which I think women excel at. We just aren't depicted as such, and that's where the ship springs a leak.

    On the other hand, Padme did survive the arena due to her own skills (albeit many people wondered just how she managed to have a lockpick in her belt, making it look like gratutious bending of reality, rather than skill of one sort or another). This same bending of reality is what made the Buffy series unrealistic as far as addressing what a woman is capable of succeeding at. Not every female is going to have the strength of a demon at her disposal from which to lay waste to her opponents, making her role seem a bit gratutious as well. It also set a dangerous precedent that a woman could feasibly tangle with an angry, demonic male and survive the encounter in one -on- one combat. While this might be true for The Slayer, just look at people like Nicole Simpson - alot of good it would've done her to fight back an ex-football player when she weighed all of 120 lbs.

    Anyway, the point I guess I'm trying to make is that we need role models that can survive believably, due to skill and intellect, as heroes, and not because they are Sith or evil or some crapola like that.
  18. Qui-Dawn Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2000
    star 5
    *pokes head into thread, takes a mild look around*

    *That's* the impression you got from "Buffy"? Couldn't be farther from the truth, it seems to me....and as for Xena: irregardless of her outfit - she is strong, loyal, courageous, skilled, and she'll do anything for those she loves; she's not perfect and she knows it, but she's always learning and trying harder, simply to be better. I can't think of a better role model.... And with regards to "Buffy", well....to be focussing so exclusively on merely the demon-and-supernatural setting of the show is, of course, to exclude what the show is actually *about*, and the themes that it really deals with. It only does the show a great disservice to minimize it like that, I do believe....

    And in agreement with an opinion hithertofore stated....two words: Padme Amidala. Well, three words now, to be precise: Padme Amidala Skywalker. 'Nuff said....


    Dawn.
  19. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    Qui Dawn,

    They serve their purpose, but that's not the point. We already have them and now what we need are women like Ripley who can survive simply because they are good at what they do, and not because they look good in a bustier or have demonic strength. That's why Ripley's role is so popular amongst so many women and even some men. She managed to excel because of her skills and her sharp mind and not because she was... .hey wait a minute. Are you following me? :D
  20. ParanoidAni-droid Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 27, 2001
    star 4

    I haven't really had the chance to read this thread yet but the one thing that irks me the most about women in genre fiction is the need felt by the authors to make them complete witches or what I like to call "Mara Jade Syndrome." There's other ways to make your female lead strong without making her unreadable. For example, there's Catelyn in ASoIaF, who comes off as a strong character--not because she's constantly mouthing off to Mr. Skywalker but because she makes the most out of dire situations.

    Another example is Ripley's character who was originally written as a male character and then, at the last momment changed to a female and in so doing gave her all of the gender attributes usually associated with males without all of the cheeky, post-modernisms that someone who knew they were writing Ripley as a female probably would've.

    ~PAd

  21. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    ParanoidAni-Droid,

    So do you think that helped or hampered her role? Buffy was another famous female role that was originally written as a male. Interesting.

    When women are in the military, they don't spend alot of time being "female" per sey, although that does factor in. However, they are trained to fight, shoot weapons, read instruments and otherwise excel at their jobs. It wouldn't be very characteristic to have them be less survivable than some untrained guy, unless he was trained in some other fashion.

    Women also have really high pain threshholds, which would be sure to account for some of their survivability. If you can pick yourself up and keep going while under extreme pain or duress, you have a survival option not as readily accessible to the prominently stronger male of the species.
  22. Kit' Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 30, 1999
    star 5
    There are other women in Buffy that I would consider the "heroes' that don't possess Buffy's demonic strength. Dawn and Anya and of course Willow all play fantastic roles, often outshining their male counterparts.

    I think you downplay the issues that many of the male superheroes face too. Spidey is definitely not a secure, hapy male superhero. Neither is Wolverine.

    Just as often as women side-kicks and heroes are played for their sexuality, male side-kicks under a female leader are played for their goofiness. Think Jaxtor (sp) from Xena or Xander from Buffy. Men suffer from their own stereotypes, either they need to be strong, silent and capable of anything (and usually broody) or their clumsy and gawky.

    Having said all that I agree that there needs to be more women superheroes. However, I think it will just take time to change that.

    Kithera
  23. Undomiel Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 4
    Kit,

    Agreed. I also was considering what the state of female parts will be by the end of Episode III. It was a sobering thought. All that remains of the original crew of jedi are a little green alien (male), a couple sith lords (male), a jedi named Obi Wan (male) and Luke (male). Padme is killed off. Shmi is killed off. All the female jedi are killed off. Mon Mothma makes a really brief appearance. Leia never receives the training and spends most of the series being rescued or clued in by Luke and Han, which is okay I suppose but it does, when added to the rest of the missing female elements, lend credence to the idea that Star Wars is primarily a movie about guys (human guys, alien guys, robot guys, etc) in a big scifi/fantasy universe. Women don't have much survivability, in fact, they die, usually grizzly or sad deaths. Remember Oola? She was eaten by the Rancor at Jabba's Palace. Aunt Beru is crispy-fried. Shaak'ti (WARNING SPOILER!) is beheaded by General Grievious. (END SPOILER) Who knows how Padme is killed. And poor Shmi dies slowly of physical abuse and starvation. All the rest of the female jedi are hunted down and slaughtered and only a handful of male jedi survive. There are no female officers on any of the imperial ships. No female sith. No female bounty hunters. No female anything besides some non-descript rebels, Leia and Mon Mothma (none of which have any force training). We never hear another word about Padme's sisters or mom and we barely hear anything about Padme. It's kinda odd.


    Kit's note: Just edited in a black-highlight so non spoiled people can read it without fear.
  24. --Darth_Dude-- Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jan 6, 2004
    star 3
    Of course not.

    Sigh... she's a woman, first and foremost. And that's the entire point. Sure she takes up the blaster in the geonosis arena, but what choice does she have.
  25. Syntax Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2001
    star 5
    Two words: Sarah Connor
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